Taking an introductory course “just for fun” in the early 1990s led Ruth Taronno (MSC ’99, IDS 3–year), Practicum Director at MSC, down a career path she didn’t expect.
“I was working part-time with Project Peacemakers, but I wanted to do something a little bit more for myself, so I thought I would take a course in the evenings,” Taronno says.
Her interest in poverty and peacemaking led her to take an introductory course in social and economic development (later, international development studies) taught by Dr. George Richert at MSC.
“I loved it. There were a lot of adult learners in the evening. There were only about 18 people in the class. We had incredible discussions... I got to know a woman there [who’s] now one of my best friends.”
About halfway through the course, Taronno decided to take the course for credit, on the off chance she would continue to pursue International Development Studies (IDS) and peacemaking.
“[Dr. George Richert] gave me a lot of hassle, just teasing me,” she laughs. “I ended up getting my IDS degree. After I got my IDS degree, George hired me to do the practicum stuff. Then, while I was doing that, I went back and got my Masters in International Development.”
After Taronno earned her graduate degree, she became more involved at MSC, eventually becoming Associate Vice-President.
“I became Associate Vice-President when they were looking for an administrative head for the college. This was a time of change—Canadian Mennonite University was changing some administrative structures and needed someone at MSC to help bridge UW, MSC and CMU, in addition to overseeing the purchase and renovation of our new building”.
At the same time as leading committees, doing administrative work, and practicum advising, Taronno also started teaching Humanitarian Aid and Conflict.
“It was the bringing together of conflict resolution and international development that drew me to the course,” she says. “I’ve always been more interested in political issues—looking at what’s going on in the real world in some of these emergencies.”
Now transitioning to working primarily with practicum students, Taronno is looking forward to promoting the underlying values of advocacy and activism that guide MSC faculty, staff, and students.
“That’s what I loved—that’s what pulled me in, in the beginning. It wasn’t the space—it was the commitment to peace and justice,” she says.
“There’s this feeling that people are doing this work for a purpose. Not for a job...but because they really believe what they’re teaching and they really want to promote those values. And you see that in a lot of our students.”
Katrina Sklepowich (MSC '12, CRS 4–year) was an intern with CMU and MSC in April 2016