Deborah Harkness ’86
Photo by Scarlett Freund
Name: Deborah Harkness ’86
Current Title/Profession: Professor of history and writer
City: Los Angeles, California
Major: Renaissance studies
Additional/Advanced Degrees: PhD, University of California at Davis
What was your first job after MHC?: I worked in the Sesquicentennial Office at MHC, doing events and fundraising
Favorite class/professor and why: Harold Garrett-Goodyear’s course Magic and the Pursuit of Power Medieval and Early Modern England. It laid the foundations for all of my future work as a scholar and writer.
Talents and/or passions discovered at MHC: My passion was the library—I was there all the time! Honestly, what I loved most was walking around campus and being struck again and again by how beautiful it was.
What do you value most about your liberal arts education?: A liberal arts education teaches you the critical-thinking skills you need to thrive in our world. It also teaches you cultural empathy. Many degrees are vocational—they train you for a job. A liberal arts education trains you for life.
Why is a women’s education still relevant today?: Even today, there are enormous barriers to women achieving equality in the workplace, in law, and in society. Some barriers, though, we impose on ourselves. We can be afraid of our power, our talents, our unique abilities. A women’s college is an institution that exists solely to bring out these innate strengths in women. Over four years you will sharpen them and become more courageous about using them.
What do you want the world to know about MHC?: Mount Holyoke says “yes” to every student who comes through the gates. Yes, you are appreciated. Yes, we see you and your struggles as well as your strengths. Yes, we believe in you. Yes, we can help you become all you dream of—and more. It is a place of infinite possibilities for every young woman who chooses to accept the challenge of becoming her best self.
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