Gillian Harrill: 'Stay curious and it will never feel like work.' 

September 21, 2020

Gillian Harrill '22 is a Communication major who enjoys fencing and capturing the human experience in filmmaking.  She shares her experiences minoring in Anthropology.


What inspired you to minor in Anthropology?  Do you have a specific area of interest?

I was always the kid who needed to get her hands on National Geographic Magazines and had a huge ancient Egypt phase. I wanted to be an archaeologist for the longest time until I realized that required a lot of fruitless digging. I realized I liked archaeology because I was so curious about the people behind the artifacts. As a freshman at Cornell, Natasha Raheja’s documentary film production class inspired me to minor in Anthropology. I realized that I had to know about the people I was making films about just as much as I needed to know about filmmaking. Anthropology compliments my other minors of film and media studies along with my major is communication. I want to learn the best ways to communicate culture without taking the narrative away from the people who create it. For example: giving indigenous groups the equipment and tools to make documentaries from their own perspectives. Documentaries are my favorite means of making sense of my surroundings and I want to share that love with others.

Do you have any favorite classes or have there been professors who have influenced your studies?

One of my favorite classes in Anthropology has been “Humanity” taught by the professor duo of Jonathan Boyarin and Adam Smith. The best parts of the class were the highly immersive projects we would create with each unit. “Humanity” sounds like such a broad topic, and I guess it is, but we were able to go into depth exploring what it meant to be a human who plays, reproduces, talks, and dies. I want to capture this human experience in my filmmaking. 

Do you have any advice for students considering a minor in Anthropology?

For anyone considering a minor in Anthropology, I would recommend taking as many classes that interest you in the department so you can diversify your interests. I never knew that I could become educated in everything from chimpanzees to Ancient Mexican calendars. Stay curious and it will never feel like work. 

What are your hobbies or interests outside of your academic work? 

Outside of academics I play the harp and fence sabre on the Cornell Varsity Fencing Team. I spend a lot of my time writing letters and crocheting sweaters for my friends. 

Gillian Harrill