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The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has a long tradition of recognizing individuals and organizations for their outstanding achievements in support of the nursing profession. Learn more about AACN's awards, submission, and deadlines below.

Nominated Awards by:

Member and FacultyBoard


Member and Faculty Nominated Awards

Diversity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Nursing Education Lectureship Award

Sponsored by and the Gannett Foundation, this award recognizes outstanding contributions made by an individual or a group that champion diversity, inclusion, and sustainability in nursing education. See Past Award Winners.

Innovations in Professional Nursing Education Awards

This award recognizes the outstanding work of AACN member schools to re-envision traditional models for nursing education and lead programmatic change. Innovation awards, including a monetary prize of $1,000, will be given in four institutional categories: Small School; Academic Health Center (AHC); Private School without an AHC; and Public School without an AHC. See Past Award Winners.

Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award

This annual award recognizes AACN member institutions involved in highly productive and model academic-practice partnerships. Up to three awards will be presented at AACN's Fall Semiannual Meeting. See Past Award Winners.


AACN created this awards program to recognize and showcase outstanding dissertations and final DNP projects completed by students in research- and practice-focused doctoral programs. Many doctoral students are advancing ground-breaking research and practice innovations that are worthy of national recognition and could serve as exemplars for other students to emulate. See Past Award Winners.

  • Excellence in Advancing Nursing Science Award for an outstanding dissertation from a student in a PhD in nursing or DNS program. A dissertation is an original research project that focuses on advancing nursing science and developing new evidence with the potential to guide nursing practice.
  • Excellence in Advancing Nursing Practice Award for an outstanding final project from a student in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. A DNP project demonstrates high-level mastery of an area of advanced nursing practice and focuses on the translation of evidence into practice.

Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award 

The purpose of the AACN Excellence and Innovation in Teaching Award is to recognize excellence and innovation in the teaching of nursing at AACN member schools by faculty with more than five years of teaching experience. Faculty who teach in didactic and/or clinical settings will be considered for this award. See past award winners.

Novice Faculty Teaching Awards

The purpose of the AACN Novice Faculty Teaching Awards is to recognize excellence and innovation in the teaching of nursing by novice faculty at AACN member schools. Two awards will be presented each year, with one award presented in each of the following categories below. See past award winners.

  • The Novice Faculty Excellence in Didactic Teaching Award will be presented to faculty teaching in either classroom or online settings.
  • The Novice Faculty Excellence in Clinical Teaching Award will recognize outstanding faculty teaching in clinical setting. 

Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Excellence Award 

The purpose of the AACN Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Excellence Award is to recognize a faculty member who systematically investigates questions related to student learning and the conditions under which it occurs in order to improve outcomes. See past award winners.

Sister Bernadette Armiger Award

Established in 1982 to honor Sr. Bernadette Armiger's distinguished service to AACN, this award recognizes individuals who significantly advance nursing education and practice. The selection criteria stresses active participation at AACN meetings and service to the organization, and national recognition for significant contributions to nursing education, scholarship, leadership, and advancement of the nursing profession. Nominations may be made by representatives of AACN member institutions. The final selection is made by the Board of Directors. See Past Award Winners.

AACN Policy Luminary Award

The Policy Luminary Award was established by AACN in 2009 to annually recognize an outstanding registered nurse and nursing leader for his or her public policy achievements. The first recipient of the award was Dr. Mary Wakefield, Administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.  Dr. Wakefield’s extensive career in nursing and health policy exemplifies the spirit of the AACN Policy Luminary Award. The award is presented annually at the AACN Fall Semiannual Meeting. See Past Award Winners.

AACN Advocate of the Year

Established in 2010, this award recognizes the member dean whose efforts to promote AACN policy initiatives produced the highest results among all other members in a given year. The Government Affairs staff review data regarding messages sent to Congress, responses to Action Alerts, and Hill visits to determine the top advocate. The identified dean nominee is presented to the GAC for approval. See Past Award Winner.

CNL Visionary Leader, CNL Educator, and CNL Vanguard Awards

The following awards are presented annually at the CNL Summit Conference:

  • CNL Visionary Award - presented by AACN, recognizes a long-standing leader with substantial accomplishments in advancing the CNL role in U.S. healthcare.
  • CNL Educator Vanguard Award - presented by AACN and the Commission of Nurse Certification (CNC), recognizes a CNL faculty member or program director for innovative and outstanding preparation and advocacy of CNLs. In addition, the award promotes the contributions of the CNL faculty member in transforming nursing education and promoting innovation in both academia and practice.
  • CNL Vanguard Award - presented by AACN and the Commission of Nurse Certification (CNC), recognizes a certified CNL for innovative and outstanding professional performance and advocacy of the CNL role. In addition, these awards promote the contributions of the CNL in transforming healthcare.

    See 2016 Award Winners

ELNEC Awards

The End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) Project Team presents annual awards to faculty who have completed an ELNEC training course and have implemented and disseminated the curriculum to students and fellow faculty in an exceptional manner. Awards are also given to Oncology and Pediatric ELNEC-trained faculty. See past award winners.

Board Nominated Awards

Geraldine “Polly” Bednash Lectureship Award

As one of the nation’s most respected advocates for higher education in nursing and interprofessional engagement, Polly Bednash worked tirelessly during her 28 year tenure at AACN to improve the quality of our nation’s health care by preparing a well-educated nursing workforce. This lectureship award honors Dr. Bednash for her distinguished record of service to AACN. Award recipients are chosen by the AACN Board of Directors on the basis of their scholarship and the notability of their contributions to nursing, health care, higher education, and/or interprofessional education. Awardees are asked to share pragmatic insights with deans when presenting at the AACN Spring Annual Meeting. Contribution information may be found at See past donors.

The John P. McGovern Invitational Lectureship Award

This award honors John P. McGovern for his noted clinical practice and research, and distinguished record of scholarship, skill, and service. Award recipients are chosen by the AACN Board of Directors on the basis of their scholarship and the notability of their contributions to nursing, health care, or higher education. Recipients regularly address the membership at AACN's Semiannual Meeting. See Past Award Winners

Corporate Citizen Award

Created in 2003, the Corporate Citizen Award was created to recognize outstanding contributions made by private companies and organizations in support of professional nursing education, practice and research. Typically, this contribution must benefit a minimum of three AACN member schools with baccalaureate and/or graduate nursing programs. Special consideration will be given to corporate citizens that demonstrate a minimum, sustained commitment of $10 million or greater. For more details on the award criteria and nomination process, click here.

Past Award Winners:

BSN Champion Award

Created by the AACN Board of Directors in 2005, the BSN Champion Award recognizes organizations and practice settings that place a high value on preparing nurses in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BS/BSN) degree programs. The Board considers nominations for this award during their meeting in July and presents this honor at the AACN Semiannual Meeting in October.

Past Award Winners:


Recent award winners

 2015 John P. McGovern Invitational Lectureship Award

Victor J. Dzau, President, National Academy of Medicine

  2016 Foundation Lectureship Award

Dr. Suzanne C. Smeltzer
Director of the Center for Nursing Research and Professor
Villanova University

2015 Geraldine "Polly" Bednash Lectureship Award

Dr. Carol A. Aschenbrener
Former Chief Medical Education Officer
Association of American Medical Colleges

Dr. Geraldine “Polly” Bednash
Former CEO
American Association of Colleges of Nursing

Dr. Lucinda L. Maine
Executive Vice President and CEO
American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy

Dr. Stephen C. Shannon
President and CEO
American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Harrison C. Spencer
President and CEO
Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health

Dr. Richard W. Valachovic
President and CEO
American Dental Education Association