General News

First Disaster Recovery Grad Inspired to Alleviate Suffering

David Barker Completes Disaster Recovery Studies at CMU

DRS Graduate David Barker with CMU President Gerald Gerbrandt and Instructors Lois Nickel (DRS) and Kenton Lobe (IDS)

Three years ago, in the middle of reading Roméo Dallaire’s traumatic first-hand account of the Rwanda genocide, David Barker decided his future would be in disaster response.

“It was the first time I read something about the actual suffering going on in the world,” says Barker, recalling his profound emotional response to Dallaire’s book, Shake Hands with the Devil.

This spring, Barker became the first student to graduate from Canadian Mennonite University’s fledgling Disaster Recovery Studies (DRS) program. Barker received his diploma on April 17 with a major in Peace and Conflict Studies and two minors, one in International Development and the other in Disaster Recovery.

If CMU had offered a major in disaster recovery, he would have taken it, Barker says. When he enrolled, CMU was just getting the 18-credit-hour program off the ground.

CMU developed its Disaster Recovery Studies program through a partnership with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), a faith-based agency with more than fifty years of experience responding to disasters in Canada and the U.S.A.
The emphasis of CMU’s program is on the longer-term phases of individual, family, and community rebuilding following disasters. A key part of the program is a series of two terms of fieldwork, eight to ten weeks each, fulfilling CMU’s practicum requirement.

“The first term is spent serving with MDS. The second may be either with MDS or with another agency that does disaster recovery work in North America or internationally,” says DRS Instructor Lois Nickel, Program and Region Director with MDS. “Through these service terms, students like David Barker receive hands-on and leadership experience in the rebuilding of disaster-affected, often vulnerable communities. DRS helps students understand the nature of disasters, their aftermath, and the best ways to help people and communities recover physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually.”

Ever since reading Dallaire’s book, Barker has felt called to help alleviate suffering in the world caused by disaster and conflict. He feels his classes and hands-on fieldwork over the past three years have helped equip him to begin that work.

In the summer of 2009, Barker completed his first practicum helping rebuild homes destroyed by California wildfires. “It was a very valuable experience,” he says. “We actually got to interact with the people who had been in the disaster and hear their stories – to talk to them about how they grew spiritually and mentally.”

For his second practicum, Barker worked with the Red Cross in Winnipeg helping develop a tool to assess the province’s ability to respond to disasters such as floods, heat waves, tornados, forest fires, or blizzards. In the classroom Barker studied the theory behind disaster response and the phases of recovery.

Barker’s long-term goal is to get a job working for an organization like the Red Cross, World Vision, or the UN. He says he’s willing to live in whatever part of the world he’s needed. “I’d find that interesting and rewarding,” Barker says.

But to get that kind of job, Barker needs more volunteer experience on his resumé. That’s why, the day after graduation, he started volunteering with the Manitoba government’s Emergency Measures Organization coordinating responses to the annual spring flood.

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is an accredited Christian university offering undergraduate degrees in the arts, music, music therapy, theology, and church ministries, and master degrees in theological studies and Christian ministry. CMU is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). Located in Manitoba, CMU has over 1,700 students at its Shaftesbury Campus in Southwest Winnipeg, at Menno Simons College in downtown Winnipeg, and enrolled through Outtatown, CMU’s adventure and discipleship program.

For information, contact:
Nadine Kampen, Communications and Marketing Director     Tel. 204.487.3300   Toll free 877.231.4570
Canadian Mennonite University    500 Shaftesbury Blvd.   Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3P 2N2

General News

Gerald Gerbrandt Announces Inaugural Winners of the CMU President’s Gold Medal Awards

Erin Weaver, Rebecca Reesor Recognized as Outstanding CMU Graduates

Canadian Mennonite University at its April 17, 2011 Convocation made the inaugural presentation of the President’s Gold Medal for Scholarship, Leadership, and Service to two outstanding CMU graduates from the Class of 2011.

“CMU is bestowing its new award to honour students whom the University considers to have best exemplified the vision of CMU for scholarship, leadership, and service during their time here as students,” says CMU President Gerald Gerbrandt. “The recipients of the President’s Gold Medals in 2011 are Erin Elizabeth Weaver and Rebecca Ann Reesor.”

