• EI Award Banner

    Purpose and Description of the Awards 

    The purpose of these awards is to recognize and honor AASCU institutions demonstrating excellence and innovation in their approach to address international education, leadership development and diversity, regional and economic development, student success, sustainability, and teacher education on their campuses. In addition, AASCU will recognize member institutions who performed model work in achieving student success despite challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a special one-time recognition award.

    The awards provide a means to collect and disseminate information about successful, replicable programs and practices and to support campus efforts to improve their institutions.

    Award recipients will receive an engraved sculpture and recognition at the AASCU Annual Meeting. During the Annual Meeting, AASCU will present short videos about each of the award-winning programs. During the summer of 2021, each winning organization will be asked to work with AASCU and our audio-visual vendor on developing and delivering original and/or existing video content about the winning program. 

    AASCU acknowledges award recipients through the AASCU Advantage newsletter, on the AASCU website, on AASCU’s social media channels, and in national media outlets and takes other steps to ensure public recognition of award winners’ accomplishments. We also work with campus communications offices to ensure public recognition of award winners' accomplishments.

    Applications will be reviewed by subcommittees of AASCU's Standing Committees and are due by May 14, 2021.


    Awardees will be responsible for collecting b-roll footage and/or interview sound bites that best summarize and highlight the program. Shortly after the winners are announced, AASCU will contact a designated point person from each organization. AASCU will provide specific creative and technical direction tailored to the honored program and video capabilities of each organization. All raw footage will be collected and compiled into a comprehensive final video product that will debut at the AASCU 2021 Annual Meeting.


    AASCU member institutions (including system offices) in good financial standing that have demonstrated significant and intentional support for a program or programs in one or more of the award categories may apply. Support may be demonstrated as significant and intentional in the form of sustained effort over a period of time or as support and backing of a single major effort or initiative. Evidence that the program or initiative has achieved measurable outcomes is essential. Evidence of results may be quantitative or qualitative.

    General Criteria

    In addition to these general criteria for the awards overall, each award category specifies additional criteria that award applications must address.

    1. There is evidence of executive-level support and engagement in ensuring the success of the program or initiative
    2. The program or initiative is connected to the institutional vision, mission, and strategic agenda and supports institutional change
    3. There is evidence that the program or initiative has led to significant institutional improvements or innovative programming
    4. The program or initiative is grounded in research and incorporates best practices in the field

    2021 Award Categories

    Campus Pandemic Response Award
    (Special one-time recognition award)

    This award recognizes the exemplary practices of member campuses that have implemented procedures and/or best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic leading to academic student success. Award recipients will be selected based on campus type (rural, suburban, and urban).

    Specific criteria for the Campus Pandemic Response Award:

    • The institution must demonstrate remarkable steps and achievement in revamping practices that led to student success in any key area, such as enhancing student life on campus, attaining enrollment goals, or delivering a hybrid environment leading to retention and graduation
    • New practices serve as student success models for other institutions

    AASCU Contact: Faozia Pio, division coordinator, Academic Innovation and Transformation

    Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award

    The Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award honors institutions that demonstrate a strategic commitment to prioritizing, institutionalizing and advancing student civic learning and community engagement in regional, state, and/or national communities. This award recognizes colleges/universities that are working to develop campus cultures that recognize and reward engagement that 1) fosters student learning and civic skill building, 2) rewards faculty teaching and scholarship for civic purposes and with engaging pedagogies and practices, and 3) partners meaningfully with community members and organizations to solve pressing problems and build more just and equitable communities.

    Specific criteria for the Civic Learning and Community Engagement Award:

    • The institution must demonstrate that commitment to civic learning and community engagement are tied to institutional vision, mission, and/or strategic agenda
    • The institution must demonstrate a combination of innovative programs and efforts along with sustained and measured progress toward institutionalizing civic learning and community engagement efforts
    • The institution must demonstrate that commitment to civic learning and engagement exists across the curriculum, student involvement, and campus processes
    • The institution must demonstrate that community engagement efforts are strategic, comprehensive, and reciprocal

    AASCU Contact: Felice Nudelman, associate vice president, Academic Innovation and Transformation

    International Education Award

    The International Education Award will not only recognize outstanding international programs, but it will also document 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. 

    Specific criteria for the International Education Award: 

    • The institution must advance curriculum development, foster international opportunities, and creatively integrate international students into university life  
    • The institution must 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 must demonstrate strategic, comprehensive and sustainable international partnership efforts

     AASCU Contact: Jody Dixon, program coordinator, Global Initiatives 

    Leadership Development and Diversity Award

    The Leadership Development and Diversity Award will recognize 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 organization for its members.

