Grebel’s Complex Community Gathers for the New Term 

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Student leaders at Grebel

students moving into GrebelThe air was buzzing at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo on September 3, as new students moved into the residence, accompanied by their parents and welcomed by enthusiastic upper-year students. The energy that comes with starting something new continued all week and was evident across the entire University of Waterloo campus, with groups of new students – many on campus for the first time – navigating new friendships, locating classrooms, and adjusting to life on their own. 

This year was an opportunity to revive treasured traditions and to create new ones during Orientation Week. Activities are designed to welcome new students, to create bonds between new and returning students, and to build the Grebel community together. The fun included a scavenger hunt, outdoor games, a University College mixer, and the faculty/staff/student volleyball game. Students also offered their service to the local community with a free car wash and tied quilts for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Each year at the Opening Celebration, everyone at Grebel is invited to participate in an act of community, this year, assembling school kits to be distributed by MCC.  

And finally, returning to a long and beloved tradition, Grebel students, staff, and faculty went on a two-day retreat together to solidify new friendships and a commitment to community. The weekend included songs, games, food, canoeing, swimming, soccer, bocce ball, and of course, the much-anticipated walk-a-mile. 

For the first time since before the pandemic, Grebel’s residence is completely occupied, with 140 students and 32 students in the apartments. With more than 70 other students connecting to Grebel as associates, almost 250 students consider Grebel their home base  at the University of Waterloo. Arts students account for about a quarter of Grebelites, with a good mix of students in Science, Engineering, Environment, Math, and Health. Almost 10 percent of Grebel residents are international students, including one how is a sponsored refugee from overseas.  A quarter of Grebel students come from a Mennonite background with about 54 percent of other students identifying with other Christian backgrounds. 19 percent of students come from another faith affiliation or none at all. 

Grebel President Marcus Shantz“We who make up the Grebel community today represent a wide range of cultures, traditions, and backgrounds,” remarked President Marcus Shantz at the Opening Celebration. “My view is that a community that values complexity is likely to be a good one. A good community honours, celebrates, and respects that the individuals within it are unique.” 

Graduate students too, come to study at Grebel with a mix of complex backgrounds and experiences. This year’s cohort was pleased to be on campus, to meet their classmates, and to dig into their studies. Grebel offers a master’s degrees in Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) and in Theological Studies (MTS). With a total of 37 students currently in the program, the MPACS program welcomed 13 new students this term. The MTS program oriented 9 new students, bringing the total to 30 students currently in the program. Both programs experienced lower enrolment this year, likely stemming from difficulties getting VISAs, pandemic fatigue, and a strong labour market. A unique aspect of this term for MTS students is that three students from Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) will be taking a course with Professor Carol Penner. Next term, a CMU professor will teach a course that includes Grebel MTS students. 

As a part of Orientation Week for graduate students, they were invited to participate in a unique event at Brubacher House Museum that included a physical tour of the museum and a virtual tour of the former Mohawk Residential School hosted by an interpreter from Woodland Cultural Centre. The event provided students with an opportunity to reflect on the stories of the land with focus on the very real impact of Mennonite identity, Christian theology, and colonialism.  

Undergraduate enrolment numbers are holding steady at around 1600 course enrolments for the fall. Grebel professors teach undergraduate courses in Peace and Conflict Studies, Music, Church Music and Worship, History, Mennonite Studies, Religious Studies, and Sociology, all open to University of Waterloo students across all six faculties. Grebel’s eight music ensembles have begun rehearsals, students have started planning academic events, and the College is looking forward to several public lectures and book launches in the next few months. Grebel is offering two new courses this term: “Public Apologies for the Past” with Jeremy Bergen, and “Suffering and Speech” with Derek Suderman.   

This school year promises to be a year of connection and community, as Grebel explores new pathways for learning together. 

View pictures from Orientation Week on Facebook.

MPACS Classroom

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