Dissertation of the Year

Irvin Lee Bobby Wright sitting on a fence, Archival Photo in Black and WhiteNamed 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.”

Nominations for 2024 are now closed.

Nomination Evaluation Criteria

Individuals being considered for the award must have successfully defended and officially deposited their dissertation to the nominee’s university between June 1, 2023 - May 31, 2024. Dissertations previously nominated will not be reconsidered. The nominee is required to be a current member of ASHE.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate nominees’ dissertations for this award:

  • Quality, Clarity, 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

2024 Awards Timeline

  • Nominations for the 2024 award season are now closed.
    (NOTE: The deadline for the DOTY Award is earlier than other award nominations)Due to the number of submissions and the review process, no late submissions will be accepted; as such, nominators are encouraged to submit their nominations well in advance of this deadline.
  • Nominators and nominees will be informed of decisions in mid-September.
  • An announcement of recipients will be sent to the ASHE membership in late September.
  • The recipient(s) will be recognized during the ASHE Awards Ceremony during the Annual Conference.

Nomination Requirements

One nomination packet for the Dissertation of the Year Award must be submitted by the chair or co-chairs of the nominee's dissertation committee. The dissertation must have been successfully defended and officially deposited to the nominee’s university between June 1, 2023 - May 31, 2024. Dissertations previously nominated will not be reconsidered.

Due to the increased number of nominations received in recent years, each nominee will be limited to one nomination. In the event multiple nominations are submitted, the committee chair will notify the coordinating nominators requesting they consolidate their nominations.

All nominations and corresponding materials must be submitted via online submission. E-mail and/or hard copy submissions will not be accepted.

  • The chair of the nominee's dissertation committee must submit the nomination form, which includes the following: (Note: Each document should be uploaded as a separate PDF; this means you will need 4 PDF documents: (1) Nomination Letter; (2) Cover Sheet; (3)  Abstract; and (4) Full Dissertation.
    • Name, Title, Position, Institution, Email, and Phone Number of Coordinating Nominator (you will type in this information in the form)
    • Name, Title, Position, Institution, Email, and Phone Number of Nominee (you will type in this information in the form)
    • A nomination letter in which extraordinary features of the dissertation are described (uploaded as a single PDF)
    • A cover sheet (uploaded as a single PDF) that includes: (1) full dissertation title; (2) nominee’s full name; and (3) the institution which the dissertation was earned. 
    • A masked, 15 double-spaced page abstract of the dissertation, inclusive of necessary tables and/or figures (uploaded as a single PDF). 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)
  • A full masked dissertation (uploaded as a single PDF). To create a masked dissertation, nominees may need to omit dedications, acknowledgments, copyright information, etc. Nominees do not need to omit their positionality statements if their dissertation contains one. Full masked dissertations will be shared with the committee only for finalists.

The coordinating nominator, as well as the award nominee(s) (and subsequently recipient(s)), must be current members of ASHE.

Questions about the 2024 award process can be sent to awards@ashe.ws.

Nominations for 2024 are now closed.

Award Committee

The Bobby Wright Dissertation of the Year Committee is a standing committee of the Board of Directors. Committee members are recommended by the President to the Board of Directors and serve a 3-year term.

2024 Dissertation of the Year Committee:

  • Cheryl Ching (Chair), University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Jennifer Blaney, Northern Arizona University
  • Mary Bodine Al-Sharif, The University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Amelia King-Kostelac, University of Texas at Austin
  • Heather McCambly, University of Pittsburgh
  • Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley, Northwestern University
  • Ruby Robinson, Ivy Tech Community College
  • Lydia Ross, Arizona State University
  • Matthew Smith, Valdosta State University
  • Melissa Whatley, School for International Training Graduate Institute
  • Melvin Whitehead, Binghamton University
  • Jeremy Wright-Kim, University of Michigan

Past Recipients

2023: Nadeeka Karunaratne

"Healing from Campus Dating Violence: An Intersectional Analysis of Narratives of Women and Femme Students of Color"

Additional Recipients:

  • 2022: Christen Priddie
    • "A Pathway Toward Cultural Relevance: A QuantCrit Analysis of Collaborative Learning Experiences for Black STEM Students through an Anti-Blackness Lens"
  • 2021: Dr. Roshaunda L. Breeden, NC State University
    • "Miles Away, But in Our Own Backyard”: A Participatory Action Study Examining Relationships Between Historically White Institutions and Black Communities
  • 2021: Dr. Jeremy Wright-Kim, Fairleigh Dickinson University
    • "Enrollment and Finance: An Exploration of the Community College Baccalaureate"
  • 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" 
  • 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" 
  • 1997-1998: 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"
  • 1978-1979: Elaine Di Biasi, Co-Winner 
    • "Classical Tenure and Contemporary Alternatives: Academic Principles and Court Decisions"