Dissertation of the Year

Named in memory of Irvin Lee (Bobby) Wright, the ASHE Dissertation of the Year award annually recognizes one or more exemplary dissertations in the field of higher education. Award criteria include the high quality of the methodology employed and the significance of the dissertation topic.
 
Bobby Wright received the 1986 ASHE Distinguished Dissertation of the Year award, as well as the Montana State University Alumni and Endowment Foundation Graduate Achievement Award for outstanding performance. At the time of his death due to AIDS in 1991 at the age of 40, Dr. Wright was an assistant professor and research associate affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Higher Education in the College of Education at the Pennsylvania State University. Prior to joining Penn State in 1989, he was director of the Centre for Native American Studies at Montana State University, where he received his doctorate in Adult and Higher Education in 1985. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of San Francisco in 1973 and his master’s degree in American Studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo.
 
A gay Native American, Dr. Wright contributed historical studies of Native Americans in higher education. He avidly mentored students and colleagues, encouraging them to instill compassion in their scholarship. As Bobby Wright explained (via W.G. Tierney, personal communication, 1990):

“As an Indian I saw discrimination; I learned up close how people hated for no reason, but I also learned the spiritual way, tribal ways. …I’m glad to have been gay, to have been Indian, to have been poor.  Each has made me what I am, and I have met extraordinary people.  I pity those who hate, who don’t understand, who want to discriminate because I’m Indian, or gay, or poor.  I’ve tried to live an honest life to the best of my ability, and I only wish other people tried as hard to accept and honor the difference in all of us.”


Selection Criteria

Individuals being considered for the award must have successfully defended and officially deposited their dissertation to the nominee’s university between June 1, 2019 - May 31, 2020. The nominee is required to be a current member of ASHE. The following criteria will be used to evaluate individuals for this award:
  • Quality and Precision of Writing
  • Clear Statement of the Problem and Purpose of the Study
  • Clarity of Research Questions
  • Synthesis of Relevant Literature, Theories, and/or Concepts
  • Research Design
  • Rigor and Systematic Execution of Research Methods
  • Presentation and Interpretation of Data/Findings
  • Implications for Higher Education Research, Policy, and/or Practice
  • Originality and Unique Contribution to the Study of Higher Education

2020 Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year Award Recipients

"Collective Resistance in Higher Education: A Participatory Action Study With & For Undocumented College Students in Virginia" by Cinthya Salazar, University of Maryland

Cinthya Salazar’s dissertation titled Collective Resistance in Higher Education: A Participatory Action Study with and for Undocumented College Students in Virginia extends and challenges previous research about students without documentation; most notably, by strengthening current theories on persistence and employing Participatory Action Research (PAR) with co-researchers who identify as undocumented students. Cinthya employed Participatory Action Research (PAR), which is an intensive methodological approach that harnesses the skills and experiential knowledge found in communion with those who are the topic of the research. With the research collective, Cinthya conducted an extraordinary study that centers undocumented students’ humanity; uncovers the barriers that they face in higher education within the current socio-political climate; identifies how undocumented students persist in the Virginia system of higher education; and, through a PAR approach, transforms new knowledge generated into tangible actions that enhance the experiences of undocumented students. Her efforts center immigration status and race/ethnicity within a specific geographic context that is critical and social justice focused. 

Honorable Mention:

"The Facade of Fit and Preponderance of Power in Faculty Search Processes: Facilitators and Inhibitors of Diversity" by Damani White-Lewis, UCLA
Damani White-Lewis’ dissertation titled "The Facade of Fit and Preponderance of Power in Faculty Search Processes: Facilitators and Inhibitors of Diversity" is a comparative, embedded multiple case-study design of search committees in four disciplines that builds on the “small worlds, different worlds.” Damani extends this foundational piece by identifying the power dynamics that dominate these different disciplinary worlds, using an organizational and racial lens. The work is significant because it not only reflects these new intentional practices in diverse faculty hiring, but goes ‘behind the scenes’ in each search to determine how it unfolds in several stages. Most search processes and discussion have been kept from public view, and candidates are largely unaware of why they are or are not selected. I was surprised at how candid search committee members were with both factors weighed in the process and departmental dynamics in the final stages. 


Call for Nominations

Nominations for the 2021 award will open in May 2021.

Nominations for the Dissertation of the Year Award must be submitted by the chair of the nominee's dissertation committee.

