Leah Roberts ’21, New York Mills, Minn.
Major: English with Communication Arts/Literature Education

Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Leah Roberts and I’m from New York Mills. My family lives in the country. We have a little hobby farm with chickens and horses and – depending on the year – little baby goats. It’s a good time. I miss the country when I’m in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

Why did you choose Concordia?

It was my dream to compete on its nationally competitive speech team. I also liked that it wasn’t huge in terms of class sizes. I graduated with a class of 50, so this was comforting.

How did you decide on your major?

I really struggled with reading when I was in junior high and high school; it took me longer than most students to read independently and comprehend the text, and I rarely did well on reading quizzes. It was frustrating and I remember feeling embarrassed – like something was wrong with me.

I still struggle with reading, but I have learned practices that help me. I want to help students who struggle in English classes because I think reading and writing have such potential for individual growth and social change.

What motivated you to join the Concordia speech team?

Well, I joined speech in seventh grade because I was terrible at sports and I wanted to be in the yearbook for something. However, I stayed in speech because I fell in love with it. I love finding literature, interpreting it, practicing it, and performing it for audiences. The literature we use includes novels, short stories, playscripts, movies, podcasts, and poems. I enjoy playing with language and becoming different characters. It’s hard to not fall in love with an activity that lets you work this closely with literature. It’s a really intimate experience that I have yet to find anywhere else.

What are you most proud of from your experiences on the speech team?

In 2019, AFA-NIET (our national end-goal tournament) was held at the University of Alabama. There, I became a quarterfinalist in Drama Interpretation with Martin Zimmerman’s one woman show “On the Exhale” and a finalist in Prose Interpretation with Tayler Heuston’s short story “Daughters.” That same day, our team placed 12th in team sweepstakes, putting us back on the map after having fallen below the top 20. It was a wonderful day to be a Cobber. I think of it often.

How do you balance academics, work, and extracurriculars?

Balance is hard. I’ve gotten better at it, but it’s still hard. I think it will always be hard. Speech takes up most of my weekends, so I have learned that I cannot rely on Friday-Sunday to do homework. I spend weekday evenings completing assignments, writing essays, and reading texts. I’ve learned that I don’t have the time to perfect every single assignment. I only have time to do the best I can with the information and resources that I have. I try to remind myself that much of the work I do for speech is work that my professors will never see – but, if they did, they would be impressed because so much of it relates to what I have learned in their classes.

In what ways has Concordia helped you grow?

My clinical experiences have taught me so much. I’ve had the privilege of observing and assisting in classrooms at Liberty Middle School, Fargo North High School, Discovery Middle School, and Adult Basic Education in Fargo. No textbook can prepare someone for teaching; physically walking into another teacher’s classroom and asking how you can help does. Concordia’s education department knows this and its commitment to providing real-life experiences has helped me grow in more ways than I can count.

Have you had a favorite professor or class?

Dr. Cindy Larson-Casselton. I had her my first semester for Inquiry Oral Communication. One day, at the beginning of class, she laid her hand on my shoulder as she addressed the class. I remember that because it made me feel like I was home.

What is your favorite memory at Concordia?

Traveling across the country with the speech team! Such fun van rides, car rides, and plane rides. I got to see the ocean last year when we attended a tournament in California. I had never seen the ocean before. It was really, really big.

What advice would you give to a prospective student?

Be of service to people around you. Listen to them, check on them, get coffee with them. I think it’s easy to get caught up in your own little world in college, worried about deadlines and grades and resumes and internships. Fight that urge. It isn’t all about you.

What’s next for you following graduation?

Teaching! My degree and licensure will allow me to teach English to grades 5-12. I hope to be hired at a middle school or high school near my hometown and, if I’m lucky, the school will also need a speech coach.

Published February 2021