Articles Faculty Profiles

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.

Face2Face: On Campus – Community in Conversation Uncategorized Video

Face2Face | Cohabitation: The Question of Living Together Before Marriage (video)

Increasingly, our faith communities, pastoral leaders and families are encountering the broad, cultural reality of cohabitation. Bringing deeply held theological convictions into conversation with practices outside of these persuasions can be challenging. Dialogue and conversation are vital.

What clarity might we gain on the Biblical, theological, sociological / cultural, and relational dynamics that underlie the reality of cohabitation? What makes this practice challenging to openly discuss within our church communities, as families and with young adults we know and love? How can we best resource and learn from one another?

Panel Members

Recorded February 2, 2016

Events Lectures News Releases

Discussion exploring the development of Kapyong Barracks continues at CMU

An upcoming event at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) will continue the discussion about what at urban reserve at Kapyong Barracks might look like.

F2FSliderMediaThe community is invited to “An Urban Reserve at Kapyong: Imagining a Future,” CMU’s latest Face2Face discussion, on Wednesday, November 4. The event starts at 7:00 PM in Marpeck Commons (2299 Grant Ave.). Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

Co-presented with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba (TRCM), this event will focus on three main questions:

  • What might the possibility of an urban reserve at Kapyong Barracks mean for all of us?
  • Can we name our questions and apprehensions and, in conversation, begin to shape a shared vision for this initiative in this area of our city?
  • What might we imagine and do together to make this work for the benefit of all?

Participants in the discussion include Chief Dennis Meeches of Long Plain First Nation, which is located southwest of Portage la Prairie and operates two urban reserves; Harry Finnigan, former head of planning at the City of Winnipeg and a leader in community/regional planning and revitalization; and Andrew Holtman, a member of the Tuxedo Community Centre’s board of directors.

David Balzer, Assistant Professor of Communications and Media at CMU, will moderate the event along with Jamie Wilson, Commissioner for the TRCM.

The event is a follow-up to two panel discussions CMU has hosted since March 2014 that explored the opportunities and practical challenges of an urban reserve at Kapyong Barracks.

These events have provided a chance for conversation between people who live in the area and the First Nations who want the land.

The last discussion, held this past March, drew hundreds of people.

“Conversations have movement, so the November 4 event grew out of the two previous conversations,” Balzer says, adding that he is looking forward to co-moderating the event with Wilson. “There’s a different tone when you’ve got two people sharing the leadership, so to speak, of the evening… That will be really good.”

Formerly a Canadian Forces base, Kapyong Barracks was vacated in 2004. The Department of National Defence declared the 159-acre site, located on Kenaston Boulevard, surplus.

Several First Nations have argued that under a treaty land entitlement process, they are allowed to negotiate for federal property that has been declared surplus.

As a result, they have laid claim to Kapyong. They have fought with the Canadian government in court for the past eight years, with the latest decision coming down this past August in favour of the First Nations.

A September 2015 Winnipeg Free Press article reports that several First Nations chiefs are hopeful a deal to buy Kapyong Barracks can be done within a year.

Although construction on the land is years away, it is looking more likely now than it was this past March at the last Face2Face discussion on this topic that Kapyong will indeed be turned into an urban reserve.

“Last time we met, it was kind of in theory that we might be living together as neighbours,” Balzer says. “Now you can actually imagine it and this is the community coming together and having a conversation about how we might live together. That’s very different in my mind.”

Started in 2013, Face2Face is a series of conversations organized by CMU, designed to engage the community on a wide variety of current events and issues at the intersection of faith and life.

“An Urban Reserve at Kapyong: Imagining a Future” is the second of four Face2Face events CMU will host during the 2015-16 school year. For details, visit

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program. 

For information about CMU visit

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

Face2Face: On Campus – Community in Conversation Video

‘Oh My God’: Making Sense of Everyday Talk with David Balzer & Gordon Matties

As the first installment of CMU’s Face2Face conversation series, university instructors David Balzer and Gordon Matties explored the way people use the phrase “Oh my God” in everyday life.


Blogs Faculty - David Balzer

Radio still relevant

A friend of mine in the communications business sent me a note about radio. For anyone who has ears, this information about radio is worth sharing.

“February 13 was the second annual World Radio Day (sponsored by UNESCO. It was created to promote worldwide access to information and freedom of expression over airwaves.

An article on Mashable ( on the occasion of World Radio Day says the following about this medium.”

From Mashable…
Despite the evolution of high-speed Internet and television’s prevalence in today’s culture, radio is still a very important and relevant medium — especially in developing nations. World Radio Day reminds us not only that digital hasn’t “killed the radio star,” so to speak, but also that radio can help drive change around the world.

Below, we’ve compiled five intriguing facts about global radio use that may surprise you.

1. 95% of the World’s Population Uses Radio
According to UNESCO, more than 95% of the world’s population uses radio. That high figure probably says it all, but to put it in even more perspective, this is compared to roughly one-third of the global population having access to Internet at all (let alone reliable or high-speed connections).

2. Most Households in Developing Nations Have Radio
As of 2010, at least 75% of households in developing countries have access to a radio, while only 20.5% of households in developing nations have access to the Internet.

As a result, radio can reach the most isolated communities (which includes many Native American populations in the U.S.), in addition to the poorest, where Internet cannot.

