14th Annual Dissertation Awards


We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 Robert Ferber and Seymour Sudman Dissertation Awards.


(click recipient to view abstract)

2015 Ferber Recipient: Dongying Li, Department of Landscape Architecture, Space-Time Access to Green Space and Adolescent Stress: Questions of Constraints and Equity
Adolescents with high levels of stress and anxiety are at high risk for a wide range of health and behavioral problems. One often-overlooked way to help adolescents cope with stress is to increase their exposure to green space. Literature has suggested that exposure to green space leads to reduced physiological and psychological levels of stress. However, most studies have defined access to green space as the spatial availability of or proximity to green space of neighborhoods and schoolyards. Limited knowledge has been generated on the full set of spatial, temporal and mobility constraints on access to green space that adolescents face, especially those at high risk for stress and anxiety. This study fills the gaps by examining access to green space and adolescent stress using a space-time accessibility framework. The main objectives are: 1) to examine the extent to which access to green space is associated with adolescent stress; 2) to investigate the extent to which adolescents with low socio-status and high levels of stress and anxiety show less access to green space; and 3) the spatial, temporal and mobility constraints faced by adolescents, especially those of low socioeconomic status. A field study on 150 high school students from four cities in Illinois are conducted. Real-time continuous GPS trajectory, activity diary and levels of stress and anxiety will be collected during a seven-day period. The results of this study will shed light on the multifold constraints to green space access that adolescents with low SES and high risk for stress and anxiety face. The knowledge provided by the results of this study could provide rationale for developing restorative environments that help adolescents recover from and build resilience to stress.
2015 Sudman Recipient: Katherine Ann Magerko, Department of Human and Community Development, Healthy Hearts in Family Child Care: What is the Current State of Provider Health?
Past research demonstrates that children in out-of-home care are at higher cardiovascular risk, especially risk related to obesity. Child care providers have the unique potential to positively or negatively impact children’s cardiovascular health. However, little research has explored the cardiovascular risk of child care providers. Even less is known about providers operating their business from their own homes; these providers are often referred to as family child care providers (FCCPs). The literature would have us expect to see increased risks for cardiovascular factors in this population. In order to take a strengths-based approach, a risk and resilience framework will be used to highlight areas of risk and positive areas of resilience for these FCCPs. This study will investigate: 1) cardiovascular risk factors and health related behavioral patterns reported on an anonymous survey; 2) FCCP responses compared to a sample of women with similar education in the same geographic location; 3) cardiovascular health patterns revealed by direct measurement; and 4) whether direct measures are strongly related to self-reported measures for FCCPs. Using a combination of survey, direct observations, and biological measure methodologies, data on over 50 FCCPs will be collected and national data sets will be used for comparison. The research team will travel to providers at a time convenient for them so that they do not have to take off time from work to participate. All data collection procedures have been designed to be portable including the use of point-of-care medical technologies to collect biological measures related to cardiovascular health. FCCPs are a promising target for intervention and this project aims to support a future, data-driven intervention for this important context.
2015 Ferber Honorable Mention Recipient: Kate Usry, Deptartment of Political Science, The Consequences of Traumatic Life Experiences for Civic Engagement
Trauma is a well-studied concept in psychological research, encompassing a variety of life experiences that involve actual or threatened harm to one’s physical integrity, including: military combat, personal assaults, violent crimes, natural and human-caused disasters, life-threatening medical conditions, and deaths in the immediate family. Somewhat surprisingly, a handful of recent studies suggest that certain types of traumatic life events are associated with more involvement in politics. Based on this research, it is tempting to conclude there is a bright side to traumatic life experiences: victims have a political voice. However, I expect this is true for some experiences, and not others. In particular, I question whether trauma leads to increased political engagement when the experience is also associated with a lack of social support. In this dissertation project, I use existing datasets to systematically examine the relationship between various types of traumas, social support, and several possible political responses. Additionally, I interview clients at the local rape crisis center. Rape is a unique type of trauma, both in terms of victims’ willingness to report their experiences, as well as the insufficient institutional and societal support they often face. Indeed, in existing national surveys, very few people divulge that they have been sexually assaulted, despite what is known about the prevalence of this experience. In order to understand how rape affects one’s engagement with politics, a more targeted, and sensitive sampling strategy is needed. I expect that for most, being the victim of sexual assault is associated with a decline in political engagement, which has consequences for the issue’s public visibility.
2015 Sudman Honorable Mention Recipient: Stephanie Timm, Deptartment of Urban and Regional Planning, Learning from Singapore: The Role of Cultural and Behavioral Factors in Sustainable Water Planning
The water planning and modeling methods that are currently used to guide urban areas toward more dependable and safe supplies of drinking water have not been able to adequately address the water scarcity challenges many face. Most water management plans and models still lack the integration of cultural and behavioral understanding that is critical for interventions (e.g., water conservation campaigns, implementation of recycled water infrastructure) to be successful (Wester et al., 2015). This research uses the uniquely successful example of Singapore’s integrated water management strategy to: 1) understand the cultural and behavioral barriers to providing safe and sustainable drinking water in water-scarce urban areas, 2) create a framework that can help planners identify these potential barriers, and 3) determine the efficacy of this framework. I use Ajzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior (1991) as a theoretical base for the analysis of water behavioral and cultural data collected in Singapore through a combination of participant observation, semi-structured interviews and a nationally representative mail survey that was distributed to a random sample of 2,000 households. Each method uncovers distinct layers of behavioral and cultural detail, which will then be linked with more generalizable dimensions of national culture such as power distance and collectivism/individualism (Hofstede, 2001) to build an analytical framework. It is hoped that this framework will help urban planning practitioners better understand the often tacit and elusive behavioral / cultural components that make many sustainable strategies referenced from abroad successful in their original context.


