The Graduate School at Virginia Tech has bestowed the 2010 Outstanding Dissertation in the Social Sciences, Business and Humanities Award to Heather Switzer of Blacksburg, who graduated in December with a doctorate in planning, governance, and globalization from the School of Public and International Affairs, College of Architecture and Urban Studies, and research associate in Virginia Tech's Institute for Policy and Governance.

Switzer’s dissertation focuses on the gendered effects of globalization and development on identity and social role formation among indigenous Maasai schoolgirls in rural Kenya, Africa. Her work in the areas of girls' education and the effects of development imperatives on local gender relations and social categories was supported by an American Association of University Women's American Dissertation Fellowship.

Switzer’s research interests include development in Sub-Saharan Africa, girls’ issues in developing contexts, girlhood studies, gender and education, African feminist/gender theory, Kenya, and qualitative methodologies.

As the recipient of this award, Switzer will receive a certificate and $1,000 at the Graduate Awards Banquet on March 25. “The Graduate School is proud to recognize outstanding students as part of Graduate Education Week, which is celebrated nationally to acknowledge the research, service, and teaching contributions of graduate students throughout the nation and at Virginia Tech,” said Janet Rankin, associate dean for graduate education and professor of human nutrition, foods, and exercise in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Switzer is currently an adjunct professor in women and gender studies and a research associate with Virginia Tech's Institute for Policy and Governance. She was named an American Association of University Women American Dissertation Fellow in 2008 and received both a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in English from Virginia Tech.