Carnegie Mellon University

Teaching Excellence & Innovation

Ryan Award – Purpose & Criteria

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

Award criteria:

This award recognizes sustained excellence in teaching undergraduate or graduate students across one’s teaching career at Carnegie Mellon University based on: 

  1. outstanding, innovative, and inclusive course design and classroom teaching,
  2. effective design and impactful implementation of new learning materials,
  3. exemplary mentorship of student research or creative projects, 
  4. significant impacts on the professional development of graduate- and undergraduate student instructors as current and future educators, and/or
  5. long-term impacts on students.

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

  1. current or retired CMU faculty members, administrators, staff
  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 ensure a strong nomination.

All full-time current employees of Carnegie Mellon University are eligible to be nominated for the award. No one person may win the award more than once or simultaneously with the Ryan Award or Academic Advising 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

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 faculty or administrators, colleagues, and present and former TAs and students (majors or non-majors), 
  • a teaching statement written by the nominee that indicates what they does as an educator and why (some nominators recycle educational statements from other venues so as to keep the nomination confidential),
  • two to four samples of innovations (assignments and/or teaching methods) that are annotated to explain the nature of the innovation,
  • two to four student projects (poems, photos, essays, projects, etc.,) again annotated to provide context,
  • samples of the instructor's feedback to students (not to exceed 10 single spaced pages),
  • 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), 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 sustained excellence regarding the award criteria listed above,
  • focus on the nominee’s teaching and/or student mentoring,
  • represent colleagues’ knowledge of the nominee's teaching, mentorship, and interactions with students via:
    • experiences team teaching and/or co-mentoring, direct observation, conversations with the nominee, etc. 
    • interactions with the nominee’s students, 
  • represent teaching assistants’ knowledge of the nominee's impact on their development as teachers, and
  • represent students’ experiences* being taught or mentored by the nominee.

*Students 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.

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 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, and
  • the chairperson of the committee (the director of the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation, a non-voting member). If this person is unavailable, the provost will appoint another faculty member or administrator to serve in this capacity.

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.