Augustana shines nationwide for job placement as it plans for future workforce needs

July 1, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

It’s one thing to find a job right out of college. It’s another to still be thriving in the workforce a decade after graduation.

And a recently released study shows students who graduate from Augustana University are leading the nation when it comes to post-graduation employment.

The university ranked second nationwide, with a 96.05 percent employment rate for its graduates over a 10-year period.

“We’re very excited to receive this recognition because it validates the story we’ve been proud to tell for years regarding our robust job placement success,” Augustana president Stephanie Herseth Sandlin said.

“It reflects the commitment of the faculty and administrators inside Augustana and the many partnerships that have been cultivated over the years that lead to opportunities post-graduation.”

The survey was completed by the career site Zippia and used federal data from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard to ensure accuracy of its education and employment statistics.

“The methodology is robust, using federal data points and a large sample size,” said Billie Streufert, executive director of Augustana’s Student Success Center.

“The national recognition reinforces the effectiveness of our foundational approach to higher education that helps students transition into leaders who think critically, communicate clearly and solve unstructured problems.”

Building from a core liberal arts base, Augustana emphasizes high-impact practices throughout a student’s education that prepare the student for success in the workplace.

Those include experiential learning opportunities such as internships, student teaching, study abroad and undergraduate research.

“We have a very high number of undergraduates who actually get to participate in research alongside their faculty in the natural sciences — like biology, chemistry and physics — as well as the social sciences,” Herseth Sandlin said.

“We want our graduates to add value right away, even as student interns, and then because of what employers experience in a short amount of time as strong contributors, they become emerging leaders in those organizations, and employers invest in them further.”

Augustana’s approach to teaching is designed to help develop future leaders, added Colin Irvine, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university.

“Leadership in the classroom is cultivated in situations where there are projects and open-ended experiences as opposed to sitting in lectures and being passive,” he said.

“And there’s an element of service associated with leadership, which we’re cultivating as a sensibility in students. We want them to look around and think, ‘What could I do that could do something for others, and what should I do given the opportunities I’ve been given and the skills people are helping me discover?’”

Health care partnership

Augustana and Sanford Health are close. They’re close geographically, within an easy walk or bike ride in central Sioux Falls. They’re close foundationally, as both have roots in the Lutheran faith. And they’re close professionally, working together to prepare young people for careers in health care. It’s one example of how Augustana is partnering with the business community to help meet workforce needs.

“We’re fortunate that Augustana has such a longstanding history of producing very high-quality graduates,” said Diana Vanderwoude, Sanford’s senior executive director with human resources.

“We have regular engagement with Augustana about what our workforce needs are, looking at what the hot jobs are and the types of programs they might consider starting based on our workforce needs.”

Augustana and Sanford have worked together to create a nursing program that’s more than a decade old.

“It’s all around creating a more meaningful and welcoming student experience when nurses are in practical environments,” Vanderwoude said. “We’ve co-published two articles around that and have a third underway.”

Augustana also provides a significant undergraduate experience for eventual medical students, she added.

“They have very strong biology and chemistry programs, and we’ve worked together through our Sanford PROMISE research initiative to offer a variety of undergraduate and graduate internships during the summer and the academic year.”

The collaboration produces a true win-win for both organizations.

“It’s a decades-long relationship, and we’re both always looking for opportunities to work together, particularly in emerging fields of medicine such as genetic counseling,” Herseth Sandlin said.

Augustana alumnus and current trustee Dr. Gene Hoyme, former president of Sanford Research, medical director of Sanford Children’s Genomic Medicine Consortium and senior adviser for Sanford Imagenetics, helped bridge collaboration between the two that created a genetic counseling program to prepare students for futuristic jobs in personalized medicine.

“Dr. Hoyme always felt our natural sciences programs were of a quality and rigor that, when also blended with our liberal arts core, prepared students so well for medical school and other careers in the natural sciences, and he has become one of many internal advocates for Augustana,” Herseth Sandlin said.

“And even those who aren’t alumni are familiar with the rigor of our academic programming, which serves Sanford and our community partners well in a variety of contexts, including hiring for positions such as human resources, finance and marketing professionals.”

The two organizations also have a long history of collaboration preparing students for careers in athletic training, exercise sciences and sports management.

“And we have a number of top executive leaders who are Augustana graduates,” Vanderwoude said. “That speaks to how Augustana prepares students with the ability to think critically and think through challenging and complex situations.”

There also are future opportunities to work together, she added.

“There’s opportunity for a graduate nursing degree. We’ve talked about advanced certificates in genetic counseling, and if you look at social work and psychology, there’s a great need for behavioral health professionals throughout the region and opportunities to expand in that area,” she said.

“I just welcome those conversations and appreciate that Augustana is a partner at the table.”

Preparing the future workforce

Augustana leaders know their graduates likely will go on to change careers or enter fields that aren’t even developed today.

But as they embark on a visioning and strategic planning process out to 2030, they’re cultivating a framework that will support educating for future occupational needs.

“We can’t know what 2030 will require, but we can build programs and develop a culture that is all about innovation,” Irvine said.

“We’re developing a model that can evolve and can add schools with the kind of facility that’s different from larger public institutions. We can move quickly and be very responsive as we know our mission and maintain our commitment to the liberal arts.”

For instance, a future MBA program could be developed as a core set of courses with spokes such as finance and health care administration that can change in response to community demands. Certificates and academic centers could be implemented to complement more traditional majors and minors.

“We’re OK talking about pretty much everything – internally and with our external partners,” Irvine said.

“If we’re not talking about it, we can’t know what people need and determine what we can do, so we’re really excited to open up the conversation.”

Augustana is hosting a series of corporate coffees related to its 2030 planning, and all business leaders are invited to attend or reach out to connect one-on-one. To learn more, email

“The business community has been exceptionally engaged with us,” Herseth Sandlin said.

“And I think it’s important they also know that all of us at Augustana recognize that higher education is experiencing the same disruption that many of our graduates and employers are experiencing in different sectors of the economy. And we believe we will all be served by innovating together and building partnerships for the future.”

To get connected to workforce development opportunities in the Sioux Falls area, visit

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Augustana shines nationwide for job placement as it plans for future workforce needs

It’s one thing to find a job right out of college. It’s another to still be thriving in the workforce a decade after graduation. Augustana’s strategies clearly are hitting the mark, with top national recognition for job placement and a commitment to partnering with the business community.

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