Distinguished McKnight University Professorship

Nomination Deadline: February 3, 2015 (midnight)


The purpose of the Distinguished McKnight University Professorship program is to honor and reward our most distinguished and highest-achieving mid-career faculty who have recently attained full professor status—especially those who have made significant advances in their careers at the University of Minnesota, whose work and reputation are identified with the University, and whose accomplishments have brought great renown and prestige to Minnesota. While distinction in individual research, scholarly, or creative work is required, the award may also recognize leadership within research teams and collaborative or interdisciplinary efforts.

The Award

Recipients are honored with the title Distinguished McKnight University Professor, which they hold for as long as they remain at the University of Minnesota. The grant associated with the Professorship consists of $100,000 over five years to be used, in accordance with University policy, for research, scholarly, or artistic activities, and expended at the recipient’s discretion and with the approval of the academic dean of the appointment unit. Appropriate uses include research equipment and supplies, support for research assistants, professional travel, publication, or creative production costs. With the approval of the vice provost for faculty and academic affairs, funds may also be used for sabbatical-leave salary and/or two months’ summer salary for those on nine-month appointments.


Recipients will be required to remain at the University for the full five years of the award payment period, plus one additional year, or repay in full the expended value of the Professorship for the immediately preceding two fiscal years. Any such repayment should not come from funds administered by the University or its foundations.



Eligibility is limited to tenured faculty who have made significant advances in their careers at the University of Minnesota—especially those whose careers have developed and flourished at the University—and who have been promoted to full professor within the past seven years, i.e., in 2007 or later. A faculty member promoted to full professor more than seven years ago may be considered, as an exception, if a strong case can be made that the faculty member was promoted unusually early and quickly through the ranks. If nominating someone promoted earlier than 2007, the nominator must confirm, in a separate paragraph, that the nominee is regarded as “midcareer” in all respects, by carefully and convincingly describing the individual’s career trajectory in the context of the discipline’s convention for midcareer status. Also, typically the nominee will have received the PhD or terminal degree in the field within approximately the past twenty years. Re-nominations are welcomed, and even encouraged, for faculty members who remain eligible.


Nomination Process

All nominees should be apprised of the program’s Purpose and Terms of Award. In preparing their nominations, departments/colleges should be mindful of the fact that the materials will be reviewed and rated by a selection committee composed of faculty members from across the University. Departments/colleges should assume, therefore, that most reviewers will be unfamiliar with the nominee's particular area of scholarly or creative work, and should take care to present the nomination using language that is accessible to a wide range of scholars. 

A faculty member must be nominated by his/her academic home department or unit; each department or unit may nominate one faculty member. Many departments/units have a standing faculty awards committee in place whose purpose is to promote the excellence of their faculty colleagues by selecting nominees for internal and external honors and awards. For departments that have such an awards committee, the nomination may come from the committee chair; otherwise, it should come from the department head or chair. If the nominee is the chair or head of a department/unit, the letter of nomination may come from an associate dean or dean.


The nominating letter and the supporting letters, which are weighed carefully by the selection committee, must be persuasive in conveying to reviewers the nature and importance of the intellectual underpinnings of the nominee’s scholarship that have led to an outstanding reputation.


First, please complete and submit the Distinguished McKnight Nomination Form (right-click and select Open Hyperlink). This form asks for eligibility information concerning the nominee as well as contact information for the nominee, nominator(s), chair/head, and dean, and a copy of the 75-word summary that is in the nomination dossier.

Next, complete and submit the nomination dossier (as specified below) as a single PDF to vpfaa@umn.edu, with the email subject line “Nomination: Distinguished McKnight 2015”. It is anticipated that, in most cases, the nominee will author the materials requested in items 2 through 5 below. The PDF you submit will have higher resolution and be easier for the selection committee to read if you create it by concatenating files in Adobe Acrobat (click on Create, then Combine Files into a Single PDF) – this is the preferred method. However, it is acceptable to create your PDF by using a copy machine. The PDF must include the following materials, in the following order:


1. A nomination letter of no more than five pages from the department head/chair or collegiate dean. If the nominee has a dual appointment, a co-nominator from the second department may be included. Ultimately, the letter must answer the question, “What is the nominee’s key contribution and how is it important?” and it should establish that the nominee’s significant career advances have been made while at the University of Minnesota. It should not quote extensively from letters of recommendation.


