U Make a Difference Awards

The U Make a Difference award program recognizes individuals and teams who exemplify excellence and the ability to reach above and beyond the expected to "Make a Difference" in our university community, those who through their performance, commitment and service make the university a great place to learn and work. The awards acknowledge that outstanding contributions to the university's vision can take many different forms and they provide all members of the university community the opportunity to formally recognize each other's efforts and contributions throughout the year. These awards are an important aspect of the university's culture of recognition.

With the start of the pandemic hitting during the 2020 U Make a Difference nomination period, nominations were put on pause. For anyone who submitted a nomination package in 2020, there is no need to resubmit. Although adjudicated separately, recipients from both years will be recognized in 2021. 


Meet U Make a Difference Award Recipients and Nominees


The U Make a Difference award recognizes academic staff, AUPE staff, management and professional staff (MaPS), post doctoral scholars and graduate students for outstanding individual or team achievements and activities. There are no restrictions on eligibility in relation to the type of work performed, or in relation to full or part-time status.

  • Team nominations of up to 10 individuals are typically eligible. 
  • Executive and Senior Leadership Team members are exempt from this award.
  • Multiple awards are granted each year.
  • The U Make a Difference award may not be given to the same individual more than once unless the new nomination is based on noticeably different contributions. 

Top Nomination Tips

Deciding who to nominate for a U Make a Difference award is easy — putting together a winning nomination takes time and planning.

Don’t start from scratch — build your submission from the specific criteria developed around the area of excellence that best fits your nominee:

  • Innovation and Curiosity
  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Positive Work Environment and Community

Read the examples provided for each category and plan how you’ll illustrate the person’s strengths through the given criteria.

You don’t need to nominate alone — work with a partner or group to make an outstanding submission. A nomination package should include testimonials from multiple people who have collaborated with a nominee in the past.

Ask for input from a nominee’s leaders, peers and direct reports (if applicable) to help illustrate a complete picture of their successes.

Winning nomination packages take time and require coordination from multiple people, including leaders who may have limited availability. Start on your package early to ensure all contributors have time to offer thoughtful input.

Award Criteria


The U Make a Difference awards recognize excellence in one of three key areas: innovation and curiosity, collaboration and communication, and a positive work environment and community.

For this award 'excellence' is defined as demonstrating outstanding success in job/professional responsibilities, projects or research.

Examples include:

Demonstrating exceptional initiative, perseverance, accountability or commitment in meeting or exceeding client (including other staff or students) needs, project deliverables, or goals.

Pursuing excellence through actions of integrity and perseverance.

Continuously striving to surpass personal expectations and taking responsibility for own performance.

Actively seeking opportunities for personal learning, character building, and growth.

Behavioral characteristics associated with each of the criteria guide the selection of the award recipients. These descriptions (in the next three sections) provide the necessary context to a nominator on how a nominee may demonstrate distinction or excellence.

Generating and driving new ideas, resources and processes or seeking to continuously improve beyond their normal responsibilities to benefit the university or larger community.

Examples include:

  • Applying original thinking in approach to job responsibilities or projects and research; generating or improving ideas, devices, processes, services, etc.

  • Engaging in or fostering an environment of curiosity and creativity; contributing to or facilitating problem solving, bringing forth innovative ideas and creative solutions.

  • Proactively seeking opportunities to learn about new technologies, tools or systems to enhance work methods, processes and approaches.

  • Taking initiative to enhance current procedures, policies, systems or structures to be more efficient and effective, save time or money, or improve the experience of end users.

Nomination Letter Template: Innovation and Curiosity

Actively supporting a culture of cooperative, respectful and open communication within the university and community at large.

Examples include:

  • Building and maintaining exemplary collaborative relationships both within and potentially outside of the faculty, department or work unit.

  • Encouraging or leading others to work together to achieve common goals; openly shares experiences, ideas, innovations, etc., as well as failures, so that others may benefit; giving credit and recognition to others who have contributed towards team goals.

  • Demonstrating respect in our workplace in the areas of human rights, personal dignity and health and safety.

  • Seeking and listening to different points of view and respects differing opinions when developing solutions; separates own interests from the larger university interest to generate the best solution.

Nomination Letter Template: Collaboration and Communication

Contributing to the development of a positive and engaged community.

Examples include:

  • Actively contributing to and promoting a positive work environment, including recognizing others, role modeling and mentoring positive behaviours, promoting health and well-being, etc.

  • Promoting and supporting a healthy, safe, sustainable, and productive work environment by contributing to UCalgary's health and safety culture, supporting continuous improvement in UCalgary's pursuit of excellence in sustainability, leveraging of various spaces, services and programs available throughout both the university and Calgary community.

  • Demonstrating exemplary community service and volunteerism through involvement with the University of Calgary volunteer programs on campus, in Calgary, and around the world while providing valuable services to the community through UCalgary programs.

  • Striving for the university community that is equitable, diverse, and inclusive.

Nomination Letter Template: Positive Work Environment and Community 



Nominations for the 2021 U Make a Difference Award program were accepted from March 15 until April 7, 2021.

Nominators do not have to work directly with the nominee. Managers can nominate their staff and employees can nominate their managers or peers. Students may also nominate employees.

The completed nomination package should include:

A completed Individual nomination form or Team nomination form outlining the nominee(s), the award criteria on which the application is based upon, and information about the primary nominator and all supporting nominators.

At least two nomination letters from a primary and supporting nominator(s), or one nomination letter completed by two or more individuals. Supporting nominators can either write their own nomination letter, or co-write with the primary nominator or other supporting nominators. A well-crafted, co-written nomination will in no way disadvantage a nominee. A maximum of five nomination letters from faculty, staff and students will be accepted per application.

It is recommended that applications focus on one criteria, refer to the Award Criteria section above. Those applications requesting consideration under multiple criteria will be accepted; however, will be scored independently. Applicants are only eligible for one award.

It is preferable that the packages are coordinated and submitted by the primary nominator. Completed nomination packages should be submitted to recognition@ucalgary.ca with the subject "2021 U Make a Difference Nomination – insert name of nominee"

Nomination Forms

Complete the required nomination form and submit by email to recognition@ucalgary.ca

The nomination letter should clearly outline how the individual or team meets or exceeds the award criteria. Include examples to demonstrate how individual or team performance exceeds usual expectations or how the nominee(s) contributed, in an extraordinary way, to the university and larger community.

To nominate a colleague or team who has gone above and beyond, submit one nomination form (filled out by one primary Nominator and at least one supporting Nominator) recommending the same individual or team.


Adjudication of the nominations will be completed by a committee chaired by the director, total rewards (or delegate) and consisting of, at minimum, one member of each of the following staff groups: faculty, AUPE staff, MaPS, postdoctoral scholars, and GSA as well as one of the previous U Make a Difference Award recipients and one of the nominators (from different staff groups). The committee will be guided in its adjudication by assessment rubrics based on the criteria for the awards.

Administrative processes surrounding communication, nomination and selection processes will be coordinated through Total Rewards in Human Resources. 

U Make a Difference Award Recipients

2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010

U Make a Difference Award Nominees

2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016