CGU Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships

The instructions and procedures for the 2021-2022 CGU Dissertation Fellowship awards may be downloaded here for reference. Applications are due on April 12, 2021.

Students with suitably transdisciplinary thesis projects may also apply for the transdisciplinary fellowships, for which deadlines and other application details will be posted on the transdisciplinary website.

The Transdisciplinary Studies Program and the Office of Research, Sponsored Programs & Grants invites you to view a

Recorded Dissertation Award Information Session

Information Session URL:

Dr. Andrew Vosko, Associate Provost of Transdisciplinary Studies, and Dr. Andrew Conway, Professor of Applied Cognitive Psychology, and former Associate Provost for Research, discuss the Transdisciplinary Studies Dissertation and the CGU Dissertation Awards in this recorded information session.


Eligibility requirements to apply for these awards include:

  • Current registration as a doctoral student in any field of study at CGU;
  • completion of all coursework for the PhD;
  • advancement to candidacy, including approval of the Dissertation Proposal and submission of Advancement to Candidacy Form to the Registrar’s Office; and
  • a reasonable expectation of completion of the final requirements for the PhD degree by the end of the second calendar year.
  • Previous recipients of a Dissertation Fellowship award (transdisciplinary or otherwise) are not eligible.
  • Doctoral study registration must be maintained until the dissertation is completed.

Please address any questions about the application process to the Faculty Research Committee via the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

For information on where to explore outside sources of support for dissertation research, the Office of Advancement offers a personal fellowships search service — please contact the advisor at You may also consult the Financial Aid site, portals for individual schools, and the Transdisciplinary Studies program. There are also useful online search engines for graduate student funding sources on the UCLA and Cornell websites.


Claudia Caceres, Center for Information Systems & Technology

A Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment among Small Farmers: A Case Study in Western Honduras

Small farmers in Low Income Countries are especially vulnerable to climate change patterns because they depend heavily on rain. Many of these farmers live in precarious conditions, food insecure and are a priority in climate change adaptations plans. To help build climate change resilient communities among rural farmers, the first step is to understand the impact of climate change on the population. This Dissertation aims to use Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to assess climate change vulnerabilities among rural farmers. This dissertation first proposes a comprehensive framework for vulnerability assessment that integrates both community level and individual household level indicators.

Amy Nantkes, Department of Politics and Government

Project 100% and Immigration Rhetoric in San Diego County

In 1997, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and District Attorney approved Project 100%, an anti-fraud initiative mandating warrantless blanket home inspections for all welfare program applicants in the county, the first of its kind in the United States. Key reforms involving immigrants and welfare usage were occurring at the state and federal levels, with elite rhetoric framing of this issue playing a significant role in public opinion and policy formulation. Blumer’s Group Position Theory (1958) is used as a framework for discourse analysis on policy rhetoric, with contemporary implications for Los Angeles, San Diego, and Riverside counties.

Ester Navarro Garcia, Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences

Understanding other people’s minds: psychometric assessment and examination of the cognitive processes that predict theory of mind in bilinguals.

Understanding the perspectives of others is a critical skill. Psychologists call this skill “Theory of mind”. Although all individuals possess a theory of mind to varying degrees, bilinguals are especially adept to perspective-taking. This means that, for example, bilinguals might be more aware of the need to keep others safe during the COVID-19 emergency. Unfortunately, this promising field of research faces two challenges: the lack of research a) on the uniqueness of theory of mind, and b) on how bilinguals use theory of mind. This dissertation empirically addresses these two challenges to improve our understanding of the minds of others.

Adrienne Ortega, School of Educational Studies

A Mixed Methods Inquiry into the Decision-Making of California’s Principals During Local Control

In 2013 California changed how it funded public education through the passage of the Local Control Funding Formula, granting school districts the power to create their expense plans using a new funding formula based on the needs of students within a school district. Local control funding, based on the notion of subsidiarity, aims to return the control of finances and decision-making to the least centralized decision-making level. This study will explore the ways local control influences principals’ decision-making and an explanatory mixed methods approach, through the lens of Complex Adaptive Systems, will be conducted.

Ran Zhao, Drucker School of Management

Credit Derivatives and Corporate Default Prediction

There have been 91 defaults among U.S. CDS reference entities between 2002 and 2018. Within this sample, the five-year CDS spread significantly enhances the explanatory power of benchmark corporate default prediction models with equity market covariates and firm attributes. This finding holds among financial and nonfinancial firms, and both within and without the great financial crisis. Moreover, the predictive power of CDS spread is concentrated among entities with higher CDS market liquidity, while the illiquidity component of the CDS spread itself does not explain default. These results confirm the relevance of information contained in credit risk pricing to default prediction.


Erica Abed, Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences

Can Metacognitive Monitoring Ability be Trained?

