Category: academics (Page 1 of 12)

5 things I wish I knew before stepping into a CMU science class | Annika Loeppky

Should I wear my lab coat on the first day? Is it alright that I haven’t memorised the periodic table of the elements? As I entered into my first year at CMU, these were some of the questions that crossed my mind. Little did I know that science is more than pristine white lab coats and a list of formulas to memorize, like I’d seen in Bill Nye videos in high school. Now after 3 years at CMU, my perception of science has shifted as I have experienced more of what science has to offer: I have explored the Assiniboine Forest, learned about health in Indigenous populations, and even met my prof’s pet parrot!

Annika Loeppky (centre), third year science student, gives tips for thriving at CMU!

All CMU students are required to take at least two science classes throughout the degree they are pursuing. While you may think you’ll feel like a fish out of water in a university science course, it is less intimidating than the stereotypes make it out to be. Who knows, science courses may even surprise you! I hope that these five tips will help you navigate science courses and give you an inside scoop on what science is actually like in university.

1. There are no dumb questions.

This may sound like a cliché, but in science courses especially, questions will be your saving grace. I was talking with some of this year’s graduating science students, and they agreed that if they could go back in time, they would have asked more questions in their classes. My profs have always encouraged us to bring a healthy level of skepticism into every class and to question the nature of the material they present. Learning science is not about blindly accepting the information you are taught, but rather critically engaging with it.

2. Embrace the grey spaces.

When I was in high school, I used to tell people that science was my favourite subject because there was always a right and wrong answer. But I was certainly shocked when I learned that while parts of science can be objective, it can also be subjective as people work to improve understandings in science. I have come across many questions that people are still in the midst of researching and that do not yet have a clear answer. It is possible that in your science classes, you will also encounter these nuanced topics, or so-called “grey spaces”. While these spaces may be confusing and complex, don’t run from them because this is where the richest learning takes place.

3. Creativity isn’t only for art class.

A common misconception is that science is more procedural than creative. I used to think that creativity was one of my weaknesses and that this endeared me to the so-called predictable nature of science. But this is certainly not the case! Within science, creativity and imagination are used to generate hypotheses, make sense of observations and design experiments. In other words, all innovation within science is generated by creativity.

4. Memorization may not be your best friend.

I used to think that I had a photographic memory and that memorizing definitions from the back of the textbook was the best way to study for a test. Turns out that I unfortunately don’t have a photographic memory and science tests can’t be aced by reciting definitions (trust me, I know from experience). While the factual recall of content is often emphasized within science courses, I have learned that there is more value in viewing science as an investigative process. This leads to more complete understanding of a topic (and higher marks on tests).

5. Science goes beyond the four walls of the classroom.

If you aren’t pursuing a science degree, you may have the tendency to rid your mind of anything and everything science related after your final exam. But stop right there! You may be surprised to know that science has a significant impact on many aspects of your life. Since science is socially embedded, material from your science class can help you better interpret stories on the news, influence how you interact with the environment, and be useful as you investigate big questions about life. So please don’t isolate science to the four walls of the classroom, but take it with you when you leave!

As you venture into studying science in university, you have every reason to feel confident! I challenge you to be open to new opportunities and just like me, you might find that science classes have more to offer than you previously thought. As long as you don’t wear your lab coat on the first day of lectures or try to memorise the periodic table of the elements, you’ll be just fine.

Annika Loeppky is a third year Science student.

You can go your own way: Independent studies at CMU | Malcolm Reimer

Nearly all university students will do research as part of their assigned coursework. But university also gives students the opportunity to do independent studies—to design an original research project separate from regular classes, which can be done over a whole semester and counts for credit. CMU students have done studies in English, behavioural economics, biology, and more! I spoke with fourth year student Olivia Neufeldt about her recent independent study in psychology.

Olivia Neufeldt, 4th year psychology major at CMU

Hi Olivia! Tell me about your project.

I developed a survey that looked into stress, anxiety, and academics in relation to student motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 200 students responded, and I presented the results to the CMU community last year.

How did you choose this topic?

I had taken a Psychology of Motivation class the semester before COVID-19, so that was fresh in my brain. I also thought about an idea that would work well during the pandemic, and this would be directly applicable to current students. I wanted to research something every student would have feelings about. And at the time, there were hardly any studies about COVID-19 and psychology, so it was a really new topic.

