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Austin H. Vo is a doctoral student in sociology. He is from Austin, Texas, and earned his bachelor’s degree in statistics from Williams College in 2018. He is interested in the diverse set of tools offered by research methodology and uses a sociological perspective to ask questions about how immigrants are politicized. He enjoys running in the Carolina North Forest, and exploring restaurants and events in the Triangle.

Tell us about your research.

My research focuses on how immigrants are politically incorporated into their destination countries. I examine the United States by asking how an immigrant’s race, ethnicity, generation or legal status may shape a wide range of political outcomes, such as protest and civic engagement. I hope to better understand how organizations and policies vary across states and can better engage immigrant communities, which are facing an increasing number of institutional and legal barriers.


What made you choose UNC-Chapel Hill when deciding on a program/place to study?

The sociology department at UNC-Chapel Hill was on my radar for its strengths in political sociology and social movements, two subfields where I can explore my varied interests regarding politics and immigration. The program’s training in a wide range of research methods is an added bonus, because it helps me explore that statistics and sociology can complement each other in fascinating ways to understand different types of data, whether it be from experiments, interview transcripts or national surveys. Lastly, the sociology department here has been a friendly and collaborative place to be.


How have you built community as a graduate student at Carolina?

In addition to the students in the sociology department, who have provided solidarity and motivation, IME [the Initiative for Minority Excellence] is an encouraging space where I can feel at ease and interact with those who are intentional about building community and cultivating discussions around identity. I enjoy getting involved with APIDA [Asian Pacific Islander Desi American] Grads, through which I have explored cultural events in the Triangle area and gotten involved with local organizations. My roommates are also fellow graduate students and have been a great source of support.


What are you hoping to accomplish with your Carolina degree?

Teachers have often inspired me to ask questions that I assumed were unimportant or should not be asked. I hope to pay it forward by teaching and doing research to investigate the space, place and politics of immigrants in the United States. As immigrants are becoming increasingly diverse, moving to smaller towns and making up a significant portion of American society, I hope to be engaged with immigrant communities by organizing on the ground while also using research as a formal pathway to inform policies and initiatives.

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