2020-2021 Undergraduate Research Fellows

Meet the 2020-2021 Fellows!

Vivian Kong

Vivian Kong is a sophomore in ESIA with concentrations in International Environmental Studies and Latin America. Outside of class, she is a member of GW UNICEF and GW Mock Trial. She is from sunny Southern California and was raised by her Korean grandmother who taught her to appreciate her culture and took her on multiple trips to Korea. She has previously written research papers about grassroots movements for environmental conservation and how drug trafficking affects indigenous populations in Mexico. In the future, she hopes to conduct research abroad and eventually work in diplomacy.

Research Topic:

The Gwangju Uprising: Censorship of artistic and cultural expression in the aftermath of the Gwangju Uprising

Sean Li

Sean Li is a rising Junior in the Elliott School of International Affairs majoring in International Affairs and Geography. He is interested in studying the economic and political geography of East Asia and how it impacts the geopolitical landscape of the region. He loves traveling the world and have visited every inhabited continent except for Oceania. He has also visited South Korea and is fascinated with Korean history. He also loves watching Football (European), especially watching big names from Korea in the English Premier League like Son-Heung Min or Park Ji-Sung. In the future, he hopes to attend law school, pursue a Masters degree or both and work in the USFS.

Research Topic:

A New Approach to China: Republic of Korea

Emma Starink

Emma Starink was born and raised in San Jose, California, where she lived until she moved to Washington DC to attend the George Washington University. Now a junior, she majors in International Affairs with concentrations in International Development and International Politics, and minors in Biology. She is a member of the GWU Model United Nations Team, and is the Director of Communications of the International Affairs Society. She enjoys learning languages and traveling, and is a dual citizen of the USA and the Netherlands. She recently studied abroad at the American University of Kuwait, in Salmiya, Kuwait, where she continued her studies in Arabic and Arab-Islamic civilization. She is a summer Plant Biotechnologies Intern at CropLife International, where she is learning about the processes of international agriculture, crop development and protection, and food security. She hopes to apply the lessons she learns this summer towards her research into the effects of herbicide Agent Orange on the human and food security of Koreas population.

Research Topic:

The immediate and long-term effects of the presence of Agent Orange on the human and food security of the Korean population.

Ryan Singsank

Ryan Singsank is a junior from Los Angeles, California studying at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. He is double majoring in History and International Affairs with a concentration in Conflict Resolution. His main academic interests and research focuses on 20th century US diplomatic history, with emphasis on the Cold War. Specifically, he has conducted prior independent research projects on the Vietnam War and is currently working on having his writing published in undergraduate research journals. During his free time, Ryan enjoys reading a good book, listening to classic rock, cheering on his favorite sports teams, and eating dessert. Ryan is excited about the opportunity to be a GWIKS Undergraduate Research Fellow this year.

Research Topic:

South Korea’s involvement in the Vietnam War and the development of the US-ROK alliance, 1954-73.

Hyebin Kim

Hyebin Kim was born and raised in South Korea but immigrated to America at a young age. She grew up in Upstate NY, near the Finger Lake Region. Similarly to her research topic, she experienced living in two worlds as a Korean- American.

Research Topic:

The 1.5 Generation: Navigating Life Through Two Worlds

Swasti Shah

Swasti Shah is a sophomore at the Elliott School majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in International Development. On campus, she is currently a part of GW UNICEF and GW Amnesty International. She is interested in exploring the impact of social-systems around the world, human rights, government accountability, and sustainable development. Her passion for International Affairs and Korean culture gravitated her to the GWIKS Undergraduate Research Fellows Program. She would like to use this opportunity to take a closer look at Korea by exploring the unique qualities of the Korean language and social hierarchies. With the guidance of the GWIKS staff, she hopes to gain insight on the process of academic writing and further expand her multicultural perspectives.

