15th Annual Dissertation Awards


We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 Robert Ferber and Seymour Sudman Dissertation Awards.


(Click recipient name to view abstract.)

2016 Ferber Award Recipient: Sandy Wong, Department of Geography & Geographic Information Science, Dis/abling Mobilities: Urban-Rural Experiences of Visual Impairment, Employment, and Well-Being
The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in the U.S. prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities, yet most continue to experience tremendous difficulty entering the labor market. If work is a critical means to identity formation, political citizenship, and social inclusion, then the condition of persistent unemployment relegates individuals with disabilities to second-class citizenship in an increasingly neoliberal society, one that simultaneously excludes them from the sphere of work and unjustly blames them for their lack of productivity and independence. This dissertation seeks to investigate the relations of power across urban and rural landscapes that impact the differential employment outcomes, well-being, and mobility of individuals who are visually impaired in California. The two main objectives are to examine: 1) the spatial, statistical, and temporal population trends of employment and disability in California in the years following the enactment of the 1990 ADA; and 2) the present-day individual experiences and institutional influences in the San Francisco Bay Area as an in-depth case study. Multiple methods will be used: survey questionnaires, statistical techniques, GIS mapping, semi-structured interviews, and qualitative analysis. This dissertation advances the rehabilitation and psychology scholarship on disability and work by incorporating the role of geographic context. This project asserts that space actively creates and strengthens social processes that continue to marginalize individuals with disabilities; and it investigates in more quantitative and qualitative detail the extent to which place, distance, time, and access factor into a person’s job prospects and mobility. The results of this study will provide insights into issues and initiatives for policy and advocacy intervention, which will be further developed with input from and collaboration with disability organizations and planning agencies.
2016 Sudman Award Recipient: Ben Kern, Department of Kinesiology & Community Health, Barriers to and Facilitators of Physical Education Teacher Change
Quality physical education is instrumental in preparing children to be physically active throughout their lifetime. The importance of quality physical education for children is at an all time high given the rising incidence of childhood obesity however, many current physical education programs lack the type of instruction needed to fulfill the potential health benefits of physical education. Research has shown that targeted changes to physical education programs can increase student learning and physical activity levels as well as improve student health and enjoyment of physical activity. While this kind of positive change is needed and possible, little is known about how to facilitate the pedagogical changes that lead to higher quality instruction. To understand how to promote change, it is necessary to first understand the change process. Currently, the available literature on this topic in physical education is extremely inadequate. Therefore, to better understand the change process, the current study will investigate the behaviors of physical education teachers regarding changes they have made and intend to make in the future, along with the factors that influence their ability to make changes. A mixed-methods study including a quantitative survey of over 2,000 physical educators from six US multi-state regions will be conducted. The survey will provide valuable data regarding the pedagogical change practices of physical education teachers and their dispositions toward the change process. From the pool of survey respondents, 30 teachers will be selected for follow-up interviews in order to more deeply investigate the barriers to and facilitators of pedagogical change. Survey results are also used to classify interviewees as more or less disposed to change and provide data for triangulation of the qualitative results. It is expected that this research will begin to fill a very large void in physical education research and may impact the future of the field.
2016 Ferber Honorable Mention Recipient: Pongsakorn Suppakittpaisarn, Department of Landscape Architecture, Green Stormwater Infrastructure Design, Preference, and Human Health
The environments we live in impact our lives. Some environments invigorate us, reduce our stress, and help us make better decisions. Others make us more anxious, distracted, and physically ill. Recently, U.S. cities have implemented new landscapes to manage stormwater called Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI). Because GSI elements are so new, we know little about the extent to which and by what mechanisms they impact humans. What are people’s preferences for these landscapes? To what extent do they promote well-being and reduce the stress and distraction that people in urban areas often feel? This study plans to address these questions and advance our understanding of how urban nature can improve citizens’ lives by doing three step research: surveying the existing GSI across US cities, surveying people’s preference of GSI, and testing how seeing GSI affect human physical and mental responses. The knowledge provided by the results of this study could help bring nature, including GSI, to every doorstep. These findings will add to a growing body of evidence that shows how urban nature is important to human well-being, and will help encourage policy makers to allow, design, and propose more urban green spaces.
2016 Sudman Honorable Mention Recipient: Amanda Cronkhite, Department of Political Science, The Medium Matters: Political Communication and Behavior in Modern Latin America
My dissertation argues that the development of media institutions in a country shapes political behavior in that country. Specifically I contend that the institutional history and government linkages of different types of media (newspapers, radio, television, Internet) condition their output -- news content. I further argue that the closer media institutions are with political institutions the less political engagement and mobilization we might expect to see from citizens, and vice versa. I present a generalizable theory that I test in Latin America, using multilingual sources to code for media history. I link those institutions to behavior using two cross national datasets -- the World Values Survey and the AmericasBarometer -- as well as original data collected in Bolivia in 2014. Since most existing theories related to political behavior and media were developed in Western industrialized democracies, the survey data from Bolivia amounts to an extreme test of existing theory, to see if the ideas on which political communication bases many of its assumptions actually properly travel to other cultures.


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.