student image

Photo by Matt D’Annunzio

Emma Mclean-Riggs ’14


Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Who I was when I got to Reed: I held my high school’s official record for most absences while still receiving a diploma. A strident, pierced, self-identified loser with an infamously big mouth, I made out like I never read for class, but really would if it was interesting. 

How Reed changed me: All of a sudden it wasn’t dorky to care anymore; it didn’t make you a loser. I become less defensive, less afraid, less closeted, and braver—willing to take risks intellectually and personally. Reed transformed me from a troublemaker to a critical thinker. 

What I would tell prospies: The ideal Reedie is uninterested in conventional metrics of success. If having a perfect GPA and a sense that you are confident, smart, and together all the time is important to you, Reed is not going to be that. But if you want to work hard, make change, and raise hell, Reed is the best training ground I can imagine. You will find your people, surround yourself with them, and it will be worth it. 

Influential professor: Prof. Kjersten Whittington [sociology 2007–] has completely changed the way I think. She was the first person to tell me that my fear of numbers was ridiculous and backed that up by throwing them at me (not literally). 

Favorite spot: The new pit in the library feels like the center of the academic energy on campus.

Cool stuff I did: I volunteered as a rape victim advocate for the county DA’s office, mentored a nine-year-old girl experiencing mental illness, started a LBTQ women’s discussion group, served on search committees and the sexual misconduct board, and cochaired the judicial board.

Random thoughts: Hum 110 totally transformed the way I write. I have a big vocabulary, but my writing was lazy, flowery. Prof. Nigel Nicholson [classics 1995-] was not having it. He returned a paper to me with every single adjective crossed out in red pen. “Don’t write like that,” he said. “Just say what you mean.” 

Scholarships, awards, or financial aid: The financial aid office was great about saying, “Breathe, everything will be fine.” I received Reed grants, the Forrest and Patricia McGrath Scholarship, the Betty Gray Memorial Scholarship, the Edward H. Cooley Scholarship, and the McGill Lawrence Internship Award, which paid me to work at a domestic violence shelter.

Adviser: Prof. Alexandra Hrycak [sociology 1998–]

Thesis: “Just a Piece of Paper? An Examination of Restraining Order Hearings in Multnomah County, Oregon”

What it’s about: An ethnographic study of Multnomah County Domestic Violence Court’s FAPA [Family Abuse Prevention Act] order hearings (more commonly known as restraining orders). I examine how judges respond to the court’s expectation that they combine their legal work with other kinds of intervention and how those responses affect their treatment of petitioners. 

What it’s really about: For marginalized women, the feminist legal revolution has been partial, at best. 

What’s next: I’m going to law school at UC Berkeley to become a domestic violence attorney.