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Top doctoral students awarded fellowships

Houston Endowment gift allows University and CLASS to establish dissertation completion fellowships

Aldo Ponce Ugolini
Cecilia Marrugo-Puello
Sampada Chavan
David Lombardi
Amir Pourmoghaddam

Eight students in CLASS have been awarded Dissertation Completion Fellowships for the 2011-2012 academic year through funding provided by a $5 million grant to the University by the Houston Endowment to support doctoral education and the Delores Welder Mitchell Endowed Scholarship Fund in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.

The fellowships provide stipends of $20,000 to cover students’ expenses for up to a full academic year while they complete their dissertations. Fellowship recipients are not allowed to teach or do other wage-earning work while holding the fellowship.

“These competitive awards grew out of the university’s goal of increasing PhD production as part of the Tier One initiative,” said CLASS Dean John Roberts. “They reward our graduate students’ commitment to excellence throughout their careers here and ensure timeliness in the completion of their doctorates.”

CLASS used a competitive process to award the fellowships to this year’s eight recipients. Students must be in a position to graduate within one year and nominated by department chairs and faculty advisors. Applications for the awards were reviewed by a faculty committee which made recommendations to the dean.

In 2010, 65 percent of the CLASS doctoral candidates had completed their doctorates in 10 years or less. The other 35 percent likely fell into the unofficial academic category for people who get stuck in their efforts to complete the doctoral degree – ABD or “all but dissertation.”

It’s a term for doctoral candidates who complete their course work and pass qualifying exams, but have not finished writing or defending a dissertation, the culminating document of their academic work exemplifying the candidate’s research and expertise.

“The dissertation completion stage is the most difficult for many of our students because they work, mostly as teaching assistants,” said Dean John W. Roberts . “These awards are a wonderful way to reward excellence, persistence and hard work.”

The recipients of the 2011-2012 Dissertation Completion Grants and the titles of their dissertations are:

  • Terri Barrera, Department of Psychology, Motivational Interviewing as an Adjunct to Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Anxiety
  • Sampada Chavan, Department of English, A Study in Diversity: Single Mothers in African American and Postcolonial Indian Fiction
  • Laura Garza, Department of Hispanic Studies, Jovita González, Adela Vento y Consuelo Aldape de Vega Hidalgo: El discurso femenino en la frontera del Valle de Texas 1900-1960
  • David Lombardi, Department of English, Pentecost
  • Cecilia Marrugo-Puello, Department of Hispanic Studies, Croniqueñas (1950-2009): La crónica costeña del Caribe colombiano
  • Aldo Ponce Ugolini, Department of Political Science, Linking Citizens and Parties: How Legislatures Matter for Political Representation and Accountability
  • Amir Pourmoghaddam, Department of Health and Human Performance, SYNERGOS in the Analysis of EMG Signals
  • Kyle Solak, Department of English, Every Day is Judgment Day: The Veiled Ambiguity of Flannery O’Connor’s Narrative Structure