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Speech and Debate Coach to leave Concordia

A shift in leadership for Concordia’s Speech and Debate team is on the horizon. As of this coming May, students and faculty will say goodbye to Associate Professor Adam Knowlton, current director of Concordia’s speech team.

Taylor McMillin, who has been competing in speech at Concordia since 2013, has high praise for Knowlton.

“I’m sad Adam’s leaving, but I know he’ll be doing great things. I’m very proud of him.” Beginning next fall, the Speech and Debate team will be under the new leadership of Najla Amundson, current speech and debate coach at North Dakota State University. As for Knowlton, he will be heading to Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska.

“I have always said that if Concordia was located 400 miles south [closer to my wife and I’s families], I would have never even entertained the idea of leaving. I have worked enough places to know how lucky you are when you are surrounded by wonderful people. The people I have worked with, and for, made my time at Concordia special,” Knowlton said in an email. “I will miss them all.”

In his past five years as coach, as well as a professor in the communications department, Knowlton has influenced many students.

“Adam is a fantastic coach and professor,” McMillin said. “He’s funny and pretty relaxed, and I find myself learning from him in both speech and class without even realizing it.”

Amundson, who will be assuming Knowlton’s position in the fall of 2017, is excited to take over Concordia’s Speech and Debate team.

“Concordia’s speech team is recognized nationally and attracts hard-working, exceedingly talented and driven students,” Amundson said. “Who wouldn’t want the chance to coach students like that?”

According to recent graduate Cate Burns ‘16, “speech and debate will refine your ability to speak publicly, research thoroughly, think critically, write argumentatively and listen intently. These skills, among the many others that are sharpened through speech and debate, are invaluable to your success as a student.”

Amundson plans to continue the success of Speech and Debate at Concordia.

“My goal is to provide a stable and healthy environment for Concordia’s speech team members to continue doing what they already do so well – speak with excellence!” Amundson said.

Prior to coaching Speech and Debate at NDSU, Amundson worked as a television reporter, an anchor and producer at WDAY-TV, a media relations director and spokesperson for [North Dakota State University], a public relations director for a health insurer, an electric cooperative and an advertising account executive. She also competed in speech in high school and college.

It’s safe to say that Amundson is qualified for the job, and she also has a long history with Concordia.

“Fifteen years ago, I taught at Concordia as an adjunct in the communication and theatre arts departments teaching public speaking,

public relations and media writing courses. I loved working with the students and campus community. In fact, it was my experience at Concordia that led me to pursue my Ph.D. so someday I could teach full-time at a university,” Amundson said. “To have the chance to come back to the place that inspired me to pursue my graduate degree is an honor.”

Amundson is not the only one excited for her return to Concordia. The communications department is ready to welcome her with open arms.

“I think it’ll be a shift for the team, but Najla is going to be good for the team. She wants the team to be competitively successful, and I think she and the other coaches can accomplish the task,” McMillin said.

Knowlton is also hopeful for the future of the department.

“I believe that the CSTA department and the Speech and Debate team are trending towards an exciting future. I believe they are going to do wonderful things, and I will be happy to watch it all happen from down south in Nebraska,” Knowlton said.

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