Comm Major Sophia Liu Receives Mitchell Center Fellowship

The fellowship supports research focused on democracy.

By Amy Solano

Sophia Ruijun Liu C’22, an undergraduate Communication major at the Annenberg School, is the recipient of a fellowship from the Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The Mitchell Center Undergraduate Fellowship is awarded to Penn students to assist them in pursuing research relating to the practice of democracy, including themes of citizenship and constitutional government. At the end of the year, grant recipients present their research at the Mitchell Center Undergraduate Conference.

Liu, who is concentrating in Messages and Marketing as part of her Communication major, is conducting her fellowship project on reversing public opinions on climate change. Her project originated from an in-class assignment in COMM 290: Introduction to Data Analysis for Communication Science, taught by Jin Woo Kim (Ph.D. ‘17), an Annenberg alum and current George Gerbner Postdoctoral Fellow.

“She was one of the most outstanding students in the class,” Kim says. “Her class work was excellent throughout, and the quality of her final paper was, in my view, on par with well-written graduate-level papers.”

Liu's Interest in studying climate change comes not only from Kim’s class, but also from an environmental science class that helped emphasize the urgency of the issue. She is specifically interested in human-caused climate change, which research indicates is an ever-growing threat.

Liu’s fellowship project aims to explore the type of information that can be used to successfully persuade a climate skeptic that human-caused climate change is happening. She is particularly interested in seeing whether consensus messaging and causal evidence will be especially effective. Kim will serve as the faculty supervisor for Lui’s fellowship research.

“As the global temperature continues to rise, correcting misperceptions about climate change will be increasingly critical in initiating public efforts to reverse climate change,” Liu says. “I really hope that the findings of our research can provide insights on how exactly that could be done, and how a country so deeply divided by partisanship can be brought together for a good cause.”