In darkness, dwell

By April Klassen, 4th-year Interdisciplinary Studies: Community Development

This past semester I had the opportunity to walk with the Bear Clan Patrol as the practicum for my Community Development degree. The Bear Clan Patrol embodies an Indigenous-led, community-based approach to crime prevention activated by patrolling the streets of Winnipeg’s North End five nights per week. It began as a response to the tragedy of our missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

The Bear Clan Patrol has many different responsibilities, including collecting needles, handing out care packages, providing safewalks, and being a friendly and positive presence.

April Klassen and the Bear Clan Patrol
CMU student April Klassen with a group joining the Bear Clan Patrol in Winnipeg’s North End.

The Bear Clan Patrol is often requested to marshal various memorials or marches. I recently participated in one such memorial, this time a candlelight vigil and march held in honour and memory of Marilyn Rose Munroe. Rose was found murdered one year ago and her death remains a cold case to this day. The vigil was hosted by Rose’s family and friends, who shared stories and sang songs as we held candles and walked the length of the North End neighbourhood.

I had never participated in a vigil before, nor do I know anyone who has been murdered. I have never had to fear for my life, nor the lives of my family and friends, and I have no reason to think that this should ever be a part of my reality. Yet as we walked, in silence, holding candles in the darkness, I thought about what this experience must be like for my fellow patrol members.

I looked at Sara, the quiet, funny, smart, young Indigenous woman walking next to me who is about my age and lives in the North End. Statistically speaking, Sara has likely been to many vigils and probably knows more than one person who has gone missing or been murdered.

As we walked I wondered what it was like for her to participate in such an event, knowing that it is not out of the realm of possibility that someday she might hold a vigil for her sister, her mother, her daughter—or that one might be held for her! Or, what was it like for her boyfriend and his buddies, who walked just a few steps behind us? Did they fear for the women in their lives, for their sisters and mothers and daughters and partners, or have people become so accustomed to the horror and tragedy that it has become normalized? Did bystanders see the vigil as a sign of resistance, of resilience, something to be celebrated or, was it simply a visible reminder of the pain and death faced by so many families in the community?

The strength that it takes to face the darkness, to stand on the sidewalk and acknowledge the hurt of your community, of your people, of your nation—this is a strength to which I aspire. It would be a vast understatement to state there is darkness in the North End. The history of Canada and of its Indigenous people is very dark, and its legacy continues today. If we are to seek reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, we need to step into that darkness. For me, that step was literal, as I spent six hours of each week with a flashlight walking the poorly lit North End streets.

This darkness is a hard place to be in, and it can be scary at times. One incredible thing I’ve learned is that communities like the North End, and all the diverse Indigenous people and nations of this land, already live in this space. That particular night we walked in darkness because a member of that community had been murdered, and as a community, we created a light that pushed against that darkness.

A first step toward reconciliation will be releasing our tight grip on our comfortable, safely-lit lives and stepping into the darkness. When we get there we will realize that we do not dwell in the darkness alone.

The longer we spend there and the more often we return, the more we will find ourselves becoming a part of the community, welcomed by their embodiment of God’s transformative power, to participate in the redemption of this world.

Student Profiles

CMU students contribute to play about conscientious objectors’ experiences

Three Canadian Mennonite University students are conducting research and assisting in the development of the upcoming Theatre of the Beat (TOTB) play, Yellow Bellies.

“TOTB creates thought-provoking and socially relevant theatre to raise awareness of or get people thinking about social justice issues,” says Rebecca Steiner, TOTB General Director and Recruitment Coordinator at CMU. “This play will highlight the often forgotten stories of conscientious objectors during World War 2 and their contributions to Canada’s development.”

Jonas Cornelsen, Kayla Drudge, and Nadya Langelotz are researching the stories of conscientious objectors (COs) during the Second World War by reading archived material and conducting interviews to gather information about the time period. Their research is contributing to the play’s development.

“The students’ task is to research and share with us the interesting narratives, characters, and conflicts they find and help us think of how we can dramatize them,” says Steiner.

For Drudge and Langelotz, their research and work on the play is a part of their practica, which they are completing through the Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives (MHCA). Additionally they are writing articles for the MHCA blog and transcribing archived video interviews. Cornelsen is assisting with conducting interviews and is recording them on video or audio as applicable.

