Political Science Major Abby Davis Focuses on Global Migration

October 11, 2015Jonathan Warren

Abby Davis
Abby Davis

From Latvia to Chile, international experiences have become part of daily life for senior Abby Davis, a political science major in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters.

Davis has focused her studies on global migration, the politics of language, and international relations—a topic she is exploring further in a senior thesis examining Russia's motivations for annexing Crimea.

Her interest in immigration issues began in high school, she said, and continued to develop during a summer internship with Catholic Charities USA in Washington, D.C., after her freshman year.

“It was a summer of huge debates around immigration reform,” she said. “So, in my internship, I did research on the issue and made briefs and fact sheets on different congressional districts and on the immigrant population overall in the United States to help lobby for reform.”

Studying Russian in Spanish

Davis, a scholar in the Glynn Family Honors Program and a Hesburgh-Yusko scholar, studied Spanish in high school and continued to pursue the language at Notre Dame. After taking a class in post-Soviet Russian film “on a whim,” she decided to study Russian as well.

Abby Davis
Davis in Chile

With funding from Hesburgh-Yusko and the Glynn program, Davis participated in an intensive Russian language program in Latvia in summer 2014. It was a decision that became a turning point in her academic career, she said, causing her to look at immigration issues on a global scale.

In Latvia, she conducted research on the dynamics of migration, population studies, and demographic changes in the Post-Soviet space.

“It’s really interesting to see how a lot of countries have tried to reconstruct their identities after the fall of the Soviet Union,” Davis said. “I wanted to see how that played out, and some of the things I observed there inspired me to do further research.”

After her summer in Latvia, Davis had only a few days to prepare before heading to Chile for a semester abroad. There, she took political science classes and continued to develop her Spanish language skills.

Not wanting to forget the Russian she had learned, however, Davis went to the cultural center of the Russian embassy to see if she could take Russian classes as well.

While in Chile, Davis took Russian classes in Spanish, essentially developing skills in her third language through her second.

“It was a completely strange experience,” she said, “but it was definitely one of the coolest things I did in Chile.”

Choosing A Holistic Approach

Davis, who is also pursuing a minor in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), said her experience in the Glynn Family Honors Program was formative. She credits Paul Weithman, The Glynn Family Honors Collegiate Professor of Liberal Studies, with helping her to take a holistic approach to her education and career goals.

It was that holistic approach that drew her to Notre Dame in the first place.

“I think one thing that really struck me about Notre Dame is that it’s an amazing institution academically, but here, you’re not your GPA; you’re not your SAT score,” Davis said.

“I really value the faith aspect of life at Notre Dame, the sense of community here, and the knowledge that the University is concerned with students’ overall wellbeing. It’s a place where I can grow as a person in a complete way.”

Originally published at al.nd.edu.