Category: faith life (Page 1 of 4)

A Place of Belonging: A Thank You To Our Donors

CMU would not exist without the generous support of our donors, and for them we are so incredibly grateful. Many students rely on and benefit from financial aid, and every year CMU celebrates the people and organizations who make this aid possible! This wonderful speech was given by 3rd year student Marnie Klassen, who thanked our donors on behalf of the students this past Tuition Freedom Day. Enjoy!

Marnie KlassenNearly three months ago, I sat behind the steering wheel of my friend’s car, driving towards Winnipeg after a summer home in BC, and listening to an interview with social researcher Brene Brown. She was talking about true belonging and said, “Fitting in is when you want to be part of something. Belonging is when other people want you.”

I grinned at the passing prairies because I knew that was exactly what I was returning to.

CMU is a place of making connections, and a place of belonging. I’d like to tell you a bit about my experience with these things, and how being able to make connections has created a space of belonging for me.

I arrived at CMU two years ago, pretty sure that I knew what I was doing. I would major in Communications and Media, and double minor in Biblical and Theological Studies alongside Peace and Conflict Transformation. Yeah…that didn’t happen. After a few classes, it was clear which conversations made me come more alive. My plans were upturned.

Since abandoning my 18-year-old-self’s plan, something miraculous has happened – I have begun seeing and making connections. What does this look like exactly?

Technically, it means that I’m pursuing an interdisciplinary degree in Social Theology with a communications minor. But technical terms don’t tell you much—let me instead tell you what I’ve experienced here at CMU.

I lived in dorm for two years, and was drawn into a community full of commonality and difference. A few months into my time here, I found myself a part of a group of friends all studying different things—there was the composer, the music therapist, the philosopher, the poet, the peacemaker, among others. There we were, sharing cafeteria meals and constantly gleaning from each other’s learning. I still sometimes forget that I did not, in fact, take Business Ethics last year, for all of the wonderful and intriguing tidbits that permeated dinner conversations.

"CMU is a place of making connections and a place of belonging"I didn’t only eat with peers. Eventually I began eating a lunch or two a week with professors, and realized that not only was I developing relationships with them and the ideas they brought to the intellectual table, but they had their own relationships that they were happy to welcome me into. I would eat quiche with faculty members Kenton Lobe and Chris Huebner, and would be drawn into conversation not about sustainable development or Michel Foucault, but about cyclocross racing. The people and ideas I was dovetailing with were also constantly connecting.

The real learning came when the connections began to move from conversation to classroom to experience.

In Introduction to Sociology, I wrote about bicycle commuting, interviewing three winter cyclists from Winnipeg and postulating that their interaction with their place increased the ways they were able to build social relationships, rooting their identity as neighbour in their concrete neighborhoods. At the time it was very theoretical for me, as I felt I did not have a neighbourhood, living at CMU and all, and I was not a cyclist. Months later, in The Study of Voluntary Simplicity, I took up a simplicity practice. In an effort to discover what this simplicity business was all about, I began to spend time outside every day. Suddenly I had a neighbourhood. The trees of the Assiniboine Forest and the deer prancing frantically across Grant Avenue were my neighbours, inviting me into their space of belonging.

This fall, I am living off campus for the first time, and while my academic work is still significant, I wonder if my most important work is not my walk to and from church each week. The theoretical learning in which I partook a year ago has translated into the way I live my life with others, the very grounding notion of belonging in a neighborhood, to a community rooted in its place.

This is not a small thing. Entering a space at CMU where I can make these connections between disciplines, and between academia and my own life has allowed me to find a space of belonging. Coming from three provinces away, it is no insignificant feat to build a home in a place. And yet that is what I have been enabled to do here. I keep coming back to a line from a friend’s thesis which she presented two years ago. She wrote, “Learning is a practice in community,” and I think that’s exactly right. We would not be able to learn and become in the same way in isolation.

And so, dear donors, government, and churches, thank you. Thank you for making possible this space where not only can we students learn to read and write and study well, but where we can make connections to the other parts of our lives and learn to belong to each other. Thank you for your prayers, your participation in our community, and your generosity of heart and resource. May we receive these gifts well and continue to create spaces of belonging, as might fit in the Kingdom of God.

