National Awards Program for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences
Nomination Guidelines (Revised November 2011)
Note: New, Electronic Nomination Submission Guidelines described in Section IV, below.
U.S. Department of Agriculture,
National Institute of Food and Agriculture,
Division of Community and Education
Section I. General Introduction and Purpose
Section II. Program Description
Section III. Nomination Review and Evaluation Criteria
Section IV. Nomination Preparation and Submission
Section I. General Introduction and Purpose
To address the national priority of providing sufficient quality and quantity of graduates entering the food and agricultural sciences workforce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will offer—subject to the availability of funds—a National Awards Program for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences (hereafter referred to in this document as the "Awards Program").
The Awards Program is offered annually to honor excellence in teaching by recognizing faculty from a college or university (as defined below) who both practice and promote effective, innovative teaching. Recipients must exhibit sustained, meritorious and exceptional teaching at the postsecondary level within the food and agricultural sciences. The Awards Program focuses national attention on the role of teaching; fundamental to recruiting and retaining the scientific and professional expertise essential to the future growth and progress of our nation's food and agricultural system.
The National Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching Policy Act of 1977 (Public Law No.95-113; 7 U.S.C. 3152), as amended, designates USDA as the lead federal agency for teaching, extension, and research programs in the food and agricultural sciences. Section 1417(i)(1) of this law further authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national food and agricultural sciences teaching Awards Program.
For purposes of administering the Awards Program, the following definitions will apply:
Award Categories—On an annual basis, awards will be made in the following three categories:
- National: A recipient selected from the pool of potential Regional award recipients, from any of the four regions, and deemed by the review panel to exhibit sustained, meritorious and exceptional teaching, as defined in this section. While a sustained pattern of exceptional activity is expected, this award does not recognize teaching longevity so much as it recognizes the quality of recent achievements involving teaching philosophy, methodology, and self-assessment aimed at improvement. National recipients are also expected to demonstrate these attributes broadly within the academic community outside of the nominee’s home institution.
- Regional: A teacher selected from any of the four regions, deemed by the review panel to exhibit sustained and meritorious teaching, and who has maintained at least eight consecutive years experience in higher education teaching, as defined in this section. While a sustained pattern of meritorious activity is expected, this award does not recognize teaching longevity so much as it recognizes the quality of recent achievements involving teaching philosophy, methodology, and self-assessment aimed at improvement.
- New Teacher: A teacher selected from any of the four regions, who has demonstrated a commitment to a career in teaching and is deemed by the review panel to exhibit meritorious teaching, but who has no more than seven consecutive years experience in higher education teaching, as defined in this section.
College or university: An educational institution located within any of the four Regions that: (1) admits as regular students only persons having a certificate of graduation from a school providing secondary education, or the recognized equivalent of such a certificate, (2) is legally authorized within such state to provide a program of education beyond secondary education, (3) provides an educational program for which a bachelor's degree or any other higher degree is awarded, (4) is a public or other nonprofit institution, and (5) is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency or association.
Food and agricultural sciences: Denotes teaching activities concerned with the production, processing, marketing, distribution, conservation, consumption, research, and development of food and agriculturally related products and services, inclusive of academic programs in agriculture, natural resources, forestry, veterinary medicine, human sciences / family and consumer sciences, and other, closely allied fields.
Teaching: Denotes activities to promote student learning of the food and agricultural sciences. Includes various aspects of instruction and student support, such as: formal classroom activities; instruction via innovative delivery systems; student internships and study tours; course and instructional materials development; student advising and counseling; and scholarship related to teaching, including preparation of textbooks, instructional software programs, videos, and other publications of an instructional nature.
Teacher: A faculty member at a college or university who holds a full-time appointment which reflects sustained and continuing responsibility for undergraduate and/or graduate teaching as determined by the college or university.
Course: Instruction offered for academic credit and included in the official course catalog of a college or university, and for which assessments are conducted to evaluate student learning.
