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Shania Kuo ’23
The U.S. is facing an unprecedented housing crisis, the effects of which are devastating to low-income renters. With rental costs continuing to rise, residents must choose between shelter and other necessary aspects of their life.

This reality speaks to the expanding definition of displacement, an important component of Shania Kuo’s ’23 summer research at Stanford University, where she helped with a two-year study involving low-income residents in Oakland, Calif. While many are not physically displaced, they are displaced in other ways — forced out of their cultural, political, or social positions by the need to work more hours.

At the same time Kuo studied displacement in Oakland — the results of which will be included in a report to the city — she also conducted her own independent research project. That project considers Asian American racial sense-making at predominantly white institutions during the pandemic. Both projects, like most sociology research, focused on lived experiences. 

“Through interview-driven reports and papers, we can show people’s actual, lived experiences, and that can be used to inform policies and our own perceptions of the world,” Kuo said. 

Kuo participated in the Stanford research through the Leadership Alliance, a national consortium of U.S. higher education institutions that aims to “develop underrepresented students into leaders and role models.” As part of her Leadership Alliance application, she ranked her top three schools for research. Stanford was her first pick, chosen in part for its relevance to her Levitt Center project. 

Though Kuo began her Levitt Center project during the spring of 2022, she had been interested in the topic of Asian American race-making since 2021. In March of that year, the Atlanta Spa shooter killed six Asian American women in a targeted hate crime. 

“That was one of the moments where I realized, oh my gosh, this [Asian American hate] is real, and it’s happening,” Kuo said. “A lot of pain came out of that, and it was a lot for so long. So, my interest in doing this project is really figuring out how we, as Asian Americans, are making sense of what’s going on. How is the pandemic and this anti-Asian hate shaping who we are? Is it even shaping us at all?”

Throughout the summer, Kuo interviewed Asian American students at Stanford, supplementing previous interviews of Hamilton students and providing a coast-to-coast analysis of the Asian American experience at predominantly white institutions. She hopes her research will provide a framework for Asian American students to make sense of their racial identities, as well as a foundation for future Ph.D. research.

Shania Kuo ’23

Majors: Sociology and Chinese
Hometown: Oyster Bay, N.Y.
High School: Oyster Bay High School

“I’m really interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in sociology, which is also a large reason I wanted to conduct research at Stanford this summer — to really get a sense of what it’s like to work at the kind of R1 institutions I plan to apply to,” Kuo said. 

Kuo completed her Stanford research on Aug. 12, finishing the summer with a presentation of her findings. She is now working with Associate Professor of Sociology Jaime Kucinskas in the hopes of publishing her results.

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