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The Graduate School is soliciting nominations for the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Masters Thesis Awards for 2021. The awards are to recognize and reward distinguished scholarship and research at the master’s level.

MAGS awards the Distinguished Thesis Awards in two of four categories that alternate every two years. For the 2021 cycle, MAGS is seeking nominations for the Distinguished Thesis Awards in the two broad categories of the Social Sciences and Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Engineering. In the following year, the two broad categories will be Biological/Life Sciences and Humanities.

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 advisor or program representative needs the following:

  • Complete the nomination form by Oct. 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
    • Ask the student if they agree to be nominated.
    • Write letter of recommendation (to be attached to the nomination form).
    • Include the month/year of the student’s graduation (must be master’s degree)
      • The effective date of the master’s degree award, or the completion of master’s degree requirements, must fall in the period of July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020, inclusive, for each nominee selected. At USD this would be summer 2018 through spring 2020.
    • The Graduate School will locate the thesis and abstract to complete the nomination.

The USD winner from each category will be submitted to the MAGS awards. If chosen as a winner at the MAGS awards a $750 honorarium will be received and a trip to accept the award at the MAGS 77th Annual Meeting in Chicago, March 24-26. The faculty mentor or thesis advisor will also be invited to attend the presentation ceremony, but their expenses will not be covered


  • Original works accepted by an institution “in lieu of thesis” (such as musical compositions, published books, works of art, computer software, etc.) may not be nominated.
  • To be considered, a thesis must contain original work that makes an unusually significant contribution to the discipline. It must be in a format that conforms to accepted disciplinary standards, and it must have been accepted as final by the degree-granting institution.
  • Since the intent of the competition is to recognize scholarship by students who are pursuing their first graduate research degree, individuals who received a Ph.D. (or comparable research degree) in any discipline prior to the writing of the master’s thesis are not eligible. However, recipients of a first professional degree awarded prior to the writing of the thesis may be nominated.
  • Categories:
    •  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: 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