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AASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards - AASCU

AASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards 

The Excellence & Innovation Awards provide a means to celebrate and share successes, best practices and innovations at AASCU institutions.

Excellence & Innovation AwardAASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards are your chance to share the impact of your work with the higher education community. 

Award recipients are celebrated at the AASCU Annual Conference, on the AASCU website, across social media and in other media outlets. Presidents/chancellors from recognized campuses are invited to share highlights of your story during a plenary session at the AASCU Annual Conference. Winners receive a monetary contribution to a designated campus fund  or an engraved sculpture. 

Application information
  1. There is evidence of executive-level support and engagement in ensuring the success of the initiative 
  2. The initiative is connected to the institutional vision, mission, and strategic agenda and supports institutional transformation 
  3. There is evidence that the initiative has led to significant institutional improvements or innovative programming 
  4.  The initiative is grounded in research and incorporates best practices from the field

In addition to these general criteria for the awards overall, each award category specifies additional criteria that award applications must address. 

AASCU member institutions (including system offices) that have demonstrated significant and intentional support for an initiative in one or more of the award categories may apply. Support may be demonstrated  in the form of sustained effort e or as support and backing of a single major initiative.  

If an institution has won a category in the past two award cycles, they are ineligible to apply for that award category. 

  • Ex: an institution that won Leadership Development and Diversity in 2022 cannot apply for an award in that category in 2023 or 2024.
  • An institution that wants to apply to Leadership Development and Diversity in 2023 must not have won in that category in 2022 or 2021. 
  • That institution can apply for award(s) in any other category .

Applications for all award categories are due on or before Friday, April 21, 2023. Applications must be completed and submitted by the deadline in order to be considered for the award. Applications will be reviewed by AASCU members as outlined under each category description on this page. 

Award recipients will be notified in June 2023. 

Apply now.

Submit your award application by April 21. 

Applications must be completed and submitted by the deadline in order to be considered for the award. Each will be reviewed as outlined under each category description on this page. 

Applications open March 27.

Questions about the awards or the process? 

Ask us

Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award 

The Christa McAuliffe Award has long honored exemplary teacher education programs at AASCU member campuses that can document the success of their graduates in improving P-12 pupil learning outcomes. The award recognizes programs that have been adapted using evidence of P-12 impact in their pre-service programs as well as professional development programs. 

Applications in this category are reviewed by AASCU’s Committee on Teacher Education, which includes education deans from TECSCU. 

  • Institution must demonstrate evidence of impact on P-12 learning in pre-service and professional development programs.
  • Institution must explain how they have adapted their programs as a result of these P-12 learning outcomes.
  • Institution must provide clear rationale for program adaptation using evidence of P-12 impact

The criteria is designed to ensure that states that have rich data systems do not provide an unfair competitive advantage for their institutions, and that strategies and programs recognized by the award have the broadest possible application.

Apply now.
2022 Teacher Education Award Winner

Trauma-Informed Practices with Equity in Teacher Education: TIP-Equity, Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO)

The Office of Education Solutions in Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver)’s School of Education works to ensure that trauma-informed practices (TIP) become so fundamental to educator preparation and school systems that future educators will not remember a time without them. 

To achieve this goal, the Office of Education Solutions partnered with a local non-profit, Resilient Futures, to build the capacity of current and future teachers to recognize and respond to trauma in school environments with children, build healing and equitable classrooms, and address secondary trauma in themselves and their coworkers. The initiative integrates TIP with a lens of equity into the total School of Education curriculum for pre-service teachers. It also supports pre-service and in-service teachers and schools in implementing TIP through in-person and virtual professional development. 

Learn more.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Award

This award recognizes member institutions who demonstrate an outstanding commitment and dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion on their campus that led to removing barriers, improving student life, creating an engaged environment on campus for all individuals, and acts as a role model in advancing social justice. 

Applications in this category are reviewed by AASCU’s Executive Committee. 

  • The institution should demonstrate impact of initiatives stemming from inclusive behavioral and practical interventions to achieve an inclusive culture by challenging inequalities, barriers and bias in campus-wide administration, academic programs, and daily social activities. 
  • The institutions should demonstrate the incorporation of DEI values and behaviors in a way that results in a positive impact on organizational campus culture and the lives of students into the future. 
  • The institution should demonstrate evidence of effectiveness that validates students and employees/faculty’s sense of belonging, and feel they have a voice in their academic life and in achieving student success goals. 
Apply now.
2022 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Award Winner

Western Kentucky University’s ONE WKU Campaign

Western Kentucky University (WKU) strives to ensure all faculty, staff, and students are treated with dignity, respect, and equity. To accomplish this, WKU worked to create initiatives aimed at reducing biases and shifting the culture toward a more inclusive environment leveraging the combined power of all units on campus to dismantle systemic discrimination, barriers to inclusion, and unequal opportunities.  