The interviews include questions such as: why did you decide to become a CO? Did your church support you? If you went before a judge, what was your experience like? What was your experience like in the CO camp? How did this experience shape your life?

Part of Drudge’s research focuses on music that was popular in CO camps.

“Guys would sing in a cappella, barbershop-like groups,” says Drudge, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Music. “They would develop groups in CO camps, practice regularly, and go out to churches in the area to sing.”

The play will incorporate live music with a gospel-bluegrass style similar to music common to this period. It will also feature a medley Drudge composed that includes O Canada and I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go, a hymn sung by some COs when homesick. The medley will be used to transition between a scene that reflects the experience of appearing before a judge to advocate for CO status and a scene in a CO camp.

Langelotz, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts, is working on one of the scenes and has enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with TOTB on the play’s development. The students have had opportunities to read the play as it’s being developed and offer feedback on scene order and content.

“The play uses historically accurate info and stories but if we have a character in mind with a specific trait, we can put that in,” says Langelotz. “We’re adding our own creative flair. It’s so neat to read it.”

Her research has uncovered a wide range of experiences that COs had.

“There’s huge varieties of different experiences—some had a great time and their time in court was easy to get CO status,” says Langelotz. “Other stories were horrible—sent to prison—standing up for what they believed in but not getting status.”

Langelotz says that those they’ve interviewed have expressed appreciation for the interest in their stories.

Articles Student Profiles

Applying business principles in the non-profit sector

Katie DamanKatie Daman had the opportunity to apply business skills in a non-profit setting during her practicum with Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

Daman, who graduated from CMU’s Redekop School of Business with a Bachelor of Business Administration in April 2015, completed her practicum at WestEnd Commons (WEC), a social enterprise in Winnipeg’s West End community.

Social enterprises are “not-for-profits that use business means to fulfill their mission,” explains Daman. WEC is home to the Neighbourhood Resource Centre, a social enterprise that “provides safe and affordable programming as well as meeting and office space for neighbourhood families and organizations in West Central Winnipeg.”

The social enterprise model adopted by WEC includes renting out spaces in the building including a commercial kitchen, assembly hall, and meeting and office space. The income generated from the rentals is invested in community programming.

Daman utilized her business education to help WEC further their transition into a social enterprise. Her main role was social media coordinator. She maintained WEC’s social media presence by posting articles that featured WEC, sharing content relevant to WEC’s mission, and connecting with organizations that support WEC.

“Social media is really important to not only create awareness of your organization’s existence, but also to help people remain aware about what your organization does on a day-to-day basis,” says Daman.

Additionally, Daman provided input into marketing plans and strategies, which she says is one way her practicum connected directly with her studies. The courses she’s taken have equipped her with the skills to develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, which centres on an organization’s mission and vision.

“Mission and vision are crucial to an organization internally and externally,” says Daman. “Internally you want to rally around a common purpose and goal. You need a common understanding so you can achieve it. Externally, you want people to buy into your purpose as well.”

Daman believes a social enterprise model can benefit non-profits and sees potential for non-profits to apply business principles in a way that helps them achieve their goals.

“A lot of non-profits are moving toward a social enterprise model,” she says. “It’s important to have people working in non-profits who understand core business principles and can apply them to the greater good—understanding how the two can work together, instead of as opposites.”

After graduating, Daman would like to pursue work in the social enterprise or community economic development sector. She feels the BBA degree has equipped her well for work in those areas.

“For me, CMU played an important part in allowing me to explore some of my alternative passions and desires, while also giving me the necessary business acumen to go out and work in the real world. If business is something that you’re interested in, whether it be traditional business or an alternative form, CMU should definitely be on your radar.”

Ellen Paulley is a Writer and Social Media Coordinator at Canadian Mennonite University

Click here to learn more about the Redekop School of Business

Student Profiles

Practicum an interface between education and experience

Marc RegierCMU student Marc Regier encourages his fellow students to make the  most of their practicum experiences.

“Give it your all, give it your best,” he says. “You’ll learn about your own capacity in doing so.”

A Biblical and Theological Studies major and an International Development Studies (IDS) minor, Regier is completing his practicum at the Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) in Winnipeg, which takes on test cases for public interest groups and low-income individuals.

