Mapping a route to lead

Tina Arechiga ’23 traveled across the country to find her way to her future.

When picking a college to attend, some students might shy away from selecting a campus that’s 3,000 miles away from their hometown. But that didn’t phase Tina Arechiga ’23 of San Fernando Valley, California, at all.

When Arechiga’s high school English teacher encouraged her to consider a gender-diverse women’s college like Mount Holyoke, she checked it out online and was sold. “It’s just such a beautiful campus,” she said. “So many great people have graduated from here, and I wanted to be one of them.”

Arechiga wasted no time getting involved with campus organizations and departments like the Career Development Center (CDC) and the Pre-Law Association. These were organizations she felt would help her develop leadership skills during her time on campus and provide her with professional resources and experiences that would land her a job upon graduating. Little did she know her involvement in these campus programs would lead to prestigious opportunities before she even graduated.

In the fall of 2021, Arechiga participated in MHC in DC and landed an internship with the Department of Commerce. She went on to intern for the Department of Labor during the summer of 2022. She said the MHC in DC opportunity was possible because of the support she received from the staff at the CDC. “They helped me with everything from mock interviews to résumé workshops, all of which helped me figure out how to stand out among other applicants,” she said. “Even once I got the internship, working with the CDC helped me secure housing in DC and feel confident about spending a semester away from campus.”

While working in the Department of Commerce, Arechiga worked in the Office of the White House Liaison where she helped orient new political appointees and drafted memos for partnerships between the government and businesses. The work allowed her to meet and network with professionals across industries and gave her an inside look at how she might be able to work with the government in the future.

When it came time for her internship to end, Arechiga began brainstorming ways that she could spend another semester or summer in the nation’s capital. Again, she sought the advice and help of staff at the CDC. “Alexis [McGregor] and Yaldira [Felix-Castro] were pivotal in helping to get my materials together for my internships,” she said. “They were always available when I needed them and so good at pointing me to the right resources if they didn’t have the answers.”

The support paid off. During the summer of 2022, Arechiga went back to Washington, DC, to intern at the Civil Rights Center within the Department of Labor. There she completed research for legislation known as the CROWN Act that would make it illegal for people to be discriminated against due to their hair type and clothing. Arechiga also worked to improve inclusivity across the Department of Labor web presence by ensuring their web pages listed people’s pronouns.

“I wanted to help ensure inclusivity as well as uphold the Civil Right Center's mission to promote non-discrimination,” she said.

Working for a government agency allowed Arechiga to see the inner workings of how laws are researched, written, proposed and then passed, but it also showed her how much popular culture and current events can shape an agency’s work.

“It was so interesting to see the process of laws being created and then to go home at night and pass by rallies for or against the laws I was researching,” she said. “It was empowering to see that national brands like Dove were supporting the CROWN Act in their marketing campaigns.”

Back on campus after her time in DC, Arechiga feels confident about her next steps. She left DC having developed strong relationships across agencies — especially in the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor. Naomi Barry-Perez ’96, for example, is Arechiga’s mentor and the director of the Civil Rights Center at the US Department of Labor. After graduating she hopes to go back to work at a government agency or in public policy.

“Participating in the MHC in DC program was a great way to put myself out there and get hands-on experience in a city and sector I hope to work in one day,” she said. “Long term, I want to be a part of the people who are crafting legislation and doing the research for bills that then help underrepresented communities. I am grateful to be a part of the Mount Holyoke community because it provides the opportunity to engage and learn from a professional setting.”

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