The D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize

The D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize was established to recognize excellence in doctoral research. Each year the winners of the D.C. Spriestersbach Dissertation Prize become the University of Iowa's nominee in the national competition for the Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award.

D.C. Spriestersbach
D.C. Spriestersbach, former Graduate College Dean

Prizes are awarded annually in two of four broad disciplinary areas-Humanities and Fine Arts, Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering, Biological and Life Sciences, and Social Sciences. The Graduate College, in turn, holds two D.C. Spriestersbach Prize competitions in the areas specified by the Council of Graduate Schools.

Emily Kroska, who earned her Ph.D. in psychology in 2018, has been awarded the 2018 D.C. Spriestersbach Prize in the Social Sciences category.

Kroska focused on the use of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and what is called experiential avoidance, which refers to a process through which individuals attempt to reduce pain or distress by doing things that diminish the experience of pain or distress. Her innovation evaluated the efficacy of ACT delivered in a group setting in a single day, which overcomes many barriers to treatment access.

Greg Ongie, who received his doctorate in applied mathematical and computational sciences in 2016, won the 2018 Spriestersbach Prize in Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering.

Ongie's dissertation centered on algorithms and models used for image reconstruction in magnetic resonance imaging. He developed a theory that facilities the recovery of continuous domain images from a few of their measurements.

In 2019, two D.C. Spriestersbach Prizes will be awarded – one in Biological and Life Sciences and one in the Humanities and Fine Arts.

To be eligible, a student must have received the doctorate or completed all doctoral degree requirements (includes having the final deposit of the dissertation cleared through the Graduate College) between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2019.

Nominees' dissertations should represent highly original work that is an unusually significant contribution to their fields. Subcommittees chosen by the Graduate College will review the nominations and select recipients of the prize. See a list of past winners and their dissertation titles.

Recipients of the D.C. Spriestersbach Prize are honored in the spring at a special reception held in conjunction with the James F. Jakobsen Graduate Research Conference, organized by the Graduate Student Senate. At that time, winners are presented with $2,500, an award certificate, and a copy of Spriestersbach's book, "The Way It Was."


Nominations for the 2019 award are due June 19, 2019.

Winners of the D.C. Spriestersbach Prize have fared exceptionally well in the national competition. With five winners, Iowa has been recognized more times than any other public university since the inauguration of the national competition in 1981.

UI's national dissertation award winners

2008—Jessica Horst, Psychology
2007—Michael Chasar, English
1997—Susan Behrends Frank, Art History
1993—Matthew P. Anderson, Physiology & Biophysics
1984—David Lasocki, Music

Twelve other Iowa nominees have been finalists in the national competition. The success of Iowa's candidates in the national competition is a tribute to the high standards of excellence met by doctoral research conducted at this University.