  • The dissertation must have been successfully defended and officially deposited to the nominee’s university between June 1, 2019 - May 31, 2020. Dissertations previously nominated will not be reconsidered.
  • The nominee is required to be a current member of ASHE.
     
  • All nominations and corresponding materials must be submitted via online submission. E-mail and/or hard copy submissions will not be accepted.
     
  • In addition to filling out the information in the nomination form below, the chair of the nominee's dissertation committee must submit the following documents as separate .doc, .docx, or .pdf files:
    • A nomination letter in which extraordinary features of the dissertation are described.
    • A coversheet that includes: (1) full dissertation title; (2) nominee’s full name; and (3) the institution which the dissertation was earned. 
    • A BLINDED, 15 double-spaced page abstract of the dissertation, inclusive of necessary tables and/or figures.Do not include any identifying information on the abstract. See below for information that should be included in the abstract. Also, up to 3 single-spaced pages of references in APA format can accompany the abstract and will not be included in the 15 page limit. 
       
  • The abstract should include the:
    (1) full dissertation title [please do not include any identifiers];
    (2) statement of the study’s purpose;
    (3) research questions, if applicable;
    (4) significance of the study;
    (5) theoretical or conceptual underpinnings, if applicable;
    (6) methods – research design/approach, sampling, data collection procedures or data sources used, and data analysis;
    (7) summary of key findings; 
    (8) implications for practice, policy, and/or future research; and
    (9) up to 3 pages of references in APA format, single spaced (does not count towards 15 page total). 
     
  • Please save your document using an abbreviated title (preferably the first 4-5 words in the dissertation title). For example, a dissertation titled, “An Examination of Dissent and Dismay: The Rising Costs of College and Limited Access” should be condensed and the file should be saved as an examination_rising costs.doc (or .docx, .pdf)
     
  • The recipient of the Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year Award must attend the ASHE annual conference in New Orleans, LA in November 2020. 

Recipients:

