Tierney Stewart ’24, Coon Rapids, Minnesota
Majors: Communication Studies and Art with a concentration in Studio Art

My time at Concordia has been everything I needed it to be, and I can’t imagine myself at any other school. Since coming here, I’ve been able to find incredible communities that I’ve grown to really love and consider part of my identity. I’ve branched out beyond my comfort zone, become a better advocate for myself, and I’m more comfortable in leadership roles. I’ve been able to do everything I have a passion for while getting an education in a strong department. I have truly been thriving here.

A Maroon Skirt

I started at Concordia excited to be on a college journey, planning on being a theatre art major and playing with the idea of minors in psychology or music. That fall, I decided to try out for the cheer team thanks to my awesome resident assistant, with whom I was becoming good friends. I had danced for 11 years and done a few cheer clinics as a kid, but in high school I was too scared to try out and convinced myself I didn’t have the time or money for it. When I came to Concordia, I decided this was my chance to try things I always wanted to do and take advantage of everything college had to offer.

I made the team and I’m so glad I took the step to try. I’ll now be starting my senior year this fall in my second year as a captain for the team, which has been a process in gaining leadership skills and learning how to manage a group. I care about my team and have made strong friendships.

Besides cheer, I also became involved in campus ministry, which has been such an important place of support for me. I’ve met some of the best people there. It has meant the world to feel unquestionably loved and included in a religious space, and campus ministry has helped me to feel safe and validated. They’ve provided a space of comfort when I needed it most.

Finding My Place 

As my freshman year concluded, I ended up needing to take time off from school, which was devastating at first, but I wound up skipping distance learning during that time, which may have been a blessing in disguise given all that was going on during the pandemic and the effect it had on my physical and mental health. That being said, the whole time I was away I deeply missed Concordia and was always thinking about when I’d be able to come back. 

In Spring 2021, the stars aligned and, before I knew it, I was registering for classes, signing up for housing, and changing my major. Coming back after that time, there were some things that were different but plenty that never changed. It was like coming home but also provided an opportunity to change course. I realized that, while I absolutely adored the theatre, I no longer wanted to be on stage as a career and decided to pursue other interests. After some rearranging while I was figuring out what felt right, I decided on my majors in studio art and communication studies. After all of the deliberation, I am beyond excited to be where I’m at and love what I’m doing. I even created a TikTok about creating art in the ceramics studio on campus (thanks to my awesome new internship at MarCom).

I think one of the best things about college is having the flexibility and opportunity to try new things. You can take classes on all kinds of topics whether they fall under your major or not, which is a fantastic way to get a taste of something you normally wouldn’t and discover new hobbies or passions. There are so many interesting courses, and the faculty and professors here have helped make college life that much better for me. I’ve formed great relationships with professors and always feel safe asking for help or advice. I have formed two main mantras since approaching college this way: Go with the flow and take opportunities that come, and always try a variety of things so you can keep doing what brings you joy and leave behind what doesn’t.

While I no longer see myself being a performer as a career, I have still been able to be on stage and have also found my place behind the scenes. In the fall of my sophomore year, I saw a sign that Concordia Theatre was looking for a student graphic designer and, before I knew it, I was in Dr. Wintersteen’s office accepting the role and designing the posters as well as a lot of other marketing. I’ve also been helping with social media content. We recently started a TikTok channel in addition to the Instagram and Facebook accounts. It has been a fun way to stay involved in theatre while exploring other things that I enjoy and growing my skills. It’s been a good spot for me to be and has even generated the thought of possibly going into media or marketing positions in the future.

Greek Letters 

I took a couple of other leaps that fall, and one of the first things I wanted to do upon returning to campus was join Lambda Delta Sigma. I had learned about the sorority in the spring of my freshman year and connected with what they stood for. LDS is a philanthropic society and values service to the community, so it felt like the right place for me. I always say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I have met many wonderful humans, had many eye-opening experiences, and learned a lot.

I discovered the YWCA through LDS’ partnership, which has an incredible mission and is essential to the community. It was important to me to become more involved, so I took on the position of sisterhood coordinator this past year, which was a lot of fun. I was able to grow friendships with my sisters who have such a special place in my heart, and I’ve learned what it’s like to organize group events and plan for a large number of people. I am now the LDS communications coordinator and will be managing the social media (seeing any trends?). I have greatly enjoyed meeting new people and being able to make an impact.

Shortly after joining the sorority, a sister I also knew through cheer (and Math 105 with Dr. B!) introduced me to Sonder, a student-led organization dedicated to mental health and disability advocacy and support. This is another group that has been really important to me, and it was integral in affirming that I was not alone in my struggles with my mental health and has really lit a flame for advocacy. This group is a community I need and an incredibly safe space. I have loved learning from others as well as leading educational opportunities to spread awareness and erase stigma. Shortly after joining, I jumped into running the Instagram account and am now stepping up as president, which I’m really excited for. Sonder is important to a lot of students, and our mission is important to the college as a whole.

A Blue Robe 

The choral department is another space I’ve been able to call home. I started in Kantorei under Dr. Culloton when I was a freshman. I remember feeling so much joy on my first day and being excited to perform good repertoire with such a strong group. My first Concordia Christmas concert was a mind-blowing experience, and it’s been one of the things I look forward to the most each year. In addition to choir, I spent Sunday afternoons in Vocal Jazz II that year, which was a fun experience in singing a genre of music I hadn’t sung a lot of before. Last year, I sang in Chapel Choir under Dr. Knutson, who has become one of my biggest supporters and truly the most authentic and compassionate professor I’ve ever met. Singing in her choir was a lot of fun, and I always appreciated how in tune she was with us. That choir really bonded during our short spring tour, which led to many inside jokes and closer friendships. I even served as secretary for Chapel Choir during spring semester that year, which gave me more insight into being part of an exec board in a different context.

I’m living my life with no regrets and plenty of ambition.”

My sophomore year is also when I joined Harmonia, a chamber group of treble voices that sings a wide range of popular music a capella style. This year, I’ll be a co-leader of the group and cannot wait to make more music. I’ll be starting my second year in The Concordia Choir this fall, under the direction of Dr. Culloton again. Being able to go on a two-week tour and partake in the opportunities that The Concordia Choir gets has been awesome, and I’ve seen new places and been able to take music to another level. The choir is a closely knit group, and I’ve met people who I’m now incredibly close to. We all support each other. I love these people dearly and feel honored to be able to sing my heart out alongside them.

Since starting here, I have been able to fully branch out and reach my potential. One of the best things about Concordia is the number of different organizations and communities on campus to be a part of. I feel well rounded and, on top of my extracurriculars, my classes and professors have contributed to me finding my place in the world and staying engaged. I feel well guided and taken care of by the departments I’m majoring in, and they’re fun to be a part of. I have been able to follow my passions as well as find new ones. I haven’t felt the pressure to just choose one thing and do it, but rather be involved in multiple different areas where I find joy. I’m living my life with no regrets and plenty of ambition. Concordia feels like home to me, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Published May 2023