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Peer Advisors

Contact any of the peer advisors if you have a question about the major and would like a student perspective!

Interested in becoming a peer advisor?  It’s a great way to be involved in the major, meet new people, and spread the word about Urban Studies!  Applications are due in May to Associate Director Michael Kahan.  You may download the application form (PDF).

Portrait of Sungmoon Lim

Sungmoon Lim

Concentration:Urban Society and Social Change
Hometown: Lawrence, KS
Year expecting to graduate: 2018
Honors thesis or other research project:

Why I'm majoring in Urban Studies: Cities are an incredibly important part of our planet, and their influence will only continue to grow as our world becomes more and more urbanized. Understanding the significance of these urban spaces and analyzing their patterns in various ways — whether it's through a political, sustainable, economic, or sociological lens — is crucial in making decisions that will impact the future of our society. Urban Studies provides a unique blend of theoretical and applied knowledge in a wide range of subjects that allows us to do so.

What I like best about Urban Studies: The Urban Studies department is incredibly welcoming and caring. The faculty members provide unparalleled support — both academic and personal — to the students. My fellow Urban Studies peers are incredibly inspiring and thoughtful, and because of the small size of the department, we're a very tight-knit group.

Favorite class / professor (and why): Though not an Urban Studies class, I loved Russ Fernald's Neuroethology course in the Human Biology department. The topics, though unfamiliar at first, were fascinating. Russ is one of the most brilliant professors I've ever had, and both his lectures during class and our conversations during office hours showed that he really cared about his work and his students. His passion is inspiring and almost contagious. This class taught me the importance and value of sampling subjects beyond one's comfort zone.

Favorite book (and why): Blindness by José Saramago and Night by Elie Wiesel. The co-existence of both the tragic and comic in Blindness is what makes it so gripping, and Saramago's style of writing is exciting and entertaining. Wiesel's Night spurred my interest in history and in human rights, and it's probably the single most important and influential book I read as a kid. Both novels teach the reader invaluable lessons about humanity and human behavior. Oh, and I also love the Harry Potter books. My favorite one is the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Career goal / Future plans: I plan on attending law school after graduation and hope to explore careers in law and diplomacy. I'm also interested in working with international organizations that focus on economic development.

Other academic interests (major, minors): Modern Languages / History

Extracurriculars: Stanford Association for International Development, Stanford Pre-Law Society, Stanford Women in Politics, Stanford Journal of International Law, Boxing

Something else you should know about me: I've lived in 6 different cities on 3 different continents, and I'll be living in New York City this fall as part of the Stanford in New York cohort.


Portrait of Nicole Phillips

Nicole Phillips

Concentration:Urban Society and Social Change
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Year expecting to graduate:
Honors thesis or other research project:

Why I'm majoring in Urban Studies: I believe American Urban Spaces have the potential to incite real change across the board. I also believe that a large majority of America’s social issues are hyper-present in cities and if we can figure out a way to change the status quo in urban spaces those solutions can be modified for other spaces. This is why I love the major. I'm passionate about the hands-on, real-deal learning that is unique to Urban Studies.


Portrait of Jacqui Ramos

Jacque Ramos

Concentration:Urban Sustainability
Hometown: Nashville, TN
Year expecting to graduate:
Honors thesis or other research project:

Urban Studies is my: major

Why I'm majoring (or minoring) in Urban Studies: Cities are the places that people are flocking to at an incredibly high rate, and in order for cities to be an ideal place for people to live, people must study these places to find the best way that people can live in such close proximity. These are also the places where people are most exposed to one another, where they can find their humanity again, depending on the design of the city, depending on the amount of places where people are exposed to each other. Not in cars, but public spaces. People are starving for public places to be in to experience the city in a good way. Through urban studies, I want to help people re-recognize theirs and others' shared humanity.

What I like best about Urban Studies: I love how close-knit and accommodating the urban studies community is. Furthermore, the very field itself is very prevalent to the widespread problem of rapid urbanization, and what we learn in our courses will directly influence the way that we urban studies majors and minors will attempt to solve urban problems when we graduate.

