A strategic plan vision has been realized at Conrad Grebel University College with the creation of the new J. Winfield Fretz Fellowship in Mennonite Studies.
The Fellowship, to be awarded annually, will support visiting scholars as they engage in research, teaching and relationship building between Grebel and academic and community audiences around Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies themes. Funding from the Fellowship will also provide support for special projects at the college initiated by the Institute of Anabaptist and Mennonite Studies.
Aileen Friesen of Waterloo, an emerging scholar in the field of Russian Mennonite history, with an emphasis on religion in the Russian empire, is the inaugural recipient of the Fretz Fellowship. She completed her doctorate at the University of Alberta and has held post-doctoral positions at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Winnipeg.
In 2016, Friesen gave the inaugural lecture at the Centre for Transnational Mennonite Studies at the University of Winnipeg on the topic of “Indigenous-Mennonite relations in the Russian empire.” She is currently working on projects related to the 1920s emigration of Mennonites from the Soviet Union, and on Mennonite-Muslim relations in Russia.
The Fellowship program emerges from the J. Winfield Fretz Endowment in Mennonite Studies that was established in 1999 by then president John E. Toews. For the past couple of decades, the endowment has supported a range of Anabaptist and Mennonite studies activities at Grebel. New and generous donations have grown the fund to the point at which a formal fellowship program is possible. The Fretz Fellowship holder will utilize the unique and significant historical collections in the Milton Good Library and the Mennonite Archives of Ontario at Grebel.
“The 2013 expansion of our library and archives has allowed for new program initiatives in research and teaching on Anabaptists and Mennonites.” says Professor Marlene Epp, dean at the college and specialist in Mennonite studies. “Dr. Friesen’s expertise will help to highlight our growing collection in Russian Mennonite history in the coming year. We are also excited about the future potential for college-initiated projects supported by the Fellowship.”
The Fretz Endowment was established to recognize Grebel’s first president, J. Winfield Fretz, whose scholarship on the sociology of Mennonites had a significant impact around the world.