Regions: The four regions of the United States, as defined for the purposes of this program are as follows:
- Northeast (CT, DE, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, VT, WV, DC);
- North Central (IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, SD, WI);
- Southern (AL, AR, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, PR, USVI);
- Western (AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA, WY, and any Insular Area Institution designated as a college or university (i.e., offering a baccalaureate degree) within: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau, and the Virgin Islands of the United States.)
Section II. Program Description
Section 1417(i)(2) states the Secretary of Agriculture may use funds appropriated for the conduct of any agricultural research, extension, or teaching program for the purpose of conducting the Awards Program. USDA, through NIFA, will support management of the Awards Program (solicitation and evaluation of nominations), monetary awards, travel for two national winners to participate in an awards ceremony, and preparation of certificates of merit. Institutions employing the regional and New Teacher award recipients will be expected to provide expense support for their travel to the national awards ceremony.
Teacher nominees must be employed by a college or university that: (1) confers a baccalaureate or higher degree in at least one area of the food and agricultural sciences for which the teacher is nominated, (2) has demonstrated a commitment to the food and agricultural sciences, and (3) attributes a high priority to its education mission.
A teacher nominee must hold a full-time appointment as an active faculty member as of the nominee submission due date and have responsibility for higher education teaching in an area of the food and agricultural sciences.
Individuals who do not receive an award in a given year are eligible for re-nomination. However, a new nomination package must be resubmitted. Nomination files are not retained for reconsideration in future years.
National Award recipients are not eligible for renomination. Regional Award recipients may only be renominated to receive the National Award. Such renomination may occur no sooner than three years following receipt of the Regional Award. New Teacher Award recipients may only be renominated to receive the Regional or National Award. Such renomination may occur no sooner than three years following receipt of the New Teacher Award.
National, Regional and New Teacher Awards
This Awards Program will recognize outstanding teachers at the national, regional and new teacher levels. A maximum of two $5,000 national, six $2,000 regional, and two $2,000 new teacher awards will be made annually. These monetary awards will be disbursed to the recipient’s college or university for the purpose of strengthening instructional programs in the food and agricultural sciences. Teachers honored through this competition will be asked to designate the unit(s) and institution(s) to receive their awards as well as the purpose for which such funds will be used.
A minimum of one regional recipient will be selected from each of the four regions, with the balance of the six to be at-large regional awards. New Teacher recipients may be from any region. The review panel reserves the right to make less than the maximum number of awards in each of the three Award Categories due to insufficient meritorious nominations.
Awards Program Schedule
The annual schedule for the Awards Program will be as follows:
Request for Nominations
2–3 months prior to deadline
Electronic Nomination Submission Deadline
5:00pm Eastern Daylight Time, March 15
Merit Evaluation of Nominations
After Awards Ceremony
National Awards Ceremony
* Award recipients will be contacted immediately following Merit Evaluation. Non recipients and the general public are not notified until after the National Award Ceremony.
Section III. Nomination Review and Evaluation Criteria
The Awards Program evaluation process includes both USDA internal staff review and an external, merit evaluation by a panel of experts. In any given year, the peer review panel may include a combination of university faculty and administrators, public school teachers or administrators, representatives from professional associations, and personnel from other federal agencies. Reviewers follow strict rules governing conflict of interest.
Nominees from each of the four regions will be evaluated first in competition with others from within the same region. Teachers deemed most meritorious in each of the four regions will then be placed in competition for the National Awards. New Teacher Award category nominees will be evaluated separately from the Regional Award category nominees, but each group of nominees should use the same Evaluation Criteria and nomination forms.
The review panel reserves the right to make less than the maximum number of awards in each of the three Award Categories due to insufficient meritorious nominations.
Each nominee is required to complete and submit a nomination package as described in Section IV, below. The primary component of that package is a written response to each of the following six Evaluation Criteria. Responses should be organized by Evaluation Criterion number and include the bold-type criterion wording, and submitted as Attachment #1. Responses for Evaluation Criterion # 6, ‘Endorsement by an Administrator, Alumnus and Colleague’, may be submitted via signed letters, on letterhead. All such letters are to be included as Attachment #2, described below in Section IV.
