Campus Life

UWF President honored with national higher education career services award

For her forward-thinking leadership in support of career services education, University of West Florida President Martha D. Saunders is the 2019 National Association of Colleges and Employers Career Services Champion Award recipient.

The national award is bestowed upon one college or university president or chancellor from an accredited institution of higher education. The NACE Honors and Awards Committee selects the award winner. NACE members who express interest in serving, one board advisor and one NACE staff advisor form the committee.

Saunders prioritizes professional development, career readiness and long-term success for UWF graduates. Programs that incorporate experiential learning, follow a University-community partnership model and challenge students to answer real-world problems at the undergraduate level aid in fulfilling her commitment to graduating career-ready students.

“At UWF we think holistically about the future of our students,” Saunders said. “Beyond preparing them for a commencement ceremony, we focus on the personal and professional development of our students during their time at UWF. I’m honored to receive an award that reflects this commitment and ongoing endeavor.”

Initiatives like Argos Suit Up, which Saunders pledged $10,000 to in 2018, demonstrate her commitment to career readiness. Suit Up is a national program that bolsters students’ confidence and provides professional clothing at a discount through a partnership with JCPenney. More than 400 UWF students and alumni purchased discounted professional clothing at the event.

“President Saunders is known for leading by example and the her gift to establish the Suit Up program is another indication of her personal commitment to ensuring our students are prepared in all aspects of life,” said Dr. Kim LeDuff, vice president for academic engagement and interim vice president for student affairs. “For the last two years, it has been heartwarming to see the pride shared by students and their families as they buy professional clothing. Being able to dress appropriately gives them an additional boost of confidence as they enter the field.”

Saunders positively changes the landscape of career development for undergraduate students. Under her leadership, CDCE deployed a career readiness badging program which utilizes core competencies outlined by NACE to guide students as they navigate internships. The core competencies include critical thinking and problem-solving; oral and written communications; digital technology; leadership; professionalism and work ethic; career management; and global and intercultural fluency. The CDCE assesses where the student needs assistance and how the student can enhance competencies through the internship experience.

For more information about the Office of Career Development and Community Engagement, visit

For more information about the National Association of Colleges and Employers, visit