K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award?

Recipients of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Awards are recognized at, and participate in, AAC&U’s Annual Meeting in January.

The K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Awards provide financial support for graduate students to attend AAC&U’s Annual Meeting. All award recipients are required to attend the meeting.

The awards include travel, lodging, conference registration, and a one-year affiliation with AAC&U, including a subscription to Liberal Education magazine.

Each year, hundreds of laudable graduate students are nominated for the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award. As such, all finalists—including the winners—are inducted into the AAC&U Future Leaders Society and have access to an exclusive community designed to support on-going engagement, collaboration, and support.

How do I nominate a graduate student?

Each graduate student nominee—or an individual acting on her/his behalf—must complete the Cross Award nomination form to begin the online submission process. When this form is submitted, emails will be sent to

  • the graduate student/nominee;
  • the person submitting the letter of nomination; and
  • the person submitting the letter of support.

In each case, the email will contain a request link that will point to the portal where individuals may upload the required documents.

All nomination materials must be submitted electronically no later than 11:59 pm ET on September 30, 2021.

Is there anything specific I should emphasize in the nomination?
The award recognizes graduate students who show exemplary promise as future leaders of higher education and who are committed to academic innovation in the areas of equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning.

Many graduate students are gifted researchers and active, supportive colleagues in their fields and on their campuses. Not all, however, prioritize equity, community engagement, and teaching and learning. Honoring the work of K. Patricia Cross, this award is for those who do.

The award is designed to recognize future leadership potential. In general, nominees who are already senior-level leaders in higher education are not strong candidates for this award.

What type of activities would reflect eligibility for the Cross Award?
The experiences and accomplishments of each nominee will be different, of course, but the bios of past Cross Award winners reflect the work recognized by the Cross Award in other years.

How long should the student statement be?
The student statement should be one to two pages long. Supplementary materials—publications, course syllabi, additional letters, articles about your work—are not necessary and will not be part of the review process

Can supplementary materials be included with the nomination?
Only the items requested will be passed along to reviewers. No supplementary materials— publications, course syllabi, additional letters, articles about your work—will be part of the review process.

How long should the nominating and supporting letters be?
Nominating/supporting letters should be no longer than two pages.

Does the nominating or supporting letter need to come from the nominee’s advisor?
It is not a requirement that a letter comes from your advisor, but most times this is true. The letters should come from individuals most familiar with your work as a graduate student and who can speak to your potential as a future leader of higher education. 

Are nominees who are already employed in an academic position while they complete their graduate degree eligible for this award?
We understand that many graduate students are employed, including those with full-time positions on or off campus. Graduate students who maintain student status and have been making steady progress toward a terminal degree  are eligible for this award.

We applaud and appreciate the accomplishments of those now in academic positions. However, this award is intended to recognize graduate students who show promise as future leaders of higher education, not those already established in academe or those who have been away from their graduate studies for a significant period. In general, nominees who are already senior-level leaders in higher education are not strong candidates for this award.

My graduate student cannot attend AAC&U’s Annual Meeting in January. Can I still nominate her?
No. The award is presented at the Annual Meeting, and attendance is required.

Our department would like to nominate more than one graduate student for the award. Is that possible?
Yes. AAC&U frequently gets multiple nominations from one institution and, at times, more than one from the same department.

Can the letter of nomination and letter of support come from different institutions?
Yes. It frequently happens that a graduate student is working with faculty members or administrators at multiple institutions, or that a supporting letter comes from a colleague or co-worker.

My graduate student will be graduating in March 2022. Can I still nominate him?
Yes. Recipients of the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Awards must hold student status in January 2022. Students who graduate soon after that are eligible.

I am applying for scholarships to help support my graduate degree. Does the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award include a financial award?
The Cross Award is not a scholarship and does not include a monetary award. It does support the costs associated with travel, lodging, and registration for the AAC&U Annual Meeting, but there is no other financial support. In addition, the K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award is open to nominations only, and one cannot apply for it.

I have a question that was not answered here. Who should I contact?

For more information, contact Kathryn Enke at 202.888.4647 or kenke@aacu.org.