Intern Spotlight: Alice Lee

Legal Humanities Internship an "Eye-Opening" Experience

The HRI-Mellon Legal Humanities Research Group is a multi-generational team of faculty, post-doctoral and graduate students, and undergraduate interns, all exploring research at the intersection of humanities and the law.

We recently spoke with Legal Humanities intern Alice Lee, a senior majoring in Political Science and Psychology. She is currently considering graduate school or law school after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Alice hopes to work with underprivileged and underrepresented populations after finishing her education.

Interview by Elena Vara, David F. Prindable Intern

Portrait photo of Alice Lee
Alice Lee, Legal Humanities Intern

Why did you apply for this internship?

I figured this would be a very good opportunity to gain not just semiprofessional experience but also to work with a team of collaborators that are from multiple disciplines and backgrounds that I don’t have a particular expertise in. I would be able to learn a lot in that field and connect it to some of the legal background for the future in terms of my career goals.

What aspects of the work or research motivate and excite you?

The research articles that we've been reading are oriented around human rights and justice, which are themes that are very on the nose with what I just academically and personally am interested in reading about. It's easy sometimes to just think you know all the answers, and then you read something that provides a new perspective, and it's just eye-opening so that's been really cool.

How does this internship support HRI's Legal Humanities fellowship program?

It's been very cool just as an outsider kind of third-party watcher, just to see and listen to them [the pre- and post-docs] talk about their papers and their work. I think it supported the fellowship in the sense that it's connected a bunch of people from different academic backgrounds who might know different things and it's been cool to kind of talk together, and learn from each other.

What past experiences have prepared you for this internship?

I'm a political science major and I'm also a psychology major. So, I think they're sort of relevant fields within legal humanities. There's obviously a bunch of branches, but I would say, maybe specifically political theory classes. I think just conceptually, when you ask questions that are more centered around definitions and conception and clarification, you get to the root of what a lot of things mean. I've learned a lot of things that I didn't really believe before and then it just takes, you know, a second to realize, oh, you might not know as much as you thought. There is always room to improve.

How has working with researchers of different stages influenced your future goals?

It made me think a lot more about potentially trying to maybe apply to get a PhD. They're so willing to converse and talk with you about your ideas, and they're encouraging and supportive. The entire team has been like that. I’ve learned so much about how to evaluate arguments better and to ask questions that I never would have thought to ask.

Can you tell us about the upcoming symposium?

We are planning and hosting an undergraduate research symposium in legal humanities to be held at the end of April, and we are in the process of recruiting other students to present their own original work. The 3 of us [legal humanities undergraduate interns] will present, and then we are hoping to invite at least three other participants.

Can you give us a sneak peek of what you’ll be presenting?

I’m exploring potential justification for paternalism. My research question is, "Can paternalism be justified even in cases when an action only harms the individual themselves?" It deals with conflict of autonomy and objective good and if that exists, then can we make a justification argument to protect individuals from making decisions that presumably would harm themselves.

All are welcome to attend the 2022 Legal Humanities Undergraduate Research Symposium on April 29, 2022.

Published 4/27/22