December 1, 2016

In 1993, thanks to federal financial support, Tim Mukoda, MSPH, was able to earn a master’s degree in environmental sciences and engineering (ESE) at UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health. Now a U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard veteran and health and safety manager with Kinder Morgan, an energy infrastructure company based in Houston, Mukoda is a huge proponent of “paying it forward” – helping provide to others the educational opportunities that benefited him.

Mukoda, who lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and two young sons, spoke recently with Crystal Hinson Miller, MA, CFRE, associate dean for advancement at the Gillings School.

Crystal Miller: Describe your experience at UNC.

Tim Mukoda

Tim Mukoda

Tim Mukoda: Amazing! I met students and faculty who challenged me to think about issues in ways I hadn’t previously considered. I am especially grateful to Drs. Dave Leith and Mike Flynn [ESE professors], who were the epitome of supportive teachers/mentors, and to the late Dr. Jim Watson, who taught me about risk assessment, risk communication, and the importance of credibility and technical competence. I met wonderful people, many of whom I keep up with personally and professionally.

Miller: You have been a generous supporter for more than 20 years. What motivated you to start giving, and why do you continue?

Mukoda: When I finished school and returned to the Air Force, I wanted to get in the habit of giving back what I could. Initially, the gifts were modest, but over time, I’ve been able to be more generous. The average person can’t give to every worthy cause, but people should make a deliberate choice to contribute to something meaningful. There’s a quote that resonates with me – Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. One way to be kind is to help someone in need, whether you know that person or not. I give to Carolina because the education and experiences I had there have enriched my life, and I want that for others.

Miller: What impact do you want your gifts to have?

Mukoda: Ideally, I’d like a person who receives anonymous financial help to remember what it feels like to get something you didn’t ask for. I’d like the recipient to take the gift – and the experience he or she has at Carolina – and use it to make another person’s life a little better.

Miller: Why is philanthropy important?

Mukoda: Good intentions are only that – intentions. What matters is establishing the habit of giving. If every UNC public health alumnus gave up one visit to Starbucks per month and donated that $5 ($60 per year), that would be more than $1 million! The Gillings School could provide intentional, flexible resources to support the greatest student and faculty priorities. I hope even recent alumni will do some self-reflection and get into the habit of giving to Carolina!

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