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Travis Dauwalter earned Duke’s first ever joint PhD in public policy and economics. He is now a consultant with Bain & Company. 

Travis Dauwalter PhD’22 was working in sales for an energy company, when he noticed “how much of my work in sales was influenced by public polices,” he said.  As a former member of the U.S. Air Force, he was also familiar with how policy shaped action in the military.

“I became intrigued by how policy levers impact business decisions, sometimes even before the policies are enacted – just the threat of a policy change can impact behavior,” he said.

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Travis Dauwalter

This eventually led him to the PhD program at the Sanford School.

“I wanted to study energy policy, and Duke had several premiere faculty members in that area.  It was also a family-friendly place,” he said. Dauwalter and his wife, Alegra, were expecting their second child when they decided to come to Durham. They were also impressed with the support for graduate students with families that Duke offered.

“Our second child was born on the first day of class of my first spring semester. Everyone at Duke was super supportive as we grew our family,” Dauwalter said. He added jokingly: “That is, with the exception of one professor who gave me a ‘zero participation’ score for leaving class early to take my wife to the hospital.”

At the end of his first year, Dauwalter was encouraged by Professor Seth Sanders to pursue a study plan that would ultimately earn him Duke’s first ever joint PhD in public policy and economics.

His research focused on U.S. electricity policy. “I wrote a paper with Bobby Harris (a UPEP PhD candidate, also graduating this year) on how U.S. rooftop solar policy has created a suboptimal allocation of panels across different zip codes. If we were to place those solar panels optimally, we would not only improve the total environmental benefits created by these panels but we would also enhance equity outcomes, improving the welfare of poorer households and households of color,” he said.

He also examined electricity markets in PJM, a mid-Atlantic Regional Transmission Organization, and bidding behavior of electricity generators in Texas.  

Because of this degree, my eyes are wide open to how public policy and business are intertwined. My training at Duke taught me to think about business problems through a unique lens and I’m looking forward to applying this knowledge in my professional career.

Travis Dauwalter

School Involvement

Dauwalter served as president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council for 2018-2019. He worked closely with Provost Sally Kornbluth and Dean Paula McClain of The Graduate School to secure benefits such as extending the stipend from 9 months to 12 months and boosting the cost-of-living increases.

He also became very involved in the GPSC food pantry, as there were many graduate students dealing with food insecurity, either on a chronic basis, or due to an emergency. Dauwalter is proud of being able to secure more funding from the university that could support this important resource for graduate and professional students.

This past November, Dauwalter defended his dissertation, and then moved to Atlanta to work as a consultant with Bain & Company. 

“Because of this degree, my eyes are wide open to how public policy and business are intertwined. My training at Duke taught me to think about business problems through a unique lens and I’m looking forward to applying this knowledge in my professional career,” he said.

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