ASU communication graduate student awarded prestigious scholarship

By

Catherine Sebold

Rebecca Leach, a doctoral candidate in Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, is one of 100 women in the U.S. and Canada selected to receive a $20,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood. She was nominated by Professor Sarah J. Tracy in the Hugh Downs School, and a member of P.E.O. Chapter CZ of Tempe, Arizona. 

The P.E.O. Scholar Award was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women pursuing a doctoral degree. Award recipients are a select group of women chosen for their high level of academic achievement and potential for having a lasting, positive impact on society. 

“Becky's research provides crucial insight on the importance of compassion, resilience and well-being in the health care atmosphere,” Tracy said. “It is no surprise to me that she was chosen for this prestigious award, and I can't wait to see how her scholarship continues to impact both scholarly and practical communities into the future.” 

The P.E.O. Sisterhood, founded in 1869 at Iowa Wesleyan College, is a philanthropic educational organization dedicated to supporting higher education for women. There are approximately 6,000 local chapters in the U.S. and Canada with nearly a quarter of a million active members. 

"I'm truly honored to be named a P.E.O. Scholar,” Leach said. “I believe that the communication discipline can play a key role in unpacking how organizations can be sites of compassion and flourishing, and I look forward to being a part of that effort."  

Leach previously received the Jeanne Lind Herberger Fellowship in Communication from the Hugh Downs School and a Graduate Excellence Award from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.    

Leach’s dissertation examines the communicative and structural nature of organizational compassion in health care organizations. Her research aims to illustrate how compassion can be communicated in both conversations and organizational policies to mitigate stress and burnout among health care workers.  

“Becky has been dedicated to examining how to create and enact compassion not only at an individual level but also at a community level,” said Heewon Kim, assistant professor and Leach’s adviser in the Hugh Downs School. “How can we help one another stay compassionate and resilient? Becky's research answers this critical question, particularly focusing on a health care organization. In light of a sustained pandemic, new forms of social conflicts and psychological challenges that we all have been facing, her research makes a timely and critical contribution to our society.”