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A gathering of the 2012-2013 Dissertation Completion Fellows with their department chairs, the CLASS Dean and the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies. Back row, from left to right: Susan Scarrow, Political Science Department chair; John Hart, History Department chair; Fellow Mykhailo Sitiuk in Economics; Fellow Julie Cohn in History. Front row, from left to right: Fellow Ed Porter in Literature and Creative Writing; Fellow Amalia Mena-Mora in Political Science; Fellow Janine Joseph in Literature and Creative Writing; David Papell, Economics Department chair; Wyman Herendeen, English Department chair; Catherine Patterson, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, and Dean John W. Roberts.

First Year Dissertation Completion Fellows accomplish No. 1 goal

Highly-selective fellowships awarded to a new cohort of doctoral candidates

Dissertation Completion Fellowships provide stipends of $20,000 to cover students' expenses for up to a full academic year while they complete their dissertations.

The first year of the CLASS Dissertation Completion Fellowship program ended with all of the grant recipients meeting the program's No. 1 requirement – finishing a dissertation.

"We're very pleased with the results of this program – everybody who received a Dissertation Completion Fellowship last year finished in the time frame they said they would," said Dean John W. Roberts. "We anticipate similar kinds of success with our next group of fellows."

The genesis of the fellowship is the University's increased emphasis on the completion of dissertations as a part of the Tier One initiative. In order to meet the goals of the Tier One initiative, the University has to graduate at least 200 doctoral students each year.

The funding for the program came out of a Houston Endowment grant of $5 million grant to support doctoral education at the University of Houston that was awarded in 2011. A portion of those funds was designated for CLASS and Dean Roberts used the money to establish the Dissertation Completion Fellowships. He also supplemented the Houston Endowment money with additional cash from the Delores Welder Mitchell Endowed Scholarship Fund in the College.

Dissertation Completion Fellowships provide stipends of $20,000 to cover students' expenses for up to a full academic year while they complete their dissertations.

The following is an update on the first recipients and what they are doing next:

Aldo Ponce

Aldo Ponce

Aldo Ponce Ugolini, completed Linking Citizens and Parties: How Legislatures Matter for Political Representation and Accountability and graduated with his Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science in May. He will begin a full-time academic position at Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE) in Mexico in Fall 2012.

Terri Barrera

Terri Barrera completed Motivational Interviewing as an Adjunct to Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Anxiety and will begin her clinical internship at Baylor College of Medicine in August. She will graduate with her Ph.D. from the Department of Psychology upon completion of the internship in May 2013.

Laura Robledo-Garza

Laura Robledo-Garza completed Jovita González, Adela Vento y Consuelo Aldape de Vega Hidalgo: El discurso femenino en la frontera del Valle de Texas 1900-1960 and graduated with her Ph.D.  from the Department of Hispanic Studies in May. She will begin as a lecturer in Spanish at University of Texas – Brownsville in the 2012-13.

Cecilia Marrugo-Puello

Cecilia Marrugo-Puello

Cecilia Marrugo-Puello completed Croniqueñas (1950-2009): La crónica costeña del Caribe colombiano and graduated with her Ph.D. from the Department of Hispanic Studies in December  2011. She began a tenure-line job in the Department of English and Languages at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, TX in January 2012.

Amir Pourmoghaddam

Amir Pourmoghaddam

Amir Pourmoghaddam completed “SYNERGOS in the Analysis of EMG Signals” and graduated with his Ph.D. from the Department of Health and Human Performance in May. He is actively seeking a post-doctoral fellowship for Fall 2012.

Sampada Chavan

Sampada Chavan

Sampada Chavan completed  A Study in Diversity: Single Mothers in African American and Postcolonial Indian Fiction and graduated with her Ph.D. from the Department of English in December 2011. She is now working at Houston Community College and going on the national academic market for a full-time position in Fall 2012.

David Lombardi

David Lombardi

David Lombardi completed Pentecost and graduated with his Ph.D. in Creative Writing from the Department of English in May. He is submitting his novel to publishers.



Kyle Solak

Kyle Solak completed Every Day is Judgment Day: The Veiled Ambiguity of Flannery O’Connor’s Narrative Structure and graduated with his Ph.D. from the Department of English in December 2011. He will begin a full-time, permanent position in the Department of English at Lonestar-Tomball College in Fall 2012.

One of the top priorities of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is to increase the number of students award doctoral degrees. The fellowships were established to reward excellence, persistence and hard work by doctoral students and to provide them with financial support so they can spend their last semester or two concentrating on the completion work necessary to finish their dissertations.

The second round of the highly-selective fellowships has been awarded to distinguished CLASS doctoral students that exemplify the scholarly breath within the College.

