Stensland makes her mark on Cornell College Mock Trial

When it comes to coaching Cornell College’s Mock Trial team, the ultimate goal is the national championship. But for Abbe Stensland it’s about more than winning. It’s about building the skills to make students successful in the future.

Abbe Stensland
Abbe Stensland

Stensland has coached Cornell’s Mock Trial team since 2009. Her teams consistently rank in the top 7% of mock trial teams nationally and have qualified for the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) National Championship Tournament seven times, most recently in 2019.

Stensland and her coaching staff work with the team to build a foundation and inspire confidence as they perform. 

“My ultimate goal for the season never changes,” Stensland said. “We want to win a national championship. Perfection is the goal and we work every day to achieve that. My goal for the students and myself on a more global level is also always the same. It is my job to graduate mock trial students who are more articulate and better critical thinkers and extemporaneous speakers.” 

Stensland herself was a graduate of a mock trial program that changed her life. Stensland graduated from Central College in 2002 with degrees in biology and chemistry. While she was originally planning to become a doctor, she discovered the mock trial program and was immediately hooked. 

“It is cliche to say it, but mock trial literally changed the course of my life. It is how I found my professional calling and my life partner,” Stensland said.

After her college competition days and before coming to Cornell, Stensland helped with teams from Central and Mount Mercy while she was in law school. Knowing how mock trial changed the course of her life, Stensland says she wanted to help other students have similar experiences. After she began working as a litigation associate at a firm in Cedar Rapids, Stensland got a call that the coach at Cornell who started the program was leaving the college. She jumped at that chance and has been coaching Cornellians ever since.

Now she’s an attorney and chief risk officer at Central State Bank, a wife, and a mother of four. Stensland continues to enjoy putting in many hours with the mock trial team to maintain the successful program she has created. 

Through every year and with each team of students she sees a lot of potential. She’s proud to say that her squads leave Cornell with experiences that extend well beyond their mock trial competitions.

“The skills that are learned in mock trials are life skills that are transferable to any job,” Stensland said. “Mock trial should equip students with skills to go into the world and succeed, to argue with logic and passion for their opinions and beliefs. If I can do that, I have succeeded personally as a coach.”

Continuing her successful program is not the main reason she’s still coaching at Cornell. It’s the students. 

“Hands-down the reason I do this is the students,” she said. “I know what mock trial can do for students and it is the ability to work hard to have an impact that keeps me going. I hope when they leave the program, they know that I will always be the one person they can count on to have their back, to provide assistance, etc. If I can impact even one student even a little bit, it is worth it and that is why I coach.”

For more information on Cornell’s Mock Trial team visit its webpage on the Cornell website.