Returning the Dream
By Emily Meyer ’10
Joan (Urbaniak) Wodiska ’96 credits Concordia faculty and staff with helping her live a dream. Now she’s giving back so future students may have a similar experience.
When Wodiska was a junior at Concordia, she spent a semester at American University in Washington, D.C., as part of the Washington Semester Program. Wodiska enjoyed it so much that she didn’t want to leave. With the assistance of Concordia faculty and staff, she was able to complete majors in economics and political science while remaining in Washington, D.C.
“I caught Potomac fever,” Wodiska says, “and I’ve never left.”
Since her initial opportunity with the Washington Semester Program, Wodiska has worked all over the greater D.C. area, including the Department of State, Senate and the National School Board Association, before becoming the director of education at the National Governors Association.
“I have a life and a job that was a dream for me,” she says. “I feel so grateful for the various opportunities Concordia gave me.”
Wodiska hasn’t forgotten the generosity shown to her. This year, she and her husband, Russell, decided to include Concordia in their estate planning.
One way to do this is to include the college as the beneficiary of a percentage of an estate. In the Wodiskas’ case, because they are young donors, their estate should grow over time, meaning Concordia’s portion will grow as well.
Estate planning is a great addition to annual giving, says Teresa Harland, associate vice president for Advancement. Younger alumni often don’t consider estate planning because they feel they’re too young, but it is a good time to make a commitment because their estate will grow throughout the course of their lifetime.
“It’s a great way to give to your alma mater,” Harland says.
More than 650 people have included Concordia in their estate planning, Harland says. These people make up the Founders Society. Although Wodiska is not the youngest member of the Founders Society, she is part of a younger group of alumni who have included Concordia College in their estates.
Wodiska always expected she’d give back to the college in some way.
“At Concordia, education is surrounded by the value of public service,” she says. “A commitment (to the college) is an extension of that mission to serve others.”
Additionally, Wodiska believes that Concordia helped to shape her individuality through the one-on-one attention that students are given.
“I was not treated as a number, I was treated as a person,” she says. “It was a venue to let my strengths really shine. That was my experience at Concordia.”
That experience led her on the road she has traveled since.
“(The program) was for a semester,” she says. “I made it into a lifetime.