Becoming involved in student government as a first-year student at Mount Holyoke

“International relations is a subset of political science. I’ve had professors introduce me to things I didn’t even know existed. I was able to learn about all different aspects of politics, and that was incredibly helpful.”

During Megan Horner’s four years at Mount Holyoke, they were a member of the Planned Parenthood Generation Action and climate justice clubs, volunteered at Horizons for Homeless Children, attended BLM protests and served on the Student Government Association as a hall senator and the chair of committees. If their experience were boiled down to one word, “fulfilling” would be an excellent choice.

Horner entered their first year with an interest in politics and international relations, but it wasn’t until they took world politics that they knew they selected the right major.  

“International relations is a subset of political science. I’ve had professors introduce me to things I didn’t even know existed,” Horner said. “I was able to learn about all different aspects of politics, and that was incredibly helpful.”

Horner was introduced to the concept of climate migration in a course that focused not only on climate change but on how rising sea levels and natural disasters resulting from climate change force people to migrate from their homeland. In an independent study, they continued their studies on climate migration and researched how international refugee laws don’t protect migrants who have left their countries due to climate change. Other classes helped them view international relations through the lens of American materialism and decolonization and examine international relations’ role in the American government.

Learning about the role government plays wasn’t the only interaction Horner had with politics. On campus they became involved with the Student Government Association (SGA).

In their first year, they stepped outside their comfort zone and ran for senator after receiving an email about the role. They were surprised when they were elected and found they enjoyed advocating for others. In their junior year, they ran for the executive board. As part of the executive board, Horner, along with the committee, was able to pass an order to have menstrual products in each bathroom. One of their most memorable accomplishments was getting stipends for the executive board, a group that puts in full-time work hours.

“We were not getting paid for it, and SGA had been advocating for the executive board to get compensated for several years,” Horner said. “Now more low-income students are able to be on the board, which was so important to me because I felt it was just an excellent experience that should be accessible to anyone, regardless of income.”

Another major accomplishment Horner achieved with student government was organizing a mutual aid fund for students affected by the emptying of the campus due to COVID-19.

“I wrote an email that my fellow senators handed to basically everybody that said if you want to donate, you can,” they said. “Some of it was money, but a lot of it was a ride to the airport or a place to stay for a night.”

Along with serving in student government and creating policies that will benefit future board members, Horner participated in several internships. One of their most memorable internships was with the international nonprofit think tank the German Marshall Fund, which allowed them to work with people from Germany, Poland, the UK, Ireland and Spain.

For her most recent internship, Horner participated in MHC Semester in D.C., where she spent a semester attending American University and interned at the American Bar Association. During their semester in the nation’s capital, they were able to see the realities of international relations put into practice. They also got the opportunity to network.

“I met Dr. Kathleen Hicks ’91, who is the current deputy secretary of defense and a MHC alum. She gave amazing career advice, and we got to ask her questions,” they said. “I also met Naomi Barry-Perez ’96, the civil rights director at the Department of Labor and another MHC alum. She was one of our mentors, along with Alicia Hammond ’08, who works at the World Bank and was my mentor.”

Horner credits her time at Mount Holyoke with helping to expand her understanding of the relationship between politics and law, improving her writing and teaching her to not just work with a team but lead a team. After graduation they plan to work in the legal field and will apply to law schools in October.

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