Alumni Profiles Articles

Royal Canoe guitarist talks about how CMU has shaped his life

Royal Canoe guitarist Bucky Driedger (bottom left) graduated from CMU in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, with a concentration in Communications.

August 22, 2013 – With its forward-thinking blend of pop, rock, hip hop, dance, soul, and electronic music, as well as its energetic live shows, Royal Canoe has made a name for itself as one of Winnipeg’s most exciting bands.

Two of the band’s singles have reached the Top 5 on CBC Radio 3, they have toured throughout North America and Europe, and they’ve earned praise from venerable publications like The New York Times to blogs like This Music Doesn’t Suck, which described the band’s sound as “a clever blend of aesthetics and genres executed with a confidence and expertise usually reserved for more established groups.”

Bucky Driedger, Royal Canoe’s guitarist, backing vocalist and co-songwriter, sees a clear connection between the work he does in the band and the time he spent on Outtatown in 2002-2003 and then studying at CMU.

“Both were experiences that shaped my worldview and gave me a desire to experience new places and try new things,” says Driedger, who graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, with a concentration in Communications.

He adds that he studied and lived in residence with many creative people who were interested in making music and visual art.

“Being in a culture where my peers valued thinking outside the box really helped me develop my sense of taste and what I value in art,” he says. “Good art should help people . . . imagine a new way of thinking about the world.”

Studying communications gave Driedger an appreciation for the way media and pop culture interact, and the subtleties involved in phrasing a message so that it has a particular impact on its intended audience.

“Today We’re Believers,” Royal Canoe’s new album, is in stores Tuesday, Sept. 3.

CMU also equipped Driedger with some of the tools he uses to help promote the band. While Royal Canoe has a manager, booking agents, and record label support, each member is actively involved with every aspect of the business side of the music industry, from graphic design, to photo shoots, to booking tours, to writing press releases and updates for the band’s website.

“Gone are the days when you can be a mad genius in your basement, get discovered by a major record label, and have everyone do everything for you,” he says. “You need to have copywriters and booking agents in your band.”

While at CMU, Driedger sang in choir. Growing up in the Mennonite Church, he saw what an important part music plays in Mennonite culture.

“From a young age, I learned to value thoughtful music-making,” he says.

The intricate composition and harmony Driedger and his bandmates witnessed in church has made its way into Royal Canoe’s sound. Some of the group’s songs have a classical music feel, and at any given moment, four of the band’s six members could be singing at the same time, weaving different harmonies together behind the melody.

This fall, Royal Canoe will spend three-and-a-half months touring throughout North America and Europe in support of its second full-length album, Today We’re Believers, which hits stores on Sept. 3. Driedger is excited to see how people respond to the album, which the band worked on for the better part of three years.

“We put a lot of thought into every tone and lyric,” he says. “They’re not just throwaway [songs]. They all represent really important moments in our lives.”

Royal Canoe will celebrate the release of Today We’re Believers with two shows in Winnipeg this week: An all ages show at the Park Theatre tonight (Thursday, Aug. 22), and an 18+ show at Union Sound Hall tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 23). For details, and to hear the band’s music, visit

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Alumni Profile – Matt Sawatzky (CMU ’06)

Matt Sawatzky [2] - Corey Aronec
CMU alumnus Matt Sawatzky. Photo by Corey Aronec.
May 2, 2013 – Matt Sawatzky likes photography because photos tell stories in ways that words cannot.

“Learning to do that well—to be able to capture a story visually—is interesting to me,” says Sawatzky, who participated in CMU’s Outtatown Discipleship School 2001-2002 and graduated from CMU with a three-year B.A. in International Development Studies (IDS) in 2006.

Sawatzky’s latest project combines his love for photography with his interest in international development. “A Sad Sort of Clean: Hydropower in Northern Manitoba” is an exhibit opening this Friday, May 3 at Winnipeg’s Flatlanders Studio that features photography and video Sawatzky created along with Cree elder Ellen Cook.

The photos and videos feature people and waterways that have been affected by hydro development in Northern Manitoba. Sawatzky and Cook spent 11 days last spring visiting Grand Rapids, Split Lake, and South Indian Lake, three communities that are between five and 11 hours north of Winnipeg.

