CMU students win competition at 2015 MEDA convention

Jillian Beever, Tess Longley, and Nonsie Sibanda won the MEDAnext Talks competition at MEDA’s 2015 convention, “Growing Business, Building Community”.

Styled after TED Talks, the MEDAnext Talks provided an opportunity for students to present on a topic that fell into one of the following categories of how to be, do, or care “in the next.”

Nonsie Sibanda, Tess Longley, and Jillian Beever (clockwise from top-right) formed CMU’s winning entry in the MEDAnext Talks competition at the 2015 MEDA Convention in Richmond, Virginia.

The topic chosen by the students was “Empowering Millennials for the Future,” in response to the ‘Do’ category questions: What can we do to utilize the power of change for good? What can we do to empower others in the future?

The students’ presentation included an introduction to the millennial generation and offered suggestions for how businesses and the field of academics can empower millennials by drawing on the generation’s strengths and characteristics.

The students express appreciation for the opportunity, which provided “a platform to talk about something interesting that we wanted to share, meet new people and network, and practice skills that we learned in class,” said Longley.

“Attending the MEDA convention provided an opportunity for the students to draw on the leadership studies that we’ve incorporated into the business program,” says Craig Martin, Assistant Professor of Business at CMU. “They did really well on their presentation.”

All three are taking the course Leadership Development, taught by Dr. Vonda Plett, which they credit with helping them develop skills such as active listening, team building, and presentation techniques, all of which they utilized while preparing their presentation.

“When I began [the Leadership Development] course, I had leadership goals. Taking up public speaking was one of my goals and this was an opportunity to practice that,” says Sibanda.

The convention included opportunities for networking with MEDA supporters, staff, and convention attendees, including those from other universities and colleges.

This is the fourth year CMU has attended the MEDA convention and the students hope that more students will be able to participate in the future. They’ve already begun planning for next year.

“You’re there to connect, to meet people, to learn about new things, and to come back next year and hear what you’ve done since,” says Beever. “It took our degree and shaped it in a whole new light.”

General News

Scholarship Winner Aims to Make a Difference Through Business

‘Business can be about more than just making a profit,’ says Benjamin Shantz

Business is in Benjamin Shantz’s blood. While his friends spent their summers in high school working shifts at local fast food restaurants, Shantz was running his own lawn care operation, Benjamin’s Lawn Mowing and Services.

The business earned Shantz enough spending money during each summer, and while his friends were obligated to work the hours their supervisors scheduled for them, he enjoyed the flexibility making his own schedule afforded him.

2013-11-07 - Ben Shantz [2]But Shantz says one of the biggest benefits of running his own business was relational.

Today, Shantz is in his first year of studies at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). He received a full tuition scholarship for his first year of study from CMU’s Redekop School of Business as well as Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA).“Mowing lawns in my neighbourhood allowed me to build relationships and get to know people in the community,” the 19-year-old says. “I always enjoyed that, as opposed to having a job where I didn’t interact with anyone.”

Shantz says he gets his entrepreneurial spirit from his family.

“My grandfather and dad were involved in business, and my dad was big on teaching my brother and I how to manage our money,” he says.

His grandfather, Glen, was an electrician with his own contracting company who also owned a number of rental properties. Meanwhile, Shantz’s father, Rick, owned his own IT consulting firm for a number of years.

Participating in CMU’s Outtatown Discipleship School last year also influenced Shantz to study business, and it gave him a new perspective on what running a business can look like.

While in Guatemala at the beginning of 2013, he and his fellow students worked with a ministry called Solomon’s Porch. The ministry includes a café, and the income generated by the café is used to further the Solomon’s Porch ministry.

“I saw how business can be about more than just making a profit,” Shantz says. “It can also be used to give back to a community – in this case, to finance a missional organization that builds houses for people.”

As a result of his experience abroad, Shantz is working towards a double major in Business and International Development Studies at CMU.

While he’s not sure what sort of business he wants to be involved with after he graduates, he knows it will be the kind of business that reflects the things he has come to value over the past few years.

“It will be a business that’s tied to the community and relationships and helping people,” he says.

Events General News Lectures News Releases

Redekop School of Business Hosts Distinguished Businesswoman

Social entrepreneur Sarah J. Smith to spend week meeting with students and business people

The Redekop School of Business (RSB) welcomes Sarah J. Smith to Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) as its 2013 Social Entrepreneur In-Residence. Ms. Smith will spend September 23-27 mentoring students and meeting local business people to share her story, which combines business, social justice, and Biblical principles.

Sarah J. Smith

Ms. Smith, who holds a number of degrees including a Doctorate of Theology and Bachelor of Business Administration, is founder and president of Sarah’s Hope Jewelry. The Wisconsin-based for-profit company was started in 2004 to fund non-profit organizations that provide small business micro-loans and training for women in the USA and developing world.

Ms. Smith’s week-long visit will include a number of classroom appearances and one-on-one sessions with RSB students. Additionally, she will also be the keynote speaker at a luncheon presented by MEDA Winnipeg, scheduled for September 26 at the Notre Dame Avenue Independent Jewellers location. There she will share how her business model has helped small business owners in less developed countries overcome poverty and become viable contributors to their local communities.

“Through the combination of Sarah J. Smith’s business acumen and pastoral ministries, Sarah’s Hope Jewelry is a testament to the impact one individual can have on communities around the world,” say RSB Director, Dr. Ray Vander Zaag. “The opportunity for our students and faculty to experience her passion for international development and business will prove there is room for social justice in a commerce environment.”

For more information regarding Ms. Smith’s background and a schedule of events, please visit

RSB’s 2012 In-Residence guest was Art DeFehr, Winnipeg-based businessman, humanitarian, and philanthropist who has bettered the lives of others in Manitoba and around the world.

General News

CMU students travel to Latin American to research microfinance

Students from CMU’s Redekop School of Business (RSB) have just returned home from the first RSB study tour to Latin America.

From April 29 to May 13, six students and a supervising professor traveled to Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic to explore how microfinance—providing small loans and financial services to the economically poor—is being used to fight poverty.

“It’s exciting to see the students experience first-hand how their business skills can be used overseas in non-traditional ways,” says Jeff Huebner, Associate Professor of International Business who led the tour.

RSB business students Lauren Cassie and Joni Sawatzky with a MiCredito loan client

Before leaving Winnipeg, the students spent four months studying microfinance and writing research consulting reports for two partner organizations operating in Latin America, MEDA/MiCredito and HOPE International.

 They presented their research to the staff of these organizations, visited microenterprise clients and loan group meetings, and learned about the challenges and opportunities of doing business and development abroad.

“Textbooks just don’t convey stories as well as standing face-to-face with actual people in the story,” says Lauren Cassie, a fourth-year business major from Lorette, Manitoba.

For Cassie, a highlight of the study tour was making the connection between her classroom learning and the outside world.

“Visiting with individual clients and hearing how they had been personally impacted by the microfinance loans was awesome.”

Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA) is one of the organizations RSB has partnered with, through their affiliate MiCredito in Nicaragua.

“We’re delighted to see some of today’s best and brightest young people get a firsthand exposure to a microfinance institution in action,” says Bob Kroeker, MEDA regional director of resource development.

“This gives us a chance to introduce a new generation to the impact of creating business solutions to poverty.”

RSB offers study tours annually that are open to students, CMU alumni and supporters. Next year’s study tour will be to Europe in May 2014, with the theme of Business in the European Union.

Janessa Klassen, Jeff Huebner, MiCredito loan client with his family, Rony Doerksen, and Ethan Heidebrecht in Nicaragua