Four new faculty members have joined the communication studies and theatre arts department this year: Dr. Najla Amundson, assistant professor and director of speech; Zackery Aschim, technical director of theatre; Andrea Ramstad, instructor; and Zachary Oehm, instructor and assistant director of speech.
In addition to a need for more instructors, the splitting of the forensics team into the speech team and debate team created the need for a new director and assistant director of speech. Amundson and Oehm were happy to fill the roles and were well prepared to do so thanks to support from the director of the debate team, Dr. Fred Sternhagen, associate professor of the communication studies and theatre arts department.
“Dr. Sternhagen is the director of debate, and I’ve worked really closely with him,” Amundson said. “He’s been a great resource, he’s been a great mentor to me. I couldn’t ask for a better colleague, really.”
Amundson has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University, a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and a Ph.D. in communication from North Dakota State University. Prior to coming to Concordia, she worked in media, anchoring at WDAY in Fargo, working as a media relations director at North Dakota State University and working as the public relations director at Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota. Amundson has also taught as an adjunct and part-time professor at the University of North Dakota and at NDSU, and twenty years ago at Concordia. Her prior experience working at Concordia influenced her decision to come back full-time.
“I loved it here. I loved the students, loved the campus, loved the philosophy behind the liberal arts education,” Amundson said. “After I got my Ph.D., it was always my hope to get a full-time, tenure-track teaching position, and so when this one opened up, I applied and fortunately was hired.”
Amundson said she was excited about the new assistant director, Oehm, due to his prior success coaching the Hastings College speech team.
“We are lucky to have him, becauses Hastings has an outstanding speech program and outstanding speech team that is nationally ranked,” Amundson said.
Oehm has a bachelor’s degree from Hastings College in Nebraska and a master’s degree from Kansas State University. Prior to coming to Concordia, he was an instructor and the assistant director of the Hastings College speech team, as well as a mentor to inner-city youth in California where he helped them utilize speech to improve their lives and help stop the cycle of poverty.
“It was while I was doing a summer camp with these kids that I got a phone call from Dr. Cindy Larson-Casselton,” said Oehm.
Dr. Larson-Casselton, the chair of the communication studies and theatre arts department, reached out to Oehm with the opportunity to work at Concordia teaching communications courses and helping to coach the speech team.
New instructor Andrea Ramstad was also hired to instruct communications courses at Concordia, as well as to head the Oral Communications Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arizona State University, a master’s in communication from NDSU, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in education at NDSU. Ramstad has been teaching since 2003, and has taught communication courses at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, Glendale Community College in Arizona, and online classes for five different universities, including University of Alaska, North Dakota State Community College, NDSU, Glendale Community College, and Minnesota State Community and Technical College.
“Learning more about the college is both a challenge and something that I am looking forward to,” Ramstad said. “Every college is so different, so I am excited to see how this college is different from where I have taught before.”
An additional role in the communication studies and theatre arts department that needed to be filled was a Technical Director of Theatre. Zackery Aschim, who graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor of fine arts in technical theatre, was excited to have the opportunity to step in and join Concordia’s communication and theatre department.
“I’ve always loved working in education, and working with people to help understand what I do. And Concordia offers a really great program in liberal arts, which I think is important,” Aschim said. “I think coming into a new spot and learning and grappling with how everything works is always a challenge … but it can be a very exciting process.”
Despite their varying backgrounds, all four new faculty members have one thing in common: they are all excited for the opportunity to teach at Concordia College.
“I really like the environment, and what it stands for. I like the small atmosphere, and since I’ve been teaching, I love the students,” Ramstad said.
Oehm said that he appreciates the school’s atmosphere, as well as the students’ passion for learning.
“Everyone I’ve met thus far have been very warm,” Oehm said. “There’s definitely a thirst for knowledge that is exciting to see … I’m excited to watch the students I get to work with most closely realize their potential.”