Student: Allison Davis

Allison Davis saw opportunities to grow at East Carolina University while staying close to home when she made her college decision. A main factor was getting accepted to ECU Honors College. She grew up about 45 minutes away in Wilson, where she’s carrying on a family legacy: Her mom earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from ECU.

“Being close to my family is important to me,” Davis said. “I love the size of ECU and the sense of community it provides.”

Allison Davis stands beside the PeeDee Sensory Space mobile unit at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. (Contributed photo)

Davis enjoys working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In middle school, she was asked to be an assistant for the special education art class. “I fell in love with it. From then on, I was involved in many different opportunities that allowed me to work with these individuals, from summer camps to school organizations,” she said.

She found ECU recreational therapy in the College of Health and Human Performance when she began looking into majors that would fit her interest.

“I am so glad that I discovered the major, because I feel that I have truly found my passion in life,” Davis said.

Recreational therapists help all ages from children to adults to restore, remediate or rehabilitate, improve functioning and independence, and reduce the effects of illness or disability. ECU students learn to work as part of a health care team to help patients achieve their highest level of functioning possible.

For the past year, Davis has worked on a research project with ECU professor Dr. David Loy to create PeeDee’s Sensory Space, a mobile trailer designed for individuals with sensory processing issues who may get overstimulated at public events. The trailer is an offshoot of PeeDee’s Sensory Room in Minges Coliseum.

Davis worked with ECU engineering students in choosing and purchasing sensory interventions for the calming space that includes soft lights and bean bags, a bubble tower and tactile objects. She also completed a literature review and wrote a research proposal and procedural guidelines that led to a $1,300 ECU Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity award for the project.

Data will be collected this spring at ECU athletic events and possibly community events in Greenville. The team had a test run at the last two ECU home football games in November.

“It is so rewarding to see the project come to fruition and see the impact it has on individuals in our communities,” Davis said. “Seeing children enter the trailer overwhelmed and leave more relaxed and ready to return to watching the game honestly brought tears to my eyes during the first pilot run.”

In addition to her research, Davis has worked as an administrative student assistant in Joyner Library since her first year at ECU.

“Having an on-campus job is one of the best decisions I made coming into ECU,” she said. “The professional skills and connections I have made with ECU staff and faculty through this job have made a big impact on my experience at ECU. This job helped me feel like I was a part of the ECU community my freshman year, and since then I have grown so much.”

Davis is also making an impact in the community, where she works as a program leader with special populations for Greenville’s Recreation and Parks Department under the mentorship of ECU alumni and recreational therapists Brent Harpe and Blair Spivey.

“This job has been such an amazing and rewarding learning opportunity for me,” Davis said. “I have gained hundreds of hours of experience working with individuals with various developmental and intellectual disabilities through facilitating sport practices and assisting with different events. It has helped me realize that I am doing what I was meant to do with my life.”

As she enters her final semester as an undergraduate student, Davis credits ECU’s recreational therapy staff and faculty for preparing her for her future career. “When I walk into a classroom, I know that I belong and that my professors genuinely care about shaping us into the best future recreational therapists that we can be. My cohort in the program feels like a family.”

When Davis isn’t working or in class, she enjoys studying with friends or attending her roommates’ cycling classes at the student recreation center. “You can also find me at as many ECU athletic events as I can fit into my schedule — Go Pirates!”

Once she graduates in May, Davis will complete a required 15-week internship for her degree and will be eligible to sit for the national certification exam to become credentialed to work in the field. After that, Davis plans on returning to ECU to earn her master’s degree in recreational therapy administration.

This Pirate is looking forward to working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.


Name: Allison Davis

College: Health and Human Performance

Major: Recreational therapy

Age: 21

Classification/Year: Senior

Hometown: Wilson

Hobbies/interests: Art, reading, hanging out with my friends, attending sports events

Clubs and Organizations: Recreational Therapy Student Society secretary


Favorite hangout: Backstage Coffee or anywhere I get to hang out next to a bonfire with my friends

Favorite place on campus: Joyner Library – second floor

Favorite place to eat: aTavola!

Favorite class: Disability and Adaptive Sport, where I got my adapted recreation and sports specialist certification (CARSS)

Professor who influenced you the most: Dr. David Loy

Favorite TV show: “New Girl”

Favorite band/musician: Taylor Swift and Tyler Childers

Favorite movie: “Soul”

Favorite app: New York Times games and Instagram


Dream job: Recreational therapist

Role model: My parents

Your words to live by: If it comes, let it. If it goes, let it.

What advice do you have for other students? Get out of your comfort zone! If my high school self could see me, she would be so shocked at the things I have accomplished.

What is something cool about ECU that you wish you knew during your first year? While there are like 30,000 people at ECU, it is easy to find your spot if you put yourself out there! I attended one of my professor’s office hours my freshman year, and that totally changed the course of my experience at ECU. You will find your people!


Allison Davis