Concordia College Magazine 2024

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Let me begin this letter by sharing with all of you what an incredible honor and privilege it is to serve as your 12th president. I am humbled daily by the opportunity to lead this amazing institution toward a future of growth, innovation, and excellence.

As you all know well — and as I seem to learn everywhere I go through nearly every encounter with current Cobbers and proud, ring-wearing alumni — Concordia College is a special place. It’s a place with a rich history, a place of legends, of language villages, of characters, of enduring and endearing traditions, a place of and for generations; and, most of all, it’s a place of caring, dedicated individuals who represent an increasingly diverse and inclusive community. It is a place, in truth, indelibly characterized by a commitment to excellence made possible by brilliant and deeply, deeply dedicated faculty and staff.

It is from and for this place that I share with you my sincere commitment to partner with colleagues, community members here and elsewhere, and alumni from throughout the country to continue the spirit-filled work of honoring our Lutheran identity by educating the whole person, fostering intellectual curiosity, and preparing students from all backgrounds to serve as thoughtful and informed leaders.

In a time when budget challenges are leading many similar institutions to cut academic and athletic programs, Concordia is charting a different path — we are, in partnership with all of you, INVESTING TO GROW. We are working diligently to make smart strategic investments to ensure as many Cobbers as possible can pursue their dreams in service to the world and in accordance with their vocation. By adding mission-centered, marketsmart academic and co-curricular programs, and by investing in existing offerings and the professors and professionals who make our growth both possible and sustainable, we are seeking to ensure that Concordia’s future is as bright as its past is proud.

Like all the Concordia leaders and colleagues who came before me, I believe that the liberal arts education we provide prepares our students with the critical thinking skills, global perspective, and ethical framework necessary for them to thrive in an ever-changing world. By developing our portfolio of programs, investing in our infrastructure, and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration, we are — as you will learn when reading through the following pages — ensuring that the college remains at the forefront of higher education in our region and for the world.

To those Cobbers with whom I’ve already had the good fortune of meeting in my first few months, thank you for your time and kindness. To those I have yet to meet, please know I eagerly anticipate hearing your Concordia story. And to everyone opening up this magazine in hopes of learning new things and catching up on old friends and faculty, thank you for your interest and well-placed optimism, and thank you for your support for this place and for the mission that guides and binds us.

God bless,







closes out another beautiful day on campus.
and Design Team
Editor: Kelly
Editor: Tracey Bostick
Design: Eme Otto, Lori Steedsman, Amy
and Marketing Team
Arioglu, Tracey Bostick, Penny Burns, James Cella, Ali Froslie, Alyssa Haagenson, Candace Harmon, Ta’mia Hedlin, Kelly Heyer, Kari Lucin, Joshua Lysne, Eme Otto, John Phelps, Kyle Ronsberg, Lori Steedsman, Amy Jo Stockinger © 2024 Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota 925969/37.4M/0224 Concordia Magazine 2024 Volume 61 Concordia Magazine is published once a year by Communications and Marketing, Concordia College, 901 8th St. S., Moorhead, MN 56562. To change your address or unsubscribe from the mailing list, contact Alumni Records at or update your record online at 16 Classmates to Soulmates Data indicates Cobber love 18 The Power of One Addressing mental health concerns 20 More Than a Bookstore Grad opens dream bookshop 22 Nursing as Vocation Practical experience meets evidence-based science 24 Love Grows Best in Choir Fostering community through music 26 Rural Life Lessons Grad honored as National Rural Educator of the Year 8 Charting a New Course A path to growth and innovation 2024 | 1

Concordia dedicates new Heimarck Center

Cutting-edge technology is built right into Concordia College’s Heimarck Center, offering students opportunities to learn in a rapidly evolving field while maintaining healthcare’s core focus on people, from patients to caregivers to support staff and administration.

That same focus was present at the ceremonial opening and dedication of Concordia’s newest building in October, as dozens of people gathered to celebrate the official opening of the facility that houses the Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions.

“The impact of our partnerships resonates far beyond the walls of the classrooms and hospitals. Together we are shaping lives and fostering a community of caregivers who work together to make a difference,” said Theresa Larson, vice president of nursing and clinical services at Sanford Fargo.

Dr. Ted Heimarck founded Concordia’s healthcare administration program. All seven of his children attended the event, and Sara Heimarck Hansen ’96 spoke about his legacy and passion for teaching.

“This whole building models … a brilliant concept in education, which is: you can tell me, or you can show me, or you can let me learn by doing. And this is a building all about learning by doing,” said President Colin Irvine

The building features multiple state-of-the-art simulation labs for nursing and home health, a leadership boardroom that allows students to give executive presentations, and even a Bod Pod — a specialized high-tech device typically found in larger research institutions or used by professional athletes that can measure a person’s body fat percentage.


Concordia professor receives MoorHeart Award

Musician, conductor, and educator Dr. Peter Haberman ’97 serves as the director of bands, but that’s just a small part of why he was presented with the MoorHeart award in November by the Moorhead City Council and Mayor Shelly Carlson.

It’s his commitment to encouraging students to come study music in Moorhead, and his kind-hearted support and enthusiasm once they’ve arrived that prompted the MoorHeart selection committee to choose Haberman.

“I don’t think I am doing more than many others I see in the community who find their own ways to support their neighbors and those they see in need, but I am humbled to be honored with this award,” he said. The MoorHeart award recognizes people who go above and beyond for the Moorhead community through their actions, services, or outstanding achievements.

New VPs for enrollment, communications/marketing

Ben Iverson became Concordia’s vice president for enrollment in September. Previously, he served as assistant vice provost for global engagement at Augustana University, Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“Iverson has vast experience working in both international and domestic enrollment and is skilled at achieving objectives that improve student experiences,” said President Colin Irvine

Iverson, a native of Willmar, Minnesota, has a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international studies from Augustana University and a master’s degree in international education from the SIT Graduate Institute.

In addition, Josh Lysne ’96 was promoted to vice president of Communications and Marketing.

Lysne has served as associate vice president for communications and chief marketing officer since 2015.

He is now a member of the President’s Cabinet and directs all marketing and communication activities at the college. In his new role, he is responsible for guiding the collaborative work of the cabinet, campus stakeholders, and others in the Concordia community.

Alumnus receives National Humanities Medal

President Joe Biden presented the National Humanities Medal to Dr. Earl Lewis ’78, professor at the University of Michigan and founding director of the Center for Social Solutions, in a ceremony at the White House in March 2023.

Lewis is the former chair of Concordia’s Board of Regents and, along with Fay Ferguson ’73, established the college’s Diversity Student Endowed Scholarship.

The National Humanities Medal honors an individual or organization whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the human

experience, broadened citizens’ engagement with history or literature, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to cultural resources.

Lewis’ citation states: “For writing America’s history and shaping America’s future as a social historian and academic leader, Earl Lewis has made vital contributions to the field of Black history educating generations of students while also being a leading voice for greater diversity in academia and our nation.”

Lewis is professor of history and Afroamerican and African studies, an esteemed scholar, and the author of several books. A native of Tidewater, Virginia, Lewis earned his bachelor’s degree in history and psychology from Concordia and a doctorate in history from the University of Minnesota.

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$2.5 million National Science Foundation grant provides biotech opportunities for Concordia students

A new $2.5 million National Science Foundation grant will set 36 Concordia students up for success, pairing scholarships with academic and social support systems, mentoring, and internships with local industry partners.

Geared toward students with high financial need, the Concordia Leads: Instructing and Mentoring in Biotechnology program will offer three cohorts of 12 incoming students up to $15,000 annually, beginning in Fall 2024. The scholarship can be applied on top of others to potentially cover the full cost of college.

“It gives them not just the money for college, but it sets them up for success by giving them the other tools in the toolset,” said Dr. Mark Jensen , chemistry professor and principal investigator of the NSF grant.

Eligible programs of study include biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics, neuroscience, physics, and pre-engineering.

As a multifaceted, multidisciplinary field that uses living cells or their derivatives in products and applications including healthcare, agriculture and environmental remediation, the project’s focus on biotechnology will also mean workforce development opportunities for local companies seeking highly skilled employees.

Three Fargo companies — Agathos Biologics, Aldevron, and Genovac Antibody Discovery — have partnered with Concordia for the CLIMB program, along with the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.

Concordia graduate selected for Fulbright

Emma Vogel ’22 has been selected for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award to Spain for the 2023-24 year. The Fulbright is one of the highest achievements for a student from the United States.

The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs administers the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, which “offers unparalleled opportunities in all academic disciplines to passionate and accomplished graduating college seniors, graduate students, and young professionals from all backgrounds.”

Vogel graduated in December 2022 with a major in Spanish education and served as a Spanish teacher at Horace High School in Horace, North Dakota. She is an English teaching assistant in Galicia, Spain. Vogel assists teaching staff at a plurilingual (Spanish/Galician/English) elementary, secondary, or vocational school in subjects such as science and technology, social studies, art, physical education, and English language.

“I’m really excited about this opportunity,” Vogel said.


Student earns prestigious Rossing physics scholarship

Elijah Heyer ’25 has been named a Rossing Physics Scholar.

