• AASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards

    The AASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards recognize and honor AASCU institutions demonstrating excellence and innovation in their approach to address civic learning and community engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion, international education, leadership development and diversity, regional and economic development, student success, sustainability, and teacher education on their campuses. The awards provide a means to collect and disseminate information about successful, replicable programs and practices and to support campus efforts to improve their institutions.

    Award recipients will receive a $500 campus scholarship or an engraved sculpture and recognition at the AASCU Annual Meeting. AASCU acknowledges award recipients through the AASCU Advantage newsletter, on the AASCU website, on AASCU’s social media channels, and in national media outlets and takes other steps to ensure public recognition of award winners’ accomplishments. We also work with campus communications offices to ensure public recognition of award winners' accomplishments.

    Applications will be reviewed by subcommittees of AASCU's Standing Committees and are due by May 13, 2022. Award recipients will be notified in mid-to-late June.


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

    1. There is evidence of executive-level support and engagement in ensuring the success of the program or initiative

    2. The program or initiative is connected to the institutional vision, mission, and strategic agenda and supports institutional change

    3. There is evidence that the program or initiative has led to significant institutional improvements or innovative programming

    4. The program or initiative is grounded in research and incorporates best practices in the field

    AASCU member institutions (including system offices) in good financial standing that have demonstrated significant and intentional support for a program or programs in one or more of the award categories may apply. Support may be demonstrated as significant and intentional in the form of sustained effort over a period of time or as support and backing of a single major effort or initiative. Evidence that the program or initiative has achieved measurable outcomes is essential. Evidence of results may be quantitative or qualitative.

    Applications will be reviewed by subcommittees of AASCU Standing Committees, namely: the Committee on Undergraduate Education will review the Student Success and College Completion Award, the Committee on Economic and Workforce Development will review the Regional and Economic Development Award, the Committee on International Education will review the International Education Award, the Committee on Professional Development will review the Leadership Development and Diversity Award, the Committee on Sustainable Development will review the Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award, and the Committee on the American Democracy Project will be reviewing the Civic Learning & Engagement Award. The Teacher Education Award applications are initially screened by a group of education deans appointed by the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities and then by a committee of AASCU presidents.

    2022 Award Categories

    The Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award honors institutions that demonstrate a strategic commitment to prioritizing, institutionalizing and advancing student civic learning and community engagement in regional, state, and/or national communities. This award recognizes colleges/universities that are working to develop campus cultures that recognize and reward engagement that 1) fosters student learning and civic skill building, 2) rewards faculty teaching and scholarship for civic purposes and with engaging pedagogies and practices, and 3) partners meaningfully with community members and organizations to solve pressing problems and build more just and equitable communities.

    Specific criteria for the Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award:

    • The institution must demonstrate that commitment to civic learning and community engagement are tied to institutional vision, mission, and/or strategic agenda

    • The institution must demonstrate a combination of innovative programs and efforts along with sustained and measured progress toward institutionalizing civic learning and community engagement efforts

    • The institution must demonstrate that commitment to civic learning and engagement exists across the curriculum, student involvement, and campus processes

    • The institution must demonstrate that community engagement efforts are strategic, comprehensive, and reciprocal

    AASCU Contact: Felice Nudelman, associate vice president, Academic Innovation and Transformation

    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.

    Specific criteria for the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Award:

    • Can 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.

    • Show that incorporation of DEI values and behaviors in a way that results in a positive impact on organizational campus culture.

    • Takes steps to eliminate or reduce incidents of bullying, harassment or discrimination against students and faculty/staff.

    • Show evidence to validate students and employees/faculty feel a sense of belonging, can be themselves, and feel they have a voice in their academic life and in achieving student success goals.

    • Show initiatives and actions to remove barriers to attract diverse students and faculty/staff.

    • Can demonstrate that DEI initiatives will have a lasting impact on campus culture and in the lives of students into the future.

    • Can demonstrate achievements have gone above and beyond the normal role of DEI efforts.

