Dad and Department Head Ensure Future

April 2, 2009

Brooks Davis persevered and survived. He is a college transfer success story. At 18 years old, he enrolled in college right out of high school. The stressors he felt were not atypical of most college freshmen. Every year, more than 380,000 students drop out of college because of a multitude of stressors, including juggling finances, grades, work, relationships, as well as community service and extracurricular commitments.

Davis began his college career in Texas. Like most freshmen his age, he began college with a very unclear idea of who he was or what he wanted to do in life; as a result he became disenchanted and lost. With so many distractions and stressors, Davis was headed in the direction of becoming another college dropout statistic, that is, until his dad intervened.

“Dad believed in me and knew I was capable, but I think he thought I needed a little ‘tough love’ encouragement, so during summer break he told me, ‘Figure out what you want to do or you’re on your own.’ He got my attention,” said Davis. “The college in Texas has a career exploration office. I spent many hours that summer in that office reading everything, trying to figure out what I wanted to do.”

The then-psychology major scanned every article and when he came across an industrial systems and engineering (ISE) professional publication he almost overlooked it, because he had heard his peers say, “Engineering is so boring.” However, the prior motivator Davis received from his dad persuaded him to pick it up.

“I read and I loved it. It wasn’t boring at all. I always thought I had an engineering type mindset, but nothing caught my attention as far as the traditional engineering majors like chemical, electrical and mechanical,” explained Davis. “I’m really people oriented. I’ve always loved figuring how to make things run more efficiently and easily; just making things better for people. I always wondered, ‘Who does that?’ I discovered that the industrial systems engineers are the people who bring the creative problem-solving and the science/technical worlds together.”

Following his eureka moment, Davis again ran into yet another barrier—finding a college in Texas that offered an ISE program. Noticing his son’s frustration, Davis’ dad offered a suggestion.

“Dad earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemical engineering from Mississippi State and he mentioned that maybe I should check it out. I had visited the campus several times with my dad, but I never looked at it seriously. It was my dad’s college,” explained Davis. “Then dad asked me to visit the Bagley College of Engineering with him during E-day.”

Usually held in October, the BCoE’s E-day is a chance for alumni and prospective students to interact with engineering faculty, become familiar with departmental programs and classroom environments, as well as to observe student research demonstrations.

Before father and son traveled from Houston, Texas, to Starkville, Davis sent an e-mail to Prentice McKibben, undergraduate coordinator and instructor for the ISE program.

“Mr. McKibben must have forwarded my e-mail to Dr. Royce Bowden. Dr. Bowden sent me and my dad an e-mail inviting us to meet with him, but we didn’t receive it before we left for Mississippi State,” said Davis.

Consequently, when Bowden found them at the BCoE E-day, Davis and his dad didn’t know him.

“We were not really sure who we were talking to, except that this extremely nice guy, who was from industrial and systems engineering, was willing to work with me one-on-one to determine what classes from Texas would transfer and to create a class schedule for spring semester,” said Davis. “Then he gave us a personal tour of the whole campus, which included the ISE classrooms and research labs.”

Contemplating how to discretely figure out how Dr. Bowden knew them, Davis and his dad finally asked for Bowden’s card.

“We were walking back to the Drill Field and Dr. Bowden told us he didn’t have any on him and invited us to his office,” explained Davis. I looked at the name on the office door and it said, ‘Dr Royce Bowden, director of the ISE department.’ I looked at my dad and we both were astonished that a guy at his level would take the time to help me.”

As Davis would say, “The rest is history.” He transferred to Mississippi State.

“When we got back, dad read the e-mail and said,‘Whoa, he was planning to help us all along.’ You know I was really lost and MSU has really helped me find myself and let me start with a clean slate. It’s been so liberating. I love it here. I love the campus and the people. In Mr. Prentice’s engineering economics class, I got a 103 on my last test,” smiled Davis. “I’m pretty proud of that, there are very few students who earned a score that high.”

When Dr. Bowden heard that Davis was surprised that a department head would help a struggling, prospective transfer student his reply was,

“That’s just how we are at Mississippi State.”

by: Diane Godwin