Kate Smock BA ’18 Honored With the Rena Ratte Award
May 21, 2018
by Emily Price BA ’18
Every year, Lewis & Clark honors one undergraduate student with the Rena J. Ratte Award, a distinction that recognizes outstanding academic and personal achievement. This year’s recipient is Kate Smock BA ’18, a sociology and anthropology (SOAN) major who has combined activism and scholarship to explore issues of human mobility and its implications.
“I couldn’t have been more shocked to win the Rena Ratte award,” Smock said. “As a nontraditional student who didn’t finish high school, it feels so rewarding to have my efforts recognized. My time at Lewis & Clark has been such a transformative experience, and I feel that the Rena Ratte award encapsulates that transformation for me.”
I have worked with students in the past on collaborative research, but this is the first time that I imagine working with a student who will push my thinking, will drive the project, and will be absolutely central to its success. Kate is a leader. She is simply the best of the best. Sarah Warren Associate Professor of Sociology
Smock transferred to Lewis & Clark after several years of community college and immediately began exploring opportunities to connect her academic interests and her activism. During an internship with NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon, she designed and mapped a geographical analysis of abortion access in the state. Inspired by feminist models of participatory action, she developed a fundraising guide for the Safe Travels Fund that encouraged supporters with financial resources to contribute directly to the construction of pathways supporting women seeking access to health care.
In May 2017, Smock traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador, to research the effects North American relocation has on the country’s economy and the lives of everyday citizens. Her research situates postcolonial cities within a globalizing economic system: as Americans move abroad, she found, the higher cost of living they are accustomed to follows them, creating difficulties for local families who are unable to keep up.
“The world is increasingly mobile, and the rate at which information is circulated is increasing,” Smock said. “Mobility allows us to respond to a changing world. My research asks, who is able to access the privilege of mobility, and what consequences exist when one cannot access it?”
Smock’s thesis so impressed her committee that her faculty advisor, Associate Professor of Sociology Sarah Warren, invited her to collaborate on two summer research projects.
“I have worked with students in the past on collaborative research, but this is the first time that I imagine working with a student who will push my thinking, will drive the project, and will be absolutely central to its success,” Warren said. “Kate is a leader. She is simply the best of the best.”
In the coming years, Smock will continue her research on transnational gentrification. She hopes to ultimately pursue a PhD in sociology.
“I continue to find purpose in my work and the theory that grounds it,” she said. “Through my close relationships with SOAN faculty and spirited conversations with fellow students, my academic creativity has matured and developed. I eagerly look forward to bringing the creativity I have refined at Lewis & Clark with me into my graduate study and beyond.”