Category: academics (Page 1 of 12)

The gift of classroom friendships | Katherine Penner

This past semester I had the enjoyment of being in the Ecological Peacebuilding class, taught by Kenton Lobe. We were a small group and over the semester we became a close-knit group of peers with a high level of trust among us. Before, during, and after class we gathered together and engaged in a variety of honest, thought-provoking, and vulnerable conversations to a level I haven’t experienced in any other class.

Katherine Penner says her Ecological Peacebuilding class has been “a wonderful gift.”

One point of discussion that impacted me the most was considering the interdependence of humans, animals, and the environment and what this consideration means for students living and learning on the land CMU calls home. We talked critically about the balance between rights and responsibilities, pondering how we can develop an understanding of receiving gifts from the earth, rather than taking resources as ours to be controlled and exploited. We framed this as striving for a gift economy, as opposed to a Wiindiigoo one, the Wiindiigoo being a ravenous cannibalistic creature from Indigenous stories cautioning against greed.

In this learning we consulted a variety of voices including an Indigenous water protector and settlers who hold deep affection for the land, the creatures that inhabit it, and also the stories it holds. This was a unique opportunity to learn and explore course material and current issues together in a deep way that we all agreed would follow us beyond the semester.

Knowing that the topic of the climate crisis is complex, emotionally evocative, and oftentimes anxiety-inducing, it seemed that each of us entered the space of the course with a willingness to offer our own insights, listen attentively to others, and respond in ways that allowed meaningful and productive conversations to flourish. This approach led to open conversations where we both encouraged and challenged one another, all wanting to participate fully and collaboratively. This class very well may live on in my memories as a particularly special one and I think of this experience as a wonderful gift to have been a part of during my last year at CMU.

Katherine Penner is a fourth year Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies.

Anger and peace within ecological peacebuilding | Abigail Hill

Kenton Lobe with a Gete-Okosomin squash during class

I have taken quite a few classes here at CMU, but I can say with confidence that the Ecological Peacebuilding class has been my favourite. Our professor, Kenton Lobe, led us through five individual books, all by authors who care deeply about creation, place, and peace.

Our central focus was the question, “where is here?” and almost every class happened in a different spot around the CMU campus. For the majority of the semester, we were outside and that knit us together as a class. It was literally a breath of fresh air during this pandemic that has surrounded us for the past two years.

It was a small group, about fifteen students, and we were collectively engaged in heartfelt discussion. The class was designed around trust; we were there to learn and collaborate, not compete. We were not expected to regurgitate information and there was no midterm or final exam. We were simply called by Kenton to engage with the material critically, from wherever we were at. Most importantly, there was an exchange of trust between the professor and each individual student.

Kenton Lobe and Abigail Hill in class outside

I felt this trust the most when we were reading To Be a Water Protector by Winona LaDuke. While it was easily my favourite text during the course, I realized how angry I truly was. I was/am angry about how the climate crisis is being handled by those in power around the globe. While I was reading LaDuke’s book, I felt that anger bubble up time and time again. I felt her anger as an Indigenous woman even while knowing that I will never fully understand her experience.

In this class I began the journey of reconciling my anger and the concept of peace. How can a person work to cultivate peace and trust between all relatives and still be angry? Why is the line between hope and hopelessness so thin? I won’t pretend that I have these answers—I’m honestly not sure I ever will. However, I am still hopeful (and angry) and am excited for what the rest of my education entails.

Abigail Hill is a second year Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in Social Sciences.

Five 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

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