Levonna Davis: Empowering Change in Child Welfare Research

Levonna DavisMeet Levonna Davis, a devoted graduate student at the University of Memphis Graduate School, originally from Memphis, TN, specifically the Orange Mound Community. Though now residing in Alabama, her roots in her hometown remain strong.

Levonna holds dual roles in her professional life, acting as a Treatment Director for a local child welfare agency and serving as a Clinical Training and Development Specialist for the state. In these capacities, she oversees crucial programs and contributes her expertise to the field of social work.

Her academic journey is equally remarkable. Levonna earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Memphis, where her passion for understanding human behavior and advocating for marginalized communities was ignited. She then pursued an associate’s degree in paralegal studies from Southwest Tennessee Community College, expanding her skill set to include legal advocacy. Undeterred by the challenges of balancing work and education, she pursued her Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Memphis, further refining her skills in addressing social issues and promoting social justice.

Currently, Levonna is pursuing her doctoral degree in the School of Social Work at the University of Memphis, set to graduate in May 2024. Her research interests revolve around child welfare, a field she is deeply committed to enhancing. In her current research, Levonna examines the prevalence of trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) within the foster care system, with a focus on caregivers and foster parents. Through her work, Levonna aims to inform policies and interventions that better support children and families navigating the challenges of the child welfare system. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, exercising at Pure Barre, and traveling.

Her motivation to pursue her PhD

She had a remarkable experience in the Master’s program, where she acquired valuable insights into research, teamwork, and leadership. Appreciating the University of Memphis for its myriad learning opportunities, she particularly values its support for presenting at seminars and diverse forums. Furthermore, she acknowledges the university's provision of funding for research endeavors and its extensive resources that facilitate academic growth and success.

Balancing life includes knowing your limitations and Replenishing Yourself:

This has been the most challenging era for her. As a wife, mother, full-time worker, part-time teacher, and participant in a fellowship program, all while pursuing her doctoral studies, she faces numerous responsibilities. What keeps her grounded is incorporating exercise into her weekly routine and dedicating quality time to her family on the weekends. She finds relaxation in leisurely outings or brief weekend getaways. Additionally, she values the opportunity to sneak in a quick nap between work and study sessions, recognizing the importance of rejuvenation. Learning to prioritize what matters most and acknowledging her limitations have become essential for her. She understands the importance of replenishing her energy to maintain balance in her demanding schedule. She balances her busy schedule by meticulously planning and scheduling tasks using a calendar to keep track of all appointments. Each task is assigned a specific time, and her phone notifies her with reminders for each appointment, whether it's hitting the gym, studying, attending work meetings, or completing papers.

Know your “why”!

Levonna DavisWhen asked what advice she would share with fellow graduate students, she said, “Know your “why”. Understand why you want to pursue a graduate studies. Make sure it drive you and fuels your passion. Also, think about how pursuing a graduate degree will not only benefit you, but how will it impact society and the world around you. How can you propel the next generation or others that you come in contact with. Be ready to absorb valuable information that will guide your future practice in your area of interest. Always give it your best. Run your own race, and always know that, “You can!”

A Moment for the Books

A pivotal moment in her academic journey was the chance to present her research at a conference in Washington State, marking her first experience of its kind. The Social Work Department provided unwavering support, with Professor Dr. Elena Delavega offering guidance and encouragement every step of the way. Presenting the research she had diligently worked on proved to be immensely rewarding, highlighting the culmination of her efforts.

Reasons for Pursuing Higher Education

She has a keen passion for acquiring knowledge and strives to learn extensively about topics that intrigue her. Additionally, she harbored a personal ambition of pursuing a doctoral degree, a goal she held dear for many years. Little did she anticipate that two decades after completing her undergraduate studies, she would finally embark on this journey.

Grateful Recognition: Family, Friends, and Loved Ones

She extends her deepest appreciation to her husband, children, family (particularly her mother), and friends for their unwavering support and understanding throughout her doctoral journey. Despite missing out on numerous events, she remained steadfast in her commitment to completing the program. She expresses gratitude for their understanding and ongoing encouragement.

Upon completing her graduate studies, Levonna's career aspirations revolve around delving deeper into the realm of child welfare research. Additionally, she aims to continue her role as an educator and mentor, providing guidance and support to aspiring social workers dedicated to this field. Ultimately, her goal is to contribute to initiatives that facilitate positive change and improve the lives of others.