    AASCU Contact: Kathleen Scott, vice president, Leadership Development and Partnerships

    The International Education Award will not only recognize outstanding international programs, but it will also document 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.

    Specific criteria for the International Education Award:

    • The institution must advance curriculum development, foster international opportunities, and creatively integrate international students into university life

    • The institution must 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 must demonstrate strategic, comprehensive and sustainable international partnership efforts

    AASCU Contact: Jody Dixon, assistant director, International Education

    The Leadership Development and Diversity Award will recognize 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 organization for its members.

    Specific criteria for the Leadership Development and Diversity Award:

    • The institution must demonstrate the extent to which the program is a part of an integrated approach designed to identify, develop, and promote high-potential talent throughout the university

    • The program must be diverse by design—that is, the enhancement and development of a diverse group of leaders is reflected in the program goals and evaluation criteria. Diversity includes diversity across employee groups, but must also reflect attention to diversity based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation

    • The leadership development program must be demonstrably connected to institutional outcomes. The program must have completed three cycles and have outcome data as evidence

    AASCU Contact: Kathleen Scott, vice president, Leadership Development and Partnerships

    The Christa McAuliffe Award has long honored exemplary teacher education programs at AASCU public colleges and universities that can document the success of their graduates in improving P-12 pupil learning outcomes. However, in response to ongoing developments in state data systems, which might potentially advantage programs in data-rich states, the award now focuses on how programs have been adapted using evidence of P-12 impact. (Note: Evidence of P-12 impact may include, but is not limited to, state data—when and where this is available.) Furthermore, whereas the award historically focused on pre-service preparation, the criteria have been expanded to include professional development programs.

    To win this award, teacher education and professional development programs must not only demonstrate effectiveness in producing P-12 learning outcomes; award winners must also demonstrate and explain how they have redesigned their programs as a result of these P-12 learning outcomes.

    The purpose of the criteria is 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.

    The award is presented to the winning presidents/chancellors at the AASCU Annual Meeting in October. Another presentation is made to the winning deans of education at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) the following March.

    Specific criteria for the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award:

    • AASCU’s Committee on Teacher Education, which includes education deans from TECSCU, will screen applications to determine winners.

    AASCU Contact: Faozia Pio, division coordinator, Academic Innovation and Transformation

    Institutional excellence in regional and economic development can involve campus activities that: demonstrably promote innovation and technology transfer to local businesses, nonprofit organizations, or governments; improve regional competitiveness and prosperity; foster entrepreneurial activity on the campus and in the community; and address workforce development/job creation issues. The impact of regional and economic development on the campus also must be considered. Changes in the curriculum, the engagement of students and faculty members, and increases in sponsored programs funding are all important components of an effective regional and economic outreach initiative.

    Specific criteria for the Regional and Economic Development Award:

    • The institution must outline the extent to which external organizations were involved in the planning and implementation of the project. Both length and depth of involvement will be considered

    • The institution must explain the degree to which there were quantifiable benefits from the project demonstrating impact on the quality of the local workforce, job creation, or other economic or community impact 

    • The institution must explain the degree to which faculty and students were engaged in project development or implementation and how the project resulted in curriculum development or redesign 

    • The institution must demonstrate the extent to which the project involved sponsored programs funding or in-kind support from the institution or external agency

    AASCU Contact: Erika Thompson, director, Grants Resource Center

    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.

    Specific criteria for the Student Success and College Completion Award:

    • 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

    AASCU Contact: Jacquelyn Jones, assistant vice president, Student Success

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

    Specific criteria for the Climate Leadership and Sustainability Award:

    • 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


    • Comprehensive Project Award: The comprehensive project provides an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of developing and implementing an overall sustainability program

    • Innovative Projects Award: A project that develops new sustainable products, strategies, and services

    AASCU Contact: Kathleen Scott, vice president, Leadership Development and Partnerships

    2022 Applications are closed.

    Contact Sara Gassman  

    AASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards