Lecturer on Social Studies
Lecturer on Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality
In her nominators' words:
“Meghan is an amazing advisor for three reasons: 1) she is present and organized, 2) she pushes you, and 3) she is understanding.”
“She forces you to reconsider the way you had thought before. She also forces you to push yourself.”
“She manages to be tough and fair without ever needing to say anything — she motivates you to realize that you are writing your thesis for yourself, not for anyone else, which can be more motivating than anything else.”
“She is also just simply a wonderfully understanding human being. The thesis process can often be emotionally fraught, but Meghan understands how to deal with those emotions without indulging them. When I tell her I'm anxious about something silly, she tells me that it is silly, but makes it clear that I am not.”
“She has guided me down a path towards success that has allowed me to write a thesis that I love.”
“Meghan has made me passionate about my thesis through giving me constant support with all aspects of the project…The knowledge that Meghan is as ‐‐ if not even more ‐‐ invested in this project than I am…has sustained my interest and passion in my thesis.
“Meghan…has almost single‐handedly made me reconsider academia as a career.”
In her own words:
Teaching at Harvard College may seem to be a singular experience—something of which I am reminded whenever tourists interrupt my classes to snap photos through the windows. I frequently encounter the assumption that Harvard students must be unusually confident, producing brilliant work without even having to try; they must be easier to teach than most.
Yet Harvard students also present distinctive challenges. With their intelligence often comes a tendency toward intense self-criticism. Harvard's prestigious reputation breeds feelings of inadequacy, and the pervasive competition on campus instills terror of ever being wrong. These challenges seem to manifest especially amongst the students attracted to my courses on gender and African studies, many of whom are young women and students of color. To teach my students effectively in seminars, tutorials, and senior thesis workshops, as I do, requires mentorship of them as whole human beings. This mentorship ideally occurs over the long-term, with conversations about research, writing, and life extending past graduation.
Through our advising conversations, I aim to turn students’ self-criticism into an inspiring self-awareness, by treating them as intellectual peers and encouraging them to take intellectual risks.
Fostering self-awareness means making space for students to reflect on the central dynamic that drives them as thinkers. I ask what kinds of questions persistently concern them, in and out of class. We go through students’ previous choices in paper topics, extracurricular engagements, and reflections on their personal lives. I draw attention to underlying patterns connecting students’ diverse interests. One of my thesis advisees, for instance, journeyed from a junior year research project critiquing Harvard’s all-male final clubs and corporate recruiting culture to a senior thesis on the experiences of women traders in Burkina Faso. These projects seem so dissimilar. But in our many conversations over the past year and a half, it has become clear that what persistently interests her is the question of what professional success means for women in capitalist societies. Being intellectually self-aware has helped instill the confidence to make professional choices that go against the grain—while many of her peers pursued the route of corporate recruiting, she joined the Peace Corps. More immediately, such self-awareness has emboldened her to make much stronger arguments in her thesis.
In regular meetings with this student and with my other wonderful senior thesis advisee, we worked hard—but we also laughed a lot. Treating students as intellectual peers means eschewing some hierarchy and formality—they call me Meghan, and I often bring my dog to our meetings—and showing that scholarship can be as joyful and collaborative as it is challenging. In an environment where students feel both respected and relaxed, they can take the risks that high-achieving students often fear. I emphasize that some failure is inevitable in any project worth undertaking, that much of what they write they will have to rewrite, and that there are always going to be typos, despite our best efforts. The key thing is to keep asking questions, without being afraid to answer them in unconventional ways.