Williams Fund

Tom and Carol Williams

"There are many factors and funding mechanisms that support the status quo in higher education. We have established something different. We want to support fresh thinking - thinking that will ignite new ideas and get beyond 'just business as usual.' We want to support those professors willing to search for better and more effective ways of learning." Tom and Carol Williams, 1996

The Tom and Carol Williams Fund for Undergraduate Education was established to provide financial support for initiatives that enhance the quality of the educational experience for undergraduate students at the University of Oregon.

Understanding that normal institutional budget funds tend to reiterate a status quo, the Williams wanted to create a resource that could have a revolutionary effect on the way the university addresses undergraduate education.

The Williams Council members are among the best teachers at the UO. Most are previous recipients of a Williams Fellowship or Distinguished Teaching Award or otherwise well regarded for their innovation and thoughtfulness regarding undergraduate education. They serve a three-year term.

The Williams Council uses two programs to meet the challenge proposed by Tom and Carol Williams, Williams Fellows and Williams Instructional Proposals. Read more about Tom and Carol's impact at the University of Oregon in this article from Oregon Quarterly.

Williams Fellows

The success of the Williams Council in inspiring new initiatives led to the creation of the Williams Fellows. The council seeks recipients who are excellent teachers and have demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to undergraduate education by challenging their students academically, creating an engaged and inclusive learning environment, investing in their own professional development, striving to improve the learning process through innovation and fostering collaboration. While the Distinguished Teaching Awards celebrate teaching excellence at the level of the course, the Williams Fellowship specifically celebrates excellent teachers who generate innovations and collaborate outside the boundaries of their course.

The Williams Fellow program enhances our campus's awareness of the importance of balancing effective teaching and significant research. A $5,000 award to the recipient acknowledges their outstanding contribution to undergraduate learning at the University of Oregon. In accordance with the goals of the Williams Council, a separate $5,000 award to the recipient's department, supervised by the recipient, shall be used to affect tangibly the teaching and learning experience of undergraduates in the department.


Nominations for Williams Fellows are currently closed. Questions regarding the Williams Council instructional proposals and fellowships may be addressed to OtP@uoregon.edu.

The Williams Council will evaluate the nominations using criteria aligned with the description above.

Williams Instructional Proposals

In 1996, the Council made a call for instructional proposals to all faculty who wanted to implement new ways of encouraging learning. This solicitation led to the submission of twenty-five proposals. In the years since 1996, Williams instructional proposals have produced:

  • innovations within specific courses;
  • imaginative new cross-disciplinary courses;
  • opportunities to introduce diverse, cross-cultural perspectives into the undergraduate experience;
  • new ways of providing peer to peer learning support, and
  • new ways of conceptualizing teaching and learning within existing disciplines.

The Williams Council invites proposals from individuals or groups that allow teachers the opportunity to renew, broaden, restructure, or develop classes and curricula that actively engage students in the learning process. As in past years, exciting and creative proposals with any focus will be fully considered.

In addition, for the 2017, 2018, and 2019 year cycles, the council encourages proposals designed to create a more inclusive teaching and learning culture on campus. Topics might include, but are not limited to the following examples: supporting student learning about difference, power, and discrimination, or enhancing the “social and emotional climate of the classroom,” as University of San Francisco Professor of Law Rhonda Magee writes, defining inclusive teaching.

Thus, the council welcomes proposals that identify ways to enhance students’ sense of connection, support, and agency; or that strive toward clarity around the purpose of class activities, processes of expert thought, and criteria for evaluation of student work; or other ideas to create a culture of belonging and inclusive excellence. This special focus supports the idea that the university can be the site of rigorous, transformational learning experiences that value and draw on differences of identity and experience and that it should prepare students to enter a diverse democracy and global society.


Submissions for Williams Instructional Proposals are currently closed. Questions regarding the Williams Council instructional proposals and fellowships may be addressed to OtP@uoregon.edu.

The Williams Council will evaluate the proposal using criteria aligned to the description above.