Honorific Awards Bootcamp

Honorific Awards for Pitt Faculty

Prestigious awards take a concerted and strategic effort to work towards success. The intent of this suite of resources is to share insightful, actionable strategies that faculty across disciplines and career stages may employ to be pursue competitive fellowships, attract awards for notable scholarly contributions and accomplishments, and reward their service as educators and mentors.  

A culture of recognition better positions all of us for ongoing success in faculty retention, enhances institutional visibility, and contributes to improved rankings. As a whole this will provide an opportunity for self-guided learning for ambitious faculty. It can also serve as an essential resource for awards committees and school and department leaders.

Honorific Awards a Pitt: An Introduction

Overview of Honorific Awards Resources

By exploring these resources, you will be able to:

  • Understand the benefits of applying for awards, and develop plans to manage your personal award ladders
  • Utilize resources to identify funding and awards opportunities
  • Describe tactics of the award application process: understand the award, prepare the nomination package, and manage visibility around submission
A Message from the Senior Vice Chancellor for Research


Resources Available to Faculty


Understanding Internal Selection and Nomination Processes

Use these resources to better understand the internal selection process, which can also be a limited submission: 

  • Internal Application & Deadline Setting
  • Internal Selections 
  • Submission Preparation & Coaching 
  • External Submission

Award Ladders: Building Success Across a Career

Award Ladders Conceptual Framework

Many disciplines/award landscapes have award ladders, meaning:

  • Different tiers of awards that move up in sequence, or act as gateways to the next award 
    • Example: 
      • Entry level awards
      • Apex level awards 
  • In this structure, you start at the bottom and work up through awards, rung by rung
Understanding Criteria
  • It is important to be mindful that expectations and criteria of awards vary due to: 
    • Field/Broad Discipline
    • Career Stage 
    • Organization 
    • and More
Early Career Considerations
  • Early career awards can be more narrow, or "in the discipline' 
  • Competitors for junior/early/rising awards are often colleagues 
  • In token, reviewers for these awards are also often friends/colleagues
  • Example of an Early Career Award: American Academy of Rome's "Rome Prize" 
    • Goal: To support innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities 
    • The jurors' primary criterion for the award is "excellence". They will consider the quality of an applicant's submission and select candidates who are not only outstanding in their respective fields, but also at a point in their careers when the Rome Prize is likely to be crucial to their future growth and development
    • Target audience: early-stage researchers 
Mid Career Considerations
  • TBD
Established Career Considerations
  • Senior or Later/Established Career Awards tend to be more general 
  • These types of awards can be trans-disciplinary or at the "widest of the discipline" 
  • Competitors and reviewers may not know you, as the applicant/reviewer pool is wider 
  • Examples of Established Career Awards:
    • John W. Kluge Center Kluge Fellowship
    • National Science Board/NSF Vannevar Bush Award
    • Guggenheim 

Understanding Awards Criteria

Essential Details to Know for Any Award

The following are essential points regarding awards:

  • Understand what the award seeks to recognize
  • Know how to present yourself, your accomplishment, and your contribution
  • Identify three main resources when applying: department chairs, prior awardees, and university offices
  • Develop strategies for approaching previous awardees to get advice
Understanding Guidelines

Common questions about award guidelines to consider are: 

  • What does the organization seek to award?  What sort of excellence?
  • What do other award winners look like?  Age/ stage?  Specific area?
  • What exactly does the award nomination require – Case?  Refs?
  • How is it submitted?  Web form?  Email a PDF?  How do refs submit?
  • What is the deadline? 
Understanding the 'Pillars' of an Award

It is important to understand the "Pillars" of an award. Often it is the case that awards want contributions in one focus area, and then other adjacent areas. Such pillars can include: 

  • Excellence
  • Service
  • Something Else 

All of these pillars should be identified and addressed when applying or nominating for an award. It is a common mistake to address the primary pillar or focus of the award, but to neglect those adjacent to it. 

Aligning Approach and Style

Awards and disciplines can call for different styles of submission. It is important to identify the style expectations of an award through context and guidelines and then align your approach to them. Crisp and focused writing is always key. 

