Skip to main content

USD's Hartstein and Rudnik Receive Distinguished Dissertation Awards

VERMILLION, S.D. – Recent University of South Dakota graduates, Aaron Hartstein, Ph.D., and Joshua Rudnik, Ph.D., received Distinguished Dissertation Awards through the USD Graduate School this spring.

The annual Distinguished Dissertation Award is given to doctoral students who have completed dissertations representing original work that make a significant contribution to their disciplines. The award also recognizes the dedication and time commitment it takes to complete a doctoral degree and to compose an original dissertation.

Aaron Hartstein wearing a PRO PT uniform shirt, smiling at the camera.

Hartstein was the winner in the biological sciences/life sciences category for his dissertation “Virtual Reality Instructional Design and its Application to Improving Clinical Decision-Making in Orthopedic Physical Therapy Education.”

Patti Berg-Poppe, Ph.D., chair and professor in the physical therapy program, nominated Hartstein for the award. “Dr. Hartstein’s dissertation is sophisticated in its implementation of theory to simulation,” Berg-Poppe said. “His systematic review identified limitations in the current body of evidence as it relates to standardized language, consistency in outcome measures and levels of fidelity and immersion for this quickly growing technological field of VR simulation when teaching assessment and treatment in the field of physical therapy. Dr. Hartstein’s dissertation is certainly worthy as a representation of USD’s best graduate work in the field of biological sciences.”

Joshua Rudnik smiling at the camera.

Rudnik was the award winner in the humanities and fine arts category for his dissertation manuscript “You Offer the Skin of Your Back.”

Lee Ann Roripaugh, M.F.A., professor in the Department of English, nominated Rudnik for the award. “Most importantly, ‘You Offer the Skin of Your Back’ is a stunningly accomplished book manuscript that is utterly compelling to read and beautifully crafted with respect to its use of image and language,” said Roripaugh. “I would rank it as easily being among the top tier of dissertation manuscripts I have supervised.”

Hartstein and Rudnik were recognized at the annual President's Celebration of University Leadership held this spring. They also have a chance to win a Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) Award during the CGS Annual Meeting in December 2021.


Founded in 1862 and the first university in the Dakotas, the University of South Dakota is the only public liberal arts university in the state, with 202 undergraduate and 84 graduate programs in the College of Arts & Sciences, School of Education, Knudson School of Law, Sanford School of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, Beacom School of Business and College of Fine Arts. With an enrollment of nearly 10,000 students and more than 400 faculty, USD has a 16:1 student/faculty ratio, and it ranks among the best in academics and affordability. USD’s 18 athletic programs compete at the NCAA Division I level.


Hanna DeLange
USD News