Questions about the Ferber-Sudman Awards may be directed to Sharon Shavitt at shavitt@illinois.edu.


Past award winners and dissertation abstracts.

Robert Ferber (1922–1981) and Seymour Sudman (1928–2000) were eminent scholars in the field of survey research. It is in memory of their contributions both to the field and to their students that these awards have been endowed.

Robert Ferber

  • Robert FerberBob Ferber spent his entire academic career at the University of Illinois (1948–1981). He received a B.S. in Mathematics from the City College of New York in 1942 and an M.A. (1945) and Ph.D. (1951) in Economics and Statistics from the University of Chicago. Dr. Ferber was a Professor of Marketing, Research Professor of Economics and of Business Administration, and founding Director of the Survey Research Laboratory from 1964 to 1981.

    In addition to authoring numerous articles, monographs, and chapters in books, Dr. Ferber was the author or co-author of 17 books, including Statistical Techniques in Market Research (1949), Research Methods in Economics and Business (1962), Estudios Fundamentales de Mercadotecnia (1970), Consumer Panels (with Seymour Sudman, 1979), Consumption and Income Distribution in Latin America: Selected Topics (1980), and Social Experimentation and Economic Policy (1982).

    Always active in his field, Ferber was the Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Statistical Association (1959–1963), Editor of the Journal of Marketing Research (1964–1969), President of the American Marketing Association (1969–1970), and Editor of the Journal of Consumer Research (1977–1981). He was survived by his wife Marianne A. Ferber and two children. Mrs. Ferber, herself a noted economist on the faculty of the University of Illinois, passed away in 2013.

    Bob Ferber used to joke that one of his greatest achievements was recruiting Seymour Sudman to the faculty of the University of Illinois in 1968.

Seymour Sudman

  • Seymour SudmanSeymour Sudman received his B.S. in Mathematics from Roosevelt University in 1949 and a Ph.D. in Business from the University of Chicago in 1962. From 1962 to 1968, he was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and the Director of Sampling and a Senior Study Director at the National Opinion Research Center (NORC).

    In 1968, Dr. Sudman joined the faculty of the University of Illinois and the staff of the Survey Research Laboratory. He was Professor of Business Administration and of Sociology and Research Professor and Deputy Director at SRL. In 1985, he was named the Walter H. Stellner Distinguished Professor of Marketing in the Department of Business Administration.

    Sudman was a fellow of the American Statistical Association in 1983 and President of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) in 1981–1982. In 1987, he was awarded the AAPOR Award for lifetime achievement, along with his longtime collaborator Norman Bradburn.

    The author of 19 books and hundreds of articles and presentations, Dr. Sudman is remembered for several major works, including Response Effects in Surveys (1974), Applied Sampling (1976), Asking Questions (1982), Thinking About Answers: The Cognitive Processes to Survey Methodology (1996), and Marketing Research (1998). He is survived by his wife Blanche, three children, and two grandchildren.