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The Graduate School is soliciting nominations for the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)/ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards for 2021. These dissertation awards are made annually to individuals who, in the opinion of the award committee, have completed dissertations representing original work that makes an unusually significant contribution to their disciplines.

CGS awards the Distinguished Dissertation Awards in two of four categories that alternate every two years. For the 2021 cycle, CGS is seeking nominations for the Distinguished Dissertation Awards in the two broad categories of the Biological Sciences/Life Sciences and Humanities and Fine Arts. In the following year (2022), the two broad categories will be Mathematics, Physical Sciences & Engineering; and the Social Sciences.

Nominating a Student

USD may submit one nomination for each award category. To nominate a student to be USD’s representative for the award, the dissertation advisor or program representative needs the following:

  • Complete the nomination form by April 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m.
    • Ask the student if they agree to be nominated.
    • Three letters of recommendation evaluating the significance and quality of the nominee’s dissertation work. One of these letters is to be from the nominee's dissertation supervisor, another from a member of the nominee's dissertation committee, and the third from a person of the nominee's choice. These letters are to be attached to the nomination.
    • An abstract of the nominee’s dissertation (not to exceed 10 double-spaced pages). Appendices containing other material, such as charts, tables, and/or references, may be included as additional pages (not to exceed 10 pages). The Graduate School can retrieve this information.
    • The nominee’s curriculum vitae (not to exceed five pages).

The USD winner from each category will be recognized at the annual President's Celebration of University Leadership. Additionally, the USD winners will be submitted to the CGS awards at the CGS Annual Meeting in December 2021. If chosen as a winner at the GCS awards a $2,000 award will be received and a trip to accept the award at the CGS Annual Meeting in New Orleans, LA in December 2021. Reasonable travel expenses of award recipients will be covered by CGS.


The effective date of the degree awarded, or the completion of doctoral degree requirements and dissertation, must lie in the period of July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021, inclusive, for each nominee selected. At USD this would be summer 2019 through spring 2021.
To be considered, a dissertation must contain original work that makes an unusually significant contribution to the discipline. 
If a dissertation is multi- or interdisciplinary in nature, a significant portion of the work must be comprised by at least one of the 2021 fields of competition.


  • Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering: Mathematics, statistics, computer sciences, data processing, systems analysis, chemistry, earth sciences, physics, geology, meteorology, astronomy, metallurgy, geophysics, pharmaceutical chemistry; aeronautical, architectural, biomedical, ceramic, chemical, civil, and electrical engineering sciences; environmental health engineering; geological, mechanical, mining, nuclear, and petroleum engineering.
  • Social Sciences: agricultural economics, geography, anthropology, archaeology, economics, education, sociology, government (political science), demography, and psychology.
  • Biological Sciences/Life Sciences: biology; botany; zoology; ecology; embryology; entomology; genetics; nutrition; plant pathology; plant physiology; anatomy; biochemistry; biophysics; microbiology; pathology; pharmacology; physiology; and related fields (health sciences). Also included are agriculture, forestry, zoology; and related fields.
  • Humanities and Fine Arts: history; philosophy; language; linguistics; literature; archaeology; jurisprudence; the history, theory and criticism of the arts; ethics; comparative religion; and those aspects of the social sciences that employ historical or philosophical approaches.

For more information, contact the Graduate School at 605-658-6173 or by email at