Heyer will receive a $5,000 award from the Thomas D. Rossing Fund for Physics Education, made possible through Dr. Thomas D. Rossing, who created the fund through the Foundation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

“Eli is an outstanding student who shows great curiosity about physics,” said Dr. Luiz Manzoni , chair and professor of physics. “His goal is to go to grad school in astrophysics, and he shows exceptional promise for a research career.”

Heyer spent last summer in a research group with Manzoni and quickly learned how to code for a computational project. Heyer credits that experience, along with his team involvement in the NASA/Minnesota Space Grant Consortium’s ballooning activity, for helping him earn the award.

Heyer says he’s ready to continue to learn and develop important skills.

“Physics continues to reveal more to me about the natural world, and that deeper dive into the many areas of physics is something that I could never grow tired of,” he said.

Projects for Peace grants awarded to 2 students

Two Concordia students received Projects for Peace grants — Chelsea Masikati ’23 in Zimbabwe and Daniel Pambu ’25 in Sierra Leone.

Projects for Peace selected 126 projects from 92 partner institutions for its 2023 cohort. Student leaders of each project receive $10,000 in funds to pursue innovative, community-centered, and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues.

Masikati’s project, “Tsapi Food Bank: A Solution to a Food Crisis in Zimbabwe,” describes the problem of food insecurity in Zimbabwe as a result of climate change and economic crisis. Her Tsapi Food Bank will put in place the infrastructure and management systems needed to sustain the food bank and educational programming for years.

“I’m really excited to learn a lot from the project, to see it come to life, and to see how it will transform the lives of so many,” Masikati said.

Pambu attended a school that offered information communication technology classes, but that isn’t the reality for most schools in Sierra Leone, especially rural and all-girls schools. At Concordia, he learned more about the digital divide and gender inequality. His project, “Girls Empowerment through Computer Literacy,” seeks to reduce the digital divide by improving girls’ access in one high school for girls, Sengbe Pieh Academy.

Pambu said he looks forward to working with young people to develop their technology skills to help build a peaceful society.

Concordia aims to reduce the cost of course materials with ACHIEVE

In partnership with, Concordia launched its new Equitable Access Course Materials Program, ACHIEVE, in Fall 2023.

The program is part of Concordia’s ongoing commitment to reduce the financial barriers for students, by allowing all undergraduates to pay the same low-cost fee per semester for course materials, potentially significantly reducing expenses.

Students will automatically receive all required course materials, including textbooks and digital content, according to class schedules, on or before the first day of class. Textbooks are delivered directly to campus, with digital content automatically delivered through Concordia’s learning management system or’s digital bookshelf. Students may opt out if desired.

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Concordia recognizes faculty, staff

Five faculty and staff members were honored for their excellence in and out of the classroom at the State of the College event in August.

The Flaat awards were endowed by Ole and Lucy Flaat, lifelong farmers in the Red River Valley. The Alwin C. Carus and M. Elisabeth Carus Distinguished Professorship Award is given biennially to a distinguished member of philosophy, natural sciences, or religion.

From left: Cassandra Glynn, Anne Mocko, President Colin Irvine, Tess Varner, Brenda Jarolimek (Sunet Rubalcava was unable to attend)

Alwin C. Carus and M. Elisabeth Carus Distinguished Professorship Award

Dr. Tess Varner, associate professor of philosophy and director of the women’s and gender studies program

Ole and Lucy Flaat Inclusive Excellence Award Sunet Rubalcava , diversity support coordinator

Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Teaching Award

Dr. Anne Mocko, associate professor of religion

Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Service Award

Brenda Jarolimek , project specialist for Facilities Management

Ole and Lucy Flaat Distinguished Scholarship Award

Dr. Cassandra Glynn, associate professor of education and director of the Master of Education programs

Retirees who attended the event (l-r from top) include Janet Zaeske, Perry Bushaw, David Eyler, Shanda Schmidt, Joy Lintelman, David Hamilton, William Craft, Cindy Carver, Mary Anderson, Dan Anderson, Fred Sternhagen, Theresa Borchert, Anne Craft, Virginia Connell. Unable to attend: Joanne Barfknecht, Nicholas Ellig, Jonathan Clark, Sara Gjesdahl

Concordia honors retirees

Eighteen members of the faculty and staff retired during the 2022-23 academic year. They have a combined total of 455 years of experience and include:

Dr. Daniel Anderson , Healthcare Leadership, 30 years; Mary Anderson , Library, 18 years; Joanne Barfknecht , CLV Human Resources, 15 years; Theresa Borchert , Library, 34 years; Perry Bushaw, Facilities Management, 20 years; Dr. Cindy Carver, Communication Studies, 37 years; Dr. Jonathan Clark , World Languages and Cultures, 29 years; Virginia Connell , Library, 14 years; Anne Craft , Center for Student Success, 10 years; Dr. William Craft , President, 12 years; Dr. Nicholas Ellig , Sociology, 41 years; Dr. David P. Eyler, Music, 36 years; Sara Gjesdahl , Public Safety, 16 years; David Hamilton , Music, 29 years; Dr. Joy Lintelman , History, 34 years; Shanda Schmidt , Academic Affairs, 23 years; Dr. Fred Sternhagen , Communication Studies, 41 years; Janet Zaeske, Dining Services, 16 years.


Sports Highlights

Women’s Soccer

The Cobber women’s soccer team earned a trip to the MIAC playoffs for the first time since 2015, winning their first playoff game to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.

Concordia secured the No. 5 seed in the conference playoffs by going 5-3-3 in conference play and earned their first trip to the league playoffs since 2015 by going unbeaten in the last five league games, capping that stretch by posting a tie against St. Olaf in the regular-season finale.


In 2023, the Cobbers competed in the MIAC volleyball playoffs for the first time since 2016, falling to St. Olaf in the quarterfinals in Northfield, Minnesota. This was the 17th time Concordia had appeared in the playoffs.

The team finished the year with a 15-14 overall record and a 6-5 mark in league play. It’s the most overall wins for a Cobber team since 2015.


Two Cobber football players broke or tied school records in 2023, and one was recognized as top lineman in the league with the Mike Stam Award.

Collin Thompson ’24, Thatcher, Arizona, became the ninth player in Cobber history to win the Stam Award. Thompson, who also earned his second consecutive MIAC All-Conference honor, finished MIAC play with 8.5 tackles for a loss, which was tied for fourth most in the conference. He had 30 total tackles, 19 solo tackles, and 1.0 sacks against MIAC opponents. He recorded 17.5 tackles for a loss in all 10 Concordia games, which tied the school record for tackles for a loss in a single season.

Quarterback Cooper Mattern ’25, Fargo, North Dakota, crushed a quartet of singleseason records during the Cobbers’ season finale in November. During that game, he passed for 241 yards and was 21-for-43 with an interception and two touchdowns, finishing the year with 25 touchdown passes — a new single-season program record — throwing for 2,446 yards and gaining 2,970 yards of total offense per game — both new school marks. He was also responsible for 30 touchdowns, which breaks the old mark of 28 set by Brian Schumacher ’06 in 2004.

Concordia inducts 5 into Athletic Hall of Fame

Concordia inducted five standout former student-athletes into the Athletic Hall of Fame. The 2023 inductees include: Maria DeBoer ’00, a five-time All-American and MIAC champion in women’s track and field; former Cobber pitcher Erin (Gunderson) Flann ’02, the only two-time NFCA Midwest All-Region award winner in Cobber softball history and among only a few players to earn back-to-back MIAC All-Conference honors; Ryan Hebrink ’04, a standout two-sport athlete who earned MIAC All-Conference honors five times in football and baseball; Jeremy Hinderks ’04, a powerful force for the Cobber football and baseball teams in the early 2000s and the only player in the history of the baseball program to be named MIAC Pitcher of the Year; and Kyle Johnson ’93, an AllAmerican two-sport athlete for the Cobber track and field and cross country teams.

Men’s Golf

Gabe Benson ’26 became only the second Cobber golfer in program history to win the MIAC Championship Meet as he posted his second 69 of the tournament and earned medalist honors by a single shot.

Benson finished the three rounds at Rush Creek Golf Course with a 5-under total of 211 — the lowest score by a Concordia golfer at a three-day MIAC Meet in the program’s history.

From left: Ryan Hebrink, Kyle Johnson, Maria DeBoer, Erin (Gunderson) Flann, Jeremy Hinderks
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Concordia’s Path to Growth and Innovation

On a beautiful fall day, the Concordia campus buzzes with the anticipation of the 2023-24 academic year. The air is alive with a palpable energy as students make their way to their first classes. Amid the vibrant atmosphere, imagine the Dovre Campanile chimes echoing across the campus, the serene flow of the fountain in Prexy’s Pond, and the sense of excitement as you settle into your seat for your inaugural class as a Cobber. Suddenly, you realize that the person sitting beside you isn’t a fellow first-year student but Concordia’s new president, Dr. Colin

He’s a freshly minted Cobber, too. Irvine began serving as Concordia’s 12th president in July 2023. He previously served as the provost and executive vice president at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A first-generation college student, Irvine was the recipient of three Fulbright awards and earned a doctorate in English from Marquette University, a master’s in American Studies from the University of Notre Dame, and a bachelor’s degree in English from Carroll College in Helena, Montana.

