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What I've Learned About Awards...

It is unfortunate that I feel I need to write this down and blog about it - but honestly, I think it needs to be said. Awards in Higher Education are an interesting beast...


When I was younger (middle school, high school, and even college), awards were given to those who earned them and normally were nominated by a peer, mentor, instructor or other individual who saw something in you that needed to be highlighted. Getting an award is a great feeling. Your accomplishments have been recognized and it makes you feel like you are making a difference or that your work is important to the bigger organization. As an adult, you may still be recognized by your peers for an award you did not expect - and again, that's awesome. However, I've found that awards are played out a bit differently in higher education...

Recently, I was having a conversation with a faculty member about a recent award she was given. How proud she must be about the hard work she put in and how it good it feels to be honored. She noted that it was a bittersweet feeling - that while she did put in a lot of work and how it was nice to be honored, it just felt 'off'. When asked to clarify, she noted that it is weird to have to "play the game" or basically had to self-nominate herself for the award. She spoke of how she pictured higher education as a place where individuals support each other and nominate each other for awards. And, while this does happen, most of the time you have to nominate yourself and let people know about the work you have been doing.

This conversation led me to think about my experiences with higher education and the role of awards. While I have been given awards both unexpected and self-nominated, it is an odd feeling asking to be honored. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a feeling that I get used to or if it is always going to feel weird. I think (for me) it will always be this odd feeling - asking for recognition. But, what I've learned in the past few years is that you need to make sure you are applying for awards - especially those you are qualified for. Much like becoming active in your instructional design community - you must be active in giving yourself the chance to earn awards.

I think it would have helped me to know that at a certain point, you need to put your work out there for others to see. One way of doing this is by nominating yourself for awards - this is especially important for those who many be their own supervisor or may not have a supervisor who supports their employees (we know these supervisors unfortunately exist). This is also a great way for you to network and build your own community. You never know who you will meet or who will take notice of your good work after being nominated or given an award.

If you take away anything from this posting remember to take pride in your work and allow others to honor all of the hours, sweat and tears you put into doing what you do!

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