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Levin Kim, BA 2017

You're currently working at Harvard's Berkman Klein Center—tell us more about that.

I started working at the Berkman Klein Center during the summer of 2017 on the Youth and Media team, and am now working primarily on the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence initiative. I mainly focus on projects examining the concept of inclusion in the context of automated technologies, and projects striving to understand how different stakeholders such as policymakers and industry folks are approaching ethics-related issues when it comes to automated technologies. Some highlights over the last year and a half include hosting the Global Symposium on AI and Inclusion in Rio, developing an interactive visualization to accompany a report on AI and human rights, and producing case studies about ethical issues related to the development and use of AI technologies.

Why did you major in WS?

I actually started off my Michigan experience as an art student in the Stamps School of Art & Design. I took Women’s Studies 240: Intro to Women’s Studies as an elective the summer before my junior year, as I was starting to think about taking on a Women’s Studies minor. I loved the class more than I could have imagined, and something clicked—I switched into the Women’s Studies major at the beginning of my junior year. I was drawn to how the discipline recognizes and gives words to lived experiences within power structures.

What was your favorite WS course?

I had a lot of memorable classes in the department, so it’s hard to choose. I would say that the two most memorable classes were Women’s Studies 330: Feminist Thought with Professor Victor Mendoza and a class that was cross listed with Communications and Film, Television, and Media called Race, Gender, and Video Games with Professor Lisa Nakamura. These classes introduced me to a lot of work and thinkers that have been influential in shaping my interests in critical digital studies, gender, and technology. 

How did your time in WS shape your career goals?

The WS major gave me the language and first disciplinary home to orient my academic interests around. I’m interested in better understanding the intersection of technology, identities, performance, and sociotechnical structures through research—this intersection has a lot of entry points, and I think the resources that I encountered through the WS major helped me find my way there. On a more concrete level, Women’s Studies trained me to pay better attention to the pervasive structures that hold the world together (for better or for worse), and gave me the language to question them. This takeaway is something that I hope to keep with me as I navigate my future career, in whichever form it takes!

You also studied Drama—how did that intersect with your work in WS?

The drama major gave me an avenue to explore imaginations, and the tools to create speculative narratives. One of the takeaways from Women’s Studies that resonates strongly with me is the importance of imagining and working towards a better future as a way of exercising agency. Through the drama major, I enjoyed studying how others had built fictional worlds that questioned assumptions the present is built on, and substituted other ways of thinking and being.

Any favorite memories from your time in WS (or at Michigan in general)?

My Michigan experience was significantly shaped by the community I found during my freshman year in a living-learning community called Living Arts. We put on polar vortex dance parties in the Bursley lounge, hosted a Halloween haunted maze, made an interpretation of a sensory deprivation chamber in one of the dorm rooms… just to name a few highlights.

Any other thoughts or comments?

I loved the interdisciplinary nature of the Women’s Studies major and department. I think the experience taught me ways to be proactive and effective in identifying how the seemingly different domains I studied at Michigan (women's studies, theater, computer science) can come together in exciting ways. The flexibility of the program and the discipline can seem a bit daunting at the beginning (at least it did for me), but I think learning how to leverage this flexibility as a strength was one of the most important things I gained during my undergraduate experience.