Canadian Mennonite University recognized the accomplishments of 83 graduates this past weekend.
CMU President Dr. Cheryl Pauls conferred 67 undergraduate degrees, 10 graduate degrees, three undergraduate certificates, and three graduate certificates, at the graduation service held at Portage Avenue Church on Saturday, April 21.
“Today we honour 83 cherished graduands for work well done,” Pauls said during her opening remarks, before addressing the Class of 2018 directly: “All of us, your teachers, draw courage and hope from the quality of character and vocation that we witness in you. We are grateful to you for opening our eyes to new ways of seeing, hearing, reflecting, and doing. May the wonder of God’s love ever inspire all the work of your hearts, hands, and minds.”
The Class of 2018 included the first-ever graduates from CMU’s graduate program in Peacebuilding and Collaborative Development, with Pauls conferring a Master of Arts to Hyunhee Kim, Abdullah Al Mashud, and Michael Arok Yak.
Pauls awarded President’s Medals to Laura Carr-Pries (BA, Four-Year, Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies, and Biblical and Theological Studies) and April Klassen (BA, Four-Year, Interdisciplinary Studies – Community Development), in recognition of their qualities of scholarship, leadership, and service.
Earlier in the service, Jason Friesen (BA, Four-Year, Communications and Media) delivered the valedictory address, based on the graduation verse from 1 Corinthians 16:13-14: “Keep alert, stand firm in your faith, be courageous, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
Friesen said that at CMU, he and his peers were guided into uncomfortable spaces that challenged them to be vulnerable and grow.
“We came into CMU as vulnerable newcomers, and now as we leave, we are going to walk into many more experiences that need people who are willing to be vulnerable,” Friesen said. “Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to grow? Because that’s exactly what courage, strength, love, and vulnerability call for. Embrace that.”
Jamie Howison, a priest of the Anglican Church of Canada and the founding pastor of saint benedict’s table, delivered the graduation address. He first drew from Proverbs 27:17, which reads, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
“The gift of education is a gift you have to carry with you—a responsibility, in other words,” Howison said. “So carry that calling well.”
Howison then explored Psalm 127:1-2, which reminds people to trust in God, and balance the work they do with rest.
“That call to balance, to the kind of self-awareness that will allow you to grow where you should, flourish as you may, and trust the One who has gifted you with life in the first place—that’s my blessing for you,” Howison concluded.
Earlier in the day, CMU held its annual Baccalaureate Service, where a handful of graduates reflected on their time at CMU.
Rebecca Penner (BA, Four-Year, Biblical and Theological Studies) spoke about how studying at CMU taught her how to think academically about the kingdom theology she first learned about as a student in the university’s Outtatown Discipleship School.
“I’m incredibly grateful for my years in such a nurturing and formational environment,” Penner said. “It has taught me what it means to be a disciple, and to look for where I can participate in God’s kingdom work in the world around me… Even though I don’t fully know what the future holds, I know that CMU has empowered me to follow God wherever God leads.”
Anneli Loepp Thiessen (BMus, Concentration: Performance – Piano Music Ministry) told the audience that learning a challenging piano piece, “Allegro de Concierto” by Enrique Granados, led to obstacles she never even knew existed.
“The beautiful part about being at CMU is that I took on this piece with so many musicians observing and commenting and supporting me,” Loepp Thiessen said, adding that everyone from her professors to her piano teacher to her friends gave her advice and encouragement. “Being surrounded by a community who understands the journey has been a unique gift, and has made sharing music so much more meaningful.”
Jonathan Daman (BBA, Business Management) shared that his professors helped make course material come alive, and they showed him that no matter what challenges society faces, there is hope for the future.
“This is what CMU has taught me: The ability to take even the bleakest of course material like economics, or the bleakest of situations in our environment, and to find a way that we can make a difference through them,” he said.
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at its Shaftesbury Campus and Menno Simons College Campus.