Commissioned by the Interfaith Task Force on Northern Hydro Development, a coalition of leaders from Mennonite, United, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic churches and The Thunderbird Lodge who aim to promote thoughtful debate on hydro issues, “A Sad Sort of Clean” asks three questions: Is hydropower clean? Are new dams a good idea? Does Manitoba need new dams or a new approach to hydro?

This image from “A Sad Sort of Clean” depicts fisherman Robert Spence of the Tataskweyak Cree Nation. Photo by Matt Sawatzky.

“The purpose of the project is to show the human cost of our ‘green’ energy,” Sawatzky says. “It’s not to disparage or demonize Manitoba Hydro, but rather, to counter the clean image they present themselves with by showing the people and waterways at the end of the transmission line.”

“The goal was to show that our great hydro-electricity comes at a cost,” he adds.

It was during his time in Guatemala on Outtatown that Sawatzky first fell in love with photography. When he returned home to Winnipeg, he enjoyed getting the prints back that he had shot with a small point-and-shoot camera.

Sawatzky says he enjoys photography in part because it’s a way for him to record his experiences.

“Some people have a journal that they write in, but I’ve started to assemble photo albums for every year of my life,” he says. “It’s a way for me to document memories visually.”

Elder Herb Cook of the Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids) surveys wood debris littering Cedar Lake in this image from “A Sad Sort of Clean.” Photo by Matt Sawatzky.

Sawatzky’s Outtatown experience also led him to study IDS. The poverty he witnessed in Guatemala was eye-opening.

“Seeing the poverty, being out of my comfort zone, and seeing how the world actually operates made a big impact on me,” Sawatzky says.

In the years since, he has combined his love for photography and interest in IDS by working with non-governmental organizations in Egypt, Nepal, South Africa, and Zambia. He’s also travelled through India and New Zealand.

Sawatzky is currently working for a landscaping company and in September will start a pre-Master’s program in Landscape Architecture at the University of Manitoba.

“My time at CMU definitely shaped how I try and direct my life,” Sawatzky says. “Ultimately, I want to do work, whether it’s photographic or otherwise, that’s going to address inequalities in the world and work toward justice.”

“A Sad Sort of Clean” opens at Winnipeg’s Flatlanders Studio (782 Main St.) on Friday, May 3 from 7-10 PM. The exhibit will be up until the end of June. Regular hours are 1-4 PM on Saturdays and Sundays (closed May 25-26). For more information, visit the exhibit’s Facebook page at

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Alumni Profiles – Kim Penner (CMU ’08)

December 13, 2012 – Kim Penner_webFor Kim Penner, studying biblical and theological studies and history at CMU provided a solid foundation for her graduate studies. From CMU, Penner went on to earn her Master’s degree in Theological Studies at Conrad Grebel University College (University of Waterloo) and she is now working towards her Doctorate in Theology at Emmanuel College (University of Toronto).

“My CMU experience was rich both in academics and in community life,” says Penner. “I was very involved in residence life as a Resident Assistant and the chair of the Social Activities Committee.”

“From an academic perspective, CMU prepared me very well for my graduate studies. I really enjoyed doing biblical exegesis of scripture to discern the historical and theological context of a passage, and studying female characters in scripture in history. My time at CMU provided my foundation in good research and writing skills that will enable me to be successful.”

“I have especially appreciated the support and mentorship of the CMU faculty,” she says. “I look up to them and hope to join them as a fellow academic in the future.”

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CMU Business Grad Heading to Zambia

April 25, 2012 – One of the first graduates of CMU’s new Redekop School of Business has a placement in Zambia. Christina Scheerer graduated from CMU on April 22, 2012 with a four-year degree in Business and Organizational Administration. And, in a few months, she’ll be heading to Zambia to work with a local church-based organization that assists people living with HIV/AIDS.

It’s a one-year placement through Mennonite Central Committee’s year-long cross-cultural service program called SALT. Scheerer will work with an organization called Compassionate Ministries run by the Zambian Brethren in Christ Church. She expects to use her new business skills to help improve programs doing HIV/AIDS prevention and providing home-based care, education, counselling, and training.

She’ll also help the organization develop new programs in the areas of agriculture and water and food security.