What did you learn from the survey? I imagine there was probably an increase in stress.

Students are worried! About 60% of students worried more now than in previous years. Generally, those who were more concerned about Covid were also more concerned about managing schoolwork. Interestingly, despite the correlation between COVID-19 worries and academic struggles, most students said that the pandemic didn’t distract them directly.

Did the results match your predictions?

The results are close to what I expected, but it’s nice to be able to show what we might know intuitively with actual data, and for professors to know that students are feeling more stressed than normal. This was near the beginning of the pandemic, so current anxieties may have changed or reduced as well.

Would you recommend students do an independent study?

I would! Especially because you get the opportunity to work really closely with your profs. A lot of other profs were offering to help me, and CMU students were really enthusiastic about participating. It’s a good way to get research experience and to explore a topic you might not be able to cover in class. An independent study looks great on a grad school application—and of course, you get to be in charge of everything!

Malcolm Reimer is a third year Science student.

So you want to write a winning scholarship essay…

Everyone wants free money, am I right? But the idea of writing an essay can seem rather daunting! We realize the sacrifice and determination it takes to sit down on a free weekend to write an essay between other high school assignments, so we thought we would save you some time and effort by helping you write an essay that is a cut above the rest!

1. Have a point!

We have given you questions to guide your thoughts and we do want you to answer all the questions posed, but we are expecting you to incorporate those questions into a larger narrative. Make sure your essay has a unified statement, thesis, or argument behind it. For example, the leadership award asks you to engage three questions, all which should link back to your main point. Not only will this help you to stay on task, it helps us to read and understand your writing. The last thing you want us to be asking ourselves when reading your essay is “now what point is s/he trying to get at, again?”

2. Uniqueness is key

Support your argument with examples from your own life, and tell us why it matters. We aren’t looking for journal entries but we are looking to see that you have thoughtfully engaged the topics in your own life. These are the kinds of essays that stand out above the rest. For example, if you’re applying for the Academic Merit Award and the essay is asking you to write about the importance of diversity and dialogue, make sure you know what those words mean on a personal level, and you have a story or a strong researched argument to back up your opinion. 

3. Show some excitement

Readers know when there is emotional investment in the essay and when there isn’t. Don’t write about what you think you should write about; write about what interests you!

4. Proofread!

Always have someone else read your essay before submitting. Another eye may catch an embarrassing spelling or grammatical error you missed. Don’t let spelling and grammar mistakes be the reason your essay is tossed aside.

5. Cite reputable sources

Make sure you opinions can be backed up by other knowledgeable sources (NOT buzzfeed or Wikipedia). Choose an academic style like APA or Chicago and stick with this style the whole way through.

Remember, you are brilliant and you can do this! If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to your Admissions Counsellor.

Writing suggestions courtesy of the CMU Admissions Team

A procrastinator’s guide to practicum | Guest blogger Cristina Waldner

I had always thought of myself as responsible and all that entails: hard-working, self-motivated, and self-disciplined. My conscientiousness was even seen in the way I limited myself to two Friends episodes in a row to avoid the embarrassment when Netflix condescendingly asks, “Are you still watching Netflix?” (For all of you binge-watchers out there, you’ll be happy to hear I am now a reformed limiter and have been asked this question on several occasions.)

However, I was recently taken aback by the realization that I had fallen victim to the tricky tactics of procrastination. I really did not see it coming, but there it was. How did this happen?

Cristina WaldnerTo better understand my surprise, let me add some context. I have been a student at CMU off and on for the past 12 years. Because of my physical disability, I have only been able to take one or two courses at a time, slowly chipping away at my BA. I struggle a lot with fatigue but have poured myself into every assignment, partly due to pesky perfectionist tendencies and partly for the sheer joy of learning. I have loved my time at CMU, feeling nothing but support and encouragement from faculty and staff. But when it came to my practicum, I felt panicked.

I have actually dreaded the practicum requirement since Day 1 of attending CMU. I have never had a traditional job before and practicum would be my first real taste of what adulthood will look like. For me, there were so many tedious, and sometimes scary, details to consider:

  • Full-time or part-time? Definitely part-time.
  • Work outside the home or from home? Hopefully from home.
  • If that doesn’t work out, is the workplace accessible? Like, totally accessible?
  • Would my attendant come to work with me? Possibly but would it be weird to have an attendant with me in a cubicle?

