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AAG Award for Program Excellence 

2021 AAG Award for Bachelors Program Excellence

Deadline: Preliminary Nominations from Regional Divisions: June 30, 2020
Final Submissions from Selected Programs:December 31, 2020

2022 AAG Award for Masters Program Excellence

Deadline: Preliminary Nominations from Regional Divisions: June 30, 2021
Final Submissions from Selected Programs: December 31. 2021

Nomination materials and inquiries should be sent to

The American Association of Geographers announces a newly created award to recognize excellence in Geography programs at U.S. colleges and universities. The annual award and cash prize honors Geography departments and Geography programs within blended departments that have significantly enhanced the prominence and reputation of Geography as a discipline and demonstrated the characteristics of a strong and engaged academic unit. The award honors non-PhD granting Geography programs at the associate, baccalaureate, and master levels. AAG recognizes that these programs play an important role in educating future geographers and promoting the discipline to a wider world, but that they tend not to be included in national rankings within the Academy.

Program excellence may reflect the cumulative work of several years or major contributions in a shorter period of time, and criteria for evaluating nominated programs is not limited to a single characteristic. Nominations are submitted through Regional Divisions and undergo preliminary and final stages of evaluation by the Program Award Selection Committee, the members of which are appointed by the AAG Council. AAG welcomes evidence that nominated geography programs are committed to the “Healthy Departments Initiative;” the preparation of geographers for professional careers; and actions that promote diversity, improve inclusion, and broaden participation of historically under-represented faculty and students.

Eligibility and Award Categories

Non-PhD granting geography programs in the United States are eligible for nomination. The AAG Award for program Excellence consists of three categories of recognition: (1) geography programs that offer no higher than an associate's degree (AA/AAS/AASCET);  (2) geography programs that offer no higher than an undergraduate degree (BA/BS); (3) geography programs that offer no higher than a master-level degree (MA/MS). These differentiated awards ensure that nominees are evaluated fairly and appropriate to the different roles and expectations of undergraduate and graduate programs. A geography program can only be nominated for one level or category of award. There is no limit to the number of times a geography program can be nominated, but a program that wins an award must wait five years before being nominated again. In light of the significant work involved in reviewing nominations, the award process would alternate annually between AA/AAS/AASCET, BA/BS, and MA/MS programs. Annual calls for nominations will state the award category for that year.


The Award Committee will consider many criteria in selecting Geography programs of excellence, including but not limited to the characteristics listed below:

  1. Compelling vision, strong leadership, and shared, democratic governance
  2. Excellence in instruction, student mentorship, and pedagogical innovation
  3. Advancements in the development of curriculum, degree programs, and student learning goals
  4. Successful student placement with employers, graduate school, or other opportunities
  5. Collegial environment characterized by sociability and mutual respect among faculty, staff, and students
  6. Promotion of diversity, intercultural understanding, and participation of under-represented groups
  7. Pursuit of scholarship, intellectual curiosity, and the exchange of ideas through publication, conference participation, and other means
  8. Active participation in the broader discipline and its regional and national organizations
  9. Commitment to help students develop into professional leaders and life-long learners
  10. Enthusiastic promotion of the importance of geography on and off campus
  11. Engagement with local and extended communities (can include global communities)
  12. Meaningful outreach to alumni and other program stakeholders
  13. Effective relationships with other programs and multi-disciplinary initiatives within the university
  14. Achievements in fund-raising and management of resources and infrastructure


Self-nominations directly from geography programs will not be accepted. The nomination procedure consists of preliminary and final stages, relying upon coordination with and input from the AAG’s Regional Divisions.

Regional Divisions are responsible for submitting preliminary nominations from their respective regions for the AAG Award for Program Excellence. Submission of nominees from each Regional Division will be the responsibility of the Chair/President of that Regional Division. Regional Division Chairs/Presidents shall work with their members, steering committees, and Regional Councillors to identify nominees. Regional Divisions do not have to nominate every year (nor in every category), but Regional Divisions are limited to 2 preliminary nominations per year.

Nominations from the Regional Division Chairs should be no more than two pages explaining why the program has been nominated. Preliminary nominations from AAG Regional Divisions will be reviewed by the Program Award Selection Committee to select a list of finalists. If a program is nominated which is represented on the Award Selection Committee, that member will remove him/herself from the committee for the year in question and be replaced by an alternate.

