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Selection Process

The following criteria are considered when assessing honorary degree nominees. Honorary degrees at Northwestern are awarded to those who fulfill some of the following characteristics:

  • Have distinguished themselves in the fields of teaching, learning, research, writing, and performance in the arts; or who have achieved distinction through their special contributions to society at large or more specifically to Northwestern University and our community.
  • Have achieved national or international significance. This should be the overriding criterion for all recipients, except those who are being honored for exceptional service to our community. All recipients of Honorary Degrees should lend distinction to Northwestern University.
  • Have accomplished cutting edge discoveries in their field at the time of selection. Special efforts should be made to identify these candidates.
  • Have graduated from Northwestern. It behooves the University to recognize the distinction of its own graduates.
  • Are representative of our inclusive community. Northwestern University and the Committee strongly advocate for consideration of individuals who reflect our values of diversity and inclusion.

Eligibility

Those individuals who are not eligible to receive an honorary degree include:

  • Current or retired members of the faculty or staff at Northwestern.
  • Members of the Board of Trustees or of the University administration, except in the case of a retiring president or chair of the Board.

Submitting Nominations

Each spring the faculty Committee on Honorary Degrees seeks nominations for the following year. Any person may make a nomination. Nominations should include:

  • A letter of recommendation stating in detail the reasons for the nomination (this is completed through the online nomination form)
  • If available, a curriculum vitae or brief biography statement

The selection committee strongly encourages nominations that reflect a wide range of diversity across multiple dimensions, including gender, ethnicity, ability and veteran status, and expertise across discipline areas.The nomination materials should articulate how the individual will bring greater distinction to Northwestern University, per the nomination criteria detailed in the Selection Process section above. Broad support from a department or group of faculty will strengthen the nomination. The quality of the supporting materials is very important, since the members of the Committee cannot be assumed to have independent knowledge of each candidate's achievements. The materials submitted serve as a basis for evaluating the qualifications of a nomination.

The deadline for 2023 nominations has passed.

If you have any questions about this process, contact honorarydegree@northwestern.edu.

Review and Approval of Nominations

Pursuant to the University Statutes, recommendations of the Committee on Honorary Degrees are reviewed and voted on by the Faculty Senate in late spring. The Senate then transmits its recommendations to the Board of Trustees for final approval. The final decision of the Honorary Degrees recipients to invite for the Commencement ceremony will be made by the President from the slate duly selected by the Faculty Senate and Board of Trustees. Any additional selections who are not invited during the year they were nominated may carry forward to the following year(s) for further consideration. 

Honorary Degrees are conferred at Commencement ceremonies. Recipients must be present in order to receive the award.