Knowing yourself is the biggest thing
“Knowing yourself is the biggest thing.”
After graduating from high school, Alex Moreno knew they needed some downtime before continuing their education. So they deferred their admission to Mount Holyoke and spent their gap year in Ecuador, connecting with other 18 and 19 year olds and strengthening their resume through nonprofit work. Once they returned from their gap year, Moreno went to Mount Holyoke with the intention of having a dual major.
“The first person I talked to when I got on campus was my advisor, Kathy Aidala, who was the chair of the physics department at the time,” they said. “I came to her for advice on what classes to take.”
Moreno took the courses that Aidala suggested, but they also took a politics course called Black Metropolis with Class of 1926 Professor of Politics Preston Smith. The course covers Black Chicago from the great migration up to the election of Barack Obama, and it sparked a nascent love of politics in Moreno.
“There were key topics in the class that I have borne witness to throughout my life, like growing up in a low-income area where most people around me were Black and brown people. It was super relevant to my life.”
After speaking to Smith about the impact the class had on their thinking, Moreno declared politics as their second major.
“I think it was the best of both worlds: I was still doing my very hands-on, very methodical processes in physics but also having my own thoughts in my politics courses and engaging in discourse about things that matter to and directly affect me,” they said.
Beyond their academic pursuits, Moreno has also been a key figure in helping the Mount Holyoke community through the global COVID-19 pandemic. Moreno was assigned to oversee Mead Hall as a residential fellow, and it was struck by lightning over the summer.
While the hall was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no one was hurt, the building needed serious repairs. So Moreno, her staff of sophomores and about 100 first-year students had to spend a semester in a dormitory at Hampshire College.
The experience was an opportunity for Moreno to foster a unique connectedness among the displaced students, whom they looked after with humor and commitment, even shuttling students to and from classes and events on the Mount Holyoke campus in a van dubbed “Diamond,” to be sure everyone got to where they needed to be safely.
When Mead was reopened in the spring, Moreno was a key figure in regrouping the community.
Moreno said that being a student during the pandemic has been difficult in numerous ways, and once again they’re listening to their inner selves and taking a break.
When they are ready to move on to the next chapter of their life, Moreno plans to apply for a research technician position in Chicago. “I loved the ritual of setting up lab experiments,” they said. “I love presenting the data and having people tell you if it’s good or not.”