Award recipients are selected based upon responses in the nomination package that best address the following criteria:
1. Teaching Quality Assessment: Briefly document how the nominees’ most recent (3–5 year) teaching assignments are aligned with and support the food and agricultural sciences disciplines. Document how the nominee clearly demonstrates both recent and sustained excellence in teaching, as indicated by formal student and peer evaluations. Responses should summarize the institutional evaluation procedure and the nominee's specific evaluation data. Evaluation scores/rankings should be accompanied by college or university averages. Include a list of any awards and honors related to teaching, and indicate for any awards received whether the recognition is at the department, college, university, national, or international level. Responses must demonstrate how this nominee excels when compared to others within the department, college and university. Refrain from including student comments that lack measurable assessments (i.e., Rather than including the comment “This teacher is awesome!”, instead, document why the teacher is “awesome!”).
2. Philosophy of Teaching and Teaching Methodology: The degree to which the nominee: (a) achieves high standards of teaching performance, (b) demonstrates outstanding competence in managing the teaching and learning process, and (c) demonstrates substantive expertise in teaching. Documentation should include (but not be limited to) statement(s) demonstrating how each course’s content is kept current, providing specific reference to innovations in the classroom and variety and creativity in the teaching process to advance student learning. Provide a qualitative description of how and why you developed your particular teaching practices and methodologies in addition to any quantitative data included. [Note: Nominees are required to provide a first-person response to this Evaluation Criterion.]
3. Service to the Teaching Profession and Professional Growth in Teaching: The degree to which the nominee has either organized or led teaching improvement workshops, served as teaching mentor to other faculty and graduate students, or otherwise has contributed to outstanding teaching at the K-12, college, departmental, university, regional, and national levels. Consideration will be given to activities related to teaching, advising and curriculum, such as committee activity, publications (print or electronic), teaching/curriculum enhancement grants received, presentations, and recognition received. Emphasize only the nominee's most significant activities/publications related to teaching, not those related to a professional discipline (for those, see #5, below).
4. Service to Students: The degree to which the nominee has an exemplary record of student service through such activities as academic and career advising, undergraduate research, mentoring, supervising internships, career placement, sponsorship of student associations (on campus, regionally or nationally), graduate committee service, etc.
5. Professional Growth and Scholarly Activity: The degree to which the nominee's professional competence in his or her disciplinary specialization is evidenced by continuing intellectual accomplishments and pursuits, such as participation in teaching improvement workshops (as a participant, not as a presenter), author or editor for textbooks, and activities related to their research program such as scientific publications, grants, presentations, etc. Emphasize only the nominee's most significant activities/publications related to a professional discipline (See #3 above for describing those activities related to teaching).
6. Endorsement by Administrator, Alumnus, and Colleague: The degree to which statements substantiate the nominee's excellence in and dedication to the teaching role. The nominator should discuss how the nominee has made an impact on teaching and learning at the home institution. Letters should convey special contributions that distinguish the nominee from other teachers, and to the extent possible, provide details not found elsewhere in the nomination packet. Include statements (preferably on signed letterhead) from: (a) the administrator of the college or department (b) a former student, and (c) a colleague. One of these authors must identify himself/herself as the nominator. Additionally, the student letter must identify the student's current relationship to the nominee and institution. For example, is the student currently a graduate student in the nominee's Department?
Section IV. Nomination Preparation and Submission
All nominations must be submitted electronically, and arrive no later than 5:00pm, Eastern Daylight Time, on March 15.
Limit submissions to only superior educators who excel in each of the six published Evaluation Criteria, and who exhibit sustained, consistent and long-term commitment to achieving the highest quality of teaching excellence. New Teacher-category nominees should demonstrate a commensurate level of commitment based upon their teaching tenure.
