The Jefferson Prize honors a tenured or tenure-track faculty member for significant contributions through research and creative activity.
The Indonesian province of Kalimantan, located on the island of Borneo, is blessed with ample supplies of coal and other natural resources. But the people of this region are locked into an unending cycle of poverty. To Paul Gellert, the situation looks a lot like that of an area much closer to home: the Appalachian region of the United States. Gellert, an associate professor of sociology, now has the resources to research those connections, thanks to his selection as winner of the 2013 Jefferson Prize. The prize is a multiyear grant given to researchers working in areas of science where funding is more difficult to obtain. Gellert, who came to UT in 2005 from Cornell University, is an acknowledged expert on Indonesian resource extraction and the industry’s effects on the nation’s society, its politics, and the local and global economies. Indonesia is not alone in the world as it struggles to support its people through extractive industry, Gellert’s nomination notes. “The Appalachian region—historically exploited for timber and then coal—also has suffered as a land of rich resources and poor people.” The discrepancy raises questions of the unequal distribution of political benefits as well as economic progress. “Gellert is a highly productive researcher in sociology, and the Jefferson Prize will speed him on his way in this important work,” his nomination says.