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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Rachel Krause

Dr. Rachel Krause, Assistant Professor of Biology, has taught at CMU since 2015.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

A first-year course called The Evolutionary and Ecological Revolution. Part of the course is based in the Assiniboine Forest. We had a field trip out there with naturalists from the city, and now students are spending the whole semester in the forest, thinking about it and learning about it individually. I spend a lot of time in the forest because I want to know what’s going on there, too. I love that going to the forest is part of my curriculum.

What are you researching and writing?

I’m finishing a project in Panama on food security and child growth. I also have an ongoing collaboration in Panama on wildlife parasitology and human health, and I recently started working with a research scientist with fisheries and oceans here in Manitoba, working on the Carmine shiner, which is a threatened species in the province. It’s a little, tiny fish that is found in a few rivers here. We’re doing a study of parasites in the fish, and also looking at how parasite infection influences metabolic rate and sensitivity to temperature changes, kind of with climate change in mind.

What you are reading for enjoyment?

During the school year, I tend to just read fun things, so I’m reading a P.D. James murder mystery right now. Something with “Murder” or “Blood” in the title—I don’t remember. (laughs)

Where or how do students give you hope?

They care. Many of them are really invested in connecting the things they’re studying to the other parts of their lives. To me, the things that I teach matter, so to see students pick up on that and try to work it into how they live their lives is really rewarding for me.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

I’m part of a project spearheaded by Jobb Arnold, Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution Studies at Menno Simons College. This project brings together youth from a couple of Winnipeg high schools that have a lot of Indigenous and newcomer youth. The youth learn about climate change, but really, the intention is to build community, and build connections and relationships. Jobb teaches conflict resolution, so he’s all about building resilient communities in the face of something like climate change. I went along with them on a field trip to Shoal Lake 40 to talk about water stewardship. It’s been a lot of fun to be a part of that, and to use my expertise as an ecologist to help facilitate a part of this larger network of learning for these youth.

What saying or motto inspires you?

A few years ago, I heard a sermon and the speaker made a comment about how it’s OK for us to be imperfect, because that gives people around us the permission to be imperfect. I’m trying to embrace that as part of my mentorship to students. For them to see me as imperfect gives them permission to be themselves and not have to be perfect, either.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – David Balzer

David Balzer, Assistant Professor of Communications and Media, has taught at CMU since 2009.

What do you love about your work here?

I love it when I can mentor students to find their voice. I mean that almost literally, because when students first walk into the recording studio, it’s often quite an unnerving and anxious-filled experience for them to speak into a mic and literally discover the tone of their voice—and then on a deeper level, to find out who they are as creative communicators.

What are you researching and writing?

I’ve got two projects on the go. One of them is on the history of Mennonites and radio in Manitoba. I’m looking at two seminal radio programs that originated in the late 1940s and 50s: “The Gospel Light Hour” from the Mennonite Brethren community, and “Abundant Life” from what was then known as the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. I’m trying to understand the way these programs were shaped theologically as well as shaped from a communications theory perspective. My hunch is that exploring these two programs might tell us something about why we’re doing broadcasting the way we are now. The other thing I have on the go is my ongoing “Oh My God” project.

Where or how do students give you hope?

A student who is originally from Uganda walked into my office the other day and she said, “I have a dream.” The media in her country is governed by a very different system—one that doesn’t allow grassroots efforts to easily have a voice or access. She wants to take what she’s learning here at CMU and bring it back to her home country. She’s started to understand the power of media, and she wants to empower local writers and journalists to be able to tell their stories. That’s inspiring. That gives me hope.

What do you most long for in your work?

The thing I really long for is for students to recognize communication as a gift from God. We’ve been given this incredibly beautiful ability to communicate. That’s something that’s fragile, so how do we give that gift away in a way that is life-giving? I hope students will get that.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

I’ve developed a series of workshops that I present at schools and churches called, Social Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful. It tries to get participants thinking about how we use social media, and also presents some very direct how-tos they might use if their social media use is going to be beautiful in the end. I don’t go out there as an expert, but instead I tell people, I’m living the question just like they are.

What saying or motto inspires you?

I have a couple one-liners that I use to keep me focused. One that I like is, “Communicating for Life,” with a capital L. That in a nutshell encapsulates my desire to equip and help people, and also produce things that at the end of the day lead people to capital L Life with the One who created us.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Dan Epp-Tiessen

14 - Dan Epp-Tiessen (March 2017)Dr. Dan Epp-Tiessen, Associate Professor of Bible, has taught at CMU since 1998.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

Creation, Environment, and the Bible. Given the ecological challenges this planet faces, we as Christians have a unique opportunity to address those issues because our fundamental conviction is that God has created this amazing cosmos. If God has created this unbelievably beautiful, complex world, we of all people ought to love and care for it.

