In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic that had been deeply felt in East Asia since January abruptly reshaped our daily lives in the United States as social distancing measures went into effect. The weeks that followed witnessed a surge in xenophobic and anti-Asian harassment and violence. In response, the #IAMNOTAVIRUS hashtag circulated in social media as a way for Asians and Asian-Americans to call out the immediate violence following the initial reports of the pandemic in the United States. At Washington University in St. Louis, the suspension of in-person classes coincided with the start of our first-year students’ final research projects in the College Writing Program. For this assignment, students develop an original analysis on the topic of their choice. Given the context, a number of students chose to examine the effects of the pandemic in relation to anti-Asian racism and the construction of Asian identities in the United States. While the spike in anti-Asian violence made it an urgent topic to address, our students, thinking intersectionally, likewise considered the pandemic’s immediate and long-term impacts to Black and Latinx communities, which were rendered more vulnerable to the virus due to systemic inequities.

The collection of excerpts featured here is a testament to our students’ ability to use research strategies to make sense of difficult events as they develop in real time.

Erika Rodriguez
Director of the #IAMNOTAVIRUS Student Research Spotlight
Former Lecturer in College Writing, Washington University in St. Louis
Postdoctoral Fellow in Public Humanities at the University of Maine at Farmington

Student Video and Essay Responses

Alan Chen, Class of 2023
Professional Interests: academic medicine, healthcare policy and management, public health, clinical research, epidemiology
Read: Mom Got Her Ph.D. from Facebook: Mitigating Misinformation and Xenophobia During the COVID-19 Infodemic (PDF)


Claire Huang, Class of 2023
Professional interests: Management consulting, investment banking, government/public policy, and foreign service
Read: More than Just a Virus: COVID-19 as a Progenitor of Hate (PDF)


David Bradford, Class of 2023
Professional interests: neuroscience, sociology/public health, pre-medicine
Read: COVID-19 Meets Systemic Racist: Racial Disparities in Black and Hispanic Communities (PDF)


Luke Kim, Class of 2023
Professional interests: Strategic consulting, asset management, market analytics and operations, software development, U.S.-China relations and policy
Read: Model Minority: Submission Rather than Success (PDF)


Nidhi Krishnan, Class of 2023
Professional interests: Racial and socioeconomic disparities; urban policy; international relations; economics; political philosophy
Read: Racial Weaponization: How The Model Minority Myth Undermines Black-Asian Solidarity (PDF)

Sarah E. Rider, Class of 2023
Professional Interests: Public Health, Vietnamese Studies, race relations, American Culture Studies, and international affairs
Read: The Race Epidemic: Disease and Discrimination in the United States (PDF)

Faculty Video and Essay Responses

Dr. Vetta Thompson


Dr. Hedwig Lee


Dr. Lingling Gao Miles
Read: Responses to Student Essays and Videos (PDF)