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 third year, honors member institutions for excellence and innovation in several major areas of campus life and leadership. Leadership in regional and economic development; student success and college completion; sustainability and sustainable development; teacher education; international education; and leadership development and diversity will be honored with these awards.

“Innovation at America’s state colleges and universities is focused on advancing the quality of the educational experience for their students and the distinction of their institutions in service to their communities,” said AASCU President Muriel A Howard. “The programs 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 certain categories. The awards will be presented October 30 at the opening session of AASCU’s Annual Meeting (October 30-November 1) in Miami, Fla.  The award recipients are as follows:

Regional & Economic Development Award:
Metropolitan State University of Denver and Farmingdale State College – SUNY

Hospitality and tourism are the number one economic drivers of the Colorado economy. Since 1972, the MSU Denver Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Events has educated increasing numbers of students, producing a much needed workforce. MSU Denver is the only baccalaureate degree program in the region offering concentrations of study in the traditional hospitality segments of hotel and restaurant management and in the related industries of event and tourism management. In 2008, the institution began a unique collaboration with Marriott International and Sage Hospitality by building the combined SpringHill Suites Hotel and Hospitality Learning Center (HLC), one of only 11 such facilities in the nation. The HLC is distinctive in its staff design, as it matches enthusiastic hospitality students with full‐time professionals who serve as mentors while providing a unique revenue‐generating venture for the university.

Farmingdale State College – SUNY’s award is based on two projects: the Broad Hollow Bioscience Park (BHBP) and the Smart Grid Corridor Project (SGCP). These enterprises have extensive significant relationships to the economy of the region, and both are significant academic and research innovations for the campus, including contributing major resources to the college and growing partnerships with major regional organizations. BHBP hosts start-up biotechnology companies in two buildings on campus and is a collaboration with the world-renowned Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. The SGCP is a collaboration with Long Island Power Authority (the regional electric utility) and Stony Brook University; SGCP involves building multiple facilities on the Farmingdale campus, the installation by LIPA of thousands of “smart electrical meters” in residences and businesses along the Route 110 corridor on which the college is at the geographic center, and research on smart-grid security and efficient operation by Stony Brook University.

Student Success and College Completion Award:
University of Northern Iowa

The University of Northern Iowa’s course-embedded peer mentor program creates a supportive environment both in and outside the classroom. Situated within UNI’s general education program or Liberal Arts Core (LAC), the peer mentor program intentionally connects incoming freshmen with faculty, other students, staff and support services while introducing them to community values of respect, ethical responsibility, and intellectual and social engagement. This program involves selecting rising sophomores to return as mentors within courses they completed during the previous year, and pairing them with faculty members to create vibrant, supportive classroom communities designed for first-year students. Since the program’s inception in fall 2011, the retention rate of students enrolled in one of these courses has been 6-8 percent higher as compared to those students who did not enroll in a first-year only section.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award:
California State University, Northridge and Stockton University (N.J.)

California State University, Northridge (CSUN) has incorporated sustainability into planning and administration, facilities and operations, education and curriculum, student government and life, research and innovation. Its 10-year sustainability plan is being actively implemented and progress of over 100 action items tracked. Sustainability studies can be pursued through a minor, general education options, or a track within a major. CSUN is leading climate adaptation within the community through its applied projects, innovative solutions, K-12 sustainability education, and a campus-community climate leadership task force. Sustainability practices and solutions are shared with the extended community through a comprehensive website, events, national organizations and social media.

Stockton University has embraced sustainability in its development and operational practices through the Stockton Sustainability Initiatives. Stockton has set aside large areas of campus as natural laboratories and to preserve a number of ecologically sensitive pinelands habitats. Stockton has embraced LEED building specifications where possible and has long been a leader in introducing and studying alternative energy practices, including geothermal and solar. Stockton has developed an academic sustainability program and offers a B.A. and B.S. in sustainability science. A certificate in energy is also offered through the physics and sustainability programs. Sustainability is one of the four pillars of the Stockton 2020 strategic planning process and is supported through the President’s Office, as well as in the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and through the Office of Facilities Planning and Plant Operations.
The Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award was added to the Excellence & Innovation Awards this year. AASCU’s Committee on Sustainability partnered with Solution Generation, a national council of diverse higher education partners committed to leading by example on climate solutions, to offer this award.

Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award:
Ball State University (Ind.)

Launched in 2009 as a partnership between Ball State University's Department of Elementary Education and the Whitely Neighborhood of Muncie, Ind., the Schools Within the Context of Community (SCC) program is a unique approach to teacher education. SCC immerses preservice candidates in a low-income, African-American community where they are carefully matched with community-mentors who serve as cultural ambassadors, and impart the strengths and values of the community. Alongside community mentors, candidates authentically participate in the life of the community through their attendance at church, community events, family gatherings, and through their joint participation in community mobilization with the local community council. Simultaneously, they participate in 18 credits of integrated coursework with an interdisciplinary faculty who work together to plan and deliver a responsive plan of study that is directly relevant to candidate experiences. Ushered by program faculty through intentional exercises of reflection, candidates are challenged to incorporate their learning into their teaching in order to develop culturally responsive experiences for the children with whom they work.

During its 7-year tenure in the Whitely neighborhood, the elementary school with which Ball State works has transitioned from an "F" school to an "A" school, and scores on the state standardized test have increased from 30 percent to 71 percent. Notably, 70 percent of program graduates are currently teaching in racially, ethnically, economically and linguistically diverse communities.

Ball State’s “Schools Within the Context of Community” is a young program that has already shown itself to be a positive impact on elementary students, their neighborhood and community. In turn, the elementary teachers this program are better prepared to be effective in the classroom and to be of greater service to their students and communities. And the university’s relationship with the community is strengthened and authentic.

International Education Award:
California State University, Fullerton and The University of Guam

California State University, Fullerton is a “comprehensive, regional university with a global outlook” and takes action aligned with this vision through the 2013-2018 Strategic Plan. Related objectives address curricular and co-curricular environments as well as intercultural competencies. An increase in high-impact practice participation, including study abroad, was called for to advance global perspectives and support engagement, retention and graduation goals. Key initiatives included the launch of the International Programs & Global Engagement unit, as well as the announcement of a President’s Strategic Fund to support study abroad opportunities. Of particular interest was participation of a diverse student body—including first-generation and Pell-eligible students—in study abroad.

Housed in the Professional and International Programs office (PIP), the University of Guam’s (UOG) English Adventure Program offers short-term English and culture programs to cohorts of students from schools and universities in Asia. In 2008, 518 foreign students participated in one-day programs—an effort described as educational tourism. By 2015, the number increased to 5,313; a 925 percent increase over seven years. Of this number, 4,600 visited the campus for one day, while the remaining 700 participated in longer programs that provided cultural interaction and conversational experiences to students. The innovation lies in how UOG embarked on a strategic plan to partner with institutions in South Korea and Japan and how the unit used profits from on campus programs to fund student travel to partner institutions. Using a creative model and positioning strategy, PIP built a strong flow of study abroad travel to and from the UOG campus.

Leadership Development and Diversity Award:
SUNY Buffalo State College and Morehead State University (Ky.)

The Creative Leadership program at Buffalo State is a semester-long, multi-faceted program of awareness, knowledge and skill development designed to enhance individual leadership effectiveness. It is designed for individuals who hold current leadership positions at Buffalo State and are committed to enhancing their leadership potential. It is offered every other year, alternating with the Emerging College Leaders program. The director of leadership development oversees the design and delivery of each program and is responsible for marketing, recruitment, scheduling and evaluation. There is an annual budget to support the program and all related materials, resources and instruments. The program includes assessments; coaching and feedback; workshops; project teamwork; cohort meetings; and a closing session.

The President’s Leadership Academy was established at Morehead State University in 2006 to provide quality professional development to nominated and selected faculty, staff and administrators exhibiting the potential for effective leadership on campus and beyond. Participants have the opportunity to increase their awareness of the complexity of issues facing the university and postsecondary education, thereby expanding their awareness of the environment in which decisions are made. The yearlong program includes reading assignments, discussion groups, case studies, internship experiences, field trips, and seminars with high performing leaders. Program leadership includes a steering committee chaired by the university president, ad hoc committees of academy alumni, and a program director.

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.


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development. These are institutions Delivering America’s Promise of Opportunities for All.