Towner Prize Award

About the Award

2020-2021 Update:
We regret to announce that due to financial constraints attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Towner Prize for Outstanding GSIs competition for this academic year (which would recognize GSIs who taught during 2019-2020 academic year) will not be held.

The Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding Graduate Student Instructors award honors up to four engineering GSIs who are exceptional and innovative teachers with a $1,500 cash prize. The College of Engineering’s Richard and Eleanor Towner Prize for Outstanding GSIs is a separate award from the Rackham Outstanding GSI award. For information about Rackham’s Outstanding GSI Award click here.


All engineering graduate students who have completed one term as a GSI in the past academic year (i.e. fall 2018, winter 2019, or spring/summer 2019) are eligible for this award. Former winners are not eligible.


GSIs selected for the Towner Prize must demonstrate the following:

  • creativity or innovation as an instructor,
  • excellence in teaching, and
  • remarkable dedication to student success

Selection Process

Faculty and students may nominate a GSI who fits the criteria listed above. GSIs can also self-nominate. The application and selection process will involve two steps.

Step One: Outstanding engineering GSIs are nominated for this award. The nomination forms and student evaluations will be reviewed and finalists will be invited to submit full applications.  Nominators must provide general information about the GSI and answer the three questions in detail. The strongest nominations provide detailed examples about the instructors’ creativity and innovation, their teaching excellence, and their dedication to student success. Teaching evaluations will be provided by the Office of Evaluations and Examinations and therefore need not be included with the nomination.

We are interested in receiving a diverse pool of nominees with respect to such factors as gender, race/ethnicity, and engineering discipline.

Step Two: Finalists will submit a 1-2 page narrative and other materials that document their innovative teaching practices including:

  • Cover page & GSI reflective statement
  • Letter of recommendation from the GSI’s supervising faculty member. Letter should address the 3 criteria and include supporting quotes from students (when possible)

Finalists will be judged by a selection committee composed of engineering faculty, graduate students, and staff from a variety of departments within the College of Engineering and the university community. Finalists will be chosen to represent the top applicants from across the college. The selection committee will make the final decision regarding the awardees.

2019-2020 Timing

October 1, 2019: Competition begins
October 25, 2019 (5:00pm): Nominations due
November 15, 2019: Finalists notified
December 2, 2019 (5:00pm): Final applications due
March 15, 2020: Winners recognized at Leaders & Honors brunch

Questions should be directed to