Olivia Papp ’15

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Name: Olivia Papp ’15

Hometown: Hooksett, New Hampshire

Majors: Politics and sociology

Campus involvement/activities: Founder of Mount Holyoke Radix; past president of the Mount Holyoke Debate Society; peer mentor and program liaison for the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Center; department liaison for the Department of Politics; actress with Project: Theatre.

What are you most proud of accomplishing at MHC? I regard the relationship I have developed to my academic work—seen in my relationship to my professors, the literature I read, the literature I produce, and my classmates—as an accomplishment and a gift. There aren't many undergraduate academic environments like Mount Holyoke, where students are ceaselessly encouraged to find and follow their passions in a community of scholars. I'm proud of how I have integrated this education and passion for learning into my extracurricular and social life. I have had to opportunity to share and grow my skills with fellow students as a Speaking, Arguing, and Writing mentor and as a liaison constantly learning from my fellow mentors. Mount Holyoke enabled me to realize the project of my thesis not only in the final bound product but also in the experience of founding an independent student publication in response to the advocacy my thesis provides. I have been given the gift of living my learning at Mount Holyoke.

Favorite course that you thought you might not like: I am currently taking a contemporary Russian politics class at Amherst College through the Five College Consortium. I managed to leave the comparative requirement for my politics major until the second semester of my senior year, so it was a class taken primarily out of necessity. Having a pretty robust background and central interest in political theory, I was skeptical of how much I would enjoy a comparative politics course. That said, as has been the case with nearly all of my classes in the past four years, I was encouraged to bring my individual perspective and specialty to my course work and have loved it as a result.

Best takeaway from internship or research experiences: I have had the privilege to learn both about what I do and actively do not want in a future career during my time interning and researching while a student at Mount Holyoke. Experience gained through curriculum-to-career course work during my sophomore year led me to an internship with President Obama’s Task Force for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief that summer. While I loved living in D.C. and doing policy reform work with the capacity to transform national disaster relief, over the course of three months, I gained intimate insight into the limitations political strategizing has on the capacity for radical change.

The following summer, I was able to embark on a six-week research trip through New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, funded by the Christine L. Compston Constitutional Issues Research Fellowship. In addition to the profound influence this work had on my senior honors thesis work—which resides at the intersection of feminist legal theory, judicial review, and media critique—it also affirmed my interest in pursuing a career in the academy. I love theory. I love researching. I love the project of writing. My decision to pursue a PhD in political theory is largely a product of that summer work, as well as my subsequent thesis work with professors Joan Cocks and Elizabeth Markovits.

Postgraduation plans: I will be pursing a master’s degree in philosophy in politics and international relations at the University of Cambridge next year, which is also where I studied abroad my junior year. I hope to enroll in a five-year PhD program in political theory upon returning to the U.S., ideally in a program that will allow me to engage my inter/anti-disciplinary interests in philosophy and sociology.

What you'd tell a prospective student about MHC: The experience of Mount Holyoke is different for everyone and there is no single narrative that drives the time students spend here. What is absolutely true, however, is that every student has control over her, his, or their education. Every student is afforded choice and agency in course selection, in extracurricular involvement, and in shaping the Mount Holyoke community. Most importantly, after classes on campus, off campus, and in another country, I would choose it again. Every time. No questions asked.