Category: practicum (Page 1 of 2)

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Practicum | Guest blogger: Christina 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.
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*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

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.

Studying the In Between: CMU’s Communications and Media Program

When I entered university, I had my plan all set. I was going to spend a couple of years at CMU taking science courses, and then get a degree in Kinesiology elsewhere. That plan didn’t last long. It took me only one year to realize that a degree in the sciences was not for me. It was not that I did poorly in the sciences, but it just wasn’t something I wanted to make a career out of. Having always enjoyed writing, I decided to try some communications and media classes in my second year. That change in direction turned into my major.

Jason Friesen - Studying the In Between: CMU’s Communications and Media Program

Studying communications is not like studying anything else. Whereas most majors in the sciences and arts look at the final product of information, communications studies stops before making it to the final product, to study how that information gets relayed and passed along.

With courses on radio, live streaming, sound production, video making, journalism, and graphic design, CMU gives a broad sweep of different technical skills that are valuable to anybody who wants a job in communications.

There are many ways to relay messages in today’s age, and CMU does a fantastic job of introducing students to many of those forms. With courses on radio, live streaming, sound production, video making, journalism, and graphic design, CMU gives a broad sweep of different technical skills that are valuable to anybody who wants a job in communications. In talking to various communications professionals, it’s obvious that multimedia is important in today’s world, so learning a variety of skills is important.

CMU enables communications grads to not only produce content, but to actually think critically about what they and others are producing, and what the effects are on society.

CMU doesn’t merely teach you the “hard” skills of communications, though. They  focus on the “soft” side as well. You get to analyze why you use these skills, and how to use them in an ethical and life-giving way. Through learning about things like new media, Christianity in the mass media, and politics in the mass media through theory courses, CMU enables communications grads to not only produce content, but to actually think critically about what they and others are producing, and what the effects are on society.  

Jason Friesen - Studying the In Between: CMU’s Communications and Media Program

On top of all this, a communications degree at CMU is not just a two-year program that teaches you only about communications. You need to take electives and courses outside of your major to fulfil the degree. This forces you to study other topics, and see how other disciplines look at the world. And as communications professor David Balzer said to me, “You’ll never communicate about communicating in the real world. You’ll communicate about business, biology, mathematics, psychology, and so on.” Good communication doesn’t just require knowledge of how to relay a message; it requires knowledge about what you’re talking about.

Combining all that you learn in the class with a practicum placement really rounds out the program. I have spent time at practicums first at Manitoba Public Insurance and now at True North Sports + Entertainment this year, and both experiences have allowed me to learn lessons I never would in the classroom.

The communications program helped me to realize the direction I want to go for a career in communications, and I’ve seen myself grow as a communicator to the point where I feel confident I’ll find work after graduation.

Jason Friesen is our lead blogger, and he’s in his final year of a Communications and Media degree at CMU.

If there’s one thing CMU teaches, it’s interconnectivity

When I chose Communications & Media as my major, I probably wouldn’t have pegged Manitoba Public Insurance as the place that I would be completing my practicum. Nonetheless, that is exactly where I found myself one year ago. I was set to be one of five other students with the title of “Community Relations Assistant,” and as a team, we would be responsible for going around to schools, daycares, and summer events across Manitoba to do bike safety and road safety presentations.

Jason FriesenMy communication did not take the form that people typically think of when they hear the words “communications and media.” There were no blog or social media posts. Instead, I engaged with people face-to-face on a daily basis on behalf of MPI. Though at first glance our job was to state the rules of the road and making presentations, it became obvious that interacting and connecting with communities across Manitoba was far more important.

Many of the events I attended showed this, and were part of larger community gatherings. Not only was our team running a bike safety course, but there were other organizations giving away bikes to kids who did not have one, and members of the community would be barbecuing hot dogs. The events were designed to connect different organizations, and bring the whole community together.

It wasn’t hard to tell that this was meaningful to the communities. At one country fair, a man told me that he had been in a car crash several years ago, and had to go through rehab to recover from the effects of it. He then proceeded to sincerely thank me and MPI for all of the funds and assistance that he had received.

Not only did this interaction make me feel like I was building community, but it really made me feel that even in a large corporation like MPI, everything is tied together. What I was doing was not separate from those collecting payments for licenses, or from those making sure that Manitoban’s are cared for when they are in an accident.

My education at CMU has been much the same. I have taken a wide variety of courses, from communications, to business, to Bible, and science. And somehow, I have been able to find connections between many of them.

Making connections will only help me in my future endeavours. Professor David Balzer summed it up best. “Any other academic discipline can be connected to communications, because you won’t be communicating about communications. You’ll be communicating about science, music, business, and other things.”

Jason Friesen is a fourth year student majoring in Communications & Media

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