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Nathan J. Kelly, associate professor of political science.

For the first time, a UT professor has received a major Carnegie fellowship. Nicknamed “the brainy awards,” the fellowship is one of the most prestigious awards for scholars in the social sciences and humanities.

Nathan J. Kelly, associate professor of political science, has been named a 2017 Andrew Carnegie Research Fellow. The recognition comes for his work studying how economic inequality reinforces itself through politics.

Kelly is one of 35 scholars nationwide who will receive up to $200,000 from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to complete a book or major study.

“This fellowship is an incredible honor for both Dr. Kelly and the university,” said UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport. “We are proud of this achievement and the well-deserved attention he is getting for his work. His scholarship will shed light on critical policy issues that face our nation.”

Kelly will use the award to complete his book, America’s Inequality Trap. Kelly’s research shows that rising economic inequality reduces the prospect of major reforms and policy changes within US political institutions. Economic inequality reinforces itself through politics, public opinion, elections, policy stagnation, and policy making.

“It’s difficult to convey how exciting it is to be selected for this award,” Kelly said. “In the academic world, our work is often a grind, and there are usually dozens of intermediate steps before we actually see the positive results. This was different; it felt like sinking a long putt on the 18th hole to win an important match, and it warranted a fist-pump. This sort of thing so rarely happens in the life of a scholar.”

Kelly was chosen out of a pool of 200 proposals from Carnegie candidates. Thirty-three anonymous prominent scholars reviewed and rated the proposals. The Carnegie Fellowship selection committee, composed of 16 members, then selected the winners. Committee members represent some of the world’s premier institutions of learning. Ten of the committee members are either current or former university presidents.

“Nate Kelly has addressed important and timely issues that bring attention to his excellent work, the department, and the college,” said Theresa Lee, dean of the UT College of Arts and Sciences. “His appointment to the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program is a well-deserved honor.”

Richard Pacelle, head of the UT Department of Political Science, noted that Kelly “is simply one of the most important political scientists today. His research reaches beyond the ivory tower to address modern problems of inequality. It is fitting that he becomes the first professor at UT to win this prestigious award.”

To learn more about the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, visit the website.


Lola Alapo (865-974-3993,