Graduate Student Profile: Somalis Chy

Name: Somalis Chy, PhD candidate in Consumer Behavior & Family Economics
Hometown: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Educational Background: B.A. in Economics from Cambodia in 2016 & M.A. from a consortium of European universities in Economics of Globalization and European Integration in 2018

How did you first connect to your field of research?

There are both personal and academic reasons for how I got connected with my current field of research. During my first semester at UW-Madison, I heard news about my mom’s health issues and immediately became concerned and was quite distracted from my education and work. At the same time, I came upon the family caregiving literature, which deeply resonated with me. Then, I thought I could not be the only one who was struggling with this, so I started digging into the family caregiving literature and discovered that caregiving during young adulthood was an emerging field of research and definitely understudied. That is, how and when I felt there was an opportunity for me to contribute to the field as much as I could.

What attracted you to UW-Madison? To CDHA?

Part of what attracted me to UW-Madison was the School of Human Ecology. Coming from Cambodia, where women’s education is traditionally second to men’s, having discovered a school with a majority of female faculty members doing awesome research was really inspiring for me. I truly felt that there was a place for me in this school, this university. I was introduced to CDHA/CDE by my advisor, Dr. Megan Doherty Bea, because of my interest in the dynamics of family relationships between aging adult parents and adult children. Afterward, I learned more about the center and its training program during my attendance at a course taught by Dr. Michal Engelman.  Since then, CDHA has been a great resource for my academic growth, professional development, and networking.

What are your research interests and current research projects?

Broadly, my research interest is the dynamics of families’ relationships in economic decision-making and their interactions with social policies and benefits, with the aim of improving families’ well-being and reducing social and economic inequalities. Currently, my research projects are related to family caregiving for adults, children, and grandchildren, with a specific focus on the consequences faced by socioeconomically disadvantaged family caregivers, such as access to work-family policies (ex. paid family leave), and employment-tied benefits (ex. Social Security Disability Insurance, SSDI, and retirement benefits, OASI).

In what ways has CDHA impacted your graduate career? Are there any notable experiences with CDHA you will take away with you in future academic and professional endeavors?

As I previously mentioned, CDHA and its network of scholars have been a great resource for my academic and professional careers. From funding for conference attendances, faculty support and encouragement, and weekly training seminars, I am truly grateful for being a part of the CDHA community now and in the future.

How does your work relate to the Wisconsin Idea?

Wisconsin Idea is embedded in my work through evidence-based research that expands our knowledge of real societal issues and their public policy implications aimed at improving the well-being of families and individuals.

What’s one thing you hope people who are exposed to your research will come away with?

Family caregiving during emerging young adulthood has serious implications for both current and later-life well-being, financial security, and access to public assistance and benefits that should not be overlooked.

What future plans and aspirations do you have once you have completed your time at UW-Madison?

I hope to continue to be actively involved in the public policy research community through research, mentoring, or timely dissemination of research findings that are important and relevant in public policy.

What are some hobbies and interests that occupy your time outside of your academic work?

Outside of academic work, if the weather permits, I enjoy cycling around Madison and walking along the Lakeshore path and Picnic Point. I also enjoy gathering with friends on murder mystery game nights and catching up. When I am alone, I love putting together jigsaw puzzles and reading (non-academic!) books.