Dissertations and Theses Year-in-Review, 2022-23

It’s Commencement Day for the Graduate Center, which has become a time for the library to celebrate all of the dissertations, theses, and capstone projects that we received this academic year.

By now, you’ve heard about the awards and listened to the speakers at the ceremony. In the days leading up to the event, we’ve seen profiles of the graduates and heard about their many successes. This is a slightly different celebration, however, one that focuses solely on the culminating works of our graduates. Each one of these works is an achievement, of course—they are done, after all—and time will tell which are truly groundbreaking interventions. Not all programs require a thesis or capstone project, but for those that do, we invite you to browse our full collection in CUNY Academic Works.

Flier for the GC Dining Commons with a black-and-white photo of a man in a suit standing next to a line of restaurant staff standing behind big silver covered buffet trays.

Publicity material for the Dining Commons (1973). Courtesy Graduate Center Archives, Mina Rees Library.

Each year seems to bring new challenges. Here at the GC we saw students, faculty, and staff participate in Reclaim the Commons, with Wednesday night potluck dinners and events that revealed the centrality of the dining commons as an informal learning space. The Graduate Center building is once again bustling with visitors, and we’ve opened our doors without restriction for the first time since 2020. But at the end of the day, we do this for each other. And we do this with each other, providing the care, support, and community that keeps this institution running. It is with that spirit that we share these culminating works with our many publics, with our communities, and with the world.

By the numbers, the Mina Rees Library accepted 495 new graduate works into our collection: 372 doctoral dissertations, 10 doctoral capstone projects, 82 master’s theses, and 31 master’s capstone projects. Astute readers will note that that’s quite a jump from last year’s 461 deposits. Thankfully, I am not alone in the Dissertation Office this year; many of our graduates worked with my colleague Ignacio Sanchez, who helped students navigate the format requirements, reviewed manuscripts, and shared in the joy of getting to tell students they are done.

The Ph.D. Program in Psychology continued to lead in number of doctoral dissertations deposited (48), followed by Physics (22), Music (20), Computer Science (18), and a tie for fifth place between Chemistry (17) and English (17). For the master’s programs, it’s no surprise that the M.A. Program in Liberal Studies tops the list with 36 theses and capstones deposited, followed by Political Science (16), Linguistics (11), Cognitive Neuroscience (10), and Data Analysis and Visualization (9). About 39% of  students elected to embargo their work, with the remaining 61% choosing to make their work immediately available to the public.

As always, I lament not having the space to cover all of the amazing contributions from our graduating class of 2023. I encourage you to browse all of our dissertations, theses, and capstone projects by program to get a glimpse of the topics our students select. To help, I’ve plugged this year’s titles into Voyant Tools to generate this visual:

These sorts of visualizations are limited, of course, but it is undeniable that this year’s contributions included a bumper crop of works on women. That this occurred in a year marked by legislative attacks on reproductive rights, alongside growing threats to queer, trans, and non-binary rights in this country and throughout the world, is notable. So it seems fitting that I use this space to highlight the more than 20 works with women or girls in the title (and this count doesn’t include related terms like maternal, daughterhood, and female, which are also plentiful!).

Angela Crumdy (Ph.D., Anthropology, September ‘22) provided a feminist analysis of labor and the politics of nation-building in “Teaching Revolution: Women Primary School Teachers, Race, and Social Reproduction in Cuba,” while Amalie Werenskiold (M.A., Liberal Studies, June ‘23)  turned their attention to Instagram in “‘Girl Power, Selfies, and Sexiness’: An Investigation into the Neoliberal and Postfeminist Era of Influencer Marketing.”

We saw works on how women with breast cancer choose mastectomy, a psychoanalytic approach to understanding the experience of women who choose not to have children, and an investigation into women who self-nominate for leadership development programs. We have works centered on Puerto Rican women, Chinese women, Nigerian women, and Turkish women; women under fascism, women in Communist Albania, women in music, and women in school; we even have one on women and ventriloquism.

Robin McGinty (Ph.D., EES, September ‘22) shared women’s stories in  “A Labor of Livingness: Oral Histories of Formerly Incarcerated Black Women,” while Wendy Barrales (Ph.D, Urban Education, June ‘23) collected women’s histories in  “Searching for Mami & Abuelita: Reimagining Ethnic Studies Praxis through Women of Color Feminisms, Art, and Archiving.” Nadia El-Mouldi (M.A., Digital Humanities, September ‘22) created “A Repository of Books by Women from the Arab World Translated to English,” and Julia Fuller (Ph.D., English, June ‘23) curated a visual archive as part of their dissertation, “Muscling Through: Athletic Women in Victorian Popular Representation, 1864–1915.”

These are but a few of the impressive works that our graduates have produced, and that are now available to the world through the Mina Rees Library. The American Library Association has a campaign out now that says, simply, “Free people read freely.” Please, go read these works and celebrate our graduates who are determined to make a difference in the world. Empowered with the legacy of principled, public scholarship that the Graduate Center represents, I believe that each one of them will move mountains to ensure that all of us can continue to read freely.

Congratulations, Class of 2023!


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 oversees the college’s institutional archives.