What are you researching and writing?

I’ve been asked to write a Believers Church Bible Commentary on the book of Micah. I’ve always loved the prophets. They tell it like it is in terms of naming the sins and shortcomings of God’s people, and yet they’re also profoundly hopeful. The book of Micah brings together the importance of worship, the importance of a close relationship with God, and how the two should lead to a life of faithfulness and justice, and of caring for people in the community—especially the weaker and more vulnerable members of the community.

What you are reading for enjoyment?

In the last few years I’ve been trying to read more about Indigenous-settler relations in this country. That’s not always enjoyable, but I’ve found it deeply, deeply meaningful. I think if we’re going to live well in this country, it’s one of the primary agenda items that we as a settler society need to face going forward.

Where or how do students give you hope?

For me the hope and encouragement from students come from when I see them get excited about the stuff we’re talking about in class; when I see them get excited about particular biblical stories or biblical books or biblical passages and themes. They want their lives to be shaped by this stuff. They want to be people transformed by God’s grace, transformed by the life of Jesus, and they want all of that to make a difference in their lives.

What do you most long for in your work?

That students come to love Jesus, that they become excited about—and committed to—the biblical story, and that somehow their lives are transformed and deepened because of the stuff we’ve talked about, read, and studied in class. That’s what I long for: to see our students grow in their relationship with God, grow in their commitment to the Christian faith, and become more mature, healthy human beings.

What saying or motto inspires you?

In the last few years I’ve been drawn to a famous prayer by Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in you.” For me, that’s a source of huge comfort and hope. It’s also what I hope for my students: that they will come to experience themselves as beloved children of God and be deeply, deeply rooted in God.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Kenton Lobe

KL03Kenton Lobe, Instructor in International Development Studies, has taught at CMU since 2005.

What do you love about your work here?

I love working with students, but in addition to that, I love my colleagues. I have a little neighbourhood at the end of the hall where my office is with two English professors and a colleague in International Development Studies. Paul Dyck is one of the colleagues, and he says he likes to think of this gathering of faculty as a fellowship. That always makes me smile, and that’s borne out of really rich conversations that we have across disciplines here. The size and scale of faculty makes that possible.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

Participatory Local Development is a second year IDS class. For their major project, students are instructed to create something that roots itself in, and engages the participation of, the CMU community. In the past, that’s resulted in Wittenberg Radio as well as the CMU farm and community garden.

What are you reading for enjoyment?

I just finished reading Silence by Shūsaku Endō, which was recently adapted into a movie by Martin Scorsese. It’s a story of 17th century Jesuit missionaries to Japan and martyrdom. That one had an effect on me. I just started Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay, a Canadian writer. He writes historical fiction that borders on fantasy.

Where or how do students give you hope?

The most significant hope I get from students is watching the work of the CMU Farm. Two students came to me seven years ago and asked why we don’t have agriculture on our 44 acres here. They put together a proposal, and we worked collaboratively to move that into the CMU context. Ever since then, it’s been the labour of students that has made this farm flourish.

What do you most long for in your work?

I long for the academy to step outside of the classroom walls. We do some of that here at CMU with Outtatown and through our practicum program, but I long for a richer engagement with land-based learning. The CMU Farm is one example, but I’ve had students write papers about the Assiniboine Forest and memory, bridging philosophy and ecology that kind of builds on something right in their own backyard. I often wonder what would happen if we oriented our curriculum and our pedagogy around a 5 km. radius of the university. We could talk about Kapyong and urban reserves, we could talk about rail and transportation of oil, we could talk about wetland restoration on our campus—we could talk about all kinds of things and actually locate these things that otherwise become abstracted.

What saying or motto inspires you?

Whenever I left the house on a Friday night when I was growing up, my dad would always say, “Remember who you are.” Then, when I came to CMBC as a student, Harry Huebner—who was teaching theology at the time—had the same kind of saying. “Remember who you are” is a significant saying that sticks in my mind.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Delmar Epp

12 - Delmar Epp (January 2017) 01Dr. Delmar Epp, Associate Professor of Psychology, has taught at CMU since 2000.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

Two courses come to mind. One is Psychology of Motivation, which explores the underlying needs that drive a lot of our everyday behaviour. That course comes closest to my own research interests. The other course is The Neuroscience of Social Behaviour, which describes the interactions between our behaviours and brain activity in the course of everyday life. This is really where the cutting edge in my discipline is, and it’s just absolutely fascinating to explore.

What are you researching and writing?

