The Jimmy and Ileen Cheek Graduate Student Medal of Excellence is awarded annually to an outstanding student currently pursuing a PhD who has completed at least four semesters of study.
Tamra Gilbertson is no ordinary doctoral student. She is a first-generation college student who came to UT’s Department of Sociology after spending years as an activist in Spain. Her dissertation research takes her to Colombia, where she is doing a deep sociological analysis of the political economy and ecology of coal in the country. Even though Colombia is notorious for murders of environmental and community activists, Gilbertson continues to conduct interviews and collect a myriad of other data. “I can attest to the profound importance of Tamra’s dissertation, the deeply invested field research she is conducting in rural Colombia under a Fulbright Scholarship, and the local and global policy relevance of her work both in Colombian communities affected by coal production and in terms of the future of coal globally,” a faculty mentor wrote. He said he expects her dissertation to become a widely read book.