Low performers greatly overestimate their performance on a task, but high performers underestimate their performance; the Dunning Kruger Effect (Kruger & Dunning, 1999). This disadvantages low performers because they do not know, for example, when they need to study more. How can these metacognitive errors be remediated to improve performance? Although most research has attempted to reduce metacognitive errors in low performers by training cognitive ability (e.g., improving task performance), training metacognitive ability would be more efficient and more likely to transfer to other tasks. This dissertation empirically tests two methods for improving metacognitive accuracy in high and low performers.

Tammy Johnson, School of Educational Studies

Secondary English As a Foreign Language Teachers and Teaching: Cultural Practices, Products, and Perspectives

Learning English is a global phenomenon, if not a necessity, for economic and political reasons in the world today. However, effective instruction of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) has differing views on how culture and language should be taught. Developed by the author, the study uses the Culture Teaching Model, which emphasizes that effective cultural instruction should incorporate practices, products, and perspectives. Based on 40 interviews with secondary school teachers from developing countries in different parts of the world, the study will explore the importance of culture, teachers’ beliefs, and effective instructional practices in teaching English in diverse classrooms.

Elizabeth Kuo, School of Educational Studies

Southeast Asian Americans Students’ Perspective on Factors and or Influences that Lead to High School Dropout

Southern California has a large concentration of Southeast Asian Americans (SEAAs), a population with high rates of high school dropouts. Students who drop out of high school face a number of negative outcomes such as lower aspiration and higher economic constraints. However, limited research on SEAAs and qualitative research have been conducted to understand the underlying reasons why student’s dropout from their own perspective. The proposed phenomenological study will be conducted in Southern California to understand the factors that influences their decision to drop out of high school from SEAA students’ perspectives.

Kelsey Picken, School of Arts & Humanities

Philanthropy and the Public Good: The Future of Culture in Los Angeles

Compiling documents, interviews, and reports, this dissertation will align philanthropic histories of Los Angeles with the urban impact of their missions on the greater social, economic, and political spheres of the city and provide predictive models for future impact. In line with the goals and vision of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), this study seeks to deepen current knowledge on the challenges and opportunities of philanthropy as it relates to cultural institutions and the individuals who influence their own communities as donors.

Andrea Ruybal, Division of Behavioral & Organizational Sciences

Attribution Theory and Increasing Social Support for Women with Postpartum Depression: An Exploration of Stability, Onset Controllability, and Perceived Effort

Guided by attribution theory, the current studies seek to assess whether emphasizing the temporary nature, the uncontrollable development, and that effort is being given to overcome postpartum depression (PPD), will result in increased positive emotion and greater social support for women with the ailment. This approach will be tested via eight vignettes about PPD and through eight anti-stigma video PSAs. This set of studies will demonstrate the applicability of attribution theory to PPD, provide insight into the stigmatization of women with PPD and reduce that stigma, while also expanding the current understanding of attribution theory through a novel approach.


Charlina Gozali, School of Educational Studies

From Early Childhood to Adulthood: Leader Development in Indonesia

The purpose of this mixed-method study is to examine individual and environmental factors that influenced the development of Indonesian teacher leaders. The teacher leaders were recruited by Indonesia Mengajar (IM), a highly selective education intervention program in Indonesia aiming to improve educational conditions in remote areas through the mobilization of local stakeholders. A survey will be sent to all 746 IM alumni to date and follow-up interviews will be conducted with at least 40 participants. Findings are intended to inform practice and policy on ways to nurture the potential of future generations of Indonesian leaders.


Joseph Kimani Mbugua, Center for Information Systems & Technology

Deep Learning for Early Detection, Identification, and Mapping of Cassava Diseases Using Multispectral Aerial Imagery

Cassava is one of the major sources of human carbohydrates in the world, providing food to more than 700 million people. In sub-Saharan Africa, the crop is also a major source of income for smallholder farmers, especially women. Production of the crop is, however, hampered by two main viral diseases, namely: cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) which cause huge harvest losses that threaten food security in the region. To control the diseases and avert the food security crisis, there is a need for the development of cheaper methods for monitoring the diseases. Multispectral aerial imagery and new machine learning methods provide an efficient and cost-effective method for developing tools for early detection of these diseases. This research uses high-resolution multispectral cassava images to create an end-to-end system for early detection and identification of cassava diseases in East Africa.

Rocío Mendoza, School of Educational Studies

A Doorway to Academic Success: The Undergraduate Research Experiences of Students of Mexican Descent

Despite increases in college enrollment, students of Mexican descent continue to be disproportionately underrepresented in college degree attainment numbers among racial/ethnic groups. The American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) designated undergraduate research as a “high impact practice” that can address academic disparities. Much of the literature on undergraduate research, however, have not included diverse racial/ethnic groups or diverse institutions. This case study will examine undergraduate research from the perspective of students, faculty and staff at a public, state university and answers the call in higher education research to critically examine “best practices” across diverse student populations, environments, and contexts.