“We’re very pleased with the results of this program – everybody who received a Dissertation Completion Fellowship last year finished in the time frame they said they would,” said Dean Roberts. “We anticipate similar kinds of success with our next group of fellows.”

The new cohort of Dissertation Completion Fellows are:

Julie Cohn

Julie Cohn

Julie Cohn, History. Dissertation topic: The History of the Electric Power Transmission Grid

Cohn’s manuscript lays out the historical context, conservation concepts and business efficiency of the nation’s electrical power infrastructure.

“Her dissertation on the history and impact of the electrical grid is sophisticated and very challenging. Her project will contribute significantly to environmental history, the history of technology and energy history,” wrote her dissertation director Martin Melosi, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University of Professor and Director of the Center for Public History.

Ed Porter

Ed Porter

Ed Porter, Literature and Creative Writing. Dissertation topic: Satirical fiction

Porter’s  collection of short stories that all involve relationships or romance that are either set in New York or happen o New Yorkers while they are out of town and they all involve failure and humiliation. The stories that involve the most extreme failure and humiliation are distinctly comic stories. The events of September 11, 2011 also overshadow the characters’ lives.

 “Ed’s fiction is consistently self-deprecating and sparky; his characters make fun of their own foibles and weaknesses even as they may, with humor, continue to indulge them… His work has already begun to garner the praise and respect it merits; a high percentage of the short pieces in his dissertation have already been published in esteemed journals, and I have no doubt the others will follow,” wrote Antonya Nelson, Cullen Chair in Creative Writing.

Janine Joseph

Janine Joseph

Janine Joseph, Literature and Creative Writing.  Dissertation: Extended Stay

Joseph’s dissertation is a “poetic sequence,” which is a collection of linked poems. Her book tracks the life of a young undocumented immigrant from the Philippines over a twenty-year period  from her arrival in the United States to the her receipt of her green card.

Her dissertation director Kevin Prufer, a professor in the Creative Writing Program in the Department of English wrote:

 “Joseph’s undocumented immigrant hides in plain sight. She holds down several jobs, goes to school, appears to middle-class others to be like themselves (though her more interior questions of identity are much more confounding.) The manuscript examines, therefore, how hiding is much more than a physical act; it is also a profoundly disruptive emotional and psychological position.

“By complicating easy narratives about the immigration experience and by focusing on the psychology of the undocumented immigrant, Ms. Joseph’s manuscript offers a new perspective on this vital public discussion.”

Mykhailo “Misha” Sitiuk

Mykhailo Sitiuk

Mykhailo “Misha” Sitiuk, Economics. Dissertation: Effect of HIV Testing on Own and Peer Behavior

One important strategy in combating the spread of HIV/AIDS is to increase the amount of information about the diseases by providing free HIV testing and counseling.

Sitiuk research focuses on what people do after they get an HIV test and confirm their HIV status as either positive or negative. And then, he takes that a step further, by investigating what those individual’s family members, friends and acquaintances do after the individual shares his or her status information with each of them.

Information about HIV status is rarely public, but Sitiuk has gained access to a unique dataset in his native Ukraine which overcomes many of the reporting hurdles in HIV/AIDS research. The dataset uses a technique called “snowball” sampling in which initial survey respondents recruit future survey respondents.

“The relevance of Misha’s work extends beyond HIV/AIDS to the study of risky behaviors in general, such as alcohol and drug use, sexual promiscuity, and criminal acts among teenagers,” wrote Chinhui Juhn, Henry Graham Professor of Economics.

Amalia Mena-Mora

Amelia Mena-Mora

Amalia Mena-Mora, Political Science. Dissertation topic: Independence of State Administrative Courts in Mexico

Mena-Mora’s project uses original data collections, an innovative research design and rigorous empirical methods to investigate judicial independence in administrative courts in ten Mexican states.

“Judicial independence is one of the most significant issues in the study of law and courts. The independence of the judiciary affects not only how individual judges make decisions, but how the public and other political actors perceive the legitimacy of the court, as well as the applicability and strength of its decisions,” wrote dissertation advisor Lydia Tiede, assistant professor in the Department of Political Science.

Beth Woods

Beth Woods, Developmental Psychology. Dissertation topic: Bilingual children’s learning situations

Woods is building on the effect on the cognitive process of learning two languages. Her dissertation looks at the mechanics behind how young bilingual children process learning multiple labels with a single meaning.  She is evaluating sequential and simultaneous learning patterns and how those learning patterns reflect early development of vocabulary building.

“Beyond expanding scientific knowledge, the work appears to have great potential for shaping the field of bilingual education,” wrote Hanako Yoshida, Assistant Professor and Director of Cognitive Development Lab.