Celebrating Teaching Excellence: Nominating a 3M National Teaching Fellowship 2020

To help illuminate the process of nominations and dossiers for the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, on April 15, 2020, the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT) hosted an online panel featuring some of UBC’s 3M National Teaching Fellows. The panellists compared their experiences on what made their packages successful, as well as shared challenges and advice they would give future nominees.

A consistent theme panellists spoke about was the need to create a story of your accomplishments. As Simon Ellis, 2013 3M Fellow, phrased it “what is important in an application is a narrative and a theme throughout the application, not just long lists, it’s a story, an internally consistent story that allows you to be distinguished from the other applicants.”

Creating this narrative takes time as there are multiple people involved in putting a package together, with letters from other staff and faculty members across campus to past students. Panellists agreed that providing them with ample time for their contributions is a good strategy. Maja Krzic, 2016 3M Fellow, shared how in her experience, letters needed to fit the whole narrative of the nomination. “This might take a long time because once the person who is preparing the package for you sees all the letters and they see that the same thing is being repeated over and over again (which happened to me), they have to go back to the people writing the letters to rewrite them, which lengthens the process.”

Paul Cubbon, 2020 3M Fellow, shared some advice for those who are starting to prepare for the award. He reminds them that “you’re not doing things to try and be a 3M fellow, you’re doing the things you do, and then you’re trying to find a way to tell your story which is compelling.”

One of the aspects of the nomination discussed was the reach that your teaching could have beyond the classroom. Steven Barnes, 2019 3M Fellow, emphasizes the need for “having alumni who can talk about the impact of your teaching [and your course] to their lives, and that is the impact beyond the classroom that you can add to your [nomination].” He emphasized the need to have letter writers who can speak about that.

On the other hand, multiple challenges might arise when preparing your package. Tiffany Potter, 2020 3M Fellow, was faced with the challenge of fitting in 20 years of teaching in 50 pages. She shared how, in her first attempt, she added all the information that she could and ended up with an unsuccessful application that was hard to read. However, she commented that in her third and successful attempt, the feedback she received “was that it was enjoyable to read the file and that they felt that they got to know me and what I do. My third file was more human, had photos. It’s important to know how to tell the story and air it out and give it space.”

Peter Ostafichuk, 2015 3M Fellow, had some suggestions for future applicants to avoid some common mistakes. He suggests that “it’s great to look back to other applications that you’ve done before, pull ideas but start completely fresh.” He also emphasizes sticking to the criteria that the award gives to you. All of those submitting applications are highly accomplished; if you don’t follow the STLHE criteria, your application might be discarded as the judging panel has a high volume of applications to go through.

Darren Dahl, 2013 3M Fellow, emphasized the need for having clarity and organization in your narrative, so your application is coherent and has a notion of alignment. He also wanted to draw attention to your story’s need “to have a bit of a hook, what is interesting and unique.” He suggests finding inspiration in your background and to look at your work with innovation.

For more in-depth advice from the panellists, make sure you watch the complete video of the panel session and visit our recap of last year’s event for more advice. For those who are interested in applying, please review the STLHE webpage and contact us at the CTLT. We offer 1-1 consultations and have sample dossiers of successful UBC 3M National Teaching Fellows for your review. If you have more questions or if you wish to connect with a 3M National Teaching Fellow, please contact Judy Chan, Educational Consultant judy.chan@ubc.ca at the CTLT.