From an early age, Irvine harbored a dream of becoming a high school teacher and coach. However, it was during his sophomore year of college that his trajectory took a turn toward higher education. Reflecting on this pivotal moment, President Irvine said, “I remember one day sitting in Mr. Burgess’ class and, as I was watching him teach, I had this enlightened moment where I thought, ‘I want to do that. I want to do what Mr. Burgess does.’”

After a little more time in the classroom, that dream transformed into reality and then some.

While students may have been surprised to find Concordia’s newest president attending their classes, it was all part of Irvine’s plan to experience life as a Cobber firsthand. Within the first three days of the semester, Irvine attended 12 different classes, four in each of the college’s designated schools — the Offutt School of Business, the School of Arts and Sciences, and the Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions.

FEATURE >> 2024 | 9

During his initial 100 days in office, Irvine embarked on a proactive approach to leadership by engaging with a diverse array of constituents. From attending local corn feeds to holding meetings with faculty members to assisting families on move-in day, Irvine immersed himself in the Concordia community. Through these interactions, he not only familiarized himself with the current pulse of Concordia but also began crafting a vision for its future.

Irvine knew the role of a college president would not come without its challenges. Concordia, like many higher education institutions nationwide, grappled with the repercussions of shifting demographics, including a decrease in the number of high school graduates and an overall decline in student enrollment. Coupled with budgetary constraints, these factors are obstacles that Irvine is prepared to face head-on in his pursuit of advancing Concordia’s mission.

“We cannot continue on this trajectory,” President Irvine said. “We need to change in a way that we continue to be who we are — but better and more relevant to the world.”

While Irvine acknowledges that part of his responsibility as president is to devise an operational and institutional plan that aligns everyone’s efforts toward a shared goal, he equally emphasizes the significance of fostering teamwork and cultivating a culture of leadership.

“This work will require that everyone on campus, regardless of their role, lean in and contribute in whatever ways they are able as colleagues and professionals, which is to say, invest their time, energy, brilliance, and love for Concordia and its students,” President Irvine explained. “It will also require that alumni roll up their sleeves and help recruit, mentor, encourage, and hire Cobbers.”

In response to these challenges, many institutions have needed to cut academic and co-curricular programs. Under Irvine’s leadership, however, Concordia is charting a new path for the future by investing to grow.



At the start of the academic year, Concordia opened the doors to the Heimarck Center, home to the Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions. The Heimarck Center exemplifies the student-focused, unique learning opportunities that happen across all of campus, but that is only the beginning.

“By investing to grow, we are committing to our mission, ensuring that as many Cobbers as possible are fully prepared to influence the affairs of the world thoughtfully, creatively, and compassionately,” President Irvine said.

This growth is fueled by Concordia’s strategic investments in new innovative, interdisciplinary academic programs that not only meet the demands of the market but also pave the way for high-demand careers.

In addition, Concordia is committed to enriching students’ experiences through the introduction of new opportunities in music, art, athletics, and other co-curricular activities.

To realize this vision, Irvine stresses the importance of investing in the people who contribute to creating transformative experiences for Cobbers and in the infrastructure needed to ensure that these programs and individuals have the necessary support to effectively equip students for the complexities of the 21st century workplace.

“By prioritizing both people and infrastructure, we are laying the groundwork for a dynamic and responsive educational environment that prepares students for lives of service and leadership in an ever-evolving world,” President Irvine said.

The creation of market-smart programs at Concordia starts with a data-driven approach aimed at identifying, developing, and launching programs and certificates that seamlessly complement existing majors and minors. This involves a thorough analysis of data to discern emerging trends in industries and occupations, allowing Concordia to anticipate the evolving needs of the regional job market.

Concordia then takes into account the interests of prospective students and aligns program offerings with their aspirations and career goals. By also actively engaging with area employers to gain insights into the specific skills sought after in the workforce, Concordia equips students with the experiential knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a competitive job market.

And Concordia is not wasting any time. Several new programs and activities were announced in Fall 2023 with many more in progress.

FEATURE >> 2024 | 11


Biosciences Major with Pharmacy Concentration

A dual-degree program that partners with North Dakota State University School of Pharmacy, students will complete three years of coursework at Concordia and four years toward a Doctor of Pharmacy degree at NDSU. This allows students to shorten the academic completion time to seven years and receive degrees from both Concordia and NDSU. This program will launch in Fall 2024.

Healthcare Leadership Minor

In addition to healthcare leadership offered as a major with three concentration options, students now have the opportunity to choose healthcare leadership as a minor to enhance their understanding of the complex and ever-evolving world of healthcare.

Applied Data Analytics Certificate

For students interested in delving into the world of analytics, an applied data analytics certificate is now available. This certificate will empower students with practical knowledge and skills essential for thriving in data-centric fields.

World Languages for the Workspace Certificates

In response to the global demand for multilingual professionals, four unique certificates in world languages — Chinese, French, German, and Spanish — tailored for the workplace were introduced for Spring 2024. These certificates will enable students to communicate effectively in diverse international settings, enhancing their career prospects.

Registered Behavioral Technician Certificate

Certified RBTs teach adaptive skills to children and adults under the supervision of a boardcertified behavioral analyst. Certified RBTs are in high demand in the Fargo-Moorhead area and throughout the country.

Master in Management Science with a Focus on Data Analytics

Enrolling graduate students this summer, this cutting-edge master’s degree program in management science with a specialized focus on data analytics equips students with advanced analytical skills, preparing them for leadership roles in data-driven industries.

In addition to these confirmed new and enhanced academic programs, there are many more in the planning stages for 2024-25. Those programs include:

• Actuarial Science Major

• Business Major with a Cybersecurity Concentration

• Business Major with a Human Resources Concentration

• Business Major with a Project Management Concentration

• Computer Science Major with a Cybersecurity Concentration

• Cybersecurity Administration Major + Minor

• Data Science Major

• Supply Chain Management Major + Minor

• Certified Financial Planning Minor

• Human Resources Minor

• Pre-Law Minor

• Project Management Minor

• Public Health Minor

• Master of Social Work in Clinical Social Work

Expanded Opportunities in Music

Building on Concordia’s rich tradition of musical excellence, a drumline was added to the musical ensemble line-up. Students were able to begin enriching the campus with the vibrant rhythms of percussion in Fall 2023.

Clay Target Program

Embracing the enthusiasm for sports in the region, Concordia will offer students the opportunity to excel on a clay target team. One of the fastestgrowing high school sports in the area, clay target engages thousands of student-athletes in Minnesota alone. Now recruiting for Fall 2024.

Esports Expansion

Following the success of Concordia’s inaugural esports teams in League of Legends and Overwatch 2, two new teams have been introduced. One competes in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and the other in Rocket League.



Investing to grow means investing in a bright future for Concordia, but it is built upon the successes of our past.

“We are not abandoning who we have been as an institution. We are instead doubling down on our long-standing commitment to cultivating transformation through rigor and relationship,” President Irvine said. “A commitment designed to deepen this personal approach to learning by providing students with experiences that allow them to understand, discern, and grow by doing.”

Irvine came to Concordia with experience at institutions with similar backgrounds and settings, but he soon came to realize that the Concordia College community is truly like no other. While he notes that the consistent kindness he has experienced at Concordia is layered throughout the entire institution, what really sets Concordia apart is the incredibly proud and dedicated alumni he has met.

“Over the course of a few days that I spent at a conference, I continued to run into pockets of Concordia alumni. People would stop me in the hallway to share how much they loved their time at Concordia as a student,” President Irvine said. “The alumni are incredibly proud and they care deeply about Concordia, but they do so without creating a sense of exclusivity. I’ve never seen that before.”

As the sun sets on another great day at Concordia, the vibrancy and excitement that permeate the campus serve as a testament to the institution’s unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation. As Irvine embarks on his journey as Concordia’s 12th president, he embodies this spirit of dedication and forward-thinking leadership.

Irvine’s vision for Concordia is clear: to cultivate an environment where students are empowered to think critically, engage meaningfully, and lead purposefully in an ever-changing world.

“We invest not only to grow but also to flourish for the sake of this extraordinarily proud and uniquely caring place that is Concordia College,” President Irvine said.

“We invest not only to grow but to also flourish for the sake of this extraordinarily proud and uniquely caring place that is Concordia College.”

With steadfast commitment to Concordia’s mission, Irvine and the entire Concordia community are ready to continue this journey of growth and transformation together.

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Kelly and Colin Irvine met at a wedding in Bozeman, Montana. He was a groomsman. She was a personal attendant. Sparks flew fast! (Surely there’s a Hallmark movie that starts the same way.) Since then, there have been several major moves, two kids, long hours, and a lot of laughs.

Guided by “humility, hard work, and faith,” Colin, Kelly, Cal, and Caroline have embraced what it means to be a Cobber.

Dr. Colin Irvine was inaugurated as Concordia’s 12th president in October 2023. The inauguration was an all-smiles event for the family — not because of the cameras — but because it was a truly joyful and momentous occasion.

