Graduate students find meaningful connections in small pods

January 19, 2022 | Focus On Education | Volume 26 Issue 2
Ashitha Mantrawadi | Conrad Grebel University College
Waterloo, Ont.

As the pandemic lingers, and students persevere in challenging times, students in the master of theological studies (MTS) program at Conrad Grebel University College created pods. These small groups, made up of students with a mix of experiences, met virtually or in person to offer mutual support, encouragement and advice throughout the term.

Peter Haresnape

Don Neufeld

Christa Van Daele










Peter Haresnape, Don Neufeld and Christa Van Daele participated in these pods in the 2021 fall term, and all appreciated their experiences within them.

“I joined the pod primarily because, as a new student in the MTS program, I felt that it would give me an opportunity to connect with other students in the program,” said Neufeld, who lives in Virgil, Ont. “This was especially meaningful because, as a remote student, I was not on campus with the opportunity to meet more informally with other students.”

“As a remote student, I have missed the opportunity to socialize and learn more about my fellow students,” echoed Haresnape from Toronto. “A study pod was a great option to learn more about Grebel and its culture, and cross-pollinate ideas with people taking other classes.”

Both Neufeld and Haresnape have felt the effects of the pandemic on their social lives, but the MTS pods helped them create a close-knit group of diverse-minded people, which lessened the burden of the pandemic.

This was also true for Christa of Waterloo. “For me, it was for social and community reasons,” she said. “Virtual work can be pretty limiting socially. What a nice change to meet folks in person, to laugh together, to exchange very basic facts, basic course information. We talked about everything from family life to the actual courses and their challenges.”

“Numerous pods last term helped MTS students generate and communicate ideas, as well as seek spiritual support from peers,” said professor Carol Penner, the new director of theological studies at Grebel. “Connecting with others on a spiritual and emotional level by building a strong and diverse community is a core component of Grebel’s programming.”

The MTS program at Grebel and the University of Waterloo offers courses that focus on the Bible, theology and ministry. With full-tuition scholarships available for full-time Canadian and permanent-resident students, Grebel welcomes students from all backgrounds. Courses are taught by full-time Grebel faculty members and guest instructors with expertise in various disciplines.

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