Pandemic. Isolation. Stressful politics. Long winter. “Pancakes seem to be the obvious answer,” joked Master of Theological Studies student Christa Van Daele.
Conrad Grebel University College thrives on community, and with all the COVID restrictions in place, staff and students are always looking for creative ways to stay connected.
Last winter, graduate coordinators in the Master of Theological Studies and Master of Peace and Conflict Studies programs, Bekah Smoot-Enns and Seth Ratzlaff, started a January welcome potluck for graduate students. It was a fantastic way for MTS and MPACS students to meet and build relationships, while eating delicious food. This tradition was cut short by the pandemic, but Bekah and Seth did not let this stop them. They discovered a way that students could continue to build connections despite being separated by the lockdown.
On January 11, students set up their cameras, got out their pots and pans, rolled up their sleeves, and got ready to make some potato pancakes for their virtual cooking class. As everyone eagerly followed Seth’s fun demonstration of Mennonite cookbook More-with-Less’ recipe, the students laughed and joked, chatted about Christmas breaks, favourite Netflix shows, and good books. Overall, this event was a perfect way for graduate students to get together, meet new people, and feel connected despite the distance between them.
“I met new Grebel people in the Peace and Conflict program,” said Christa. “Just laughing, joking around, peeking into people’s kitchens instead of their offices… the whole thing brightened my week.”
Graduate student now living in Kenya, Rose Ong’ech said “the best part of the January event was the opportunity to meet one long-time friend that I had not been in touch with for over ten years. Both of us were very delighted to see each other virtually.” She continued, “Potato pancakes have become a part of our family breakfast meal at least biweekly.”
Seth added, “Eating together (online) was a great way to connect with one another, despite the screen between us. There is something special about pancakes—simple and delicious!”
Because of the event’s incredible success, Bekah and Seth were inspired to keep the connections building and the pancakes flipping for another round of Virtual Cooking on February 8.
Bekah said, “my hope in creating opportunities for students to gather virtually is to counter a sense of isolation, which can be a real challenge in graduate studies and is compounded this year due to the pandemic, by providing creative ways to continue to be together while apart.”
The Pancakes with MTS and MPACS event provides an excellent opportunity for graduate students to bond through pancake fun, and build the lifelong connections that make the community at Grebel so special.
“It was great to be able to enjoy an everyday activity in the company of friendly people, and it came very close to feeling like we were together in person,” said Master of Theological Studies student Janelle Arnold. “I’m excited to learn another pancake recipe at the next event, and get more of my MTS classmates to join in!”
Written by Jace Jaeden Ellis