Humble but mighty, Buena Vista University Senior focuses on lasting leadership

Zach Ahrens, a graduating senior Human Performance major at Buena Vista University (BVU), is the recipient of this year’s Iowa Campus Compact Student Leadership Award. Since his first-year of college, Zach has pushed himself to step outside of his comfort zone to engage deeply in community work.

“I took risks by applying for positions that I was not entirely comfortable with at first,” says Zach of his path to becoming a community engagement leader. “Those challenges helped mold me into who I am today, and I am grateful for the mentors who have empowered me.”

One of those mentors, Dr. Ashley Farmer-Hanson, the Assistant Dean for Student Life and Director of Civic Engagement at BVU, has been so impressed by Zach’s transformation that she nominated him for this award.

“Zach is a servant leader in every form and demonstrates that through his commitment to a variety of leadership roles, but also through his interactions with his peers and community partners,” said Farmer-Hanson. “He has gone above and beyond to ensure every Buena Vista University student knows and understands their duty to serve others with their talents and gifts.”


BVU senior Zach Ahrens accepts his award from IACC Board Chair President Barbara Decker.
Zach’s personal leadership has been shaped by his experiences during college. He has come to believe that leaders can and always will be replaced by new leaders, making them expendable.

“Leadership is the platform on which the leader can choose to use for personal gain or broader community-wide improvement,” said Zach.

This perspective has helped him to build long-term capacity for future leaders at BVU so they can build on the foundation he has helped establish. This approach to leadership has been apparent in every role Zach has held while in college including President of Student MOVE (Mobilizing Outreach & Volunteer Efforts), a site leader and active participant in A.W.O.L. (BVU’s alternative break program), andBV Buddies mentor to high school and middle school youth. Additionally, Zach has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA summer associate and an Iowa College AmeriCorps Program member in the local community.

Zach’s leadership has not only been recognized on campus, but in the Storm Lake Community as well. Jay Dahlhauser, Executive Director of the Bridge at Storm Lake, a community non-profit organization where Zach frequently served, greatly appreciated his contributions.

“Zach never complained, but he rolled up his sleeves and rallied his team members around him to do the same thing,” said Dahlhauser. “He is simply one of the best volunteers that we have worked alongside.”

Dr. Farmer-Hanson summarized Zach’s accomplishments well, sharing that, “Zach has touched thousands of lives on campus, nationally, and internationally. He does not boast about his accomplishments, but rather he starts focusing on what else he can do to make the world a better place. As a college student, I am amazed at how wise he is beyond his years. His leadership will be missed at BVU, but because he has laid a solid foundation, it will outlast him.”