In his speech, President Irvine thanked Kelly for her support in what would become a life-changing decision to apply for the presidential position.

“I was all in,” Kelly said. “I knew it was the right fit for us.”

The day capped a week of experiencing rich Homecoming traditions together.



Cal is a 2023 graduate of Augustana University and works for Case New Holland Industrial as a release train engineer/Agile program director in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Caroline has the unique experience of spending her last year in high school already living on a college campus.

“She made quite a few friends with the students,” Colin said. “For us, selfishly, it’s awesome. It changes the feel of the campus. She keeps me — not relevant but — in touch with where students of this age are, which changes so fast.”

And, of course, there’s Jack, who has lucked out with getting scenic backyard walks and attention anywhere he goes.

“You can’t get any better than Concordia’s campus for your backyard,” Colin said.

Together the family loves boating, skiing, and traveling. When possible, the Irvines like escaping to their lake place near Glenwood, Minnesota, to spend time with family and friends.

As the Irvines settle into their new home on campus, they’re savoring the Cobber spirit, making every moment count in this whirlwind chapter of their lives.

“It’s been incredible to our family at how welcoming the Concordia community has been,” Kelly said. “There has been an outpouring of support from all over. We’re really grateful!”

From left: Cal, Kelly, Colin, and Caroline Kelly is the chief marketing and communications officer for Carlson Capital Management.
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Nestled in the heartland of the Midwest lies Concordia College, where academic pursuits intertwine with personal growth and lasting connections. For Simon Zahrbock ’23 and Morgan Kommer ’23, their journey at Concordia not only shaped their futures but also laid the groundwork for a love story usually only seen in the movies.

Zahrbock, a small-town boy with big dreams, and Kommer, a determined scholar from across the state line, found themselves thrown together in a data analytics class. It was a chance encounter that neither of them expected, yet one that would alter the course of their lives forever. As they navigated through lectures and assignments, a friendship blossomed, paving the way for something deeper.

While Zahrbock delved into the intricacies of finance, inspired by his father’s footsteps, Kommer’s academic journey took a different turn. Initially drawn to business studies with aspirations of attending law school, she soon found herself captivated by the world of biology, fueled by a newfound passion for dentistry. Concordia provided the fertile ground for their intellectual pursuits, challenging them to think critically and explore new horizons.

Making this chance encounter even more unlikely is the fact that Kommer didn’t begin her college experience at Concordia, but with a semester at North Dakota State University.

“I really missed having a small class size and getting to know my professors well,” she said. “I loved that Concordia offered small class sizes and I could get to know my peers and professors more personally.”

This shift not only altered her educational path but also set the stage for her fateful encounter with Zahrbock in their data analytics class.

Beyond the classroom, Zahrbock and Kommer found joy in the vibrant community of Concordia. Whether it was cheering on the Cobbers at sporting events or sharing late-night conversations in the residence halls, they discovered a sense of belonging that made Concordia feel like home. It was more than just a college — it became a sanctuary where friendships flourished and memories were made.

As they reflect on their time at Concordia, Zahrbock fondly recalls the moment he first laid eyes on Kommer in the classroom.


“I sat down in class next to this girl who would one day be my wife,” Zahrbock said. “I was starstruck from the moment she sat down.”

Amidst the hustle and bustle of college life, they found a love that was both unexpected and undeniable. Inadvertent matchmaking by Dr. Nathan Axvig, associate professor of mathematics, and the serendipitous seating arrangement in class were mere catalysts for a connection that was meant to be.

As Zahrbock and Kommer embark on the next chapter of their lives, they carry with them the lessons learned and the memories shared at Concordia. Their bond remains unbreakable, rooted in the shared experiences of their college years. Concordia will always hold a special place in their hearts — a testament to the transformative power of education, friendship, and the enduring legacy of Cobber pride.

“I believe the best thing about being a Cobber is the family that you gain,” Zahrbock said.

Zahrbock and Kommer currently reside in Mesa, Arizona, with their two dogs, Banks and Berkley, and Kommer is now attending dental school.

“I joke that so far it has felt easy due to Concordia preparing me so well,” she said. “I have never felt like I am not capable of succeeding, and I have the science program at Concordia to thank for that. The transition has been very smooth due to my time at Concordia and all the wonderful professors and faculty.”

Zahrbock and Kommer’s story serves as a reminder of the profound impact that a college experience can have on one’s life. Theirs is a tale of unexpected encounters, academic pursuits, and enduring love — a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Cobber community.

They carry cherished memories and lifelong friendships forged within the hallowed halls of their alma mater, forever grateful for the role that Concordia played in shaping their story.

2024 | 17


Heather Simonich ’99 helps address the mental health concerns of students.

This past year was filled with new beginnings at the college. With it came a new president, Dr. Colin Irvine, and the life-changing Concordia Promise, opening up additional opportunities for students to attend Concordia.

Also new to campus is Heather Simonich ’99, who was hired as the director of the Center for Holistic Health. In this new role, she is working fiercely to ensure that Concordia is well poised to address the growing demand for student mental health services and supports. Since starting in December 2022, Simonich has played a critical role in raising awareness of the mental health and well-being needs of Concordia students.

Nestled in the lower level of Old Main, the Center for Holistic Health (CHH) combines the elements of previously existing student health support services that had long been separate. The unification of these services has provided a streamlined, robust support system to care for students in their health needs. It’s also unprecedented.

“This is the first time the college has integrated health services, counseling, and disability under the umbrella of the Center for Holistic Health,” Simonich said.

Rounding out her first year as director, Simonich reflected on her initial focus within the role. After working in the community mental health field for two decades, shifting to mental health within higher education required a thorough orientation.

“If there’s a theme we pull out of the first year, it’s learning,” Simonich said. “It has been a whirlwind of adjusting to the higher education environment, learning from students about their needs, and building relationships on campus — all with the goal of enhancing what we are doing on campus to improve student wellness.”

As social judgment around mental health care shifts, more students are seeking the support they need, not only on campus but across the community. In an age where more people feel comfortable expressing their needs, the stigma surrounding mental health issues continues to recede.

“I think we have a generation of students who are more willing to ask for help, which is a good thing,” Simonich said. “This says a lot about the work we’ve


done across our communities in our K-12 education system to decrease the stigma around mental health.”

A Concordia grad herself, Simonich returned to the Fargo-Moorhead area after completing graduate school at Ball State University. Upon her return, she began working with Dr. Stephen Wonderlich ’78, a recipient of the 2023 Alumni Achievement Award.

“I stumbled across the opportunity to work with Steve Wonderlich, an incredibly well-respected psychologist, faculty member, and clinical researcher,” Simonich said. “For nearly 15 years, I had the privilege of working and learning alongside him. He’s been a tremendous mentor and I love that Concordia is a special place for both of us.”

Conducting clinical research with Wonderlich solidified Simonich’s certainty in her vocation to help those in need. So, when the opportunity to return to her alma mater as an employee presented itself, the choice was easy.

as they navigate what can be a very complex healthcare system,” Simonich said. “Our job is to make sure they don’t feel alone in their journey.”

The increase in students utilizing mental health services can seem daunting. Regardless of what’s causing the uptick, whether that’s reduced stigma or increased challenges to mental health, Simonich maintains focus on the need to provide support.

“My role here is not to debate what’s driving it,” Simonich said. “My role is to figure out how we ensure that our students have access to the right services at the right time so they can reach their full potential.”

“What I wish people could fully appreciate is the difference that one person can make in another person’s life.”

“It felt like coming home,” Simonich said. “I don’t know how to describe it other than a strong calling to come back to campus at a time when I knew young adults were really struggling with mental health post COVID.”

While CHH provides health, counseling, and disability services, a part of the work resides in connecting students to specialized services off campus if needed.

“One of our jobs at the Center for Holistic Health is to make sure we are walking alongside our students

Above all, she stresses the power of one. That is, the profound impact that one person, one act of kindness, can make.

“What I wish people could fully appreciate is the difference that one person can make in another person’s life,” Simonich said. “It takes all of us at Concordia to support the wellness of our students. Relationships are really the foundation.”

Rather than getting caught up on the “correct” way to be supportive, she urges those in our campus community to focus more on support in its most basic form.

“People are so often afraid of getting it wrong,” Simonich said. “Notice, listen, encourage, and connect to help. The small gestures of kindness and genuine concern really go a long way.”

Concordia introduces new wellness program, director

Concordia has redesigned its wellness program, integrating wellness into its First-Year Experience curriculum for the 2023-24 academic year.

As part of this transition, Dr. Stefanie Meyer was named the new wellness director. She designed and teaches the new and revised wellness courses. These are one-credit, two-semester courses that will be required of all students. These classes have been redesigned to address physical, social, emotional,

intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and environmental wellness.

Meyer is excited to take on this new role as she has “the opportunity to positively influence the lifelong wellbeing of the student body.”

The push for this new curriculum and role came from Concordia faculty and staff, and the redesigned courses were put in place to help foster wellbeing and give students opportunities to practice wellness behaviors.

Dr. Stefanie Meyer, wellness director and associate professor of exercise science
2024 | 19


Sydni Kreps ’17 recently opened her dream bookshop in Moorhead.

