- Give context: Be sure to detail what the person does in the UVM community, how you have seen them in their role, and why their actions/contributions to the UVM community are worthy of recognition.
- Tell a story: Paint a picture in the reader’s mind of why these contributions are so important. Telling a story that can serve as a microcosm for what this person does in the UVM community helps the reader get a deeper understanding of and appreciation for why the nominee is outstanding.
- Discuss the nominee’s impact: Connect the dots between the role this person fills in the UVM community and how that role is reflected in the six values of Our Common Ground.
Try to think of your letter as a supportive argument on behalf of the person who has been nominated; your goal is to use context and detail to lead the reader to the conclusion that the person you’re writing on behalf of should be recognized. Given that a President’s Our Common Ground Staff Award Nomination letter may not exceed 500 words, a helpful letter structure could be:
Month Day, Year
To Whom it May Concern:
FIRST PARAGRAPH: Introduce the person you’re nominating; their position, their department, where they work in the UVM community (it could be on campus or at an off-campus location). In addition, introduce how you know this person: Is it a close colleague in your department? Is it someone you’ve partnered with on a project? Is it someone you’ve never directly worked with, but maybe you interact with quite a bit and they’ve had a positive impact on your experience at the university? Give the reader some context for how you know the person; it will help the reader to start to form a picture in their mind of who this person is and what their role is in the university community.
SECOND PARAGRAPH: State why you are nominating this person: Why have they stood out to you as an exemplary member of the UVM community? Tie your reasons back to the values of Our Common Ground. These reasons can be anything from ensuring that the UVM community remains a safe place to work and live, to fostering new projects or ideas, or to consistently being a well-respected pillar of your work environment.
THIRD PARAGRAPH: Give the reader some additional context for the reasons you state above. A helpful way to do this can be to tell a story about this person. Bring them to life through their actions by recalling one or two experiences you had with them that made you think, “Wow, this person really is the epitome of respect/integrity/innovation/openness/justice/responsibility.” Then, tell that story; show the reader how the actions or ideas of this person made you think of them as outstanding. That story can be a powerful way to paint a picture in the reader’s mind for who this person is and what their impact is on our community.
FOURTH PARAGRAPH: Discuss impact. Build off the story you’ve told and highlight that as an example of how this person reflects Our Common Ground. Think of discussing impact in up to three ways: 1) On the individual level: How has this person’s actions/contributions to the UVM community had an impact on you? 2) How have you seen this person’s actions/contributions have a positive impact on those around them? 3) How does this impact on those around them have a positive impact on the university? Remember that the President’s Our Common Ground Staff Award is designed to recognize staff members who have a very wide variety of roles at the university, so think about how a person’s work and/or your day-to-day experience with them reflects the six values of Our Common Ground.
(Note: This sample letter is 444 words)
A few final tips:
- Keep it conversational: An effective letter does not need to be overly-formal. The tone for this story can be casual; think of it as you’re explaining this person to a friend/colleague over coffee, and you just want to give them a clear explanation of why you admire the person you’re writing for.
- Don’t feel obligated to address every single value of Our Common Ground: Know that your letter is one of several that are submitted on behalf of an individual. Other letter writers will be supporting this person in different ways.
- 500 words is the maximum: Remember that you cannot go over this word limit. Also remember that you are not required to write 500 words; an effective letter can be written at any length.
- Read your letter once over: Make sure you’ve said what you want to say. You may also want to find a friend or colleague to read your letter as well; sometimes fresh eyes can be helpful to pick up on tiny spelling or grammatical errors.
- Upload your letter: You can draft your letter at a university computer and then upload the file as a .docx, a .pdf or a .jpeg file. In addition, a letter may be written directly into the online form.