The nomination letter should first briefly describe the process by which the nominee was chosen. Second, it should chronicle the nominee’s academic career path with a summary of promotion dates from assistant to associate to full professor (with an explanation if the promotion date to full professor exceeds seven years as described under Eligibility). It should then substantiate the nominee’s national and/or international standing through a concise account of the following:



2. A layperson’s research title of up to 15 words and the name of the nominee as the nominee wishes it to appear in any publicity, followed by a brief summary of up to 75 words describing the nominee's work. This summary should be written in the third person and describe in the broadest terms possible the background, goal, and potential significance of the research, scholarly, or creative/artistic activity in clear, concise language for the non-specialist. It must be written without jargon so that it is readily understandable to individuals entirely outside the field; colleagues unfamiliar with the field should be asked to read the description, to see that it meets this wide-audience test.


3. A broad non-technical description of the nominee's overall research, scholarly, or creative/artistic activity up to three pages. This description should lay out the nominee's own distinctive theories or ideas, in the context of the discipline; it should state the objectives and potential significance. (Any references are to be included in the page limitation.) This, too, should be written in a manner that is understandable to colleagues outside the field. A description that resembles a grant proposal submitted for federal agency peer review would not be suitable for this all-University competition. This description should not be a narrative version of the curriculum vitae.


4. A complete list of current and pending grants, internal as well as external, if applicable, including sources of funds, amounts, and inclusive dates of awards. Be certain the list includes a description of the nominee’s role on each grant, such as first PI or co-PI. It is not required that the faculty member be a recipient of grant funds to be eligible for this award.


5. The nominee's curriculum vitae, with the most important publications or scholarly works designated (to designate please place a # before the first author’s name). The curriculum vitae should follow the preferred university format now used for promotion and tenure decisions. This is attached at the end of the announcement.


6. Brief background information on each of the recommenders to provide context to their letters (no more than two pages total).


7. Up to six letters of recommendation from individuals who can provide an objective evaluation of the nominee’s prominence in the field. Although internal letters are permissible, generally speaking external letters are more persuasive. Also, it is not advisable to seek letters from co-authors, close colleagues, research collaborators, former advisers, or students, who may not be seen as objective. Recommenders should be apprised of the all-University nature of the award. They should be informed that the selection committee is composed of prominent faculty members drawn from across the University, not the nominee's field, so that they grasp the importance of describing the nominee’s merit in non-specialized terms. Recommenders should also be asked to speak to the individual’s contributions in cases where the research is highly collaborative.


8. A description of the context of the field and the department to help reviewers understand the environment in which the nominee works. This may include information on the number of courses typically taught, average number of advisees in the department, availability of disciplinary awards nationally and internationally, whether in the nominee’s field it is customary for the lead author to be listed first or last and other information that will help reviewers compare nominees across a wide range of fields. Please limit this section to one page.

No other materials, such as copies of course summaries, teaching evaluations, summaries of other research proposals, or the like, may be included. Any such extraneous material will be removed from the file before forwarding to the selection committee.

Review and Selection Criteria

While distinction in individual scholarly work is required, the award may also recognize leadership associated with research teams, collaborative efforts, or interdisciplinary work. The nominations will be reviewed by a committee composed of distinguished faculty from across the University, which will select recipients based on the following:



Submission, Deadline and Notification

The Distinguished McKnight University Professor Nomination Form and the nomination dossier are both due by Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at midnight. Please save the nomination dossier as one PDF file with items in the same order as listed above (1 through 8). Please name the final document as follows:  [LastName, FirstName of nominee of nominee]_2015_DMUP_[Campus]_[College]
Example of file name: Doe_Jane_2015_DMUP_UMTC_CLA

Please email the nomination dossier to vpfaa@umn.edu, with the subject line “Nomination: Distinguished McKnight 2015”

Nominators and awardees will be notified of the outcome in March, 2015.  

Distinguished McKnight recipients will be honored at the May meeting of the Board of Regents (notification of date and time will be sent to awardees). Recipients, nominators, chairs, and deans are also invited to the annual McKnight awards dinner, at which both Land-Grant and Distinguished professorship awardees are recognized. The 2015 dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, May 12, 5:30-8:00 PM. Further information will be sent after the awards are announced.


Questions concerning the nomination and selection process may be directed to Chris Bremer at breme006@umn.edu.