Finding Her Place

Leah Shafer '14

Leah Shafer '14

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

From her impressive recall of Harry Potter trivia to her expertise on Julia Child, John Dickinson scholar Leah Shafer '14 dives head-first into her interests, gathering as much information as she can. But when it came to selecting a college, she says, the stats were only part of the equation. Learn why— and how she's learned to apply that big-picture thinking to her writing. 


American studies and English.

Clubs and organizations:

Writing Center (tutor, writing associate), Asbell CookingClub (co-president), Alpha Lambda Delta (secretary, 2011-12).

Why I chose Dickinson:

I researched all kinds of schools: big and small, city and small town, near to and far from home. In April of my senior year— the day after a pretty discouraging experience at another school’s accepted-students’ day—I took a second trip to Dickinson and ran into [admissions counselor] Bethany Parliament-Chevalier, who had interviewed me a full six months before. She looked right at me, smiled and said, “Hi Leah.” Then she asked me questions about things I’d told her during my interview. 

I was shocked and touched. I instantly realized that at Dickinson, I would be much more than just a number. Dickinson wanted me, and I realized that I could find my place here, too. 

Favorite books:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

Favorite movies:

It’s a Wonderful Life and The Parent Trap

Favorite place on campus:

The Writing Center (I do about 97 percent of my homework there).

Favorite Dining Hall food:

Just about anything at the KOVE, especially if it involves pasta and/or melted cheese. I’m also really into the multigrain croissants at the SNAR .

Favorite learning experience:

I’m really into my research for my senior theses on Julia Child (for my American-studies major) and on four children’s books by Gertrude Stein (for my English major). Over winter break, I traveled to Harvard to look at the Julia Child Papers and read through her fan mail. So cool!

As a kid, I wanted to be . . .

A singer, basketball player and lawyer. At one point, I had it all planned out so that I’d have time to do all three.

Little-known talents:

During my senior year of high school, my dance studio put on a version of Toy Story, and I was Woody. Also, I know the title of every chapter in all of the Harry Potter books.

Most important thing I’ve learned so far:

In high school, I was obsessed with grammar and thought that that was the key to a good grade. Noreen Lape, the director of the writing program, taught me to look at bigger components first—thesis development, organization—before obsessing over the little things. This tactic has helped me assist others in the Writing Center. It's also really strengthened my evaluations of my own writing.

Post-Dickinson plans:

I've accepted a position in Boston with the AmeriCorps City Year program, which is dedicated to reducing high-school dropout rates in low-income, inner-city areas around the country. 

Published January 14, 2014