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. Now in its fourth year, the program honors member institutions for excellence and innovation in major areas of campus life and leadership: teacher education; civic learning and community engagement; international education; leadership development and diversity; regional and economic development; student success and college completion; and sustainability and sustainable development. 

“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.”

The winning entries required evidence of top-level administrative support; connection with an institution’s mission and strategic agenda; contribution to significant institutional improvements or programming; and grounding in research and best practices. Multiple awards were given in certain categories. The awards will be presented October 22 at the opening session of AASCU’s Annual Meeting (October 22-24) in San Diego, Calif. The award recipients are as follows:

The Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education: 
The University of Toledo (Ohio)
The NURTURES (Networking Urban Resources with Teachers and University to enRich Early Childhood Science) professional development program aims to improve the science readiness scores of preschool through third grade students in the Toledo area. It provides a compelling case that science should not be considered tangential in early classrooms, but rather treated as a critical component for reducing achievement gaps in science, reading and mathematics. 

Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award: 
Stockton University (N.J.)
Stockton was a founding member of the American Democracy Project (ADP), and its involvement demonstrates strategic and long-term commitment to institutionalizing and advancing student civic learning, community engagement and regional stewardship. At Stockton, ADP has been a catalyst for creating a cohort of faculty, staff and students that take part in a number of projects related to service-learning, including workshops, public events and courses.

James Madison University (Va.)
James Madison University’s (JMU) comprehensive approach to civic learning and community engagement includes an award winning service-learning program; student-centered, innovative teaching; and expanded commitment to civic engagement. Due to these efforts, JMU President Jonathan Alger was named to the board of Campus Compact, and JMU was designated as a “Voter Friendly Campus.”

University of North Carolina at Charlotte
The Charlotte Action Research Project works to create a strong and sustained infrastructure between the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and local marginalized neighborhoods. It establishes opportunities for the school to work with neighborhoods on mutually beneficial action research, service-learning, popular education, and community organizing projects to address spatial inequality.

International Education Award:
State University of New York at Oswego
The State University of New York (SUNY) Oswego demonstrated significant, intentional support for a major initiative that embedded global engagement and action into the curriculum. I, Too, Am Study Abroad increases study abroad participation by underrepresented students and in non-traditional sites.

Leadership Development and Diversity Award:
Sam Houston State University (Texas)

Sam Houston State University’s High Potential Employee Leadership Academy—a nine-month-long program with development sessions on key leadership topics—shows strong commitment to high-performing employees from the school and surrounding community.

Regional and Economic Development Award:
University of Northern Iowa
In just four years, the University of Northern Iowa’s Regional Entrepreneurship Project has positively impacted 17 Iowa counties in five economically challenged regions. It develops customized strategic plans in regions that assist local leadership, providing research on business owners, economic trends and available local services.

Student Success and College Completion Award:
California State University, Fresno 
Through Graduation Initiative 2025, California State University, Fresno hopes to improve freshman six-year graduation by 10 percent; freshman four-year graduation by 20 percent; transfer two-year graduation by 12 percent; and transfer four-year graduation by 10 percent, and to remove the graduation gap for underrepresented minorities and Pell Grant recipients.

University of Central Oklahoma
First-year, full-time black male students were persisting at a rate of 48 percent from the first to second fall semester at the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO), compared to the overall cohort rate of 65 percent. As a result, UCO created the Black Male Initiative & Fellows Program in 2014. The program includes matching 60 first-year, full-time students with 20 peer mentors; placing the students in cohort classes; implementing a mandatory study hall and co-curricular programs; and holding a Black Male Summit to connect students with institutional and community stakeholders. The initiative raised retention rates 20 percent and graduation rates 15 percent.

Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award:
Comprehensive Award: Northwest Missouri State University
Since its establishment in 2011, the Comprehensive Sustainability System has produced $15.4 million in energy savings, a recycling program that has been recognized three times by the Missouri State Recycling Program, and the continuation of the university’s long history of tree preservation. Northwest also incorporates “green” learning across all disciplines through student engagement and community outreach.  

Innovative Project Award: SUNY Oswego
SUNY Oswego’s BikeShare and Bus Share projects encourage campus members to ride city and campus busses and bikes to help reduce the school’s carbon footprint. Bicycles are leant to students to provide access to sustainable transportation, to reduce commuter parking congestion, and to help the campus community engage in physical activity. The Bus Share app shows riders the quickest bus routes in Oswego. 


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.