Brenden Chavis is a man on a mission, determined to carve his own unique path in the world of technology. As a Ph.D. student specializing in informatics at the College of Engineering and Computing, his journey is a blend of family influence and personal curiosity. Chavis embodies the spirit of innovation, using existing technology to create new and exciting possibilities.
Influenced by Family and Driven by Curiosity
Chavis credits his father as a significant influence on his career choice. Growing up with a father in the technology field, he had a front-row seat in the world of innovation. “My father is in the technology field, and I’ve always really admired him and the work that he does,” Chavis reflects. “He definitely was one of my influences when I was picking what I wanted to do with my life. But I have always been drawn towards technology—computers. I was always the kid waiting in line for the next new thing to come out.”
Chavis’s educational journey began with a bachelor’s degree in information systems from Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland. He continued to fuel his passion by pursuing a master’s degree in data analytics at North Carolina A&T. Currently, he’s working tirelessly towards his Ph.D. in informatics at the University of South Carolina, with plans to graduate in December 2023.
A Journey Funded by Fluor Corp.
One of Chavis’s admirable goals is to self-fund his education, and thanks to the support provided by Fluor Corp., he’s been able to achieve just that. Chavis is a beneficiary of programs funded by Fluor Corp., including the Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science (GEM) consortium and the BRIDGE to the Doctorate Grant awarded by the National Science Foundation. These programs are specifically designed to increase the representation of underrepresented minority graduate students in engineering and STEM fields.
The Value of Community and Networking
Chavis acknowledges the immense value of these programs, which extend beyond financial support. “The fellowship is supposed to be a tight-knit community of like-minded thinkers,” Chavis explains. He also notes that his father had been a GEM fellow, which made the program even more meaningful to him. “It was just something that kind of made sense for me. I always wanted to be the person to put myself through higher education.”
Fluor’s Commitment to Education
Fluor Corp.’s Global University Sponsorship Programs, which support educational initiatives at 33 colleges and universities worldwide, are instrumental in creating a diverse pipeline of talent for future employment needs. South Carolina has been part of this program since 2010, with a long-standing relationship that dates back to 1989.
Fluor’s support extends beyond financial aid; it includes advisory roles for executives within the university. Torrence Robinson, senior director of Global Community Affairs and president of the Fluor Foundation, emphasizes the significance of these relationships. “The value is the relationship, those opportunities to engage with faculty and students,” Robinson says. “We’re focused on supporting current students to grow the pool of graduates who will work not only in our core areas of engineering, procurement, and construction but also in other fields within applied science and business.”
The relationship between Fluor and the University of South Carolina goes beyond financial support. The capstone course offers students the opportunity to gain practical insights into Fluor and allows the company to assess the capabilities of potential future employees. Students who participate in these experiential learning opportunities become more competitive upon graduation.
Chavis, who has been a GEM fellow, has also experienced this type of real-world learning. He recently worked at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory on a range of projects. “I get to do all the research that I want to do. I get to push myself further in my education,” Chavis proudly states. “These fellowships have given me an opportunity that I never really thought that I would have, and I’m able to do it on my own, which is something I’m really proud of.”
Brenden Chavis exemplifies the spirit of determination and ambition. His journey from being inspired by his father to becoming a self-reliant and accomplished Ph.D. student is a testament to his dedication. With the support of Fluor Corp. and the University of South Carolina, Chavis is not only pursuing his dreams but also contributing to a brighter future for underrepresented minority graduate students in engineering and STEM fields. His story underscores the importance of education, mentorship, and corporate partnerships in fostering the next generation of innovators and leaders.