Dissertations and Theses Year-in-Review, 2018-19

Today is Commencement Day at the Graduate Center! Which, for the Dissertation Office, means it’s time for our annual look back at the dissertations, theses, and capstone projects that our graduating students deposited with the library.

But first, what is this “deposit” business, anyway? It simply means adding the work to our library collection, so that the original research contributions of students can be accessed alongside other works of scholarship. Our job at the library is to make sure that these culminating works are usable (and discoverable) as research objects. Did you know that the rise of university presses in the late 19th century was a response to the requirement to publish dissertations, and that students themselves had to pay for the printing? Thankfully, those days have passed—but graduate students are still expected to advance a field through original research, and the library is charged with making that work available to the researchers that follow.

This year, the library accepted 528 new graduate works into our collection: 394 doctoral dissertations, 8 doctoral capstone projects, 111 master’s theses, and 16 master’s capstone projects. The most numerous among the doctoral programs was, as usual, Psychology (69), followed by Chemistry (26), English (22), and Biology (21). The M.A. Program in Liberal Studies continues to top the list of master’s programs with 93 theses and capstone projects deposited this year, followed by Political Science (15) and Women and Gender Studies (8).

Many of the dissertations and theses collected in CUNY Academic Works are immediately available to read and download, while others are embargoed for up to two years. This year, about 53% of graduates chose to make their work immediately accessible, while 47% placed an embargo of some sort. Researchers wishing to access embargoed dissertations and theses may place an interlibrary loan request with the Graduate Center Library.

This was a year of firsts: we welcomed our first graduates from the M.A. Program in International Migration Studies, the first graduating cohort of doctoral students located at the ASRC, and our first fully digital dissertation.

Each year I marvel at the range of work being done at the Graduate Center and the way our students gravitate towards the vital questions we face in the world today. From migrant domestic labor in the Global South to photography and migration in the U.S.–Mexico borderlands; from resource extraction in India’s Niyamgiri Hills to data privacy in medical records; from corporate urbanization in Lebanon to a poor people’s movement in Los Angeles, Graduate Center students are at the forefront of research with immense public significance.

It’s no surprise that several Graduate Center students approach incarceration in their work. Lydia Pelot-Hobbs (Earth & Environmental Sciences, February ’19) examines Southern penal expansion in “The Contested Terrain of the Louisiana Carceral State“; Whitney Hollins (Urban Education, May ’19) worked directly with the children of the incarcerated in “Guilty by Association: A Critical Analysis of How Imprisonment Affects the Children of Those Behind Bars“; LeiLani Dowell (English, May ’19) looks at the ways in which carcerality extends beyond the prison in “Wolf Packs: U.S. Carceral Logics and the Case of the New Jersey Four“; and Kayla Morse (Women’s and Gender Studies, May ’19) used the National Prison Association Conference archives to create a long-form poetry project/master’s thesis in, “HEARING/s: Will in the Carceral Archive.”

There are more, of course, but I cannot list them all! You’ll have to look for yourself to find works on topics like embodiment and casting in Broadway musicals, queer pregnancy in Shakespeare’s plays, and the contemporary world of life modelling.

As master’s degree programs multiply at the Graduate Center, we should take note of the high caliber of scholarship being produced by these graduates. Pablo Munoz Ponzo (Liberal Studies, May ’19) conducted deep archival research for “Dance of Exile: The Sakharoffs’ Visual Performances in Montevideo (1935–1948),” and Emily Duwel (Liberal Studies, February ’19) analyzed a collection of letters to the editor of the Arizona Daily Star for “Refracting Immigration Rhetoric: The Struggle to Define Identity, Place and Nation in Southern Arizona” (I should note, too, that this thesis clocks in at a whopping 211 pages). Hillary R. Donnell (Political Science, May ’19) used ethnographic participant observation to examine New York City’s Borough Student Advisory Councils in “Youth Voice and the Promise and Peril of Affirmative Governmentality,” and former GC librarian  Wanett Clyde (Liberal Studies, May ’19) examined slave narratives and archival records for “Clothing the Black Body in Slavery: What They Wore and How it Was Made.”

And now, our milestones:

Longest dissertation: Trinity Martinez (Art History, May ’19), “The Evolution of the Centaur in Italian Renaissance Art: Monster, Healer, Mentor, and Constellation,” at 434 pages

Shortest dissertation: Bora Ferlengez (Mathematics, September ’18), “Studying the Space of Almost Complex Structures on a Manifold Using de Rham Homotopy Theory,” at 12 pages (!)

Longest title: Milton Ottensoser (Political Science, September ’18), “Oil Pollution on the High Seas: The Establishment of an International Regime to Deal with Public International Law and Private Law Issues and the Role of Non-State Actors in Their Resolution Prior to and at the 1969 International Legal Conference on Marine Pollution Damage (‘Brussels Conference’)

Shortest title: Matthew Curran Boyle (Liberal Studies, February ‘19), “Landing Points

And for those keeping their eye on the sciences, I’ll point to WSM Nadeesha K. Wijerathne (Chemistry, May ’19) and “Peptide Mediated Co-assembly of Porphyrin: Towards Sustainable Biomaterials for Light Harvesting and Catalysis.” I’m told that Wijerathne is one of the first graduates from the initial ASRC cohort.

Congratulations to all of our 2018-19 graduates!

About the Author

Roxanne Shirazi is assistant professor and dissertation research librarian at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she also serves as project director for the CUNY Digital History Archive and oversee the college’s institutional archives.