Seeing God Through a Fish | Guest blogger: Sara Wolowich

This past summer I had the opportunity to do my practicum with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), at the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg.

carmine shiner minnowOver the course of the summer I learned so much and experienced what it would be like to be a research scientist. I began working with Rachel Krause, Assistant Professor of Biology at CMU, on a partnership project with DFO studying carmine shiners, a type of minnow, and the parasites found inside these fish. DFO wanted to continue this project over the summer and they hired me to conduct dissections.

The field research brought me to Birch River, where the elusive carmine shiner can be found. This species is endangered, and this project is an effort to know more about the species and its changing metabolic rates related to temperature and climate change. In short, what we did was go out to the field (or river) and conducted respirometry experiments by placing the fish in tubes and measuring their oxygen consumption. These experiments are being done in the fall, spring, and summer, to measure metabolic rates related to temperature. In search of a relationship between metabolic rate and parasite load, the fish were then examined for parasites.

Sara Wolowich field workI also had the opportunity to go out and do nearshore surveys in the south basin of Lake Winnipeg, learn about fish tagging and receivers, and bathymetry. It was very cool to be working in a place where everything I learned in my CMU ecology classes was so relevant.

God was also brought into this summer in a weird variety of ways. I have always believed that whatever I do I am working for the Lord. Somedays in this job it felt so real.

There were times when I stood in the river for hours, as we were running experiments, and just got to stand in the middle of creation and admire it. I stared down the mud and what the small invertebrates crawl around. I watched tadpoles and small fish. I listened to the birds and the water flow by and enjoyed the sun. I took time to see all the life around us that we usually ignore. I remember one time just looking at one drop of water and seeing multiple things move within it.

Sara Wolowich conducting testsWe are part of a world and a creation that is intricate and so much bigger than what we see. I never imagined myself dissecting fish, never-mind looking for parasites, but it was very fascinating. When you are studying something for a period of time under a microscope you see how intricate and amazingly created it is. Once you know more about something you want to care for it and protect it.

I also encountered God in the lab as I was faced with questions of life and death. It broke me to take these little fish that thrive so well in their natural environment and euthanize them so I could look for parasites. One surprising question that arose for me during my time at DFO was do I really have the right to experiment and in many cases take the life of different organisms to hopefully gain insight to help the rest of the species in the future. I found myself asking for forgiveness and apologizing as well as praying that each fish we killed would protect more of its kind in the future.

Sara Wolowich Lab WorkI also struggled a lot with working alone in the lab looking through a microscope for days. This work is not simple. Science is not easy and the questions we ask about the world around us are not easy to answer. I dissected fish all summer long and I still found new parasites. Somedays I needed to show up at work at 7:00 AM a few days in a row in and work long days in order to complete field work.

I also was pushed in the type of work I did in different environments. I love being outside but have never been an outdoorsy/back-woods type of person. Though, this job required me to work in a waist deep river in the cold rain seining for fish. It also required me to walk through the bush carrying heavy equipment needed for data collection. I learned that rain, bugs, mud, and sometimes sleep is not important in order to gather the information to the questions you are asking. I gained strength physically and mentally. And I know that God gave me strength to do this work.

Sara WolowichAnother lesson I learned was that there is a lot of work that must be done to plan and prepare for going out into the field, and that once you are outdoors you are at mercy of the environment. As scientists we do not control the environment we go into and we must adapt and be creative in order to make our projects attainable in the field. I feel that I gained valuable skills of planning out a project and also being able to think on my feet when actually carrying out the experiment.

I have read so many journal articles for class and in those papers the emotions, the work, the failures, and frustrations are not shown. Science is objective but there has to be emotion in it. Why do we do things like protect these tiny fish that seem to have no known value to us?

Because we believe they are innately valuable and in my mind this value is given to them by God. He gave them life as he gave us life.

That is why I am so grateful for my faith and for this experience, because when I was in the river or at my microscope I could seek God’s Kingdom first.

Sara Wolowich is a 4th year Environmental Studies student.

The courage to be vulnerable

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (Portrait of Jason Friesen on the Marpeck bridge wearing a grey long sleeved t-shirt with the CMU logo across the chest.)

Most of us don’t like to be in vulnerable spaces. The uncertainties of those spaces leave us with butterflies fluttering around in our stomachs. Conceding power is uncomfortable. Yet CMU is a place that exemplifies and guides us into those vulnerable spaces.