Scheerer said the job posting intrigued her because it called for applicants with a background in business or international development studies. “The whole position just seemed very relevant to what I had just spent the past four years studying and it seemed like unique and challenging opportunity,” she said.

At CMU, Scheerer took a concentration of international development classes together with her business studies. “I learned a lot about leadership and management and implementing programming,” Scheerer said.

Scheerer will live with a Zambian host family in the town of Choma, halfway between the capital city, Lusaka and Victoria Falls, a popular tourist destination. Scheerer has never been to Africa before. She says she expects to come home changed.

“I’m really excited for the experience,” she said. “I know I’ll have a different perspective when I finish the program.”

Scheerer is from Brunner, Ontario, near Kitchener. She came to CMU because it was one of the few schools she could find that offered both business and international development studies in a Christian context.

After her year of service in Zambia, Scheerer says she hopes to continue working with non-profit organizations.

“She’s an absolutely wonderful student,” says CMU Instructor Craig Martin, who teaches economics, finances, and accounting classes at the Redekop School of Business. “She cares about her work and about people around her. This will be an opportunity for her to have a great adventure and learn about business management.”

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Alumni Profiles: Chris Thiessen (CMU ’05)

Being a firefighter or a paramedic is difficult work – and it is work that everybody appreciates. Everyday, people in our communities are being helped by others who have this type of specialized training. But what is it that drives firefighers and paramedicas to seek out such tough careers? What drives them to go to work every day, when each time brings with it the real possibility of difficult circumstances and risking one’s own life helping others?

For firefighter Chris Thiessen, who graduated from CMU in 2005 with a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in History, what inspired him to fight fires and help people as a job was his time at CMU and his practicum at Grace Hospital in Winnipeg.

At Grace Hospital, Thiessen worked in the Emergency Room helping out in any way he could.

Though his degree doesn’t exactly fit in with his career, Thiessen said it was the community at CMU that shaped his worldview and his practicum that allowed him to take the step into his career.

“Being at CMU was a very formative time in my life,” Thiessen said.

Because he has a passion for helping people, being at CMU was a perfect place for Thiessen. “It’s a culture of people who are always doing something for others. The people at CMU are very involved and informed. They want to be active and make a difference. They are very motivated. That inspired me to be active and to make a difference,” he said.

Thiessen now works as a firefighter in Abbotsford, BC. But he has had to use his life-saving skills off the clock as well.

While on a hunting trip with his father last year, Ken, Thiessen’s quad broke down on a trail. At that moment, a man came running down the trail and begged for assistance.

The man’s friend’s had gotten into a quadding accident and had fallen off a cliff onto an embankment, leaving him badly wounded and in a serious condition.

Thiessen sent the person asking for assistance back to the camp, where there was cell reception, to call 911.
Thiessen then ran to the embankment with his first-aid kit and bandaged the injured man, stopping the bleeding. He then waited by the man’s side for more than two hours for the helicopter to arrive and take the injured man to a local hospital. The man survived.

“It was one of those situations where everything had to work out just right. It was God working in mysterious ways,” Thiessen said.

Looking back, seven years after completing his degree at CMU, Thiessen feels thankful that the career choices he made and the experience and skills that he gained let him help someone in difficult circumstances.

Text by Rachel Bergen

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Alumni Profiles – Megan Klassen-Wiebe

Practicum experiences sometimes take students outside their comfort zones into new territory and new environments, giving them opportunities to do something they otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to do.

CMU alumna Megan Klassen-Wiebe’s practicum took her to Cedar Lane Farm, a small, mixed, family-run farm in Coles Island, New Brunswick for five months in 2009. There, she was involved in a wide variety of activities, including gardening; feeding and watering animals (pigs, chickens, turkeys); butchering chickens and turkeys; milking cows; collecting eggs; stacking hay bales; making granola and granola bars; and selling goods at the market.

Klassen-Wiebe graduated from CMU in 2009 with a general BA, and at first wasn’t too sure about her professional future.

“This experience gave me a chance to explore a passion in myself that I had only just discovered at CMU,” she says of her practicum. “It was a way for me to begin to look beyond the community of CMU and to see into the greater world. It made me aware of issues that I wanted to think about further in life and gave me a purpose beyond my CMU graduation.

