Carnegie Mellon University

Outreach & Service

Graduate Student Service Award – Purpose & Criteria

Carnegie Mellon University’s Graduate Student Service Award is given annually to a graduate student to recognize their outstanding contributions via volunteer service to a CMU department, college, or the broader academic community, especially with respect to supporting fellow graduate students.

Award criteria:

This award recognizes exemplary service provided by graduate students at Carnegie Mellon University based on outstanding contributions towards: 

  1. advancing the interests of fellow graduate students, 
  2. improving graduate students’ quality of life on campus, and/or
  3. contributions serving the larger academic community at the department-, college- or university-level, including, but not limited to enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. 

Note: This is NOT a teaching award and does not recognize a graduate student’s contributions as a teaching assistant or instructor of record.

Nomination packages may be submitted by any member of the Carnegie Mellon University community. Self nominations are permissible.

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

Questions should be directed to the Vice Provost for Education..

Current graduate students at the university who have demonstrated outstanding service in their department, college or the broader academic community are eligible to be nominated for the award. Students who have been nominated in the past or received honorable mention may be nominated again. However, previous winners of the award are ineligible for nomination. Graduate students who are currently in Executive Committee roles for the Graduate Student Assembly are also ineligible for nomination.

Nominations consist of one phase

Nominators compile a full nomination case and submit it as a single PDF file via the nomination form by February 1

When is the nomination deadline? February 1

The nomination packet must be submitted on or before February 1 as a single PDF via the nomination form to be considered for that academic year.

Who prepares the nomination materials for the nominees?

The nominators of each nominee are responsible for preparing the nomination packet. Nominators may choose to work with the nominee. Self-nominees are encouraged to work with their advisors or department head to gather all necessary information.

What is submitted? 

The final nomination packet should include the following:

  • a nomination letter addressed to the selection committee (maximum three single-spaced pages) describing how the nominee demonstrates excellence in service based on the award criteria listed above and dedicating a section to each of the following attributes:
    • Academic Engagement
    • Academic Performance
    • CMU and Community Involvement
    • Inspiring Others
    • Character
  • up to two additional letters of recommendation (hard copies or emails, maximum of three single spaced pages each) from faculty, staff, current and former students or other colleagues who have substantive knowledge of the nominee’s service activities. A supporting letter compiling comments from various sources (such as five to 10 faculty or students in a department) will also be accepted and counted as a single letter of recommendation.
  • additional supporting materials (maximum of 10 pages) that should represent the quality of the nominee’s service accomplishments and information about the direct service. This might include:
    •  executive summaries, 
    • program/service information of activities initiated by the nominee,
    • promotional materials, brochures and/or other materials that represent the services identified in the nomination or supporting letters, or
    • the nominee’s brief CV (2-4 pages) containing a list/description of the depth and breadth of their service activities.

Advice for nominators and letter writers

This award recognizes service above and beyond teaching at CMU. Students who excel in their service related to teaching should be nominated for the Graduate Student Teaching Award. Students who participate in service learning courses and educational outreach that positively impacts the community can also be nominated for the Gelfand Student Service Award.

Letters should:

    • be limited to three single spaced pages each,
    • specifically and directly describe how the nominee demonstrates the award criteria listed above,
  • include quotes from advisors, professors, or mentors or other relevant individuals testifying to the nominees’ accomplishments and impacts via service,
  • Include illustrative examples of the nominee’s commitment to service commitment, including, but not limited to:
    • evidence of leadership on university, department or graduate student committees,
    • leadership in student organizations or activities supporting current graduate student interests on campus or in the community,
    • development and/or activity with service programs,
    • service with local or national organizations representing CMU graduate students,
    • service with local or national organizations advancing graduate student interests, and/or 
    • activities advancing an inclusive climate and culture at CMU.

It is recommended that the nominator discuss the nomination with the student so they can get a robust picture of all the areas the student engages in service and the motivation behind their activities. This information can greatly enhance a nomination letter.

When is the award winner announced? 

The award committee will select one winner annually. All nominators 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 award selection committee consists of:

  • faculty
  • staff
  • graduate students
  • undergraduate students
  • the chairperson of the committee (the assistant vice provost for graduate education, a non-voting member)

The selection committee adopts its own rules of procedure.

One recipient will be chosen annually. The Graduate Student Service Award recipient will be recognized at the Celebration of Education event in the spring. The recipients will receive a monetary award and have their names displayed on a plaque in the Cohon University Center.