[ Winners ] · [ About Virginia B. Smith ]

[ History and Purpose ] · [ Award Criteria ] · [ Application Information ]
[ Selection Committee Members ]

The Innovative Leadership Award recognizes individuals whose leadership in higher education has resulted in better ways to educate people to participate in and improve an open and inclusive democratic society. The award is named in honor and memory of Virginia B. Smith, who made extraordinary contributions in advancing innovative strategies to improve opportunity and excellence in higher education throughout her career, as educator, foundation director, and public policy scholar.

The Higher Education Policy Institute and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) sponsors the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award.

Virginia B. Smith, president emerita of Vassar College, was known as an innovative thinker and leader in higher education.

She was founding director of the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), associate director of the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, and assistant vice president of the University of California system. She holds an MA in economics and a JD from the University of Washington. She has received 11 honorary degrees. Dr. Smith has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Educational Testing Service, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges' Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges, the Higher Education Policy Institute, and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, which she chaired. She was a founding board member of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and was senior advisor to the California Higher Education Policy Center.

History and Purpose [Top]

The Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award was established in 1999 as an endowed annual award to encourage leadership and innovation in American higher education.

The purpose of the award is to foster better methods to educate people to participate in and improve an open and inclusive democratic society. This overall purpose can be advanced through various strategies and approaches, including innovation and leadership in the following areas.

Assuring that education leads to effective learning
  • Assessing learning
  • Developing learning communities
  • Using technology in teaching
  • Advancing institutional assessment and accreditation
  • Improving teacher education
  • Enhancing the first-year experience

    Improving access to higher education
  • Improving articulation between high school and college
  • Improving articulation between two- and four-year colleges
  • Making college more affordable
  • Improving student persistence and retention
  • Shortening the length of college

    Including appropriate subject matter and skills in the curriculum
  • Promoting global understanding
  • Strengthening civic purposes
  • Fostering cultural diversity
  • Improving group participation
  • Developing communication skills
  • Strengthening analytical thinking
  • Award Criteria [Top]

    The Innovative Leadership Award is jointly administered by the Higher Education Council and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. A steering committee advises the sponsering organizations and activily seeks a diverse range of nominations and applications.

    Candidates should have demonstrated innovative leadership qualities that have improved higher education, yet be at a stage in their careers when they will still make significant contributions in the future. The award is meant to encourage and support those seeking sustained improvements in higher education. In addition:

    • Candidates should have demonstrated, through activities that have been implemented, innovative leadership qualities that have been central to the achievement of substantial improvements in higher education.

    • These improvements should benefit students by enhancing opportunities for learning, and, wherever possible, should lead to more effective use of resources.

    • The actions described should involve the cooperation and collaboration of additional individuals and/or organizations.

    • These accomplishments should further the overall purposes of the award.
    Application Information [Top]

    Nominations and applications for the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award are accepted year-round. Award recipients are selected by June for the following calendar year. Submission of materials via e-mail is encouraged. If materials are mailed, please provide two copies of all documents.

    E-mail to: joni@gse.upenn.edu
    Joni Finney, Chair
    Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award
    Practice Professor
    Graduate School of Education
    University of Pennsylvania
    3700 Walnut Street, 424C
    Philadelphia, PA 19104

    Nominations and applications should be brief and should include the following information:

    • Description of the activities or innovations (either completed or underway) and their potential for fostering substantive and sustained improvement in the future.

    • Evidence of the success and wider applicability of the candidate's work, showing that the impact of the candidate's efforts has been broader than his or her immediate workplace. This might include writing or speaking to a larger audience.

    • Description of the role played by the candidate in this activity, the roles played by others through collaborative efforts, and the candidate's leadership qualities that promise continued progress in the future.

    • A resume or biography of the candidate.
    Steering Advisory Committee Members [Top]

    Charles I. Bunting
    Vice President
    A.T. Kearney, Inc.

    Patrick M. Callan
    Higher Education Policy Institute

    Peter Ewell
    Vice President
    National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

    Joni E. Finney
    Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award

    Margaret A. Miller
    Center for the Study of Higher Education
    Curry School of Education
    University of Virginia

    Carol F. Stoel
    Science Education Administrator
    National Science Foundation

    Pamela Tate
    Council for Adult and Experiential Learning

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