November / December Student Profile: Jessica gives an insider scoop on the MPACS program

Monday, December 1, 2014

Jessica at the peace exhibition.

Jessica was drawn to the MPACS program because of its interdisciplinary nature and to further explore what she feels “is something of a calling, to look at peaceful solutions to significant problems”. She completed her undergraduate degree at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, and then came to Conrad Grebel for the MPACS program after working for a few years with a consulting firm.  

As she nears the end of the 16-month program, Jessica is able to reflect on her time here. Through the small classes and flexible program design, Jessica found that it was:

An opportunity to study what you really feel passionate about and research the things you really love.

Coming into MPACS, Jessica was interested in community engagement and public participation; through the program she was able to delve deeper into this issue from a peace perspective, exploring conflict analysis, public engagement processes, and how we can make space for positive conflict. Her experience in MPACS has transformed her understandings of peace and conflict in order to address these issues in a holistic and positive way.

The flexibility of the program also allows you to take courses at other institutions that offer courses not available at Grebel. Jessica and a few other students have taken advantage of this option to tailor their studies to their passions. Instead of completing an internship (which is optional), Jessica took a course at the Summer Peacebuilding Institute at Eastern Mennonite University and participated in workshops to gain international certification in public participation. The workshops, while not arranged by Grebel, still counted towards her degree.

Ultimately, the MPACS program gives students plenty of options to pursue your own interests. It gives you the ability to explore issues from any perspective and at any level, whether it’s international, national or local. The small class sizes also allow for meaningful interactions with professors and classmates, who you get to know on a more personal level throughout the program.

Completing the program in December, Jessica is planning to submit a paper for publication and gain more work and volunteer experience in the field of public participation. She has come a long way since she entered the program, noting that there is a learning curve to becoming comfortable as a grad student:

it’s hard at the beginning and sometimes you don’t feel like you’re meant to be there.

The rigorous program and high expectations compared to an undergraduate degree can seem daunting at first, but here are a few suggestions she has to overcome it:

  1. Remember that professors and other students are assets to your learning. The MPACS program is made up of people who bring a variety of experiences to the table. The more you appreciate and use their knowledge, the more you will gain from the program.
  2. Do your readings. You may have been able to get away with it during your undergrad, but you won’t be able to here.
  3. Understand that there is a learning curve, but you will adapt.
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