Tina Das: a challenging and caring champion for students

The winner of this year’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, Tina Das, professor of economics, motivates students to push beyond their limits and take risks.

Professor of Economics Tina Das expects the best from her students. She drives them hard, pushing them to be risk takers and challenging them in every course she teaches in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

“Tina motivates students to think deeper and stretch further to the point where they impress not only their instructor but also themselves,” a colleague says.

Regardless of whether Das is teaching a business economics class, revamping the Business Fellows program or mentoring students in undergraduate research, a study abroad program or with their career path, she brings her own unique style and creativity to the job.

“Possessed with immense intelligence and the ability to connect a concept with an event lightning quick, she shows her students how pertinent to the workings of their world is the material she is helping them learn,” a colleague says. “Yes, students howl in distress at how hard she is making them work. But at some point in every semester, nearly every student realizes that they are learning important content and—to their great relief—if they work at it they will likely pass her course.”

Das, who has taught at Elon for 18 years and also serves as the director of the Business Fellows program, is described by students and faculty as scary but caring. “Scary smart, scary fast and scary knowledgeable.” It is not unusual to hear students in the Business Fellows program say that they don’t want to let “Das down.”

“In my opinion, you have to truly respect someone if you don’t want to let them down,” a colleague says.

She makes a lasting impact. Many business students attribute their success at Elon and  in their respective careers to Das.

“She encouraged all of us to come to her with any questions or reservations we had about our classes,” says a former Business Fellow. “On numerous occasions, I went to her in a distressed state and because of her no-nonsense mindset, was able to get quickly back on track.”

Das isn’t the type to coddle a student, but she still finds a way to show she cares. “Serving as my adviser, Das is the first person I turn to when something goes awry,” a student says. “… She is number one in my support system. Even during my most stressful endeavors, Das has been there, not to hold my hand, but to be the person in my corner rooting me on.”

When Das engages in a research project with a student, she asks tough questions and then teaches students how to research to answer them. She pushes them to do their best work and to have confidence while doing it.

“What I feel is so uniquely Tina, is that she is able to mentor student research without ever making the student feel like a student,” a colleague says. “Rather, she treats them as an equal and respects their ideas and encourages them to derive their own approach to the problem while making them defend and rationalize their thought process.”

Das avails herself to students in the way they are most comfortable communicating, whether it’s in person, through email or via social media. “She is always connected and engaged with our students and makes herself available when students need her,” a colleague says.

Das is tough. Her expectations are high, but her support is always evident. “I believe in life the only way to be successful in anything that you do is to have a champion,” a student says. “If you have someone pushing you, believing in you—even when you don’t believe in yourself—you are much more likely to achieve success. Das is that champion for me.”

Das received a doctoral and master’s degree in economics from the University of Cincinnati, a master’s degree in economics from the University of Calcutta and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Presidency College in India. She has received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in service, research and teaching in the Love School of Business in 2013, 2008 and 2005, respectively.

She is the 42nd Elon faculty member to receive the Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, which was established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and his late wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents.

Coming up next week: a profile on Steve DeLoach, winner of this year’s Distinguished Scholar Award.