AASCU Announces Winners of the 2023 Civic Engagement Awards

BOSTON, May 31, 2023 – The American Democracy Project (ADP), an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), announced the winners of the Barbara Burch, William S. Plater, John Saltmarsh, Spirit of Democracy, and We the People awards. The honors were handed out today during the 2023 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting in Boston.

“AASCU’s ADP campuses are doing truly extraordinary work to promote and re-imagine civic engagement,” said Cathy Copeland, director of AASCU’s American Democracy Project. “Through these awards, ADP continues to support our campuses, share strategies and successes, and demonstrate the critical importance of civic education and civic skill-building in our students. We are thrilled to share the success and effort of these visionary leaders.”

Learn more about the awards and their winners below.


Mary EvinsMary Evins, research professor at the University Honors College and Department of History at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), won the Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement.

The Barbara Burch Award is given for exemplary faculty leadership in advancing the civic learning and engagement of undergraduate students and the work of AASCU’s ADP on campus and/or nationally.

Evins was recognized for her work in embedding ADP into the MTSU campus culture and within statewide voter education and engagement efforts. Her personal drive to serve the greater good and to create avenues of opportunity for students is admirably displayed through her efforts to build community education and engagement avenues in general education and in her work to refine tenure and promotion guidelines.


Peg Gray-VickreyPeg Gray-Vickrey, vice president for academic and student affairs at Texas A&M University-Central Texas, is this year’s recipient of the William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement.

The William M. Plater Award is given in recognition of exemplary leadership of an AASCU chief academic officer in advancing the civic learning of undergraduates through programming. This award is named after Bill Plater, one of the original team of provosts who helped envision and launch ADP.

Gray-Vickrey’s leadership has encompassed encouraging institutionalized civic learning and engagement among the provosts in the Texas A&M System and serving as a role model for how to implement innovative strategies and develop a caring, supportive community devoted to the work of civic engagement.


Sandy JacobsSandy Jacobs, director of community & civic engagement at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, received the  Spirit of Democracy Award.

This award honors exemplary leadership from staff in advancing the civic learning and engagement of undergraduate students and the work of AASCU’s ADP on campus and/or nationally.

Jacobs’ work advances students’ intellectual and professional growth through a range of academic programming and community-centered, needs-based projects—including supporting probationary students and creating strong community partnerships.


Lesley GraybealLesley Graybeal, director of service-learning and volunteerism at the University of Central Arkansas, won the  John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement.

The John Saltmarsh Award is given in recognition of exemplary early-career leaders who are advancing the wider civic engagement movement through higher education to build a broader public culture of democracy.

AASCU recognized Graybeal’s effort to build faculty capacity, develop community partnerships, impact student civic development, and create institutional change in innovative ways, including consistently excellent intellectual contributions to the civic engagement field through her publications. John Saltmarsh noted that, “Dr. Graybeal is clearly an emerging leader in community engagement who can help to shape community engagement in higher education in the future.”


The Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) at Salisbury University (MD)The Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE) at Salisbury University (MD) was selected as the recipient of the national  We the People Award. This award recognizes a strategic team commitment to prioritizing, institutionalizing, and advancing student civic learning and community engagement in regional, state, and national communities.

PACE is a resource center for the university community, local government, nonprofits, and other public organizations to access knowledge and information. Since 1999, PACE has demonstrated sustained success in institutionalizing civic engagement and continues to innovate. PACE will be integral to organizing Salisbury University’s new general education program that will mandate at least one civic and community engagement course. The leadership at PACE has consistently shared their work and findings with the larger ADP network to build a stronger movement for how to institutionalize civic engagement work.

Congratulations to all the ADP award winners!


The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) is a Washington, D.C.-based higher education association of 350 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. Visit us at www.aascu.org.