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Ivins ’21 to Pursue Human Rights Studies at Columbia


Erica Ivins ’21 is keenly aware of her place in the world. Whether through analyzing how current injustices relate to historical ones, reflecting upon the colonial legacy tied to her as a descendant of a passenger of the Mayflower, or critically examining the fields of history and archaeology as a scholar of both, she seeks to understand where she and the systems around her come from.

And, starting this fall, she hopes to further enrich her understanding while pursuing a master’s degree in human rights studies at Columbia University.        

About erica ivins '21

Majors: History, Archaeology

Hometown: West Boylston, Mass.

High School: Wachusett Regional High School

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Ivins committed to Columbia in part because she believes the university will best reinforce her academic interests and help orient her toward a future career. “[Columbia’s human rights program] will enable me to use my historical approach as a core concept to looking at human rights issues, and that will help me further define whether I want to pursue a law degree or a Ph.D. I definitely have this strong passion for looking at the historical implications and the colonial legacies of things in a more modern perspective,” she said, adding that her goal is to change policy on both a national and an international scale.

A history and archaeology double major, Ivins is excited to join “another multidisciplinary academic space.” She said, “My liberal arts education really made me fall in love with looking at things from different perspectives. So, the Columbia program studies human rights issues related to systemic inequalities related to race, gender, sexuality, and anything in regards to human rights that you can think of, and it looks at it from all different perspectives.”

Like at Hamilton, Ivins can take courses from a variety of departments to tailor her studies to her interests. “It’s like a bigger version of Hamilton,” she said.

Ivins attributes her passion for studying colonialism and the inequalities associated with its legacy to courses and research projects she completed at Hamilton. “I worked a lot with Professor Kevin Grant in the History Department, and he was my advisor on my Emerson project on Joseph Conrad and humanitarian politics in the Russian Empire as well as the Congo Free State. He really helped me explore colonialism as a historical entity . . . One of the most valuable memories was working with him in his human rights politics and policy course last fall.”

In addition, Ivins served as a research assistant for Visiting Assistant Professor of History Rebecca Wall, contributing to the Senegal Liberations Project, which aims “to tell a social, collective history about the West Africans who initiated [self-liberation].” Ivins then constructed her honors thesis in history around her research assistantship.

Ivins anticipates continuing to critically engage with her environment, her studies, and herself at Columbia. “Being able to talk to faculty members that are experts in their field, whether it’s through academia or professional experience, and have mentors added [to those] at Hamilton will make a really great network of scholars and professionals that I can learn from and that I can speak to about my passions.”

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