I’d like to begin by saying that I hope you’re doing really well. I really do mean that. I hope you’re managing to stay afloat as the semester comes to an end. Papers, assignments, finals, and summer job applications are just some of the stresses that students face in March and April.
If you’re a graduating student like myself, I’m sure there’s some uncertainty about what happens next year. What school are you going to go to? What sort of a job are you going to work? Either way, I want you to know that if you’re feeling stressed, your feelings are valid. School can be hard. So keep on doing your best and know that you are not alone.
I am a graduating arts and science major, studying history and biology. Yes, those are very different subjects from each other, and yes, I love both of them. My time at CMU has been both meaningful and fulfilling.
In my history classes, I’ve had opportunities to explore the history of our earth and the people that live here. I’ve explored the history of many peoples, conflicts, successes, and failures. In my biology classes I’ve learned about the many mechanisms that allow life to exist. The complexity of structures that God has woven into creation leaves me in awe and wonder. I have enjoyed these classes.
I know I only have a bit of space to write about my experiences at CMU. I could go on and on about classes (and the stress of classes) and the joys of living on campus. I could talk about the time I wrote a ten-page paper in a single evening; that was fun. However, what I really want to say—and I know this is probably going to be a little cheesy—is thank you to the staff and faculty of CMU.
As I was trying to think of an experience to write about in this blog post, I kept coming back to how thankful I am for the staff and faculty. The students make up the highest population of community at CMU, but the staff and faculty work so hard to make this a place where great community can exist.
The professors are so approachable. Often times they care about my learning more than even I care about my learning! I also live on campus, and I have seen how difficult it can be to maintain some of our buildings. The maintenance staff are so great; they are absolute LEGENDS. So, I applaud the professors, student life staff, advisors, maintenance staff, kitchen staff, and everyone else who works tirelessly to make CMU such a wonderful place. Thank you.
Christopher Epp is graduating this year with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in arts and science, with concentrations in biology and history.
Look no further, you can study and grab a coffee or snack in the same place! CMU’s folio café is a beautiful place to study on your own or meet up with a professor or project partner, as the floor-to-ceiling windows offer natural sunlight and a view of the campus grounds. If you like to study in busy and social spaces, this is the perfect place for you!
Library: Peaceful and Bright
For those who need silence to focus, the library is a bright and peaceful space. You can choose to sit in an armchair overlooking the north side building, or you can sit with friends at one of the large tables. With instant access to books and other resources, as well as free printing, you’ll have everything you need.
Study room: Convenient and Private
Another quiet option is a study room in upper Marpeck Commons. You can book online to reserve timeslots, and many of the rooms include south-facing floor-to-ceiling windows that provide lots of light on sunny days.
Great Hall: Warm and Cozy
The Great Hall is a grand and cozy room, offering warm and comfortable spaces to meet with a group to work on a project, do homework on your own, or eat meals between classes. This space is welcoming but usually pretty quiet and offers many comfy armchairs and tables to choose from. Home to CMU’s student-run Blaurock Café, the Great Hall is a convenient place to sip a warm (or cold) drink while productively studying.
Local cafés: Aesthetic and Social
Winnipeg is home to many aesthetically pleasing coffee shops, and it can be refreshing to leave campus or home for a few hours to study with a change of scenery. If you’re looking to stay closer to campus, try Joy Coffee Bar on Roblin Blvd, Make Coffee on Corydon Ave, or Little Sister Coffee Maker on Osborne St. For cute coffee shops downtown, check out Hildegard’s Bakery on Portage Ave, or Thom Bargen on Sherbrook St. The options are endless!
Jubilee Dueck Thiessen is a third year Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in English.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the past five years, headlines implying that university and secondary education are dead have become more rampant and more common than ever before. For example, titles like “The university is dead: COVID-19 killed it”, “Whose university is it anyway?”, “Are we witnessing the death of the traditional university?”, and “Why universities are failing to prepare students for the job market” are just a few. Looking at the headlines paints a pretty bleak picture for secondary education and universities in particular. Never mind when you take the time to read the articles themselves. Repeatedly, the authors are noting three components to the supposed death of university. After sitting down with the director of CMU’s Center for Career and Vocation and Director of Practicum, Christine Kampen Robinson, the future for secondary education seems anything but bleak.
But first, why do people think university is dying? And why are people questioning the importance and validity of the university route? In the article titled “Why universities are failing to prepare students for the job market” by Melissa Gismondi, written in 2021, she notes that there has been a steady rise in universities shifting to part-time or adjunct instructors instead of the traditional professor. Had Gismondi interviewed CMU, she would know that 90% of CMU’s faculty has PhDs, maintaining a rigorous academic standard and close faculty to student relations. A fact that is starkly different than most other universities.
A further challenge for universities is increased tuition. A study in 2017 noted that “more than 75 per cent of Canadian graduates under the age of 40 regret taking on student debt. According to Statistics Canada, the average university graduate finishes school more than $26,000 in the red.” Therefore, there is a more significant trend for high school graduates to take a gap year to make money before considering further education, whether college or university. Once again, the critiques made towards universities focus more on public and bigger universities, and not smaller private universities like CMU. Half of the CMU student body receive financial aid in grants or bursaries from CMU and the wider CMU community. The last common theme is that with an increase in adjunct lecturers and tuition, administrative staff have a more business-like and creatively conservative environment. Professors are given less agency in choosing their classes and how they want the format of their classes to be.
