For the past 20 years, Jeff Shawhan has steadily chipped away at his snow- carving craft, and this year his perseverance paid off in a big way.

The Concordia assistant professor of art and his three teammates took home a coveted win at the International Snow Sculpting Championships in

Breckenridge, Colorado. This was the team’s seventh year competing and their first win.

Snow sculpting is not for the faint of heart. It requires a tremendous amount of stamina, physical fitness, and skill.

“Competitions last for days, and you’re carving through the night, so it’s pretty grueling,” Shawhan said. “Some years I’ll say I’m done, but the competitive side of me always pulls me back in.”

The Breckenridge competition lasted four days, with temperatures dropping well below 0 F. Nine teams from around the world competed using only hand tools to carve out of 12-foot, 54,000-pound blocks of snow.

Throughout his 26 years at CUW, Shawhan has been a source of inspiration for countless students and has motivated many to utilize their gifts beyond the classroom.

When Shawhan organized an ice-carving competition for Winterfest at The Corners of Brookfield in 2018, he encouraged Taylor Strohmenger (’17) to sign up, and she has been hooked ever since.

She’s gone on to compete in Cedarburg’s Winter Festival ice- sculpting competition and has taken home two second-place wins in the past three years.

The value of her Concordia education extends far beyond the skills and motivation she acquired while on campus, however.

“Having my foundation in Jesus is absolutely essential,” Strohmenger said. “I’m very thankful that my courses at Concordia, in all content areas, helped point me to my faith and encouraged me to give God the glory.”

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Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the spring 2022 issue of Hearts Together, a Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor Special Magazine edition. The fall/winter issue 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 Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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