Outstanding Master's Thesis or Research Project Award


The Committee on Graduate Studies within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has established the Outstanding Master's Thesis or Research Project Award. Either a thesis or research project awardee is selected from among Summer and Fall graduates and a second from among Spring graduates.  Students are nominated by their advisor for the award with the endorsement of either the Director of Graduate Studies or the Chair of the department. A call for nominations is distributed each summer and contains deadlines for both award cycles.

Call for Nominations


Students must be nominated by their thesis or research project advisor with the endorsement of either the Director of Graduate Studies or the Chair of the department.

Nomination Instructions:

Departments are strongly encouraged to select no more than one nominee for each cycle of the award. However, multiple nominees from a single department will be accepted if a department determines that more than one student truly warrants the nomination. In these cases, a separate letter is required for each nominee. Letters must be explicit about the relative merits of each.

Each nomination must include the following:

  1. A letter of support is prepared and signed by the student's advisor and endorsed by the Director of Graduate Studies or Chair of the department. The letter should address the following award criteria:

    • The overall quality of the thesis or research project (e.g., research design, organization of material, clarity of writing, interpretation of findings)
    • The methodological rigor and/or innovation of the thesis or research project
    • The significance and/or originality of the thesis or research project to the field: Why is the work "outstanding" by disciplinary standards? The thesis or research project should be described so that an audience outside of the field can understand the significance.
    • The letter may also address the following, as appropriate:
      • The trans-disciplinary/interdisciplinary nature of the research
      • Resulting publications, presentations, and performances (or the promise thereof)
      • Receipt of departmental honors or other awards
  2. An abstract of the thesis or non-thesis project
  3. An electronic copy of the thesis or research project document. Print copies will not be accepted.

If you have questions or need more information, please email coga@ku.edu or call 864-4201.


Deadlines and Nomination Form

Nomination packets must be submitted as one PDF using the online form. Nominations may be submitted any time before the deadline. Late nominations will not be accepted.

To be considered for the award granted to Spring 2022 graduates, nominations must be received by noon (12:00 p.m.), Friday, September 9, 2022.

To be considered for the award granted to Summer/Fall 2022 graduates, nominations must be received by noon (12:00 p.m.), Friday, February 24, 2023.

Current Year Winners

Sharon Mugg

Sharon Mugg, English (2022)

Rethinking Art and Virtue in Shakespeare's As You Like It

Sharon Mugg’s thesis re-examines the similarities and differences between Shakespeare’s As You Like It and its primary narrative source, Thomas Lodge’s Rosalynde (1590), in order to help resolve scholarly disputes surrounding the ethical aims of As You Like It. While Lodge’s text affirms that art relates to ethics in a straightforwardly didactic way, Shakespeare’s play obscures the moral point, suggesting that he may be working from a less didactic view of how art and ethics relate. Moreover, because Rosalynde explicitly references Aristotle’s ethics, Aristotle’s position yields insight into the ways As You Like It reconfigures Lodge’s assumptions on the relation between art and ethics. Mugg contends that As You Like It dramatizes the action of art teaching and thus queries the purpose of art. Through this dramatization, Shakespeare re-inflates a nuanced Aristotelian position on the relationship between art and ethics, according to which the purpose of art is to help us understand the world more fully so that we might act more discerningly within it; According to As You Like It, art teaches us not a formula for virtuous living but the intellectual virtue of phronesis (practical wisdom), which involves a nuanced and perceptive view of the world, and forms the basis of virtuous character.
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Jennifer Babitzke, Sociology (2022)

The Cumulative Cost of Care: Caregiving Over the Life Course and Severity of Depression
Keana Koun Tang

Keana Koun Tang, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (2022)

Uncovering the early diversification of core eudicots in western North America: structurally preserved fruits from Late Cretaceous deposits of Sucia Island