Sydni Kreps ’17 has always been an avid reader. Words helped shape her world from the beginning.

“Growing up, that was kind of my thing,” she said. “I was always reading, even when I shouldn’t be.”

On a family vacation to Disney World, Kreps was more interested in reading a book about the amusement park than the actual location. She ranks “Little Women” and the Nancy Drew series — both of which Kreps read as a child — among her favorite books of all time.

As a young adult, it was the words of a Cobber student blogger who helped Kreps decide to stay in her hometown, become a Cobber herself, and study multimedia journalism, communication studies, and English writing. The desire to visit a bookstore, Atlantis Books, in Santorini, Greece, led her on a May study abroad seminar. After graduating, she began working as an English teacher to share her love of words with the next generation.

Many bookworms dream of opening their own bookstore one day, and Kreps was no different. A childhood friend even gave her $20 to put toward her future bookshop. But as many dreams go, Kreps’ bookshop was only that — a dream — until her life changed overnight and forced her to reevaluate.

After her father unexpectedly passed away, Kreps took a leave of absence from teaching. During that time, Kreps got a tattoo of one of her father’s favorite phrases — “more than words.”

“He said things like, ‘I love you more than words,’ and ‘I’m proud of you more than words,’” Kreps said.

It was in that phrase that Kreps found the inspiration for her shop. “More Than Words” was the perfect name and the perfect tribute to build and honor the things that Kreps loves — books, stories, and her father.

The timing was right to open a shop. When scouting for locations, Kreps’ bookshop ultimately ended up in a building that her dad’s grandfather helped build.

“That felt right, that serendipity,” Kreps said. “Actually, my landlord is a distant relative too.”

However serendipitous her story is, Kreps gives no illusions that the journey to opening her bookshop was idyllic or straightforward. There were delays, challenges, and learning curves from the beginning.

“Timelines aren’t necessarily going to go as you plan,” she said. “For example, renovation was a huge thing and there were many unexpected hiccups.”



Going to a liberal arts college helped prepare her for the unexpected challenges, however. Because of the breadth of her education, Kreps felt she had at least the basic awareness needed to delve into a project that requires a lot of knowledge in a lot of different topics.

“I think because Concordia is a liberal arts college, you develop a broader skill set than if you’re being pigeonholed straight away,” she said. “Trying new things in college helped me build confidence with trying new things after graduating too because I knew that I’d at least dabbled in an area.”

Except for accounting. Kreps hired an accountant right away.

Kreps grew up in the Fargo-Moorhead area, and it was never an option for her to open her bookstore somewhere other than Moorhead.

“Moorhead is home to college campuses and has a thriving arts community. Somehow, it didn’t have a bookstore,” Kreps says. “I spent a lot of time in the city and felt the absence of not having a space to meet with people who had similar interests.”

If Cobber students want a long walk with a cozy place to study at the end, More Than Words is located just over a mile from the heart of Concordia’s campus. One could start at the bell tower and be at More Than Words’ doorstep in less than an hour. The shop is also close to the system of river trails

that loop around both the Moorhead and Fargo sides of the Red River, connecting the community.

Her time at Concordia helped Kreps to lean further into the meaning of community and how to contribute to the community you live in.

“Concordia helped me build a community-oriented mindset,” she said. “I had so many projects or experiences where we were out of the classroom and in the community. That helped me learn about the community I’d grown up in in a different way.”

Kreps hopes her shop becomes a community and gathering space for those in the Fargo-Moorhead area, young and old.

“I think bookstores are unique in what they can offer a community,” she said. “I hope to continue to see this be a space where book clubs can meet and where students spend some time. I have a lot of ideas for future workshops and classes and events we want to host. Life is happening here — it’s not just a bunch of cold shelves with books.”

Just as Kreps’ father held space for the things that are difficult to express in words, Kreps hopes that her bookstore is something more than just books.

“Books are more than words,” she said, “but what a bookstore does for the community is beyond the words on the pages of a book.” the video interview with Sydni at 2024 | 21



In healthcare, technological advances and new evidence-based practices evolve constantly, but for nurses, one thing never changes.

“We’re putting the patient always at the forefront,” said Dr. Tally Tinjum ’03, associate professor of nursing.

Given her education, experience, and expertise in nursing and teaching nurses, she would know.

Tinjum graduated from Barnesville High School in Minnesota and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Concordia College in 2003. She received her Master of Science in Nursing degree from Nebraska Methodist College in Omaha and her Doctor of Philosophy in nursing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Because of the profession’s foundation in science, research, and technology, a nurse’s education never truly ends, with continuing education, recertifications, and equipment updates, meaning that nurses are always lifelong learners. Typically, they’re lifelong teachers, too, charged with educating patients about their conditions, courses of treatment, and potential outcomes.

While patient care remains the core of the profession, how best to provide that care has changed significantly, even in the two decades since Tinjum herself graduated from Concordia. The biggest shift, she said, is the move toward evidence-

based practice in healthcare in general, and in nursing specifically.

“Some of the skills I was taught as a nursing student are taught differently now,” she said. “It’s important to always be advancing research in the field.”

She gave an example of testing the balloon portion of a catheter before putting it in — something that was once standard practice for nurses until it was found that testing the balloon first could cause bleeding for the patient. The procedure was changed to omit the test.

“As nurses, we always have to be open to learning,” Tinjum said. “We have to be able to provide the best care to our patients.”

In hospital settings, those patients often arrive in more acute condition than they did when she began her nursing career, and research also has supported faster patient departures. As a result, many registered nurses may find they no longer have extended periods of time to teach their patients. Instead, Tinjum said, when an opportunity for patient education arises, they take it, always incorporating some element of education into their ongoing caregiving process.

In the classroom, Tinjum promotes active learning, with students then applying their academic knowledge, aided by thorough simulation-based training, to real patients during real clinical experiences.


That simulation element has become easier to access since the Heimarck Center opened, bringing Concordia’s healthcare programs together as the Sanford Heimarck School of Health Professions — and mirroring healthcare’s overall shift in emphasis toward team-based interdisciplinary care models. Being part of that conversation every day prepares them for the interactions they’ll have in clinical settings after they graduate, Tinjum said.

One of the more basic changes in nursing has been the move toward electronic charting, which gives patients access to their own information and records and allows for smoother coordination between all the members of a healthcare team. It also allows for better tracking so systems can more easily quantify variables and set measurable goals for improvements. Over time, that translates to better patient outcomes.

Nurses still serve as advocates for their patients, recognizing their situations and potential outcomes and offering support in their healthcare decisions. They still strive to do what’s best for the patient.

And those patients can be almost anyone, as nurses still work in a wide variety of settings. While television nurses usually work at a hospital, people with nursing degrees can also go into community health, home health, school or camp nursing, or administration. Some become scientific writers, represent medical device companies, or join the military, Tinjum said, and advancing as a nurse practitioner or a nurse anesthetist is always an option.

“ We’re putting the patient always at the forefront.”

Advances in medicine have provided more options for patients and additional opportunities to learn for nurses, and advances in equipment and research have resulted in less invasive methods for a variety of procedures, significantly reducing patient recovery time and rehabilitation requirements.

Not everything about nursing has changed, though.

“Nurses are still the one type of healthcare professional that spends the most time with the patient,” Tinjum said. “Skills like empathy and caring are still the hallmark of the nurse. Nurses are always there.”

Concordia’s nursing program ranked No. 1 in Minnesota

Concordia’s nursing program has been ranked No. 1 for the second consecutive year on’s list of Best Nursing Schools in Minnesota.

“It’s very exciting and reaffirming to see the Concordia College nursing program receive the number one ranking for best nursing schools in Minnesota,” said Dr. Jack Rydell, chair and professor of nursing. “Each one of our nursing faculty, staff, and clinical instructors are committed to developing professional, competent, caring professional nurses for the future. This ranking tells us our hard work is paying off.”

“People should go into nursing if they have a strong calling to help others, that ability to have compassion and empathy,” Tinjum said. “They want to be challenged. They want to be a lifelong learner.”

The best part of nursing, she explained, is knowing that you’ve made a difference.

Nursing is more than just a job for Tinjum and her students, and vocation remains an essential curricular theme for Concordia’s nursing program.

“They’re a really good group — intelligent, thoughtful, motivated — a really awesome group of students,” Tinjum said. “They feel called to do it.”

2024 | 23


Carly Grandner ’14 fosters community in her role as Davies High School choir teacher.

The choir room at Davies High School in Fargo, North Dakota, is large and well lit, but it is also cozy and inviting. A group of students have gathered in the room to eat their lunches, and their chatter swells warmly around the room. There’s the easy sense of community and belonging that choirs often foster.

Of course, it helps that their choir teacher, Carly Grandner ’14, seems genuinely thrilled to see all of them.

Her adjoining office door is covered with photos of her and her students, and there are signs in the window that read “all are welcome here” and “love grows best in choir.”

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Grandner said. “I come from a family of teachers. I had six grandparents in total, three sets, and four of them were teachers. I’ve always loved schools. I think I’m just an academic at heart.”

