Lucy Haeran Koh '90, JD '93

Lucy Haeran Koh profile photoUnited States District Judge

Thesis Title: Obstacles to Women's Education in Borno State, Nigeria

The highlight of my Social Studies experience was traveling around Borno State in Northern Nigeria for four months to distribute surveys to, and to interview, secondary school girls and women college students to understand the impediments to female education. When I returned to Harvard to work on my senior thesis, Social Studies helped me input the data from 2000 surveys from secondary school girls and 500 surveys from women college students. The results were sobering. Many girls left school because of preventable illnesses such as leprosy and tuberculosis. Others left school for marriage and pregnancy because of the tradition of marrying off daughters at puberty. The struggle for female education continues. Twenty-five years after I left Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram kidnapped hundreds of school girls in Borno State.

Social Studies allowed me to explore anthropology, sociology, economics, history, and political science.  These provided the frameworks and tools to try to understand our world. To this day, Social Studies subtly influences how I process information and perceive the world.  Social Studies taught me how to think critically and to be analytical.  I have carried all these lessons with me throughout my life and use them daily as a U.S. District Judge in San Jose, California.