CNS Distinctions


CNS Distinctions are awarded to approximately 150-200 graduating students, representing around 5% of each graduating class, in the spring. The Distinctions areas are:

  • Research

  • Community & Student Engagement

  • Service & Leadership

  • Entrepreneurship

The College of Natural Sciences Distinction Award recognizes graduating students exemplifying one of the areas above. These are students who have made strong contributions in one or more of these dimensions, shaping our college and university culture to promote the value of each of these areas.   

Student nominations are accepted from faculty, staff, or students, and students can self-nominate. Distinction nominations are reviewed holistically, including review by a committee for each dimension.  

The college will confirm graduation status of all Distinction nominees. Students who are not graduating in the spring will be held and added to the Distinction nomination pool in their graduating year.

Please note: this is a separate award from Dean’s Honored Graduates (DHG), and students can earn both awards. 

graphic text-research

Research Distinction

Zora Neale Hurston famously said, “Research is formalized curiosity.” Being in higher education affords us the great privilege of engaging in a world where we get to pursue our curiosity and turn it into a career, hopefully for the betterment of humankind. 

Commonly, when people think of research they think of a wet lab, but it is so much broader than that. Our textiles majors engage in fiber-based materials research and fashion research and design. Our math majors prove new theorems and model scientific problems using the beautiful language of mathematics. In fact, any time you try something, and either it doesn’t work or you want to improve it, you engage in research.

Students earning this distinction have demonstrated excellence in the area of Research. Excellence can look like: 

  • Publishing a paper or conference proceeding
  • Presenting at a research conference outside of UT
  • Winning an award in your field of research
Graphic Text Community & Student Engagement

Community & Student Engagement Distinction

CNS is dedicated to making sure the college is a welcoming place that celebrates diversity in all its forms, while effecting change beyond our college and university.

Students earning this distinction have demonstrated excellence in the area of community engagement. Excellence can look like:

  • Advocating and working for change around Community & Student Engagement in CNS
  • Leadership or innovation within CNS around Community & Student Engagement topics
  • Leadership or innovation within the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Concentration
  • Presenting or publishing scholarly work related to Community and Student Engagement
graphic text-service & leadership

Service & Leadership Distinction

One of the core principles of UT is Leadership: “The will to excel with integrity and the spirit that nothing is impossible.” Too often leadership skills are mistaken for management, and often people only see leadership as a position. But leadership is a verb, an action, and it is inextricably linked with service to others rather than management of others. And science is at its very core teamwork.

Students earning this distinction have demonstrated excellence in the area of Service & Leadership. Excellence can look like:

  • Recognizing and actively filling a need within the College
  • Leadership of peers
  • Creating new opportunities within the College
  • Advocating for and working toward needed changes within the College
  • Continued service to the College
graphic text-entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship Distinction

Entrepreneurs are essential to progress—the ability to see potential and make it a reality drives everything from creation of job opportunities to promoting research and development to social change. CNS defines entrepreneurship in terms of the ability to recognize the potential in an idea and organize people and resources to bring it to fruition. This broader definition includes entrepreneurs who are driving social change, advancing research, as well as those who are starting up new businesses.
Students earning this distinction have demonstrated excellence in the area of Entrepreneurship. Excellence can look like: 

  • Engaging with investors
  • Launching a start-up
  • Securing funding
  • Leadership & advancement within the field of entrepreneurship
  • Winning an award related to entrepreneurship