Tyler Clark ’23 | Andover, Minnesota
Major/Minor: English Communications/Arts/Literature Education; Music

Please tell us about yourself.

I am a fifth-year student at Concordia studying English communications, arts, and literature education in addition to music. Throughout my years at Concordia, I have worked at a local daycare with infants, toddlers, and school-aged children. Outside of academia and work, I enjoy being outside, listening to and making music, and sharing experiences with those closest to me. I love meeting new people, hearing about their experiences, and learning from them.

Where are you from and what high school did you attend?

I am from Andover, Minnesota, and went to Andover High School.

How did you hear about Concordia and what inspired you to pursue your education here?

During my senior year of high school, I TA’d for my choir director, Melanie Kjellberg, and was very active in the music department. One day, we were sitting in her office discussing my next steps when she looked me in the eye and said, “Tyler, I’ve sent all of my own children to Concordia for a reason ... I know a Cobber when I see one ... and you are one.” Honestly, the rest is history.

How did you decide on your area of study?

I entered Concordia declared as a vocal music education major but, through the liberal arts curriculum, I found a passion for everything English related — especially anything with an emphasis on social justice. The literature I was engaging with and the lectures I was receiving from Concordia’s English faculty really resonated with my own philosophy of education; consequently, I landed on English education while keeping my studies in music as a minor.

Do you have a favorite course related to English education? If so, what makes it your favorite?

Dr. Amy Watkin’s Literature, Imagination, and Empathy course has been the best class I’ve ever taken – so much so that I participated in the course twice! First, as a student and then the following year in a peer mentorship role. The course tackles difficult questions about our shared humanity, and it meticulously highlights literature as an invaluable tool for cultivating personhood and responsible engagement with the world.

Do you have a favorite professor? If so, why are they your favorite?

Surprise, surprise! My favorite professor is Dr. Amy Watkin. She has been far more than a professor to me in my time at Concordia, and I am certain she will remain a large role model, mentor, and friend in my life after graduation. Dr. Watkin is passionately devoted to the craft of education and centers the young adults in her classroom with grace and empathy. Her courses, and her brilliant curriculum building, challenge students to go far beyond just “reading the assigned chapters.” She has opened so many doors for me and Cobbers like me. I am entirely grateful for her and everything she does.

Have you been involved in any campus activities during your time at Concordia?

I have been involved in many corners of campus throughout my experience at Concordia. During my premier years on campus, I was involved with the Campus Events Commission, Cobbers in Action, and the Hoyum Event Planning Committee. I also was involved with the Orientation team and was a member of the Orientation Committee during my senior year. Most heavily, however, I was involved with music at Concordia. I had the honor of singing with the choirs every year I’ve been on campus prior to my flex year. The best part, across every organization Concordia has to offer, is the people.

Concordia appeals to not only the diligent, intellectual, and talented, but also the compassionate, friendly, and community-driven.”

What do you like most about Concordia?

My favorite thing about Concordia is the type of person it attracts. There is something distinct about Cobbers that various people in my life have highlighted, and it always confused me until I approached my final semesters on campus. Concordia appeals to not only the diligent, intellectual, and talented, but also the compassionate, friendly, and community-driven. I have been more inspired by my peers than anything else during my undergraduate education and that is because of the type of person Concordia manifests one to be.

What’s one thing you never imagined you would do before coming to Concordia?

Traveling internationally to present research!

Last semester, you presented at the 2023 London International Conference on Education. Can you tell us about this experience?

I found out about the London International Conference on Education during my first meetings with my faculty mentor, Dr. Watkin, after being hired for Concordia’s Summer English Research Fellowship. The goal of the fellowship is open-ended and flexible to meet the desires of English students. I wished to glean experiences in academic research in the humanities and the presentation and publication of that research. Knowing this, Dr. Watkin and I discussed potential avenues for attaining these experiences, and we settled on applying to both the London International Conference on Education and the Midwest Modern Language Arts Convention. Both conferences required a written abstract of my proposed research encapsulating the methods I would be utilizing and the overarching goals of the project.

My project was titled “Destandardizing English: Seeking Linguistic Justice in the English Language Arts Classroom” and focused on breaking the untrue and problematic ideologies that posit White Mainstream English as the “correct” variant of the language. Specifically, I implored socioeconomic and racial lenses to highlight disparities felt among English language speakers and how educators can critically confront such disparities while introducing and maintaining social and linguistic justice.

My application went through two panels of judges and, to my surprise and enjoyment, I was accepted to present my research at both conferences and did so in November 2023. After presenting at Oxford, my paper and research were accepted to be published in the conference’s Literacy Information and Computer Education Journal. It was crazy.

Do you have any key takeaways?

Too many to list! I was very young compared to the other presenters, and most of my peers at the conference were presenting work they completed after receiving their master’s or (more commonly) doctorate degrees.

It was surely intimidating but also inspiring to witness lifelong learners devoting their time and energy to bettering global education. I heard presentations from educators from many different countries and continents, while also engaging in dialogues surrounding how we best can serve future generations as a united international effort. I left feeling empowered that change can be made; however, I also realized that such change required collective and communal action.

What is a good memory of your time in London?

I loved hearing the accents of British children. There was something so endearing and charming about hearing kids on the Tube asking their “Mummy” where the “loo” was.

What do you value most about being a Cobber?

Community — in every way, shape, and form.

How does Concordia allow you to pursue your passions?

The liberal arts curriculum is designed purposefully to practice interdisciplinary expertise, and the professors who embody this crucial practice are the ones who encourage students to go beyond what they thought could be possible for themselves.

What are your career goals?

To be a professor of English or education.

What advice would you give to a high school student who is considering Concordia?

I would encourage any prospective student to consider how they want to grow as a person and what campus offers a climate that allows for that growth. Far too often, students are concerned about how their specific majors rank against other schools; however, college is way more than your degree. Think about where you wish to plant yourself!

How has Concordia prepared you for life after college?

I’ve embodied many of Concordia’s quirky messages, action statements, and acronyms; however, above all, I feel very closely tied to BREW. Becoming Responsibly Engaged in the World is what I wanted from my undergraduate experience, and Concordia has provided an atmosphere where I could learn and grow, experiment and inquire, and find both failure and success — not only academically but as an entire person.

Is there anything else you would like to share about your Cobber experience?

I love Concordia!

Published March 2024