AASCU Excellence & Innovation Awards 

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

Learn more.

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 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 Monday, May 1, 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. 

  • A dedicated landing page on AASCU.org showcasing the E&I winners
  • A feature in the AASCU Advantage newsletter
  • Posts on AASCU’s social media
  • A contribution toward the scholarship fund of your choosing or an engraved sculpture presented during AASCU’s 2023 Annual Conference
  • An opportunity to provide a brief address during a plenary session at AASCU’s 2023 Annual Conference
  • A feature in the meeting app for AASCU’s 2023 Annual Conference

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.

2022: Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO)
2021: Sam Houston State University (TX)
2019: California State University Bakersfield
2018: Northwest Missouri State University
2017: The University of Toledo (OH)
2016: Ball State University (IN)
2014: California State University, Fresno
2014: Hunter College, City University of New York

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. 


2022: Western Kentucky University

California State University, San Bernardino
2023 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Award Winner

CSUSB President’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Board

California State University, San Bernardino

Following a campus wide Diversity Mapping process, conducted in 2019-20, California State University, San Bernardino (CSUSB) established its inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Strategic Plan, including key goal areas specific to CSUSB’s DEI efforts. Members represent faculty, staff and students and include all areas of campus. Creation and formalization of the board established a key collaborative structure, drawing on active participation from campuswide representatives. Learn more.


officers representing academic affairs, human resources, and student affairs 


individuals invited across campus  


operational year 

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 


2021: Salem State University (MA)
2019: Columbus State University (GA)
2018: Savannah State University (GA)
2017: State University of New York at Oswego
2016: California State University, Fullerton
2016: University of Guam
2015: California State University, Fresno
2015: Northwest Missouri State University
2014: Kennesaw State University (GA)
2014: Cloud State University (MN)

University of South Carolina Beaufort International Week
2023 International Education Award Winner

Global Reach: International Competencies at the University of South Carolina Beaufort

University of South Carolina Beaufort

“Global Reach” is part of University of South Carolina Beaufort’s (USCB) Academic Master Plan that centralizes efforts at our semi-rural South Carolina campus (2,000 students). USCB’s globalized experiential education sharply focuses on collaborative all-campus/community efforts to elevate global education with uplifting results, including vibrant exchanges/MOUs in the Netherlands and India, and ongoing projects in Poland, Sierra Leone, and South Korea. Learn more.

1 of 6

institutions to receive the Transatlantic Mobility Program grant, and a 2-time Fulbright top-producing institution 

2.5% of all students

USCB International students have risen from 2020-22 while others have seen declines 

Over 4%

of all students in 2021 were participants in Collaborative Online International Learning – plus another 5.54% impacted by international collaborations/ presentations

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. 


2022: James Madison University (VA)
2021: Lewis-Clark State College (ID)
2019: Oakland University (MI)
2018: Buffalo State College, State University of New York
2017: Sam Houston State University (TX)
2016: Buffalo State College, State University of New York
2016: Morehead State University, Kentucky
2015: California State University, Long Beach
2015: University of West Georgia
2014: California State University, Fresno

Utah Valley University Leadership Competency Experience
2023 Leadership Development and Diversity Winner

Leadership Competency Experience

Utah Valley University

The Leadership Competency Experience program uses six leadership competencies to streamline the entire leadership life cycle, including supervisor hiring, onboarding, training, and feedback. This allows us to: hire supervisors that already have these competencies through recommended interview questions; set competency expectations through supervisor onboarding; administer extensive resources and training to help leaders better meet these competencies; and provide feedback through supervisor review.

Press release.


promotion rate among those who are Foundations of Inclusion workshop certified 


retention rate for senior leaders over the course of 18 years


increase in supervisor review results for leaders with UVULEAD workshop certification

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. This award recognizes an institution that embraces eight principles: connection to place, reciprocity, symbiosis and synergy, adaptability diversity of approaches, civic engagement, upward mobility and opportunity, and  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. 


Formerly called the Regional and Economic Development Award

2022: University of West Alabama Division of Economic and Workforce Development
2021: Stockton University (NJ)
2019: State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill
2018: University of Memphis (TN)
2017: University of Northern Iowa
2016: Farmingdale State College (NY)
2016: Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO)
2015: Northern Arizona University
2015: Washington State University Vancouver
2014: Northern Kentucky University
2014: University of Massachusetts, Boston

Oakland University Pontiac Initiative
2023 Stewards of Place Winner

OU Pontiac Initiative

Oakland University (MI)

Oakland University’s (OU) approach to being a responsible and impactful “steward of place” is reflected in the OU-Pontiac Initiative, a model of education-community engagement that is having a transformative impact on the underserved neighboring community of Pontiac. This innovative and collaborative model of civic engagement is designed and implemented by a leadership group of community leaders, OU faculty and OU administrators. Now in its ninth year, the program enhances experiential learning opportunities for OU students. Learn more.

