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Paving a Distinct Research Agenda
Theresa Gutberlet
Eller Doctoral Student in Economics

By Lia Sansom
Eller MBA ’13


In three short years, Theresa Gutberlet has proven herself exceptional in the doctoral program in economics. As she looks to complete her degree and begin searching for her first academic appointment, she has a strong foundation of success to propel her forward.

Economics doctoral student Theresa  Gutberlet has incorporated GIS and industrial organization theories into her economic history research.

Economics doctoral student Theresa Gutberlet has incorporated GIS and industrial organization theories into her economic history research.

Gutberlet is a recipient of the prestigious Sokoloff Dissertation Fellowship from the Economic History Association and her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

“I have always been fascinated with industrialization,” she said. “This is the process by which a society changes from being focused on agriculture and hand crafts to building large corporations that invest in machinery and mass production.”

A native of Germany, Gutberlet fell in love with the U.S. academic culture while attending UCLA as an undergraduate exchange student. She returned to the states for her graduate studies at Cal Tech before entering the doctoral program at Eller. She cites her advisor, Price Fishback (Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics), and a department of enthusiastic and knowledgeable colleagues as important contributions in developing her passion and career.

It was this community that led her to incorporate industrial organization (IO) theories into her economic history focus. While these topics have been explored together by other researchers, Gutberlet has added a unique element. “What is new about my research is that I bring new methodology from geography, namely the use of GIS and transportation network analysis,” she said. “So I am combining methodology from geography and IO to answer questions in economic history.”

Economics doctoral student Theresa Gutberlet and Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics Price Fishback conducting research on federal and state expenditures during the 1930s.

Economics doctoral student Theresa Gutberlet and Thomas R. Brown Professor of Economics Price Fishback conducting research on federal and state expenditures during the 1930s.

In particular, Gutberlet has shown how the availability of transportation routes such as railroads and waterways for high-quality coal in Germany played a determining factor in which regions became industrial centers.

Now Gutberlet is turning to the coal region of the Eastern U.S., including Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, and the local causes and effects of industrialization in that region. “My focus on regional development is also relatively new to economic history,” she said. “Most work in our field still focuses on cross-country comparisons, and few people consider regional or local conditions.” Understanding the local regions is particularly important when examining longitudinal effects because, as she explained, “countries tend to become more unequal inside as they develop industrially.” Learn more about the range of Eller College Doctoral Programs.