A philanthropic sense of thinking
Mount Holyoke picked me, I didn't pick Mount Holyoke. That decision has meant finding out who I am and being able to realize what my values truly are, and what things mean to me.
For Marisol Fernandez, college has been about creating a legacy of helping people.
“I’ve always had the mentality of wanting to make things better for the people that come after me,” she said. “I want to leave my mark on Mount Holyoke and be able to look back on what I did years later.”
Fernandez walks the talk. She has held numerous positions on campus, including as a senator and as a the board of the Student Government Association; on the board of MEChA de Mount Holyoke; as a senior community advisor for Rockefeller Hall; and as head class agent for the class of 2020. She was also on the swimming and diving team her junior year.
“At Mount Holyoke, we have a very philanthropic sense of thinking,” Fernandez said. “No matter what field you go into, we always want to find a way to give back and make things better. I think that’s not typical at other institutions. Here, the liberal arts give a deeper way of looking at things, but also a wider way. You think of the repercussions, the history, the individual.”
Her leadership potential was part of the reason the Posse Foundation recommended Mount Holyoke to Fernandez.
“I was fortunate enough to be placed at Mount Holyoke,” she said. “I hadn’t ranked it but the Posse Miami staff urged me to interview. Mount Holyoke picked me, I didn't pick Mount Holyoke. That decision has meant finding out who I am and being able to realize what my values truly are, and what things mean to me. I’m one of the biggest diehard Posse fans.”
Arriving at the College intending to major in environmental studies, Fernandez switched to a double major in Spanish and psychology and education because of Jen Matos, assistant professor of psychology and education.
“Jen’s class on social justice shifted my whole mentality about going into education,” Fernandez said. “She helped me find ways to support students and to realize that’s what I want to do after college.”
Matos was a role model in many ways, Fernandez said. “In the world of academia, you’re not supposed to ask for help. Mount Holyoke is really different. Professors are very quick to say yes, let me know how I can support you. Jen took that to a different level, wanting to support me and be there for me.”
Many of her connections have also been with staff, she said. Her activities have brought her into close connection with the Division of Student Life, especially Nashalie Vazquez, associate director of residential life.
“Nashalie inspired me, to a whole other degree, to do things I would never think I was capable of doing,” Fernandez said. “She inspired me to go to grad school. When I told her I was stressing about being able to afford to apply, she said, ‘There’s a fee waiver. Call them. Here’s what you say.’ Being a first-generation college student, I didn’t know how to do these things. Seeing a Latina who went to Cornell University who did all these huge, amazing things is so inspiring.”
Fernandez is applying to graduate programs to study higher education student affairs.
“I want to help students have a great undergraduate experience,” she said. “If I go through a situation and come out with a broken leg, I want the next person to have a sprained ankle. And the next person to have just a bruise. I want to help people.”