Gillian Slee

Gillian Slee

Leverett House
Gillian Slee

I love asking questions. Social Studies welcomes students who are inquisitive about not just one issue or discipline but several. The program has introduced me to diverse peers and mentors, has inspired conversations and debates, and has directed my future ambitions. 

I’ve always been a person who understands issues or problems best firsthand. For that reason, I’m writing a thesis focused on ethnographic research. At the same time, I also recognize the incredible need to understand the theoretical or philosophical underpinnings of the institutions or persons we study. Social Studies is meaningful to me because it builds this foundation, in the sophomore year, equipping each student with a background in classical social theory. In my junior year, I felt prepared to move forward with a theoretical background and apply it and better understand my interests in American society (in my case, the criminal justice system). Social Studies facilitates my awareness of how a contemporary problem is never exclusively historical, sociological, or legal. Rather, the factors involved in our institutions and our society will always necessitate an interdisciplinary, flexible consideration. 

My coursework has not necessarily led me to answers. Rather, my professors, my classmates, and the curriculum teach me regularly how to ask better questions. I appreciate the value of the theoretical approach. Nonetheless, I also often suspend my theoretical background and ask: does it matter in the real world? Continued contestation and discourse rather than answers, then, are what I love about Social Studies.

Academic Interests: Criminal justice; public defenders; poverty; social inequality; ethnography; politics; legal and social theory; psychology (secondary)

Extracurricular Activities: Harvard Model Congress; Harvard Public Opinion Project; Boston Community Corrections Center Tutoring

Career Goals: Public interest law; academia; government service

Favorite Courses: Social Studies 10ab: Introduction to Social Studies; Social Studies 98na: The American Ghetto; Anthropology 1672: Legal Anthropology; History 1010: History of the Prison; Sociology 177: Poverty in America; Sociology 193: Crime, Community, and Public Policy

Other Concentrations Considered: Government, History