Emilie Raczek ’05

Name: Emilie Raczek ’05

Current Title/Profession: Early childhood and elementary literacy director, KIPP Schools

City: New Haven, Connecticut

Major: Politics

Minor: Islamic studies

What was your first job after MHC?: Teaching second grade in Newark, New Jersey

Favorite class/professor and why: I loved Comparative Politics with Penny Gill. It was my first year at Mount Holyoke, the readings and discussions were deeply engaging, and she was always extremely candid with her feedback.

Talents and/or passions discovered at MHC: I am so grateful that Mount Holyoke introduced me to so many people and perspectives. In my four years, I studied Spanish, Arabic, and some Urdu. Between Arabic with Professor Mohammed Jiyad and classes with the religion and politics departments, I was able to design a minor in Islamic studies. This included studying abroad for a semester in Cairo, with visits to Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. That semester in Cairo was the first time that I had left the country!

What do you value most about your liberal arts education?: The freedom to deeply study politics, languages, and religion while I was also taking West African dance and yoga is unique to liberal arts schools. I love that, in addition to my politics major, I was able to study calculus, get an introduction to economics, and design my own minor. As an educator, I know how important it is for students to think critically and make connections across disciplines.

Why is a women’s education still relevant today?: Women in leadership is not something that we had to rally for at Mount Holyoke; it was the norm. Unfortunately, outside of institutions like MHC, girls are subtly (and not so subtly) exposed to the idea that only men can lead a boardroom, build a bridge, run a student council. When I taught kindergarten, I read a book with my class that contains folk tales with heroines from around the world. From such a young age, children are ambushed with the idea that girls are helpless.

What do you want the world to know about MHC?: MHC is Frances Perkins and Emily Dickinson; it is also nightly M&Cs [milk and cookies] with your roommate. We are at the protest and then in class the next morning. We are teaching and leading and learning from each other. Mount Holyoke is friendships that span the globe and pass the test of time. MHC is freedom to explore and study the topics that mean something to you, so that down the road, you can make a difference.

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