Here are common mistakes made regarding the style of a proposal: 

  • Covering all areas of the award, but failing to identify what a candidate accomplished to deserve said award 
  • Inadequate explanation of a person or project's contributions and value, not just identifying positive characteristics 
Building Support with Institutional Leadership

Institutional support is a key component of awards and career trajectory. Seeking support is essential, and can be accomplished in many ways, such as starting a conversation with your department chair or dean. Be in contact with institutional leadership, but do so outside of requests for letters of support. Keeping an open dialogue and making them aware of your presence and interests can put a candidate in good stead for securing support when needed. 

Here are some other ways to cultivate institutional support: 

  • Discuss your desired award ladder or trajectory with your dean or department chair 
  • Connect with previous applicants to awards in your area of expertise 
  • Seek advice on how to make a case for a particular award or organization 
  • Discuss a timeline and strategies for pulling together a nomination package 
  • Learn the culture of your department and use it to your advantage 

Organizations such as Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement (PAE) and the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) can support faculty in the following ways: 

  • Identify key faculty awards 
  • Review qualifications and requirements
  • Engage all key stakeholders and collaboratively work to develop nomination packages 
  • Assist nominees and endorsers with drafting and editing reference letters 
  • Provide submission support
  • Follow-up with awarding agency 

Here are ways to award-ready as an individual at the University level: 

  • Maintain an up-to-date CV and online invisibility 
  • Keep professional society memberships active 
  • Volunteer with professional societies and actively mentor students
  • Be alert to communications about award opportunities via email and on other platforms 
  • Plan ahead (3-5 years) and develop your profile 
Learning from Successful Peers

Approach prior awardees strategically, if they are a resource available to you. If you're able to contact a prior awardee: 

  • Conduct an informational interview:
    • Ask awardees if they are willing to share successful (and sometimes unsuccessful) applications with you
    • Ask awardees whether they are willing to provide any feedback on draft materials 
    • Ask awardees about what to expect regarding the application/nomination process 

Here are other tips for communicating with past awardees: 

  • Do your homework on the award before contacting them for advice 
  • Prepare a specific list of questions or components that you want to address
  • Use opportunities to network when possible
  • Follow-up after communication to continue the connection, and notify them of your application results 

Building Your Nomination Materials

Essential Pieces to Factor Into Your Plan

Here are some important pieces to factory into your CV:

  • Curate the CV to align with types and styles of awards
  • Distinguish the differences between referees and nominators
  • Identify typical reasons for weak reference letters
  • Design strategic plans to approach and manage referees
Curating a CV for Competitiveness

​It is very common for larger awards to require a CV in an application. This can create an immediate problem if a nominee does not have a current CV on file. Here are important items to consider regarding CVs: 

  • CVs are often ignored outside of job search times. Make sure to update your CV when possible to keep content current 
  • CVs need to be written for a general review audience, including professionals outside of your field of expertise. Keep this in mind when adding content to your CV 
  • Structure for rapid consumption is key for CVs. Make language and format simple and accessible for anyone reviewing the document, highlighting critical award-centric components as needed 
Distinguishing Letters: Nominators and Referees
•Tactical question
•Who is the nominator (note:  anybody can write the nomination – who is listed?)
•Who are ref letter writers?

•Things to consider
•May be rules against internal refs, or too many such refs
•Generally:  deploy “bigger” names on the refs

Curating Visibility Towards Your Candidacy

Essential Considerations for Self-Representation
Especially for higher-level top-of-ladder awards, you are competing with a broader, wider class of different nominees. As a result, your review panel will also be broader in scope. This is important to consider, as larger review pools will not be as quick to recognize your work and accomplishments. This is where self-representation and a strong online presence is key. If your web presence if weak or outdated, this may affect your strength as a candidate, and put off a review panel from learning more about your and what you do. 
Expert Online Visibility

Online visibility is important for representing yourself and your work. The following are expert areas for online visibility:

  • Wikipedia
  • Amazon Author Profile
  • Google Knowledge Panel
Online Academic Communities

Online academic communities, such as those identified below, are also helpful places to keep a profile and record of your work:

  • ResearchGate
  • Google Scholar
  • Academia.edu
Other Online Profiles

General professional social media profiles can also be helpful in increasing your online presence:

  • LinkedIn
  • Your Website
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

Managing Your Award Visibility

PItt Research Link

A Case Study in Strategizing and Submitting an Award

2022 ARIS Impact Award - Pitt water Collaboratory