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Viking Score lays out path to employment

The Viking Score is a new career development tool offered through CORE (Careers, Opportunities, Research, Exploration) at Augustana. Using the Viking Score worksheet, students keep track of steps they can take to achieve a high level of professional preparation, such as attending career and graduate school fairs and workshops, meeting with career development staff, completing internships and creating a portfolio.

In this Q&A interview, President Steve Bahls and Provost Pareena Lawrence discuss the features and benefits of the Viking Score.

Q: What is the Viking Score?

Provost Lawrence: The Viking Score is a tool, a resource and also a process, so it fills all of those roles. It's interesting that in academics, you have a transcript telling you what courses you've taken and how well you have done. It keeps a check on students' progress. Yet, with professional development, or learning how to prepare to get a job, there hasn't been a specific curriculum to follow or a transcript that records how well you're doing.

What the Viking Score does is give students a tool that guides their pathway, and it also gives them a transcript, a score sheet, right? So now they have a score to reach, and if they need 100 points and only have 10, they had better get working on that. They have a curriculum in the sense of workshops and other things they should be doing along the way. It gives them a direction.

Q: So, students in the past, we could say, had focused on completing requirements for their major and academic program. The Viking Score goes beyond academics?

Provost Lawrence: Yes, that's true and some students always went beyond that, but this gives all students a somewhat structured path to explore and pursue professional development opportunities. One of our goals with the Augustana 2020 strategic plan is to ensure that every student has these experiences. If we want to hit our goal of 90% having jobs right after graduation, or graduate school acceptances, every student needs to have a path. They need to be intentional and they need that plan.

Q: Could you further describe how the Viking Score is related to the strategic plan?

President Bahls: Augustana 2020 is heavily focused on outcomes for our students: leading lives of service and leading satisfying lives, including an active life of the mind and making a difference in the community. What I like about the Viking Score is that it recognizes that a first step toward reaching those larger goals is to have a job.

It's hard to make a difference in your community if you're not employed. It's hard to have a satisfying life if you're living in someone's basement. The Viking Score, then, should be viewed as helping them take the first step toward the larger goals, and manifesting and providing evidence of the student learning outcomes we've asked them to focus on here.

Q: The Viking Score is new at Augustana. Are you aware of other schools that have anything like it?

President Bahls: I would call the Viking Score authentic. Some schools will give students a small stipend for job counseling, if they don't find a job within six months. Other schools will provide a modest loan repayment, if students don't get a job. That's not what our students want. They don't want outplacement service in six months, or a small amount of their loans paid down. They want a job, and the Viking Score has the steps to maximize students obtaining employment in today's economy.

It's rough to be a 22-year-old, because many job applications say, “experience required.” Well, if they complete workshops and internships encouraged by the Viking Score, they will accumulate experience while at Augustana.

Provost Lawrence: If I can follow up on that... Though many schools have similar programs, what Augustana has done, with the Viking Score and all the programming that goes along with it, is really taken an educational and developmental approach to prepare students for success. Students come in the first year and they start exploring majors and careers and all the opportunities available to them. Then we move from exploration to planning in the second year. They go into doing their own self-assessment: Who am I? What do I want to do? And then around that same time they start exploring the world of work.

So it's incremental, it's developmental, it's a four-year approach, rather than waiting until spring term of senior year to start worrying about jobs and graduate school opportunities.

Q: That sounds a lot like what it means to “take ownership of a career path.” Would you have anything to add to that?

President Bahls: Well, I do think that as today's students look at finding jobs, they experience some approach-avoidance syndrome. That is, the closer they get to needing a job, the more they avoid the steps it takes to get the job. That's often manifest in identifying the ideal job and going after just that one job, which may or may not be obtainable. It manifests in getting a late start with respect to constructing a résumé, or having an internship.

The Viking Score in fact provides students with the ability to obtain this big goal, which they're afraid of, one step at a time. That's what I mean by “authentic.” They can do it for themselves, if it's one step at a time.

Q: And they will have that confidence, as well, which seems so necessary.

Provost Lawrence: Yes, that's part of the philosophy behind the Viking Score. I think as we look at the critique of colleges in preparing students for their careers, particularly the critique of liberal arts colleges, part of what we are doing is showing that our students do have a plan, yet also allowing our students to explore. As a liberal arts college, from the first year we want our students to experience, to explore and to ask the right questions. And as they do that, they start asking — “What is my purpose, my passion?” “What motivates me?” — and then acting on it. Because just asking these questions is not enough. Students need to take intentional steps.

Q: How do you see the Viking Score advancing in future years?

Provost Lawrence: We will refine it further. This is the launch year, and there are more avenues to explore, programs to add, and calibrations to be made.

Q: How is it working, so far?

Provost Lawrence: From what we hear in terms the numbers of students who have participated in workshops, come to CORE, met with advisors, started their résumés, begun their LinkedIn profiles, gotten their professional photos taken... it's been a great start.

President Bahls: I think well over half of our first-year students have visited CORE and started on their Viking Score.

Provost Lawrence: Actually it's been more seniors, which is exactly what is needed in the inaugural year! In just the first 15 weeks, it's been nearly half of the student body, overall.

President Bahls: So if you think about that — half of our students visiting CORE — in years past it was a challenge to get 10 percent of the student body up to our career services office. It's a dramatic improvement.... Can I make a couple of final observations?

Q: Absolutely.

President Bahls: Although I feel very strongly about the need for students (who are not going to graduate school) to find jobs requiring a college degree within six months of graduating, Augustana is more than a jobs machine. Liberal arts colleges are more than a cog in the economic wheel. You should ask who you are before you ask what you want to be. It's important to keep this in perspective. The Viking Score is a dynamic program that's a piece of the larger program at Augustana College.

I would also say that I feel so strongly about the benefits of the Viking Score for prospective students visiting Augustana. I tell students: download the Viking Score from our website, and even if you don't come to Augustana, use it. It is such a great tool. But if you come to Augustana, I guarantee it: We will walk hand in hand with you to help you achieve that score of 100.

Check your Viking Score

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