AGLS Award for the Improvement of General Education
Exemplary Program Awards

National and international education officials, accreditors, and faculty leaders increasingly associate “quality” education with student learning outcomes and continuous quality improvement processes. Moving away from the view of education as a simple act of passing a static body of knowledge from faculty to students, they value education practiced as a commitment to a set of collectively-practiced, ongoing activities:  making institutional choices about the most important goals for student learning and defining the learning in terms of desired outcomes; developing a shared faculty commitment to actions such as high impact, active learning strategies and faculty development designed to increase student achievement; making informed judgments about student achievement and the impact of various general education program support processes; and ensuring continuous improvements in the educational program. Despite the commitment of academic leaders and accreditors to these processes, too few institutions have succeeded in applying systematic improvement processes to the general education program. As a result, discussions about higher education accountability and improvement conclude that higher education can benefit from models of innovative, effective, and systematic general education program improvements and assessments.

The Association for General and Liberal Studies is the national organization whose mission is singularly committed to quality general education programs and their central role in the liberal education of students. The organization invites institutions to apply for the 2015 AGLS Awards for Improving General Education: Exemplary Program Processes. The Award promotes institutional commitment to continuous quality improvement processes, recognizes faculty and institutions that practice these quality behaviors, and provides much needed examples of effective improvement processes. For 2015, AGLS will recognize institutions committed to systematic, verifiable general education learning achieved through one of four focus categories (see below). AGLS will recognize up to three institutions that employ effective and innovative co-curricular experiences to help achieve an institution’s general education goals. The Awards presentation will be made during the 2015 Annual AGLS Conference, September 24-26, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Representatives from recognized institutions will be asked to present their co-curricular processes in identified special sessions and, if possible, provide a poster presentation for display throughout the conference. Recipients will receive the following: a plaque recognizing their successes; recognition on the AGLS website, listserv, and other publications; two half-priced registrations for the upcoming conference, which include a year’s membership in AGLS.
The 2015 Award gives institutions recognition options.
Application forms describing quality general education program work can be submitted for any one of the following learning improvement processes:

Co-Curricular General Education Learning

Developing Faculty Ownership

Learning Assessment

Program Improvement

  Application forms should be received no later than June 15, 2015. Please email complete applications to



2014 Exemplary Program Award for Improving General Education
Developing Faculty Ownership

St. Mary's University (Texas)

From the Judges' Comments:

The AGLS Awards Committee voted unanimously to recognize the St. Mary’s application.  The judges praised St. Mary’s work to engage significant numbers of faculty in the process of completely redesigning its new core rather than doing a quick fix.  Faculty ownership began in the research of Catholic and Marianist higher education traditions and of St. Mary’s history in higher education.  After determining the new program’s direction, the institution wisely took its time to implement the revamped program; one judge noted the benefit of the staggered implementation process that allowed the members of the course committees to build the new core courses and course materials with great focus and intentionality.  The Awards Committee was impressed by the engagement of large numbers of tenured faculty, full-time non-tenured, and adjuncts in the process, and by the supporting data and graphs which suggest faculty and staff support for the program continues to grow.  The judges also appreciated the professional development activities offered to engage faculty in the new core and the willingness of faculty to share teaching materials and student learning tools via the “Lib Guides,” the repositories of materials built for each course.  Finally, the AGLS team recognized the thoughtfulness of St. Mary’s improvement plans, which include both strengthening the course technical support and recognizing curriculum leaders and quality teachers.  One judge summarized the application by saying it “shows a strong grasp of realities along with a commitment to being true to the mission.”

See St. Mary's application here.

2014 Exemplary Program Award for Improving General Education  
Co-Curricular General Education Learning

University of South Carolina

From the Judges' Comments:

The AGLS Award judges unanimously supported the recognition of the USC’s application.   They praised the scope of USC’s co-curricular learning program, which offers students multiple opportunities and approaches to meeting the institution’s learning goals.  The application clearly details how the co-curricular learning focus relates to and supports the goals of general education.  The Awards Committee members were impressed with the organization of the program, such as the use of pathways offices to coordinate the faculty and the students’ experiences and make it easy for both to be engaged in the program.  Committee members were also pleased to see both the significant administrative and financial support for the program.  The assessment data, while early in the life of the program, suggests that USC’s investment is paying off in terms of student learning and enthusiasm for the program, and the faculty assessment is being constructively used to overcome obstacles to success and strengthen faculty support for the effort.  One judge said that the application offered one of “the most detailed, complete, and replicable proposals submitted.”

See South Carolina's application here.

The 2014 Awards Committee

Jerry Gaff, recently retired as Senior Scholar at AAC&U
Michael Gress, Vincennes University; Chair of the Awards Committee
Amber Holloway, Associate Vice President for Quality Services, Higher Learning Commission
John Nichols, Vice President for Academic Affairs, St. Joseph’s College, Rensellaer, IN
Lynn Priddy, Provost, National American University
Lenore Rodicio, Provost for Academics and Student Affairs, Miami Dade College
Stephen Spangehl, Director of the Higher Education Division of Plexus International
Vicki Stieha, Foundational Studies Program, Boise State University
Marcy Stoll, Vice President, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Paul Winterhoff, Director of General Education, Meredith College
Barbara Wright, Vice President, Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Previous Exemplary Program Winners*



2014  St. Mary's University, University of South Carolina
2013   no award given 
2012  Wofford College