Christina Pao: addressing inequities through research
Christina Pao ’20 B.A./M.A. was committed to public service before the pandemic hit. By making “inequalities more visible,” she said, it has stoked her ambition to make the world a fairer place.
Pao, who is from Portland, Oregon, has spent her undergraduate years at Yale working to better understand how research — specifically in the areas of migration and gender — can drive evidence-based policy and “mend inequalities,” such as housing disparities and unequal worker protections. She recently completed a thesis on the gender politics of refugee integration in Germany, and will graduate with a B.A. in classics and a B.A./M.A. in political science.
“Eventually, I want to utilize my research to advocate for the marginalized,” said Pao, who in December was one of four Yale women students to win a Rhodes Scholarship. It will support her upcoming studies at the University of Oxford, where she’ll pursue a master’s degree in sociology and demography.
Earlier last year, Pao was also named one of 62 Truman scholars. The scholarship, created by Congress, provides $30,000 to students preparing for leadership roles in public service. She’ll use that funding to support her studies for a Ph.D. in demography.
At Yale, Pao has explored her interests from a number of angles. She actively supported other students and social justice causes, serving as a first-year counselor, a community and consent educator (a role focused on fostering a positive sexual climate on campus), and a co-coordinator of the Dwight Hall Urban Fellows program, which provides hands-on work with community leaders to address urban challenges. She also volunteered with IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services), a New Haven based resettlement program.
She and a friend, Jordan Cozby ’20 B.A., worked with librarians and community leaders to create an archive related to the church asylum movement — the way churches create safe spaces for migrants.
Last summer, Pao also researched the political participation of women and gender minorities in Asia and the Pacific through an internship with the United Nations in Bangkok. “I’m interested in how we penalize and reward leaders based on identities,” she said.
Amid the pandemic, Pao and Akhil Rajan ’21 B.A. have launched a survey, funded by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, to study the rise in xenophobia and anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S.
“This is an opportunity for deep reflection,” she said. “And it’s also an opportunity for research. When people are forced to face inequity, how do we divert blame?”