Christopher Eliot, PhD, associate professor of philosophy in the Peter S. Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs, Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been named the 2017 Mentor of the Year, an annual award that honors outstanding faculty supervision of advanced undergraduate research.
“This mentoring award reflects how much Hofstra values collaborative relationships between students and faculty working on research projects,” said Dr. Eliot. “We’re teachers and researchers, but we also care about making time to help students explore problems and issues that are important to them. My peers and I prioritize that, and I am grateful to get to work with such engaged and thoughtful students.”
The Mentor of the Year award, now in its sixth year, is given to a full-time faculty member who has guided students toward developing original ideas for research in any discipline – from the laboratory or clinic to the library, field, or stage — as they prepare to make the transition from their undergraduate years to graduate studies or professional life.
He serves as the adviser for Hofstra’s new interdisciplinary minor in scientific reasoning and data analysis, and has co-taught the Honors College introductory course, Culture & Expression, several times. Dr. Eliot also oversees philosophy majors’ research and writing of senior honors theses, in which they explore a philosophical problem in depth.
“Students drop by my office to discuss a lot more than just the courses they’re taking,” he said. “They want to talk about how ideas they’re thinking about fit together and how their interests are developing towards work or programs they might pursue when they graduate. The satisfaction of helping them first with small challenges and then later with putting all the pieces together is why I’m in this career.”
Dr. Eliot’s students have gone on to medical and law schools and to a notably diverse range of careers. While a few pursue graduate work in philosophy, most apply the questioning and reasoning skills they develop by studying philosophy to work as varied as writing computer code to starting a business or developing public health policy.
Students who nominated Dr. Eliot noted that his encouragement inspired them to do their best:
“Dr. Eliot is one of the most dedicated professors I have ever had the honor of working with during my undergraduate career…I took his symbolic logic class and his joy for the subject was evident from day one.”
“He informed me about the Firestone Fellowship, and helped me put together an application. It was my first taste of any type of academic research, and his unwavering support was evident. I always felt welcome in his office, whether to discuss the class assignments or application, because he genuinely enjoys helping students reach their potential.”
“He was an amazing sounding board for my ideas, allowing me to truly pursue my interests. I was a bit self-conscious that my work was not ‘philosophical’ enough because I am interested in practical healthcare application, but he helped to reassure me that philosophy can be successfully [applied across] disciplines. It is this type of interdisciplinary perspective that helps people see the value of their major beyond school.”
“He nurtures his students’ abilities, helping them to see their dormant talents.”
“Professor Eliot has gone above and beyond his duties as my adviser. He worked with me several months in advance of my initial research semester [and] saved me many times from existential crisis when I realized my thesis was deviating from its original course. When I wrestle with a challenging section of an article, a set of arguments, or an entire philosophical doctrine, he will do his best to empathize and work with me towards a solution. This often means exchanging late night ‘Eureka!’ emails or hours-long meetings in his office. Throughout this exhaustive process, he has remained incredibly motivating and supportive.”
The Mentor of the Year award reaffirms Hofstra’s recognition of advanced undergraduate research and dedicated faculty supervision as part of its commitment to teaching excellence, said Vice Provost for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Neil H. Donahue.
Dr. Eliot was presented with the Mentor of the Year award at the Celebration of Scholarly Excellence ceremony on Friday, May 19, 2017. Previous winners of this award include political science professor Paul Fritz, global studies and geography professors James Wiley and Kari Jensen, media studies professor Mary Ann Allison, and biology professor Justin DiAngelo.