President’s Pen: Spring 2019
It’s that time in South Hadley when the crocuses and daffodils are blooming all over campus, which means not only that spring has finally arrived but that we are about to graduate the seniors — the class of 2019 — and enroll a new class, the class of 2023, sphinxes both. It’s all about yellow!
The Mount Holyoke Preview for admitted students, which took place over the weekend of April 14-15, was a moment to behold the accomplishments of both the graduating and entering classes, as seniors Madison Walters and Donari Yahzid, along with junior Liz Brown, captivated admitted students (and the rest of us!) with all that they have done since they arrived at the College. From gap-year experiences in Kenya and the D.C. offices of Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Bernie Sanders to internship experiences at UNICEF in New York and study abroad opportunities in Ghana, South Africa, Samoa and Northern Thailand, Donari, Madison and Liz eloquently laid out the many opportunities of their Mount Holyoke experiences. They shared their intellectual excitement, the role particular courses and the faculty had played in their growth — how, for example, a “fun course” on building a birdhouse unexpectedly led to a major in architectural studies — and their equally impressive plans for the future. The ways these students have used their experiences to teach and mentor others, to develop a sense of purpose and to apply their learning on campus, in public service, in non-governmental organization internships and in international settings is a tribute to their own curiosity, commitments and exploration, as well as to the adventure and opportunities that a Mount Holyoke liberal education offers.
The ways these students have used their experiences to teach and mentor others, to develop a sense of purpose and to apply their learning … is a tribute to their own curiosity.
It was a joy to listen and to watch them awakening in the newly admitted students a sense of all that they might themselves do and become at Mount Holyoke, even as the seniors said in chorus that, when they accepted their place in the class of 2019, they could never have imagined themselves as they are now. The class of 2023 will, I am sure, live up to this promise, for these talented students were chosen from what we believe to be the largest applicant pool in the College’s history, which means that this incoming class is probably also among the most selective of classes.
What is remarkable about this group of admitted students, too, is that so many of them (almost 200) chose Mount Holyoke last October, in the first round of Early Decision, indicating that the College was their first and only choice and that they are not only clear about what they want but already recognize what is special about Mount Holyoke. When they join the College, they will be the continuation of a lineage of extraordinary students and graduates who make it such a privilege to be a part of and to serve Mount Holyoke.
To experience a Mount Holyoke education is to free your mind: to explore the unknown, to integrate existing knowledge with the unfamiliar, and to challenge received wisdom. It is to do work that our students know how to do, and to solve problems that they can solve, in order to reach toward higher-order questions whose answers both fascinate and elude. It is to live in ambiguity and to be challenged, to hold sometimes competing ideas in a tension that cannot easily, if ever, be fully resolved, with a faculty that has adopted such endeavor as a way of life, with a staff that is equally committed to this place and to learning experiences, and alongside other exceptional students who have made that same choice. All of this was so very evident in the journeys shared by Madison, Donari and Liz.
Like the spring itself, this moment on campus is about growth and renewal — it is the moment we take to mark the self-actualization and achievements of our graduates as well as those of our incoming “firsties,” celebrating and imagining the new beginnings before each of them as their academic, personal and professional goals take shape. Like the changes in the light and landscape on campus (metaphorically, too), these stories are constant but ever-changing, they are full of hope and anticipation, and of what this intellectual community is and can do, and I never tire of them.
—By President Sonya Stephens
This article appeared in the spring 2019 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.
May 14, 2019