Amazing Students

Abha Rai

Abha Rai (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Abha Rai says she was born to be a social worker and knew early in life that she wanted to earn a Ph.D. She’s well on her way down that path and credits the “exhilarating environment” that UGA has for international students and the compatibility with her research interests for that success.


Mumbai, Maharashtra

High school:

Ryan International School

Family ties to UGA:

First Dawg from my family, but definitely not the last one. I hope to inspire and encourage my friends and family to become a part of this wonderful experience at UGA.

Expected graduation:

Summer 2020

Degree objective:

Ph.D. in social work

Other degrees:

Master’s in social work, bachelor’s in academic law

University highlights, achievements, awards and scholarships:

— I was nominated as the Ph.D. student of the year in March 2018 by the School of Social Work.

— I was awarded a scholarship by the Taraknath Das Foundation for my research and academic achievements in November 2017.

— I served as the student representative for the Doctoral Program Committee for two years (2016-2017, 2017-2018) and served as a voice for the doctoral students at the School of Social Work.

— I was nominated by the Society for Social Work and Research (a professional membership society for social workers) in my very first year (2016) to serve on the doctoral student task force. I was the only student from UGA-SSW to secure that position. Soon, I was nominated as chair of the Diversity Committee within the task force. The following year in 2017, I was chosen as the chair of the Mentorship Committee.

— In 2017, I also served on the task force of the South Asian Faculty and Doctoral Students Committee. This position helped me serve as a voice for SA students and help contribute toward making a place for SA scholars of social work within academia.

— In my very first year at UGA (2016), I ideated and led an independent research study to conduct a survey across MSW schools in the U.S. aimed at understanding the extent to which they incorporate courses on domestic violence within their curriculum.

— I was also nominated for the GADE (Group for the Advancement of Doctoral Education in Social Work) leadership award by the School of Social work in April 2018.

I chose to attend UGA because …

… of the exhilarating environment that it has for international students. In addition to the hospitable environment at UGA, I was drawn to the school due to the compatibility of my research interest with my now major professor, Dr. Y. Joon Choi. I am interested in issues pertaining to domestic violence within the SA community. Therefore, the proximity to Atlanta, which is a hub for South Asians, helped a lot. I still vividly remember my first visit to UGA before I made my decision where I recall being instantly drawn to the campus and most importantly to the serene location of the School of Social Work.

My favorite things to do on campus are …

… take long walks by the North Campus. It is especially vibrant during the evenings — when I sit by the fountain and read a book. Other than this, I spend a lot of time at the Ramsey Student Center where I go to different fitness classes and work out almost everyday. Working out keeps me energetic and motivated.

When I have free time, I like …

… to work out, try out different types of food, read (I read a lot!) and hang out at the School of Social Work by the river (it is truly beautiful).

The craziest thing I’ve done is …

… scuba diving because I am really scared of water. So this was a big deal for me.

My favorite place to study is …

… the UGA main library and the School of Social Work (I spend a lot of time here).

My favorite professor is …

All my professors at the School of Social Work have taught me in their own way — something big or small. I have been very impressed with the support that is rendered to students at the School of Social Work. Every single faculty member and our Dean, Dr. Anna Scheyett, is especially invested in the progress of every single student. My major professor, Dr. Y. Joon Choi, has been one of my biggest sources of inspiration and support in the doctoral program.

If I could share an afternoon with anyone, I would love to share it with …

… Malala Yousafzai, who is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate. I was highly motivated by her zeal and enthusiasm to stand up for a cause that she believed in. I am of the personal belief that this is a vital trait for a social worker to remain committed to the cause they believe in, until the end. I would love to spend time with her and learn more from her experience to have a more enriching social work journey.

If I knew I could not fail, I would …

… be humbled in knowing that I would always be successful. I would fearlessly create a list of all the issues plaguing the world that I could instantly solve or eradicate.

If money was not a consideration, I would love to …

… start my own worldwide foundation focused on providing services and livelihood opportunities to South Asian survivors of domestic violence.

What is your passion and how are you committed to pursuing it?

I was born to be a social worker. I remember my initiation into the profession by accompanying my mother — also a social worker — to community events and meetings. I also decided very early in my life that I wanted to get a Ph.D. My husband keeps me motivated and going day in and day out. He helps me remember my dream of helping survivors of violence every time I have a dull moment. Along with this, the stories of thousands of SA women who lose themselves to domestic violence while trying to live the American dream are my strength to keep going every single day.

After graduation, I plan to …

… become an educator with the goal of educating young minds and create a positive outlook toward gender equality. This will help create a more equitable and less violent world.

The one UGA experience I will always remember will be …

… getting the Student of the Year award. I felt honored and a sense of fulfillment, and I shall always be grateful for that.