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Structured Liberal Education (SLE) via SALLIE

My SLE Story: Gabby Levikow

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Structured Liberal Education (SLE) via SALLIE


I went into Admit Weekend thinking that SLE wasn’t for me. I didn’t know how appealing I found literature, had never really studied philosophy in high school, and the idea of having to perform a play every quarter didn’t sound like fun. Thankfully I ended up going to a SLE open house, which completely changed my mind. I was told that participation in the SLE play was totally optional, and that SLE provides you with a great foundation in the humanities that you couldn’t get anywhere else. As a prospective history and political science major, the latter was especially appealing. I then spoke to Greg Watkins, the assistant director of SLE, who said that if I answered yes to the questions he would ask, then I should do SLE. The questions consisted of things like whether I was interested in studying the history of ideas that have shaped our world and being exposed to big philosophical questions, which sounded very appealing.

Choosing to do SLE was the best choice that I have made at Stanford. It exposed me to a plethora of new ideas and questions and ways of thinking about the world. Every week we had three lectures, usually all by different Stanford professors, that related to what we were reading that week. It was often a lot of reading, but the material was engaging and shed light on important subjects. The lectures were also an amazing way to be exposed to more Stanford professors than you could experience in any other class, causing me to come away with a list of classes to take in the years to come. We also had two one hour and forty-five minute discussion sections a week, which sounds like a lot but was actually hardly ever enough time to discuss all that we wanted to. The discussion sections are led by one of six SLE section leaders, postdocs who studied philosophy or literature and are experts on something that is read in SLE during the year. Sections are definitely one of the best parts of SLE, as you learn how to approach difficult texts and unanswerable questions. There was also either a SLE movie or special event each Thursday, which usually tried to set up what we would be reading the next week.

I cannot imagine my freshman year at Stanford without SLE. It exposed me to philosophers and works of literature that I now love, such as the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. It also significantly improved my skills as a writer. For each paper we wrote we could consult with our SLE tutor, an upperclassmen and SLE alum who was assigned to two or three freshmen each quarter; our SLE resident tutor, who lives in the dorm for the purpose of helping SLE students with their writing; and our section leader, who would then meet with us and our tutor to give feedback after we turned in a draft of our paper. The students that I had spoken to at Admit Weekend were right: SLE provided me with an amazing foundation in the humanities, and I now feel much more confident about future classes and my studies with SLE under my belt.

Gabby Levikow

Prospective History and Political Science Major
Class of 2018

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