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 The names of the other candidates shall not be published at any time during or after the process.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 May. 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).

The 2024 award will be handled by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Nomination Process

Students, alumni, faculty and staff members are encouraged to nominate faculty members for the Excellence in Teaching Awards. Nominations for the 2024 award are currently CLOSED. Thank you to those that took the time to nominate someone!


Mariana Smit Vega Garcia smiling sincerely in front of Old Main wearing a WWU award medallion on a neck ribbon

Mariana Smit Vega Garcia - Mathematics

Associate Professor Mariana Smit Vega Garcia teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in the Mathematics Department. After doing her bachelor’s and master’s at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, she received her Ph.D. in Mathematics from Purdue University. 

Smit Vega Garcia’s research interests include partial differential equations, which are the language of modern physics, and more recently, combinatorics. In addition to research and teaching, she has organized numerous professional meetings, including a workshop at WWU for undergraduate students who are interested in mathematics. 

She is also committed to increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion, working actively with the Association for Women in Mathematics, the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science, and the LatinX mathematics community. Her teaching is focused on building partnerships with her students and is dedicated to inclusivity.

Past Awardees

1 awardee(s) for this year

2022 Awardees

Jane Wong wearing a WWU award medallion

Jane Wong - English

Jane Wong is a poet, essayist, "restaurant baby," interdisciplinary artist, and educator. She is an Associate Professor of Creative Writing and Literature and teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses at WWU. She received her Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington and her M.F.A. in Poetry from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In addition to teaching poetry and hybrid forms, her research interests include Asian American poetry and poetics, migration and transnational studies, the digital humanities, and food writing. She is the author of Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City (Tin House, forthcoming in 2023), How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James Books, 2021), and Overpour (Action Books, 2016). In 2019, she debuted her solo art exhibit, “After Preparing the Altar, the Ghosts Feast Feverishly," at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. She was also awarded the Womxn of Color Empowerment Award that year for her teaching and mentorship at WWU. She grew up in a Chinese American take-out restaurant and is a proud first-generation college graduate. Her teaching is dedicated to inclusive, innovative, radical, and compassionate community-based learning.