Senior Lauren Harpold received a Summer Undergraduate Research Award and was named a Pulitzer Reporting Fellow for her research on land use and gentrification in St. Louis and Amsterdam.

Lauren Harpold

For as long as she’s been at WashU, Lauren Harpold has been thinking about housing. The senior anthropology major grew up in Houston, Texas, and lived through one of the area’s worst natural disasters.

“My interest in housing goes back to the experience of my family being displaced because of flooding from Hurricane Harvey,” Harpold said. “There is a trauma associated with being forcibly displaced, whether that’s by someone at your door evicting you or by a natural disaster.”

Going into her first year at WashU, she knew she wanted to explore urban studies and sociology. In the summer of 2022, Harpold received a Summer Undergraduate Research Award (SURA) from the Office of Undergraduate Research (OUR), which provided her financial support to pursue faculty-mentored research. With guidance from Professor Bret Gustafson, Harpold began researching vacancies in north St. Louis and the community reclamation of properties that had fallen into the hands of St. Louis City’s land bank. She was reminded of this work during her study abroad in Prague the following fall when, on a trip to Berlin, she met a real estate activist named Terra who described similar occurrences of land seizures in Amsterdam.