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Counselling is cool

The semester had just begun, and I logged into my email to check for an update about where one of my new classes was being held. The email was sitting in my inbox (third-floor, North side – my glutes better be ready for a workout). But underneath it was another message. One that CMU students receive fairly often, and one that brings me so much comfort.

“Did you know we have volunteer counsellors on campus? The counselling sessions are free for all CMU students.”

The email goes on to explain that there is a counsellor available on campus every day from Monday to Friday, and how to get connected with them. It’s a simple process.

I’ve never seen one of these on-campus counsellors. But they have still helped me immensely. They’re one of the reasons I decided to come to CMU. Let me explain…

Prior to my first semester here, I had just begun going to therapy. A recent diagnosis of a Generalized/Unspecified Anxiety Disorder had led me to therapy, medication, and a new and necessary focus on my mental health.

Illustration by @chloejletters

Starting therapy was terrifying. To put things simply, it’s basically a process of unscrewing your brain like a mason jar and pouring all the contents onto the table for you and a total stranger to sift through. Even the stuff you keep at the bottom of the jar, the stuff you swore you’d never let anyone see. Slowly, but surely, you and your therapist start sorting. She explains why certain stuff is in the jar, and how to clean it out to make room for better stuff. She explains that your jar is a little different than other jars, and that it’s perfectly okay. She explains that keeping your jar in order will take a bit more effort, but that you’re capable and strong enough to do it.

Therapy is so cool. It’s exhausting and definitely not easy, but it’s so dang cool.

So, I had just entered this state of healing and understanding with my therapist. I was doing better than ever before because of my time with her. My goal was to go to university, but going to university also meant I’d be miles away from my therapist. The very thing that was helping me move forward was also the thing that made me want to stay put. It was confusing, to say the least.

Then I went for a tour of CMU’s campus. At some point during the tour, I nervously asked an admissions counsellor if there were any resources for students who had mental illnesses. And boy, was that admissions counsellor thrilled to tell me about those volunteer counsellors that were on campus every single day of the week. Just knowing that they existed brought me so much comfort and relief, that choosing CMU was a no-brainer. I may have been moving away from my therapist, but I was moving to a place where I knew I could get help if I needed it.

Once again, I’ll say that I haven’t felt the need to see one of these counsellors. Which is something I celebrate every day! However, many of my conversations with my friends here on campus about mental health and my experience with therapy/counselling have led me to recommend the on-campus counsellors. I love to forward that email that shows up consistently in my inbox. And I can honestly say that so many students here (likely more than I even realize) have benefited greatly from this resource. And it doesn’t cost a thing.

Therapy and counselling are SO COOL. And I’ll say it every chance I get.

– Chloe Friesen, 3rd-year Communications and Media student

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This week is CMU’s annual Wellness Week! CMU is committed to promoting and encouraging holistic health and wellness for all in the community. Join us for a week of exploration, re-prioritization and rest as we learn new ways and remember old ways to be well!

The singing disciple: An interview with a cast member of CMU’s upcoming production of Godspell

Come one, come all, to the CMU Opera and Musical Theatre Workshop’s production of Godspell! Directed by David Klassen, this production features scenes and musical numbers from the hit Broadway musical, which is based on the gospel of Matthew and features disciples who belt out some serious ballads.

Joanna Loepp Thiessen

I sat down with one of these disciples, Joanna Loepp Thiessen, to talk about Godspell and why you must see this show! Joanna is a third-year transfer student studying voice performance in CMU’s music department.

So Joanna, tell me about your experience with musical theatre prior to taking CMU’s Opera and Musical Theatre Workshop course.

I have done musical theatre before, and have in fact been in a production of Godspell nine years ago! I was part of a production of the show at my high school, and now it’s back in my life! It was one of those cute little high school productions where we had like, fifty people in it, and there were twenty-five disciples. I played one of the disciples and sang a duet with my sister. I had about two lines.

Wow! So you really know this show well! What character will you be playing this time around?

Now the way Godspell works is that the names of the characters are just the names of the original Broadway cast, so my character’s name happens to be Joanne, to keep it simple. Joanne… Joanna… it all lines up. She is a funky, spicy person who is one of the disciples.

The connections just keep getting better and better. I think you were made for this show AND this role. What have been some of your favourite parts of being part of this production of Godspell?

I have loved getting back into acting, since I haven’t done it since high school. It’s been really fun working with David Klassen (director) because his stagecraft skills are incredible, and he has this ability to make beautiful pictures with people’s bodies. So I’ve really enjoyed working with him, and exploring a different type of music from what I usually do in the music program. There’s a bit of every sort of music style in the show.

Who should come see Godspell?

Godspell, and especially this production, is for EVERYONE. It’s a family-friendly production. It would absolutely appeal to kids, it would appeal to adults, it would appeal to youth and young adults. We’re trying to make this production that was once this flower-child, seventies vibe into something that’s really relevant for our current time.

Thank you so much Joanna! Break a leg!

– Chloe Friesen, 3rd-year Communications and Media student

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Get your tickets to Godspell:

Friday, January 31 at 7:30 PM
Saturday, February 1 at 7:30 PM

Laudamus Auditorium, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd.

Adult: $10              Student: $5

For more information, call 204.487.3300

Why CMU is an easy place to miss (in more ways than one)

It’s nearing the end of the break before the winter semester begins, and it’s a bittersweet time. My family took down our Christmas tree just yesterday, and the student classifieds page on Facebook is sending me notifications about used textbooks for upcoming classes.

But as family and friends have been asking me about university, I’ve found myself continually saying that I truly cannot wait to go back. To step back into the warm and welcoming arms of the CMU community, to begin wading into new ideas and new appreciations and new revelations, to sip coffee and have sincere conversations, and to spike a volleyball or two in between it all. CMU is such an easy place to miss.