  • 2020: Cinthya Salazar, University of Maryland
    • "Collective Resistance in Higher Education: A Participatory Action Study With & For Undocumented College Students in Virginia"
  • 2020 Honorable Mention Damani White-Lewis, UCLA​
    • "The Facade of Fit and Preponderance of Power in Faculty Search Processes: Facilitators and Inhibitors of Diversity" by 
  • 2019: Stevie Johnson, University of Oklahoma
    • "Curriculum of the Mind: A Blackcrit, Narrative Inquiry, Hip-Hop Album on Anti-Blackness & Freedom for Black Male Collegians at Historically White Institutions
  • 2018 Anne G. Perkins, University of Massachusets Boston
    • Unescorted Guests: Yale's First Women Undergraduates and the Quest for Equity, 1969-1973
  • 2017 Cheryl D. Ching, University of Southern California
    • Constructing and Enacting Equity at a Community College
  • 2017 Honorable Mention: Amy Li, University of Northern Colorado
    • The Renaissance of Performance Funding for Higher Education: Policy Adoption, Implementation, and Impacts
  • 2016 Nicole Alia Salis Reyes, The University of Texas at San Antonio
    • "'What Am I Doing to Be A Good Ancestor?' An Indigenized Phenomenology of Giving Back Among Native College Graduates"
  • 2015 Tara Hudson, University of Notre Dame
    • "Interpersonalizing Cultural Difference:A Grounded Theory of the Process of Interracial Friendship Development and Sustainment among College Students"
  • 2014 Amalia Dache-Gerbino, University of Rochester
    • "The Labyrinth in the Metropole: A Postcolonial Mixed-Method Study of College Access and Choice"
  • 2013 Stephany Brett Dunstan, North Carolina State University
    • "The Influence of Speaking a Dialect of Appalachian English on the College Experience"
  • 2012 David R. Johnson, Rice University
    • "A New Reward System in Academic Science"
  • 2011 Alina Siu Wong, University of Michigan
    • "In flux: Racial identity construction among Chinese American and Filipina/o American undergraduates"
  • 2010 Jarrett Gupton, University of Minnesota
    • "Pathways to College for Homeless Adolescents"
      • Cited for Excellence: Lorelle Espinosa, Institute for Higher Education Policy, "Pipelines and Pathways: Women of Color in STEM Majors and the Experiences that Shape Their Persistence"
  • 2009 Genevieve Shaker, Indiana University 
    • "Off the Track: The Full-Time Nontenure-Track Faculty Experience in English"
  • 2008 Michelle Espino, University of Arizona 
    • "Master Narratives and Counter-Narratives: An Analysis of Mexican-American Life Stories of Oppression and Resistance Along the Journeys to the Doctorate"
      • Cited for Excellence: Ryan Wells, University of Iowa, "Effects of Schools on the Educational Expectations of Children of Immigrants"
  • 2007-08 Uma Madhure Jayakumar, UCLA 
    • "Diversity Capital: Conceptualizing How Higher Education Positions Individuals for Success (or Failure) in an Increasingly Global Marketplace"
      • Cited for Excellence: Katalin Szelenyi, UCLA , "Doctoral Student Socialization in Science and Engineering: The Role of Commercialization, Entrepreneurialism, and the Research Laboratory"
  • 2006-07 Melissa R. Peet, University of Michigan 
    • "We Make It the Road By Walking It: Critical Consciousness, Structuration, and Social Change School"
  • 2005-2006 Aimee LaPointe Terosky 
    • "Taking Teaching Seriously: A Study of University Professors and Their Undergraduate Teaching"
  • 2004-2005 Liang Zhang 
    • "How College Affects Students: Toward the reconciliation of Theory with Empirical Evidence"
  • 2003-2004 Toni E. Larson 
    • "Decentralization in U.S. Public Higher Education: A Comparative Study of New Jersey, Illinois, and Arkansas"
  • 2002-2003 Joni Mini Montez 
    • "Developing and Piloting the Higher Education Leadership Instrument (HELI)"
      • Cited for Excellence: Christine Keller, "Moving Forward or Standing Still: Progress in Achieving Wage Equality for Women Faculty in the 1990s"
  • 2001-2002 Michael K. McLendon 
    • "Setting the Agenda for State Decentralization of Higher Education: Analyzing the Explanatory Boundaries of Alternative Agenda Models"
      • Cited for Excellence: Joshua B. Powers, "Academic Entrepreuneurship in Higher Education: Institutional Effect of Performance of University Technology Transfer"
  • 2000-2001 David Weerts 
    • "Understanding Differences in State Support for Higher Education: A Comparative Study of State Appropriations for Research Universities"
      • Cited for Excellence: William Mallon, "Abolishing or Instituting Tenure: Four Case Studies of Change in Faculty Employment Policies"
  • 1999-2000 Marvin Dewey 
    • "An Exploratory Study of the Relationship Between Cognitive Complexity of Administrative Teams in Provite Liberal Arts Colleges and Organizational Health as One Dimension of Organizational Effectiveness"
      • Cited for Excellence: Elizabeth A. Palmer, "An Analysis of a Diversity Requirement: The Effect of Course Characteristics on Students' Racial Attitudes, Gender Attitudes, and Self-Perceived Learning"
  • 1998-1999 Deborah Faye Carter 
    • "A Dream Deferred? Examining the Degree Aspirations of African-American and White College Students"
      • Cited for Excellence: R. Sam Larson, "Organizational Change from the 'Inside': A Study of University Outreach"
