By Sandra Lerebours
Bryan Davis’ career has taken him from Chapel Hill to China and back again over the course of four years.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008, Davis received a Frances L. Phillips Travel Scholarship to go to China, where he had previously studied as an undergraduate. His original research plan took an unexpected turn when he decided to make China his permanent residence.
“I was really determined to learn the language when I first got there, so I worked as a vagabond English teacher/intern/self-study student for the first year I was there,” Davis explained.
Davis developed professional proficiency in Mandarin, allowing him to work as a translator and editor. He eventually began consulting for the renewable energy sector and became increasingly interested in data analysis.
“I felt compelled to do more math-related work. I started taking classes online, moved back to the United States in 2012 and applied for the program I am in now, which is the master of science program in operations research in the UNC Department of Statistics and Operations Research.”
As an alumnus, Carolina was a natural choice for Davis, who double majored in history and Asian studies as an undergraduate.
Davis believes that his humanities background provides him with a unique perspective on his current studies. “I have a pretty interdisciplinary background coming from the study of history and language into the mathematical sciences,” Davis explained, “I feel as though I am acutely aware of the applications of these tools that we are learning in class.”
Davis is glad to be back on campus and said he thinks a lot has remained the same at Carolina since he was here as an undergraduate.
“The pulsing idealism and commitment to service from the undergraduate population is familiar to me,” he said. However, with an increase in the number of international students on campus, Davis feels the dialogue around service issues “has changed, because it is not just Americans talking amongst themselves anymore.”
Davis has also noticed the University’s efforts to expose students to a globally oriented education by accepting more international students, incorporating global content into courses and providing students with more global opportunities and resources.
“Carolina definitely provided me with the resources to go abroad… which was tremendously important. I don’t think I would have been able to [study abroad] without that type of support, especially in terms of financial support,” Davis said.