President’s Report:
Building Community for a Lifetime of Happiness​

“The 2012-2013 academic year was marked by building community in every sense of the word. From building up faculty, launching programs and activities, to enlarging a donor base that literally helped us purchase the brick and mortar for our 23,000 square foot academic expansion project, Grebel has been immersed in building community to serve church and society. Together we are passionately committed to seek wisdom, nurture faith, and pursue peace.”
~ Susan Schultz Huxman,

Susan Schultz Huxman

There’s a famous Chinese proverb that the University of Waterloo Chancellor Prem Watsa tells with gusto to graduates at our June Convocation: 

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. 
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. 
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else.” His explanation of the proverb stresses a value we hold dear at Grebel: community building.

While many colleges and universities say they value community building, only a precious few know how to make it central to the institution’s ethos and fewer still know how to measure its outcomes. Recent research suggests it is the most important “retention tool” in the admissions and student life toolbox. Loren Pope, author of Colleges that Change Lives has noted that students who are most satisfied with their college experience and most likely to be supportive alums cite one overriding reason expressed variously that sums up their favorable impression of their alma mater: a sense of belonging, a sense of connectedness, a sense of community. Ironically, this is not one of the top reasons why students choose a college, generally indicating one of the “4ps” instead: program, price, proximity or prestige. 

In this past year, I have heard strong affirmation for Grebel’s special brand of community building.  I have listened to graduating students talk about the primary “value driver” here being a vibrant sense of collaborative learning and service to others. I have inquired about what makes Grebel special in my visits to local Mennonite congregations. The overriding sentiment expressed is “I mattered at Grebel” and “I was part of a caring and fun community of faith and fellowship.” I have received much interest and affirmation from outside business and community groups visiting Grebel about some of our practices including community supper, Camp Trillium, Pastor’s Breakfast, Taste of Grebel, convocation, and end of term banquet, to name a few. One group, the Governor General’s Leadership Class of 2012, was so fascinated with our weekly observance of community supper, they said: “What a terrific idea! How can you do that every week when individual families struggle to share a meal together.”

What follows in the pages of our 2012-2013 annual report is largely a measurement of outcomes of the community building going on at 140 Westmount Road North this year—block by block!

New Building Block. From the time we broke ground 15 months ago, our much needed $8.7 million dollar multi-purposed academic expansion project has been exciting, challenging, and occupying the expertise and imagination of dozens of people and committees around the clock. When you take a diverse construction plan (enhanced space for Music, new community education rooms, enlarged Milton Good Library and Mennonite Archives of Ontario , a new welcoming front entrance, and a new 4th floor for the MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement) and tie it to an existing old building with structural issues of its own, all the while working around the hundreds of people in the College during an especially long winter, you’ve got your hands full! This is why, in addition to our two expert construction partners—Nith Valley Construction and Architecture Incorporated, 5 Grebel committees (Building, Furnishings and Decorating, Coping, Campaign Advisory, and Centre for Peace Advancement Advisory) have worked diligently to provide sound direction on a myriad of decisions—large and small—to our Board of Governors. We’re over half way done! Look to join us for an “Open House” in Spring 2014!

New Revenue Block. This year Grebel was blessed with a record level of donations from generous Grebel supporters—nearly $3 million dollars mostly for Capital, but also for the Grebel Annual Fund! And at the end of the fiscal year (April 30), The Next Chapter capital campaign stood at $6,145,067 in total gifts and pledges. Coupled with budgeted grant revenue, we are now looking for a few additional “capping” gifts to reduce the $1 million mortgage left on our $8.7 project! Director of Development, Fred Martin, notes that the Campaign has created a real sense of ownership among the Grebel faithful. Friends and family have come together to contribute to Library furnishings, Archive digitization, innovative spaces in the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union Centre for Peace Advancement, Music studios, an art gallery, commissioned sculpture, and special seminar rooms. 

