One of the cool things about this Center for Instructional Excellence gig has been learning about the Faculty Excellence Awards process. Another cool thing is to learn how the awards are evolving in response to the pandemic and other changes.
Up until 2020, the Imogene Wise Faculty Excellence Award for full-time faculty and the Adjunct Excellence Award were publicly announced at commencement. As V.P. for Ed Services Stephen Siciliano read comments from students’ nominations, the crowd would try to guess who he was describing. Stephen would build the suspense until he finally announced the winners and invited them to the podium to receive their medallions. The next year, the full-time faculty winner would be a speaker at commencement. Somewhere along the way, CIE also started the tradition of giving plaques to winners in their classrooms in the fall.
Everything changed when the pandemic hit. The award process took several different iterations and faculty speeches were discontinued. Last year, winners were surprised with the awards in their classrooms and Stephen recorded speeches about the award winners that students could see before the different ceremonies in Milliken Auditorium.
This year, the award process will be different again. Faculty winners will be notified before the end of the semester, most likely in their classrooms if they teach face-to-face. At commencement, the winners will be announced by the president of the Student Government Association to recognize the student-led nature of the awards. Finally, the faculty will be honored in front of faculty and staff at the You Made It Possible luncheon on May 11 where Stephen will deliver remarks. Winners will not give a speech.
The logistics of running the award programs are the responsibility of CIE, but because most of the CIE board are faculty, the CIE board stays out of the process to avoid any conflicts of interest. As a result, almost all of the work — and it’s a lot of work! — falls to CIE’s administrative assistant Alice Sluss.
Alice, who is also the office manager for Humanities and Audio Tech, has a year-long timeline starting with reviewing nomination forms, advertising for nominations, soliciting students for the selection committee, scheduling committee meetings, ordering awards, and sending letters to all the nominees. When the student selection committee is set, Alice brings in Paul Kolak, a counselor in Student Life, to work with the students as they make their decisions.
I went to the first selection committee meeting to briefly discuss selection criteria. We ask students to consider teaching excellence, rapport with students, innovation in instruction, and dedication. We ask them to try their best to be impartial and to consider the sentiment of the nominators’ comments rather than the style of their writing. One of our criteria has changed this year. The CIE board voted to change the eligibility requirements from once every ten years to once in a career. We decided on no more repeat winners.
Many people deserve recognition for making the Faculty Excellence Award possible, starting with NMC benefactors Harold and Imogene Wise who started the award in 1970 and funded stipends for the winners. We say thanks to Paul for helping with the students, to Stephen for recognizing the faculty, and to Alice, who pretty much does everything else. Also, here’s a big shout out to our students. I am gratified by the number of students who take the time to fill out the forms and say nice things about their instructors.