Hustle picI won’t bore you with more details but this really was just the tip of the logistical iceberg. These thoughts swirled in my mind for about a decade. It wasn’t until my transcript read,  “111 credit hours completed“ that I knew I had run out of time to procrastinate. (I even chose to participate in graduation this past April before I did my practicum!)

When I met with my practicum adviser last year to start planning my practicum, I came to the meeting with a glimmer of hope and a bundle of anxiety. I was so nervous to start the process of finding a work placement with how little physical abilities I had to offer.

Well, to my absolute amazement the meeting went remarkably well! In a short amount of time, huge progress was made in terms of figuring out the logistics of my placement.

So, what for 10 years had been holding me captive had now been set free. I was dreading this process for so long, feeling that the stakes were too high and my abilities too low to have success. But now that I’m here, it’s not as hopeless as I thought.

On September 23, 2018 I officially started my practicum at Society for Manitobans with Disabilities (SMD) and I am thrilled with how it’s going so far. My supervisor has been wonderful and it has been exciting to have an opportunity to explore my passions for disability services, writing, and advocacy. Now that I am in my second term, it is amazing to me how manageable life can seem when you have people around you who want you to succeed.

This is not to say that I am magically problem-free. There are still harsh realities I face every single day being a person with a disability. However, I have learned three valuable lessons during this process that make these realities a little less daunting:

  1. People are kinder and more gracious than I thought. They are more willing to accommodate my unique needs and even find a way to make me feel like I have something to offer.
  2. God is more in control than I thought. He is kinder and more loving than I gave Him credit. He only wants the best for me, so I don’t know why I put His abilities in a box by thinking my circumstances were too much of an obstacle for Him. My Jesus has got this.
  3. Procrastination might seem cool on the surface but it is really just fear masquerading in skinny jeans. Putting responsibilities off and avoiding the inevitable only feeds the voice inside of you that tells you the cost of showing up and trying is too high. Don’t believe the lies!

If I would’ve known these truths 10 years ago, I would not have let the fear of practicum rule my thoughts and actions.

textbookSo, what is something in your life you have been dreading that gives you that pit-in-the-stomach feeling of anxiety at the mere thought? Maybe you are wanting to apply to university but feel intimidated by the work load or maybe you are planning your own practicum but don’t know where to begin. Or maybe you are going to be graduating from CMU soon but feel you have no idea where to go from here.

Well, I am here to tell you that it might not be as insurmountable as you are expecting.
________________

*Adapted for #myCMUlife from “Breathe In, Breathe Out” originally posted on Beautiful, Complicated Life.

Cristina Waldner is completing her practicum requirement after finishing her studies with a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Counselling Studies, and a 3-year Bachelor of Arts in English.

The fourth floor has sweet chairs: An interview with students of CMU’s Social Innovation Lab

CMU’s North Side has a fourth floor?

Mackenzie Nicolle and Jeremy Dyck

Mackenzie Nicolle and Jeremy Dyck in the Centre for Resilience

It certainly does, and it’s called The Centre for Resilience, a space that CMU students Mackenzie Nicolle and Jeremy Dyck spent a lot of time in this past semester.

Nicolle and Dyck are the self-professed “guinea pigs” of the Social Innovation Lab: brain-child of James Magnus-Johnston (CMU’s instructor of Social Entrepreneurship and the director of the Centre for Resilience). 

The Centre for Resilience is a “co-working lab for civic-minded social innovators, entrepreneurs, and researchers” (Centre for Resilience website). Creative entrepreneurs can rent out desk space and collaborate with each-other and enlist the help of enthusiastic students completing their practicum. (Did you know that every CMU student completes some sort of hands-on work practicum before graduating?)

 I sat down with Mackenzie and Jeremy to chat about their projects, experiences, and the space they work in.

Tell me a little bit about the class you’re in and what it entails!