I’ve been working for a number of years at projects having to do with self-protection. My argument is that whenever we feel discomfort or feel threatened, or we feel that we are somehow at risk, we act in ways to preserve and protect things that are important to ourselves—our self-image, our self-esteem, our reputation, or more tangible things we think we’re at risk of losing. One of the outcomes of that motive to self-protect is that when we feel that we’re at risk, we tend to draw away from people who might represent that threat—people who are sometimes different than we are. I’ve been looking at this in various contexts.

What you are reading for enjoyment?

I’ve just begun a book called Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. It describes his experience growing up in what is sometimes referred to as the decaying heartland of America—the sense of hopelessness, the sense of risk and loss that many folks experience in that environment, and what this does in terms of their social attitudes and their relationships with other groups of people. I also recently finished a book of stories by Robert Louis Stevenson.

What do you most long for in your work?

For people to appreciate that a psychological understanding of themselves and their interactions with others can be a real benefit in terms of how we relate to one another, how we appreciate one another, and how we understand what others are experiencing. Additionally, I want my students in particular to know that a psychological/scientific understanding is not incompatible with an understanding of ourselves from a Christian perspective. They can complement and enhance one another. I want to emphasize that holistic view.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

The third iteration of the Great CMU Psychological Health Survey is about to get underway. It’s something we started back in 2013 in response to some published reports of significant psychological health concerns at larger Canadian universities. We wondered whether we might see similar sorts of issues on a much smaller campus like CMU, particularly one where we invest significantly in ensuring the connectedness and wellbeing of our students through our Student Life program and various other activites. Overall, what we’ve found thus far is encouraging.

What saying or motto inspires you?

The French poet and philosopher Paul Valéry said, “The purpose of psychology is to give us a completely different idea of the things we know best.” That idea inspires the work that I do. I’m always fascinated with the fact that we’re learning more and more about how we ought to understand ourselves.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Wendy Kroeker

WK01Wendy Kroeker, Instructor in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies and Co-Director of the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, has taught at CMU since 2011.

What do you love about your work here?

Working at CMU gives us the opportunity to get to know students over a period of time, interacting with them during significant moments of life decision-making. Watching them take opportunities to engage in community events and issues gives me hope for the world.

What are you teaching right now that you’re most excited about?

This past semester, I taught an upper level PACTS course called Cultures of Violence, Cultures of Peace. I wanted to find ways for students to begin to love and appreciate theory. I’m thrilled if I’ve been part of inspiring an activist or the heart of an activist in someone, but as someone who’s doing my own academic work and working in an academic institution, I do want to excite students about theory. If we aren’t grounding ourselves in really thinking through things substantially, how do we move into meaningful action?

What are you researching and writing?

I am currently working on my PhD dissertation. I’m using the Philippines as a case study. I interviewed 36 Filipinos who are deeply engaged in peacebuilding, who come from highly colonial, conflict-impacted trauma environments, and I’m trying to honour their stories by creating some theory out of the patterns of what I’m hearing from them. Although I’m using the Philippines as my case study right now, I will eventually turn the findings from this dissertation project into looking at our Canadian context, and how the learnings from courageous local peacebuilders in the Philippines might lead to creative ways in which we can follow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action.

Where or how do students give you hope?

In November, a group of students went to a Standing Rock protest at Portage and Main. At a certain moment, they all went over the barricades and shut down Portage and Main at rush hour. One student spoke about her experience in chapel. Hearing her talk about moving over the barricades and realizing her own agency—that gave me some hope. It shows me that the things we talk about in class are moving deeper than the surface.

What do you most long for in your work?

I want students to look for opportunities and possibilities where they won’t just be bystanders, but upstanders – people who see a wrong and act upon it. They may not be at Portage and Main, but I want everyone to see possible ways of honouring the dignity and integrity of each person around them and see that there’s some way they can stand with people.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

Clairissa Kelly and I have begun a series of exchanges between my students and students in the Peguis Post-Secondary Transition Program. Clairissa and I have committed ourselves to thinking through how we can find ways to, with students, take steps of reconciliation. I invited the Peguis group to join the intro PACTS class in doing the blanket exercise, an interactive learning experience that teaches little-known indigenous rights history. Afterward, one of the participants shared about community experiences of residential schools. Her openness was a gift to all of us around the circle. That was a profound moment.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Gordon Matties

10 - Gordon Matties (November 2016)Dr. Gordon Matties, Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology, will retire at the end of December after more than 30 years teaching at CMU and one of its predecessor colleges, Mennonite Brethren Bible College.

What do you love about your work here?

