After earning PhD in economics, bryan alumna remains grateful: ‘I knew from the moment I arrived’

Posted on March 12, 2018

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When Nilay Unsal returned to Ankara, Turkey, with her PhD in Economics from the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC Greensboro, and stepped into her current position as a research fellow at Ankara University, Faculty of Political Science, Department of Economics, her sense of gratitude was overwhelming.

She had gratitude for Dr. Irvan Civcir, the department head of her undergraduate studies in economics at Ankara University who encouraged her to continue her education in the field and pursue a PhD abroad. She had gratitude for the opportunities she discovered while receiving her master’s degree at UNC. And she had gratitude for the support, encouragement, inclusivity, and academic rigor she experienced at UNCG.

“I can’t even express my thanks to so many mentors, teachers, guides, colleagues, and friends,” she said. “I especially feel grateful for the UNCG community for helping me forge my professional goals.”

A geographic world apart, Unsal maintains close contact with her colleagues at UNCG, with whom she has cultivated not only close professional ties but also deep personal friendships. In the world of Zoom meetings, the physical distance has become irrelevant. She has found a cross-institutional / cross-cultural collaboration between Ankara and Greensboro.

In her current position, Unsal has the freedom of conducting research in her interest areas, including health economics and program evaluations. She sees that health is a hot topic not only in Turkey, but also globally.

“The international nature of the field provides amazing opportunities for meeting with new intellectuals. Before my PhD I thought I’d like teaching more than research. But my PhD experience at UNCG helped me realize that as I pushed myself to learn more through research, I become a better teacher,” she said. “I like the fact that I improve myself every single day.”

Unsal discovered the Bryan School a bit by accident when she was searching for PhD programs at the end of her master’s degree program at UNC in Chapel Hill. She was about to return to Turkey when she was struck by the topic, and demeanor, of Nazire Ozkan, a visiting guest lecturer from the Bryan School.

“I approached her after the talk and shared that I was feeling discouraged about pursuing a PhD She encouraged me to come to Greensboro to visit the school,” she said. “I knew the moment I arrived that this was a very unique, very supportive environment. In retrospect, coming to UNCG was the best decision I could have made for my career in terms of research opportunities!”

Unsal found her career launching pad at the Bryan School.

“I had never experienced professors who were open and available to my many, many questions! All the way through my program, and continuing even today, I have an incredible community of professors, mentors, colleagues, and friends who are available to share contacts, resources and research,” she said.

Now on the tenure track at Ankara University, she sees herself enjoying a meaningful career in academia.

“As I continue my career in Turkey participating in international collaboration from a global perspective is really important to me. I learned this perspective at UNCG and wish to continue it throughout my career,” said Unsal.

Her committee chair was Dr. Jeremy Bray.

“I feel extremely grateful for having the chance to work with him. In my teaching and research, I follow and will follow his teachings and advice. I am grateful to have the chance to work with Dr. Albert Link, Dr. Martin van Hasselt, and Dr. Dan Bibeau during my dissertation process,” she said. “Everything I learned from them will always have a place in my work.”

Unsal continues to work with members of the Bryan School faculty on research papers, including Dr. Bray, on international standardize measures for alcoholism studies. She also collaborates with Dr. GracieLee Weaver, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Education on health research, including the development, implementation, and evaluation of health promotion interventions in workplaces.


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