Gretchen Pfeil from the Department of Anthropology and Winnie Van Dijk from the Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics have been selected as the 2020 recipients of the Richard Saller Dissertation Prize, which recognizes the most outstanding dissertations of the year.

Gretchen Pfeil’s dissertation, Sarax and Sutura: Alms and the Value of Discretion in Dakar, Senegal, is based on ethnographic and linguistic fieldwork conducted in Dakar, Senegal,

where she examined the crisscrossing circulations of signs, values, knowledge, and goods that create the city and construct gendered persons in it. François Richard, Associate Professor in the the Department of Anthropology and a member of her dissertation committee, wrote of her thesis that “[it] is the best piece of anthropological research that has ever been produced on Senegal, and one of the top 2-3 dissertations that I have read in African Studies in the last 15 years. It is an outstanding piece of work, which will become the kind of monograph that defines a career, and that parlays ethnographic specificity into statements of broad and profound significance.”

Winnie van Dijk's dissertation, Essays on Rental Housing Market Policies and the Socio-Economic

Mobility of Low-Income Households, analyzes the effect of Europe's largest public housing program on a wide range of socio-economic outcomes, including labor market outcomes, neighborhood and housing quality, and public assistance receipt. In the work, she also uses a choice model to characterize individuals' application decisions and to recover the distribution of heterogeneity driving selection into and returns from lotteries. Ufuk Akcigit, Director of Graduate Studies and the Arnold C. Harberger Professor of Economics, wrote that her work "achieves the rare combination of contributions that define exemplary scholarship in empirical social science: methodological innovation, meticulous measurement, and illuminating policy relevance.”

This year’s faculty review committee members were Michael Fisch (Anthropology), Dario Maestripieri (Comparative Human Development), Adrian Johns (Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science), Ufuk Akcigit (Griffin Economics), Jonathan Lyon (History), Paul Poast (Political Science), Ed Awh (Psychology), Joel Isaac (Social Thought), and Kristen Schilt (Sociology).

The award is named for Richard P. Saller, the tenth Provost of the University of Chicago (2002-2006) and former Dean of the Division of the Social Sciences (1994-2002). Professor Saller joined the University of Chicago as an Associate Professor of Anthropology in 1984. He was awarded the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 1992 and was named the Edward L. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor. He left UChicago in 2007 for Stanford University where he served as Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences until 2018. He is presently the the Kleinheinz Family Professor of European Studies at Stanford.

A full list of all Saller Prize recipients is available at