In his role at PILC, Regier says he has been “exposed to a whole range of responsibilities that a non-practicing lawyer could be exposed to at a law centre.” This includes compiling evidence, creating research reports and memos, meeting with clients, attending and documenting hearings, and “reading thousands of pages of material.”

As a child, Regier had a vision of being a lawyer, an interest his practicum reignited. He explains that through his longstanding focus on the legal implications of the Bible, he’s developed an idea of what legal practice is—something he’d like to “push into the secular world and test out.

Regier came to CMU seeking a rigorous approach to biblical studies and says he’s “honed an understanding of the historical, scientific merits of the Bible,” which has served to bring him closer to the Bible.

His practicum has been going “phenomenally well” and Regier has seen some of the IDS theories he’s learned being put into practice.

“The Public Interest Law Centre basically starts with the same worldview as IDS,” he says. “You measure what those who are marginalized need or want, bring that into the legal realm, and represent that among the big actors.”

Regier’s been inspired by the ways the lawyers at PILC work, saying there’s no end to the research they undertake and that they try to expose themselves to everything that’s been written on a topic. “It reflects competence and the desire to produce good work,” he says.

For those who are beginning a practicum, Regier offers this advice: “Respect and be a blessing to the people who have agreed to train you. Regularly and peaceably recognize when they are there and thank them.”

CMU believes experience-based education has great learning potential and as such, requires all Bachelor of Arts students to complete a practicum. The practicum complements classroom education by having students spend a significant amount of time in an off-campus placement.

Regier, who plans to attend law school after graduation, encourages students to complete their practicum near the end of their degree.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to end my education,” he says. “It’s the interface between education and experience.”

Ellen Paulley, Writer & Social Media Coordinator at Canadian Mennonite University

Learn more about CMU’s practicum program


Gratefully Uncomfortable – A Reflection on the CMU Experience (video)

Raven Nickel, a CMU student in her final year of studies, reflects upon her practicum placement and the impact it has had on her life and her studies at CMU.


Student Profiles

Play Therapy in Practice

Becky LonghurstCanadian Mennonite University (CMU) psychology student Becky Longhurst wants to work “all day, every day” in the field of play therapy.

The fourth year student had an opportunity to gain practical experience with play therapy during her nine-month practicum placement with Erie Neighborhood House in Chicago.

Play therapy involves watching the interactions children create between toys, which can be reflective of a child’s emotions and relationships, says Longhurst. Play therapy can be especially useful for children who aren’t yet able to express themselves verbally.

“We step back and observe and imagine what the interactions might mean for where children are at,” says Longhurst. “It’s a cool thing to see how they interact with other children before and after. It was rewarding to be a part of it.”

Erie Neighbourhood House’s mission is “to promote a just and inclusive society by strengthening low-income, primarily Latino families through skill-building, access to critical resources, advocacy and collaborative action.” One of the ways they do this is by partnering with graduate students from the University of Illinois at Chicago to offer a play therapy program for preschool children ages 2-5. Longhurst assisted teachers as needed and observed the play therapy process. She also spent part of her practicum as an assistant teacher.

Longhurst says she was able to see the theories she’s studied in the classroom be put into practice at Erie Neighbourhood House.

“As a student, the practicum instilled in me this was important work and it does make a difference,” she says. “I have more energy behind my education now because I’ve seen what it can do. It makes me want to develop more because I’ve seen that it really works.”

At the same time, Longhurst says the placement wasn’t without its struggle. “Kids are my happy place,” she says. “Can I get into a profession that might open me up to their suffering and pain?”

It was hard to see children experiencing some of what she’s studied but seeing the progress children made as a result of therapy helped Longhurst stay motivated in her work.

The challenge was one aspect of what made the practicum so valuable for Longhurst. By having the opportunity to experience and practice what is studied in the classroom, she says the practicum is a way for students to know what they may experience in their career.

“I’m a full enthusiast in putting academic and experiential learning together,” she says. “One of the most important things a student can do is to get out there, to go and see for themselves instead of people just telling them what it is.”

Each of CMU’s Bachelor of Arts programs has a practicum component, allowing students to gain hands on experience in their program.

