Shadman Zaman, '12
Columbia Law School
When I visited Harvard as a “pre-frosh” I stopped by the Sociology Department’s reception for prospective students. At the time, I had already contemplated that I wanted to work in law or policy, but had not decided which concentration would best prepare me for such an endeavor. At the reception I asked Professor David Ager about the opportunities available to sociology concentrators upon graduation. Specifically, if I wanted to be a lawyer, would this be the right choice for me? Without hesitation, Professor Ager said that studying sociology would prepare me for any career that I wanted to pursue. Six years after the fact, I’m pleased to say that he was right.
Sociology has been particularly useful for me because it taught me to be open to all sides of the story. Whether I was studying urban social problems or gender inequality in the workplace, I was always taken aback by the multiple methods used by sociologists to analyze the same question. However, in my naïveté as a freshman in college, I would often pick and choose the theories that I thought had to be right. As I continued my studies, I realized that to be a great sociologist I needed to abandon simplistic, one-size-fits-all understandings of the world. As such, I started to consider all sociological theories in a more holistic and open manner. Not only did make me a better sociologist, but, after a year of law school and a summer working at a law firm, this ability to be open to all ideas has also been my greatest skill as a budding lawyer. Although I still have a long journey ahead, I know that the foundation I built as a sociology concentrator will pay dividends in my legal career.
Finally, studying sociology was one of the best decisions I made as an undergraduate because of the relationships I developed with professors and teaching fellows. The department is filled with individuals who want you to succeed. I know that even as a graduate, I can always reach out to these individuals for whatever I may need. The collegiality of the Sociology Department coupled with the education it provides is what sets the Sociology Department apart from many other departments at Harvard. And even if I never used an ounce of what I learned again, I would still be glad I studied sociology because of the people I met along the way.