Anderson nearly finished with studies at Harvard
The Orion Nebula inspired this painting by Harvard student and sci-fi enthusiast Ashley Anderson. Anderson, a Cherokee Nation citizen, said she loves astronomy and reads science fiction novels. COURTESY
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ashley Anderson is a senior at Harvard University majoring in history literature with an emphasis on visual culture and minoring in Central European studies.
Anderson was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, until her middle school years when she moved to Mobile, Alabama. She stayed in Mobile for five years before attending Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. She graduated from SHS as the valedictorian with a perfect GPA and an ACT score of 32.
“I love astronomy. I read many science fiction novels, and I’m fascinated with the beauty of space,” Anderson said. “My passion for space is what helped me figure out what I would like to study in Harvard.”
She arrived to Cambridge with an interest in the “sci-fi” genre and declared astrophysics as her major. This lasted for a year before she started to switch back and forth between majors. She eventually found history literature to be the major she had been searching for thanks to a professor.
“I took two classes with Marjorie Garber, who’s one of the leading scholars on William Shakespeare,” Anderson said. “My favorite writer is Shakespeare, so studying his works for two semesters with Professor Garber was incredible. She is a captivating speaker and the best lecturer I’ve had.”
Anderson has also been active on campus by being a part of the College Board and the Native Americans at Harvard College organization. She has collaborated on the Indigenous College Planning Guidebook as a member of The College Board’s Native American Internship Program. She also developed and edited the Indigenous College Planning Guidebook at Harvard and was the secretary of Native Americans at Harvard College and helped organize “Indigenous Day” events.
“Being at Harvard I am still connected to the Native American community through my extracurricular activities,” Anderson said. “On my down time I am usually watching older films, reading novels, practicing yoga or painting astronomical art pieces.”
Anderson said she’s busy but finds time to release her creative side. She expresses her passion for space through astronomical art and has one such painting of the Orion Nebula combined with nature to create a cosmic owl.
Anderson said she’s proud to be Cherokee and enjoys being in organizations that allow her to give back.
“To me, being Cherokee is completely tied to family and community, which both mean more to me now that I’m older and have lived on my own,” she said. “In a literal sense, when I’m in Cambridge, I am less connected to our community, but in another way, distancing myself from my familiar life in Tahlequah was a necessary estrangement that helped me realize how different and special it is to be Cherokee.”
Anderson will graduate from Harvard this spring. Afterward she plans to teach at a nonprofit organization for a year before going back to school to pursue law. She would like to focus on civil rights and tribal law.