2012 Student Awards

2012 CLA Distinguished Dissertation Award

Winners of the  CLA Distinguished Award are chosen from nominations from each department and interdisciplinary graduate program in the College of Liberal Arts. Each award is for $500 and includes an engraved plaque.


Rafael Climent-Espino – School of Languages and Cultures

Rafael Climent-Espino earned his Ph.D. from Purdue's Spanish and Portuguese program in May 2012. His dissertation, "Books which are not Books: Genetic Criticism and Materiality of the Text in the Hispanic and Brazilian Novel of the Second Half of the 20th Century", is based upon the proposition that many Spanish and Latin American novels of the 20th century are questioning, through their internal structures and forms, the book as a compact object and as unique container of texts. Rafael received his M.A. in Hispanic Literature from the University of Granada, Spain, where he also earned a B.A. in Hispanic Philology and a B.A. in Portuguese Philology. He is currently working as assistant professor of Latin American literature at Baylor University.


Vagisha Gunasekara – Department of Political Science

Vagisha Gunasekara successfully completed her doctoral dissertation in the Department of Political Science with an emphasis in public policy.  Under the guidance of Professor S. Laurel Weldon, she explored whether post-civil-war periods open up opportunities to advance women's empowerment in developing nations.  Her research query was based on an emerging body of literature links civil wars to improved outcomes in a few specific areas of women’s empowerment, such as representation and employment, despite the devastating effects of civil war on women.  Thus, the research question was: why do some post-conflict states show improvements in women’s empowerment while others do not?  Using a quantitative analysis and a qualitative analysis, Vagisha's study shows that the interaction between international actors and domestic women’s movements accounts for variation in women’s empowerment in post-conflict states.  Using an original dataset of 45 low-income and middle-low-income countries, her study shows that states that experience civil war are distinctive in their changes in women’s empowerment compared to countries that have not experienced internal armed conflict.  The quantitative analysis in the dissertation also finds that the interaction between foreign direct assistance and the presence of a domestic women’s movement, and factors such as social and cultural institutions have a significant and positive impact on women’s empowerment.  The qualitative analysis, based on four post-conflict cases—Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Guatemala, and Afghanistan—also shows that the interaction between international actors and strong and autonomous women’s movements accounts for variation in women’s empowerment.  Vagisha's doctoral study suggests that efforts to advance women’s empowerment need to be cognizant of the effects of these international and domestic factors.   



2012 CLA Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award

CLA Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award winners are chosen among nominations from each department and interdisciplinary graduate program in the College of Liberal Arts. Each award is for $250 and includes an engraved plaque.


2012 College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award

Elizabeth D. Wilhoit is a graduate student in the Brian Lamb School of Communication at Purdue. She earned her bachelors from Wheaton College in 2009, majoring in French and communication and received her master’s in communication at Purdue in May 2012.  Focusing on organizational communication, her research interests include how people communicate through their lived experience and the role of the material, spatial, and body in communicating. Her thesis, "Organizing resistance/resisting organization: The embodied, material, and collective resistance of bike commuters," examines how people communicate resistance to the transportation norms of their community through the act of biking to work. The study was particularly concerned with how this is communicated through material artifacts, embodied actions, and spatial interactions. Elizabeth is continuing her PhD research at Purdue and will be conducting a comparative study of bike commuters in Copenhagen.

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