Monica Gao

Job title: 
Class of 2023
2023 Percy Undergraduate Grant

 Monica is a fourth-year student majoring in sociology, with a concentration in research methodology. Her research interests include immigration, race and ethnicity, and social movement. Her honors senior thesis focuses on the naming preferences of Asian Americans to understand assimilation. She has been awarded the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and Institute of International Studies Undergraduate Fellowship. After graduating from Cal, Monica plans on pursuing a Ph.D. degree in sociology.  

Research bio: My research seeks to understand the role of ethnic civic organizations in the political incorporation of first-generation immigrants and how organizations frame the necessity of political participation for immigrants. I specifically focus on the recall of San Francisco Board of Education commissioners as a case study. In February 2022, three school board commissioners were recalled by an overwhelming majority of votes, making it the first successful recall in San Francisco since 1914. What has captured most of the popular press is the prominence of Asian Americans, especially Chinese Americans, in supporting the recall efforts, even though Chinese Americans have been traditionally portrayed as an “apolitical” group. Through in-depth interviews with key organizational leaders, I want to learn about ethnic civic organizations’ framing and organizational strategies in mobilizing Chinese immigrants for the recall. My research has three important implications for policymaking and scholarly inquiry. First of all, my research seeks to demystify the political participation of Asian Americans. Political scientists have long been puzzled by Asian Americans’ low level of political participation despite their relatively high SES and educational attainment. Through this case study, I am interested in finding out the circumstances that encouraged the emergence of a contentious political campaign by previously apolitical actors, and how the campaign was able to resonate with the wider audiences. Secondly, understanding how key actors form strategic coalitions and articulate movement framing will contribute to the scholarly debate on minority politics, which often emphasizes resource competition between minority groups. Educational equity is a highly contentious issue in the country right now, so I want to examine the rhetoric and coalitions in the recall movement to analyze whether the actors themselves viewed their efforts as a competition for educational resources with other minority groups.  Thirdly, my study can shed light on how public policy and institutions can facilitate the political incorporation of immigrants in San Francisco.

Research interests: 

Major(s): Sociology