Every spring, tucked away on the edge of campus in an historic building, a meaningful ceremony takes place. Around ten newly minted Ph.D. alumni return to campus – from all over the world – to speak about their dissertation research to a small group of faculty members, friends and family, and other guests.

ProQuest staff, distinguished dissertation awardees and guests listed to the 2017 award winners explain their research.

These alumni are rock stars. Don’t think Steven Tyler, think Nobel Prize or Fields Medal winners. Think faculty who develop world-changing research.

They come back to be a part of a very elite group of alumni that receive the ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Award. The list of U-M honorees is around 800 strong, thanks to 26 years of corporate sponsorship.

ProQuest, then called University Microfilms Inc. (UMI), was a natural fit when its founder Eugene Power (sidebar) and Dean John D’Arms joined forces to establish the awards in the 1980s. Funded annually since 1987, the Distinguished Dissertation Award accepts faculty nominations for any of the roughly 900 dissertations produced annually from U-M Ph.D. candidates. An esteemed committee culls that list to around ten winners and several more honorable mentions every year. U-M’s awards were the first in ProQuest’s larger program to honor significant research throughout North America. ProQuest also supports awards through the Council of Graduate Schools and the Canadian Association of Graduate Studies.

For nearly 80 years, ProQuest has preserved and archived dissertations for U-M Ph.D.s – and for thousands of universities around the world– creating an invaluable database of scholarly research that is also stored in the Library of Congress. ProQuest has been the United States’ official dissertation publisher since 1951.

Dissertation publishing has changed from bound books and the pioneering days of Eugene Power’s microfilm to digital archives. The size and scope of ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Database has grown dramatically – now topping 4 million dissertations from around the world. Online access through the ProQuest platform and its connection to Google Scholar means the authors’ works are visible and accessible to millions of researchers and students worldwide. While ProQuest’s relationship with U-M has evolved, the Distinguished Dissertation Awards remain a constant: an annual opportunity to reflect on shared respect for outstanding scholarly work.

“This is a flagship program and a highlight of our history of partnership with the University of Michigan,” said Allan Lu, Ph.D., ProQuest vice president, research tools, services and platforms.  “For those of us who work directly with the dissertations it’s even more meaningful: the awards remind us of the importance of making this incredible doctoral research more visible and discoverable to other scholars.”

In recent years, ProQuest has also funded research days and symposia at U-M. The company has also provided special writing support grants and funded research on human interaction design with Kevyn Collins-Thompson, Associate Professor of Information and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, whose work aligns with ProQuest’s mission to support better research and learning in schools and universities.

The DDA awards in the Rackham Assembly Hall.

This year’s Distinguished Dissertation Award ceremony is open to the public and takes place April 24 at 2:00 pm at the Rackham Graduate School. For more information on the awards, please visit http://www.rackham.umich.edu/faculty-staff/awards/distinguished-dissertation-awards#Winners.

For more information on ProQuest: http://www.proquest.com/

A Powerful Legacy

Eugene Power used his new technology (microfilm) to reproduce scholarly publications during WWII, preserving important works under threat of destruction. He was knighted by England’s Queen Elizabeth II for his efforts.

He not only pioneered the use of microfilm but blended that technology with Xerography, building UMI into an international repository for scholarly achievements.

After retirement, he devoted his time and resources to philanthropic endeavors by establishing the Power Foundation, developing the Power Exchange Scholarships and the Power Center for Performing Arts at U-M.

Power earned three U-M degrees (1927 BA in Political Science, 1930 MBA, and 1971 Honorary Doctorate). Numerous members of Power’s family are U-M alumni, including his wife Sadye (AB 1923, MS 1925) and their son Regent Emeritus Phil Power.