With former careers in print journalism and theatre, Duncan first connected with Concordia College while interviewing for a position as an English professor. Following her visit and interview, Duncan immediately knew Concordia was the place for her to put down roots.
“I was deeply impressed by the people I met here, and I knew that I wanted to work in a place surrounded by people I genuinely wanted to work alongside – both faculty and students,” she says.
Duncan noted the initial shock of the Minnesota winters but found the positives far outweighed the negative temperatures.
“The Fargo-Moorhead community was the perfect fit,” she says. “It had a vibrant arts community and I could stay involved with theatre.”
As a woman of many talents, Duncan has made many remarkable contributions to the Cobber community in the past 25 years. Ranging from introducing 12 innovative courses and opportunities such as a study abroad experience in Galway, Ireland, to mentoring countless students to championing Narrative 4, Duncan has made a lasting impact on the curriculum and culture at Concordia. She demonstrates the power and flexibility of a liberal arts education.
“You are allowed to make it your own experience and create opportunities you would have never thought about,” she says.
Concordia’s emphasis on experiential learning and gaining knowledge outside of the classroom is an aspect of the Cobber community that truly excites Duncan.
“Our studies become activated in our daily lives,” she says.
Applying coursework to the local community and surrounding world allows for greater understanding and gaining a sense of purpose in society. Duncan believes experiential learning is integral.
“We are honing minds and hearts, not just skill sets,” she says.
Opportunities such as Pivotal Experience in Applied Knowledge (PEAK), Narrative 4, and numerous others, offer community engagement that allows students to be challenged and grow in different situations.
Concordia’s focus on integrative learning opportunities will impact current and future Cobbers as the opportunities continue to develop and grow.
“This natural fit into our curriculum provides increased accessibility for students to experience these
These experiences may happen in a course, a service project, a global learning experience or even an internship, but are flexible for each student. Students and faculty are able to build and submit their own PEAK proposals to allow for experience related to their specific passions and aspirations. For example, Duncan has found ways to create PEAK opportunities in the course English 439: Film and Literature, as well as through Narrative 4 leadership to empower her students to apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations.
“Words have the power to harm or to heal. They are never neutral. I am called to use healing words,” Duncan says.
Through her passion for bridging differences, Narrative 4 has been implemented into the Concordia College experience and the surrounding community as well.
“Narrative 4 is a great example of Concordia expanding horizons,” she says.
Narrative 4 is an international organization that harnesses the power of storytelling and the empathy it creates to break down barriers between individuals through story exchanges. This unique exchange has been utilized in the K-12 setting in more than 200 schools around the globe. In 2016, Concordia was the first college-level Narrative 4 partner to fully integrate the program into the curriculum.
In the past few years, Narrative 4 has grown from the initial public demonstration of a Narrative 4 exchange to the creation of a student-driven club to having countless story exchanges at Concordia and throughout the region. On the week of our interview, Duncan had a story exchange every day of the week, ranging from health communication to the inquiry course Local Lives. Story exchanges are important for prospective, current, and graduating Cobbers because this unique experience often sparks the beginning of building one’s capacity for empathy.
“The greatest problem in the world is the empathy gap, and we can’t solve the other problems of the world without narrowing the empathy gap,” Duncan says. “Exchanges like Narrative 4 are the most necessary thing to solve the problems of the future and become globally responsible.”
“Finally, I want to say that the learning we do, the ways in which we work side by side, creates lasting relationships that we will carry for many years after our time together,” she says.
As Duncan’s time at Concordia College draws to a bittersweet close, her lasting impact and lifelong relationships will live on for many years to come. Her retirement this spring marks a new door opening in life, but the connection to Concordia will remain steadfast.
“I know Concordia will always be a home for me. All of these aspects of Concordia, its fostering of community, true inquiry, global citizenship, and responsible action, along with the lifelong relationships made in the process, make me glad I have committed myself to this place where I have practiced my vocation freely, richly, and with great joy,” Duncan says.
Duncan says she truly believes that Concordia is a special place where countless students, faculty, and staff have similar feelings to her own, causing them to stay connected long after their graduation date or retirement.