Hannah Waight '10

Hannah Waight '10

Harvard College ’10 (Currier House)
A.B., East Asian Studies
A.M., RSEA '14

Hannah Waight came to Harvard knowing that she wanted to continue studying Chinese, having begun learning the language in high school. It was an introduction to Chinese history offered by EALC faculty Henrietta Harrison, however, that first piqued her interest in the study of modern China. Hannah ultimately concentrated in East Asian Studies because of the opportunities afforded to pursue interdisciplinary study, delve deeply into the language and history of a region, and work closely with faculty members dedicated to undergraduate education. Her passion for social science research on modern China was initiated by her experiences in EAS junior tutorials, and has continued to motivate her studies as a doctoral student in sociology at Princeton.

Hannah’s favorite classroom experience as an EAS concentrator was Nara Dillon’s junior tutorial, EAS 98d: The Political Economy of Modern China. On the first day of class, Professor Dillon and her teaching fellow Meg Rithmire asked students to briefly reflect on their interest in the course material and any social science perspectives they had on China. With little background in the subject, Hannah expressed her skepticism of abstract social science theory and its relevance for understanding China. Despite this baseline mistrust, however, she soon discovered new lenses through which to study China and the usefulness of the interplay between theory and data under Professor Dillon’s guidance. In fact, Hannah found the class so inspiring that she would eventually return three years later as Professor Dillon’s TF.

The EAS curriculum thus provided Hannah with a great foundation to continue her academic career. In particular, the concentration’s commitment to interdisciplinary study granted a much broader perspective on certain issues than a focused disciplinary education could have provided. This outlook has been particularly useful with respect to Hannah’s sociology doctoral training, and it has allowed her to better understand the relationship between her discipline and others on theory, subject matter focus, and research methodology. Beyond its interdisciplinary scope, the emphasis on deep area-based knowledge in EAS has also continued to inform Hannah’s research on Chinese household financial practices and gender roles.

From Hannah’s perspective, however, the greatest asset of an EAS education is the chance to work with the concentration’s dedicated faculty and staff. There are few departments at Harvard more committed to undergraduate education than East Asian Studies, and its concentrators are fortunate to benefit from departmental instruction and support.