The Education of Brady Davis

UMaine senior has “transformative” experience

Brady Davis is most certainly not unique in having flourished as a student after being awarded a Mitchell Scholarship upon graduating from Freeport High School in 2013. But it is doubtful a better ambassador for the Mitchell Institute and its namesake, Senator George J. Mitchell, could be found among the thousands of Maine high school seniors lucky and talented enough to be selected for the fellowship.

“Senator Mitchell has been behind the scenes at some of the major turning points of my academic career, Davis says. “And his namesake is at the Mitchell Center where so many great opportunities have come from my research.”

Brady Davis with Honors Faculty
Brady Davis with SFSRC faculty Stephanie Welcomer, Mark Haggerty, Francois Amar and Melissa Ladenheim (left to right)

And indeed, Davis was recognized for that research last fall when the Mitchell Center bestowed him with the Outstanding Contribution to Sustainability Research by an Undergraduate Student award.

Davis found his way to the Mitchell Center by way of the Honors College, where he has been a student these past four years. Specifically, in the May term of his sophomore year Davis got involved in the Honors College’s Sustainable Food Systems Research Collaborative (SFSRC) project funded by the Mitchell Center. (See Story – New project seeks to make local food more sustainable)

With an SFSRC partner he researched food hubs in conjunction with the Orono Economic Development Corporation, which was interested in opening a hub—an actual or virtual entity that helps connect food producers with institutional buyers and end consumers—in the Bangor region.

“The benefit for me was that I found a real interest in the literature and the research by engaging with a community stakeholder on a project I thought was really meaningful, and that was related to sustainability,” says Davis.

After the food hub project concluded, Davis found his way back to sustainable food research and the Mitchell Center through another center-funded project—“Cheesemaking in Maine: Investigating Social, Economic, and Environmental Practices and Sustainability.”

Brady DavisDavis notes that the artisanal cheesemaking project, which is researching the sustainability of this growing sector of Maine’s economy, cemented his desire to continue studying sustainability and perhaps work in a sustainability-related field after graduation. And that, he says, is due in large part to the transformative experiences he’s had working on Mitchell Center projects.

“I really think the Mitchell Center, in tandem with the Honors College approach to education, changed the trajectory of my undergraduate career and where I see myself going after graduation,” he says.

Fittingly, Davis was offered a summer 2017 intern position with the Portland-based New England Ocean Cluster (NEOC) following a Mitchell Institute meeting where he met members of the NEOC for the first time. He accepted a full-time job with the organization in the fall of 2017. The NEOC’s mission is to foster collaborative relationships among marine-focused businesses and entrepreneurs with the aim of generating environmentally and economically sustainable ideas. This inclusive “cluster” framework is purposely designed to drive innovation among its network of participants as a mechanism to improve product competitiveness on a global scale.

“My role will be to support the startup of the NEOC as it grows into a new space and launches its first workgroups,” says Davis. His duties will include administration, customer outreach, and account management.

“I was thrilled to be offered an internship at the NEOC because I will be able to incorporate cross-disciplinary collaboration, network building, and sustainability into my career. My passion for these topics developed out of my work and experiences in the Honors College and Mitchell Center. I believe this opportunity will help me to better define my long-term career goals, but I know that I want to continue learning about these topics wherever I go.”