The ONE WKU Campaign, which launched in 2020, comprehensively drives diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across campus, including book clubs, deliberative dialogues, and the Inclusive Teaching Academy (ITA). The ITA was the first program in the state to be approved by the Council on Postsecondary Education for its Cultural Competency Credential. 

Learn more.

International Education Award 

The International Education Award recognizes outstanding international programs and documents the success of institutions in infusing internationalization into one or more aspects of the university community, including curriculum, student/faculty exchange, study abroad, faculty professional development, international student recruitment, or community outreach.

Applications in this category are reviewed by the Committee on International Education. 

  • The institution should advance curriculum development, foster international opportunities, and creatively integrate international students into university life 
  • The institution should offer innovative programs and services to make study abroad accessible to a broader student population. Special emphasis will be given to specific efforts that led to a strong increase in study abroad participation by under-represented students and study in non-traditional sites 
  • The institution should demonstrate strategic, comprehensive and sustainable international partnership efforts 
Apply now.
2021 International Award Winner

Collaborative Online International Education: Sustaining Global Engagement During a Pandemic, Salem State University (MA)

The COVID-19 pandemic hurt international education. However, Salem State University initiated a program in Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) to support international learning and communities and encourage collaboration among faculty and student engagement. 

As all travel had been suspended, the Center for International Education, with the support of the provost and office of Academic Affairs, created a Faculty Learning Community, where 12 faculty from 11 departments developed a partnership with an international university colleague. They collaborated on a COIL component in fall 2020 for courses to be taught in spring 2021. 

Salem State implemented COIL in 10 courses during the spring 2021 semester. These reached 200 SSU students and 300 partner students. Students appreciated the opportunity, with 88% of SSU students indicating the exchange was meaningful. 

Learn more.

Leadership Development and Diversity Award 

The Leadership Development and Diversity Award recognizes exemplary leadership development programs designed to enhance the leadership capacity and diversity of the next generation of higher education leaders. The AASCU Leadership Development and Diversity Award also celebrates AASCU’s role as a first-class leadership development partner for its members. 

Applications in this category are reviewed by the Committee on Professional Development. 

  • The institution must demonstrate that the initiative is a part of an integrated approach designed to identify, develop, and promote diverse high-potential talent throughout the university. 
  • Diversity must be inherent to the initiative design —that is, the program must build capacity around equity minded leadership.
  • The leadership development initiative must be connected to institutional priorities. The initiative must have outcome data as evidence. 
Apply now.
2022 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Award Winner

Impact3 Leadership Development Program, James Madison University (VA)

Since 2003, 214 high-achieving leaders have participated in IMPACT3 at James Madison University (JMU). These leaders commit to a year-long customized program designed to develop their skills and grow a leadership culture at the university. The program focuses on well-researched core competencies, skills, and characteristics such as communication, integrity, and service and serves as a model for rising leaders in higher education.  

The name, IMPACT3, relates to the difference effective leadership can make and the three places the impact can be made: individually, on the university level, and in society. In addition, three university facilitators guide discussions, support learning, and challenge the participants. 

Learn more.

Stewards of Place Award 

AASCU institutions are often recognized and celebrated as stewards of place – the educational, economic and social hubs of the communities we serve. With the 2022 report Recommitting to Stewardship of Place: Creating and Sustaining Thriving Communities for the Decades Ahead, AASCU and its members defined eight principles of stewardship of place. This award recognizes an institution that embraces these principles. 

  • Connection to place 
  • Reciprocity  
  • Symbiosis and Synergy 
  • Adaptability Diversity of Approaches  
  • Civic Engagement  
  • Upward Mobility and Opportunity  
  • Institutional Intentionality 

Applications in this category are reviewed by the Stewards of Place Task Force.   

  • The institution clearly demonstrates how it embraces the eight principles of stewardship of place to ensure institutional and regional sustainability.  
  • The institution demonstrates how they are navigating important trends in postsecondary education including equity and upward mobility, resources and resilience and regional prosperity and civic health.  
  • The institution must provide outcome data as evidence. 
Apply now.
2022 Regional and Economic Development Award

The University of West Alabama’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development, A Link Between Campus and Community 

As the leader for economic and workforce development in Sumter County and West Alabama, known as Alabama’s “Black Belt” region, the Division of Economic and Workforce Development at the University of West Alabama (UWA)’s mission is to support and enhance the economic vitality and long-term prosperity of the region.

The Division of Economic and Workforce Development has developed the capacity to support economic growth, business retention and expansion, and enhanced quality of life in the region. It has also developed local and regional initiatives such as expansion of the UWA Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Program, Sumter Renaissance (Economic Development Strategic Plan), the Rural Broadband Plan & Initiative, Leadership Sumter, West Alabama Rural Development Initiative, and the Healthy Places for Healthy People program. By successfully implementing these objectives, UWA’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development is addressing the challenges and meeting the needs of the Black Belt region it serves. 

Learn more.

