In May 2020, Anita Keo graduated from St. Kate’s with a major in international business and economics, along with a minor in sales. While it was not the final semester she expected, due to the pandemic and sudden switch to online courses, Anita was able to find silver linings. One of her most rewarding and memorable experiences from this past semester came from her Quantitative Impact Evaluation (QIE) class. QIE is an economics and statistics class where students learn valuable quantitative and technical skills that can be widely applied for impact evaluation and statistical analysis. With her research partner, Joua Vang, Anita researched differences in graduation rates and returns to education across different Asian and non-Asian groups. Anita says that she and her partner struggled at first to find a research question that could fuel their project, but when she looked back to the day when she first decided to attend St. Kate’s, the topic came to mind.
Several years ago, when Anita decided to transfer to St. Kate’s, she was determined to claim her college education. She had read an article that found that Southeast Asian Americans have the largest achievement gaps and lowest graduation rates across the Asian community. This fueled her passion for her QIE research topic. Of course, like many projects, there were road bumps along the way — especially when the course was flipped to an online format in March.
Keo says she was extremely nervous about the switch since QIE is not known for being an easy class. It meant it would be more difficult to touch base with her partner, class, and professor, but also, she and Vang would not get to present their final findings at the spring symposium. This was a disappointment for many, but Keo managed to seek opportunities from the shift. Instead of
the symposium, Anita presented her project to her parents who were able to give her a completely different perspective than she could have ever fathomed.
Keo was surprised to hear that her father thought the research results and achievement gaps made complete sense to him. He explained how Southeast Asian groups are newer generations of immigrants to the United States are and how many of these families are escaping from a variety of economic hardships such as war, violence, and broken systems. It inspired Anita to reflect on how she could continue her research and what the next steps would be. She was able to fill in the qualitative gaps which her quantitative analysis was missing. Anita believes this class to be one of her most impactful college experiences as it brought her education in a full circle. Completing this class, Keo says, made her “start to truly feel like an economist and researcher,” titles she was wary to take on when she first started at St. Kate’s.
Now, having graduated, Anita is looking forward to beginning a full-time position at 3M. Last summer, she interned at the company and was offered a full-time position upon completion. In the end, Anita feels a great sense of accomplishment as she celebrates completing her undergraduate degree and education. Keo is looking forward to seeing how she can continue advocating for equity in the quantitative sphere. Behind every statistic is a story and this Katie will always make sure those stories are not being forgotten.