3. Radio Is the Only News Medium on the Rise in Russia Since 2008
Besides radio, all traditional forms of news media in Russia are in decline — even in Moscow, where there is an advanced print media market. The average monthly adult readership for daily newspapers decreased by 3.1% between 2006 and 2010.

Daily radio audiences, on the other hand, have risen 4% since 2008.

4. Radio Signals Are More Reliable

Certain geographical features affect the way countries receive information. For example, in rural areas of the Philippines, mountains get in the way of TV signals, but not radio communications. Radio reaches 85% of the entire country, while TV reaches just under 60%. As a result, radio is considered the most reliable medium for distributing news in the Philippines’ rural interior.

5. AM/FM Still More Popular Than Online Streaming
American adults listen to eight times more AM/FM radio than satellite radio, and 17 times more than Internet audio streaming. It will be interesting to see how these numbers change as innovation in the space increases.

Faculty - David Balzer

To Tweet or not to Tweet: Social media workshop

A timely workshop specifically for non-profit, NGO and faith-based communicators in the Winnipeg area.  This workshop is being coordinated by the team that puts together the Going Barefoot Communications Conferences.

To Tweet or not to Tweet: Developing a social media strategy for your organization
Presenter: Susie Parker, Sparker Strategy Group
When: February 17, 2012 (Friday), 10 am – 1 pm, lunch included
Where: Canadian Mennonite University, 600 Shaftesbury Blvd (South Campus, southwest corner of Grant and Shaftesbury) Conference Room, main floor
Cost: $25/person. (Payment at door.)
RSVP: By February 3, 2012 to  John Longhurst,
Using social media to raise awareness of your organization comes naturally to some, and is a mystery to others. For many this communication channel raises questions we’ve not been asked to think about before: What does your organization want to achieve on social media?
What’s your social media message? How do you attract friends/followers? Twitter, Facebook, Google+ – how many channels are enough/too many? Who is the ‘face’ of your social media presence? What are the rules: Content? Frequency? Relevance? Repetition? Tone? How do you measure success in social media?
Blogs Faculty - David Balzer

Going Barefoot III Communications Conference on Oct 14

Going Barefoot III is a one-day communications conference is being hosted at CMU on Friday, October 14.  Well worth signing up, for anyone interested in creative communications harnessed for good in our world.

Everything Old is New Again: Communication and Fundraising in the Digital World.

The presenters are:
 Owen Charters, CEO, CanadaHelps.
Presentation: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Future of Fundraising.
Workshop: Everything Old is New Again: The Fundamentals of Fundraising in the Digital World.

Bill Roberts, President and CEO of Vision TV.
Presentation: Going Barefoot with Boomers: The New Va Va Voom Demographic!
Workshop: ZoomerMedia Limited: A Case Study Overview.

Gayle Goosen, Founder and Creative Director, Barefoot Creative.
Workshop 1: Fund raising or Brand raising? The power of brand in the non-profit sector.
Workshop 2: Fund-amentals. A focused approach to growth-oriented fundraising

(A slate of additional workshops will also be offered.)

The cost is $87 (includes GST, lunch and coffee breaks).
Students: $25 (includes GST, sessions only).
Late registration fee: $97 (After Oct. 3).

To register, CLICK HERE
The past two times, registration had to be closed–we filled up all the spaces. So don’t wait too long . . . .

A note from John Longhurst, Conference Planning Coordinator.
As a by-the-way, what we do in Winnipeg by gathering regularly as church communicators, and holding conferences like Going Brefoot, is unique in Canada as far as I can tell–in my travels, I haven’t encountered any other group of church communicators doing what we do. (Not to mention giving the country its first-ever national conference on faith and the media, held in Ottawa in 1998.) Once again, Winnipeg leads the way!

Again, hope to see you at GB III!
John Longhurst
Director, Resource Management
Canadian Foodgrains Bank

Blogs Faculty - David Balzer

Technology and education…this graphic made me think!

As Fall startup approaches, this graphic caught my attention.  If education was really about the mere transmission of data, I imagine these stats would be at the top of most faculty meeting agendas.  In my view of education as formation rather than information, I don’t disregard these stats but they are contextualized by a deeper question of what it means to be shaped in character.

Students Love Technology

Blogs Faculty - David Balzer

Putting an iPhone to good use

Tomorrow evening, Tuesday July 5, I’ll be hitting the road from Winnipeg to Ottawa as part of a Guinness World Record attempt at the fastest bike ride across Canada. Let’s be very clear, my role is NOT to ride the bike, that’s 54-year old Arvid Loewen’s job. My role has been and will continue to be to capture the story and get it out to the web and mainstream media outlets across the country. It’s a hands-on realtime exercise in putting some of our latest technologies to good use.

Arvid is raising awareness and funds to rescue orphaned street kids in Kenya. Pointing an iPhone at that is well worth the effort! Visit to follow the ride from July 1-13?? (yes, 6040km in 13 days on a bike) and to see what all you can produce on an iPhone that makes a real difference.

Blogs Faculty - David Balzer

Vancouver melee about more than hockey

A Biblical Studies colleague here at CMU sent me this link today from the Winnipeg Free Press: Vancouver melee brings out a dark, disturbing side of social media

As we move into an increasingly wired and online reality, this article creates a helpful pause for reflection. When people ask me about the value of the latest technology, I often ask how we will steward its capacity. Do we become more fully human and alive? Thanks Sheila, for sending the link.