• 2022 Excellence & Innovation Award Winners

    AASCU’s Excellence & Innovation Awards recognize the exemplary work undertaken by our campuses in the areas of teacher education, civic learning and community engagement, leadership development and diversity, regional and economic development, student success and college completion, sustainability and sustainable development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

    We congratulate this year’s winners and are grateful for the opportunity to share their inspiring work, which demonstrates the value of state colleges and universities and can also serve as a model for other campuses.

    I am honored to recognize the 2022 AASCU Excellence & Innovation Award winners, who have demonstrated immense creativity, resilience, and dedication. These institutions are paving the way in prioritizing equity, student success, and moving their diverse communities and regions forward.

    AASCU President Mildred García

    Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award

    Trauma-Informed Practices with Equity in Teacher Education: TIP-Equity at MSU Denver

    Metropolitan State University of Denver (CO) 

    The Office of Education Solutions in Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver)’s School of Education works to ensure that trauma-informed practices (TIP) become so fundamental to educator preparation and school systems that future educators will not remember a time without them.

    To achieve this goal, the Office of Education Solutions partnered with a local non-profit, Resilient Futures, to build the capacity of current and future teachers to recognize and respond to trauma in school environments with children, build healing and equitable classrooms, and address secondary trauma in themselves and their coworkers. The initiative integrates TIP with a lens of equity into the total School of Education curriculum for pre-service teachers. It also supports pre-service and in-service teachers and schools in implementing TIP through in-person and virtual professional development.

    Learn more about the program.

    Read MSU Denver’s news story.

    MSU Denver

    The School of Education incorporates trauma-informed practices into the education curriculum and has put an equity lens to it. We wanted to ensure that we were also being culturally responsive. It’s about saying, ‘We respect where you come from, and we still have high expectations.

    MSU Denver Office of Education Solutions Director Christine Muldoon

    Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award

    Community Engaged Learning

    University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

    In September 2021, the Community Engaged Learning Program at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-La Crosse) was introduced to faculty in UW-La Crosse’s College of Business Administration; College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities; and College of Science and Health. Faculty were invited to familiarize themselves with the program and—should they find that their course fit the criteria for either the undergraduate or graduate program—apply for a Community Engaged Learning designation to be included on their course-section in WINGS, UW-La Crosse’s student information system.

    During the 2021-2022 academic year, 19 course sections were designated as community engaged. The primary intent of the program is to give students real-world experience to help them grow their skills and make them more marketable to future employers, while at the same time provide a community service or meet a community need. During the inaugural year of the program, 316 students assisted with about 36 businesses, non-profits, or civic organizations. About 85% of those partnerships were within La Crosse County.  

    Learn more about the program.

    Read University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s press release.


    This program is critical to building strong relationships between students and La Crosse organizations and aligns perfectly with increasing community engagement, which is part of UW-La Crosse’s strategic plan. It is exciting to see the acknowledgment of the work being done to develop a process with integrity that serves students and the community.

    UW-La Crosse Provost Betsy Morgan

    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Leadership Award

    Western Kentucky University's ONE WKU Campaign

    Western Kentucky University

    Western Kentucky University (WKU) strives to ensure all faculty, staff, and students are treated with dignity, respect, and equity. To accomplish this, WKU worked to create initiatives aimed at reducing biases and shifting the culture toward a more inclusive environment leveraging the combined power of all units on campus to dismantle systemic discrimination, barriers to inclusion, and unequal opportunities.

    The ONE WKU Campaign, which launched in 2020, comprehensively drives diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts across campus, including book clubs, deliberative dialogues, and the Inclusive Teaching Academy (ITA). The ITA was the first program in the state to be approved by the Council on Postsecondary Education for its Cultural Competency Credential.

    Learn more about the program.

    Read WKU’s press release.


    While our work is just beginning, we have made some major strides in the areas of equity and inclusion over the last couple of years. I think our success is due to the creation of a collaborative process of change-making that includes a diversity of voice, talent, and thought; cooperation and teamwork truly make the difference.

    WKU Co-Chief Diversity Officer Molly Kerby

    Leadership Development and Diversity Award

    Impact3 Leadership Development Program

    James Madison University (VA)

    Since 2003, 214 high-achieving leaders have participated in IMPACT3 at James Madison University (JMU). These leaders commit to a year-long customized program designed to develop their skills and grow a leadership culture at the university. The program focuses on well-researched core competencies, skills, and characteristics such as communication, integrity, and service and serves as a model for rising leaders in higher education. 

