AASCU Announces Winners of the 2024 Civic Engagement Awards

Kellee Edmonds
(202) 478-4662

DETROIT, June 4, 2024 – The American Democracy Project (ADP), an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), announced the winners of the Barbara Burch, John Saltmarsh, Spirit of Democracy, and We the People  awards. The honors were handed out today prior to the 2024 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting in Detroit.

“The AASCU American Democracy Project community continues to innovate and energize our campuses through unique projects and critical civic skill-building,” said Cathy Copeland, director of AASCU’s American Democracy Project. “Through these awards, ADP shares strategies and successes and demonstrates the critical importance of creating opportunities for students to explore how to be informed and engaged global citizens, ready to tackle current and future issues to ensure a thriving democracy. We are thrilled to share the success and effort of these visionary leaders.”

Learn more about the awards and their winners below.


Allison Rank

Allison D. Rank, associate professor and chair in the department of politics at State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego, 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.

Rank has been continually involved in strategically and comprehensively deepening and reinvigorating democratic ideals and civic engagement at SUNY Oswego. Her personal drive to serve the greater good and to create avenues of opportunity for students is admirably displayed through her efforts to build the SUNY Oswego Leadership Institute, create and sustain Vote Oswego, and advance the scholarship on political engagement.

SUNY Oswego Provost Scott Furlong said, “Allison is deeply committed to preparing civic leaders and has been successful because of how she brings together scholarship, teaching, and practice.” As an ADP Civic Fellow, Rank inspires and encourages the field to reflect on current practices, develop new civic engagement assessments, collaborate meaningfully, and dare to dream of a stronger democracy.


Jonathan Gomez

Jonathan Gomez, assistant professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies and inaugural faculty-in-residence for Hispanic-serving institution initiatives in the Office of the Provost at San José State University (SJSU), 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 Gomez’s effort to build reciprocity, mutual respect, and civic action through poetry by leading the digital counter-storytelling faculty learning community and the Culture Counts Reading Series (CCRS). Community engagement has flourished in San José thanks to the collaborative projects developed by the work of CCRS and the decisive and enthusiastic action of the wider community.

SJSU President Cynthia Teniente-Matson states that Gomez “create[es] new democratic spaces where people from across diverse axes of identity listen and learn from each other and practice a form of poetry in community that documents, describes, appreciates, and advances their needs, hopes, and dreams for the world.”


Sara Heim

Sara Heim, assistant director of ShoreCorps AmeriCorps at Salisbury University (MD), received the Spirit of Democracy Award.

The Spirit of Democracy 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.

Heim’s work within ShoreCorps has been integral in making the AmeriCorps program the largest in Maryland, while thoughtfully partnering with community members to increase the efficiency of the programs offered. Due to her strategic 10-year refinement of the program, Heim has encouraged ShoreCorps participants to develop their philanthropy, nonprofit management, and national service skills, ultimately strengthening the wider community and each individual’s commitment to civic education.

Salisbury University President Carolyn Lepre notes that Heim’s “contributions have not only enriched the lives of our students but have also strengthened our university’s connection to the communities we serve.”


California State University, Los Angeles, was selected as the recipient of the national We the People Award for its Prison Graduation Initiative (PGI).

The We the People Award recognizes a strategic team commitment to prioritizing, institutionalizing, and advancing student civic learning and community engagement in regional, state, and national communities.

PGI fosters individual and community transformation through higher education. As one of the country’s largest bachelor’s prison programs, PGI embeds institutionalized community engagement into three prisons to prepare students to become agents of change within their communities while incarcerated and upon their release.

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.