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Urban Studies Summer Research Program 2020

Urban Studies Student Presenting Research Poster

The program on Urban Studies is delighted to announce our Summer Research Program for 2020. This program provides funding for selected undergraduates to work full-time during the summer on faculty-led research projects. Students will receive mentorship and supervision from the faculty member overseeing their project. Students will also participate in cohort events with the other student researchers, such as regular group lunches, to discuss their ongoing research, build their research skills, and enhance a sense of community.


June 22 – August 28. This is expected to be a full-time (40 hours per week), 10-week commitment. Participating students may not register for more than 5 units of summer coursework, and may not work for more than 10 hours per week outside of their project experience.




The program is open to undergraduate Stanford students in all majors, as well as undeclared students. Students must be enrolled as undergraduates at Stanford in both the spring and autumn quarters of 2020. Participating students may not register for more than 5 units of summer coursework, and must not work for more than 10 hours per week outside of their project experience. Students may not receive course credit for the summer project experience itself. Students may not receive more than $9000 in VPUE funding during a single academic year; the summer research program cannot be taken in the same summer as a Haas Summer Fellowship, a VPUE Major Grant, or a Chappell-Lougee Scholarship.


For students who want to apply for on-campus summer housing, room, board, house dues, and other academic expenses are paid by the student. Students are responsible for paying their university summer bill, which will include any other academic expenses incurred.

To Apply:

Complete this Google form. For information, contact Michael Kahan at

Deadline for applications: Feb.23 2020, 11:59 pm


1. Local Government Spending and Local Poverty
Faculty: Michelle Wilde Anderson, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

The student working on this project would spend their summer focused on research that seeks to answer the following question:  How do local government spending and services vary depending on local poverty rates?  Currently and through next summer, I am engaged in two projects related to this topic: (1) a large-scale, national empirical analysis of municipal spending and poverty, co-authored with a political scientist at UC Merced named Jessica Trounstine, and (2) a narrative, trade press book about the collapse in local government services and finance in places of long-term deindustrialization and chronic poverty.  For the first project, an RA would work with me and Professor Trounstine on compiling and presenting our data, editing an article manuscript with our results, and helping to update our literature review on the topic.  On the second project, my book will be going through an edit with my publisher at that time, and an RA would have some responsibility for factchecking and final research related to the main government services emphasized in the book (policing, anti-violence efforts beyond the police department, adult skill development, youth development, and housing policy). 

Qualifications and skills: This project will be well suited for students interested in why and to what extent the quality of local government services reflects the segregation of wealth and poverty into different tax jurisdictions.

2. Teacher Educators, Teachers, Mentors, Administrators, and Students on Teacher Education Designed to Prepare Teachers For Diversity
Faculty: Arnetha Ball, Graduate School of Education

I have been collecting reflections written by students who have indicated an interest in improving the education of students from diverse backgrounds who receive schooling in urban areas.  I am seeking undergraduate students who might be interested in assisting me in analyzing the written reflections to determine the major themes that emerge in the voices of the students.  Students would receive training in research methods, as well as their work on my faculty-led project.  As the faculty PI, I am looking forward to providing mentorship for the students, with an eye toward preparing the students for more independent projects in the future.

Qualifications and skills: dependability, responsible for completing assigned tasks, and an interest in learning.

3. Gentrification and Displacement in the West
Faculty: Jackelyn Hwang, Sociology

This project will examine the consequences of gentrification and declining housing affordability in the Bay Area and other regions in the West (e.g., Los Angeles, the Central Valley, Seattle, Phoenix) with a focus on residential displacement. The project will involve analyzing patterns of residential mobility in relation to neighborhood changes and housing and development policies, including examining anti-displacement policy efforts and new housing production. The research assistant will assist with the following activities: (1) compile summary results into table and figures; (2) conduct basic analyses; (3) assist in developing policy reports, academic publications, and presentations to disseminate results; and (4) gather background information on specific policies, developments, and cities in the West.

Qualifications and skills: data management and quantitative analysis; proficiency in Excel and R; experience with ArcGIS or using spatial data in R is a plus.

4. Oral Histories: Artists’ Housing in San Francisco, and Urban Studies at Stanford
Faculty: Michael Kahan, Program on Urban Studies

The student on this project will assist with two oral history projects. The first is a history of artists’ housing in San Francisco since the 1970s, focusing on the origins of “artists’ lofts” in the South of Market and other neighborhoods. Early loft housing was countercultural and essentially illegal, and was pioneered by artists living in communal collectives. How did this housing transform from a symbol of the counterculture to a byword for gentrification? We will interview residents of these lofts to learn about their experience; we will also interview policymakers who helped make the plans and policies that regulated this housing.

The second project is an oral history of the Urban Studies program at Stanford. Why was the Urban Studies program started? Who was involved? How has it changed over time? And what does this tell us about how academia has shaped urban knowledge, and how activists have shaped academia? This project will involve conversations with faculty and students who founded the program, as well as others who have been involved with it over the years.

Qualifications and skills: interviewing, transcription, qualitative analysis, research in secondary sources. Some detective work (finding people), and assistance with scheduling. Previous experience in any of these skills would be a plus, but not necessary.

5. Sustainability Optimization of Urban Areas Using Integrated Infrastructure Approaches
Faculty: Mike Lepech (CEE) (
PhD Student Mentor: Pouya Kalehbasti (CEE) (

Until recently, urban water and energy infrastructure systems have been planned and managed independently (Howells and Rogner, 2014). However, urban infrastructures are becoming more interdependent in the face of mutual challenges including aging, population growth, shrinking resources, extreme events, and climate change (Saidi et al., 2018; Bauer et al., 2015). In particular, ‘integrated water and energy planning’ has gained global public and scholarly attention due to recent difficulties faced by many countries to secure sustainable water and energy resources (Khan, Linares, and García-González, 2017; Rodriguez et al., 2013; United Nations, 2019; Bauer et al., 2015). This concept, dubbed the “water-energy nexus,” focuses on the interrelations between production, transmission, and consumption of water and energy (Siddiqi and Anadon, 2011; Bauer et al., 2015).

This proposed summer project will be conducted working with a PhD candidate in CEE developing a computational framework to design and optimize the demand, supply, and network layout of integrated energy and water systems (water-energy nexus) as well as EV charging infrastructure for environmental, economic, and social sustainability in an urban neighborhood. The framework concurrently designs the optimal building mix of an urban neighborhood and the systems supplying the neighborhood with wastewater treatment, cooling, heating, and electricity.

Qualifications and skills: some background in programming, especially in Python or Julia, would be really helpful. Also familiarity with optimization can come in handy with getting up to speed with the project. Student will gain an understanding of integrated infrastructure, optimization frameworks, and computational sustainability in the context of urban and infrastructure design and planning.

6. Salinas History Project: From Steinbeck to AgTech—Struggling for Common Purpose in Salinas, California
Faculty: Carol McKibben, Urban Studies

This project utilizes qualitative and quantitative sources to uncover the rich history of Salinas, the urban center for one of the richest agricultural regions in California and the nation. Students would spend the summer working with project director, historian and Stanford urban studies lecturer, Dr. Carol Lynn McKibben, tracing demographic changes through census data and social explorer in order to uncover issues of socioeconomic inequality, political representation, and racial segregation in neighborhoods in Salinas, 1970-present day.

Qualifications and Skills: Knowledge of Spanish preferred; connection to California, especially the Salinas region, is a plus.