Mary Carol Davison ’16: (Not) Lost in Translation

a young woman standing and casually smiling outside
Mary Carol Davison ’16

Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi
Major: Russian Studies
Minor: Political Science

Senior Mary Carol Davison was originally drawn to Rhodes College because of her familial ties to the school. Her grandfather received his undergraduate degree from Rhodes and eventually returned to serve as a professor of economics. But it was the academics that won her over. She knew she wanted to study language, partly to dive deeper into the history and culture of another country. She chose Russian, a language she had never taken but was eager to learn, and which would enable her to study Russian culture beyond a Cold War perspective. “Having family roots here made it easier to fall in love with Rhodes, and having a rare major like Russian made this place perfect,” says Davison. “I knew logically it would be a smart move to learn the language now, since Russia has such a presence on the world stage.”

She quickly found mentors in Professors Valeria Nollan and Alexandra Kostina of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. “Both Professor Kostina and Professor Nollan are very inspiring women—they’re so intelligent and full of life experience,” says Davison.  “They have greatly inspired me by continuing to believe in me and my abilities.”

During her sophomore year, Davison worked with Professor Nollan to complete a Russian iconography internship. She regularly attended and engaged in services at a Russian Orthodox church in Memphis to learn about the roots and the history of the 1,000-year-old denomination.

She has also worked with Professor Kostina on a directed inquiry, focused around theories of translations. According to Davison, translating is a balancing act between remaining faithful to the original piece, while also rewriting it so that the reader can fully understand it. “It’s all about molding the translation and rewriting and revising constantly,” she explains. These translation skills have proven useful in her most recent project, working in collaboration with Professor Nollan to translate a short story written by a Russian-Israeli author, which they plan to have published.


Davison spent a semester her junior year studying abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she immersed herself in Russian language classes. She supplemented these studies with courses on Russian culture and history. “After four months of being in Russia, I was more self-assured. I definitely gained the tools to educate others about the country, the people, and the culture, while also gaining a huge historical perspective,” she notes.

Combining her Russian studies with a minor in political science, Davison hopes to end up in Washington, D.C., and work for the federal government. In the meantime, she will be working on getting her Masters in Translation at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “During my time at Rhodes I’ve become more confident that I'm on the right career path in my studies. I now know that what I'm learning is needed in our community, country, and world.”

By Ali Swee ’16