In the face of all these claims as to the death of university, why university? Why should young adults take on student loans? Why study for four years before heading into the workforce? Why university?
When asked ‘Why university?’ when it is complex and expensive, Christine said, “university is an opportunity to be immersed in new ideas in a way that I don’t think you’d have the opportunity to do in other contexts.” She notes that “an important part of emerging adulthood is re-examining the different ideas and values you’ve been raised with and identifying which of those you’re adopting as your own and which of those you want to release.” University offers you a place to do that with other young adults who are experiencing the same thing. The process can be lonely “and it can be challenging to figure out what to replace stuff with,” but in a university setting where gaining knowledge is the everyday agenda, new ideas and values are readily available for consideration or adoption.
North America is a primary consumer society where people are often subconsciously asking ‘what can I get out of this?’ Much of what students can ‘get out’ of university is implicit and unmeasurable. Rather “what university can do is provide us with knowledge, but also how to find knowledge.” One of the side effects of a university is that one learns that “you need to question everything, and that’s a healthy, good thing.” In a climate where misinformation is rampant, having the practices and experience of asking questions and looking deeper at a source or idea for its validity is important. In other words, being able to think critically is an important skill that is highly sought after by employers and is also something that one constantly learns in university.
Kampen Robinson explains critical thinking as the ability to compare, contrast and synthesize a wide variety of ideas alongside the ability to break down ideas and reexplain them for a different audience. These are all critical elements of any paper a student writes, but as a university, like society, is a higher outcome and output-based environment, the process often gets discounted. But it is in the process that the skills that employers and professors are looking for occur. Kampen Robinson believes that the “more we raise awareness of the process, I feel the more equipped people [will] be to connect those different pieces and show a broader story, and even just see how qualified they are for different [jobs].”
Throughout the interview, Kampen Robinson kept on returning to the idea of a story. In part, because that is where her background lies, but more predominantly, Kampen Robinson has noticed an inability to tell one’s story is where the university and workforce disconnect comes into play. She says, “I don’t think the problem is that students who are graduating do not have the skills that are being sought after in the work force, I think they don’t know they have them, and so you can’t tell a story about something you don’t see or that you don’t know exists.”
At CMU, every student must complete a minimum of 6 credit hours of practicum that is intentionally approached through a career development and vocational focus. This means that every student graduating from CMU will have had a career counselling session where Kampen Robinson and others emphasis this idea of ‘story’ and hands on experience as part of the workforce. In the accompanying class to the practicum requirement, Kampen Robinson and her colleagues help students think about ‘story.’ What is the story that they want to tell, and how can they frame the process of university; of writing papers and navigating different extracurricular expectations into a story that employers can understand?
Furthermore, these students are asked questions like “Who do you want to be? Who do you want to show up as? Who are you showing up to as now and how connected is that to where you want to be?” It is in learning to tell their story that they will be equipped for life past secondary education.
The idea of ‘story’ and the ability to tell one’s story is critical in future job security. As Kampen Robinson reiterates, “When students are equipped to tell their story, they can do that even when things change and even when things are scary and awful.” She goes on to say that “You can’t write a good resume, you cannot write a good cover letter, you can’t even see what kinds of job postings you would be interested in applying for, [or] don’t even know how to look for them, if you don’t know what the story is. If you don’t know what your story is and what the bigger world story is and how you connect to it.”
So, why university? There will never be a clear answer, and I am inclined to think there should not be. University is not about quick and clear answers. Or at least that is not what it is about at CMU. As Kampen Robinson reflected, after her bachelor’s, master’s and PhD “One of the big things I took away from university is the ability to look at stuff with nuance. There are multiple perspectives, multiple truths and that is uncomfortable. When we’re kids, we want things to be really clear. . . but that’s not how anything works.” Hugh Martin (who was in university management for over 20 years) echoes Kampen Robinson’s sentiments. It is at university where “we met people, we engaged with people, we debated with people, we argued with people, we met people from different backgrounds, different races, different colours, different genders, different sexualities, different behaviours, different language. We learned on campus about ourselves, we fell in and out of love with knowledge and with each other and all of that was about the journey of life that university does” and that is not something that can happen through online school, and not as easy to occur in other contexts.
Martin rightly says, “We [the university] are not there to create job ready graduates, the purpose of a university is to create graduates who are ready for life.” To help shape young adults to have the skills and confidence to tell their story while listening to other people’s stories and seeing how they connect with a nuanced critical eye.
Written byNatasha Neustaedter Barg, a fifth year Bachelor of Arts, Social Sciences Major
 Melissa Gismondi, “Why Universities Are Failing to Prepare Students for the Job Market | CBC Radio,” CBCnews (CBC/Radio Canada, October 13, 2021), https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/why-universities-are-failing-to-prepare-students-for-the-job-market-1.6208196.