Undergraduate Spotlight: Hannah Kunzman

Is there room for the family in liberal theory? In her Ethics in Society Honors thesis, Hannah Kunzman tackled this question and the complexity of children's interests. During her time at Stanford, she has volunteered as a tutor for Hope House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for women. She recalls some of her most memorable philosophical conversations happening there. Kunzman graduates with bachelor's degrees in philosophy and religious studies and a minor in Spanish. She has been selected as the recipient of the Howard M. Garfield Award in Religious Studies, given to a graduating student who, through scholarship and service, "exemplifies those humane, ethical values common to the world's diverse religious traditions." Prior to graduation, we asked Kunzman about her journey as one of our honors students.

Why did you decide to participate in the Honors Program in Ethics in Society?

I knew that I wanted to do an honors thesis and the Ethics Center appealed to me both on a personal level and sort of more institutionally. The program is very flexible with how it thinks about discipline. I also really appreciate the level of support that the Center gives – the full seminar in junior year and the intensive advising throughout the program really makes it special. I also have personal connections by volunteering as a tutor for Hope House since freshman year. So, the Center feels like a home department to me.

In a few sentences, give us a sense of what your honors thesis research was about.

My thesis is motivated by the problem of children in political theory: they sort of have this complex nature – they're dependent and not autonomous. And we have this interest in that dependency one day liquidating. This complicates how we think about how their interests interact with those of their parents, families, or communities and the role of a state in navigating these. My thesis was interested in diving into this complexity and building an account of the interest of children, parents, and the state in liberal democracies that I felt centered children, but that was capacious enough to navigate contradictory interests.

What was the single most rewarding aspect of writing your honors thesis?

The most rewarding part was all the conversations I had with my advisors and peers. Not only with them but with people at school, people at home, people that I had just met. These issues are really near and dear to many people's hearts. They are fundamental to people's lives. We don't often have this situation where within five minutes of meeting someone, all of a sudden, they're talking to you about their beliefs about children's relations to their communities. Honestly, it was really rewarding to hear so many different perspectives.

What are some of your most memorable moments of your Stanford undergraduate experience? What will you miss the most?

The SLE (Structured Liberal Education) program was really memorable for me. It really encapsulated what I hoped that my undergraduate education would be, which was so exciting! Another highlight I would say is my study abroad in Santiago, Chile.

I will miss my friends, my professors and advisors. There's something really exciting about the undergrad years, in particular. I think I will miss a sort of exciting sense of the undergraduate experience that I think really grounds exploration and discovery. Also, I will really miss Hope House and the Ethics Center – it's really been sort of a home base for me. And some of my most memorable conversations in philosophy happened at Hope House.

What opportunities would you like to pursue within the next five years?

I am starting my PhD in political theory at Harvard this fall. One of the exciting things about this is that I got to see my thesis as a first step. I have a folder of things that people recommended that I didn't get to read this year but I hope to tackle them next year. And then, in a non-academic route, I'd like to run my first half marathon. I trained for one during the pandemic, but I've never actually run a race. And I would like to learn how to make bread. I'd love to do both of those things. We'll see.