Humanities grads accepted to Harvard, Oxford

Roy Sengupta (left), who is graduating from humanities this June, and 2014 humanities grad Leonor Vulpe Albari (right) have been accepted to some of the most prestigious universities in the world. (Photos provided)

Two Carleton Bachelor of Humanities graduates have been offered the chance to study with some of the brightest minds in the world this fall.

Roy Sengupta, who will be picking up his degree at spring Convocation, has accepted an offer to study at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass., while Leonor Vulpe Albari, a 2014 alumna, has been accepted to the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, as well as a number of other prestigious law schools around the globe.

Their successful admissions to some of the world’s greatest educational institutions is a symbol of what can be achieved through a degree in the arts.

We talked to the two budding law students about how the Bachelor of Humanities program helped them realize their goals.

Roy Sengupta

Why did you choose Carleton University’s Bachelor of Humanities program? 

Roy: The Bachelor of Humanities stressed a broad-based education, such that a student would come away from the program having learned about religion, philosophy, literature, politics, music, art and … (it) emphasized discussion groups and primary source readings. I was glad that my educational experience in the Bachelor of Humanities program would not consist merely of reading out of textbooks, but that I would, rather, gain access to some of the most meaningful texts of human history, from the Iliad to Don Quixote.

Could you describe your general experience in the Bachelor of Humanities program?

Roy: I am constantly amazed at the amount of meaningful contact I am able to have with professors on a day-to-day basis in this program and I absolutely feel that the conversations I have had with my professors have contributed immensely to my own academic development. Not only this, but I have found that the culture of the Bachelor of Humanities program is also very intellectual. Students in the Bachelor of Humanities love what they do and love what they study … the discussion groups were helpful in allowing me to succeed during the law school interview process. Having already had regular experience in organizing and expressing complex thoughts in a disciplined manner, law school interviews proved to be far less intimidating.

Parting words of wisdom?

Roy: I really do believe that this is one of the best universities in Canada. From the excellent support offered to students, to the myriad extra-curricular opportunities, to the well-functioning administration and unique programs, such as the Bachelor of Humanities, Carleton University offers so many different tools to ensure the success of each of its students.

I would say if I was to give any words of advice, it would be that people should take chances. I certainly could not have anticipated four years ago that I would be accepted to Harvard Law School, but a big part of why I was offered admission was simply because I was willing to take the chance and apply there in the first place. And I think that’s important, that people think big, dream big and strive to do significant things in whatever field they are passionate about.

Leoner Vulpe Abari

Could you describe your general experience of the Bachelor of Humanities program?

Leonor: I think one of the best aspects of the humanities program is that in every core class there are two professors and only about 50 students. The professors attend all your discussion groups so they are able to give students a lot of help and guidance … Though I know some students do well in big classes, I personally enjoyed the smaller class sizes in humanities. Most professors were also very willing to meet outside class time with students to discuss the readings, assignments, etc. I took advantage of that a lot, and before I would start writing an essay I would often discuss the outline with my professor and make sure I was on the right track.

As well, in first year you spend the year slowly learning how to write essays. You start with one-page papers, then two-page papers, and by the end of the year you are finally writing six-page papers, but they are (hopefully!) excellent six-page papers. This first year taught me how to write essays and to organize my ideas, and that skill has been extremely useful for me since I left humanities.

Could you discuss some of the “great books” that helped form your personal perspectives and which may have lead you to study law?

Leonor: I don’t think there was one text in particular that pushed me to do law. Rather, I learned a lot from the program as a whole, and after humanities I wanted to apply that knowledge to the present and in a more practical way—which I thought I could do with law. You read such a variety of texts in humanities, from the Old Testament and Plato’s Republic, to Shelley’s Frankenstein and Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil, that you end the program with a well-rounded view of the world.

Did you participate in the humanities mentorship program?

Leonor: I participated in the mentorship program during my fourth year in humanities. I needed help deciding what to do next; I had applied to some programs in Canada, including NPSIA (the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs) at Carleton and to programs in the Netherlands. The mentorship program co-ordinator, Barbara Garner, put me in touch with a graduate of NPSIA. Though I ended up choosing the Master’s of Law (LLM) at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, it was helpful to talk to my mentor about his experience at NPSIA. My mentor also gave me information about how a degree from abroad would be received in Canada.

You have some serious decision-making and planning to do. Can you speculate on your next steps?

Leonor: I have decided to go to law school and I am currently trying to decide between McGill and Oxford … I think it is in large part thanks to humanities that I have the luxury of this choice. One of the reasons I did so well during my LLM in the Netherlands is that I have learned to write clearly and precisely, to read and to think, which my years in humanities taught me.

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