News Release from AASCU


Contact: Jennifer Walpole (202) 478-4665


Washington, D.C.—The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) today announced this year’s Excellence and Innovation Award winners. This awards program, now in its second year, honors member institutions for excellence and innovation in several major areas of campus life and leadership that are mission focused.

Advances in student success and college completion, regional and economic development, leadership development and diversity, and international education will be honored with these awards.

“State colleges and universities have remained committed to their missions of student access and success, and regional and economic progress, and continue their dedication to advancing the quality and distinction of their institutions during the most challenging of times,” said AASCU President Muriel A. Howard.  “We believe the innovative and collaborative approaches for which these universities are being honored will inspire not only their AASCU colleagues, but all of higher education.”

Selection panels for each award weighed entries that fit both general criteria and specific additional criteria for each category of achievement; two awards were given in each category. The awards will be presented October 25 at the opening session of AASCU’s Annual Meeting (October 25-27) in Austin, Texas.

The winners are:

  • Student Success and College Completion Awards: Cleveland State University (Ohio) and Western Kentucky University (Bowling Green, Ky.).  

    For the past decade, Cleveland State University has been engaged in an ongoing effort to improve its record in retaining and graduating entering students. As an urban public institution that emphasizes access and serves a student population that contains a large number of low-income, first-generation, commuter students, Cleveland State has historically had low retention and graduation rates. A university-wide effort, led by the president and provost and involving a substantial commitment of resources to enhance advising and academic support services, among others, has produced significant improvements in retention and graduation.  

    Western Kentucky University has created an alternative to the traditional developmental coursework required of students admitted to college underprepared in reading. Students who would otherwise be mandated to enroll in a developmental course for zero college credit can instead take a 3-credit hour intervention course. Through the efforts of expert faculty and the substantial financial commitments from the university, this course has served approximately 1,000 students over the past five years. Data provided by WKU Institutional Research suggest that the course has significant positive impact on the rates at which students are retained and matriculate to graduation. 
  • Regional and Economic Development Awards: Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, Ariz.) and Washington State University Vancouver.

    Northern Arizona University, partnering with the leadership of the major community sectors in Flagstaff, developed and implemented three successful collaborative economic development organizations: The Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona, The Northern Arizona Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, and the Innovation Mesa Accelerator. All required extensive community leadership engagement and have experienced significant success in job growth, capital investment, and wealth creation.

    Washington State University Vancouver’s pro-bono, student conducted consultancy, The Business Growth Mentor & Analysis Program, provides analysis and consulting to small businesses to help them find ways to improve and grow. Further, the program helps prepare WSU Vancouver Carson College of Business students for the workforce through their experience working on real business issues. Since 2011, more than 400 students have participated; the program has helped 119 organizations; and participating companies grew $2.3 million in new revenues and created 26 full-time jobs.
  • Leadership Development and Diversity Award: California State University, Long Beach and the University of West Georgia (Carrollton, Ga.). 

    In the fall of 2013, the Leadership Fellows Program was created by the president and provost of California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) to develop the next generation of university leaders, identify and systemically address critical issues in higher education, and advance CSULB’s Strategic Priorities and Goals. The Leadership Fellows Program, a cohort model, offers faculty and staff the opportunity to enhance and demonstrate knowledge, skills and dispositions in organizational leadership through a two-year experiential program. Leadership fellows engage in an individualized curriculum for professional development, link theory to critical issues affecting higher education, and demonstrate leadership through the development, implementation and assessment of a project.

    Engage West! is a family of programs designed to help the University of West Georgia (UWG) become a “best place to work” by creating a culture of high achievement and evidence-based leadership. Anchored in the new strategic plan and guided by core values—with student success as the primary goal—it includes an annual engagement survey, a peer-to-peer recognition program, cascaded unit strategic plans with individual goals tied to the university plan, and taskforces on sustainability and diversity/inclusion. The success of Engage West! is rooted in UWG’s Leadership Development Institutes, quarterly training days, and assigned activities that link session learning to day-to-day functions.
  • International Education Awards: California State University, Fresno and Northwest Missouri State University (Maryville, Mo.). 

    In 2010, California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) launched the president's internationalization initiative to expand international recruitment of faculty and students and to increase study abroad opportunities for domestic students. Fresno State assessed its programs and identified strategies to internationalize the campus. Fresno State is a majority-minority university and the sole major university in the area, making critical its mission to provide university education to the region. In 2013, the school became the first public institution in California to administer the International Student Barometer (ISB). ISB assessment activities led to marked improvements, with students ranking Fresno State 1st or 2nd in the U.S. in key categories such as “University Orientation” and “Language Support.”

    In a quest to increase first-trimester academic performance, satisfaction, retention, and persistence of international students, Northwest Missouri State University’s International Affairs Office initiated an innovative onboarding process among previously autonomous academic service units (including Academic Advisement, Freshman Seminar, the Department of English and Modern Languages, Student Employment, Career Services, and International Affairs). The initiative aimed to remove operational silos and engage unit-level leaders to redesign work to create a cohesive and choreographed international student onboarding process. This initiative was a no-cost redesign that placed international students’ unique needs above unit-level mastery of work functions.

Criteria for the winning entries in the awards competition required evidence of top-level administrative support, connection with an institution’s mission and strategic agenda, evidence the initiative contributed to significant institutional improvements or programming, and evidence the initiative was grounded in research and incorporated best practices.


AASCU is a Washington-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a culture centered on learning and teaching, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.