Providence University College and Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) are both thrilled to welcome students back this academic year

Cheryl Pauls, President of CMU, says the past two years were, 'blessedly boring as well as the most wild ride.'

"I'm really pleased with how people at CMU came together to manage the pandemic. In terms of 'wild,' what matters one day might not be two hours later, the most important thing. I have several faculty members here that have experience white water canoeing. I have found their experience really helpful with the metaphors to which we have to get through the days."

Pauls says she saw students have a higher focus on what was taking place in the classrooms.  "What I found with students is that their level of anxiety actually de-escalated through that time rather than going higher because they actually had people to talk to. You're out of crisis mode if you can think about other things."

She also mentions this return to 'normal' has been a long time coming.

"It feels like we've been using this phrase, 'Return to community,' since summer of 2020," says Pauls. "It's two years later and we're still using the phrase. It's one big on-ramp and it's had a few circles but more and more people are learning that we can trust this."

Dr. Nicholas Greco is the Provost at Providence University College and Theological Seminary (Prov). 

"The past couple of years have been characterized by restrictions, of course," says Greco. "It's been a number of difficult years for teachers, students, really everybody. With mask wearing inside and physical distancing, as well as limits to classroom sizes, it's been a bit of a challenge."

Greco further states that having classrooms limited to a certain number was a 'logistical nightmare' and hard on students, especially those looking for a close-knit community feel that Prov is often able to deliver.  

What Back to the Classroom Looks Like

CMU will be following the Manitoba government COVID-19 guidelines, meaning if students have symptoms of COVID or are sick, they stay home. If they test positive for COVID, they stay home for at least five days.

"Otherwise we don't have particular constraints or requirements," says Pauls.

CMU's Christmas program will be located in one big building, differing from years prior to allow for more space but the programming will return to a full-scale presentation. 

Welcome Week at Prov begins on September 4.

"We're excited to begin this new school year without any COVID restrictions," says Greco.

Prov was able to host an in-person graduation ceremony at the end of May this year, but the whole school year was a mix of restrictions and online classes.

"We don't think there's any appetite amongst our faculty, staff, or students for further restrictions after a long couple of years. Going back to the old normal? Maybe not exactly but pretty close."

The Christian college is based out of Otterburne, a small town near St. Pierre-Jolys. 

"We've got an excellent group of student leaders who love Jesus and love their fellow students. We're so encouraged by this. We want to create difference makers and this is what we're getting into this coming academic year."

Pauls shares that CMU, based out of Winnipeg, is expanding its field of diversity this fall.

"Students come from diverse churches as exist in Canada. Several Indigenous students and staff have asked us to put a teepee up, so that's happening this fall. There are different ways of relating across communities that I'm excited about and being in the same spaces together is how you find a way forward together."