Favorite class / professor (and why): I loved being in Structured Liberal Education (SLE) program for two quarters last year with Joshua Landy, Peter Mann, and Michael Bogucki and the amazing cohort of 90 students I lived and studied with in East FloMo. Being part of such an intellectually inspiring community really stretched me to think further than what I had been exposed to my whole life: the South, Western Civilization, and middle-class suburbia.

Favorite book (and why): Genius of the Poor, it tells of the story of the Filipino community development organization Gawad Kalinga and the people that are so invested in its success. The best thing about this organization is that its success is directy tied with the success of all people involved with it, whether it be a high-class family buying their beauty and health products or the low- class family building their home with their community.

Career goal / Future plans: Potential urban planner, smart city consult, coffee connoisseur

Other academic interests (major, minors): Civil Engineering

Extracurriculars: Co-chair for the Kapatid Committee of the Pilipino American Student Union, Co-chair for the Outreach Committee of Stanford Symphony Orchestra, Violinist in Stanford Symphony Orchestra

Something else you should know about me: I'm also a barista at Starbucks! My other passion other than studying music and cities is coffee, and I've been learning about it first-hand at my part-time job. But the coffee business started to intrigue me when a couple of my friends and I started a social business called Coffee Club Cafe to provide a place for community to develop in the morning at school, to distribute coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to students and teachers, and to raise money for Vanderbilt Child Life. I first got into coffee when I had a 16 ounce cup of coffee at Pike's Place in Seattle, the first Starbucks. Unfortunately, that was also the time that I got horribly sick with tunnel vision, decreased vision, and intense nausea because of the caffeine in that cup. Though that happened, it's still my dream to one day be in the coffee business as a well-traveled connoisseur, advocate for fair agriculture, and proponent of public space through the coffee business.

Sean Volavong

Concentration:Urban Society and Social Change
Hometown: Van Buren, Arkansas
Year expecting to graduate:
Honors thesis or other research project:

Why I'm majoring (or minoring) in Urban Studies: Growing up in a low-income community faced with economic disadvantages, I am passionate to develop and organize communities for positive change. Furthermore, from studying and living in the Bay Area, I have encountered urban development dilemmas such as unequitable affordable housing and accessible transportation that has hindered the quality of life of those living around me. By majoring in Urban Studies, I hope to learn the socioeconomic, academic, and urban planning contexts to mitigate these dilemmas in the Bay Area and beyond.

What I like best about Urban Studies: I love the Urban Studies community! Since the program is small, a feeling of intimacy flows through our peer advising events, our fabulous faculty advisors, and the growing relevance of the topics and discussions held in our classes and affiliated courses.
Favorite class / professor (and why): URBANST 123: Approaching Research and the Community with Clayton Hurd. The course exposes the nuances and necessities of community-based research in a traditional academic environment such as Stanford. Through readings, discussions, and planning a summer or year-long community-based project in the class, I reinforced my passion for an equitable social impact that involves all stakeholders (the community) rather than those with more academic, social, or political power that one would find in many urban planning and development situations.
Favorite book (and why): The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The innocence and freedom themes throughout the short but sweet novel reflect on how much my personality has positively and negatively changed since entering
Stanford and towards the end of my time here.
Career goal / Future plans: I hope to either pursue a career in urban planning (with a focus on housing policy) for rising and/or disadvantaged communities around the State of California or either enter the social impact
consulting world to improve the efficiency and productivity of nonprofits and philanthropic organizations around the United States.
Honors Thesis: During the summer of 2018 and during the 2018-2019 academic year, I will be researching and be writing an honors thesis that focuses on community-based reactions and measures on increased gentrification and the need for affordable housing developments in Northwest Arkansas. The area is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States due to the presence, headquarters, and investments of three Fortune-500 companies (Walmart, J.B. Hunt, and Tyson Foods) into the area. Although I call the area my hometown region, the physical and social infrastructures has changed dramatically during the short timespan of my college career. I am passionate to understand and create a collective community-based impact as I create deliverables not only for Stanford but also for those living in Northwest Arkansas to recommend short and long-term political and social actions.
Extracurriculars: Co-Director of Housing Equity for the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU); Residential Assistant for Narnia.
Something else you should know about me: I'm a black belt in Taekwondo!