Benjamin Skinner (@btskinner) is a first-year research assistant professor in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. His research interests include quantitative methods, the geography of opportunity, and broad-access colleges. While working on his dissertation at Vanderbilt, he co-authored two great articles with his committee chair Will Doyle. The first, in Economics of Education Review, estimated the economic returns to college using geographic variation in the location of colleges to draw causal inference. The second, in The Journal of Higher Education (and an article that I use in my higher ed finance class), used a similar estimation strategy to look at the relationship between years of education and civic engagement.
Ben is perhaps best known for his incredible work with data—and for his willingness to share his code and materials with the general public. (More scholars should be doing this!) For example, the “code” page of his website includes helpful packages to help download and manage the massive College Scorecard dataset and how to work with LaTeX files. He has also put together some interesting data visualizations of college opportunity that look great and tell a compelling story. There is also quite a bit of material on his GitHub page, which is a great way to work with large data files (and something that I probably should learn at some point).