“Approved by CMU Senate in March 2011, the President’s Gold Medal award process identifies graduating students who have achieved a grade point average of 4.0 or more,” notes Registrar Wesley Toews.  Members of Faculty and Student Life then submitted nominations from this list of exceptional students and a selection committee comprised of representatives from CMU Faculty, Student Life, and the CMU Awards Committee made the final choices.

CMU President’s Gold Medal winners Erin Weaver (at left) and Rebecca Reesor with President Gerald Gerbrandt

“We have amazing students and the new President’s award is a great way to feature them,” says Peters Kliewer. “The candidates for the award were all great students – bright, competent, caring people.  They will make a valuable contribution and be effective in their home communities and in the world.”

CMU 2011 President’s Gold Medal Award Winners

Erin Elizabeth Weaver (CMU ’11)
Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (4-Yr.) in International Development Studies with a minor in Biblical and Theological Studies, Erin Weaver has been very involved in student leadership at CMU.  A member of the CMU Student Council for the past two years, Weaver was Vice President of Student Relations in 2010-’11, and in the prior year, served as the chair of the Peace and Social Awareness Committee.

Demonstrating a passion for those in need, Weaver took an active role in helping students on campus but also reached out beyond the campus to the inner city, where she took a particular interest in addressing homelessness.  Generous with her time and in using her gifts to serve those around her, Weaver organized and coordinated such events as the CMU Pearson Challenge, Tuition Freedom Day, and Blood Donor Clinics.

Weaver, who comes from Red Lake, Ontario, lived on campus at CMU. While completing her CMU practicum requirement, she also lived for several months in Uganda.

Rebecca Ann Reesor (CMU ’11)
Rebecca Reesor graduated with a Bachelor of Music, with concentrations in Performance and Music Ministry.  An exceptional pianist, Reesor recently won first place in the CMU 2011 Verna Mae Janzen competition.

Beyond her music and academic work, Reesor was also able to share of herself in other ways within the CMU community and through committee work. Reesor, who lived in residence, was highly engaged in campus life. She participated in CMU ensembles; led and participated in Wednesday night worship services and student chapels; was a hard-working member of our Peace-It-Together (PIT) worship committee; and was a planning member for a ministers’ worship conference. She was also in the CMU sports program in earlier years, playing for the Blazer Women’s Soccer team.

Reesor completed her practicum in her home church in Bluevale, Ontario and is using skills she learned at CMU with Winnipeg’s Fort Gary Mennonite Brethren Church, where she currently works in a music role.

Reesor and Weaver were among 82 graduates who received CMU Shaftesbury Bachelor or Master degrees at the 2011 Convocation, where guest speaker Rudy Wiebe (MBBC ’61) shared an inspirational message. Also celebrating that same day were 62 students, returning days earlier from Guatemala and South Africa, who completed the CMU Outtatown program.

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) is an accredited Christian university offering undergraduate degrees in the arts, music, music therapy, theology, and church ministries, and master degrees in theological studies and Christian ministry. CMU is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). Located in Manitoba, CMU has over 1,700 students at its Shaftesbury Campus in Southwest Winnipeg, at Menno Simons College in downtown Winnipeg, and enrolled through Outtatown, CMU’s adventure and discipleship program.

For information, contact:
Nadine Kampen,
Communications and Marketing Director
Tel. 204.487.3300   Toll free 877.231.4570
Canadian Mennonite University,   500 Shaftesbury Blvd.   Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3P 2N2

General News News Releases

CMU’s Shaftesbury Campus, Menno Simons College, and Outtatown Celebrated the Accomplishments of 219 Graduates and Program Participants

For release June 18, 2010

Canadian Mennonite University in April celebrated the graduation of 95 students at its Shaftesbury campus and, last week, recognized 60 graduates in Conflict Resolution Studies and International Development Studies at its Menno Simons College, located in downtown Winnipeg at The University of Winnipeg. In April, CMU also celebrated the safe arrival back in Canada and program completion of 64 Outtatown students returning from South Africa and Guatemala. In total, CMU celebrated the accomplishments of 219 students in recent ceremonies.

“We applaud our graduates for their achievements,” says CMU President Gerald Gerbrandt. “As CMU students enter into their careers or continue with further studies, we take deep satisfaction from the fact that their achievements have been earned not only by their own efforts, but through the support of parents, faculty, staff, and friends and donors. It is gratifying to consider how our community helps and encourages our students to shape their faith and their futures through their studies and experiences, while also helping our university to attain its overall vision and mission.”