Deadline for Nominations from AAG Regional Divisions is June 30th to The two pages should be sent digitally as an unrestricted pdf file (link to sample nomination).  Acknowledgement of receipt will be returned to the sender within 3 business days.

Final Submissions

The Program Award Selection Committee will then invite programs selected as finalists to submit a nomination dossier of no more than 15 pages of all documents (single-spaced when/as possible) that addresses the accomplishments and merits of the program. The 15-page limit includes all appendices, letters, and additional supporting materials. If a dossier is submitted that is longer than the 15-page limit, it will be disqualified. A program is free to decline to participate. There is flexibility and choice in what supporting documentation can be included in the dossier, although the size of the dossier will be strictly enforced. Supporting documents might include: (1) letters of recommendation from current and former students, administrators and colleagues, and other parties familiar with and affected by the nominated program (e.g., nonprofit organizations, government agencies, private business and industry, community groups, and educational associations); (2) materials from previous annual reports, academic program reviews, or professional certification reviews (if applicable); (3) other evidence of achievement in the areas of teaching, scholarship, service, public engagement, and student leadership. This evidence can be in the form of both quantitative and qualitative assessments.

Deadline to receive the final submissions from invited departments is December 31 (link to sample finalist dossier).  Digital submissions are encouraged and should be emailed as a single unresricted pdf file to  Hard copy submissions may be mailed to AAG Award for Program Excellence, P.O. Box 73158 Washington, DC 20056.  A notice of hard copy mailing should be sent by email to


The Program Award Selection Committee will review the invited nomination submissions and make a decision on final recipient within the active award category for that particular year. As with the bestowing of all AAG awards, this Committee may decline to make an award in any given year and in any given category. Recipients of Awards for Program Excellence will receive a cash prize of $2,000 and a certificate of recognition. The award is presented at the Awards Luncheon at the AAG Annual Meeting.

The Program Award Committee has the authority to issue the award to more than one program in a single year and designate Honorable Mentions when warranted, although Honorable Mentions would not come with a financial prize. Awardees, Honorable Mentions, and Final Nominees will be recognized publicly in AAG publications, print and online. The programs may be invited to participate in a special session at an AAG meeting organized as part of the Healthy Departments Initiative.

Finally, AAG will prepare a letter of recognition and press release announcing recipients of AAG Award for Program Excellence. The letter and press release will be distributed to the recognized university for media relations purposes and informing upper administrators of the importance of the Award for Program Excellence.

AAG Award for Program Excellence Committee Member Selection

The AAG Award for Program Excellence Selection Committee will consist of 3 members who serve 3 year staggered terms. As with all AAG Committees, a list of possible nominees for the Selection Committee will be brought by the AAG Committee on Committees to the AAG Council for discussion, possible amendment, and final vote of approval. National and Regional Councillors are encouraged to submit names of possible committee member nominees for consideration by the Committee on Committees. The Selection Committee should not include two members from the same regional division of the AAG. Selection Committee members are not restricted to those scholar-teachers working at BA/BS and MA/MS programs, but they should be able to appreciate the unique challenges and achievements at those types of academic units. Any current or former member of a nominated program should be recused from the Selection Committee and replaced with an alternate member. The AAG Committee on Committees is responsible for proposing the name of an alternate member of the Selection Committee at the same time as the three regular Committee member appointments.


2020 Associates Program Excellence Award
Department of Geography and Geospatial Technology, Lakeland Community College
2020 Honorable Mention
Department of Geography, Grand Rapids Community College
2019 MA/MS Program Excellence Award
Department of Geography, Western Michigan University
2019 Honorable Mention
Department of Geography, California State University – Long Beach
2018 BA/BS Program Excellence Award
Department of Geography, SUNY - Geneseo
2018 Honorable Mention
Department of Geography, Macalester College
2017 MA/MS Program Excellence Award
Department of Geography and the Environment, University of North Texas
2017 Honorable Mention
Department of Geography, The George Washington University
2016 BA/BS Program Excellence Award
Department of Geography, DePaul University
2016 Honorable Mention
Geography Program, Illinois State University


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