Get To Know Brian Davidson: CMC's Assistant Director of Fellowships and National Awards
November 19, 2015
Brian Davidson CMC '08 is the new Assistant Director of Fellowships and National Awards at CMC. He replaced Kim Babon this semester, who left on March 23, after a year and half at CMC. Davidson is an alumnus from the Class of 2008 and is originally from Denver, Colorado. After graduating with a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) major, he received a master’s in European and Russian Studies from Yale University and a master's in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois.
The Forum: How did you fall into this position?
Brian Davidson: At CMC I was a PPE major, I ended up figuring out that I was very interested in eighteenth-century English political philosophy and literary culture. I then worked here in the Study Abroad Office where I first realized how much I liked working with students. Then, I wanted to go to grad school and indulge my academic interests. I got a master’s in European History, and while I considered getting a PhD, the market for British historians isn’t stellar, and overall I realized that my interests and strengths lie more in working with students and facilitating undergraduate education in ways that professors, because they have to keep up such a robust research agenda, don’t necessarily have time to focus on.
What sort of resource are you for CMC students?
I’ll say first of all, I was trained as a librarian. So I see my role in that vein, and that means connecting students to useful information. There are a lot of fellowships that have a well-defined pipeline, such as Fulbright, that are highly advertised and students know about. I am here to help facilitate that process, but what I also like doing is really getting to know students beyond their resume. I try to help them figure out what they want out of CMC, and what they want out of life. While I do have an internal database of opportunities to connect them with, my job is also to research other opportunities — to find funded opportunities to support their endeavors.
So, who can come to you for help?
Students from any grade are encouraged. I’ve met with students across the ages. While a lot of fellowships have a certain criteria, I really like to emphasize the fact that different fellowships are right for different people. I would love all students to just email me or come chat with me because that’s what I’m here for.
How do you make this process a journey of self discovery?
Most obviously what I do is deal with the requirements of a fellowship. I help with the dirty work, I walk through the application procedures and we do the back and forth about applications like writing drafts. I want them to look back on this process as beneficial towards understanding their character.
What would you peg as someone who needs your help and doesn’t know it?
Well, a lot of CMC students lock themselves into a track, I’m going to do this and that, on this track to do something, and I can support that in two contrasting ways. The first, is that you might have an idea that you want to go to graduate school in a certain field, but haven’t thought a lot about how to actually get there. I can help connect you with that, but the other way I can help you is by actually giving you alternatives that you may not have considered.
What makes you most excited about working with CMC students?
I love connecting people with opportunities that make them happy. Being able to help students pause the track I was talking about earlier, to help them reflect on it and consider where they’re coming from, and the multiple possibilities where they might want to end up. I like helping students look inward and to help critique their work. By the end of our time together, you should be able to own the dreaded personal statement.
While you were here at CMC, was there anyone or anything that altered your direction or gave you the experience you are trying to offer?
There was a class taught by Professor Emeritus Steve Smith restricted to second semester seniors. It was sort of a capstone to our experience at CMC. At that point I didn’t know a lot of my classmates. I was more of a humanities guy and I didn’t know the other types of people, the Econ and Business majors, as well. That class introduced us into the Theories of the Good Life, as the class was called, but it also encouraged us to do the type of self-exploration that I’m doing now. We wrote a lot of reflections and it was a place where we grew to appreciate one another and sort of share our anxieties and vulnerabilities about the future. While I don’t ever talk about students now, I try to encourage that environment, where a class is reflective and educational. That class still drives me.
That concludes our interview. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
My goal is to try to merge that very stereotypical CMC go-getting spirit and desire for quantitative accolades with the wishy-washy self-discovery qualitative personal development. Fellowship programs are one place where those two come together very nicely.