Carnegie Mellon University

Ryan Award Nomination Information

Carnegie Mellon's William H. and Frances S. Ryan Award for Meritorious Teaching is given annually to a full-time faculty member at the university 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
  • creation or use of inclusive teaching practices that support all students
All full-time faculty members at the university who have demonstrated substantial devotion to the instruction of undergraduate and/or graduate students are eligible to be nominated for the award. No one person may win the award more than once or simultaneously with the Doherty Award or Academic Advising 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
  • 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.

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

  • a current or retired faculty member or administrator
  • 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 is based on this letter alone, it should be descriptive, convincing and specifically focused on the purpose of the award stated at the top of the page.

Phase One Submission Deadline

The letter must be submitted on or before the first Monday in November to be considered for that academic year.

The committee will select two to five people to be considered for phase two of the nomination process.

Phase Two of Nomination

The nominators of each person selected for phase two, together with the relevant dean/department head (or his or her 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.

Nomination packages often include items that concretely help the committee to understand the candidate's broad impact as a teacher, such as:

  • a nomination letter that provides descriptions of the instructor's outstanding teaching and/or innovations like classroom techniques, assignments, projects, course structure, educational materials, etc.
  • a teaching statement written by the nominee that indicates 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 (two to four examples of assignments and/or teaching methods that are annotated to explain the nature of the innovation, two to four student projects, such as poems, photos, essays, etc., again annotated to provide context)
  • 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 should focus on the nominee’s teaching and/or mentoring.
  • letters from colleagues who have first-hand knowledge of the candidate's teaching (through team teaching, direct observation, etc.) 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 can attest to the candidate's 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. (two to four pages)

The maximum number of recommendation letters that can be submitted is 30. Please note that selected quotes from the winner's nomination packet may be used for publicity purposes.

Phase Two Submission Deadline

A single PDF of the complete nomination packet must be submitted on or before the first Monday in February to the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation. Questions should be directed to Marsha Lovett.

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.