At the April 25 graduation services, the Canadian Mennonite University Shaftesbury campus saw a weekend of special activities as the community celebrated CMU’s largest graduating class to date, with 95 graduates awarded Bachelor and Master degrees: four with four-year Bachelor of Arts degrees with honours; 39 with four year Bachelor of Arts degrees; 35 with three year Bachelor of Arts degrees; three with Bachelor of Arts in Church Ministries degrees; 11 with Bachelor of Music degrees; two with Bachelor of Music Therapy degrees; and one with a Master of Arts degree in Theological Studies. Speaking at the Graduation Service this year was Dr. David T. Barnard, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Manitoba. Offering a context for the graduates in decision-making after leaving university, Barnard invited graduates to “read responsibly, and then live responsibly.”

Valedictorian Michael Bueckert, a four year Bachelor of Arts graduate majoring in International Development Studies (IDS), encouraged his peers to take a broad view of their education, acknowledging that education is a gift from many people. Bueckert told the graduates that, while they have had a hand in this process; education is not a product that they created, or even earned, but rather a gift bestowed in many ways, including through experiences inside and outside of the classroom. Bueckert drew on examples from his own practicum in Olepolos, Kenya working in a Maasai community.

The Menno Simons College (MSC) graduation services took place June 10 in beautiful Convocation Hall, following The University of Winnipeg’s morning convocation services. MSC graduates and families were then welcomed to a luncheon and a special graduation program. Of special note, among this year’s 60 graduates was the winner of three UWinnipeg gold medals, MSC graduate Caitlin Eliasson. Program participants included (outgoing) Dean Dr. Paul Redekop, CMU President Dr. Gerald Gerbrandt, and UWinnipeg’s Global College Principal Dr. Marilou McPhedran, with reflections shared by new Menno Simons College Dean Dr. Richard McCutcheon and CRS and IDS major, student Candace Préjet.

In her address, Préjet expressed appreciation on behalf of the graduating class to faculty and staff who are “the heart and soul” of MSC and “whose time, effort, and dedication make it such a great place to be.” Préjet spoke in particular about what she sees as a significant challenge to today’s society – that of indifference. “We have lost touch with our sense of community and with it, our responsibility to that larger community.” Yet, she reminded her audience, “One person can be incredibly powerful and transformative.” She encouraged her fellow graduates to “choose the route that requires courage, sacrifice, compassion, caring, responsibility, and engagement” rather than the route of indifference – and silence – on inequalities and social ills that plague today’s communities. “You can make a difference,” she said. “We all have something of value to contribute to those around us.”

Menno Simons provides education flowing from Anabaptist Mennonite understandings of faith, peace, and justice while engaging other religious traditions and intellectual perspectives. The College fosters a learning community that prepares students from diverse backgrounds for participation and leadership in local and global communities. Considered a pioneer in International Development Studies and Conflict Resolution Studies, MSC offers a wide range of courses and experienced faculty in these areas, along with practicum opportunities and supporting scholarships.

On April 17 and 18, the week prior to the general CMU graduation services, Outtatown celebrated the homecoming of its site leaders and 64 student participants just returned from their memorable year in the Outtatown discipleship program, having recently experienced the patterns of daily life, faith journeys, and hospitality of their host communities in South Africa and Guatemala.

“The opportunity for students to leave their comfort zones, entering into a cross-cultural learning environment that examines world issues from a Christian faith perspective will give shape to their faith, their self-understandings, and their direction in life,” says Outtatown Director Paul Kroeker.  During this eight-month program, which is eligible for university credit,  students travel together in what many refer to as a “spiritual pilgrimage,” as students learn to know God, to know their own gifts and abilities, and to open themselves to personal growth and transformation.

A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU offers undergraduate degrees as well as two graduate degree programs. CMU has over 1,800 students, including MSC and Outtatown students, and is a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). CMU operates a number of schools and institutes, including The School of Writing at CMU and the Canadian School of Peacebuilding, currently underway at the CMU Shaftesbury campus.

For MSC information, contact:
Ruth Taronno:; tel. 204.953.3846

For Outtatown information, contact:
Paul Kroeker, Director of Outtatown:; tel. 204.487.3300 ext. 649

For CMU enrolment information, contact:
Abe Bergen, Director of Enrolment:; tel. 204.487.3300 ext. 652

For CMU general information, contact:
Nadine Kampen CMU Communications & Marketing Director; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2