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Graduate College Excellence Award for Graduate Contacts

About the Award

Graduate Contacts in disciplinary units play an integral role in the academic careers of our graduate students. With their work, they provide an invaluable service to the university and its community of students, faculty, and staff. The Graduate College seeks to recognize those staff members whose service has enhanced the experiences of graduate students and/or has had a positive impact on the operations of the graduate program or department. In order to be selected, the individual’s service must have consistently exceeded expectations.


  • The Graduate College realizes that different units have organized the work flow regarding the administration of the graduate program in different ways.  For instance, in some units, one individual may be responsible for the graduate program whereas in other units the responsibilities may be spread among various individuals (e.g., one person is responsible for admission, whereas another serves as the liaison to the Graduate College for enrolled students). Given these circumstances, any individual who is appointed as graduate contact or as admissions contact on the authorized signature form is eligible for the award.
  • The nominee can either be a civil service staff or an academic professional.
  • Nominees must currently serve in a function related to the administration of the graduate program and must have done so for a minimum of 3 full academic years.


As staff members’ responsibilities regarding graduate program administration vary greatly from department to department, nominators are asked to explain how the nominee has exceeded expectations in their assigned duties.  Examples of attributes that nominators may want to consider include but are not limited to the following:  accessibility, dedication, problem-solving skills, dependability, communication skills, motivation/attitude, knowledge/skills, innovation, service on Graduate College Committees, participation at Graduate College events and training, or participation in initiatives.


  • A $500 Visa gift card for personal use and a plaque commemorating the award.

Selection Process:

Three Graduate College staff members involved in working with Graduate Contacts will evaluate the nominations and make a recommendation to the Dean. The Dean makes the final selection.

Due Date:

Tuesday, February 28, 2023, 11:59 p.m. (CT)

Nomination Materials and Submission:

Nominations are made using the online nomination form, which requires uploading the following supporting materials:

  • A nomination letter (up to two pages in length): Nominations may be submitted by graduate students, faculty members, unit heads, school directors/deans, disciplinary college deans, or unit staff members relevant to graduate program administration. Graduate College staff can neither nominate nor provide letters of support.
  • Two letters of support (no more than 1 page in length each).

Among the nomination letter and letters of support, there must be one document provided by a current or former graduate student and one letter from the current or past Director of Graduate Studies.


Submit a Nomination



2023: Penny Ames, Library and Information Science
2022: Aaron Thompson, Statistics
2021: Kim Leigh, Entomology
2019: Mary Strum, Department of Communication
2018: Viveka Kudaligama, Department of Computer Science
2017: Samuel Beshers, Neuroscience Program
2016: Cindy Dodds, Center for Biophysics & Quantitative Biology
2015: Elizabeth Spears, Department of Anthropology
2014: Myranda Crist, College of Education (Dept of C&I and Dept of Educational Psychology)
2013: Jeri Cochran, Department of Astronomy
2013: Rhonda McElroy, Department of Computer Science