Graduate Excellence in Teaching Awards

We recognize exemplary teaching by enrolled graduate students. Two awards are presented each spring.

Recognize an exceptional graduate teacher

The Graduate Excellence in Teaching Awards, sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning with Support from the Office of the Provost, the Graduate School, and Dr. Johnny W. Lott, recognize exemplary teaching by currently enrolled graduate students at the University of Mississippi. CETL grants two awards each year: the Graduate Teaching Assistant Award and the Johnny W. Lott Graduate Instructor Award. Winners of these awards receive $1,000 each.

Any graduate student in good academic standing, making progress toward degree, and teaching in fall or spring of the current academic year is eligible for these awards. 

Graduate students must first be nominated for the award. They may put themselves forward for nomination or be nominated by a faculty member, a student (or group of students), or a peer. Nominated students then submit an application packet that is evaluated by CETL staff and representatives from the Graduate School. 


If you would like to nominate a graduate student or yourself for this award, you may submit a nomination form. The nomination form will ask for details about the nominee, your relationship to them, and a brief (<500 word) narrative describing what distinguishes them as an excellent teacher. We are especially looking for innovative, effective, and evidence-based teaching practices; an impact on students and student learning; and a commitment to inclusion and equity.

The narrative will be used in evaluating applications for the award, so please be as specific as possible in relating your perspective on what makes the nominee’s teaching effective, compelling, inclusive, equitable, innovative, or all-around excellent. Vivid anecdotes and concrete examples of teaching excellence will be more persuasive than general claims about the nominee’s ability. 

If you’re confident that your nominee is eligible for the award, please notify them that you intend to submit their name, so they can start to gather materials for their application. Graduate teachers will be notified of their nomination in early March. 


After you’ve been notified of your nomination, please fill out the application form linked in your email notification, due in late March. You’ll be asked to provide details of your teaching appointment, teaching training, and previous teaching experience, along with the following materials:

  • A current resume or CV
  • A 1-2 page statement of teaching philosophy that references evidence of teaching excellence as appropriate
  • Three pieces of evidence of teaching excellence. These may include, but are not limited to:
    • Syllabi, assignments, or lesson plans you’ve designed
    • Student evaluations, feedback, or comments (gathered through university SETs or on your own)
    • A letter of support from a faculty mentor, student, or colleague that provides concrete examples of your teaching effectiveness
    • Observation form or written summary generated by a peer or faculty member who has observed your teaching
    • Short video or documentary photographs of your classroom teaching
    • Student emails or evidence of student learning (to be shared only with student permission)

Your evidence of teaching excellence should include at least one artifact from the course you taught during the current academic year but may also encompass artifacts from previous courses. Applications will be judged by the extent to which they demonstrate innovative, effective, and evidence-based teaching practices; an impact on students and student learning; and commitment to inclusion and equity.

CETL staff and representatives from the Graduate School will review applications in April. Award winners will be notified in late April or early May. 

Frequently Asked Questions

For graduate student applicants

Graduate students may apply for either the TA award or the Instructor award in a given year, but not both. Any student who has served as both TA and instructor at UM should apply for the Instructor award, whether or not they served as Instructor during the current academic year.

Students may also reapply for the award each year. Past winners, however, are no longer eligible for either award.

Applications are evaluated on three criteria:

  1. Innovative, effective, and evidence-based teaching
  2. Impact on students
  3. Commitment to inclusion and equity

Good applications will show evidence of compelling and creative teaching that makes a positive impact on student learning and is attentive to the success of all students, especially those who have been historically marginalized within higher education.

