Peter J. Elich Excellence in Teaching Award

The Peter J. Elich Excellence in Teaching Award, named for Western’s former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is given to a faculty member from either the College of Humanities and Social Sciences or the College of Science and Engineering, in recognition for their exemplary teaching practices. 

*Please Note: Only Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, or Professors are eligible for this award. (Instructors, Lecturers, Senior Instructors are not eligible. Please check the staff directory for faculty titles.)

Selection Criteria

The following criteria and policies are intended to secure comprehensive evaluations and maintain goodwill in the process.

  1. No person shall receive this award more than once.
  2. Only the name of the award winner is announced. The names of the other candidates shall not be published at any time during or after the process.
  3. Tenure is not a requirement, but the candidate must be a tenure track faculty member having completed at least three full years of service at Western Washington University. Visiting faculty, non-tenure track faculty, and part-time faculty are not eligible.
  4. Eligible nominees will be notified by the College administering the award. Upon officially confirming their candidacy, nominees will be invited to submit their support materials to the committee by the deadline date provided.
  5. The award is a teaching award, not a research award; support materials submitted should speak to the candidate’s teaching abilities.
  6. The committee may devise additional or alternative criteria and/or processes upon announcement.
  7. The committee will evaluate materials secured through all processes and make its selection according to its best judgment.
  8. The award is intended to recognize the candidate’s excellence in teaching while at Western Washington University. Support materials should be limited to no more than the past three years)
  9. To secure consistency in the evaluation process, nominees will provide the following documents:
    • Current vita
    • Evaluations representative of all courses taught; must include student comments and numerical data, if available.
      • Current copies of syllabi from all courses taught in the last three years
      • A maximum of two supporting documents per course (optional)
    • A maximum of six (6) reference letters (electronic format) sent directly to the Dean’s Office* with a minimum of three (3) letters, one (1) each from the following:
      • Student
      • Alumni
      • Colleague (may consist of faculty from other institutions, if reasonably representing the candidate’s department or field)
    • A summary comprising up to three (3) pages describing aspects of his/her teaching not covered by the requested material.
  10. In the past, the Elich Award Committee has evaluated nominees using the following criteria:
    • Challenge Level
    • Student Engagement
    • Breadth/Versatility
    • Risk/Innovation
    • Impact
    • Passion/Energy
  11. Faculty on leave in the year of nomination may choose to defer the nomination to the following academic year.

*It is the responsibility of the nominee to request the recommendation letters. The Dean’s Office will only consider letters received directly from the reference contact electronically (Word or PDF). Recommendation letters are treated as confidential; contents will not be shared with the candidate.


The award recipient will be presented with a Western medallion award at the Celebration of Excellence Awards in June. This award also includes a payment of $2,500, made possible by the Western Washington University Foundation. (Please note: for each payment, the University also contributes approximately $1,553.66 for tax related deductibles plus benefits for a total expenditure of approximately $3,553 per award).

Award Administration

College of Humanities and Social Sciences and College of Science and Engineering Dean’s Offices (rotating)

Nomination Process

Students, alumni, faculty and staff members are encouraged to nominate faculty members for the Excellence in Teaching Awards. Nominations open in the fall and are due by December 1.


Photo of Suzanne Lee, BiologySuzanne Lee - Biology

Suzanne Lee is an educator and molecular cell biologist who joined the Biology Department after receiving a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley and completing postdoctoral work at the University of California, San Diego. She teaches Biology courses in cell and molecular biology at all levels - from Introductory and Upper Division lecture courses to a 300-level skill-building lab to a 400-level research course. As an educator, Suzanne aims to inspire and empower students to become lifelong learners and collaborative problem solvers, employing a diversity of student-centered active learning approaches in her classrooms. Her favorite moments in working with students are those “aha” moments when concepts suddenly click for a student and they feel that thrill of advancing their own learning. In addition, the nature and process of science is woven into all of her courses, whether through data analysis, learning more about the people behind the science, or hands-on student-driven inquiry and authentic research. Motivated by her own experiences and those of others she admires, Suzanne has worked to promote greater equity and inclusion in STEM through implementing evidence-based pedagogical and mentoring approaches and organizing workshops, seminars, and professional learning communities.

Past Awardees


Photo of Glenn Tsunokai, SociologyGlenn Tsunokai - Sociology

Glenn Tsunokai is an educator, mentor, and sociologist, who teaches classes on race and ethnic relations and social stratification/inequality. Although many of his students possess some knowledge and may have formed opinions about the subject matter before taking his classes, many of them, however, may never have questioned their own taken-for granted assumptions about how society operates. As is often the case, the practice of separating fact from illusion is very difficult for some, especially if they lack an alternative framework to work from to debunk or dispel misconceptions about issues such as racism and poverty. Accordingly, one of Glenn’s primary responsibilities as an educator is to help his students realize that “things are not always what they appear to be,” and to actively encourage them to push the boundaries of accepted understandings by engaging in critical thinking. He truly believes that the ability to think critically is arguably one of the most important skills that students can learn and nurture throughout their college career. Glenn uses active learning pedagogy approaches such as service learning and group projects. He finds tremendous reward in watching inquisitive students transform themselves into budding scholars. Glenn received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California at Riverside.