Jess Russ knew she was home the first time she stepped foot on Concordia University Ann Arbor’s campus. Never mind the fact that she was more than 600 miles away from her home state of Alabama and didn’t know a single soul in Ann Arbor. Concordia immediately felt like a place where she wanted to be.

“The first time I visited Concordia, I knew I was in the right place,” Jess says. “I have met so many cool people with good hearts, servant hearts. Just by knowing them my faith has been strengthened, and it has changed me as a person.”

Jess is one of thousands of individuals who have been changed by Concordia—in such a way that causes them to lead a life of uncommon impact in the world today. From the seemingly mundane tasks to the extraordinary, Concordians around the world are living their lives with a higher purpose, and using their gifts and talents to serve people around them.

Two years into her time at Concordia, it didn’t take long for Jess to become a part of the family, but she also stands apart from the crowd.

Everyone on campus knows Jess Russ, and she has made an impact simply by being herself. The approachable, small-but-mighty sophomore is known for wearing beanies, her colorful singing voice, and being involved across many areas of campus life.

Jess’ jammed-packed schedule is an intentional move. She believes that with diverse learning experiences and opportunities to meet new people the better prepared she’ll be to understand her future students who all have unique interests, backgrounds, and experiences themselves.

A member of the women’s lacrosse team, a student ambassador for the admissions department, and an organizer of student life events, Jess finds that she feels most attuned to herself when she’s practicing, creating, learning, and teaching music.

“Music is how I connect with the world and the people around me,” says Jess. “It’s an art form that a billion people can feel or relate to, but still interpret in their own unique ways. There’s so much creativity when it comes to music, and that’s what I love about it.”

A music education major, Jess is eager to apply her approachable and accepting personality to her classroom environment, creating a safe place where her students can support each other as they learn more about music and about themselves.

Music is how I connect with the world and the people around me. It’s an art form that a billion people can feel or relate to, but still interpret in their own unique ways.

Her inspiration to become a teacher began at a very young age as she witnessed her mother’s welcoming embrace of the students that came through her pre-K classroom.

“Even at a very young age, my mom makes sure that students know that they are special, one-of-a-kind, and talented people that can change the world,” said Jess. “That’s the kind of teacher I want to be.”

Creating a classroom environment that focuses not just on what students know but whom they are, Jess is eager to use music to connect her students with one another and the world around them, just as she does on a daily basis.

— Rachel Thoms served on Concordia University's Strategic Communications team from 2015-2022. Any inquiries about this story can be sent to

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