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Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award

The Iowa Academy of Education Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award is presented annually to the author of an outstanding dissertation written by a student at an Iowa University that focuses on an issue of significant policy importance to education in Iowa. The recipient will receive a $500 award.

IAE is composed of outstanding Iowa scholars whose work has earned respect and recognition among peers for making a significant contribution to the broad field of educational studies. The Academy’s principal function is to inform educational policies and practices in the state of Iowa through the scholarly consideration and analysis of significant educational issues.

Eligibility Criteria

The nominated dissertation must have been completed between May 2018 and May 2020.

Selection Criteria

The Award Committee will consider several aspects of the nominated dissertation, including:

  • Importance of the research - including educational benefits to Iowa
  • Originality of the work
  • Quality of the research
  • Potential for publication

Nomination Materials

To nominate a scholar for the Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Award, the nominator must submit the following materials electronically:

  • A cover letter that includes the nominator’s and nominee’s contact information, the title of the dissertation, the dissertation committee members, and the conferring institution
  • An additional letter of support from a member of the dissertation committee of the nominee
  • One copy of the completed and approved dissertation, including an abstract

Nominators should submit all materials by July 1, 2020 to Outstanding Doctoral Dissertation Chair Ann Thompson at

    Award and Presentation

    The recipient will present his or her research at a meeting of the Iowa Academy of Education, either physically or virtually.  The award recipient and a summary of the dissertation will be posted on the IAE website.

    Award Recipients

    Year Recipient, Institution, Dissertation Title and Abstract
    2019 Dr. Reuben Vyn, University of Iowa, Promoting Curricular Innovation through Language Performance Assessment: Leveraging AAPPL Washback in a K-12 World Languages Program
    2018 Dr. Jihyun Hwang, University of Iowa, Bridging the Gap between Cognitive Attributes and Mathematics Achievement: Which Cognitive Attributes for Mathematical Modeling Contribute to Better Learning in Mathematics?
    2017 Dr. Mason Kuhn, University of Northern Iowa, Do Teacher Judgment Accuracy and Teacher Feedback Predict Student Achievement in Elementary and Middle-School Science?
    2016 Dr. Deirdre Egan, University of Iowa, Haunted by the Bell Curve

    This dissertation is a feminist study of concepts of race on one Midwestern university campus. Through participant observation, face-to-face interviews with biologists, biological anthropologists and sociologists, and an examination of different ways of teaching about race and genes, I investigate how and for what purposes race is configured as both culture and biology in research and teaching. I also look at how ideas of race have been shaped by the particular history of each discipline and the social context within which different kind of researchers work.

    What I ultimately conclude is that race emerges from a deep and abiding belief among Americans that despite living in the same country, sharing a common set of traditions, and participating in what to an outsider is a recognizably American culture, black and white Americans are fundamentally different. More specifically, I argue that the thick concept of culture that was circulating in the US around the middle of the twentieth century and which intellectuals of all stripes hoped could banish racism from American life has mostly disappeared. When grappling with race, academics in both the social and biological sciences talk about human difference in terms of statistical means, averages and variations, which blur race at the edges but ultimately leave it intact. What wins out in translations of statistical thinking, in other words, is the relevance of difference and the importance of averages, and this is as true for discussions of racism and inequality in the social sciences as it is for discussions of the biological basis of race.