Finding connection through curiosity
“At Mount Holyoke I found my people and my place — marked by an endless spirit of curiosity. I found the people I felt like I’d been searching for my whole life: passionate, driven, interesting and interested — in me, my story and the things I care about.”
My name is Hilary Vergera, and I’m a Frances Perkins Scholar (FP) and member of the Blue Lion class of 2024. This is my second fall at Mount Holyoke, and as the now-familiar beauty of autumn blooms into its vibrant palette on my campus, I think about the winding path that led me here.
Two years ago, I couldn’t have imagined attending an elite college. Returning to school, I developed close friendships with my professors and thrived on challenging myself intellectually. When my community college advisor suggested I consider selective private schools when looking into transfer options, I initially wrote it off, assuming that kind of community would never accept someone like me. To my surprise, when I packed up my life and moved to Mount Holyoke, I found the people I felt like I’d been searching for my whole life: passionate, driven, interesting and interested — in me, my story and the things I care about. The Mount Holyoke community — both on campus and around the world — buzzes with a curiosity and excitement I didn’t have the chance to express before coming here.
The liberal arts curriculum here — the exploratory, interdisciplinary nature and high caliber of instruction across all programs — has enabled me to find new passions.
I threw myself into new ways of thinking about the world and began to chart a path toward dreams I assumed were out of reach. I knew I wanted to study art history — to examine art as a document of and catalyst for change, to understand how the visual shapes and records the world. With the help of my art history professors, especially Jessica Maier, I’ve gained new tools and challenged my own perspective. This year I was the recipient of a department award which enabled me to attend a seminar on design history at Bard Graduate Center in New York City. And Lynk funding gave me access to a unique collections internship in a museum research library at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Tacoma, Washington. These experiences gave me new ways to appreciate work in material culture, and both opportunities would have been impossible if not for the generous support Mount Holyoke offers its students.
As the MHC Art Society’s incumbent treasurer, the art history department liaison and the Stomberg Collections intern at the campus Art Museum, I collaborate with staff, faculty and peers who are committed to making creativity accessible and inviting to the entire campus. Weissman Center for Leadership programming like Leading Women in the Arts brings incredible working creatives to campus to inspire students. And every day I get to explore the arts across campus, through research and insightful discussion.
The liberal arts curriculum here — the exploratory, interdisciplinary nature and high caliber of instruction across all programs — has enabled me to find new passions too. In English and especially Russian literature courses, I found new pathways to appreciating fiction. I became fascinated by the history and visual culture of Eurasia, and, through meandering talks about Alexander Pushkin and Leo Tolstoy at Thirsty Mind with Professor Peter Scotto, I began shaping a new mode of academic inquiry for myself. In studying the language and contemporary politics of the region alongside its artistic contributions, I hope to someday, in my own way, foster mutual understanding between the highly diverse peoples of Eurasia and those here in my own community, especially now, when global empathy is desperately needed. A passive interest in reading classic literature led to a new goal: I want to critique empires and build cultural bridges.
All of this — the comfort I’ve found on Mount Holyoke’s campus, the academic and cocurricular opportunities afforded by simply being here, the spontaneous nature of exploratory learning — would have been impossible without the tuition scholarship Mount Holyoke gives to FPs. It alone allowed me to truly change my life. Two years ago I could never have imagined making lifelong friends who support and challenge me and want to see me achieve my wildest dreams — and whose own dreams I can’t wait to see realized. Mount Holyoke has taught me never to sell myself short. At no other college could I have grown this much. As I prepare for my senior year and am in the midst of applying for summer language fellowships with the help of Ryan Lewis, I know I can take on graduate school with the full strength of Mount Holyoke behind me. There are no words to express my gratitude for the way alums enable Mount Holyoke’s transformative power.