The evidence you choose, and the way you showcase that evidence, matters. The strongest applications we see are…

  1. Current, meaning that most of the teaching evidence is recent and that it demonstrates  knowledge of up-to-date pedagogical research. You may include teaching artifacts that are a little older or that originated in previous teaching experiences at other institutions. But keep in mind that recent evidence is more compelling than older evidence.
  2. Original, meaning that the teaching evidence you include demonstrates use of creative or innovative pedagogical methods in addition to more traditional ones. The particular combination of classroom approaches you choose to highlight should be unique to you.
  3. Concise, meaning that your application communicates a lot of information about your teaching in a little package. Less is more. Resist the temptation to include dozens of pages of material, and focus on a few strong pieces of evidence that showcase your teaching most vibrantly.
  4. Varied, meaning that, where possible, you include evidence of different kinds. Strong applications typically include a combination of original teaching materials and a sense of both students’ and colleagues’ perceptions of the applicant’s teaching.
  5. Easy to read, meaning that you provide notes or signposts to help judges navigate and interpret included materials. For example, you might consider including a table of contents for particularly lengthy applications or writing a few sentences before each piece of evidence that signals what the artifact is and/or how it was used in your teaching.

Because every student’s teaching context and evidence of teaching excellence will be different, this is at the discretion of the applicant. If, for example, you’d like to include a set of several photographs from a course or student evaluations from 2 different classes as one “piece” of evidence, that’s fine. Just keep in mind that the best applications are concise, and be intentional about including only your strongest pieces of evidence.

Because every applicant’s student evaluations will look different, we leave this up to you. But we encourage you to think about how to convey the information in your student evaluations most efficiently. Our judges have a lot to read and won’t be able to process dozens of pages of student rankings and comments. They’re more likely to appreciate a concise snapshot of student views on your teaching.

Feel free to include some summaries of, or representative selections from, evaluations in lieu of entire evals. If you have multiple university-administered evaluations you’d like to share, consider including one full set from a specific course along with a summary of results from other courses and/or selected student comments. Shoot for no more than 12-15 pages of student evaluations total.

Letters of support may be included with the application you submit yourself or emailed directly to CETL. If you are requesting a letter of support from a mentor or colleague, consider asking them if they would prefer that their letter remain confidential. If so, have them to email it to Dr. Emily Pitts Donahoe, CETL’s Associate Director of Instructional Support ( If not, have them send the letter directly to you to include in your application.

The best materials in this category will showcase effective and/or original teaching. For example, you might include a 5-10 minute video of a successful classroom activity you do with students or photographs of a particularly compelling class gathering or course product. The best materials illustrate your active engagement with students and highlight a teaching practice or moment that makes your classroom unique.

By this we mean compelling products students created as part of their learning in your course such as papers, multimedia artifacts, or other projects. Remember that you should request permission from students before including their materials in your application and anonymize student-generated work or emails where appropriate. Never include any information about the grade(s) of an individual student in your application.

Meet the 2024 Award Winners

Read more about our award winners on the CETL blog.

Apoorva Mate

Apoorva Mate

What does winning the Johnny W. Lott Graduate Instructor Award mean to you?

See Apoorva’s Answer
Jakub Zegar

Jakub Zegar

What does winning the Graduate TA Award mean to you?

See Jakub’s Answer

Past Recipients of the Graduate Excellence in Teaching Awards

2024 Jakub Zegar – Biology
2023 Kimberly Kotel – English
2022 Carly Rock – Chemistry & Biochemistry
2021 Kritika Gupta – Nutrition and Hospitality Management
2020 Sarah Amonett – Biology
2019 Jennifer Toth – Pharmacy

2024 Apoorva Mate – Mathematics
2023 Bianca Lewis – Psychology
2022 Donald Skinner – Psychology
2021 Shimikqua Ellis – Education
2020 Heather Bliss – Psychology
2019 Joshua Simer – Accounting
2018 Marissa Wyant – Political Science
2017 Rebecca Nance – Education
2016 Brittany Nielsen – Psychology
2015 Yan Li – Economics
2014 Christopher Schwanke – Mathematics
2013 Caroline Turnage-Butterbaugh – Mathematics
2012 Eric Bonds – Music
2011 Sumedhe Karunarathne – Physics
2010 Otis W. Pickett – History
2009 Laura A. Williams – Management
2008 Ryan Bubalo – English

Emily Donahoe

Have a question about your nomination or application?

Reach out to our Associate Director of Instructional Support, and she can help.

Emily Donahoe

Associate Director of Instructional Support in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and Lecturer of Writing and Rhetoric