Ryan Brush almost ended up at a small college on an athletic scholarship. After deciding on UGA, he was already into his third year and on a pre-med track before he discovered Engineering. He graduated with a degree in biological engineering and is now working on his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School. He says that what he learned while working in Dr. Kisaalita’s lab as an undergraduate has made all the difference in getting him to where he is today.
What led you to UGA as an undergraduate?
“I was split between attending a small college on an athletic scholarship and UGA. It was a difficult decision, but when I weighed the rich learning environment unique to a large research institution, expansive alumni network, and how much Athens felt like home, I decided to attend UGA.”
What is one of your favorite memories of your time at UGA, and why?
“As an undergraduate researcher in Dr. Kisaalita’s lab, I designed and performed experiments on a non-electric milk cooler for cattle farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Kisaalita received a $1 million grant for the project, and when the news broke, he was researching in the field and was unavailable. Instead of waiting until he returned, Dr. Kisaalita asked if I would be comfortable leading an interview with local media. When the article entitled ‘UGA Engineering Receives $1 Million Grant’ was published with a photo of me on the front page, I received no shortage of congratulations from family and friends. But I felt somewhat guilty that I – having worked in the lab for less than a year – received so much praise for this incredible milestone. As I look back on that experience, I realize that Dr. Kisaalita truly wanted to share the spotlight and make sure that I felt that my contributions in the lab, while seemingly small, made an impact. I’m still moved by how much he and other faculty members at the College of Engineering put students first, elevating them and expecting them to do great things.”
What made you decide to pursue engineering as a career?
“I was in my third year at UGA on a pre-med track, and I became drawn to career opportunities at the intersection of business and science. As I reflected on my career goals, I discovered that engineering would be a great fit for my interests, and I decided to enroll in the College of Engineering pursuing a degree in biological engineering.”
In your opinion, what makes UGA Engineering special?
“It is difficult not to mention the tightly-knit community, but I’ll try to offer a different perspective. Engineering courses can certainly be challenging, but time and time again professors made time to be sure that my fellow classmates and I truly understood each concept – from breaking down a strain diagram with Dr. Thompson, to diving into enzyme-limited reactions with Dr. Eiteman. UGA Engineering is special in how approachable the professors are, which creates an environment where students can be comfortable asking questions and deepening their learning.”
What have you been doing since graduating from UGA, and what are your future plans?
“After UGA, I worked at AB InBev in packaging operations for two years, but I decided to pursue a new opportunity at Amazon within the inbound supply chain strategy team. I spent the next three years at Amazon as a product manager, focusing on ways to alleviate supplier pain points in our e-commerce system. I was recently admitted to Harvard Business School, and I have since left Amazon to pursue my M.B.A.”
How did private giving to the College of Engineering impact your educational experience? How do you feel it impacted your longer term success?
“I participated in undergraduate research, which was partially supported through giving. Working in the lab challenged me with problems that were not as straightforward as those that I had encountered in the classroom, and it served as a playground to develop my creativity in problem-solving. The confidence that I developed in approaching ambiguous and complex problems has been instrumental in my career thus far.”
How did witnessing the generosity of others impact your own view of philanthropy?
“As a beneficiary of giving, and now as an alumnus, I am truly touched by how others invested their resources into my learning experience. This realization has instilled in me the importance of ensuring our future UGA engineers have access to the same incredible experience I had.”
As an Alumni Board member, what do you hope to accomplish for UGA Engineering?
“I hope that I can advocate for current students and young alumni, representing their interests with college leadership. More specifically, I hope that I can share my industry experience within tech to ensure that students interested in a similar path are equipped for success. Finally, since there is a great need to address racial inequality in our society, I hope to help UGA Engineering incorporate training for students to address implicit biases and make UGA Engineering a safe and inclusive space for all.”
If you could say one thing to UGA Engineering donors, or to those who are considering giving, what would it be?
“First and foremost, thank you. Your contributions gave me an undergraduate experience that I could never have imagined, and I am grateful for that. When you invest in UGA Engineering, you invest in our future; you invest in the next generation of problem-solvers, dedicated to tackling complex issues and making the world a better place. I hope that you consider supporting UGA Engineering to ensure that our students have the same incredible experience that I had.”