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Graduate student helps build new CCR certificate at WKU

Graduate student helps build new CCR certificate at WKU

When Rachel Bauer was in high school, she imagined herself on a very different career path. However, there was one persistent passion that continued to drive her forward: her love for people.

“Ever since high school, I knew I wanted to go into a helping profession. I was working in a hospital after I got my undergrad degree, and I realized that was not want I wanted to do. The field didn’t feel like a good fit for me,” Bauer said. “However, I knew I still wanted to work with people. My aunt, who is a school counselor in Evansville, invited me to come shadow her at work. I visited a couple times, and I absolutely fell in love with it. I knew I could see myself doing that job for many years down the road.”

Soon after, Bauer applied and was admitted to the School Counseling Program within the Department of Counseling & Student Affairs at WKU. Then, she set her sights on a graduate assistantship. Dr. Cheryl Wolf recruited Bauer for a graduate research assistant position revolving around college and career readiness (CCR). Their research has aided a collaborative partnership between the Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce, Warren County and Bowling Green City school districts, and local businesses to better prepare high school graduates for the regional workforce.

“The Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce has looked at the regional needs for the future. They’re looking at what jobs are going to be available and trying to figure out how we can support local businesses and industry in filling those positions with qualified workers,” Bauer explained. “They started this partnership…to have everyone at the table collaborating together on how we can prepare students to fill these jobs with the necessary skills they need to be able to do it and ways we can inform students about the careers that are available and the opportunities they could have in our area schools.”

College and career readiness as a concept is not new; the push to prepare middle and high school students to enter the workforce or attend college has long been a focus for educators. However, Bauer found that the traditional approach to CCR lacks a strong career connection component, resulting in lower retention rates at the collegiate level. A large component of her research focuses on the success of other schools in the region in implementing a new career academy model to improve CCR.

“In this model, when students come into high school they choose a pathway—or academy—that they want to go into that aligns with what they are passionate about. For example, there could be health science, business, or marketing pathways,” Bauer said.

Specifically, they’ve examined Nashville schools to see how the academy model might improve college and career readiness in students.

“They’ve switched over twelve of their high schools to the academy model, and it has completely transformed their schools. Their graduation rates have increased, their disciplinary issues have decreased, and the students are reporting that the connection between education and career is making the information more engaging and they’re actually wanting to come to school,” said Bauer.

In evaluating Nashville City Schools’ success with the academy model, Bauer hoped to find ways Bowling Green-area schools can implement similar tactics and even better prepare students for college or careers. She noted that currently, Bowling Green High School plans to implement a Health Science Academy, and some Warren County schools are implementing different career-focused pathways to graduation in their curricula. At many schools, initiatives for improving CCR typically fall onto guidance counselors. However, in the process of their research, Dr. Wolf and Bauer found a surprising need.

“We’re finding in a lot of schools that while college and career readiness is an important aspect of education for students, it’s too much for school counselors to do. They already take care of so much, and not having one person dedicated to CCR is actually hurting students in the long run,” Bauer said.

She explained that some schools have sought the help of college and career readiness coaches (CCRCs) devoted to enhancing CCR in schools. However, there wasn’t a specific program available in higher education to train CCRCs.

“Across the country, there is no program to train professionals or future professionals to work in schools for college and career readiness. There is no certificate program that exists, so we are literally gathering pieces of literature and our research findings to build a five-course, fifteen-hour certificate program at WKU,” said Bauer.

To fill this need, the Department of Counseling & Student Affairs is building a revolutionary certificate program from the ground up. The College and Career Readiness certificate program is now available to educators and other professionals who want to enhance students’ preparedness for their futures. The first course in the program, CNS 501: College and Career Readiness Consultation and Collaboration, begins this fall. (More: Find out more about the new certificate programs in the Department of Counseling and Student Affairs.)

Counseling may not have been what Bauer initially set out to do, but her time at WKU is helping bridge her education with real-world experience.

“Coming into this position as Dr. Wolf’s research assistant has been so beneficial to me, because I’m getting my foot in the door in the education world and learning not only so much about college and career readiness that is going to benefit my career as a school counselor, but I’m also learning more about the education world. I feel really lucky, because I’m getting the experience that I didn’t have before, but it’s going to align with what I want to do.”

Rachel Bauer is a graduate assistant who works with Dr. Cheryl Wolf in different areas of her work, including research, teaching, and course development. She will receive her master’s degree from WKU next spring. Learn more about the College and Career Readiness Certificate Program online.

Contact: Counseling and Student Affairs, (270) 745-4953

Department of Counseling and Student Affairs Announces New Graduate Certificate Programs and Undergraduate Counseling Courses

The Department of Counseling and Student Affairs at WKU announces two new graduate certificate programs. Both the College and Career Readiness Graduate Certificate Program and Addictions Education Graduate Certificate Program can be completed online and are open to anyone with interest in the subject matter. (Only a bachelor degree is required to apply.) Additionally, the Department offers two undergraduate courses that are open to any undergraduate student. No prerequisites required.

College and Career Readiness (CCR) Graduate Certificate Program

This 15-hour certificate program is for graduate students who desire to interact and intervene with P-12 students preparing for college and/or career as well as develop professional relationships with school-related stakeholders. The College and Career Readiness (CCR) certificate is created to support the career and college readiness needs of local, regional, and national P-12 students. Students will have opportunities to participate in action research and service learning consultation activities.

For more information, visit or contact the program coordinator, Dr. Jill Duba Sauerheber at

Addictions Education (AE) Graduate Certificate Program

This 15-hour graduate interdisciplinary certificate program prepares students to provide counseling, education services, and/or support services to individuals experiencing addiction issues. Individuals who complete the program will be knowledgeable about the various components of addictions and gain skills related to their professional field such as prevention strategies, assessment procedures, intervention skills, treatment planning, and recovery support. This program is appropriate for both licensed eligible mental health professionals (i.e., Professional Counselors, Social Workers), as well as bachelor level employees (i.e., mental health support professionals, human resources administrators and staff).

For more information, visit or contact the program coordinator, Dr. Andrea Jenkins at

Undergraduate Counseling Courses

The Department of Counseling and Student Affairs also offers two undergraduate counseling-related courses. No prerequisites necessary!

  • CNS 110 Human Relations (3 credit hours).
  • CNS 432 Helping Skills (3 credit hours).

Contact: Counseling and Student Affairs, (270) 745-4953

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 Last Modified 5/2/17