New Academic Block. Community building happened in a pronounced way among the Grebel faculty this year. Through a series of high profile retirements, exciting recruits and rewarding promotions, Grebel profoundly reshaped its community of scholars. We said goodbye to 3 faculty widely known and respected: Hildi Froese Tiessen, Tom Yoder Neufeld, and Leonard Enns. Collectively they gave 90 years of service to the College!” We attracted 3 engaging and cutting-edge scholars in Religious Studies, Choral Conducting and Global Music who begin this July. Reina Neufeldt, Assistant Professor of PACS, completed her first year and taught in our newest graduate program—MPACS—launched this fall with a dynamic cohort of 18 students. Marlene Epp, History, was promoted to full professor, and Derek Suderman, Religious Studies, was promoted to associate professor with tenure. I had the distinct pleasure of teaching a course this year in each of our signature graduate programs: Theological Studies and MPACS. The Grebel academic program saw 4000 course enrolments this year.

New Student Services Block. At the center of the Student Services mission statement is the phrase: “building and celebrating community.” As Mary Brubaker Zehr, Director of Student Service says, “The ‘C-word’ flows easily from the mouths of people here, but the reality of ‘community’ is experienced when each person gives something of themselves whether by means of a friendly hall greeting, a community supper presentation, participation in service trips, retreats, banquets and talent shows, or leading a club.” The mid-week Community Supper with Grebel students living on and off campus continues to score very high on exit surveys for creating a welcoming sense of community. The Fall Commencement theme “Under Construction” included signing a steel I-beam as the Act of Community. An extra bus was booked to accommodate the growing numbers of students who want to participate at the All College Retreat in Camp Trillium.  Over 300 students continue to relate to Grebel student life and the admission cycle just completed for next year was especially robust!

Together, these building blocks, like quilt blocks, beautify, strengthen and comfort us when pieced together. As we conclude our 49th year as a Mennonite College, and look with excitement to celebrating our 50th, may the Grebel community continue to cherish the many ways we invoke the ‘C-word’ as we go about seeking happiness for a lifetime.

Susan Schultz Huxman, President

A Message from the Board Chair

Greetings to the Grebel-uWaterloo community. Another year has passed with much positive activity at Conrad Grebel University College.  The various sections of this annual report provide the details about the Grebel community and I take this opportunity to summarize the Board of Governors activity.  

In addition to the obvious structural expansion, the Board has focused on the academic programs.  We continue to invest in rigorous academic programs for a world class university. This means we understand the need for additions to the faculty team.  Some of these are sessional instructors (including our own President) and others have been new posts.  There are a large number of retirements occurring at Grebel in a three year period, rates of which are similar to other work forces in Canada.  At every meeting this past year (5 full board meetings; 5 sub-board meetings) the Board has dealt with agenda items pertaining to faculty searches. It is exciting to see the strong minds that are building our community and developing out students who will become society leaders in one fashion or another.     

The MSCU Centre for Peace Advancement continues as another significant project for Grebel and the Board this year.  The generous funding and space approval was finalized just a short time ago in 2011-12.   The Board has since considered operating structure, space considerations as well as approving a three tiered mandate for “peace research,” “training,” and “community engagement.”  This will be an exciting and challenging Centre with so much potential for Grebel and far beyond with global partners.  The Peace and Conflict Studies faculty will enhance the academic focus.  We have begun discussions with other stakeholders and potential tenants that we hope will propel the Centre to even greater relevance and visibility.  

The Board has wonderful staff and faculty at Grebel who maintain the daily focus.  The community beyond the walls provides support in all areas that allows a Board of Governors to think of programs and priorities beyond the daily demands.  I would like to thank those groups for the support and dedication that allows us to act.   

Thank you Board members for your insight, energy, questioning, dedication, and direction.  It has been a pleasure and privilege to serve with you.   Thank you students for bringing your interest, keen mind, excitement, and passion for our Community.  

Susan Taves, Board of Governors Chair