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Katie Doke Sawatzky (CMU ’10)
Katie Doke Sawatzky (CMU ’10)

Listening an act of service for alumna

As a journalist, Katie Doke Sawatzky (CMU '10) does a lot of listening. For her, it's an act of service.

"At the end of the day, you're just talking to people and listening, which I think is why I wanted to pursue journalism in the first place," she says. "I was interested in pursuing this line of work because you come at it from a stance of compassion."

Doke Sawatzky graduated earlier this fall with a Master of Journalism degree from the University of Regina.

As part of the degree's requirements, Doke Sawatzky created the Prairie Commons Project, a multimedia research project investigating the state of native prairie in Saskatchewan.

She launched the project online at prairiecommons.ca on October 1.

Consisting of articles, original and archival photos, audio clips, videos, and interactive timelines, the Prairie Commons Project is a journalistic investigation of the state of native prairie in Saskatchewan.

While it's difficult to know for sure how much of Saskatchewan's native prairie is left today, one estimate pegs it at under 14 percent.

Doke Sawatzky's project focuses on the diverse communities and individuals who are trying to conserve the landscape.

The impetus for the project was the time Doke Sawatzky spent living on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver with her husband, Glen Sawatzky (CMU '10) and their two young children, where Glen was pursuing a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at the Vancouver School of Theology.

Vancouver's old-growth temperate rainforest and the Pacific Ocean were minutes outside her door.

"I kind of describe my time in Vancouver as having an environmental awakening, which is kind of hard not to have when you're out there because it's just so beautiful," says Doke Sawatzky, who was born in Saskatoon and grew up in Regina.

At the same time, Doke Sawatzky's interest in the environment was further piqued when she read independent journalist J.B. MacKinnon's The Once and Future World.

The book argues that we live in a world that hosts only 10 percent of its potential biological diversity.

"The combination of falling in love with the landscape and MacKinnon's book inspired me to find out more about how much of Saskatchewan's true prairie is left and what it means to people with different perspectives," Doke Sawatzky explains on the website.

She hopes that people who view the Prairie Commons Project are educated about the dwindling grasslands.

"I hope they find the stories compelling and that ultimately it motivates them to think about their place in the land they call home, if they call the prairies home," Doke Sawatzky tells The Blazer.

"Even if they don't (call the prairies home), I hope it motivates them to ask questions: What is the dominant natural landscape where I live? How is it endangered? And, how can I help?"

After completing her English degree at CMU, Doke Sawatzky got into journalism by writing and editing for Geez, Rhubarb, and Canadian Mennonite.

She pursued her master's because she wanted to hone the skills she picked up working for those publications.

The program was demanding, but Doke Sawatzky is glad she did it.

"The overwhelming thing I learned... is how willing people are to talk to you," she says. "People are quite willing to share their story, which is kind of a blessing in a way."

 

Editor's note: Katie has recently been appointed the nationwide Communications Officer for Mennonite Church Canada.