Graduate Student Spotlight: Rachel Davis

When Covid-19 arrived in spring 2020, it precipitated a wave of cancellations that often hit graduate students the hardest in terms of lost opportunities. But thanks to an alumni-funded scholarship and an alumni-funded award, Rachel Davis, a fourth-year Ph.D. student, was able to spend summer 2020 productively. She received the Robert A. Ladner Scholarship for Graduate Excellence in Sociology and the Howard Beers Summer Research Award.

Financial support from these two awards enabled her to focus exclusively on academics. She spent summer preparing for her doctoral qualifying exams and collaborating with Professor Tony Love on her Beers project, studying the effects of FOSTA legislation (the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) on online sugar baby (women with sugar daddies) communities.

“I spent the summer of 2019 working irregular hours at a telephone research center to make ends meet, which made it difficult to make any progress toward my graduation,” David said. “Thanks to the Ladner Scholarship and the Beers Award, I was able to dedicate my time this summer to furthering my own research and degree progress.” 

Davis chose to enroll in the UK Sociology Ph.D. program because of the department’s relationship with the Center for Research on Violence Against Women (CRVAW) and because of faculty members’ expertise in feminist criminology. Davis serves as the social media editor for the journal Violence Against Women and previously worked on a center project examining undergraduate students’ perceptions of blame and justice in hypothetical campus sexual assault scenarios.

With Professor Claire Renzetti, Davis coauthored an article published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence titled “Is Religious Self-Regulation a Risk or Protective Factor for Men’s Intimate Partner Violence Perpetration?” Davis has presented her research at several conferences, including the Southern Sociological Society annual meetings in 2018 and 2019, and has been accepted to present at the American Sociological Association and American Society of Criminology meetings in 2021.

“I’m thankful to be part of a department in which I’ve not only gained valuable research experience but have also had the opportunity to teach several lower- and upper-level courses on social inequalities, criminology, and gender,” Davis said. “Thanks to these opportunities, I received the College of Arts & Sciences Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in Spring 2021!”

In addition to volunteering at the Kentucky Gender and Women’s Studies Conference each year, Davis has served as president of the Sociology Graduate Student Organization, treasurer of the Graduate Student Congress and steering committee member of the United Campus Workers of Kentucky.

“The opportunities to contribute to the university community through my research, teaching and service have given me a strong sense of purpose and prepared me to succeed in my ultimate goal of furthering the movement for social justice locally, nationally and globally through education and activism, regardless of whether I choose to enter an academic or nonacademic field upon graduation,” she said.