Category: practicum

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

My practicum experience: real life learning

ircom house

Greetings! My name is Louisa Hofer. I am in my fourth and final year of a social science major.

 I decided to do my practicum during the school year as a part of my overall semester, rather than doing an intensive practicum during the summer like many of my friends and fellow students have done. The people I worked with spoke to me along with my readings, professors, and other conversation partners. This helped me learn in a way that I might not have otherwise and in a way that I really needed at the time.

My practicum took place last semester at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, or IRCOM, as it is more commonly known. IRCOM, is a lot of things. It’s a safe and affordable transitional housing complex for newcomers. It is also home to a multitude of transitional aid programs for both IRCOM residents and members of the West End and West Alexander communities. These programs include English classes, finance classes, job connection services, countless youth and children’s programs, and much more.

IRCOM is a also group of staff available for questions; many of them who had been newcomers themselves and participated in the very IRCOM programs that they now help run. These staff members also do a lot advocacy work—they attend conferences, panels, and write to politicians regarding relevant policies. IRCOM is a lot of things to a lot people.

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"The City" with Prof. Chris Huebner

“The City” with Prof. Chris Huebner

While involved at IRCOM, I was also taking a course called: “The City: Theological and Philosophical perspectives” with Prof. Chris Huebner. It’s one of those courses that haunts everything…the kind that seeps into a ridiculous amount of your thought. We read Plato, Augustine’s City of God, Foucault, and more all while watching
the HBO show The Wire, which uncovers the broken lives of people in Baltimore, MD. In a violent revealing it showed us the corrupt and messed up policies and market forces that seem to screw these citizens over in ways akin to the mischievous terror of the gods in a Greek tragedy.

thewireThe Wire does this in both a shocking and brilliant fashion. It showed the utter failure of bureaucracy, and caused me to question my faith in humanity’s ability to organize ourselves. If that wasn’t enough, there were other events happening that were certainly not inconsequential, not the least of which was a significant election and the profound mass migration of refugees.

From that heavy and heady space that challenged and lamented the big picture, I would go to IRCOM and assist in little things. On any given week I would do some office work, some filing, or build some IKEA furniture. It was an odd juxtaposition to be assisting in the mundane functions of a non-profit organization with all of those thoughts going on in the background. I approached this place expecting to see people that were troubled and perplexed, but I saw a lot of “just living”—people just going about their day.

My time tutoring in IRCOM’s homework program definitely my favourite task. This program was started by IRCOM kids themselves a few years back and has expanded into quite the endeavour. There are around 60-70 kids all doing their homework (or sometimes not doing their homework) with 5-10 tutors every night.

It is quite the beautiful chaos to see kids from different linguistic, cultural, and religious groups in the same room coming together almost every day. From what these kids have said, this learning community has provided a significant boost in facing an unfamiliar educational system.

MBInfographiconRefugeesMBInfographiconRefugeesI had been with people who were going about their business, navigating life and forming a little learning community, but this night was a small glimpse into how these lives have so often been cast into controversy and into a narrative of danger, or of crisis and charity. It was a glimpse into how the way they were being narrated and the outcome of the U.S. election would severely effect people who would be trying to make a similar journey that they had.

There has been a lot to be said for what is going on here, of the protests and the marches attended by these folks, but also the quiet resistance lived-out in the form of everyday life that dwells beyond the labels of danger, of crisis, and charity that people always seem to ascribe.

I’m not sure how this mess will turn out, but it has been an honour to be with these people who just keep doing their thing.

Louisa Hofer is a fourth year student in social science

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