Supporting the Research and Practice of Social Ethics and Social Theory

About The Gessell Fellowship

The Gessell Fellowship in Social Ethics offers funds to enable an independent research project in social theory or social ethics. The project may be an academic research paper or field experience. Projects with a local focus are particularly encouraged. The award recipient will complete the project during the course of the academic year, and will submit a final paper and give a public presentation on their research topic to the Sewanee community in late March.

This fellowship was established in 2004 by John M. “Jack” Gessell, Professor emeritus of Christian ethics of Sewanee's School of Theology, to provide funding for Sewanee students to do an independent research project in social theory or social ethics. One of the outcomes that Dr. Gessell hoped for through this fellowship is that the recipient will come up with a "social prescription" to address the social ethics issue that was researched.


Awards alternate yearly between students from the College (odd years) and the School of Theology (even years.)




Students are awarded a stipend of $1,650, plus expenses (up to $500)

Duration of internship:

Academic year

Application Deadline:

May 15, 2023

Previous GESSell recipients and research topics

How to Apply

All applications must be submitted by the deadline i.e. May 15, 2023; no late entries will be accepted. In the online application form, please include the following:

  1. A carefully-edited and well-written proposal (around 750 words)

  2. A resume

  3. A list of 2-3 references (with at least one from a faculty member)

To get started in applying for this fellowship, you need to find a topic about social ethics that you are very interested in researching in depth over the course of 9-12 months. Second, make an appointment with a faculty member of your choice to discuss your research ideas. It is expected that you meet with this faculty advisor at least 2-3 times to discuss your research proposal before you submit your application (the application will ask you who your faculty advisor is). Meeting with your advisor will help you develop and refine your proposal; asking your advisor to review the final draft of your proposal before submitting it is highly recommended.

Proposal Guidelines


Please submit a well-written and carefully-edited proposal of around 750 words.


The proposal should contain the following sections:


The introduction should provide a clear but concise overview of the current state of knowledge in the area of investigation. This should include recent literature results and/or preliminary data or information you may have already generated. Introduce the specific question/hypothesis you will address and show why it is important.


The statement of objectives should provide a detailed list of the major goal(s) you will achieve. It should clearly show what will be learned via the study to be undertaken. It may include a restatement and expansion of the questions to be tested; for example, it may be useful to split an overarching question asked in the introduction into smaller questions that will be specifically explored/answered.


The plan of work should provide enough detail to convince the proposal reviewers that the questions can and will be answered through the proposed study. It may be appropriate to include details about specific activities that will be done or texts that will be consulted. In both cases, a strong  proposal will anticipate the outcomes of a line of inquiry and offer alternative approaches in cases where the problems are anticipated. This section of the proposal should also include a realistic timeline for the project that convinces the reviewers that the project is feasible in the time available.


The statement of impact should address both the intrinsic intellectual merit of the project and its broader impacts.  In stating the broader impacts the applicant should consider the following questions: What are the expected products of the proposed work (presentations, publications, social or political action, etc.)? One of the hopes that Dr. Gessell had for this fellowship is that the recipient will come up with a "social prescription" to address the social ethics issue that was researched.  

5.  Identify the faculty mentor

A statement that you have identified a faculty person who has agreed to mentor you as you complete the project. In the statement, please identify the faculty member.