PACS news / June 9, 2022

Stanford PACS Selection for 2022-2023 Ph.D Fellows 

Stanford PACS is excited to share our selection for 2022-2023 PACS Ph.D Fellows: Erik Santoro, Hesu Yoon, Heitor Santos, Ruth Appel, Suhani Jalota

Erik Santoro is a PhD student in Social Psychology. He studies brief interpersonal interactions, and their role in bridging societal divides. Collaborating with faculty in political science and organizational behavior, Erik studies interactions across a variety of situations, including Republicans and Democrats talking about politics, men and women discussing personal and professional problems, and employees providing upward feedback to their managers. Erik is interested in understanding both what leads to improved conversations, as well as what causes such interactions to occur in the first place.

Research Description: Democratic norms in the United States are weakening, and many Americans are dissatisfied with democracy. Though scholars have long thought that conversations between everyday Republicans and Democrats might be key to strengthening attitudes related to democratic accountability, recent research that I have conducted has shown that this might not always be the case (Santoro & Broockman, in press). My research project proposes to investigate three aspects of cross-partisan conversations that I predict influence whether cross-partisan conversations are effective at strengthening democratic norms, namely what is talked about (Are our partisans talking about democratic norms?), how people talk (Are conversational partners non-judgmentally listening to one another?), and who talks (Are friends or strangers having a conversation?). Taken together, this research will be crucial for gaining better insight into the ingredients necessary to ensure that cross-partisan conversations lead to strengthened attitudes related to democratic accountability. My aim is both to add to social psychology and political science theory and to develop a set of best practices that bridging nonprofits can use in their work facilitating cross-partisan conversations.

Hesu Yoon is a PhD student in Sociology and a member of Changing Cities Research Lab (CCRL). Broadly, I study evaluative judgments in the context of neighborhoods and community, with a focus on the role of race, local institutions, visual environment, and technology. I am also interested in social psychological mechanisms – categorizing and stereotyping – that help explain evaluative judgments of space and have implications on macro-level urban processes like gentrification, integration, and segregation. I enjoy learning and using innovative data and methods to answer my research questions. I hold a B.A. in History and Political Science from Yonsei University and a M.A. in Sociology from Seoul National University, South Korea.

Research: My dissertation examines the social construction of neighborhood desirability in the context of growing ethnoracial diversity and gentrification. Drawing on various data and methods – from online survey experiments to computational text analysis, I study the racialized pathways of neighborhood change with a focus on the role of institutional resources and space-based stereotypes. My first empirical chapter explores the relationship between local businesses and gentrification, and how this relationship varies by the race of gentrifiers and the pre-existing ethnoracial composition of the neighborhood. The second chapter utilizes a series of online survey experiments to study the effect of ethnoracial composition on neighborhood perceptions and evaluative judgments. Particularly, I illuminate the role of positive stereotypes associated with mixed- and minority neighborhoods, such as perceived diversity and authenticity that increase neighborhood desirability. Finally, I investigate how the emerging online actors participate in placemaking using the case of Airbnb users. Drawing on computational text analysis, I find various rhetorical strategies that Airbnb hosts utilize to promote their neighborhoods, and their impact on consumer evaluation. By investigating the upper-end of place stratification with an eye toward the upward mobility of mixed- and minority neighborhoods, my dissertation aims to empower the members of marginalized communities and provide novel insights into building a more inclusive and vibrant community life.

Heitor Santos is pursuing a PhD in International and Comparative Education and a Master’s In Public Policy. He is a member of PACS’ Global Civil Society and Sustainable Development lab, where he has been contributing in the creation of the World Education Reform Database. He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Educational Studies.

Prior to Stanford, Heitor was one of the founding teachers of Avenues: The World School in São Paulo, Brazil. At Avenues, he taught High-Intensity Practice Thinking to Middle School students, working on the development of executive function skills through writing.

