Council Of Graduate Schools Umi Distinguished Dissertation Award

The Graduate School's Outstanding Dissertation Award recognizes exceptional scholarship, research, and writing by doctoral students. These awards are intended to help raise the profile of our doctoral students and identify dissertations worthy of nomination for various national awards, including the prestigious Council of Graduate Schools / UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award.

Awards are given each academic year for Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences. The winners will receive a $1000 cash prize and will be honored at the Outstanding Graduate Student Recognition Luncheon.


To be eligible for the 2018 award, the dissertation must be defended and submitted to the Graduate School in time for commencement in August 2017, December 2017, or May 2018.


Near the spring deadline for defense date, the Graduate School will issue a call for nominations. Graduate Program Directors are asked to submit one nominee per department.

After receiving all of the nominations, the Graduate School will notify each of the selected students that their project has been nominated and is thereby recognized as the outstanding dissertation from their department.

Nomination Materials
  • A letter of nomination (no more than one page) from the Graduate Program Director
  • A letter of support from the dissertation director or a committee member, explaining the project's research and significance in a manner similar to that used for letters of recommendation for faculty jobs. Letters should address the criteria listed below and be no more than three pages long. A sample recommendation letter may be found here.
  • An abstract of the dissertation (no more than five pages) by the author.

A selection committee comprised of Graduate Program Directors will determine the winners from among the department nominees. The dissertations will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

  • Significance
  • Originality
  • Soundness of Methodology/Argumentation
  • Research/Data

Washington, DC The Council of Graduate Schools / ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards, the nation’s most prestigious honor for doctoral dissertations, were presented to Austin Mason and Valorie Salimpoor at an awards ceremony during the CGS 53rd Annual Meeting. Dr. Mason completed his PhD in history at Boston College in 2012. Dr. Salimpoor earned her PhD in psychology at McGill University in 2013.


Bestowed annually since 1982, the awards recognize recent doctoral recipients who have already made unusually significant and original contributions to their fields. ProQuest, an international leader in dissertation archiving, discovery and access, sponsors the awards and an independent committee from the Council of Graduate Schools selects the winners. Two awards are given each year, rotating among four general areas of scholarship. The winners receive a certificate, a $2,000 honorarium, and funds for travel to the awards ceremony.


“The scholars selected to receive the 2013 awards have found new ways to combine research technologies and interdisciplinary fields, making remarkable contributions to their research areas,” said Mary Sauer-Games, ProQuest Vice President of Information Solutions. “ProQuest is honored to highlight their dissertations as exemplary works of doctoral study.”


The 2013 Award in humanities was presented to Dr. Mason for “Listening to the Early Medieval Dead: Religious Practices in Eastern Britain, 400–900 CE.” His interdisciplinary dissertation research uses methodologies from archeology and history along with the technology of geographic information systems (GIS) to reconstruct life in first-millennium Britain. As a prime example of ‘digital humanities’ research, the project uses GIS technology to reinterpret the way graves were sited and positioned in the mortuary rituals of pagans and Christians during the period. Dr. Mason is currently a tenure-track faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.



Photo caption: The 2013 CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards. From left to right: Jeff Welsh, University of Scranton (selection committee member); Jeannine Blackwell, University of Kentucky (selection committee member); Carolyn Hodge, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (selection committee chair); Austin Mason, winner, 2013 Distinguished Dissertation in the Humanities; Noreen Golfman, Memorial University (selection committee member); Charles Caramello, University of Maryland, College Park (selection committee member); Mary Sauer-Games, ProQuest/UMI


Dr. Salimpoor received the 2013 Award in biological and life sciences for her dissertation, “Music, Emotion, and the Reward System: Investigations with (11C) raclopride Positron Emission Tomography (PET), functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and Psychophysiological Methods.” Her research examines the dopamine response in the context of positive emotional responses to musical passages that elicit “chills.” The project shows the distinct brain circuitry responsible for the anticipation and the experience of the chills, which the brain perceives as pleasure. Dr. Salimpoor is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.



Photo caption: The 2013 CGS/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards. From left to right: Karen Colley, University of Illinois at Chicago (selection committee member); Steven Matson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (selection committee chair); John Kiss, University of Mississippi (selection committee member); Mary Sauer-Games, ProQuest/UMI. Not pictured, Valorie Salimpoor, winner, 2013 Distinguished Dissertation in the Biological and Life Sciences.


More information about the CGS / ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award is available at or at


About theCouncil of Graduate Schools

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of over 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. Among U.S. institutions, CGS members award 92% of the doctoral degrees and 78% of the master’s degrees.* The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.

* Based on data from the 2012 CGS/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment and Degrees

About ProQuest (

ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company’s products are a gateway to the world’s knowledge including dissertations, governmental and cultural archives, news, historical collections and ebooks. ProQuest technologies serve users across the critical points in research, helping them discover, access, share, create and manage information.

The company’s cloud-based technologies offer flexible solutions for librarians, students and researchers through the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Dialog®, ebrary® and EBL® businesses – and notable research tools such as the Summon® discovery service, the ProQuest Flow™ collaboration platform, the Pivot™ research development tool and the Intota™ library services platform. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world.

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