Embracing challenges to make positive change
“I realized that a weight had been lifted from my shoulders the moment I stepped on campus. That was the moment I decided to attend MHC.”
My name is Grace (Gus) Ecklund Gustavson, and I’m going to graduate Mount Holyoke this May. Experiencing the world has always been crucial to my future, and MHC brought that vision into clear focus.
I visited MHC as a junior through the Focus on Diversity program at the recommendation of my high school guidance counselor (thanks, Cairsten!). I couldn’t tell you what classes I sat in on or the name of the lovely MHC student who hosted me, but I do remember the mist that hung around the library at 8 o’clock on Monday morning. It was mid-October, and the maple trees were bright scarlet. As I walked past what I would later learn was Mary Lyon’s grave, I realized that a weight had been lifted from my shoulders the moment I stepped on campus. Looking back, that was the moment I decided I wanted to attend MHC.
I knew I would be an international relations major as soon as I officially committed to MHC. My classes always complement and contradict each other, and being able to transfer knowledge from one class to another is deeply satisfying. Continuing my Spanish education from high school has challenged me to learn about culture, history and critical social theory in ways that are more complex than I ever imagined.
When I walk at graduation in May, my time at Mount Holyoke will have culminated in so much more than a degree.
The high standards expected from my professors and witnessing the academic excellence of my peers drove me to work harder than ever before. My professors have also been invaluable in providing academic support and planning beyond college. It’s through conversations with professors, particularly with my Spanish advisor Nieves Romero-Diaz, that I’ve been able to imagine myself going to graduate school, something I had previously dismissed as too expensive.
Within a couple weeks of arriving on campus, I auditioned for an a cappella group on a whim. Joining the Nice Shoes A Cappella was an incredible way to learn from skilled musicians and to rediscover my own love of music. Since 2018, I’ve served as the organization’s president, PR manager and rehearsal coordinator. In my sophomore year, I joined the MHC Rugby Football Club and fell in love with the sport. If only I had joined earlier! Thanks to The Mount Holyoke Fund, student organizations like the Nice Shoes and MHCRFC can stay funded and can access DEI and leadership training to make these organizations and others strong — constantly striving to enact positive change on our campus.
This summer I interned with the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at UMass Boston. I met incredible elected officials and community leaders from all over the state of Massachusetts and learned from experts about local and state policy. This immersive experience inspired me to pursue policy-oriented involvement and education. Without Lynk funding, my summer stay in Boston would not have been possible.
When I walk at graduation in May, my time at Mount Holyoke will have culminated in so much more than a degree. I’ve met lifelong friends and mentors, have been afforded incredible opportunities, and am leaving with more questions than I came with.