Let’s start with the classroom. One of CMU’s largest selling points is the small class sizes, which allow students to interact personally with their professors. This is completely accurate, but just saying that to a prospective student at a campus visit day doesn’t fully capture the connection between professors and students.

CMU students are not only treated to professors who interact with them, but professors who make themselves vulnerable.

I still remember taking Interpersonal Communication in my second year with sociology professor Rod Reynar. The very first class, Rod told us some of his life story. Hearing about Rod’s chronic back pain caused by inflammation around his spinal cord, and how that kept him bed ridden for years sent a strong message on its own. But his actions sent a message that would set the tone for the rest of the semester. The classroom was to be a space of sharing, where personal experiences were a valuable asset to learning. How could we students not follow suit and share of our own lives as well?

Students seated at a desk in small classroom at CMU, engaging with a professor across from them.

That invitation to make those kinds of connections is not isolated to a class focusing on Interpersonal Communication. It quickly becomes something we expect in the classroom at CMU no matter the course. Here, professors constantly ask students to connect what they are learning to their own lives, and to share those connections.

If you stick around CMU beyond class times, you become familiar with another place of vulnerability – the many student council events on campus, from the GOlympics, to coffee houses, to Film 60. Though these events are definitely aimed to provide student entertainment, there is something else going on in these spaces. It’s obvious when you see student Zach Stefaniuk perform at a coffee house, as he pipes up on a goofy song, and brings a room to a roar of laughter like only he can.

And then there are music students: they start out understandably timid in their first Thursday recital, and blossom into fine, expressive performers by the time their grad performance rolls around. 

At coffeehouses, recitals, and everything in between, students are opening themselves up to potential praise and critique. Yet students keep signing up and showing up!  They seem to like making themselves vulnerable and equally appreciate it when others do the same.

Not all acts of vulnerability are as public as the classroom or CMU events though. A space where I have seen the most vulnerability is on the volleyball team.

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (The CMU mens volleyball team line up for a team photo after winning the MCAC championships for the second year in a row.)

This past year, our team committed to doing weekly Bible studies. We read scripture, watched videos of athletes like MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw and NHLer Mike Fisher tell their faith stories, and shared of our own experiences. And I know for a fact that we were not the only group of students doing this on campus.

Whether through fellowship groups or late night discussions in a residence lounge, signs of this type of vulnerability are scattered throughout campus, sometimes hidden in spaces most will never see.  

What is significant about these examples is that only the first scenario involves CMU faculty or staff directly. The other examples show students choosing to put themselves in vulnerable spaces. The culture of the classrooms at CMU encourages students to be vulnerable and to walk alongside others as they do the same. This culture fosters that type of living throughout students’ lives!    

We live in an age with many examples of strength associated with power and dominance. But CMU is a university that cultivates students to challenge the norm, to think critically about what we see in the world, and to draw our values from scripture rather than popular culture.

The Theologies of Power course with Irma Fast Dueck, and a reading from theologian Walter Wink’s “Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence”, follow that trend. The belief that the ends can justify any amount of violent means surrounds us in films, TV shows, and almost every story we encounter. But not the narrative of scripture. Jesus lived a life full of courage and strength, yet none of it revolved around the type of power we are used to. Instead, he showed strength through coming to earth as a child and living a life of service, and he showed courage through sacrificing his life for us. I can think of no better examples of courage and strength, and at the same time can’t fathom any greater displays of vulnerability.

Author and theologian C.S.Lewis perhaps puts it best. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” My hope is that as each of us branch out from CMU into the world, we would take the risk that Lewis is talking about.

We come to CMU as vulnerable newcomers, and when it comes time to leave, we will walk into many more situations that need vulnerable people. A friend of mine, accompanies her email signature with a quote that reads,  “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to grow? Because that’s exactly what courage, strength, love, and vulnerability call for.  Embrace that and continue to create those vulnerable spaces.

Jason Friesen wearing his black graduation cap and gown on the day of his graduation from CMU's Communications and Media program.Jason Friesen is a 2018 graduate of CMU’s Communications and Media program, and this year’s Valedictorian. He was also the lead blogger for #myCMUlife in the 2017-18 school year, and this post was adapted from his valedictory address.

Finding community and trusting God’s faithfulness

Taylor Prior - Finding community and trusting God's provision

I came to CMU after a year of Outtatown, intending to deepen my relationship with Jesus and live in community.