It’s clear that Grandner’s dreams of being a teacher set her on the right path. As lunch wraps up and rehearsal begins, Grandner is a natural leader as she stands in front of her class.

The first song on the rehearsal list is “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent.” The song is, as

Grandner says, “nearly concert ready,” but there are a few more things to iron out. The tenors and basses need a bit more energy, and the sopranos need to work on nailing one of their more challenging harmonies. But working on the song doesn’t seem like a chore — Grandner’s criticism is swift and constructive — and her students are eager to listen.

Grandner didn’t always want to be a music teacher, however. Throughout high school, she was deciding between teaching music or math.

“It was my high school choir director who pulled me into his office, sat me down, and said to me, ‘You should do this,’” she said. “That was, I think, the final thing I needed to hear to put me in this direction.”

Eventually, her next steps led her to Concordia, where she studied for a Bachelor of Music degree in vocal music education. Grandner notes the importance of the learning she did inside the classroom at Concordia, but she also says what she learned outside the classroom was just as important.

“Concordia is a place full of passionate and enthusiastic, wonderful educators and some of the best things I learned were just by building relationships with my professors or being in activities or organizations,” she said. “There’s a lot about education that you can’t learn from a textbook.”


Some of Grandner’s best memories at Concordia happened while on tour with The Concordia Choir. There was a performance at a Texas cathedral that moved her to tears. And, there was the open-air church on their Pacific Northwest/Hawai’i tour that provided them with a view of jumping whales while they sang.

Of course, there was time for fun too — Grandner had fun avoiding walking under the campus bell tower alone. (As legend goes, walking under the bell tower with a beloved partner or friend means you’ll be in each other’s lives forever. Walk under it solo, however, and you’ll be alone for the rest of your life.) She also reflects fondly on jumping in Prexy’s Pond after graduation. However, that experience was maybe more potent than productive.

There’s a connecting theme in Grandner’s reflections of Concordia — community and relationships — and she has brought that appreciation of community into her work. The enthusiasm with which Grandner interacts with her students and the music they make is hard to fake, and the enthusiasm her students have for the music they’re making is hard to fake too.

“Making art and making something beautiful every day, specifically in my teaching career, is wonderful,” Grandner said. “The fact that I get to make beautiful music every single day is an amazing part of teaching. I think just knowing what I do matters is what matters to me.”

Since graduating from Concordia, Grandner has shared the beauty of music with many students of different ages. She taught in Hawley, Minnesota, before heading to Davies. She conducts the Diamond Choir as part of the Fargo Moorhead Youth Choir organization. She’s also taught at the

International Music Camp as well as working with a variety of honor and festival choirs.

At the end of the day, Grandner hopes that when her students walk out of her classroom door their love and appreciation of music continues to grow.

“I want my students to have a lifelong love of music,” Grandner said. “I understand that not all of them are going to continue on in music as a career, and some of them might not continue on even as a hobby. But I do hope they consume music in their life and that it can still be something that is helpful and beautiful and lovely for them.”

As for her future in the field, Grandner has no desire to do anything else.

“Teaching is a noble and wonderful profession, and I think that there is a narrative out there right now that teaching is a little bit scary and there’s a group of people who are leaving the field,” Grandner said. “But I just want to assure people who are passionate about this that there are still wonderful places to teach and wonderful experiences out there. I love my job. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Watch the video interview with Carly at 2024 | 25


Jennifer (Aslakson) Maras ’02, the 2023 National Rural Educator of the Year, focuses on kindness.

Now in her 22nd year of teaching and as the 2023 National Rural Teacher of the Year, Jenny (Aslakson) Maras ’02 is qualified to offer advice and encouragement from her joy-filled classroom in Morris, Minnesota.

She wants parents to know that “they are seen.” Maras values the trust the parents place in educators. As she says, “They send their most cherished and valuable asset to us every day.” She hopes parents know that educators work tirelessly to make school emotionally and physically safe for their kids.

For any aspiring educators headed to a rural school, her advice is to build a local support network.

“I give them a task for the day they get hired,” Maras explained. “‘Go have coffee in the town or go buy groceries. Start getting connected at that level. Then, your first week of school, find someone in the community that you can talk to and invite into your classroom. And then invite two people in.’”

Using this approach, Maras has a community member in her class at least once a week and frequent industry field trips.

For Maras, building these relationships is the first step in a valuable cycle. Figuring out who can be in their “bag of tricks” helps new teachers be stronger educators, and it also helps the students see the level of community support that exists for them.

And her No. 1 piece of advice for high school students? “Be the nice kid.”


Maras teaches business classes at Morris Public Schools and sees 150 junior and senior high school students per day. Her students appreciate the interesting range of practical activities that she weaves into any given week.

“Whether it’s personal finance or developing financial statements or creating green screen videos, they see that they can use this skill now in their life and immediately after high school,” she said.

Teaching these practical skills is important to Maras, but it is secondary to her first objective, which is cultivating the human spirit.


“My classes are full because students know I take good care of them as people before teaching them anything,” she said.

That philosophy is one she developed while studying in Concordia’s education department. “Concordia does an awesome job of getting people ready, not only for content but the human spirit,” Maras said. “The values of Concordia prepare educators well.”


Maras was humbled by the honor she received in 2023 from the National Rural Education Association.

“There are so many fabulous educators in our school, in our county, and our state, and certainly in the nation,” she said. “How is it that I am the one?”

In 2022, the Minnesota Rural Education Association named Maras an Educator of Excellence for her innovation, dedication, and commitment to get results for her students. From there, she was put forward as its national candidate and asked to define what it means to be a rural educator.

Selected as a finalist, Maras went through a series of Zoom interviews with rural advocacy leaders, professors, and former winners from across the country.

path. Concordia had the program she wanted, and it was a natural fit.

“Concordia certainly prepared me, not only for the curriculum of education but for taking care of the human spirit,” Maras said. “I think it parallels so much with what Concordia believes in for their students.”


Maras is particularly excited to have earned this distinction for being a rural educator. She grew up on a dairy farm near the small town of Benson, Minnesota, and intentionally chose to live and raise her family in a close-knit community.

“The rural spirit is something that people who don’t live rural don’t quite understand,” she said. “It’s special.”

Maras describes rural kids as master multitaskers. She explained, “Most of our students are two- to three-sport athletes. They’re in the band. They’re in the choir. They’re on the stage for speech or theatre. They’re in FFA. Plus, they’re working and volunteering.”

Her No. 1 piece of advice for high school students: “Be the nice kid.”

Maras never presumed she’d make it so far in the selection process with “so many good educators,” but she reached a Zoom call where her interviewers had just one question to ask: “Will you be our National Rural Teacher of the Year?”

Maras describes her reaction to the news as an “explosion of blessings.”


For Maras, there was never any question about what her career would be. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I knew what teaching was.”

As a kindergartener, she would come home and continue to play school in the spare bedroom that her parents let her convert into her “humble first classroom.”

As a freshman in high school, she was introduced to business education and, from then on, she knew her

She believes that today’s students are modeling their behavior after the adults in their lives, who wear many hats in the rural community. “It just keeps that rural spirit cycling to the next generation.”

Maras deliberately works against an old trope in rural communities, the one that insists that young people “can’t wait to get out of here.” Instead, she hopes students in Morris leave feeling like they can’t wait to come back.

Her approach plays a role in the overall vibrancy of her community.

“With a population around 5,000, Morris is rural but certainly not a ghost town,” Maras noted. “Our businesses are opening instead of closing, and I think much of that is because of our younger generation. They want to come back here. Our graduation rates are high, and alumni returning is also high. Many will go elsewhere for college. But they’ll come back to live, work, and raise their families here.”

Much of that success may very well be traced back to Maras’ commitment to serving the student.

“When you do that,” she shared, “magic happens.”

2024 | 27


A new federal grant has Department of Defense language instructors working with Concordia Language Villages and Concordia College to advance language training.

What makes you feel safe and secure? Maybe it’s a dead-bolted door or a motion-activated light. But what about being bilingual? Better communication with others around the world not only creates personal and professional benefits, but it can also be a matter of national security.

That’s the driving force behind a new project between Concordia Language Villages (CLV), Concordia College, and the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center (DLIFLC) at the Presidio of Monterey, California.

hS a ipng Our Future , Toge t reh

•Since 1961•

Concordia Language Villages focuses on expanding education programs and rejuvenating its sites to shape the future.

DLIFLC is regarded as one of the Department of Defense’s finest schools for foreign language instruction in the nation. It is a multi-service school for active and reserve components, foreign military students, and civilian personnel working in the federal government and various law enforcement agencies.

The Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) awarded CLV and Concordia College with a $513,000 grant, administered by the Institute of International Education. They money will be used for a threepart program to support language teaching, student learning, and national security efforts at DLIFLC. Sessions will be held in California and

at the Language Training Center at CLV in Bemidji, Minnesota. The Language Training Centers is an initiative of the DLNSEO.

“We are proud to extend our language expertise to military personnel, enabling them to communicate effectively in diverse and critical environments,” said Mary Kosir , CLV’s executive director. “This collaboration aligns with our commitment to global understanding and communication.”

