Elizabeth “Beth” Mayer-Davis is dean of The Graduate School. As the Cary C. Boshamer Distinguished Professor of Nutrition and Medicine and the former chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, she also serves as the co-director of the UNC Nutrition Obesity Research Center. Her research addresses the many ways in which nutrition can impact on the risk for development of diabetes, and on the risk of complications of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. She is also the principal investigator on a $12.6 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center that is part of landmark research to advance precision nutrition.
As dean of The Graduate School, what are you looking forward to about the role?
I most look forward to the opportunity to facilitate the success of our truly amazing graduate students, and to do so in a way that is supportive of overall well-being to ensure long, productive, and fulfilling careers in a variety of paths that will make a real difference in our world.
What do you hope to accomplish in your first sixth months as dean of The Graduate School?
My initial goal is to listen and learn from all our stakeholders in order to facilitate excellence for our ongoing endeavors and to identify new opportunities toward the mission of student success and well-being.
What excites you about graduate education?
The opportunity to create the venue for students to learn, to create, and to pave the path for the careers of their choosing that will make our world a better place is truly exciting. Contributions ranging from basic science to the arts and humanities are critical to ensuring a society positioned to address the great challenges of our day; Carolina’s graduate students will play key roles in countless ways.
As a former graduate student and advisor to many students—what advice do you have for incoming and returning students?
Allow your mind to be open and ready not just to absorb new information but to think critically, to develop new ideas, and to work to find venues to act on those ideas whether in a lab, in the community, in a studio, or wherever you exercise your emerging talents.
More pragmatically – take time for yourself to rest, reflect, and be part of your community of friends, family, and scholars.
What have you enjoyed most about working at Carolina?
Engaging actively with so many people, thanks to the incredibly collaborative spirit here at Carolina, has opened opportunities I would have never dreamed possible – this has been a real joy that I know will continue well into the future.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the way I have seen students, staff, and faculty thrive and grow in their respective endeavors; it is their success that has fueled my own as a leader, teacher, and researcher.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I have a large family and love spending time with them – cooking, hiking and gardening are some of my favorite activities. I do a lot of perennial gardening, and we have a small fishpond and rose garden with 18 bushes that I maintain.
Who inspires you?
Friends, family, colleagues, and leaders who are fair-minded, dedicated to contributing to our world in a positive manner, and willing to take the time and effort to act on those values. I am fortunate to have many examples of this, people from whom I constantly learn.
What’s one thing—personal or professional—that you learned in the past month?
This summer, we hiked the Narrows in Zion National Park, in which you hike up the Virgin River. It’s about 10 miles altogether. The canyon walls are on either side of you, and it’s remarkably beautiful. I hike a lot, and I had never done a hike like that before. It was just amazing—there are always new places to explore.