Augustana College President Steve Bahls has received the 2022 Career Services Champion Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) for his innovative leadership in career development programming for students, according to a college release.

This national recognition annually honors a college or university president who supports and demonstrates forward-thinking leadership in strengthening career services/education. President Bahls will receive this year’s award at the NACE annual meeting in Portland, Ore., in June.

With Bahls at the helm, Augustana created CORE (Career, Opportunities, Research, and Exploration). CORE combines internships, entrepreneurial development, student research, study away, and community-based learning centers with career development and vocation into one, newly renovated hub in the middle of campus.

Augustana president Steven Bahls is retiring this summer after a 19-year tenure with the private college (photo: Paul Colletti).

“CORE is unique in the way it brings so many services together in one place,” Bahls said in the release. “And our professional team in CORE is unique in the way they help students see how all of their college experiences will contribute to their life’s pathway and success after college.”

For Bahls, who is wrapping up his 19-year tenure as Augustana’s eighth president, career services and career education have always been important. Upon his arrival in 2003, he established himself as a driven, dedicated champion for career development on the liberal arts college campus.

In 2014, as part of the college’s strategic plan, Augustana 2020: Enhancing Student Success, Before and After Graduation, President Bahls prioritized “enhanced preparation” to ensure students have distinguished career and graduate school successes, as the top priority within four strategic directions. Resources were diverted to create CORE.

According to Laura Kestner-Ricketts, executive director for career and professional development in CORE, “President Bahls has continued to invest in CORE through his tenure.”

In response to a staffing proposal submitted in spring 2021, the president and the Board of Trustees approved an increase in staff from three career coaches to five with additional professionals focused on vocation (defined as the pursuit of lives of purpose and meaning) to support earlier career and life decision-making.

Kestner-Ricketts reports that the addition of new staff has increased individual career coaching appointments with students by 260% during the past five years. Other important CORE outcomes include:

  • 75% of students complete at least one internship before graduation.
  • 93% of students who apply to graduate school get into their first-choice institution.
  • 98% of graduates surveyed said that they were in graduate school, employed or in
    professional service within six months of graduation.

“CORE allows this college to sharpen and redouble our commitment to focus on students’ career preparation, develop their skills, and help them to discern and create meaningful pathways to success,” Bahls said.