Not from a Mennonite background, I had a bunch of preconceived ideas about CMU. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But I held onto the idea of community in hopes that it would be as great as everyone said it would be.

A couple of months went by and I was skeptical. I hadn’t found the community I had envisioned. In this moment of doubt I leaned into the faithfulness of Jesus and his provision. I had to come to terms with the idea that things might not be exactly how I envisioned. Perhaps Jesus had a greater plan than I could write for myself.

As I let go of what I thought I needed, Jesus provided me with a group of friends who have both challenged and strengthened my faith. He provided a community of people I can laugh with, worship with, and have meaningful conversations with. 

Taylor Prior - Finding community and trusting God's provision

When I imagined community at CMU, I thought I would just instantly find my place. But it took some effort on my part, and it was something I had to grow into. With a bit of faith and trust, God provided a group of people that have been pivotal in my journey at CMU. They’ve even cultivated my newfound appreciation for the art of dumpster diving!

This past year, my first year at CMU, I have learned the importance of being rooted in Jesus’ faithfulness. And I have felt his abundance through the community he provided.

Through this community, I’m learning what it looks like to love others; to share in each other’s joy, and sit with each other in the moments that suck. Trusting Jesus’ provision has helped me to grow and become part of a community of people that makes CMU feel like home.   

In this new grounding of faith, I have experienced abundantly more than I could ask or imagine. Looking ahead, I remain confident in the good things he has in store.

 

Taylor Pryor is a first year Social Sciences student from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

From a reluctant start: How CMU shaped my future

Nick Kehler - a Reluctant Start

I won’t lie – I was never planning on staying at CMU. I came in 2013, fresh out of Mennonite Collegiate Institute and I just wanted to play volleyball for a year, maybe two, and then I was going to go to “real” school at U of M.

This reluctant narrative is sort of what defines my CMU experience. At first, I was told of the wonders of CMU. The community, the class size, the opportunity for spiritual growth – it was all going to be awesome! But I didn’t really listen, I didn’t really care. Then, all of a sudden I was doing all these things and they were good.

So the “thesis” as it were (because this is a university after all) would be:

Everyone says it’s good. I didn’t want to, I didn’t think it would be good, and then all of a sudden I was doing it and it was good.

Small class sizes

I was told that classes were small and this was good: I was pretty nonplussed by this. I didn’t really care. Then I realized that this was actually a very good thing (though also a little challenging). I could talk to profs, get advice and all that good stuff. But this didn’t mean things were easy. Yes, I could bounce my ideas off my profs, but they could also stare at my soul and know that I had absolutely not done the readings for that day’s lesson. Also, in a class of 20, Delmar wouldn’t have a hard time noticing me falling asleep in the History of Psychology… not ideal.

Nick Kehler - a Reluctant Start

Practicum

I was told that practicum was helpful. Yikes, I really didn’t have a good attitude about this one. I did mine at Deer Lodge Centre which is a personal care home and hospital and I was doing work assisting occupational therapists and physiotherapists. This sort of work is what I want to do with the rest of my life and looking back now, I realize that this not only was great in terms of me affirming what the next chapter of my life looks like, it also looks pretty good on a resume or application.

Integrative courses

I was also told that integrative courses were awesome: I didn’t want to do them cause they all seemed like lots of work – now I know that these were likely the most unique, eye-opening, challenging, and rewarding classes that I took.

In my Psychology and Christianity course for example, we discussed questions like “are we soul and mind” are we “soul mind and body” or “just body?” Topics like the intersection of psychotherapy and faith were discussed and I came to quickly realize that there is no such thing as differentiating faith and the rest of life. It’s all wrapped together and it’s all super confusing and it’s all difficult and it’s all completely full of truths, half-truths, and caveats to everything that you can think of. This is perhaps the biggest takeaway from being here for the past few years. There isn’t a way to break things apart – things can’t just be categorized. In psychology, the study of human behaviour and cognition and interaction is intricately connected to God, the creator.

So, I was told many things, I didn’t really believe them. I eventually did those things anyways and now, looking back on all of that, I see that I’m a better person for it.

So how has CMU prepared me for life past university? I would say that it’s guided me and shaped me to think holistically – to think about God and people and relationships and research and everything in between, as connected – as influenced by and influencing each other.

 

Nick Kehler is a fourth year Psychology major graduating in April, and is from Altona, MB.

 

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