And it’s strange to me, the idea of me not going to school at CMU. Of missing out on all of the goodness that CMU has shared with me over these years. The fact that people can drive through Grant and Shaftesbury and not be filled with memories and inspiration is something I am continually trying to wrap my head around. With one different choice or turn or decision, I could’ve missed out on CMU. And I’m so grateful that I didn’t.

So, to conclude this jumble of sentiments: CMU is such an easy place to miss, and it’s a place you certainly don’t want to miss (if that possibly makes any sense). I cannot wait to see all of my classmates, friends, and professors once again. And, if you’re contemplating joining us one day here at Grant and Shaftesbury, I hope I’ll see you soon, too!

– Chloe Friesen, 3rd-year Communications and Media student

My last Christmas at CMU | Guest blogger Emily Hiebert

As I took the stage for my final performance at Christmas at CMU, I wasn’t sure if it was all real. Who would have known that five years after starting at CMU I would still be in choirs even though I was not a music student? I guess singing has always been a part of who I am and how I wanted to spend my every day.

Emily Hiebert (centre) with her choir friends graduating in 2020, at their last Christmas at CMU concert.

Singing in choir and, to be honest, everything about my time at CMU has seemed really natural. It hasn’t been dull or unengaging, but natural in the way that I know CMU was where I was supposed to be. I stayed in choir for all five years of my degree because, even though I am not a music student, I found a community in choir. I found a place where I can express and be who I am.

Being a part of the CMU choirs gave me a space to grow and learn in ways that are not possible in a classroom. I learned what it means to be a part of a cohesive team that only works when each member is contributing. Everything I do or do not do affects the choir as a whole.

Understanding and learning about my role in this community has also taught me that I cannot just worry about myself. Being a part of such an intricate community meant I had to learn that what I do matters but what we do together matters more. This was so important to understand especially in the preparation for Christmas at CMU.

At first, singing at Christmas at CMU felt like a job. I would get exhausted thinking about having to perform the repertoire eight times and for two different choirs. In the end, though, I was always sad that it was over. But this feeling never stayed for too long because I always knew that there would be next year.

Christmas at CMU features not only choirs, but also music ensembles like concert and jazz bands, guitar and handbell ensembles, and many others.

This year I had a similar feeling, but when it was over, I felt a different kind of sad. The only way I can describe how I was feeling is the German word verklempt (which means being overcome with emotions). I was overwhelmed with sadness that my days performing at Christmas at CMU were over because I’m graduating this year. But I was also overjoyed to have had the opportunity to sing in such amazing choirs and to be a part of such a beautiful event. I was also super excited to be able to come back and listen to the choirs and get to hear the high descants during the carol sing instead of sing them.

With my emotions in tow, I left Christmas at CMU grateful for the spirit it gave me, the people it surrounded me with, and the music that fed my soul.  

– Emily Hiebert, 5th-year Social Sciences student

From music to microscopes | Guest blogger Malcolm Reimer

As a student ambassador for CMU, I spend an evening a week having conversations on the phone with grade 12 students from across Canada. Almost all of the time, I talk to two kinds of people about their post-secondary plans, goals, and dreams.

The first type are those rare students who seem to know exactly what they’re going to do with their lives: the aspiring doctors, nurses, and veterinarians. They’re often the hyper-motivated ones, and they’re probably admired by the adults and teachers around them and ever-so-slightly feared by their classmates.

The other type, the wide majority of students I talk to, are the ones who don’t really know what they’re going to do with the rest of their life and would like it if you would stop interrogating them about their future, thank you very much. These students, like most of my classmates in grade 12, haven’t made solid plans for university or work yet and aren’t sure what they want to do.

So if you’ve ever been asked about your future and have no clue how to respond, I feel your pain. One of my friends in high school got so tired of being asked what she “wanted to be” by everyone she met, she resorted to one answer: a pirate. In my opinion, that’s actually not a bad choice.

I enrolled at CMU in the Bachelor of Music program, taking classes like Music Theory and Music Skills and History of Music… you get the idea: all music, all the time. In grade 12 I had auditioned on the piano for CMU’s School of Music, and I had a picture in mind of becoming a music teacher or band director, like the teachers I’d most admired in high school. I wasn’t really sure this was the right choice, but it was enough of a plan for a first year. I knew that I wanted to study music, so I did.

CMU students Anna Schwartz and Malcolm Reimer

What I wasn’t expecting was that even though I was in a relatively structured program, taking mostly pre-determined courses, I would end up discovering some entirely different interests. I took a biology course as an elective, just because I liked biology and I had the high school prerequisites.

But as I continued with the course, I found that I was more and more interested in science. I had the chance to have deep conversations with professors who worked in their fields and who could answer questions about potential careers. My professors were researching interesting things like self-regenerating flatworms and strange parasites that live inside three different animal hosts over their lives.

The more I talked to them and the people in my biology classes, the more I found myself drawn to the whole field. By the end of the semester, I was more conflicted about what I “wanted to do” than at the beginning. By the end of the school year, I was ready to switch majors.

This often surprises people, and I get a lot of questions about how it was possible to make such a big change in my university plan. The answer is that I would never have been able to make that choice confidently without all the resources that CMU offers, from academic advising to career planning and everything in between.

If you’re a high school student perilously close to graduation, you know there’s a ton of pressure to have a plan for your career and life, or at least that’s what it feels like. Choosing a university and a degree can seem like a massive, life-changing decision.

But no matter what classes you take at university, the most important part is not the material you’ll learn. What’s far more valuable are the skills you develop in those classes and the things you discover along the way. University can reveal new options you never considered before.

– Malcolm Reimer, 2nd-year Science student

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