Justyna Misiewicz, School of Arts & Humanities; Music

Aesthetics of the Unseen: Sacred Music in Turbulent Time of Eighteenth-Century Kraków, Poland

During the eighteenth-century, sacred music served to bring the congregation closer to God while satisfying the church as well as the king. Composers strived to achieve the goal by working with the measurable, the versatile compositional techniques, and the aesthetic elements of music. Recent interest in historical performance practice brought to light many forgotten sacred compositions of the era. This study takes as an example three sacred concertos composed during a turbulent time of wars and political instability in Kraków, Poland, to show that the aesthetics of sacred music of the past are still relevant to the twenty-first-century audience.

Joey Torres, Social Science, Policy & Evaluation – Politics & Government

God’s Chosen Candidate? The Pulpit Freedom Sunday Initiative as A Christian Right Social Movement and Its Impact on Religion and Politics

The dissertation examines the controversy over the Johnson Amendment. It prohibits nonprofit organizations from endorsing or opposing electoral candidates. Violation of the provision includes the loss of tax-exemptions. According to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal organization, the Amendment impedes the First Amendment rights of churches. Since 2008, the organization sponsored the Pulpit Freedom Sunday initiative which encourages clergy to break the law by officially endorsing candidates from the pulpit. This dissertation sets out to examine: the Christian legal organizations that promote the initiative, evangelicalism’s propensity as a social movement to support it, and the clergy’s willingness to become involved.


Harold (Jake) G. Campbell IV, Politics and Policy

Divvying Up Dollars: Experimental Applications of a Survey-Based, Budgeting Game to the Assessment of Stated Preferences for Public Spending

While public opinion polling has examined policy issues surrounding federal spending and budget deficits, it has not fully captured the complexity of voters’ preferences regarding public spending. Building on the public choice literature, this dissertation employs a budget allocation game (AGAME) adapted from Beardsley, Kovenock, and Reynolds (1974) to understand voters’ budgetary preferences. The adapted instrument simulates realistic tradeoffs faced in national budgeting and allows for measurement of voter preferences for tax increases or reductions, debt repayment, and eleven categories of government program spending including unemployment benefits, defense, education, housing, and science. A series of experimental applications will study the value of this improved methodological approach while examining the effects of policy relevant information on stated preferences for public spending.

Candice D. Donaldson, Psychology

Preventing College Student Prescription Stimulant Misuse: An Application of Vested Interest Theory

Vested Interest Theory suggests that the perceived importance and hedonic relevance of an expected behavioral outcome affects attitude-behavior consistency. Applied to college students’ nonmedical use of prescription stimulants (NUPS), the theory suggests that attitudes alone will not predict usage, because the attitude-behavior relation is moderated by vested interest. To limit NUPS, persuasive information must affect not only attitudes, but also vested perceptions regarding stimulant use and college success. This research is designed to influence attitudes toward NUPS and perceptions of NUPS’ role in college success. These cognitions are hypothesized to affect college students’ resistance to, or cessation of NUPS.

Joseph J. Jablonski, Jr., Politics and Policy

The Dark Side of President Woodrow Wilson’s Progressivism: Its Racism/Ethnocentrism

The dark side of Woodrow Wilson’s Progressivism, that is, its racism/ethnocentrism, is brought into an original light. Wilson’s political thought is shown to be a historicism informed by his underlying racist world view. Wilson departs from Lincoln’s Second Founding and the 1787 Founding insofar as Wilson repudiated the equality principle of the Declaration of Independence on historicist grounds. Wilson’s racist historicism is shown to contain elements from Hegel and Social Darwinism, and his idea of Providence. Wilson’s thought is shown to be an example of the American white supremacist tradition justifying his strengthening of the Jim Crow regime.

Anna Ma, Mathematics

Stochastic Iterative Algorithms for Large-Scale Data Analysis

Advances in technology have led to a world where large-scale data collection is ubiquitous. However, traditional techniques for processing data are not designed for such large-scale data sets, and are thus quickly becoming outdated. As a result, there is an immense demand for efficient, scalable, and robust algorithms for data analytics. Interest in a specific class of algorithms, Stochastic Iterative Algorithms, has grown in recent years due to their ability to handle large-scale data. This work aims to adapt, improve, and design algorithms for large-scale data analytics, as well as provide theoretical guarantees for algorithmic performance.

Meghana (Meg) Warren, Psychology

Allyship at Work: Going beyond Diversity Policies and Practices

How can historically privileged (e.g., White) employees be allies to historically marginalized (e.g., Black) employees? This mixed-method dissertation will document privileged and marginalized employee perspectives on exemplary (i.e., extraordinarily committed) allyship. Study 1 will qualitatively interview 15 exemplars to catalogue their virtues and relational behaviors. Study 2 will quantitatively examine whether exemplars (= 50) differ from comparison lay employees (= 50) on hypothesized virtues and relational behaviors, and gather inclusion stories. Study 3 will experimentally test whether marginalized employees (= 150) perceive allies’ (versus lay employees’) relational behaviors as more inclusive and, in turn, intend to behave prosocially.