Get to know one of our uncommon Concordians, Aaliyah James ('24), biomedical sciences major and hockey athlete at CUAA.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the fall 2022 edition of Hearts Together, a Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor special magazine edition. 

In hockey, a “Royal Road” is an imaginary line that splits the ice into two halves. For biomedical science

major Aaliyah James, who plays hockey and lacrosse for the Cardinals, the Royal Road also describes the journey that the princess of a village in Ghana took to Concordia University Ann Arbor.

So, you’re a princess; what’s the story?

For over 60 years, my grandfather was a paramount chief of a village in Ghana called Tanyigbe. In Ghana, a paramount chief is designated as the region’s highest-level political leader. Because of his status, I was born a princess and my brother a prince. When my grandfather passed in 2017, his status was handed down to my father and his brother who are currently sharing responsibility for our village.

When was the last time you visited Ghana?

Due to COVID-19, I haven’t been back since 2017, when I participated in a weeklong celebration of life for my grandfather’s ascension into heaven. Each of the seven days had a different ritual, and the entire experience was inspiring. I hope to return this year and partake in the annual Yam Festival, the largest festival in the village. I’m also craving fufu with goat and okra soup, and a type of ice cream I’ve only seen in West Africa that comes out of a bag.

What is fufu?

Fufu is a West African dish that is sort of like extra-sticky mashed potatoes. I learned how to make it from my auntie Happy when I was in Ghana. Here in the States, my mom and I like to pair fufu with a spicy tomato beef dish that reminds me of our village.

What brought you to Concordia?

Hockey. I grew up in the U.S. and moved around a lot because my mom is a project manager with an oil and gas company. Before settling in Michigan, my family lived in six different states (including Alaska). No matter where we lived, I always managed to find a hockey team! When I was a high school senior, I was playing in a hockey tournament in Chicago when Coach Barlow reached out to me and invited me to visit Concordia. At that visit, I also connected with Coach Asher and learned that there could be a spot for me on the lacrosse team as well.

What do you love most about Concordia?

Well, obviously, the campus is so incredibly beautiful. I’m inspired to be here. One of my favorite things on campus is attending Chapel, especially when I go with my teams. I also appreciate how supportive everyone is here. Now that I’ve been around campus for a while, I look forward to getting to know first-year students and helping them find their way.

Want in?

Being a Concordia Cardinal isn’t just about out-scoring competitors in the athletic arena. It’s about developing as an individual, both in and out of the game. Dedicated coaches and staff put in the time to see that you walk away from your Concordia experience as a better athlete, a stronger Christian, and a champion of character.

Explore athletics offerings

—The fall 2022 Hearts Together magazine hit mailboxes in early October. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Ann Arbor and Wisconsin. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

If this story has inspired you, why not explore how you can help further Concordia's mission through giving.