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The National Institute for the Study of Transfer Students encourages the development and dissemination of knowledge that informs the academic and practitioner communities on transfer.

The transfer field thrives when intentional, rigorous inquiry is conducted and applied to practice. NISTS celebrates emerging scholars who exemplify this philosophy through the Barbara K. Townsend Dissertation Award. 


Recognized as a top higher education scholar, Barbara K. Townsend studied and wrote prolifically about transfer, forcing the academy to recognize an often overlooked student population. Her work elevated the role of community colleges and emphasized the importance of shared responsibility across two- and four-year sectors for transfer student success. She influenced state policy and institutional practice and her mentorship inspired colleagues and students alike. Dr. Townsend’s research and insights continue to serve as the foundation for contemporary transfer scholarship, and NISTS is honored to bestow this award to those continuing her legacy.


This award is granted biannually, and faculty are invited to nominate exceptional dissertations, regardless of methodological approach or academic discipline. For the next award cycle, the dissertation must have been successfully defended and filed with the nominee’s graduate division or school between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2022.

The dissertation award application is currently closed and will reopen in summer 2024.

Award Package
  • Complimentary registration for and designated concurrent session slot during the NISTS 2023 annual conference, February 22-24, 2023, in Portland, Oregon

  • Recognition at the NISTS 2023 annual awards ceremony, including a brief summary of the project in the conference program

  • Featured on the NISTS website and social media channels, with an opportunity to publish a brief article on the NISTS website





The Barbara K. Townsend Dissertation Award is open to graduate students who are conducting research on any aspect of the transfer experience.* All nominations will be reviewed and judged by a national panel, with exclusion of judges associated with the nominee’s institution. The dissertation must have been successfully defended and filed with the nominee’s graduate division or school between September 1, 2020 and September 30, 2022.
*NISTS Advisory Board members, staff members, sponsors, and vendors, as well as University of North Georgia faculty, staff, and students are not eligible for this award.


Application Guidelines


Faculty members are invited to nominate exceptional dissertations for award consideration. 


The nomination deadline is September 30, 2022 at 11:59 pm PST.    

You must submit the following required materials along with the online nomination form:

  •   Dissertation Chair’s Nomination Letter

  •   Dissertation Summary (see below for details)

Additional Information:

  • An electronic copy of the full dissertation will be requested from award finalists.

  • A faculty member may nominate no more than two candidates.

  • Winner will be asked to submit a high-quality head-shot (with minimum dimensions of 500px by 500px and 300ppi).  


Nomination Letter:

The chair of the dissertation committee is asked to write and sign a nomination letter, which should contain information relevant to the work of the award committee (e.g. importance of the topic, methodological highlights, etc.). In the event that the chair is unable to submit this letter, a nomination letter from another dissertation committee member will be accepted.


Dissertation Summary:


  • Must be double-spaced and saved in PDF format

  • Remove all identifying information (college or institution, cities, towns, landmarks, etc.)

  • May not exceed 10 pages


Required components of the dissertation summary:


  • Research rationale and purpose of the study

  • Brief literature review

  • Research questions and/or hypotheses guiding the study

  • Methodology used, including research design, data collection methods, data analysis methods, and rationale for each

  • Significant findings and relevance to higher education transfer policy, practice, and research

  • Bibliography of references (does not count toward the 10 page limit)


Please address questions to Judith Brauer.

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