At the Forefront of Social Change: Rujeko Machinga-Asaolu Shines in UK’s UNITE Research Initiative  

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 8th 2024) — The University of Kentucky’s United In True Equity Research Priority Area (UNITE RPA) proudly introduced this academic year’s cohort of 21 graduate students into the UNITE Predoctoral Research Enhancement Program across campus. This included standout scholar Rujeko Machinga-Asaolu from the College of Social Work (CoSW) who was re-selected as a fellow after being part of the inaugural cohort.  

Under the leadership of Danelle Stevens-Watkins, Ph.D., and with support from key university offices, the program was established to foster equity and expansion within Ph.D. programs and to support emerging academic leaders.  

This initiative aligns with the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence and aims to develop diverse scholars equipped to tackle contemporary social issues through research. 

Rujeko Machinga-Asaolu, currently pursuing her PhD at CoSW, is brilliant example of this commitment.  

Machinga-Asaolu has a track record of extremely impressive accomplishments and merits with support of her UNITE fellowship mentor Dr. Kathryn Showalter.  

Some of her notable achievements include serving as a Board Member, a Predissertation Fellow, and the 2023 Doctoral Leadership awardee for the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work. 

In the fall of 2023, Machinga-Asaolu received the “Toch Bearer Award” at the Lyman T. Johnson Award’s Ceremony. She also has written and presented on a variety of research articles, including contributing to Princeton University’s Fragile Families study

Machinga-Asaolu’s research consistently explores critical aspects of social welfare and public health, delving into intimate partner violence (IPV) issues. At the recent UNITE Research showcase, she won first place in the graduate/post-doctoral research category with a presentation titled: Behind Closed Doors: Unveiling Intimate Partner Violence Among Immigrants in the U.S. 

Machinga-Asaolu also recently presented with colleagues Stephanie Ratliff and Dr. Kathryn Showalter at the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s 7th Annual Economic Justice Summit on strategies to bolster systemic support for late-life older adult women IPV survivors. 

“As a transdisciplinary scholar, being part of UNITE RPA not only enhances my research skills but also connects me with a network of scholars across different disciplines dedicated to making societal change,” Machinga-Asaolu said. “I am excited and inspired to be a fellow for this program.” 

The UNITE RPA not only offers a stipend but also funds to support research-related expenses, empowering scholars like Machinga-Asaolu to advance their research without the burden of financial constraints.  

“I look forward to providing opportunities for IPV survivors and service providers to be thoughtfully and systematically included in the research process.” Rue said. “This inclusion will foster community engagement and empowerment and deepen our understanding of prevention and intervention strategies for IPV issues.” 

This year, enhancements to the program include a professional development needs assessment spearheaded by Lauren Whitehurst, Ph.D., which helps tailor development opportunities like grant writing workshops to the fellows’ needs. 

The UNITE RPA continues to be a pivotal part of the university’s strategy to increase impactful research that fosters significant societal change. 

To learn more about UNITE RPA and Rujeko Machinga Asaolu’s research, visit the UNITE program. 

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.