photo of Peacock holding awards, surrounded by faculty, students, and friends.

Urban planning faculty member earns inaugural Texas A&M mentoring award

An entire generation of former students who are now natural hazard educators, researchers, and urban planners received invaluable mentoring from Walter Gillis Peacock, professor of urban planning, and the recipient of an inaugural Texas A&M Outstanding Graduate and Professional Student Mentoring Award.

Because Peacock will be traveling during the upcoming awards ceremony, he received the honor during a surprise presentation at the beginning of his class on Jan. 24, 2023.

“He epitomizes what caring mentoring can be and sets a standard that other faculty follow,” said Michelle Meyer, director of the Texas A&M Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, in an award nomination letter. “His career has been focused on the creation and maintenance of a community of scholars interested in disaster topics. In this community, students are treated as equals to faculty, encouraged to speak, to present research results, to develop and lead research projects — all aimed to foster their independence.”

Peacock, one of the world’s leading hazard and disaster scholars, is a solid pillar of support to students during their Ph.D. and masters’ studies, said a former Ph.D. student who was one of his advisees.

“The support system he created and maintained for all the graduate students in the Texas A&M hazard center was the main force that kept me on track to build both a research program and an amazing network of peers and mentors,” said Sarah Hamideh ‘12, a former Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Sciences student who is now an assistant professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

“This community and professor Peacock helped me continue my Ph.D. work, sometimes under very difficult circumstances when I could not visit my family due to visa problems. Thanks to his continued and robust research advising, feedback and mentorship, I not only finished my Ph.D. on time, but also secured two tenure track offers in my last year as a Ph.D. student.”

Peacock’s stellar support continues even after former students enter academia and the professional world, said Tristan Wu ‘13, one of his former advisees and an associate professor of emergency management and disaster science at the University of North Texas.

“His mentoring does not stop after students graduate. In the past eight years, I kept seeking Peacock’s advice from time to time when I made important career decisions. He has been one of my go-to people for career advice,” said Wu. “He is very generous in guiding young scholars to make important career choices. He makes himself not only available to current students, he is
also very approachable to alums.”

Peacock, who holds the Sandy and Bryan Mitchell Master Builder Endowed Chair and is a faculty fellow at the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center, joined the Aggie faculty in 2002.

He is internationally known for his research on disaster recovery, community resiliency, and social vulnerability and has authored or co-authored three books and over 150 journal articles, book chapters, research monographs, and professional papers.

In 2009 he was awarded the Quarantelli Award for Social Science Disaster Theory, acknowledging his significant theoretical work in disaster and hazard research. 

In 2014 he received the Distinguished Achievement Award in Research from Texas A&M, an award sponsored by The Association of Former Students. He has conducted research in Florida, Texas, California, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, the former Yugoslavia, Italy, Turkey, and India.

Since joining the Texas A&M faculty, he has led or co-led research projects with $6.8 million in external funding from the National Science Foundation, National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, and other prestigious sources.

More updates