 Centre for Resilience interior Jeremy: So we’re in the Social Innovation Lab, that’s what the class is called, and it’s run out of the Centre for Resilience. It’s kind of like a consulting/mentorship hodgepodge/cornucopia, a little bit of everything. We’re working with the organizations that are up here at the Centre of Resilience and identifying some of their challenges and working on them in the time that we have.

Mackenzie: It’s a practicum course, and we’ve decided that we’re going to be evaluated based on how well the stakeholders feel that we’ve done for them. At the end they write a letter of recommendation. There’s no grade, it’s a pass/fail course. What we get out of it is the experience and letters of recommendation, which look very nice for prospective employers.

Could you tell me about the organization you’re working with and the projects you’re developing?

 M: The two of us are working with Compost Winnipeg, which is a branch of the Green Action Centre. They are a social enterprise, and they’re planning on building a compost site on CMU’s campus! They’re hoping to start in the spring of 2019, so our position was to try to get an idea of how people in the area and people at CMU felt about the project, as well as any concerns they may have.

Because there have been previous groups that have composted in Winnipeg and have done it incorrectly, we wanted to get rid of a lot of the stigma that surrounded composting and to educate people about how it’s being done differently here.

 Any stories or experiences that have stood out for you two?

Centre for Resilience interior J: We did a community survey door-to-door, down Shaftesbury and around the neighbourhood. And that was sort of interesting, to be soliciting people for information. They were surprisingly receptive, that was a nice surprise! I did get one house where I was walking up to the door and saw someone in the window. He was obviously there when I rang the doorbell, but then I heard the door latch lock, so he wasn’t interested in taking our survey… *laughter*

M: There was another house I went up to and a woman opened the door. I had three short questions for her. So I gave her a little blurb about how we were CMU students and that we’d like to engage in a conversation, and her assumption was that I was coming to talk to her because I was against composting. Because obviously nobody wants a compost site near them, and that’s why you’re talking to me, right? *laughs* So I was like no, I’m just trying to gauge what people’s reactions are. And then she got very actively angry about composting. It smells and nobody wants this, and why would you do this, and so on. And then her husband came to the door and the wife walked away. But then he was a lot more receptive when I explained to him the idea of an eco-drum, which is a large cylinder that helps regulate the temperature and the speed of the compost. It’s enclosed, has no smell, and he was a lot more receptive to that. It’s interesting to see how people’s opinions differ based on their prior knowledge.

How would you say this course differs from other courses you’ve taken at CMU?

 J: I wouldn’t say it’s night and day, but it’s pretty close. The fact that there’s no grade at the end sort of implies that it’s really hard to measure success, and that’s because our projects are so different. It’s pretty cool to have a say on what you want to work on, because we were collaboratively with organizations to choose what we want to do, to actually discover what would be the best thing to do for them after analyzing their situations. So it’s been a lot of fun. I appreciate being able to exercise my creativity.

M: Part of the reason we don’t do grades is because we want the opportunity to fail. So that if you try something and it doesn’t work, that’s fine. And then you can renegotiate, research some more, and come up with another idea. And since this is the first time that students have been working with anyone here, we’re the guinea pigs trying to figure out “what does this class look like,” or “what’s successful, what’s not successful…” It’s a good challenge!

Everybody talks about how beautiful the fourth floor is. Tell us about this space! What is so wonderful about working in the Centre for Resilience?

 Centre for Resilience interior J: It’s bright. The vibe is a little different, a little more energetic.

M: Right now it’s a very hopeful space. There’s a lot of people starting off and moving in here. There’s a lot of energy, it’s a different type of energy than school. University has the waves and the seasons of academics, and up here, this is a work environment. And everyone here is doing a unique project, but are still able to talk to each other. The space is still kind of blossoming. I keep telling everyone that the chairs are my favourite part of this space.

J: The chairs are sweet.

M: They are sweet chairs.

Anything else you’d like to say about the Social Innovation Lab?

 M: This is an experimental class. It’s kind of James’ baby coming to life. It’s fun to see how excited he is about the projects, what he likes and what he doesn’t like. He’s a third party in all these projects. He’s someone we can rely on and bounce ideas off of. He guides us and he guides them. This class is about helping us figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s a great experience to be able to work with him.

Mackenzie Nicolle is a 4th year Social Science major and Communications minor 
Jeremy Dyck is a 4th year Business Administration major

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