Scott Brees is a doctoral candidate in the Public Policy program. After 20 years of active duty as a Naval Intelligence Officer overseas, he and his family returned to the U.S, settling in Chapel Hill.
1. What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed in transitioning from military life to civilian life?
I still find myself acting overly formal when meeting and addressing others. In the military, we are careful to address others according to our rules and traditions. I still habitually call bosses or professors sir or ma’am, and I like to use titles, like “Professor Jones.” People often tell me that I can use their first name instead — but I have a really hard time calling a widely respected professor “Joe” or “Amy”. In my view, they deserve the proper level of respect for having attained titles like “Distinguished Professor” or “Chair and Professor” (not to mention “Nobel Laureate” — there are two of them at UNC). After working for the past five and a half years on a Ph.D., I know first hand that it is far from easy to become a professor with tenure and a distinguished record of research. I respect their accomplishments, and so I’ll continue to show it by addressing them properly!
2. What is something you wish you had known before moving here?
There weren’t any big surprises for us on the administrative side. I did my research and UNC’s great support team helped us fill in the blanks before we arrived. But on the financial side, I was surprised by how expensive living in Chapel Hill can be. I am married with two children, and we have had to be very careful with our month-to-month budget to be able to afford to live near campus. We could save a lot by living outside of Chapel Hill, but we decided to cut other expenses so that we could afford to live as close to campus as possible.
3. What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in grad school?
Persistence. I’ve had a bumpy ride from time to time, so I just needed to stay focused on the main objective and persist in my efforts.
4. What made you choose UNC/NC when deciding on a program/place to study?
My wife and I wanted to settle in a college town after the military. We enjoy all of the offerings of the Triangle Area — sports, the arts, and the food scene. We get big city variety in a small town setting that is very family friendly, along with excellent public schools.