Della Maggio shares her experience as a student in the Human Rights Studies M.A. Program so far.
In which program are you enrolled and when is your expected graduation date?
Human Rights Studies MA Program, May 2023
What is your research focus in the HRSMA program?
My research focus is at the intersection of queerness, carcerality, and access to health. In particular, I plan to focus my thesis research on access to reproductive, sexual, and gender-affirming health care in US immigration detention centers. I am drawn to this particular set of issues for multiple reasons. Firstly, I acquired extensive experience in carceral research and prison work advocacy in my undergraduate career, which solidified my passion for creating systemic change in the criminal punishment system. Secondly, considering the history of racism and eugenics embedded within the US health care system, I feel it is integral to apply abolition to the topic of medicine. Lastly, I myself identify as queer, therefore I am passionate about combating the marginalization of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Which class would you recommend to other students interested in the same issues as you?
I strongly recommend two Comparative Literature and Society courses – "Abolition Medicine" with Sayantani Dasgupta and "Law/Violence: Critical Perspectives" with Ayten Gündogdu.
Where did you grow up? In which countries and/or cities have you lived?
I grew up in Greenville, South Carolina, which is a town essentially in the valley of the southern Appalachian Mountains. I lived in Clemson, South Carolina during my undergraduate years, which is less than an hour away from Greenville. I briefly lived in Prague while studying abroad in 2018, and I now live in New York City.
What is a must-read for a human rights student?
The Red Record by Ida B. Wells and Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis.
Can you describe any volunteer or extracurricular activities that you have been a part of during your time at Columbia and how this experience has impacted you?
I joined RightsViews this past semester, which has been an amazing opportunity to extend my undergraduate work in media and journalism. This experience has strengthened my skills in time management, as well as my ability to differentiate between scholarly writing and more accessible informative writing.
What has been your favorite moment in the program so far?
My favorite moment in the program so far has been the time I spent in the "Abolition Medicine" class with two other HRSMA students. I have never felt more welcomed in a classroom setting, nor have I ever been so excited to come to class. Professor Dasgupta always ensured that we applied the principles of abolition and community to our interactions with one another, which made everything we learned together even more fruitful.
What has been the most challenging part of the program?
The most challenging part of the program has been juggling schoolwork while maintaining two part-time jobs. It has been a difficult journey, but the learning curve has been rewarding. Apart from the program, adjusting to life in NYC has also been challenging. In a city with millions of people, it's easy to feel alone, so I try to make new friends everywhere I go.
What are your goals (professional or academic) after graduation? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to pursue a joint JD/PhD degree in the future, perhaps focusing on social policy, public health, or migration. I also hope to travel, live abroad, and learn multiple languages. In ten years, I see myself as a lawyer representing queer migrants in the southeastern United States.
What is your favorite spot to study or spend time on campus?
My favorite spot to study on campus is the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. I love its stained glass windows and hidden reading nooks.
What is one thing that your peers would never guess about you or might find surprising?
I was prom queen my senior year of high school!
What is your hometown/area famous for?
Thanks to the Blue Ridge foothills, Greenville is known for some of the freshest drinking water in the United States!
If you were to start a bookclub, which book would be first on your list? Why?
If I were to start a bookclub, The Autobiography of Malcolm X would be first on my list. I have never read a personal narrative as powerful and life-changing as this one. I think it is an especially important book for white Americans to read, as it masterfully explicates the perspective of a Black man surviving, changing, and living in a nation-state that seeks to oppress, marginalize, and harm him at every turn.