Alex Alexiades will graduate with his BS in environmental science.

Meet Alexandros Alexiades (’23), Concordia’s first-ever Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science graduate who forewent a full-ride scholarship at a state school in favor of Concordia’s faith-filled, personalized approach.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories highlighting a few Concordia’s uncommon May 2023 graduates. Faculty and staff submit candidates for consideration. Stories are posted in the days leading up to commencement. View more uncommon graduates here

Alexandros Alexiades has his sights set on big things.

The first student to ever graduate from Concordia University Wisconsin with an environmental science degree, Alexandros is in the running for a coveted internship at the Shedd Aquarium. And when it comes to aquariums, it doesn’t get much bigger than the Shedd. The Chicago-based aquarium was for some time the largest indoor facility in the world.

But in order to get to life’s big payoffs, one often has to take a million little steps along the way. Alexandros knows the importance of this process. Time and again, the environmental science major’s daily discipline and seemingly small choices have added up to big rewards.

Among those big payoffs: earning a college degree. On Saturday, he’ll join the hundreds of other CUW candidates for graduation as he celebrates commencement.

Weighty athletics decisions

A D1 athletics recruit, Alexandros forewent a full-ride scholarship to wrestle at Kent State in favor of Concordia. The university’s proximity to his Chicagoland family was extremely important to him. He identifies his mom and dad as his biggest supporters. Concordia’s DIII status meant that his competitions would stay relatively close. As a result, his father was able to attend all but two meets throughout Alexandros’ athletics career.

Wrestling helped to affirm the value of a small-steps mentality, whether it was managing his diet and workout regimen in order to make a certain weight class or navigating the challenges of a relatively new sport at the collegiate level. Alexandros had been en route to collegiate soccer stardom when an injury sidelined him from that sport early in his high school career. Instead, he turned to wrestling and eventually rose to a level where top colleges were eyeing him. Though the transition from soccer to wrestling may have seemed effortless to outsiders, Alexandros said it took quite a bit of effort and adjustment on his part.

“Wrestling is a very hard sport, so it doesn’t just happen overnight,” Alexandros explained. “It’s a lot different than soccer. Wrestling is a team sport, but it’s only you on the mat at the end of the day.”

Big opportunities come with small class sizes

Alexandros’ “small-school” choice also paid off in dividends when it came to his academic experience. While Concordia boasts the second-largest enrollment of any private college in Wisconsin, the university purposefully maintains a low student-to-teacher ratio. For Alexandros, that access to professors made all the difference.

“At Kent State or any of the other schools that were recruiting me, I would have been in a lecture hall of over 400 people,” Alexandros said. “Coming here, especially with the classes within my major, I have anywhere from eight to 24 classmates. That allows me to have a relationship with my professors. It allows them to get a better read as to who is understanding the material in the moment rather than waiting for assessments to come back in. That was a huge difference for me.”

At Kent State or any of the other schools that were recruiting me, I would have been in a lecture hall of over 400 people. At Concordia, I had anywhere from eight to 24 classmates. …That was a huge difference for me.

Alexandros Alexiades (BS Environmental Science ’23)

When Alexandros made the decision to attend Concordia, he did so knowing that CUW didn’t offer the exact major he wanted. Still, he took a chance and trusted that things would work out. Partway through his CUW tenure, Concordia launched the Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science program. While similar to the already-existing and thriving Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies degree, the newer degree hones in on more math and chemistry instruction, which Alexandros felt would ultimately better prepare him for his future career.

The creation of the new degree started a domino effect of new opportunities for Alexandros. In 2020 he enrolled in a course taught by Dr. Mark Schmitz. Schmitz then reached out to Alexandros to encourage him to apply for a job within the Concordia Center for Environmental Studies (CCES). That job resulted in some of the most hands-on and formative learning opportunities Alexandros could have hoped for.

Great lakes wildlife conservation

Alex Alexiades, an environmental science major, holds a lake sturgeon.

A highlight of his CCES experience was nurturing the lake sturgeon that the Wisconsin DNR granted permission for Concordia to house starting in 2017. An endangered species in some parts of the world, lake sturgeon are an incredibly old species of fish and are known by their unique, almost shark-like look.

When Concordia received its most recent batch, the fish were only about 4.5 inches. In the wild, they can grow to more than 8 feet in length. The goal of Concordia housing the fish is to rear them to a point of healthy release.

Right away, Alexandros took ownership of the sturgeon and took great pride in seeing them develop. He’d commit anywhere from three to five hours biweekly to cleaning their tank alone. Alexandros said the experience of releasing them into Lake Michigan was surreal.

“I was near tears because it was coming full circle,” Alexandros said. “We had scares with them. Some would jump out of the tanks and we just really had to watch them. I was so proud of the journey that we all went through.”

A Shedd Aquarium hopeful

His extensive hands-on experience with animal husbandry and conservation efforts have helped pad his resume for his dream position at the Shedd Aquarium.

Alexandros was privileged to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the Shedd thanks to a Concordia connection. The parents of one of his wrestling teammates is friends with an employee at the facility, and when they heard of Alexandros’ interest they didn’t hesitate to reach out on his behalf. During Alexandros’ private tour of the Shedd Aquarium last summer, he was able to meet the head of the Fresh Water Exhibit. Alexandros said the individual was impressed with all that he had done while at Concordia, which gives him hope that he’ll land a coveted internship after graduation.

Either way, Alexandros’ passion rests in conservation and he’s certain his time at Concordia has prepared him well for his future. He’s also certain the Lord will provide, just as God guided his decision-making process when he chose Concordia.

“At the end of my first visit to Concordia we went out to the bluff to look at the lake. I can still just remember looking out at the water and feeling on my shoulders a weight being dropped.”

Alexandros credits that moment to the Lord’s provision of peace.

“I talk to God a lot when it comes to big decisions in my life,” Alexandros said. “It’s so clear to me that He has had a hand in providing for me during my time at Concordia.”    

Want in?

The School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) at Concordia encompasses a broad range of disciplines, across 13 departments and representing more than 40 degree programs. The SAS also guides the experience of all Concordia undergraduate students through the Concordia Core. Far from the typical “general education” track, the Concordia Core gifts students with a true liberal arts education that builds in you the knowledge, skills, and habits needed to achieve lifelong professional and personal success. The Core invites you to explore and take part in life’s most enduring questions, great conversations, and the universal issues confronting humanity.

As you learn through this shared experience, you become a Concordian. You claim a distinctive perspective that empowers you to lead a life of uncommon purpose in all of the diverse experiences of your life. At Concordia we like to think of it this way: we’re not educating you just to “make a living, but to live a life.”