Throughout much of 2024, Concordia faculty members Dr. Gay Rawson and Dr. Cassandra Glynn ’01 are leading a series of comprehensive professional development training workshops for DLIFLC instructors.

“The workshops are designed to reinforce and build on the training instructors received at the center before they start teaching there,” said Martin Graefe, director of the Concordia LTC.

Rawson is the program director for the Concordia Language Institute, a French professor, chair of the world languages and cultures department, and the lead instructor for the French LTC immersion program.

Glynn is an associate professor of education. She also serves as program director of the Master of Education degree, overseeing several programs,


including the M.Ed. in World Language Instruction in partnership with CLV.

“Being selected by the Department of Defense for this grant affirms the effectiveness of our language programs,” said Dr. Susan Larson, provost and dean of Concordia College. “It’s a testament to the quality of our faculty and the education we provide, preparing individuals for real-world language challenges.”

Dr. Sara Nimis, the associate director for programs at the Concordia LTC, will facilitate the other two components of the grant: tutoring and lectures.

Concordia LTC instructors will provide approximately 50 hours per week of online tutoring to students studying Russian throughout their 48-week basic language acquisition course.

Students will also gain valuable insight into challenging topics tied to specific world regions through virtual lectures. Subject matter experts will present about 60 hours of classes, mostly in the target language, to students of Arabic, Chinese/ Mandarin, French, Korean, Persian/Farsi, Russian, and Spanish.


Since its inception in 2016, the Concordia LTC has grown to offer 17 different sessions annually in Arabic (MSA), Chinese/Mandarin, French, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian, with other languages available upon request.

After students receive training at any language institute, they have annual training requirements to sustain their proficiency or improve. The Concordia LTC is one of 10 centers funded by the DOD to provide that and the only one to offer an intensive residential option called iso-immersion.

“There is a lot of focus on culture,” Graefe said. “Not just studying culture but experiencing it and building broader intercultural competencies in the process, which is something unique to a Concordia LTC immersion and is something our partner units especially value.”

That work is supported by a previous DOD grant and uses the principles that evolved out of CLV’s 63-year history. These guiding principles are the foundation for all programs implemented through the Language Villages.

“Gaining cultural understanding makes a deeper connection and deeper impact,” Kosir said. “Our immersive language training has consistently proven effective in fostering language proficiency. We are honored to contribute to advancing language skills and deepening cultural competencies of those dedicated to serving our nation.”

Longtime villager becomes dean of El Lago del Bosque

Quick Facts:

• Bachelor’s degree in education and Spanish from Concordia College

• Master’s degree in education from Clemson University

• Middle school Spanish immersion teacher in Anchorage, Alaska

“CLV, and specifically the Spanish Language Village, El Lago del Bosque, has been a part of my life for more than 20 years. From my very first

summer as a villager, I was hooked. The village became my second home,” Rachel “Raquel” Schaefer ’18 said. “CLV inspired me in so many ways as a villager, from studying abroad in Argentina in high school to deciding to pursue a career in education. Being selected to be one of the deans for El Lago del Bosque is an honor. I am excited to ignite and fuel a love of the Spanish language and Spanish-speaking cultures. I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to this place that has already given me so much.” Rachel Schaefer

2024 | 29
Get to know CLV’s newest dean of the Spanish Language Village.




To be eligible, students must:

Be admitted to Concordia for Fall 2024, either as an incoming first-year student or as a new incoming transfer student who has not yet completed an undergraduate degree.

Be eligible to file the FAFSA annually. The program is open to students from ANY U.S. state.

Report an AGI lower than $90,000 on the FAFSA.

Attend full time and maintain satisfactory academic progress. There is no GPA requirement.

In November, Concordia College announced the Concordia Promise, a new program beginning in Fall 2024 that will cover full tuition for any newly admitted student from across the country whose family has an Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) under $90,000.

“Reducing the financial burden of education through the Concordia Promise will allow our students to better focus on their mission, their dedication, and their potential to influence the affairs of the world,” President Colin Irvine said. “This is a game changer for families in our region and across the country who may have thought a private college education was out of their reach.”

The program is renewable for up to four years with no additional forms to fill out beyond the Concordia College application and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

“The Concordia Promise is our commitment to make a transformative Concordia education

accessible for students from any state, minimizing debt, and helping students begin their career or graduate program quickly,” said Dr. Susan Larson , provost and dean of the college. “This is especially powerful when backed by our four-year graduation guarantee.”

The Concordia Promise includes 100% of standard full-time tuition through a combination of federal and state gift aid and existing Concordia scholarships. Housing, food, fees, and other additional costs are not included.

“We know these students will thrive here,” said Ben Iverson, vice president for enrollment. “We know students at Concordia graduate at a higher rate than at public institutions because we provide an excellent support system for them.”

For more information, visit


Your Home for All Things Cobber Alumni

Alumni Relations recently launched an exclusive online community tailor-made for Concordia College alumni. Cobbers Connect is a new networking platform where you can find classmates and friends, spark new connections, and become part of an innovative community designed for you.


Exclusive Access to Your Alumni Network

Create a personalized profile and use the searchable directory to connect with a former classmate, your next mentor, or someone new where you live.

Be the First to Know

Stay up to date on news, events, ways to be involved, and more.

Stay in Touch

Changing your career? Moved to a new city? The Cobber community wants to hear from you.

Discover how simple it is to engage with fellow alumni, classmates, and friends from around the globe.

Scan the QR code or visit to join this digital network only for Cobber alumni.


The Cobber Fund celebrates the power of the collective Concordia community and our ongoing commitment to the next generation of Cobbers.

Gifts to The Cobber Fund are special. They are put to work right away — supporting the heart of the Concordia experience. This fund provides scholarships to ensure a Concordia education is accessible for students in most need of financial support. It also funds powerful leadership and learning opportunities that equip students to be successful in college and prepare them for lives of meaning and impact.

The Cobber Fund is fueled by thousands of alumni of all ages, parents, friends, faculty, and staff who share gifts of all sizes that add up to more than $2.5 million in annual support for students. By supporting The Cobber Fund, you help provide the financial resources, experiences, trusted relationships, and resources that students need to thrive at Concordia and beyond. Thank you for your generosity!

2024 | 31

2023 Alumni Achievement Awards

The Alumni Achievement Award, the college’s highest honor, is conferred upon alumni of 20 years or more who have distinguished themselves in their careers and service to others.

Dr. Betty Malen ’68 was professor of education policy and politics and a Distinguished Scholar-Teacher at the University of Maryland, College Park, until she passed away in February 2023. After beginning her career as a speech/English teacher and forensics coach, she held professorial positions at the University of Utah and the University of Washington. She was involved in educational programs on drug and alcohol abuse and fostering improvements in public schools. She received multiple awards and grants and had numerous scholarly works.

Dr. Stephen Wonderlich ’78 is vice president for research and co-director of the Center for Biobehavioral Research at Sanford. He is also a Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, University of North Dakota School of Medicine & Health Sciences. He has published widely, is on the editorial board for several professional journals and serves, or has served, on the board of directors for several eating disorder organizations.

Randall “Randy” Boushek ’79, retired senior vice president and chief financial officer for Thrivent Financial, joined the company in 1981 and held various positions during his 40 years with the organization. In 2010, he was named CFO of the Year in the Twin Cities by the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. He was a member and chair of Concordia’s Board of Regents, chair of the search committee that brought President Craft to the college, and served on the board of directors of several organizations.

The Rev. Gary Henderson ’79 has been chief relationship officer — Global Partnerships for United Methodist Communications since 2017. He is the primary protocol officer for the strategic development and maintenance of communication ministry for the United Methodist Church around the world. He has traveled to six of the seven continents and visited more than 100 countries to preach, teach, and lead. He has received several awards, been a member of numerous committees, and is currently on Concordia’s Board of Regents.


Kindra (McGrane) Hall ’03 is a Wall Street Journal best-selling author and internationally recognized keynote speaker on the power of storytelling in business. She is the former chief storytelling officer of SUCCESS magazine, 2014 Storytelling World Award recipient, former board member of the National Storytelling Network, and served as guest faculty at Harvard Medical School. Her work has been featured on,, and in Harvard Business Review.

Noah Addy ’05, Microsoft, is working on artificial intelligence and how to leverage it to drive efficiency and cost-savings for businesses across the globe. Originally from Accra, Ghana, he has made sacrifices, invested time in learning to design software, and worked harder than he could have imagined. He also has mentored more than 100 people, some with no college degrees, who have landed high-paying jobs as software engineers, product managers, and more.

Kari (Dordal) Christianson ’71, retired program director for DES Action USA, a national nonprofit that advocates for DES-exposed individuals, was exposed in utero to DES or diethylstilbestrol. The anti-miscarriage drug, created in 1938, caused harm to women, their children, and now possibly their grandchildren. Christianson was instrumental in organizing a Twin Cities chapter before joining the national board and eventually serving as program director. She has also been involved in several health organizations committees with a DES focus along with church committees and the ELCA.

The Rev. Lane Doerring ’57 served as pastor for several parishes in Minnesota over the years, including StephenArgyle, Menahga, and Highland Prairie-Elston. He also served as an ELCA missionary in Tanzania, where he was crucial to the Companion Synod and proved to be an invaluable advocate for the relationship. His fluency in Swahili was considered a great asset. In Tanzania, he was the first teacher at the mission school, helped renovate school buildings, and was instrumental in upgrading teaching at the school.

