MAGS Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education

The MAGS Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education recognizes a MAGS member school for outstanding contributions to graduate education. The 2023 winner and runner up were announced and celebrated at the 2023 annual meeting in Chicago, IL.

Purpose of the Award

The purpose of the award is to encourage, recognize, and reward excellence and innovation in graduate education at either the graduate school or program level. Applications may relate to any facet of graduate education, including outreach, recruitment through selection and admission, retention, instruction, and degree attainment. In sum, we welcome all aspects of the graduate life cycle, e.g.:

  • Recruiting, retaining, and ensuring the success of underrepresented minorities, underserved populations, or international students
  • Development of programs, policies, and processes in response to extenuating situations such as the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Programs, policies, and processes that support using technology to promote instructional best practices and/or increase educational access
  • Initiatives or programs that promote graduate student mental and physical health and wellness
  • Innovative and creative pathways to student success
  • Creation of professional development opportunities to broaden the skill sets of graduate students
  • Programmatic efforts to improve student retention and completion
  • Innovative technology to communicate with and attract prospective applicants in new and effective ways
  • Other significant efforts to promote excellence and innovation in graduate education

Eligibility and Guidelines

  • Download the 2023 MAGS Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education Flyer HERE.
  • Access the 2023 Nomination Form (Google Form) HERE


The 2023 MAGS Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education was awarded at the 79th Annual MAGS meeting in Chicago, IL, on March 29, 2023.

2023 Winner:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Emily Wuchner, Associate Director for Student Experience, Graduate College
“GradMAP: Graduate Student Orientation, Reimagined”
The UIUC Graduate College reimagined the very idea of orientation to develop GradMAP: an innovative program comprised of a suite of resources that provide new graduate students with a comprehensive first-year experience. Further, the tools and resources of GradMAP support departments as well as their students.

2023 Honorable Mention:
South Dakota State University
Nicole Lounsbery, Director, Graduate School
“Expanding the Circle: Increasing Access to Graduate Education for Tribal Colleges and Communities (TCUs)”


The 2022 MAGS Awards for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education was awarded at the 78th Annual MAGS meeting in Milwaukee, WI, on April 7, 2022.

2022 Winner:
Marquette University
Maggie Nettesheim Hoffmann
“Marquette University’s Graduate Futures Initiative: The Next Generation of Career Diversity”

Marquette University’s Graduate Futures Initiative (GFI) offers graduate students values driven career formation programming and extends traditional career diversity efforts to provide students with access to interdisciplinary, partnership-informed, mission-driven support that makes career readiness an organic part of graduate education. Inspired by national career diversity endeavors including those led by the Council of Graduate Schools’ PhD Career Pathways program, the American Historical Association’s Career Diversity for Historians Initiative, and the National Endowment for the Humanities Next Generation PhD grants, and others, Marquette’s Graduate School launched the GFI in 2018 to meet the needs of doctorial students, as well as those of master’s and professional students. To this end, the objectives of the GFI initiative at Marquette include: (1) promoting career readiness as a core value in graduate education; (2) developing curriculum for graduate career development in the Ignatian tradition; (3) implementing and growing internship opportunities for graduate students; (4) integrating career development programming into graduate training; (5) collaborating with university and Milwaukee community partners.

2022 Honorable Mention:
University of Iowa
Heidi Arbisi-Kelm
“An Unexpected Outcome: The Promise of the Remote Thesis Defense”


Pther Past MAGS Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education Award Recipients
2016 – University of Kansas
Hall Center for the Humanities
“Applied Humanities”
This innovative program was selected because of its development of opportunities for graduate students in the humanities to explore career pathways outside of the traditional tenure track academic positions. This program includes a bootcamp, a series of panel discussions, networking opportunities and internships for its students. In addition, student outcomes are tracked during and after their degree programs, along with strong evaluation and review processes.

2015 (sponsored by ETS) – University of Minnesota
Henning Schroeder, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education
“Resilient Communities Project (RCP)”
The Resilient Communities Project (RCP) is a cross-disciplinary program that supports one-year partnerships between a selected community and the University of Minnesota. It offers an innovative collaborative model of community-university engagement, focused on building a long-term relationship with one partner community each year. The program goes beyond simply providing community projects for graduate and professional students and advanced undergraduates; it promotes the development of knowledge and innovation around community sustainability. Students participate in RCP by enrolling in an RCP-affiliated course, or through connecting an individual thesis, capstone, or independent study to a faculty-supervised RCP project. The program trains future practitioners, builds capacity among faculty to advance applied sustainability learning and engagement, and develops practical sustainability projects that can serve as models for other communities. RCP offers capacity related to water, energy, social equity, planning, design, recreation, management, economics, evaluations, and other topics that can complement local staff expertise as cities work toward becoming more sustainable and resilient communities. In its first two years, RCP partnered with two communities on over 30 projects, with over 45 course matches in dozens of academic departments from 11 colleges on two University of Minnesota campuses, and has engaged over 400 students to work on these projects. The collaboration among community staff, faculty and students results in on-the-ground impact and momentum for a community working toward a more sustainable and livable future.