  • 1997-1998 Joseph Berger (Co-awardee) 
    • "Organizational Behavior at Colleges and Student Outcomes: Generating a Quantitatively Grounded Theory" 
  • ​Cynthia Sabik (Co-awardee) 
    • "(Re)Writing Metaphor and Form: Autoethnographic Enactments From the Postmodern Classroom"
  • 1996-1997 Lisa Rose Lattuca 
    • "Envisioning Interdisciplinarity: Processes, Contexts, Outcomes"
      • Cited for Excellence: Rebecca Ropers-Huilman, "Shaping an Island of Power and Change: Creating a Feminist Poststructural Teaching Discourse"
      • Cited for Excellence: Carol L. Colbeck, "Organizational and Disciplinary Influences on Integration and Congruence of Faculty Work"
  • 1995-1996 Teresa Isabelle Daza Campbell 
    • "Protecting the Public's Trust: A Search for Balance Among Benefits and Conflicts in University-Industry Relationships"
  • 1994-1995 Robert A. Rhoades 
    • "Institutional Culture and Student Subculture: Student Identity and Socialization"
      • Cited for Excellence: Peter M. Magolda, "A Quest for Community: An Ethnographic Study of a Residential College"
  • 1993-1994 Rebecca R. Kline 
    • "The Social Practice of Literacy in a Program of Study Abroad"
      • Cited for Excellence: Dorothy Finnegani, "Academic Career Lines: A Case Study of Faculty in Two Comprehensive Universities"
  • 1992-1993 Martha Lillian Ann Stassen 
    • "White Faculty Members' Responses to Racial Diversity at Predominantly White Institutions"
  • 1991-1992 Julie Neururer 
    • "Decency and Dollars Invested: Case Studies of South African Divestiture"
      • Cited for Excellence: Francoise Queval, "The Evolution Toward Research Orientation and Capability in Comprehensive Universities: A Case Study: The California State University System"
  • 1990-1991 Kenneth D. Crews, J.D. 
    • "Copyright Policies at American Research Universities: Balancing Information Needs and Legal Limits"
  • 1989-1990 Roger L. Williams 
    • "George W. Atherton and the Beginnings of Federal Support for Higher Education"
  • 1988-1989 Patricia Gumport 
    • "The Social Construction of Knowledge: Individual and Institutional Commitment to Feminist Scholarship"
  • 1986-1987 Dolores L. Burke 
    • "Change in the Academic Marketplace: A Study of Faculty Mobility in the 1980s"
  • 1986-1987 Irvin Lee (Bobby) Wright 
    • "Piety, Politics and Profit: American Indian Missions in the Colonial Colleges"
      • Cited for Excellence: Lester F. Goodchild, "The Mission of the Catholic University in the Midwest, 1842-1980"
  • 1985-1986 Janet Kerr-Tener 
    • "From Truman to Johnson: Ad Hoc Policy Formulation in Higher Education"
      • Cited for Excellence: Amaury Nora, "Determinants of Retention Among Chicano Students: A Structural Model"
      • Cited for Excellence: Charlotte Hanna, "Modest Expectations: Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis of Affirmative Faculty Action"
  • 1984-1985 Lois A. Fisher 
    • "State Legislatures and the Autonomy of Colleges and Universities: A Comparative Study of Legislation in Four States, 1900-79"
      • Runner-up: Bernard Reams, "Research Interactions Between Industry and Higher Education"
      • Cited for Excellence: Marta Wagner, "The American Scholar in the Early National Period: The Changing Context of Colonial Education"
  • 1983-1984 Jeffrey Bartkovich 
    • "Designing an Empirically Derived Taxonomy of Organization Structures in Higher Education"
      • Cited for Excellence: Constance Collins, "Loose Coupling as a Framework for Understanding Structural Change: Case Studies of Four American Colleges and Universities"
      • Cited for Excellence: Edward Ottensmeyer II, "Strategic Organizational Adaptation and the Regulatory Environment: A Study of Universities During a Time of Regulatory Change"
  • 1982-1983 Catherine Marienau 
    • "Bridging Theory and Practice in Adult Development and Planned Change"
      • Cited for Excellence: Jerry Wayne Askew, "Toward a Theory on the Impact of Budget Retrenchment in Educational Organizations"
      • Cited for Excellence: Ellen Metzner, "Ironside Career Paths of Women Administrators in Higher Education"
  • 1981-1982 Ellen Chaffee 
    • "Decision Models in Budgeting"
      • Cited for Excellence: Ted I. K. Youn, "The Career of Young Ph.D.s: Temporal Change and Institutional Effects"
      • Cited for Excellence: Joyce Mushaben, "The State Versus the University: Juridicalization and the Politics of Higher Education at the Free University of Berlin, 1969-1979"
  • 1980-1981 Paul Duby 
    • "An Investigation of the Mediating Role of Causal Attitudes in School Learning"
      • Cited for Excellence: James Henson, "Institutional Excellence and Student Achievement: A Study of College Quality and Its Impact on Education and Career Development"
  • 1979-1980 Kenneth Bradley Orr 
    • "The Impact of the Depression Years 1929-1939 on Faculty in American Colleges and Universities"
      • Cited for Excellence: Daniel Carl Levy, "University Autonomy Versus Government Control: The Mexican Case"
  • 1978-1979 William Zumeta 
    • "The State and Doctoral Programs at the University of California: Academic Planning for an Uncertain Future"
  • Elaine Di Biasi, Co-Winner 
    • "Classical Tenure and Contemporary Alternatives: Academic Principles and Court Decisions"