500 hours

of engagement among OU’s students and faculty towards health-related initiatives 


Pontiac youth participated in recreation activity opportunities 


school children throughout the entire Pontiac school district now have access to enhanced. lunchrooms, wall-sized school menus, and food service staff training via a unique taste-test toolkit 

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   


2022: University of Wisconsin-Parkside
2021: California State University San Marcos
2019: Northwest Missouri State University
2018: California State University, Sacramento
2018: University of Central Oklahoma
2017: California State University, Fresno
2017: University of Central Oklahoma
2016: University of Northern Iowa
2015: Cleveland State University (OH)
2015: Western Kentucky University
2014: California State University, Long Beach
2014: Governors State University (IL)

Georgia College & State University - GC Journeys
2023 Student Success and College Completion Winner

GC Journeys

Georgia College & State University

GC Journeys offers all students the opportunity to complete five High-Impact Practices during their time at Georgia College & State University (GCSU). Three experiences are embedded into every major, while students choose two others that align with their interests and career goals. Additionally, students experience a skills-infused curriculum aligned with the AAC&U Essential Learning Outcomes. Courses focus on skills such as analytical reasoning, written and oral communication, and global awareness. These transformative experiences promote degree completion, retention, and progression, and impart skills that provide a competitive edge in the workforce. Learn more.

Press release.

3x more

The average college student completes 1.3 High-Impact Practices, GCSU students aspire to complete 5 


of participating capstone seniors found GC Journeys to be transformative

5% increase

in four-year graduation rates between Fall 2014 and Fall 2018 classes

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. 


2022: University of Washington Bothell
2021: Northern Arizona University
2021: University of Guam
2019: Millersville University (PA)
2019: Southern Oregon University
2018: Grand Valley State University (MI)
2018: State University of New York College at Oneonta
2017: Northwest Missouri State University
2017: State University of New York at Oswego
2016: California State University, Northridge
2016: Stockton University (NJ)

California State Flag
2023 Sustainability and Sustainable Development Winner (Comprehensive)

Faculty Learning Community in Teaching Climate Change and Resilience

California State University System

In Spring 2022, campuses participated in the CSU Faculty Learning Community in Teaching Climate Change and Resilience, the first multi-campus faculty learning community in CSU history. Sessions covered the science behind climate change, the solutions available to counter it, the need to incorporate justice into the conversation, and the anxiety all of this produces in our students. By June, classes spanning all fields of study had been redesigned to include greater engagement of climate change and resilience. Learn more.

Press release.

62 faculty

from six different California State University campuses; 30 disciplines represented

Seven 90-minute sessions

spread evenly throughout the semester; session materials compiled for easy reference and replication

Over 75 classes

redesigned, spanning all fields of study

Weber State University Solar Parking Lot
2023 Sustainability and Sustainable Development Winner (Innovative)

Weber State University (WSU) 5-Point Carbon Neutrality Strategy

Weber State University (UT)

Weber State University (WSU) is one of the first institutions to have a detailed plan to electrify campus, shift to renewable energy, and utilize a revolving loan fund allowing utility savings to be reinvested. WSU’s strategy has utilized existing technology and operated within funding constraints, making it a replicable approach. WSU channels the experience gained from this transition work into the classroom and community. The campus serves as a living lab where students can obtain hands-on experience, and community programs to help residents reduce their emissions, utilizing the same strategies implemented on our campuses. Learn more.


reduction in utility costs 


reduction in GHG emissions 

10 years

WSU shifted its carbon neutrality goal up by a decade 

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.   


Formerly called the Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award

2022: University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
2019: California State University, Fresno
2018: Western Carolina University (NC)
2017: James Madison University (VA)
2017: Stockton University (NJ)
2017: University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Salisbury University (MD) The Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University (PACE)
2023 We the People Award: Excellence in Civic Learning and Community Engagement

The Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement at Salisbury University (PACE)

Salisbury University (MD)

PACE is a resource center for the Salisbury University (SU) community, local government, non-profits, and public groups to access knowledge and information. Since 1999 PACE has demonstrated sustained success in institutionalizing civic engagement. In recent years, measurable outcomes include earning the Carnegie Engaged Campus designation, developing the largest AmeriCorps programs in Maryland, and building the largest Nonprofit Leadership program in the country. PACE staff and affiliates are now shepherding the campus into a new general education program that will, for the first time, mandate at least one civic and community engagement course. Learn more.

12 distinct programs

offering more than 30 discrete community events each year

More than 10%

of SU faculty have completed the Civic Engagement Across the Curriculum faculty development program

More than 100

students and 200 community members attend the Global Issues, Local Solutions lecture series each year

Questions about the Excellence & Innovation Awards? Let us know.

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