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Alumni Spotlight: Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis

Lisa Davis, Master's, Industrial and Operations Engineering

Lisa Davis fell into a job she loves through a summer internship after her Master’s degree at U-M. “I applied to an internship pool and they placed me with this office.  I had no idea what I was getting into and didn’t know anything about working for the government.  It really just sounded like a good way to spend the summer,” she says.  Little did Lisa know that she would evolve that summer opportunity into a meaningful career.  Since 2007, Lisa has served as an Operations Research Analyst for the Department of Defense in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

It was a longer road than many internship hires, but Lisa’s performance during that summer led to a different manager at the Department of Defense calling her a year later while she was at Emory University pursuing an M.B.A.  She explains, “I received two offers at once (one for the government and another in private industry), but the hiring process for the government took over a year, so I ended up actually working both jobs.  My stomach was in knots about the whole process.

“The field of Operations Research was designed by the military back in WWII days, and now my title is operations research analyst, so I’ve come full circle to my master’s degree.  I have a lot of variety in my job and I love that.  I haven’t had to change jobs to have significant change in my position over the years. I also love the influence my work has on senior-level decision making.”

She has very fond memories of her years at U-M, although they weren’t without challenges: “I came into the Ph.D. program, and I was really excited about it.  My first semester was outstanding, and I felt that I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  I really bonded well with my class and was enjoying what Ann Arbor had to offer.  The second semester was another story.  It was really hard; I took too many hard classes at once.  I made life overly difficult, and as a result decided that a Ph.D. wasn’t for me, so I left with a master’s degree.  I was glad I was able to be open and honest with my advisor and was able to leave with the door left open so I could come back.”

She still keeps in touch with classmates, having spent so much time building close relationships with them on campus.  “We made a big Thanksgiving dinner for ourselves.  Also a classmate enjoyed cooking and had us over often for dinner.  There was always Good Time Charley’s as well…”

Lisa hasn’t had the chance to return to Ann Arbor since graduating, but says if she could, “Now that I’m not a poor grad student, I’d go to Zingerman’s and buy a sandwich AND a gelato!” With a 2 year-old, Lisa’s life outside the DoD is spent with her daughter and husband.  She laughs, saying,  “I delayed having kids because I wanted to finish school and establish myself, then I thought, wow, I’m getting kind of old!  In DC, I’m happy to have many others who made similar decisions, but in some cities I’d be considered an elderly parent. It’s important but challenging to determine what you want to accomplish with your life and fit it all in.”