Dissertation of the Year

The purpose of the ACUI Dissertation of the Year Award is to recognize outstanding dissertation research conducted by a doctoral degree recipient. This award is intended to encourage and recognize an outstanding dissertation that contributes new and important knowledge to the college union and student activities field.

The recipient will receive a one-time monetary award of $400 and will be invited to present an educational session on the research during the annual conference and to publish the research in the ACUI Bulletin.


  • The dissertation must report a study for which a doctoral degree was granted in the previous year between Sept. 1, 2015 and Aug. 31, 2016. 
  • The author must be a doctoral degree recipient presently in, or intending to enter, the field of college unions and student activities. 


  • The study must focus on some issue of relevance to the field of college unions and student activities, ideally related to the ACUI research agenda.
  • The candidate must be recommended and sponsored by their committee chair. A committee chair may nominate more than one candidate who meets the criteria noted above.

Previous Recipients

  • 2016 recipient: Cindy Kane, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, who studied the factors of integrating scholarship and practice, identifying obstacles and influences related to career preparation, professional associations, and other institutional issues in supporting research in non-faculty environments. 
  • 2015 recipient: Leah Barrett, The College of Brockport
  • 2014 recipient: Krista Harrell, University of South Alabama
  • 2013 recipient: Kathy McIntosh, Pepperdine University


Submission Information

The application packet must include the following:

  • Letter of application stating why this research is relevant to the work of college union and student activities professionals.
  • Separate cover sheet that contains the applicants contact information (work and home address, telephone numbers, and email address) 
  • A statement from the dissertation committee chair confirming the date of acceptance of the dissertation
  • A dissertation abstract that is no more than 10 double-spaced typed pages (not including references). To ensure a blind review, do not include your name or affiliation on any portion of the actual abstract. The following sections should be included:
    • Research rationale and brief literature review
    • Statement of hypothesis/problem
    • The methodology employed and rationale for its selection
    • Significant findings and relevance to student affairs and college unions or student activities
    • A brief bibliography, not to exceed two pages

All materials submitted become the property of the Association of College Unions International and will not be returned to the author.

This year's nomination deadline has closed for this award, which will be presented at the 2017 annual conference. 


Applications will be evaluated on the following principles:

  • Writing quality
  • Significance and relevance of research as it relates to college unions, student activities, and community building especially as it relates to the ACUI Core Competencies and associated skill sets
  • Quality and significance of the literature review
  • Research design
  • Implications for practice
  • Significance of findings

The panel of judges will include practicing student affairs professionals and preparation program faculty. Each abstract will be reviewed by the same number of judges using a standard rubric and criteria. All research methodologies will be considered on an equal basis. Two to four dissertations will be selected as finalists. Upon notification, finalists will submit one electronic copy of their entire dissertation with identifying references removed. The decision of the judges will be final, and the judges' ratings and comments will not be shared. Please note the Dissertation of the Year will only be awarded if the judge’s panel reviewing nominations decides there is a deserving entry. The winner will be recognized during the awards ceremony at the annual conference.


Updated Jan. 7, 2017