PhD researcher investigates what motivates someone to pressure others

Ashley Ryan

PhD candidate | Sociology

Ashley Ryan, a PhD candidate in Sociology researches crime and peer influence. More specifically, she is exploring the motivations behind peer pressure, but not from the perspective that you may be thinking. Ashley says, “To date, there has been a substantial amount of research looking at peer influence from the perspective of the person being influenced, but there is very little information available about the influenAshley holding a #PhDlife signcer. “As a result, her research will uncover potential ways of decreasing peer pressure. “I aim to inform and educate on effective interventions, so people can experience more comfortable or positive peer interactions,” she says.

Ashley began her post-secondary academic journey at the University of Waterloo, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies with a minor in Psychology. She then continued her education at Waterloo by completing her master’s in Sociology under the supervision of Dr. Owen Gallupe, for whom she had worked as a research assistant during her undergraduate studies, focused on a project related to peer influence and theft. During her master’s, she conducted research “on the act of dining and dashing and tested three major theories in criminology,” she explains. “I was one of the first scholars to explore this topic area, so it was a challenging but rewarding journey.” This was the project that made Ashley realize her passion for research in criminology and led to her PhD studies.

A prouAshley with her supervisord moment in Ashley’s research journey was when she received the news that an article she authored with Dr. Gallupe on her master’s research was accepted for publication in the academic journal Deviant Behavior. Her success does not end there: she was granted the Provost Doctoral Entry Award for Women in Sociology which is provided to an outstanding fulltime female doctoral student; and, she had the opportunity to present at meetings for the American Society of Criminology when she first started her PhD. Within the next year, Ashley is hoping to publish an article she is working on with Dr. Gallupe and Dr. Brittany Etmanski which assesses the role of peer deviance in the relationship between disability and non-violent delinquency.

In her free time, Ashley is very involved within the University of Waterloo community. She is the current Student Wellness Coordinator for the Graduate Student Association where she helps students to navigate university policies, she sits on multiple campus-wide committees, and she runs events. During her undergraduate and master’s studies, she was an editor for the Legal Studies Undergraduate Journal. Her involvement extends beyond campus too as a leader for the Girl Guides of Canada where she teaches female youth a variety of skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving and first aid. This role connects to her research because “Girl Guides teaches members to be confident, independent, protect their own wellness and the wellness of others, and stand up for others”, Ashley explains.  She is also an off-campus don.Ashley presenting her research

Ashley has some great advice for incoming students looking to pursue graduate studies. She says, “Prioritize your happiness and wellbeing. Do not burn yourself out working 80 hours a week or choosing a research topic that you do not have any interest in. Discover ways to work efficiently. Set boundaries and spend time doing the things you love. Take guiltless breaks (even if they last all day) and find a topic that truly interests you. Getting a PhD is amazing, but do not let other areas of your life fall through the cracks.”

When asked why she chose to pursue her undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Waterloo, Ashley says, “When I was applying to the University of Waterloo for my undergraduate degree I did so because it was one of the top schools in the country. I liked the campus environment, I loved the emphasis on leadership and innovation, and it was located a few hours from my family. I decided to stay at Waterloo for my graduate studies because of the great working relationship I have with my supervisor, the different opportunities available on campus, and the social roots I had been establishing on and off campus.”