Bahls honored for career development leadership

Augustana College President Steven Bahls has added an award for innovative leadership in career development programming to the long list of honors he has received in his 19 years at the helm of the Rock Island institution. 

Mr. Bahls will receive the 2022 Career Services Champion Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) at the organization’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, in June – just one month before he retires as the college’s president.

He is being for Augustana’s CORE program. The annual award honors a college or university president who supports and demonstrates forward-thinking leadership in strengthening career services/education. 

CORE, which stands for Career, Opportunities, Research, and Exploration, combines internships, entrepreneurial development, student research, study away programs, and community-based learning centers with career development and vocation into one, newly renovated hub in the middle of campus. 

“CORE is unique in the way it brings so many services together in one place,” Mr. Bahls said.  “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.” 

In a news release Monday, April 11, Augusta said this about the award: “For President 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, Mr. Bahls prioritized “enhanced preparation” to ensure students have distinguished career and graduate school successes, as the top priority within four strategic directions, the release said. Resources were diverted to create CORE. 

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

In response to a staffing proposal submitted in spring 2021, the college said, Mr. Bahls 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. 

Ms. Kestner-Ricketts reports that the addition of new staff has increased individual career coaching appointments with students by 260% during the past five years. 

Through CORE: 

  • 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,” Mr. Bahls said.

In addition, Augustana’s innovative program, Augie Choice, which was created under Mr. Bahls in 2008, transforms students into global citizens, thinkers and doers with a $2,000 grant to explore the world, complete an internship or conduct research with a professor.


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