2023 Sent Forth Awards

The Sent Forth Award is conferred upon alumni of less than 20 years who have distinguished themselves early in their careers and in service to others.


Called to Serve Awards

The Called to Serve Award is conferred upon alumni of any year who have demonstrated notable commitment to the mission of the college through lifelong service to their faith communities, education, arts, or other not-for-profit activities.

2024 | 33



Dreis, Evelyn


Lacey, Clarice M.


Sampson, Beata E.


Anderson, Selma L. Haugen, Ruth E. Muscha, Carol


Bethke, Yvonne S. Dostal, Muriel E.

Livdahl, Ralph K.

Mack, Marilyn A.

Michelson, Maxine N. Walker, Sylvia Young, Loretta


Gieseke, Gerald D.


Anderson, Dale L.

Bain, Gladys M.

Berglund, Dorothy Carlson, Truman B. Christian, Elizabeth A.

Haiberg, Elisabeth H. McCain, Norma M. Nystul, Lois M.

Perkins, Louise M. Schmitt, Ida L. Thomaier, Audrey L. Wagstrom, Loanna


Blixrud, Eileen Hanson, Patricia J. Iwen, Hazel D. Johnson, Betty Leazer, William V. Lund, Richard K. Person, Eldon C. Westwood, Wayne H.


Larson, Loretta McFadden, Kenneth D. Mondry, H. Joanne Simonson, Eunice M. Tellifero, Elaine K.


Flagstad, LeRoy A. Folin, John E. Johnson, Marjory A. Lund, Doris Moen, Betty L.

Ruud, Carlton M.

Sjursen, Harryette J.


Gabrielsen, Grace Heieie, Dorothy M. Newell, Donna C. Olsen, Clifford A. Olson, Lorraine Score, Loree C. Shulstad, Nevis M.


Allen, Esther H.

Baldus, Anna L.

Camrud, James A.

Holt, Curtis H. Jacobson, Marjory A. Kloster, Phyllis A.

Kvamme, Conrad H.

Thvedt, James E.

Vangerud, Paul T.


Bergland, Robert W.

Gunnarson, Marilyn F.

Hofstedt, Ronald S. Lazich, Inez L.

Lind, Helene C.

Simonson, M. James Stengel, Arnold M.


Barr, Alys J.

Doerring, Lane D. Elton, Wayne A.

Hugelen, Audrey L.

Johnson, Arnold C.

Larson, Lowell D.

Nellermoe, Darlene E. Odegaard, Leroy W. Poach, Vivian


Anderson, Kenneth N. Lee, Nancy A.

Lokken, Helen A.

Monson, Glory A.

Murphy, Sonya M. Nordine, Russell E. Quibell, Wayne V. Stady, Marylyn

Welliever, Marlene N.


Dahl, Lois Haga, Anna J. Jahr, Janice E. Maxson, Christine K. Sederholm, Charles A.


Carlson, Joan A. Davis, Duane E. Kindzerski, Stanley J. Sorgen, I. David

Vogele, Fred W. Zehringer, Vance



Braaten, Elman

Dahl, Ronald E.

Hanson, Charles G.

Lenander, Leann A.

Ringstad, Ronald S.


Blasl, Donald F.

McComb, Craig

Miller, Sonja E.

Murtuza, Virginia A.

Oistad, Judith E.

Schultz, Meredith E.

Tellefsen, Roger D.


Arms, Muriel D.

Buhr, Paul E.

Elness, Connie B.

Froehlich, Agnes E.

Granfor, Andrew H.

Gross, Richard H.

Haug, Joanne

Miles, Dorothy

Mohr, James A.

Morgenthaler, Virginia K.

Remme, Lavonne A.

Schulz, Jeraldine A.

Spencer, Audrey I.


Denison, Robert G.

Geddes, Gerald O.

Gilje, Charles J.

Haanstad, Dorcas J.

Hedahl, Bruce M.

Huber, Peggy L.

Pett, Judith F.

Swant, Gail E.

Torgerson, Judith A.


Ager, Beverly L.

Bergan, Robert A.

Nick, Robert J.

Windom, Maren M.


Anderson, Carolyn

Anderson, Duane G.

Chapin, Sandra P.

Denison, Kathleen P.

Kaatz, Dianne M.

Olsgaard, Bonnie M.

Sletten, Paul M.

Weeks, William D.

Wieland, Mae K.


Blikre, Wayne C.

Bock, Almon C.

Daehlin, Daniel R.

Hestdalen, Darrel W.

Nestingen, James A.

Setness, Diane L.

Tonneson, Carolyn S.


Dahl, Linda K.

Estrem, Paul J.

Gilbertson, John M.

Hagle, Lee A.

Lohmeier, Lynda K.

Malen, Betty

Nielsen, James A.

Rasmus, Michael J.

Suminski, Carmen E.


English, Blake

Myrold, Chris P.

Nordstrom, Kay L.

Robinson, Virginia E. Thime, Howard R.


Larson, Bradley D. Paulson, Victor E. Toffle, Roger C.


Aarthun, Daniel J.

Cose, Leslie C.

Fagerstrom, Delores

Kelm, Gregory J.

Strom, O’Niel V. Yankoff, L. Wayne


Baurichter, Mary E.

Lawrence, Ruth A.

Nelson, Sally F.


Cahoy, Jennifer A.

Hurtt, David J.

McDermid, John C.


Armstrong, Cynthia K.

Brummond, Donald S.

Jenkins, Bradley H.

Olson, James B.

Thorp, Lynn M.


Ingolf Dahl, Social Work

Laurence Falk, Sociology

The Rev. Ernest Mancini Jr., Campus Ministry and Alumni Relations

Robert “Bob” Nick, Physical Education and Health

Vilera “Val” Rood, Business Education and Office Administration

Jonathan Steinwand, English


Baszler, Julie M. Hennum, Jerry L. Thorsgard, Knute E.


Drommerhausen, Julie E. Golberg, Julie A. Hiatt, Michael G.


Cavazos, Steven N.


Grill, Dean S.


Edin, Scott D. Kjetland, Denise D. Reishus, David S.


Jones, David W.


Gustafson, Jeannette Kangas, E. Howard Lehr, Nadine F.


Heggedal, Martin P. Iljana-Thrond, Debra J.


Peaslee, Kirsten L.


Alseth, Margo A.


Herrmann, Rebecca L. Maucort, Kristine A. Zander, Keith W.


Cotter, Sandi C.


Erdmann, Brett R. Olson, Rebecca C.


Lyman, Jennifer L.


Flom, Jonathan A.


Beckman, Jason E. Kiesz, Erik C.


Spielman, Kay M.


Gunderson, Kayla J. Newman, Kyle J. Poss, Sherry M.


Jackson, Kimberly A.


Didier, Emily

In 2025, memorials will no longer be included in the magazine. You can find the most up-to-date memorial information, including full obituaries, at

Memorials as of December 2023
2024 | 35


Brittni A. was charting away on the computer in the ICU at Abbott Northwestern Hospital when “a woman saw my ring from afar and ran up beside me and said, ‘You’re a Cobber too! Me too!’” She also has had encounters with the Cobber ring on the train in England and Norway.

“In Seoul, South Korea, when I taught overseas.”
– Jennifer L.

While on a sailboat in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, Kara D. J. had a fellow traveler recognized the distinctive ring and said, “You must be a good Scandinavian Lutheran!” He then proceeded to reveal his Cobber ring.

“On my 2015 May Seminar at the Acropolis in Athens, Greece!”
– AJ F.

“At the White House in Washington, D.C.”

– Seth T.


he Cobber ring tradition traces its roots to 1918 and has been a longstanding symbol of Concordia’s connections. In 1920, students worked with Oscar Martinson , a local jewelry designer and 1909 Concordia alumnus, to design the iconic gold and ruby ring, which has remained significant to this day.

For decades, the Cobber ring has been known for being the great connector that stretches far from campus and surpasses generational gaps. From

Minnesota to Norway and beyond, students and alumni share stories of serendipitous run-ins with other Cobbers, solely identified through the wellknown Cobber ring.

The Cobber ring is more than a piece of jewelry; it serves as a gateway to the world of connections and endless conversations. It’s a symbol of shared experiences, personal growth, cherished friendships, and the many memories made at Concordia College.

At the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Linda S.F. recounted the moment when a group of six Concordia alumni, including herself, wanted to take a group photo. She shared, “We asked a young woman and she turned out to be a Concordia alum as well!”

Marilyn L. shares about seeing the ring during her travels in Norway. While waiting to get a coffee, “another woman put her hand out to get her cup and there was her Concordia ring! We shared our rings and we both graduated in 1961!”

– Diana O. A.

– Randy S.


– Stefne L. B.

“While holding on to a subway train pole in Tokyo, Japan.” a canal tour boat in Amsterdam, Netherlands.” “Interviewing at the Reader’s Digest in Pleasantville, N.Y. I got the job!”
2024 | 37
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