Keana's Master's thesis focused on characterizing extinct plant diversity from the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago), which was a critical time for the early evolution of flowering plants. Based on three-dimensionally preserved fruits, she described two new extinct species of flowering plants, assigned to the living genus Ceratopetalum and extinct genus Esgueiria, from the western coast of North America. The fossil fruits were recovered from early Campanian (Late Cretaceous, ~ 82-80 million years ago) deposits of Sucia Island, Washington state, USA.
Keana studied the fossils using physical sectioning, micro-computed tomography, and an array of evolutionary analyses. Identifying Ceratopetalum is particularly notable because the genus and family now only occur within the Southern Hemisphere. Likewise, the genus Esgueiria was only known from the Late Cretaceous deposits of Europe and Japan. Cretaceous floras from the western coast of North America are relatively undersampled compared to other regions across the continent. The continued recovery and documentation of new fossils from the Cretaceous will play an ever increasingly important role in understanding the early diversification of flowering plants.

Past Recipients

  • Rebecca Woolbert, Applied Behavioral Science (2021)

    • Teaching Graphing Using Enhanced Written instruction: Does Chunk Size Matter?
  • Alexis Exum, Psychology (2021)
    • Culturally-Informed Theory for Disordered Eating in Black Women
  • Nick Banach, English, Creative Writing (2020)
    • Case Study: Becoming
  • Morgan McComb, English (2020)
    • "Everything is Here and Now": The Polyvocal Poetry of Naomi Long Madgett
  • Erin Bojanek, Clinical Child Psychology (2019)
    • Postural Control Processes During Static and Dynamic Activities in Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Austen McGuire, Clinical Child Psychology (2019)
    • The Association between Dimensions of Maltreatment and Academic Outcomes for Youth in Foster Care
  • Lucas McMichael, Geography & Atmospheric Science (2018)
    • Assessing the Mechanisms Governing the Daytime Evolution of Marine Stratocumulus Using Large-Eddy Simulation
  • Che-Ling Ho, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (2018)
    • First Finding of Succulence and c4/CAM-Cycling Photosynthesis in a Grass: Ecophysiology on Spinifex littoreus in Coastal Region of Taiwan
  • CJ Grady, Geography & Atmospheric Science (2018)
    • Delineating Sea-Level Rise Inundation: An Exploration of Data Structure and Performance Optimization
  • Carolina Bejarano, Clinical Child Psychology (2017)
    • Motivation and Hedonic Hunger and Predictors of Self-Reported Food Intake in Adolescents: Disentangling Between-Person and Within-Person Processes
  • Melissa Gilstrap, English (2016)
    • Re-Placing the Prostitute: Ruth Hall and the Spatial Politics of the Streetwalker
  • Meghan Kelly, Geography (2016)
    • Mapping Syrian Refugee Border Crossings: A Critical, Feminist Perspective
  • Joshua Meisel, Geography (2015)
    • Historical Demographics, Student Origins, and Recruitment at Off-Reservation Indian Boarding Schools, 1900
  • Elizabeth Adams, Classics (2014)
    • Esse videtur: Occurrences of Heroic Clausulae in Cicero's Orations
  • Laurie Gayes, Clinical Child Psychology (2014)
    • A Meta-Analysis of Motivational Interviewing Interventions for Pediatric Health Behavior Change
  • Gopolang Mohlabeng, Physics & Astronomy (2013)
    • A Redshift Dependent Color-Luminosity Relation in Type 1a Supernovae
  • Jeanne Tiehen, Theater (2013)
    • Frankenstein on Stage: Galvanizing the Myth and Evolving the Creature
  • Laurie Petty, Sociology (2012)
    • Department Chairs and High Chairs: The importance of perceived department chair supportiveness on faculty parents' views of departmental and institutional kid-friendliness
  • Steven Roels, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (2012)
    • Not Easy Being Mead's: Comparative Herbivory on Three Milkweeds, Including Threatened Mead's Milkweed (Asclepias meadii), and Seedling Ecology of Mead's Milkweed