University Community

Scripps doctoral student is one of only 100 scholars to win prestigious PEO Scholar Award

Sophie Downing, a Ph.D. student in communication studies, is excited to know she has a little financial breathing room this summer as she works on her dissertation.

The third-year doctoral student on the interpersonal and organizational communication track, who is also working towards a graduate certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, recently learned that she was one of 100 doctoral students in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive a prestigious $25,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood. 

“It’s just amazing. I feel very honored to have won such a competitive award,” said Downing. “I am so relieved to be able to do my dissertation interviews this summer and not have the travel expenses be a worry. This really frees me up to make the most of my dissertation interviews.”

The P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) Scholar Awards were established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral-level degree at an accredited college or university. Scholar Award recipients are a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and their potential for having a positive impact on society.

Downing is from Seattle, Washington, and is a 2021 graduate of the University of Portland, where she majored in English and organizational communication. Downing will travel to the Pacific Northwest and England this summer to work on her dissertation which will examine the oral history of her own extended family. Downing’s research looks at how families are created through communication.

“I will really be examining family communication, things like practices and traditions and how they define us,” said Downing. “How do we understand who our family is, and why does that matter?”

Downing was nominated for the award by P.E.O. Sisterhood Chapter G in Athens. Chapter G was organized in 1926. Downing is thrilled that the P.E.O. selection committee understood the importance of her research.

“I really try to translate my research so that it can be understood. It’s hard sometimes at the doctoral level not to just use a bunch of jargon,” Downing said. “But I want to communicate the meaning I see coming from this dissertation. Family stories are so important.”

After completing her dissertation and earning her doctorate, Downing hopes to become a university professor.

“I really love teaching,” said Downing. “And I want to share my knowledge with others and continue my research.”

Since its inception in 1869, P.E.O. has helped more than 122,000 women pursue educational goals by providing nearly $415 million in grants, scholarships, awards, and loans. 

April 18, 2024
Staff reports