Carnegie Mellon University

Outreach & Service

Gelfand Award – Purpose & Criteria

The Mark Gelfand Award for Educational Outreach is given annually to a member of the Carnegie Mellon University  community who has combined sustained, effective community service with academic coursework and a deliberate process of student reflection to enhance the learning experience, teach social responsibility and improve some aspect of life in the community. Special consideration is given to individuals who focus on science, technology, engineering or mathematics educational outreach to younger populations.

Award criteria:

This award recognizes sustained and exemplary contributions in educational outreach based on:

  1. engaging CMU students in working with individuals or groups to share their knowledge and broaden access to educational experiences in local or global communities, 
  2. embedding effective community-based learning activities within academic coursework, and/or
  3. facilitating a deliberate process of student reflection to advance their own learning experience, teach social responsibility and improve some aspect of life in the community.

Any group of three or more of the following people may nominate:

  1. current or retired CMU faculty members, administrators, staff, and/or
  2. current or former full-time CMU undergraduate or graduate students or postdocs.

Students seeking to nominate someone are strongly encouraged to collaborate with faculty and/or administrators in the nominee’s academic department to optimize nominations.

All full-time current faculty and staff members of the university who have demonstrated substantial devotion to sharing expertise that impacts K-12 populations and/ or encourages undergraduate and/or graduate students to participate in educational outreach activities are eligible to be nominated for the award. No one person may win the award more than once or simultaneously with the Doherty, Ryan, Academic Advising or Barbara Lazarus Award.

Nominations consist of two phases: 

Phase 1: Nominators submit a single, 2 page nomination letter, due November 1. 
Phase 2: After award committees select finalists, nominators then compile and submit a full nomination case, due February 1.

Please submit nominations as a single PDF using these online forms:

Phase 1 nominations, due November 1
Phase 2 nominations, due February 1

Questions should be directed to the  Vice Provost for Education.

When is the nomination deadline? November 1

The Phase 1 nomination letter must be submitted on or before November 1 via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

What is submitted? 

In Phase 1, nominators must submit one 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 is based on this letter alone, it should be descriptive, convincing, and specifically focused on addressing the award criteria listed above

Given the purpose of the award, the following should not be included:

  • information on the nominee's research (unless it directly connects to the development or assessment of an educational program or curriculum, and
  • descriptions of the nominee’s teaching excellence or innovation at the level of individual courses. 

The Phase 1 nomination letter should be submitted as a PDF via the nomination form on or before November 1.

When are finalists selected for Phase 2?

The award committee will select two to five people to be considered for Phase 2 of the nomination process. Nominators will be notified of outcomes in December.

When is the nomination due? February 1

The Phase 2 nomination letter must be submitted on or before February 1 via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

Who prepares the nomination materials for finalists? 

The nominators of each person selected for Phase 2, together with the relevant dean/department head (or their designee), are responsible for preparing the full case for that nomination. In the case of a department head nominee, the relevant dean should be included in preparation of the full package.

What is submitted?

The final nomination packet should include the following:

  • a cover memo/page detailing the contents of the nomination package,
  • a letter from the phase 1 nominators (original or revised, maximum two single spaced pages),
  • no more than 30 letters of recommendation (maximum two single spaced pages each) from appropriate parties, such as Carnegie Mellon University faculty or administrators, colleagues, community partners, and students, 
  • a statement from the nominee that explains the rationale for the course or program in terms of impact on students and the community (possibly from a project web page, course syllabus or other similar document to keep the nomination confidential), and
  • the nominee’s brief CV (2-4 pages).

Advice for nominators and letter writers:

Letters should:

  • be limited to two single spaced pages each, 
  • specifically and directly describe how the nominee demonstrates excellence regarding the award criteria listed above, including:
    • descriptions of the nominee’s work to design and implement a program(s) that provides opportunities for university students, faculty and staff to share expertise in the community, combined with activities that help to develop an understanding of responsibility to society, and
    • information about classroom techniques, assignments, projects and course structure that deliberately lead to impact in the community,
  • represent colleagues’ knowledge of the nominee's outreach and interactions with students via:
    • experiences team teaching, direct observation, conversations with the nominee, etc. 
    • interactions with community partners or members who have benefited from the work, and/or
    • interactions with the nominee’s students, 
  • include testimonials from students* documenting the impact of the program or course on their understanding of social responsibility and the impact that one person can have on the community, 
  • include testimonials from alumni* who can attest to and describe the long-term impact that program(s) or course(s) conducted by the nominee has had on their commitment to service or community work,
  • include testimonials and other documents from the community partner(s) who have worked with the nominate and/or students through the program that explain the nature of the collaboration and the impact of the program on the organization’s capacity to serve the community, or on the knowledge/skill level or self-confidence of individuals who benefited from the program.

*Students and alumni may need more guidance in terms of expectations of what a good letter of recommendation should look like, please provide them with the criteria and advice above. Effective student letters address the intersection of the criteria and the student experience as well as include real-life examples from their experience and interactions with the nominee and the nominee’s short- and/or long-term impacts on the letter writer.

Please note that selected quotes from the winner's nomination packet may be used for publicity purposes.

SUBMISSION: The Phase 2 nomination packet should be submitted as a single PDF via the nomination form on or before February 1.

When is the award winner announced? 

The award committee will select one winner annually. Nominators of all finalists will be notified of outcomes in March. The winner, along with their nominators, colleagues, and friends and family, will be invited to attend the Celebration of Education event in April to receive their award.

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

The award selection committee consists of:

  • the most recent recipients of the Gelfand Award, if available
  • faculty and staff members who have been involved with educational outreach initiatives
  • undergraduate and graduate students
  • the chairperson of the committee (the director of the Leonard Gelfand Center for Service Learning and Outreach, a non-voting member*). If this person is unavailable, the provost will appoint another faculty member or administrator to serve in this capacity.

* Amy Burkert, Vice Provost for Education, served as the chairperson of the committee in 2022.

The selection committee adopts its own rules of procedure.

The committee will choose one person to be recommended to the provost as the year's recipient of the award. Upon the provost's approval, the recipient will be notified and the award will be presented at the Celebration of Education event in the spring.