Research Topic:

An Exploration of How the Korean Social and Linguistic Hierarchies Contributed to the Rapid Development of South Korea

Kayla Harris

Kayla Harris’s interest in Korea originally stemmed from the K-Pop culture. Before coming to GW, she had just recently gotten into Korean music and merely wanted to learn Korean so she could understand what some of my favorite artists were saying in their music. Although this was my initial goal, after one semester of Korean with Professor Ko, she had not only grown to love the language, but also the culture. She had a desire to visit Korea not just for the music, but for the sense of family that was ingrained in the culture. It reminded her of my personal background and it made her feel as though she would be at home despite physically being thousands of miles away. She felt passion for something this strongly in a long period of time and she can’t wait to explore it deeper.

Research Topic:

Gender Differences in Korean Language

Ethan Singh

Ethan Singh is a Junior studying History, International Affairs and Japanese. He is an international student from Belize in Central America. Ever since his late high school years he has had an interest in many things Asian, especially its pop culture and history. This drove him to link my studies with this interest, and through it he has learned so much. Starting his first year, he began taking Japanese and fell in love learning the language. Through it he was able to visit Japan in his second semester, giving him a direct look at an East Asian country. In his sophomore year, he began taking classes on East Asian history such as History of Modern Japan and History of Korea, the latter in which he found out about this program. Recently he has taken an interest in identity in East Asia, leading him to this idea of a diverging identity in the two Koreas.

Research Topic:

Diverging Identity in Korea

Katherine(Kate) Partridge

Katherine(Kate) Partridge is a rising Junior in the CCAS studying history and political science with a public policy concentration. In the political realm she is primarily interested in domestic politics concerning education, gender, and health related policies and issues. With history, she has always loved analyzing and comparing experiences across cultures. She plans to integrate these respective aspects of her love for each area of her studies into her research this coming fall. Beyond this, her experiences with the institute during the previous school year helped spark an interest in Korean culture. Outside of the class room, you can find her playing in the university bands, tutoring at the local YWCA chapter, or going for a bike ride on a nice afternoon!

Research Topic:

The Korean culture surrounding abortion and the recent responses to the Korean Constitutional Court’s 2019 decision

Brandon Hill

Brandon Hill is from Waldorf, Maryland, and is a rising Junior at George Washington University. He is double majoring in Political Communication and Human Services & Social Justice, with a minor in Sociology, and hopes to pursue a career in educational advocacy. As a native Marylander, he has seen the discrepancies within his local education system and wishes to use communication as a vehicle to create insurmountable change. As a member of multiple marginalized communities, Brandon has used the learning environment to seek patterns and similarities that allow me to understand my own culture and history better. The next culture he hopes to initiate an understanding of is that of Korea. In his free time, Brandon enjoys reading, long drives, and spending time with friends, and he cannot wait to begin conducting research.

Research Topic:

Internet Censorship on the Korean Peninsula

Nicole Baylock

Nicole Baylock is a Sophomore at the George Washington University, pursuing a Major in Business with a concentration in Entrepreneurship & Marketing and a Minor in Korean Language & Literature. Nicole’s passion for the Korean skincare industry fueled her to create her own YouTube, Blog & Instagram pages surrounding Korean skincare and skincare education. She looks to one day work with Korean based labs to create her own skincare line. On-campus Nicole is involved in the Undergraduate Business Association as well as the Alpha Kappa Psi Professional Business Fraternity. Nicole looks forward to taking her next step towards pursuing her passion for Korean skincare through this research program.


Research Topic:

The rise of Korean skincare in the U.S and its effects on U.S formulated skincare brands as well as consumer preference.

Emmy O’Brien

Emmy O’Brien is a Junior within the Milken Institute School of Public Health majoring in Public Health and minoring in Japanese Language and Literature. She is passionate about global health equity and medical anthropology with a regional focus in East and Southeast Asia. Prior to starting her undergraduate career, she worked in biomedical device research and development for Medtronic. Since coming to GW, she has worked at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington and assisted with clinical research in the GW Emergency Department. She has written on the history of infectious disease control in Japan as well as the implications of work requirements for Medicaid enrollees. Outside of class, she serves as a GW TRAiLS guide and enjoys working to expand equitable access to outdoors education. She has travelled to and lived with families in several Asian countries, and is excited to incorporate these experiences into her current research with GWIKS.


Research Topic:

The Role of Civic Memory in South Korean Pandemic Response

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