    Specific criteria for the Leadership Development and Diversity Award:           

    • The institution must demonstrate the extent to which the program is a part of an integrated approach designed to identify, develop, and promote high-potential talent throughout the university
    • The program must be diverse by design—that is, the enhancement and development of a diverse group of leaders is reflected in the program goals and evaluation criteria. Diversity includes diversity across employee groups, but must also reflect attention to diversity based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation
    • The leadership development program must be demonstrably connected to institutional outcomes. The program must have completed three cycles and have outcome data as evidence

    AASCU Contact: Kathleen Scott, vice president, Leadership Development and Partnerships

    Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award

    The Christa McAuliffe Award has long honored exemplary teacher education programs at AASCU public colleges and universities that can document the success of their graduates in improving P-12 pupil learning outcomes. However, in response to ongoing developments in state data systems, which might potentially advantage programs in data-rich states, the award now focuses on how programs have been adapted using evidence of P-12 impact. (Note: Evidence of P-12 impact may include, but is not limited to, state data—when and where this is available.) Furthermore, whereas the award historically focused on pre-service preparation, the criteria have been expanded to include professional development programs. 

    To win this award, teacher education and professional development programs must not only demonstrate effectiveness in producing P-12 learning outcomes; award winners must also demonstrate and explain how they have redesigned their programs as a result of these P-12 learning outcomes.

    The purpose of the criteria is 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.

    The award is presented to the winning presidents/chancellors at the AASCU Annual Meeting in October. Another presentation is made to the winning deans of education at the annual meeting of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) the following March.

    Specific criteria for the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award:

    • AASCU’s Committee on Teacher Education, which includes education deans from TECSCU, will screen applications to determine winners.

    AASCU Contact: Faozia Pio, division coordinator, Academic Innovation and Transformation 

    Regional and Economic Development Award

    Institutional excellence in regional and economic development can involve campus activities that: demonstrably promote innovation and technology transfer to local businesses, nonprofit organizations, or governments; improve regional competitiveness and prosperity; foster entrepreneurial activity on the campus and in the community; and address workforce development/job creation issues. The impact of regional and economic development on the campus also must be considered. Changes in the curriculum, the engagement of students and faculty members, and increases in sponsored programs funding are all important components of an effective regional and economic outreach initiative. 

    Specific criteria for the Regional and Economic Development Award: 

    • The institution must outline the extent to which external organizations were involved in the planning and implementation of the project. Both length and depth of involvement will be considered
    • The institution must explain the degree to which there were quantifiable benefits from the project demonstrating impact on the quality of the local workforce, job creation, or other economic or community impact 
    • The institution must explain the degree to which faculty and students were engaged in project development or implementation and how the project resulted in curriculum development or redesign 
    • The institution must demonstrate the extent to which the project involved sponsored programs funding or in-kind support from the institution or external agency

    AASCU Contact: Erika Thompson, director, Grants Resource Center 

    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. 

    Specific criteria for the Student Success and College Completion Award:  

    • 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

    AASCU Contact: Robin Ellis, executive director, Student Success

    Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award

    The Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award honors higher education institutions that demonstrate a clear commitment to advancing environmental sustainability and climate change awareness in their classrooms, on their campuses, and in their communities. There are two awards that recognizes college and universities that are implementing innovative sustainability and sustainable development policies, practices and curricula that seek to engage the campus and broader community in climate and sustainability solutions.   

    Specific criteria for the Climate Leadership and Sustainability Award:

    • 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


    • Comprehensive Project Award: The comprehensive project provides an opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of developing and implementing an overall sustainability program
    • Innovative Projects Award: A project that develops new sustainable products, strategies, and services

    AASCU Contact: Mia Williams, associate vice president, Membership 

    Evaluation Process

    Applications will be reviewed by subcommittees of AASCU Standing Committees, namely: the Committee on Undergraduate Education will review the Student Success and College Completion Award, the Committee on Economic and Workforce Development will review the Regional and Economic Development Award, the Committee on International Education will review the International Education Award, the Committee on Professional Development will review the Leadership Development and Diversity Award, the Committee on Sustainable Development will review the Sustainability and Sustainable Development Award, and the Committee on the American Democracy Project will be reviewing the Civic Learning & Engagement Award. The Teacher Education Award applications are initially screened by a group of education deans appointed by the Teacher Education Council of State Colleges and Universities and then by a committee of AASCU presidents.  

    Application Deadline

    Applications are due by May 14, 2021. Award recipients will be notified in mid-to-late June.

    Questions may be directed to MemberServices@aascu.org or 202-478-4645.