By Roanoke College News

Brandon Mayer headed to India on Fulbright Study/Research grant

Brandon Mayer '15 knows his own mind. And right now, what's on his mind is an upcoming trip to India, courtesy of the Fulbright-Nehru Study/Research grant he has been awarded.

A business major, Mayer will spend nine months at Delhi University analyzing how foreign direct investment impacts local businesses and entrepreneurs. He will work to identify the ideal level of investment that is helpful to business owners but not so much as to create an unhealthy dependency on the aid.

When he heads to Delhi in August, it won't be the first time that Mayer, 30, has chosen the less-traveled road. He began his Roanoke education in 2006, but he soon became restless. Having been exposed to various cultures through Roanoke's religion and philosophy classes, he said he "wanted to experience the world." Mayer also felt a strong call to help in the war against terrorism. Against his family's wishes, he left the College and enlisted in the Army.

After boot camp, Mayer spent 11 months at the Defense Language Institute in California training to become a linguist in the Pashto language, one of two official languages of Afghanistan. He also received cryptologic training at Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas before being stationed at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Ga., where he served as a Pashto Language Analyst.

During this time, Mayer served a three-month tour of duty in Jalalabad, capital of the Nangarhar Province in Afghanistan. He said that he enjoyed the fertile beauty there, which bears little resemblance to the arid deserts that most Americans picture when they think of Afghanistan.

Following his military service, Mayer worked as a civilian language analyst with the Department of Defense for several months. When he returned home, the Roanoke city resident knew the time was right to fulfill a promise he made to his grandmother years earlier: he would finish his degree.

Mayer considered other schools, but he re-enrolled at Roanoke College in the fall of 2013. "The academics here are top-notch," he said. "I like the small classes--you can get individual attention from your professors. It's a really good value for your money."

Wanting to utilize his army and civilian experiences, Mayer chose a business major. With a clear focus and an obvious commitment to excellence, he has earned top grades and honed his leadership skills through programs such as the Roanoke College Innovation Challenge

The RCIC is an annual six-week summer program that is a creative partnership between the College and local businesses. Students are divided into teams and strive to develop a comprehensive business plan for a new product innovation. Mayer's team developed a specialized weight-lifting exercise device, and Mayer won the RCIC Leadership Award, the program's highest honor.

Dr. Kevin Baker, a business professor and the faculty sponsor to RCIC, said, "The RCIC program recruits top-tier students from colleges around the country and Brandon's talents made him stand out.""

I can't think of a more deserving student to receive the Fulbright award," Baker said. "He is a student leader on campus and one of the most gifted individuals I have taught academically. I am proud that he will represent Roanoke College in the Fulbright program.

"Mayer applied for the Fulbright after attending an on-campus information session organized by Jennifer Rosti, Roanoke's director of major scholarships and fellowships. She also serves as advisor for student Fulbright applicants. Mayer had been considering entering the Peace Corps, but before the session was over, he knew that he was going to apply for the Fulbright Study/Research grant instead. "I was excited about the chance to go to a country that I was actually interested in," he said.

While he is in India, Mayer hopes to continue informally with his education, taking a few classes and becoming fluent in Hindi. He also plans to enjoy lots of good food, explore the area--including a visit to the Ganges, the sacred river of Hinduism -- and attend Diwali, the five-day Festival of Lights marking the start of the Hindu new year.

When he returns to the United States, Mayer hopes to pursue a Masters in Analytics degree at North Carolina State University, where he's already applied for admission.

Reflecting on his success since returning to Roanoke College, Mayer said, "I personally feel like I owe all of my achievements to my family, professors, and friends. And to Professor Rosti -- after proofing seven drafts of my personal statement [for my Fulbright application], she knows me pretty well!"

by Sharon Nanz '09