New Teacher Award category nominees will be evaluated separately from the Regional Award category nominees, but each group of nominees should use the same Evaluation Criteria and nomination forms.
Submitted nominations must not include other information such as DVDs, published articles or other, non-requested materials.
All submitted documents should use Times New Roman 12 point (or equivalent) font.
Determine institutional and teacher/nominee eligibility from Section I Definitions, and/or Section II Eligibility criteria, above. Non-compliant nominations will not be accepted for review.
Paper copies of nominations, nominations submitted via fax, or submissions received after the posted deadline date and time will not be accepted for review.
An eligible nomination must include a minimum of the two (2) attached files described below, all submitted in PDF format, sent in one email message to arrive by 5:00pm, Eastern Daylight Time, on March 15.
Submit each nomination to: TeachAward@nifa.usda.gov
A submitted nomination must contain the following two (2) attached files:
NIFA-supplied Template—Attachment #1
- Open this PDF file by selecting the link directly above, and then complete all required fields (pages 1–12).
- Save the new Attachment #1 with the following file name example: First initial and last name of the nominee, followed by the Attachment # (For example, the file name of Attachment #1 for nominee Dr. Jane Smith would be: JSmith1).
- Email this completed file, along with Attachment #2.
The Attachment #1 template supplied in the link above contains the:
- Information Cover Page (page 1)
- Personal Data Page (page 2), and
- Responses to Evaluation Criteria #1–5 (pages 3–12).
Description of Contents:
- Attachment #1 includes the Information Cover Page and Personal Data Page. Both are required forms containing the nominee's education and experience information, as well as the nominee's Dean and Department Chair approval for submission (conveyed via the individual(s) contact information supplied on the Information Cover Page form). For institutions with a different administrative structure, this form should be reviewed by (and contact information submitted for) a minimum of two, appropriate individuals having administrative oversight of the nominee.
- Attachment #1 also includes blank fields for the nominee’s Responses to Evaluation Criteria #1–5. Responses should be organized by Evaluation Criterion number and include the criterion title (see Section III, above). [Please note: Charts, graphs, or other, non-text information (for example, an illustration of the nominee’s student evaluation data, etc.) cannot be included in Attachment #1, but may be attached separately. Such attachments are not required, but if submitted, should be named with the first initial and last name of the nominee, followed by the word ‘Addendum’. This Addendum file must not exceed 2 pages in length, and only one such Addendum file is permitted.]
- Although a nomination may be prepared and submitted by a supervisor or peer, the nominee is required to provide a first-person response to Evaluation Criterion #2 – ‘Philosophy of Teaching and Teaching Methodology’.
- Responses to Evaluation Criterion #6. Endorsement by Administrator, Alumnus, and Colleague (Letters of Support) should not be included in this Attachment #1, but sent as a separate Attachment #2.
- Please limit Attachment #1 to no more than 12 pages, maximum (total of all pages to include the Information Cover Page, Personal Data Page and all responses to Evaluation Criteria #1–5). Non-compliant nominations will be rejected.
No NIFA-supplied template; Nominee submits support letters in PDF format
- Save Attachment #2 with the following file name example: First initial and last name of the nominee, followed by the Attachment # (For example, the file name of Attachment #2 for nominee Dr. Jane Smith would be: JSmith2).
- Email this completed file, along with Attachment #1.
Nominee’s required response to Evaluation Criterion #6 (see Section III, above):
- One Letter of Endorsement by Administrator (1–2 pages)
- One Letter of Endorsement by an Alumnus (1–2 pages), and
- One Letter of Endorsement by Colleague (1–2 pages).
Description of Contents:
- Attachment #2 is the nominee’s response to Evaluation Criterion #6, Endorsement by Administrator, Alumnus, and Colleague (Letters of Support).
- Please limit Attachment #2 to no more than 6 pages, maximum (sum of all pages of all support letters), or the nomination will be rejected.
Incomplete nominations, or nominations not following these Guidelines will not be accepted for review.