Research Description: Scholars studying the philanthropic sector in Brazil have approached the work of foundations by either looking at the role of several organizations in promoting one specific reform measure or by scrutinizing the role of one specific organization and its impact on the education system. While valuable, these analyses can often privilege large and well-known organizations working across the country at the expense of smaller organizations working in sub-national units. This research project approaches the philanthropic sector more systematically. It explores how Brazilian philanthropists have made sense of, responded to, and created an agenda for educational change in the country. Through interviews with representatives from philanthropic organizations and historical document analyses, I seek to answer the following research questions: first, “What is the theory of change articulated by Brazilian philanthropists regarding education?” and, second, “What are the factors shaping these theories of change?”

The contributions of this study are twofold: first it takes discussions on disruptive philanthropy and its implications for democracy beyond the United States to the context of a politically unstable country, assessing the application of existing typologies to the context of Brazil. Secondly, it shifts the study of organizational action in the global south away from functional and market-centered narratives to a focus on the organizational field and the processes driving collective rationality.

Ruth Appel is a PhD Candidate at Stanford University who combines insights and methods from psychology, political science and computer science to develop and evaluate evidence-based interventions to promote the common good. She is particularly passionate about preventing the spread of misinformation, encouraging political participation, promoting wellbeing and mental health, and addressing ethical challenges related to new technologies. Her current research projects include an online game to combat vaccine misinformation, and she has written about the ethics and privacy implications of new technologies.

She gained work experience as a UX Research Intern at Google, as a Research Associate at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University, and as an Intern at the EU Delegation to the UN in New York. She holds a Master’s in Public Policy from Science Po Paris and a B.Sc. in Economics from the University of Mannheim.

Research Description: The research project “Censorship Perceptions and Partisanship” in collaboration with Jennifer Pan at Stanford and Margaret Roberts at UCSD investigates the extent to which partisanship obstructs shared understandings of “harmful content” and what constitutes “censorship.” Although the majority of Americans seem to agree that freedom of expression is crucially important to a functioning democracy and that social media companies should remove harmful content from the Internet, they may disagree over what constitutes harmful online content based on their partisanship. We measure if the rhetoric of “censorship” differs by partisanship among political elites (via large-scale observational data on elite political speech, e.g. on Twitter) and the general population in the US (via a survey experiment with US citizens). For example, we want to look at how commonly the word “censorship” and related words are used by politicians with different party affiliations (Republican vs. Democrat), whether these politicians talk about different issues when it comes to censorship, and how frequency and content might have changed over time.

The insights from this study could not only enhance our understanding of partisanship and the perception of censorship, but could also help inform content moderation policies that platforms and government agencies are considering and implementing.

Suhani Jalota
is the Founder of Rani Jobs and the Myna Mahila Foundation, an organization working on women’s health and employment in slum communities in India. She is currently a Knight Hennessy Scholar completing her MBA and PhD in Health Policy and Economics at Stanford University. For the last eleven years, she has been working in urban slum areas and rural communities on projects ranging from adolescent girl health, water and sanitation to social protection policies in South Africa, Thailand, and several cities in India. She is a Forbes Asia under 30 recipient 2018, and she holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Global Health from Duke University.

Research description:
With merely 23% of women in the labor force today in India, despite advances in education levels and workplace policies to support women, it remains puzzling why high willingness to work does not translate to employment. Women lack job opportunities that meet their needs: part-time, flexible, at or near home, and safe and dignified work that their family would accept. Digital jobs – jobs women can perform using their smartphones – may have the potential to alleviate some of the constraints of female labor force participation (FLFP) today. This project aims to provide some of the first experimental evidence to show how providing newer digital job opportunities and paid work-from-home could increase female labor force participation in India. This study explores the large constraint of married women not having job opportunities they can access and work in and proposes a potential way to overcome it. The research observes how providing more suitable employment to women may change women’s employment status and job performance, if at all, and the effects of this employment on women’s overall agency, mental health, dignity, and social norms. Further, it comments on the discordance, if any, between husbands’ and wives’ perspectives on women’s employment in these digital jobs. A new mobile phone platform called RANI (Queen) was developed for this research, which provides employment opportunities to the workers through image classification, text categorization, and emotion detection tasks that feed into training ML/AI datasets for clients.