Connected to the world through economics

“Being around people who have similar cultures and getting to know other cultures, I really enjoyed that. Mi Gente was like another family, basically.”

Ashley Marte still doesn’t have a driver’s license. She grew up riding the subway in New York City, where silence is hard to find. Moving to South Hadley from the Bronx definitely required some adjustment — to both the peace and quiet of a small town and its dominant culture.

Marte identifies as Latina, having grown up in a Spanish-speaking Dominican American family. So when she moved to campus, she joined Mi Gente (My People), Mount Holyoke’s Living-Learning Community designed to support students of Latina/x descent. “Being around people who have similar cultures and getting to know other cultures, I really enjoyed that,” she said. “Mi Gente was like another family, basically.”

She also made close friends through La Unidad, the College’s club for Latine students. It builds community, combats stereotypes and promotes Latine culture. Marte has been a member for years, becoming treasurer her junior year and then co-president during her senior year. “We create a welcoming space where people are able to be who they are,” she said.

At Mount Holyoke, Marte felt free to be who she is and explore whatever piqued her interest. In classic liberal arts fashion, she explored the course catalog widely. “My friends make fun of me because I’ve taken so many different classes across so many departments,” she said, laughing.

Marte ended up majoring in economics, drawn to its versatility and broad applicability to understanding how the world works. (An interest in human behavior also led her to minor in psychology.) Her senior year “J term” experience offered more proof that economics connects to most corners of the world. She spent the month of January living in Paris on a study abroad program, taking an Economics of Wine course. Marte didn’t like wine at the outset, but she left France with firsthand understanding of all the expertise that goes into it after visits to a Champagne vineyard, a wine museum and wine bars. “Now I have a lot more respect for wine,” she said.

But a career in the world of wine is not what Marte is after. Her professional passions began to crystallize during a summer internship at New York Edge after her sophomore year. The nonprofit organization provides summer educational programs to New York City students. Brought on as a counselor, Marte ended up leveraging her economics knowledge to teach a financial literacy program to middle school students.

“It doesn’t matter how young you are. People need valuable personal finance skills,” she said. Coming into her junior year, she understood that she was deeply passionate about helping people feel confident in their finances. Another summer internship in New York City, at TD Bank after her junior year, provided her with corporate financial services experience. During the internship she learned about the role of financial advisors and how they support the needs of clients.

“I like the client-facing side, how they interact with and help individuals,” Marte said.

As graduation approaches, she’s looking for her first job in the financial services industry, ideally a financial advisor role. However, she already has a job that connects her to communities beyond campus. Since spring 2023, she has been working as a program facilitator at the Weissman Center for Leadership, where she supports the Community-Based Learning (CBL) program. CBL connects students, faculty and staff to local communities such as South Hadley and the City of Holyoke through tutoring, mentoring opportunities and community partnerships.

“We try to connect students to surrounding communities,” Marte said. “It’s about creating more reciprocal relationships. In my role, I support CBL programs, including planning events and conducting outreach.”

As ever, campus is much quieter than New York City, where Marte may return to after completing her senior year. But throughout her time at Mount Holyoke, she’s found plenty of meaningful ways to stay connected to the wider world.

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