Brau and Sanks win GSIE Distinguished Thesis Award



Photo submitted

Rebecca Brau

Two recent U of A graduates have won this year’s Distinguished Dissertation Award from the university’s Graduate School and International Education.

Rebekah Brau’s thesis on supply chain management, “Integrating Systems, Processes, and Human Judgment: Three Essays on Value Creation with Supply Chain Analytics”, and Kelly Sanks’ geoscience thesis, “The Morphodynamic Interaction of River Deltas and Their Marshes”, won the prize, which recognizes doctoral students whose theses represent original work that makes an exceptionally significant contribution to their discipline. Brau’s adviser was John Aloysius and Sanks’ adviser was John Shaw.

In winning the award, Brau and Sanks’ work will also compete for the Council of Graduate Schools/Proquest Distinguished Thesis Award at the national level.

“These theses represent the kind of impactful research we seek here at the University of Arkansas and how we prepare students for a successful future,” said Curt Rom, dean of the Graduate School and International Education. “Climate change and the supply chain are two areas that will pose significant challenges to our state, our country, and the world, in the short and long term. These extraordinary research projects provide invaluable information in these areas that will solve problems and improve lives.

Rebecca Brau

Brau, who is now an assistant professor of global supply chain management at Brigham Young University after earning her doctorate from the U of A, has focused her research on the optimal balance of human judgment and analysis in specific areas of the supply chain such as demand planning. His thesis includes three essays on the subject and draws on cognitive psychology, among other fields.

She chose her thesis topic after a discussion with her mentor during the first week of her doctorate. program.

“I was talking with my faculty mentor, John Aloysius, about a grant he had just received that focused on studying the changing nature of supply chain functions due to analytics,” said Brau. “That first conversation hooked me immediately – I was so fascinated by how humans would continue to integrate into supply chain functions despite advances in technology.”

She said she was “delighted and honored” to receive this award.

“The faculty, staff and students at the University of Arkansas are so amazing, so it means to the world that my thesis has been selected to represent the university,” she said. “Choosing to attend the University of Arkansas was one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I will be forever grateful for the training, mentorship, and opportunities the university provides.”

Kelly sinks

Portrait of Kelly Sanks sitting on a rock outcrop

Sanks’ article seeks to deepen understanding of how marsh sediments shape and impact river deltas and how different types of sediment accumulation – such as sand and mud – interact with each other in over the millennia. His research, conducted in collaboration with Shaw, has the potential to help improve future coastal restoration and management.

“I’m very honored to even have been nominated for this award in the first place, and I’m so grateful to have won,” Sanks said. “I had phenomenal mentors during my PhD, and I owe my success to them. Specifically, I could not have written this thesis without John’s support and willingness to let me study coastal marshes, which he wasn’t an expert when I started my PhD.”

Sanks, who now works as a postdoctoral researcher at Tulane University, has always harbored a love for nature and pursued studies in geology to help deal with environmental threats such as climate change and also to help disadvantaged communities. suffering from environmental degradation.

“I’ve seen how low-income neighborhoods are affected by environmental degradation, such as poor water or air quality,” she said. “My father was one of 12 children who grew up in a two-bedroom house in a low-income neighborhood in Chicago. My aunts, uncles, and father all struggled with various health issues, and many of them have died of some type of cancer, including my father. I want to use my career as a scientist to help underprivileged people address the pressing issues facing their communities as well, so that other families can avoid similar fates .

Sanks became fascinated with coastal changes after taking a course in environmental geology. And after earning his bachelor’s degree from Illinois State University, Sanks completed an internship at the US Geological Survey in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, which directed his interest specifically to coastal marshes.

“It was through this internship that I became interested in how marshes will respond to sea level rise and climate change and their potential as carbon sinks,” she said. declared. “Right after this internship, I started my PhD with John Shaw and told him that I wanted to continue research related to marshes. With his experience in river deltas and my experience in salt marshes, we came up with the idea to investigate how ecological processes in coastal marshes interact with physical processes in river deltas, which is often overlooked in studies of delta evolution.”

Annual award

The Distinguished Dissertation Award is an annual prize launched in 2021 which recognizes two theses, each from different disciplines, with the qualifying disciplines alternating each year. Nominations are solicited each spring by the Associate Dean of the Graduate School. Each doctoral program can nominate a student in the appropriate scholarship cycle. Students must have graduated within the last two fiscal years.

More information on the award can be found on the GSIE website.

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