Hannah Leisman, Class of 2019, is the first candidate to complete a JD/MA in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program. Ms. Leisman shares what inspired her to pursue this joint degree, her experience at GW, and her advice to students who have an interest in this new program.
Ms. Leisman came to Washington, DC after earning her undergraduate degree in English with a minor in gender studies from Calvin College. She says her gender studies courses were her favorite, instilling a desire to pursue higher education. “I wanted to learn more than gender theory, I wanted to understand the political and legal systems which shape our society to better learn how to go about changing them to empower women and other marginalized persons and communities. Combining an MA with a JD seemed like an exciting and effective way to not only study gender, queer, and critical race theory, but to also learn how political, legal, and social structures are created and maintained, by whom and for what purpose,” she said.
Ms. Leisman shared that she completed her first year solely at GW Law and that the next two and a half years she combined law and masters classes. “Law school taught me concrete problem solving which enabled me to approach gender theory more pragmatically, whereas my women's studies courses empowered me to critically question existing legal standards and processes, providing greater depth and complexity to my overall education,” she added.
At GW, Ms. Leisman served as the President of The Feminist Forum and was a member of the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics’ Domestic Violence Project. She held internships at SurvJustice, Inc. and the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project. Most recently Ms. Leisman was a legislative intern for Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.
For students who have an interest in the JD/MA in Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies program or wish to think outside the box with their studies, Ms. Leisman encourages them to listen to their gut and to advocate for themselves. “This dual degree, having never been completed at GW, certainly came with lots of challenges. But despite the challenges, I listened to my gut that this was the right educational path for me, stuck up for myself at every turn and am now graduating with a unique degree that fits my specific interests and career goals.”