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Rachel Nickens


  • PhD Candidate, Sociology, University of California-Davis
  • Graduate Certificate in Feminist Theory and Research, University of California-Davis
  • MA, Sociology, University of California-Davis
  • MA, Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Cincinnati
  • BA, Women's Studies and International Affairs, Florida State University


Rachel Nickens is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at University of Caifornia-Davis. Broadly, she studies gender, culture, family and childhood. Specifically, she is interested in how ideas about femininity are produced within and disseminated through organizations. Rachel is also passionate about teaching and is currently a Teaching Assistant Consultant with the Center for Educational Effectiveness. 

Research Focus

Broadly: Gender, Childhood and Youth, Culture (including sport and youth culture), Organizations, Feminist Studies and Feminist Research

Girl Scouts in the 21st Century: For her dissertation project, Rachel asks how Girl Scout troops (as collectives of girls and adults) decide what to do within a large national program with many options. This project is based on ethnographic observations of three different Girl Scout troops in two communities, as well as 50-something interviews with troop leaders and volunteers and supplementary interviews with staff and young adults who are recent "Girl Scout graduates." Rachel explores how Girl Scout activities relate to ideas about gender, girlhood, and parenting, as well as how the structure of Girl Scouting reproduces inequality.

Gender in Youth Gymnastics: In this ongoing project, Rachel explores how adolescent gymnasts understand their participation in a highly gendered sport. The data comes from of both male and female gymnasts in training and competitive settings, as well as in-depth interviews with adolescent athletes, their coaches, and their parents. 

Selected Publications

"More that 'Little Girls in Pretty Boxes': Reconsidering the Experiences of Adolescent Female Gymnastics." American Sociological Association Annual Meeting. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. August 11, 2018.

"Girl Scouts, Community Practices, and the Reproduction of Inequality." Sociology Graduate Student Research and Development Conference. Davis, California, June 2018. 

"'A Little More Majestic': Institutionalized Gender Difference in Youth Gymnastics and Possibilities for Transformations." Emergent Feminisms of the 21st Century: UC Davis Graduate Student Symposium for the Designated Emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research. Davis, California. May 29, 2015, 

"'A Little More Majestic': Institutionalized Gender Difference in Youth Gymnastics." Sociology Graduate Student Research and Development Conference. Davis, California. March 2, 2015.

"Creating Oneself: The Feminist Potential in Assuming a Roller Derby Identity." National Women’s Studies Association. Atlanta, Georgia. November 13, 2011.

“Making It or Breaking Down: Eating Disorders and Body Image in a Teen Gymnastics Drama.” Pop Praxis: Social Justice and the Media. University of Cincinnati. April 8, 201. 

“Teaching International Human Rights: Human Rights Courses at Florida State University” with Daniel Maier-Katkin and Chelsea Brint. The Reinvention Center Conference on “Education, Innovation and Discovery: The Distinctive Promise of the American Research University” Washington, D.C., November 13, 2008.


SOC 003 Social Problems (UCD, Spring 2019)
SOC 122 Adolescence (UCD, Summer 2016)
SOC 131 Family (UCD, Summer 2015, Summer 2017, Fall 2017, Summer 2018) 
SOC 132 Gender (UCD, Fall 2016)
SOC 153 Childhood (UCD, Spring 2017, Winter 2019)
SOC 156 Social Movements (UCD, Spring 2018)
Human Sexuality (University of Cincinnati, Fall 2011 and Winter 2012)
Special Topics in Women's Studies: Gender and Sports (University of Cincinnati, Spring 2012)

SOC 002 Self & Society (UCD, Fall 2014)
SOC 46A Intro to Social Research (UCD, Fall 2018)
SOC 120 Deviance (UCD, Spring 2014)
SOC 131 Family (UCD, Winter 2015)
SOC 132 Gender (UCD, Fall 2015)
SOC 135 Social Relationships (UCD, Winter 2014)
SOC 153 Childhood (UCD, Spring 2016)
SOC 172 Ideology of Race, Class, Gender (UCD, Winter 2016)
WGS 50 Introduction to Women and Gender Studies (UCD, Fall 2013 & Spring 2015; Univerisity of Cincinnati, Fall 2010)
Human Sexuality (University of Cincinnati, Winter and Spring 2011)

SOC 002 Self & Society (UCD, Summer 2013)
SOC 120 Deviance (UCD, Summer 2014)
SOC 153 Social Relationships (UCD, Summer 2019)