Michael Davis (C’21): moving mountains through studies in economics and politics

Photo courtesy of Davis.

By Ty McMahon
Contributing Writer

When mulling over Michael Davis’s (C’21) formative high school and early college years, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that led him to pursue not only economics and business, but politics as well. However, somewhere in those years, Davis took up a profound interest that would lead him to this highly specific and specialized field of study: sovereign bonds. 

As Davis put it in layman’s terms, “sovereign bonds are the debt of a country that is going under, and they can be bought by a firm at a low cost in hopes that they will regain their value.” Such a specific field of interest was cultivated through a special series of intimate moments with mentors in various stages of Davis’s academic career. 

His ‘School Year Abroad’ program in high school brought him to France, where he was fully immersed in a cultural and educational system much like that of Sewanee’s. His experience in France would offer Davis a critical opportunity for igniting his passion. 

“The resident director of my program took me to the Paris Stock Exchange, and that really kickstarted my passion for investments and finance,” said Davis. 

With a smile he continued, “And from there it just started piling on.” Davis’s experience abroad led him to discover a talent for networking that would prove invaluable as his high school career drew to a close and his college and professional careers began to open before him.  

The opportunities offered through his study abroad program are what brought him to his interest, but it was his familiarity with Sewanee and the roots his family laid here that brought Davis to Sewanee and allowed his interest to balloon into passion. 

Having grown up around the area, Davis felt comfortable coming to Sewanee after a year of foreign study and travel. It was early in his homecoming that he would find the final piece to complete this academic trinity. 

In his freshman year peace and diplomacy class, politics professor Mila Dragojevic took the time needed to challenge Davis.

“She told me that she thought I’d be really good at this, and that I would find it interesting and valuable to the overlay between politics and economics,” recounted Davis. Dragojevic was not the only Sewanee faculty member to take interest in Davis’s academic and professional growth. He also cites accounting professor Eric Zinn (C’81), philosophy professor Jim Peters, and politics professor Rae Manacsa, as crucial components in his development through the genuine interest they took in his education and professional pursuits.

As it turns out, she was absolutely right. Davis has found a calling in working through conflicts, and the cost of those conflicts. This intertwining of academic faculties would turn out to be the perfect training for Davis’s career pursuit: sovereign bond trading. 

Davis took his gift for networking to the Sewanee Greek community, where he would find through friendships and alumni connections the perfect opportunity to see just where his interest could take him. Through an intimate connection made with a fraternity brother, Davis found himself in New York City last summer working for a sovereign bond firm, giving him the opportunity to put his passion to the test and get a taste for his potential life beyond the Domain. 

With this blend of diplomacy, networking, finance, foreign politics, and entrepreneurship that has brought Davis to Sewanee, he’ll be propelled into the financial and political sphere after graduation. 

“I’m the type of person that if I’m super into something, I’ll move a mountain to make it happen,” said Davis.