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Meet the New Faculty: Jeff Cross, Economics


Jeff Cross joined the faculty as an assistant professor of economics in August. He talks here about his research in environmental/energy economics, and what drew him to Hamilton.

Why did you start teaching?

Like many things in my life, I stumbled into teaching. In 2012, I was a sophomore in college taking an economics class [and] it quickly became normal for me to spend most of my time “preparing for exams” by explaining the material to a couple of friends in the same class. While in this process, it became clear that (1) I loved economics and (2) that I loved sharing that passion with others via teaching the subject matter.

Why did you choose Hamilton?

Balance. My ideal job allows me to engage with teaching and research equally. Hamilton offers this balance in an environment with incredibly bright and curious students who can push me in the classroom.

How has your time here been so far?

It has been challenging, but also rewarding. Although moving from California (where my family is) to New York has been tough, interacting with the students and other faculty has made the transition relatively seamless. Every time I have a question, someone is happy to listen and help. This support makes moving away from what is comfortable far less stressful than it could be.

My ideal job allows me to engage with teaching and research equally. Hamilton offers this balance in an environment with incredibly bright and curious students who can push me in the classroom.

What is your research/interest in environmental/energy economics?

I am particularly interested in two distinct research areas. First, when we enact environmental policies, who does the burden fall on? How much of this is borne by consumers or producers? Understanding this allows us to best design policies that mitigate any undue burden for particular groups. Second, I am interested in the intersection of behavioral and energy economics. For example, how we can adequately incentivize customers to reduce electricity consumption during peak hours (when emissions are highest) is something I have been thinking about recently.

What is one of your favorite places on campus?

Without a doubt, it is Kirner-Johnson. First and foremost, it is a reminder that the job search was well worth it. Second, it was a massive surprise to me when I visited. On many campuses, the economics department is situated in an out-of-date, not aesthetically pleasing building. Here I walk out of my office and hear the small waterfalls in the common area!

What do you do in your free time?

Soccer. I love to play whenever my body — and the weather — allows me. As an undergraduate, I played club soccer before going to graduate school and starting pickup games in my free time. Since I have moved out here, I try to get in at least a few hours on the pitch every week.

What classes did you teach last semester?

Last semester I taught Topics in Environmental Economics and the Senior Project in Environmental Economics. It was my first semester, so it was nice starting with the material that I am most passionate about! Moreover, teaching the seniors highlighted how excellent the economics education and students at Hamilton College are.

What experiences stand out?

Pushing the students and having them rise to the occasion. I had high standards, and the students more than met them.

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming semester?

Teaching undergraduates how to work with data. I love taking the concepts that we learn in class and applying them using data during the labs. This is something that I was able to do a little bit of last semester, but I’m excited to do more this upcoming semester. 

Can you talk about your faculty colleagues?

There is a lot of change going on now. One thing that I feel confident saying, however, is that I am fortunate to be a part of this department. Everyone I have met, tenured and tenure-track, is kind and caring. It is great being surrounded by people who want the best for each other, and I am confident that the department will continue to be like this.

What do you like most about your students?

Interacting with them. This is not something you get to do at many other schools where students are not names and faces, but instead ID numbers on the grade sheet. Here you get to know what they like to do and what areas they struggle with. It helps that they are all intellectually curious, which means that they reach out for help or to talk about the subject

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