Outstanding Dissertation Award

The Outstanding Dissertation Award was established in 1979 by the Graduate School to recognize exceptional work by doctoral students and to encourage the highest levels of scholarship, research, and writing.

The Michael H. Granof Award will be given in 2024 to recognize the University’s top dissertation. The recipient of this year’s award will be selected from one of the three dissertation winners. The Granof Award is considered the top graduate student award. All prizes will be announced in spring of 2024.

Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) chairpersons nominate one doctoral student from their programs for the award. Winners are selected in three categories:

  • Area A — Humanities and Fine Arts
  • Area B — Social Sciences, Business and Education
  • Area C — Mathematics, Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Biological and Life Sciences

A dissertation may be considered in only one competition category. Select the category most appropriate to the topic and methodology of the nominated dissertation.

Professional & Student Awards

Awards Open:
November 1, 2023
Awards Close:
February 16, 2024


If you have questions, email 
Brianna Smallman.


To be eligible for the 2024 award, the dissertation must meet one of the following criteria:

  • It will be submitted in final form to the Graduate School by April 26, 2024 for a degree to be awarded in May 2024.
  • It was submitted for a degree awarded in August 2023 or December 2023.
  • It was submitted after April 1, 2023, for a degree awarded in May 2023.


The Graduate School's Online Awards System

Nominees for the award must be submitted through the Graduate School's dedicated online awards system. The application process entails the nominator filling out the application with the necessary details about the nominee.

To successfully complete the online application, please gather the following documents:

  1. Nomination Letter: A letter from the chairperson of the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) that succinctly outlines the reasons for selecting the dissertation as the program's nominee.
  2. Two Letters of Support: Obtain letters of support from two of the following individuals:
    • The dissertation supervisor
    • The graduate adviser
    • The department chair
    • A committee member
  3. Dissertation Copy: Include one copy of the complete dissertation, along with the abstract.

Ensure all components are compiled and submitted through the Graduate School's online awards system to facilitate a thorough and efficient nomination process.


The faculty review committees will consider both the methodological and substantive aspects of the dissertations, including the:

  • Importance/impact of the subject;
  • Originality/creativity of the work;
  • Quality of the scholarship;
  • Potential for publishing;
  • Organization of the dissertation;
  • Quality of the writing; and
  • Other appropriate factors that denote excellence.

Individuals writing letters of support should be encouraged to keep these criteria in mind as they comment on the significance/major contribution of the dissertation and the particular aspects of the dissertation that distinguish it.

2024 Award Recipients

Faith Deckard headshot

Faith Deckard

Michael H. Granof Award winner
Program: Sociology
Dissertation Title: Bonded: Bail Agents, Families, and the Management of Risk

Jiaqi Gu headshot

Jiaqi Gu

Program: Electrical & Computer Engineering
Dissertation Title: Light-AI Interaction: Bridging Photonics and Artificial Intelligence via Cross-Layer Hardware/Software Co-Design

Melissa Santillana headshot

Melissa Santillana

Program: Radio-Television-Film
Dissertation Title: Destrúyelo todo: The Women behind the Mexican Feminist Spring

2023 Michael H. Granof Award Winner Will Burg

New Technologies with a Twist: Engineering Alumnus Wins Top Dissertation Prize

July 11, 2023
Will Burg’s dissertation, “Collective Quantum States in Twist Controlled Graphene Heterostructures” was awarded the 2023 Michael H. Granof Award – the Graduate School’s most prestigious honor. The contributions of his groundbreaking dissertation is widely recognized by those in the field and can potentially lead to new quantum devices for computation.