Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring
Professor of Economics and Environmental Sciences
Christopher D. Timmins is a professor in the Department of Economics, with a secondary appointment in the Nicholas School of the Environment. He specializes in natural resource and environmental economics, but also has interests in industrial organization, development, and public and regional economics. His recent research has focused on measuring the costs associated with exposure to poor air quality, the benefits associated with remediating brownfields and toxic waste under the Superfund program, and the causes and consequences of “environmental injustice.”
Timmins has dedicated significant time to working with graduate students at all levels, even after graduation. He helped create and leads the Environmental Justice Lab at Duke, which brings together undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. students, as well as faculty and staff, from across departments. In his role overseeing the lab, Timmins helps undergraduate and master’s students pursue jobs and Ph.D. programs. Furthermore, he uses his connections to expand the network of his students and introduce them to interesting people in his field. He also supports students in the economics department at North Carolina State University and has participated in the Adopt-a-Paper and AERE Scholars mentoring programs.
What do you think are the most important qualities of a good mentor for graduate students?
I believe the most important aspect of being a good graduate mentor is simply being willing and able to give one’s time. I don’t think of this as a quality per se because every professor can try to make being an available and attentive listener a priority
How have you evolved as a mentor compared to when you first started mentoring?
In my early days of mentoring, I thought about it more as a process of finding solutions for the graduate students. I’ve since learned that the students usually come up with better solutions on their own but that they need someone to help them negotiate the path to getting there
The benefits of a mentoring relationship for the mentee are obvious, but what do you, as the mentor, gain from it?
Most of what I have learned about economics since finishing my PhD has come from conversations with graduate students. In some cases, I’ve been lucky enough to have the students I’ve mentored become collaborators after they have graduated.
IN THEIR WORDS
Excerpts from Timmins’ nomination
“I will never forget the time when I was going through a serious crisis and reached out to him for help, he immediately provided a lot of help and support without hesitation.”
“Moreover, Chris' mentorship extends far beyond research. It is hard to build relationships with faculty when most of the time research is the only topic of conversation, especially for international students like me. Chris encourages open communication about academic interests and life outside of academia. He understands and demonstrates that life outside academia is key to success and happiness.”
“Having Chris as my mentor has been one of the best choices that I have made while pursuing a Ph.D. at Duke. I cannot be more thankful for every hour that he puts into advising the dissertation and encouraging me and helping me survive through the stressful phases of my Ph.D. years.”
“Chris is incredibly talented at remembering each and every student and uses this ability to set students up with potential research partners and coauthors.”