NIFA will attempt to acknowledge all email nominations received within 2 business days of receipt (excluding weekends and any Federal holiday). Therefore, it is the responsibility of the nominator to submit a nomination well ahead of the deadline to ensure it has been received in time for review. This NIFA acknowledgment of receipt of a nomination does not constitute a review of all attachments to ensure accuracy and completeness for panel evaluation. Therefore, applicants will not have the opportunity to resubmit multiple nominations for the same individual. NIFA will submit for panel review only the first nomination received from an individual.
Helpful Hints—Nomination Package Submission
Application Submission Tips:
- Attachment #1: Information Cover Page – provide physical campus address (for courier delivery); do not list P.O. Box Address
- Attachment #1: Personal Data Page – Under “2. Professional Experience,” follow the date format (e.g. 01/05/1998 – 05/23/2009, 08/12/2009 – Present)
- Attachment #1: Evaluation Criteria – Unlike Microsoft Word, Adobe will not automatically jump to the next page. To move to the next page, you must position the cursor within the blank field on the next page, and then click on that page to continue typing.
- (Optional) Addendum Attachment – If you would like to submit an optional attachment (i.e. charts, graphs or spreadsheets) with your application, be sure to save it as a PDF file. (Suggestion: Think of the “optional attachment” as an appendix.) Only one such Addendum Attachment is permitted.
- Maximum Total Nomination Pages = 20:
- Information Cover Page, Personal Data Page, Evaluation Criteria (12 pages max.);
- Letters of Support (6 pages max.);
- (Optional) Addendum Attachment (2 pages max.)
Evaluation Criteria Tips:
- Evaluation Criterion #1: Reviewers want to know how the nominee’s teaching accomplishments compare to others providing similar instruction. Include numerical rankings when available, but concentrate on how the nominee excels in comparison to others, both within the academic unit and especially across the greater college or university. Peer review assessments are favored over anecdotal student comments.
- Evaluation Criterion #2: Reviewers are interested in the nominee’s teaching philosophy (beliefs or understandings) that underlie the teaching methodology. An explanation of how this has emerged over time is useful. Peer panel members especially like to read how the nominee designs special teaching practices to address specific topics, material, or learning styles of students. Focus on the “how” and “why,” and not just on the “what.” Specific examples are encouraged.
- Evaluation Criterion #3: Tell the review panel your accomplishments in helping others to improve their teaching. What have you done to advance your personal understanding of teaching and learning? Have you conducted studies of teaching methods? Did you take a course, a sabbatical, or participate in a teaching academy, etc.? Every nominee is already recognized as a good classroom teacher and mentor. What demonstrates how this nominee is different, special? For example, most past National recipients are also well known off campus for regional, national, or international contributions. How has the nominee impacted others to become better teachers?
- Evaluation Criterion #4: Advising, participating in student organizations, or mentoring are all examples of activities benefiting students or other teachers. What have you done to serve students, or colleagues, in your capacity as a teacher? Are there notable achievements, recognitions or initiatives that you have developed or achieved? Peer panel members like to see activities other than advising undergraduate and/or graduate students. What are specific, formal or informal activities that demonstrate a unique student-focus and engagement in a student’s overall academic and/or personal development?
- Evaluation Criterion #5: Reviewers are interested in what you have done to improve or advance your understanding of your academic discipline? Top-ranked nominees are often also leaders within their discipline. Include examples of regional, national, or international contributions to the field of expertise related to your research and outreach programs, or service to your professional and/or scientific societies.
- Evaluation Criterion #6: The nominating letter should come from the unit's person in charge of academic instruction. Letters should refrain from repeating information already included in the nomination. What special contributions distinguish the nominee from other teachers? Specific examples of unique contributions or impacts on students are helpful to the peer panel members.
View the Historical List of Award Program Recipients
Questions on this National Awards Program for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences should be directed to:
National Awards Program for Excellence in College and University Teaching
Telephone: (202) 720-1973