    The name, IMPACT3, relates to the difference effective leadership can make and the three places the impact can be made: individually, on the university level, and in society. In addition, three university facilitators guide discussions, support learning, and challenge the participants.

    Learn more about the program.

    Read JMU’s press release.

    James Madison University

    It is an honor for JMU to be recognized for the work that is done through IMPACT3 to cultivate thoughtful leaders from all aspects of the university. I am also appreciative of the dedication and commitment of the facilitators, each of whom has been with the program as a participant and provided years of service.

    JMU President Jonathan Alger

    Regional and Economic Development Award

    The University of West Alabama's Division of Economic and Workforce Development, A Link Between Campus and Community

    The University of West Alabama

    As the leader for economic and workforce development in Sumter County and West Alabama, known as Alabama’s “Black Belt” region, the Division of Economic and Workforce Development at the University of West Alabama (UWA)’s mission is to support and enhance the economic vitality and long-term prosperity of the region.

    The Division of Economic and Workforce Development has developed the capacity to support economic growth, business retention and expansion, and enhanced quality of life in the region. It has also developed local and regional initiatives such as expansion of the UWA Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) Program, Sumter Renaissance (Economic Development Strategic Plan), the Rural Broadband Plan & Initiative, Leadership Sumter, West Alabama Rural Development Initiative, and the Healthy Places for Healthy People program. By successfully implementing these objectives, UWA’s Division of Economic and Workforce Development is addressing the challenges and meeting the needs of the Black Belt region it serves.

    Learn more about the program.

    Read UWA’s press release.


    Because of the growth and success of our academic programs, workforce development training programs, and economic development initiatives, there are more economic opportunities and a more qualified and ready-to-work workforce. This is evidenced by job creation; an increase in job placement, internships, certifications, and program participation; and the slow but steady decrease in un-and underemployment and population decline. We cannot just think rural, we must live it.

    UWA Director of Economic Development Allison Brantley

    Student Success and College Completion Award

    Improving Student Success at University of Wisconsin-Parkside

    University of Wisconsin-Parkside

    The University of Wisconsin-Parkside (UW-Parkside) 2025 Strategic Framework aims to produce a significantly greater number of highly valued graduates. As those historically underserved by higher education continue to make up a larger part of the Southeastern Wisconsin region, achieving this goal requires more graduates and higher graduation rates.

    Since 2016, 40 new UW-Parkside academic programs, majors, or concentrations have been approved, launched, or revised. Innovation and delivery of new, market-responsive offerings, including rapidly expanding master’s-level options, is a priority of the UW-Parkside 2025 Strategic Framework. The university is also implementing a range of integrated, equity-focused, best-practice student success strategies at scale to improve graduation rates among students.

    Learn more about the program.

    Read University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s press release.

    University of Wisconsin-Parkside 2022

    We need more well-educated graduates in our region and beyond. There are a number of ways to achieve that and improving student success is our most important priority. We must and can address these challenges by providing more access to a university education in an environment intentionally designed to help all students succeed.

    UW-Parkside Provost and Vice Chancellor Rob Ducoffe

    Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award

    A Lifelong Commitment to Sustainability and the Environment

    University of Washington Bothell

    The University of Wisconsin Bothell (UW Bothell) commitment to sustainability began in the 1990s when it launched an ambitious multi-year, multimillion-dollar project to restore 58.5 acres to its natural wetland habitat. These restoration efforts have been very successful and widely recognized, and, together with the natural habitat, have strongly influenced the university’s educational efforts and mission.

    UW Bothell designed and executed energy, water, and waste reduction programs that demonstrate its strong commitment to sustainable practices and have allowed regional biodiversity to flourish on the campus grounds. The university’s efforts have led to significant institutional improvements in waste management practices as well as reduction in energy and water usage.

    Learn more about the program.

    Read University of Washington Bothell’s press release.


    This is among the highest accolades conferred by AASCU, and we couldn’t be more honored to receive it. Sustainability has been a core principle of our campus for many years, and this recognition reflects that.

    UW Bothell Chancellor Kristin Esterberg