Meet the 2018 Covenant Award Recipients

The 2018 Covenant Award recipients (from left to right): Abel Negash, Hannah Norem, Rachel Challes and Shelby Selland. Not pictured: Alex Cassady. Photo by Noah Wicks '21.

Five students were recognized for their exemplary commitment to the values of Christian faith, the liberal arts, academic excellence, community and service, respectively, at Augustana’s 2018 Covenant Award ceremony, held Friday on campus. The ceremony was part of Verdier 2018, a week-long celebration of the core values that serve as the foundation for Augustana’s academic and student life programs.

A significant tradition at Augustana, the Covenant Awards are named in honor of each of the University’s five core values: Christian, Liberal Arts, Excellence, Community and Service. A committee of faculty and staff review nominations from the entire campus community.

The 2018 Covenant Award recipients are:

Alex Cassady, Covenant Award for Christian Faith

Nominees for the Covenant Award for Christian Faith are those who, during their time at Augustana, have searched for a calling that honors the Christian faith; who actively integrate faith and actions; who see their life journey as part of a bigger tapestry; who are growing in faith; and who are comfortable discussing their faith with others.

In receiving this award, Cassady was described by nominators as someone who “has been committed to spending time in God’s word, seeking to grow to know Him in a deeper way” in her weekly Bible studies with her peers and her mentors at the Elmen Center. Cassady is seen as someone who is willing to pray for others, approaching them with a “spirit of grace and gentleness; she is a humble servant and a loyal friend.” Nominators said Cassady has put her faith into action by starting a campus group that has worked diligently to provide material means for the less fortunate. As one nominator wrote, “It is truly astounding when you look at the sheer amount of activities she is involved in that are focused on serving others.”

Common words nominators used to describe Cassady were “humble,” “gracious” and “servant.” As one nominator wrote, “she is a quiet force when it comes to faith.” 

Cassady is majoring in sign language interpreting and communication disorders. She is from Otsego, Minnesota, and is the daughter of Doug and Jennifer Cassady.

Shelby Selland, Covenant Award for Liberal Arts

Nominees for the Covenant Award for Liberal Arts are those who have demonstrated a love of learning for its own sake; acknowledged or forged connections between academic disciplines; connected curricular and co-curricular interests; related their studies to important issues of human existence; and whose commitment to the liberal arts has shaped their plans for the future.

In receiving this award, Selland was described by her nominators as “someone who epitomizes the values of a liberal arts student and does so with absolute excellence.” Nominators said Selland’s passion for learning for the sake of learning seeps into every aspect of her life: through her academic success in the classroom, her dedication to service in her community, her conviction to represent those who are underrepresented and underserved, and her motivation and perseverance as a member Augustana’s women’s basketball team.

One nominator wrote that “one day, I wish for my future children to have a teacher just like Ms. Selland.”

Selland is an elementary education major from Letcher, South Dakota. She is the daughter of Brett and Kelly Selland.

Hannah Norem, Covenant Award for Excellence

Nominees for the Covenant Award for Excellence are those who commit themselves to high virtuous and ethical standards, personal integrity, human excellence, self-discipline, and self-improvement. These nominees are known for bringing out excellence in others. Their commitment to excellence has shaped their plans for the future.

In receiving this award, Norem was described by her nominators as a “remarkable” individual.

“Hannah is a musician in the orchestra, is very active in student government, and for three years, has volunteered as a Viking Guide. (She does all this with) three majors, a minor, and a Civitas curriculum. I can’t think of anyone who sets higher standards (for themselves).”

About Norem’s work as a tutor in the Writing Center, another nominator wrote that she is “the only tutor able to really understand the way I think and speak my language … (she) made sure I understood the concepts so that I would be a better writer.”

Norem has been accepted to 13 of 13 graduate schools thus far and her dream is to simultaneously attend law school and divinity school.

“I have no doubt that Hannah will be one of the best representatives for Augustana we have ever had,” one nominator wrote.

Norem is majoring in government & international affairs, religion and French. She is from Houston, Texas, and is the daughter of Dr. Nathan and Monica Norem.

Abel Negash, Covenant Award for Community

Nominees for the Covenant Award for Community are described as those who have demonstrated and fostered respect for others; who act as a leader, earning the respect of others; who have left a mark on the campus and broader communities; and whose commitment to community has shaped their plans for the future.

In receiving this award, Negash was described by his nominators as someone who “has demonstrated that achieving success isn't simply about motivating himself. More importantly, it is about raising others’ consciousness and awareness, being an advocate and inspiring others.”

Nominators said Negash’s enthusiasm for people in all their diversity, along with his commitment to peace and social justice issues makes him an “intense conversationalist who always engages others with thought-provoking ideas and ethical questions."

"He greatly influences those around him and has the ability to transform the dynamics of a group because he has a contagious joy for life and the intellectual prowess to develop successful community endeavors.”

Another nominator wrote that Negash “challenges us with powerful advice (from Buddha) that has emulated in his four years at Augustana: ‘Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.’”

Negash is majoring in economics and business administration. He is from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and is the son of Mulugeta Negash.

Rachel Challes, Covenant Award for Service

Nominees for the Covenant Award for Service are described as those who have a commitment to service on campus and in the broader community; who inspire others to serve; who serve quietly without fanfare and with no desire for recognition; and whose future plans have been shaped by service.

In receiving this award, Challes was described by her nominators as someone who “has a heart of service.”

“From rocking babies in the NICU to taking part in numerous community service activities, during her time at Augustana, Rachel has coordinated several campus-wide community service activities, served the Bowden Youth Center, Avera Prince of Peace and Kids Against Hunger, just to name a few.”

Citing her “strong leadership skills and service-driven spirit,” another nominator wrote that Challes has “worked hard to establish trusting and caring relationships with everyone she meets across campus, within organization meetings, throughout her community service efforts, and during her time with patients.”

Challes is a nursing major from Andover, Minnesota. She is the daughter of Jim and Kathy Challes.


Kelly Sprecher
Director of Media Relations
605.274.5526