Chris Davis is a student at Brenau University's Augusta campus and also teaches in the automotive technology department at Augusta Technical College.

Not Just a Cog in a Machine

For nontraditional students like Chris Davis, tuning up their educations becomes a life of commitment and balance.

For the past four years, Chris Davis tinkers with the insides of classrooms from opposite perspectives.

By day, he teaches traditional students at Augusta Technical College, where he is an automotive technology instructor.

By night, Davis, 32, is a nontraditional student studying business administration at Brenau’s Augusta campus. He has a 3.93 grade point average and, after his expected graduation this fall, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in teaching.

For his students attending Augusta Technical College full-time, “Education is their life,” says Davis, a married father of two who lives in Appling, Ga. “That’s what they have to focus on. Nontraditional students pursue full-time careers at the same time they’re trying to better themselves.”

He hopes his diplomas will pave the way to department head status or a dean’s position, roles that Davis says are “looking at educational level as well as experience.”

“I like learning, but I really enjoy teaching,” he adds. “I did really well in the automotive business, and I want to pass on that knowledge.”

After graduating from high school in Harlem, Ga., in 1998, Davis enrolled at Augusta Technical College in the same program where he now teaches. He received a diploma in automotive technology in 2000.

Davis was in the field full-time, and then came back to Augusta Technical College at night, earning his associate’s degree in technical studies in 2003. About the same time, Davis also started teaching at night while working full-time during the day.

When the school’s daytime instructor retired, he moved to the day shift and decided to go to Brenau at night with the support of his department head, Tim Lewis.

“I had enough education to be an instructor,” says Davis, who is an ASE Master Technician and L1 Advanced Level Specialist. “Everyone pushed me: ‘If you want to go anywhere in this business, you’re going to have to get more education.’”

He was also motivated to “catch up” to his wife, Allison, who teaches third grade. She was valedictorian at Augusta State University, where she received bachelor’s, master’s and specialist’s degrees.

Although Davis received credit for core classes in English and math from his associate’s degree, none of his automotive credits transferred to Brenau, making him basically a freshman.

“It was a shocker,” he says. “From a workload standpoint, I was used to grading papers instead of actually typing them. It was tough at first, but once you get in the groove of it, you blink and you’ have 25 or 26 classes under your belt.”

Davis enjoys the interaction with both professors and his classmates, who share experiences from their careers during class discussions.

“I’ve learned as much from the students as from the professors,” Davis says. “I’ve met some really great friends.”

He studies in his garage shop behind his house, where he does side work when he’s not teaching, sleeping or at Brenau. Since Davis and his wife had sons Carson, almost 3, and Collin, 2, he helps bathe them and put them to bed before hitting the books.

So far, Davis has gotten all A’s and only two B’s, one in an environmental class where he thought he had turned in an assignment, but the professor said he never received the email.

“I can’t argue with that,” Davis says. “I teach every day. Just because you say you got it to me doesn’t mean you actually did it. I felt the pain of it, but at the same time, it trains you for the workforce.”

He says most of his fellow students are not receiving tuition assistance from their jobs, which makes them highly motivated to get their degree and get ahead.

“When you have to pay out of your own pocket,” he says, “you know it will directly benefit you and you step up to the plate and get it done.”

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