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CMU announces new Environmental Studies major

Canadian Mennonite University is pleased to announce the creation of a new Environmental Studies major, which will launch in fall 2016. The interdisciplinary, four-year Bachelor of Arts degree will draw on the fields of science, social science, and humanities.

“Environmental studies is by nature interdisciplinary,” says Dr. Rachel Krause, Assistant Professor of Biology. “It looks at economic, biophysical, political, and private spheres and how they fit together in the natural world.”

With a foundation in natural sciences, students will gain knowledge of the underlying scientific principles and processes required to understand environmental issues such as climate, soil and water systems, nutrient cycles, and ecology.

“Students will have a foundation in natural sciences such that they can understand the ecology and the science of the issues we face relevant to the environment,” says Krause.

Through incorporating courses in the social sciences, students will gain an understanding of how economic, political, and social structures interact with the environment and inform how natural resources are used.

“Environmental issues always have a natural science component, but they also impact communities and populations,” says Dr. Ray Vander Zaag, Associate Dean of International Development Studies. “To work in the broad field of environmental studies, you need to have understandings in both areas.”

The humanities component addresses the question of how areas such as literature, philosophy, and theology can contribute to understanding problems and visualizing solutions.

“Students will be equipped with the tools to enter the challenging new realities that face our future and cross the boundaries of science and social science,” says Dr. Gordon Zerbe, Vice President Academic at CMU. “We’re very pleased we have the capacity to deliver this kind of program.”

Three new ecology courses are being developed that will offer lab and field research methodologies and will be implemented over the next few years. With the addition of these courses, students interested in education will be able to attain a teachable in biology.

The interdisciplinary nature of the degree will allow students to personalize their studies according to their interests, drawing on the many courses CMU offers that are directly or indirectly relevant to environmental studies. A practicum component will provide students with the opportunity to integrate knowledge and practices related to the field.

Graduates may pursue careers with agencies and non-profit organizations working in areas such as conservation or resource management, or pursue graduate studies in related fields.

To learn more about CMU’s new Environmental Studies major, 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

When Cheap is Costly: Sweatshops and the Clothes I Wear with Dr. Ray Vander Zaag

In this, the third of 2013/4’s Face2Face series, Dr. Ray Vander Zaag is joined by alumni, students, and special guest Bob Silver. The global clothing industry, working conditions in places like Bangladesh, and the impact of Western governments and markets have had in developing countries form the discussion.


Events Lectures News Releases

Discussion Led by IDS Professor to Explore Sweatshops and North American Clothing

“When Cheap Is Costly” is the third of seven Face2Face events hosted by CMU

The April collapse of the Bangladeshi clothing factory, which produced for Loblaw’s Joe Fresh label, and which killed more than 1,100 workers, raises important questions about where our clothes come from, and what conditions they are produced in.

JF1With the publicity given to garment factories, like the Loblaw contract-location in Bangladesh, how can North Americans show concern in their consumer behaviours for workers overseas?

Are we too concerned with fast fashion? Do constantly changing fashions trends encourage us to buy too many ‘cheap’ clothes that only need to last for a fashion season?

What is the ethical responsibility of business people in how they source the goods they produce, as well as how they market and advertise them

And how does social change happen for complex, diffuse problems like this?

Ray Vander Zaag, Assistant Professor of International Development Studies at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), will discuss those questions and more during CMU’s next Face2Face event exploring the intersection of faith and life.

Vander Zaag will host a conversation, titled “When Cheap Is Costly: Sweatshops and the Clothes I Buy,” on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 7:00 PM in CMU’s Great Hall (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.). Admission is free, and everyone is welcome to attend.

Vander Zaag says he is interested in the topic because it links to Haiti, where he worked with his church’s development agency  from 1985 to 1993. Garment factories, some with poor working conditions, are common in the Caribbean country, and are still  being promoted as a key development strategy for Haiti.

“The topic of sweatshops affects my day-to-day life here in Winnipeg, because I do think about things like how many shirts I need to have in my closet,” Vander Zaag says. “It’s also interesting linking this topic to places I’ve lived in and care about, like Haiti.”

Vander Zaag hopes his talk will lead to a nuanced discussion about the topic, because it is a complex issue with no easy answers.

“At the same time, it’s pretty clear that there are people being hurt,” he says.

A lot can be, and is being done, to work toward solutions.

“There are fair trade clothing shops in Winnipeg, there are advocacy groups working in solidarity with labourers in the global south, and Loblaw is concerned about this,” Vander Zaag says. “There are many pieces to the puzzle of a fairer global garment industry, and all these initiatives can slowly make that ocean liner move in a new direction.”

“When Cheap Is Costly: Sweatshops and the Clothes I Buy” is the third of seven Face2Face events CMU will host during the 2013-14 school year.

Face2Face events are a series of conversations with CMU faculty designed to engage the community on a wide variety of current events and issues at the intersection of faith and life. For the complete Face2Face schedule, please visit