I love my colleagues and the students. I love that we worship together regularly. All of us are involved in a project of formation. We—faculty, staff, and students—are interested in becoming the kinds of human beings God intends for us to be: those who love beauty, goodness, and truth wherever those might be found; who long for healing, hope, and transformation in our world; and who are learning to imagine what living into God’s vision for a new heaven and a new earth might look like.

What are you teaching right now that most excites you?

Because I love movies and enjoy reflecting critically on the experience of watching movies, I continue to appreciate the course Film, Faith, & Popular Culture. I think movies have a unique capacity to offer us windows into the human condition and hold up mirrors of our joys and struggles. We see light refracted through the prism of particular stories into the colorful variety of human experience. Movies draw us deeply into the worldview questions: Where are we? Who are we? What’s wrong? Is there a remedy?

What are you researching and writing?

Recently I contributed an essay to A University of the Church for the World: Essays in Honour of Gerald Gerbrandt. The essay’s title is “Slow Food: Feasting Sustainably on Scripture.” I’m thinking about developing the idea of that essay into a book-length project. It has to do with what we expect to get from our reading of Scripture. I advocate for patient attentiveness, in contrast to the fast food approach to Scripture that assumes there’s always something in it for me on my terms now. It’s a project on biblical spirituality that focuses on ways of becoming formed slowly by Scripture.

What you are reading for enjoyment?

Besides the excellent articles posted by friends on Facebook and The Globe and Mail, I am reading Barkskins by Annie Proulx. It’s about the early settler and indigenous contact, the beginning of the global lumber industry, and the decimation of the world’s forests. I’m also reading Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity by Katherine Willis Pershey, Rumours of Glory: A Memoir by Bruce Cockburn, The Inner Voice of Love by Henri Nouwen, and You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James Smith.

Where or how do students give you hope?

So many of our students are activists. They want to live out their dreams and work to change the world. They aren’t afraid of taking risks. They are impatient with thinking without doing.

What saying or motto inspires you?

In my first few years of teaching, I developed this motto: Nurturing the Mind; Minding the Heart; Mending the World. I’ve now got it tacked up on the bulletin board beside my office door. It’s my philosophy of education in a nutshell. I developed the motto after reading Parker Palmer’s book To Know as We are Known: A Spirituality of Education, which I recommend highly.

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Faculty: In Their Own Words – Dr. Paul Doerksen

PaulDoerksenOct2016Dr. Paul Doerksen, Associate Professor of Theology and Anabaptist Studies, has taught at CMU since 2011. His new book is Take and Read: Reflecting Theologically on Books (Wipf and Stock, 2016).

What are you teaching right now that most excites you?

Theological Ethics. I’ve got just under a dozen students who are really bright, articulate, interesting, and willing to really go after questions that are raised by other students or by the readings that we pursue. Every class, it feels like there’s something at stake. That’s exciting.

What are you researching and writing right now?

I’m working on what I hope will be a book-length project on moral patience. The heart of the project is a line from Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics where he writes that God grants us the space and time to become who we were intended to be. That’s a wonderful way of thinking about God’s relationship to humanity, but then I wonder if there’s something in there for the way that humans can get along with other humans. My kids think it’s hilarious and ironic that I’m writing about patience.

What are you reading for enjoyment?

Some of the specific books include Silence by Shūsaku Endō. It’s about a Jesuit priest being persecuted in early modern Japan, and is a take on martyrdom that is absolutely fascinating. Martin Scorsese directed an adaptation that’s finally coming out within the next few months, which I’m looking forward to. I just started reading Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett. It’s really good. And, I’m looking forward to David Bergen. He’s got a new one out that I don’t have my hands on yet.

What do you most long for in your work?

I hope that my work, and the work of CMU more broadly, can be part of encouraging the church and the academy to be faithful Christians. I hope that we appreciate each other’s contributions and understand that we’re involved, at very deep levels, in the same project – namely, trying to figure out what it means to be faithful to Christ.

Do you have any interesting projects underway in the broader community or church?

My Take and Read theology book discussion group continues to be a delight. Thirty people get together four times over the winter to discuss four different books over dessert. It keeps me reading and thinking in ways that are different from the classroom or formal research. My new book is a collection of reflections I’ve written on various books we have discussed at Take and Read over the years. I’m looking forward to being independently wealthy because of the royalties.

What saying or motto inspires you?

The Catholic theologian Gerald O’Collins once said, “Theology is watching our language in the presence of God.” I think about this a lot. We believe that watching our language means not cursing, but there’s much more at stake here than impolite language. All of the Christian life is, in a sense, learning more and more how to talk about God and use that grammar of faith. It doesn’t come naturally, at least not to me. I need to be trained in it and I need to keep working at it.