Hannah Sloan is a UNC Class of 2018 Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) minor who majored in Economics. After graduating, Hannah participated in a Venture for America fellowship where she was placed in a Baltimore technology startup. There, she learned how to work in small teams, interacting with engineers, designers, and businesspeople spanning industries from healthcare to construction. After a few years with the startup, Hannah ached to work in an industry that aligned more closely with her values and interest in PPE. Now, she has found her intellectual home as an Investigative Specialist with the Public Defender Service (PDS) in Washington, D.C.
A Conversation with Hannah
(1) What led you to minor in PPE at UNC?
PPE was energizing. I grew up loving Christian apologetics, and I didn’t realize until my first high school philosophy class that it was possible to talk openly with others about big ideas outside of a religious context. I was drawn into PPE by (1) the reading groups and (2) the gateway class topic: distributive justice. It was enchanting to discuss justice issues with people who wanted to deeply engage with our country’s intellectual history. I got exposure to that outside of the classroom in student groups, but PPE gave me valuable frameworks and foundations for how to think critically and cultivate my own beliefs.
(2) How has what you learned from the PPE Program helped you in your career?
In the PPE Program I learned how to analyze the implications of a policy, to be open minded to new ideas, to distinguish between meaningful debate and argumentation, and to appreciate how our life experiences affect our worldviews. Both startup project management and legal investigative work require working with people who have various roles, backgrounds, and motivations. To be effective I have to find ways to relate to everyone, understand what they care about, and prioritize work effectively to get to a good outcome.
(3) What is your greatest professional accomplishment so far?
My greatest team accomplishment is that a few weeks ago, my team of lawyers and investigators got a client released from prison after serving 20 years! What a surreal feeling to meet our client in person as a free citizen for the first time.
My greatest personal work accomplishment was training and mentoring three project managers at my startup job. It was special to see them navigate ambiguous environments, exercise their best judgment in challenging situations, grow as compassionate leaders, and find support in their teammates.
(4) What professor or course influenced you the most during your time in the PPE Program?
- Doug MacKay’s PLCY 340
- Barry Maguire’s PPE gateway course
- Alexandra Oprea’s PPE capstone course
(5) What was your favorite extracurricular programming that the PPE Program offered (i.e. reading groups, weekend seminars, speaker series, etc.)?
The reading groups are excellent. I even participated in some as an alumnus. I also had the chance to participate in a multi-school PPE symposium once, which was wild.
(6) What advice do you have for prospective PPE students?
(1) Build relationships with your professors and classmates! The relationships will outlast your undergrad career and can be really enriching.
(2) Take classes outside of PPE to build perspective. Taking literature classes and physics classes (for example) in tandem with PPE classes can help you draw interesting connections.
(7) What advice do you have for recent PPE graduates?
Don’t let your PPE analytical brain lead you to overanalyze your next moves! Try something you care about or that makes you feel excited. Everyone’s postgrad journey is different. Be authentic about what jobs or degrees you explore, and don’t overthink it. You’ll learn from each experience.
(8) Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to be living in a community of people I love, working a job where I get to meaningfully serve others – maybe even wrapping up graduate school. I care a lot about mental health, addiction, and poverty, so maybe I’ll be thinking and working on these issues in some capacity. We’ll see!