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Colonel (Retired) John Comparetto, a doctoral student in mathematics, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from New York University, his master of business administration degree from Columbia University, and his master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College. After being commissioned in the U.S. Army Reserve, he volunteered for service in North Carolina with the 82nd Airborne Division (three years). After 15 years in the infantry, he became a Civil Affairs officer for the remaining 15 years of his military career. During that time, he deployed to Iraq three times. He then became an Army Civilian and deployed to Afghanistan in that capacity. He went on to serve as a U.S. Marine Corps Civilian and then a U.S. Navy Civilian in California.

John Comparetto

What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?
I chose UNC because I needed to find a place to permanently reside. High up on my list of deciding factors were (1) family and friends and (2) a good public university with programs in mathematics, operations research, and physics (there were other less important factors, as well). As my wife and I have family and friends here in the Chapel Hill area, UNC being right here helped us decide to move here. UNC was kind enough to allow me to attend, and so here we are. I plan on living here for the foreseeable future. I also plan on studying at UNC for the foreseeable future. It’s a lot of work, but I think I am going to enjoy it immensely.

Tell us about your research.
I am just beginning in my mathematics program, so I have not gone too deep into any specific research subjects yet. So being necessarily broad, I can see myself doing research in related areas in operations research or in fields I have been worked in previous jobs, such as finance or engineering. My past professional endeavors over a 40-year career have allowed me to pursue various fields. One of my last jobs had me working with building energy managers on two military installations. I found that work interesting enough to see that this may be something I can possibly pursue. All this is preliminary, but I am always thinking about how I might use my future mathematics education in some way that is both interesting and helpful to people.

What is an important lesson that you learned in the military that has helped you in graduate school?
Dedication and tenacity are personality traits that the military has allowed to flourish within me over the years. You need to be dedicated to the goals you have for yourself, and you need to pursue them with a passion that will lead to success. I am a military retiree now (from the U.S. Army Reserve) but those values have stayed with me, and they always affect the way I think and act. I am sure they will serve me well in my academic pursuits. Since doing this is now natural for me, it allows me room to feel like I am having fun along the way.

What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?
I would like to join with the efforts of many others dedicated to attracting members of disadvantaged or underrepresented groups to STEM subjects. I come from humble beginnings, and I clearly remember the efforts of those who cared about me enough to help change my life. In their honor, I am going to pay it forward. With UNC’s help, perhaps there will be a way to make the two efforts coalesce into something significant for others.

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