Paige Davis '10 continues sustainable development studies at Penn State

by S. Gouri Srinidhi

Many of the students studying in Penn State's School of International Affairs (SIA) spend a considerable amount of time seeking a place in the world to make a difference; though a few, like the amicable, development expert and graduate student, Paige Davis, stand out as an exemplary example of a student who has really discovered how she will contribute to the world.

Davis, whose combined undergraduate degree was in French and Hotel Management from Penn State, worked as a general manager in a hotel in Connecticut for a few years before beginning her master's degree work at the School of International Affairs which she chose to pursue because of her interest in international issues, politics, and travelling. She graduated as a part of the second group of Penn State School of International Affairs students in December 2010 and credits her effective multitasking to her job.

Davis recently began her anticipated three and a half year Ph.D. program in Rural Sociology at Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences working on community, regional, and international development projects that seek to apply sociology principles to rural populations; specifically marginalized and impoverished groups.

Her interest in development, particularly in Latin America, were solidified through a trip to Honduras she took in the Spring of 2010, where she spent nine days in tandem with a university program in the country, immersed in microfinance, co-ops and other sustainable development projects in the region.

“It's important to look at the change we can make from the bottom up,” said Davis, as she discussed the need to have faith in development projects.

Currently, the State College native is a graduate research assistant working on projects including topics of informal livelihood strategies, food insecurity, and domestic poverty. She plans to narrow her work by focusing on issues of inequalities and injustice, using her domestic work as a foundation for the international projects she hopes to embark on in the future. Fluent in French and Spanish with plans to learn Portuguese, she ideally aims to conduct her research in Brazil; focusing on policy and the rising superpower's government actions against poverty issues.

Davis is still unsure of the path she will take after completing her doctoral degree and is debating between academics and international work with organizations including USAID, UNDP, or USDA.

“I just want to do whatever makes the biggest differences and has the biggest impact,” Davis said.

As an alumnus of the program, Davis encourages current SIA students to tailor their work, through electives, internships and research, to the field that they foresee themselves working in.

“There are a lot of interdisciplinary courses in this institution,” said Davis, noting her interesting internship experience in the International Programs Office in the College of Agricultural Sciences, and how many of the courses she took in SIA directed her focus.

“Soak up as much of it as you can,” she said.