Student Success and College Completion Award 

The Student Success and College Completion Award honors institutions that achieve significant improvements in student success and college completion. This award focuses on two specific metrics: year-to-year retention and graduation rates. Special consideration will be given to institutions using the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), which uses National Student Clearinghouse data to measure success.  

Applications in this category are reviewed by the Committee on Student Success.   

  • The institution must demonstrate remarkable progress and achievement in student retention and graduation  
  • Progress must serve as a benchmark for institutional success for similar institutions   
Apply now.
2022 Student Success and College Completion Award Winner

Improving Student Success at University of Wisconsin-Parkside 

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UW-Parkside) 2025 Strategic Framework aims to produce a significantly greater number of highly valued graduates. As those historically underserved by higher education continue to make up a larger part of the Southeastern Wisconsin region, achieving this goal requires more graduates and higher graduation rates. 

Since 2016, 40 new UW-Parkside academic programs, majors, or concentrations have been approved, launched, or revised. Innovation and delivery of new, market-responsive offerings, including rapidly expanding master’s-level options, is a priority of the UW-Parkside 2025 Strategic Framework. The university is also implementing a range of integrated, equity-focused, best-practice student success strategies at scale to improve graduation rates among students. 

Learn more.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award

The Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award recognizes higher education institutions that demonstrate a clear commitment to advancing environmental sustainability and climate change awareness in their classrooms, on their campuses, or in their communities. The award recognizes colleges and universities implementing innovative sustainability and sustainable development policies, practices or curricula that seek to engage the campus and broader community in climate and sustainability solutions.

Applications in this category are reviewed by the Committee on Sustainable Development. 

  • The institution must demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability and sustainable development efforts through its policies, practices, and/or curriculum 
  • The institution must submit the innovative sustainability effort(s) for a particular project or program for which it wants to be recognized. 
Apply now.
2022 Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award Winner

A Lifelong Commitment to Sustainability and the Environment, University of Washington Bothell

The University of Wisconsin Bothell (UW Bothell) commitment to sustainability began in the 1990s when it launched an ambitious multi-year, multimillion-dollar project to restore 58.5 acres to its natural wetland habitat. These restoration efforts have been very successful and widely recognized, and, together with the natural habitat, have strongly influenced the university’s educational efforts and mission.

UW Bothell designed and executed energy, water, and waste reduction programs that demonstrate its strong commitment to sustainable practices and have allowed regional biodiversity to flourish on the campus grounds. The university’s efforts have led to significant institutional improvements in waste management practices as well as reduction in energy and water usage. 

Learn more.

We the People Award: Excellence in Civic Learning and Community Engagement 

The We The People Award honors institutions that demonstrate a strategic team commitment to prioritizing, institutionalizing and advancing student civic learning and community engagement in regional, state, and/or national communities.    

This category merges the American Democracy Project’s We the People Civic Engagement Award with the Excellence & Innovation Award for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. 

Applications in this category are reviewed by selected American Democracy Project Steering Committee members. Nominees are recognized at the Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement Meeting in June and the winner is recognized at the Annual Conference in November. 

  • The institution exhibits sustained and measured progress toward institutionalizing civic learning and community engagement efforts via strategic, comprehensive, and reciprocal metrics.    
  • The institution demonstrates that commitment to civic learning exists across the curriculum with engaging pedagogies, meaningful student involvement, and campus processes such as rewarding faculty teaching and scholarship for civic purposes.   
  • The institution exemplifies innovative initiatives that foster student learning and civic skill building and meaningful partnerships with community members and organizations to build more just and equitable communities.   
Apply now.
2022 We the People Award Winner

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Sam Houston State University (TX) 

The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at Sam Houston State University (TX), under the leadership of Lee Miller and Joyce McCauley, along with the entire team–Taylor Morrison, Sarah Burchett, Steven Koether, Bram Sebio-Brundage, Katherine Kirkpatrick, and Rebecca Gonzalez—are recognized as a national leader in community engaged research, civic engagement, and academic community engagement. The Center’s work with faculty and staff from across the campus to offer academic community engagement courses in collaboration with community partners ensures that SHSU students graduate with a sense of civic responsibility. 

2022 Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award Winner

Community Engaged Learning, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse 

In September 2021, the Community Engaged Learning Program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-La Crosse) was introduced to faculty in UW-La Crosse’s College of Business Administration; College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities; and College of Science and Health. Faculty were invited to familiarize themselves with the program and—should they find that their course fit the criteria for either the undergraduate or graduate program—apply for a Community Engaged Learning designation to be included on their course-section in WINGS, UW-La Crosse’s student information system. 

During the 2021-2022 academic year, 19 course sections were designated as community engaged. The primary intent of the program is to give students real-world experience to help them grow their skills and make them more marketable to future employers, while at the same time provide a community service or meet a community need. During the inaugural year of the program, 316 students assisted with about 36 businesses, non-profits, or civic organizations. About 85% of those partnerships were within La Crosse County.   

Learn more.

Apply by April 21 for the Excellence & Innovation Awards.

Applications open on March 27. Let us know if you have any questions about the program.

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