Longhurst says the practicum experience made her feel more confident in her choice of a psychology major and that she feels “more comfortable in graduating with it.”

As for what’s next, Longhurst expects she’ll pursue a master’s degree with the ultimate goal of working in play therapy.

“Anything that lets me work with kids until I get there is fine—whatever leads me there is going to be great,” she says.

Ellen Paulley, Writer and Social Media Coordinator at CMU

Learn more about CMU’s practicum program


CMU practicum student credits B. Ed acceptance to placement experience

In April 2014, Scott Sawatzky graduated from Canadian Mennonite University, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Psychology. He delivered the valedictorian address and was also awarded the President’s Medal for leadership and outstanding academic achievement.

The aspiring teacher was soon accepted into the University of Winnipeg’s Bachelor of Education program. Sawatzky, who has been volunteering with a youth group in his hometown of Niverville for the past four years, says he “absolutely” believes his practicum experience and other youth-work experience had a definitive impact on his eligibility for the B. Ed. Degree, and ultimately, his readiness for a career in the classroom:

“It was actually a little surprising to me how much they looked at it,” Sawatzky says. “Or rather how important it was to the Education Department that you had experience with youth.”

Scott Sawatzky as CMU's class of 2014 valedictorian.
Scott Sawatzky as CMU’s class of 2014 valedictorian.

During his third year, after a recommendation from one of CMU’s practicum coordinator’s, Sawatzky requested to be placed at St Aidan’s Christian School—a funded independent middle school for grades five through nine in the Point Douglas neighbourhood of Winnipeg’s North end.

He reflects: “When it was described it to me—this little school in the north end serving inner-city kids—I thought, “sounds scary…sure! ”

Sawatzky goes on to outline the many ways in which he feels his CMU practicum experience helped prepare him for the work he plans to do, and expresses his gratitude:

“Firstly, doing my practicum at a very small, independent school helped me realize that I could teach in a variety of different contexts: private schools, public schools, tutoring agencies, etc. There are fewer limits than I’d thought.”

“Beyond that, it gave me face time in a classroom, which was very helpful. I was serving basically as a TA, so I got to enjoy a lot of positive interaction with students through learning moments, or hanging out during breaks, etc. It also put me through challenging situations, like confrontations with students, opportunities to learn from mistakes. Basically, it all helped me gain valuable experience.”

When asked why he hesitates to mention how student demographics influenced his experience, Sawatzky is very deliberate:

“I think one really important thing that placement did for me, was it saved me from any kind of Saviour complex that a teacher might be prone to fall into; and that was because I was never able to pigeon-hole these kids in my mind as “inner-city” students. While many of them had the kinds of disturbing back-stories that one might normally think of, most of the students were from basically stable, loving homes—and even the ones who were from difficulties were, between them, very diverse. I realized by the end that I was one very small part of their lives and it wasn’t up to me to make or break them, only to be as good an influence as I could in the role that I was filling. I think being forced to acknowledge each of them as unique, really kept me humble and will help me stay that way in future.”

By Beth Downey

Audio Student interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Daniel Paetkau – Practicum in Georgia

Daniel Paetkau
CMU English Major
Interview Date: March 11, 2012

In this audio feature from a CMU Chapel service, Daniel Paetkau shares about his practicum with Jubilee Partners teaching English to refugees and newly landed immigrants in Atlanta, Georgia during the summer of 2011.

Play/Download Here


Audio Student interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Belinda Morales – Practicum in Thailand

Belinda Morales
Social Sciences Major

Interview Date: March 3rd, 2012

On March 3, 2012, Belinda spoke in a CMU chapel service about her recent practicum experiences in Thailand.  Belinda worked with StepAhead, a Christian-based Community Integrated Development Organization.  Listen to how Belinda encountered God in a tsunami-ravaged region of Thailand.

Play/Download Here

Alumni interviews Audio Sunday@CMU Radio

Adam Klassen – Prison Visitation Practicum

Adam Klassen
CMU Alumnus (’09)
Interview Date: September 27, 2010

In this interview, David Balzer, host of Sunday@CMU, speaks with Adam about his Practicum with Open Circle, a prison visitation and community integration program of Mennonite Central Committee. Adam shares stories about the people he met and the impact they have on his life.

Play/Download Here