Nomination Process-Celebration of Education - Carnegie Mellon University

Award Guidelines:
The William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching


The William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching is given annually to a full-time faculty member at Carnegie Mellon who has demonstrated unusual devotion and effectiveness in teaching undergraduate or graduate students.

The award is intended to recognize excellence in teaching in several dimensions:

  • outstanding classroom teaching
  • creation of challenging and innovative courses
  • creation or use of new and innovative teaching methods and course materials
  • effective supervision of research or creative projects
  • effective supervision of undergraduate honors students and graduate students.


All full-time Carnegie Mellon University faculty members who have demonstrated substantial devotion to the instruction of undergraduate and/or graduate students are eligible for nomination. No one person may win the award more than once or win the Ryan Award simultaneously with the Doherty Award or Academic Advising Award in one given year.


The provost is responsible for the administration of the nomination and selection process, including calling for proposals and convening the Ryan Award selection committee.

The Ryan Award Committee

The Ryan Award selection committee consists of:

  • the three most recent recipients of the Ryan Award
  • three faculty members appointed by the provost
  • two undergraduate students and one graduate student selected through a process developed by the dean of Student Affairs
  • the Ryan Committee chairperson (the director of the Eberly Center, who is a non-voting member). If this person is unavailable, the provost will appoint a senior faculty member who is not an administrator to act in the director's stead.

The Ryan Award selection committee adopts its own rules of procedure.


Nominations consist of two phases and may be made by any group of at least three persons, each of whom is either:

  • a current or retired faculty or staff member
  • a current or former full-time undergraduate or graduate student.

Phase One of Nomination:

Nominations consist of a letter [maximum two single-spaced pages] that explains why the individual is worthy of the award. Because the decision to advance the nomination to the second phase of the nomination process is based on this letter alone, it should be descriptive, convincing, and specifically focused on the purpose of the award (stated at the beginning of these guidelines). The letter must be submitted on or before the first Monday in November, to be considered for that academic year.

The committee will select at least two and at most five persons each year to be considered for phase two of the nomination process.

Phase Two of Nomination:

The nominators of each person selected are then responsible, together with the relevant dean/department head (or his or her designee) for preparing the full case for that nomination, following the guidelines. In the case of a department head nominee, the relevant dean should be included in preparation of the full package.

To Nominators Assembling Ryan Award Packages for Phase Two:

"Winning" nominations often include items that concretely help the committee to understand the candidate's impact as a teacher, such as:

  • a nomination letter that provides descriptions of the instructor's outstanding teaching and/or innovations, whether they are classroom techniques, assignments, projects, course structure, educational materials, etc.
  • a teaching statement from the candidate that indicates, in the nominee’s own words, what he/she does as an educator and why (some nominators recycle educational statements from other venues so as to keep the nomination confidential)
  • samples of innovations, e.g., assignments and/or teaching methods that are annotated to explain the nature of the innovation (2-4 examples); students' projects, whether poems, pictures of projects, essays, etc., again annotated to provide context (2-4 examples)
  • samples of the instructor's feedback to students
  • letters from alumni who attest to and describe the long-term impact the nominee has had on them
  • letters from current students who can discuss how and why the nominee impacted them: 
    • letters from non-majors, if appropriate, are always compelling
    • letters from graduate students that focus on the nominee’s teaching and/or mentoring
  • letters from colleagues who have first-hand knowledge of the candidate's teaching (e.g., team teaching, direct observation) and/or interactions with students, including colleagues' perceptions of the candidate based on their interaction with the candidate's students (simultaneously or subsequently) and/or from colleagues who can comment on the candidate's role in departmental or college curriculum changes/conversations, situating the candidate in a larger educational context, if possible
  • letters from teaching assistants who attest to the candidates' impact on their development as teachers
  • Faculty Course Evaluations for all courses in at least the preceding five years; they can be supplemented with information on the number of students enrolled in each course and whether the students were majors or non-majors
  • brief C.V. (2-4 pages).

PLEASE NOTE that the maximum number of letters allowed is 30.

Three CDs, DVDs or USB sticks, each containing a single PDF of the complete nomination packet, must be submitted on or before the first Monday in February to the Eberly Center, Cyert Hall 125. Questions can be directed to Marsha Lovett, director of the Eberly Center.


The committee will choose one person to be recommended to the provost as the year's recipient of the Ryan Award. Upon the provost's approval, the award recipient will be notified in late February, and the award presented at a public ceremony open to the entire university community in late spring.