“It was through this practicum that I decided that I wanted farming to be a part of my future, and led me to studying Agroecology at the University of Manitoba,” say Klassen-Wiebe.

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Alumni Profiles – Cindy Bass (CMU ’09)

CMU alumna Cindy Bass’ practicum helped her to create a new job position and employment for herself.

As part of her practicum experiences, Cindy, who graduated from CMU in 2009 as a mature student with a Bachelor of Music Therapy degree, volunteered her services at Extendicare Tuxedo Villa personal care home in Winnipeg, where there was no music therapy program in place. She ended up with a permanent part-time job.

She now works as a Canadian Association for Music Therapy-accredited music therapist at Tuxedo Villa and at another personal care home. As well, she runs her own private-practice business for children with special needs, which she plans to expand in the future.

Cindy also fulfilled practicum assignments in Winnipeg at Riverview Health Centre, St. Amant Centre, and several elementary schools, giving her a taste of working with different clientele.

Cindy credits her practica to giving her hands-on experience and figuring out which populations and environments were a good fit for her.

“The practicum experience was definitely one of the greatest parts of the whole learning experience,” says Cindy. “There is nothing quite like hands-on experience that prepares you for the working world. It also gives you a very good idea of knowing whether it is the right profession for you or not.

“CMU definitely prepared me to get out there and do the work,” she adds.

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Alumni Profiles – Bethany Paetkau (CMU ’11)

IDS grad planting urban gardens

If there’s one thing Bethany Paetkau learned at CMU, it’s that people are at heart of the solution to every major issue affecting the world. With that in mind, she’s taking on the issue of food security.

Paetkau, who graduated from CMU with a four-year BA in International Development Studies in April 2011, became employed after graduation with A Rocha, a Christian environmental organization that runs ecological conservation projects around the world. Paetkau spent her summer teaching low-income Winnipeggers how to plant urban gardens and how to cook and preserve the fresh produce.

It may seem like a low-key response to a global food crisis (food prices around the world increased by 25 per cent in 2010), but it fits with Paetkau’s grassroots, people-focused philosophy of development.

“We’re asking the question: How do we live sustainably? And one piece of that is to garden,” she says.

Working together with inner city residents and St. Margaret’s Anglican Church, Paetkau and her co-workers grew kale, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, green beans, dill, chives, strawberries, and other nutritious vegetables in public garden plots and next to the homes of people who volunteered their yards.

Small-scale, sustainable agriculture has been one of Paetkau’s interests ever since she took a class on creation care at CMU. Paetkau likes the fact that projects such as the urban garden empower people by giving them access to better, healthier food.

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Alumni Profiles – Alexandria Eikelboom (CMU ’11)

For alumna Alexandria Eikelboom (CMU ’11), graduating with a Bachelor of Arts Honours degree in Biblical and Theological Studies, Psychology Major, is only one step in her scholastic journey. Her next step takes her to Oxford University in the United Kingdom in fall 2011, where she will study for a Master of Arts in Theology degree.

Eikelboom grew up in the Netherlands, an hour North of Amsterdam, and has dual German and Canadian citizenship, making her a truly international student.

Eikelboom is excited for the vast resources that will be at her fingertips at Oxford.

“One of the nice things about a school like Oxford is that it’s so big and old that the resources available are huge – with the books, the people, and the history.”

Her one-year Master’s program will involve a great deal of independent study but also working alongside faculty. She feels that CMU has equipped her to work well independently and thus to succeed in graduate school.

“At CMU, the faculty to student ratio is good. It helps people to prepare for graduate school… People have pushed me to grow and do new things.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to study God in the academic world,” she says.

Eikelboom plans on pursuing a PhD after she completes her degree at Oxford.

Text by Rachel Bergen (CMU ’11)

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Alumni Profiles – Joel Peters (CMU ’11)

[youtube][/youtube]This video features Joel Peters at In Gratitude, April 16, 2011, a graduation weekend event that celebrates CMU graduates by inviting class members to share their experiences through spoken word or musical performance.  The event brings together family members, graduates, students, faculty and staff.

Joel Peters, organ
Trivium Arvo Pärt
Bachelor of Music, Concentration: Performance

Video production by Laura Tait, Media Workshop student.