Firstie Focus: Sophia Hess ’22

Photo of Sophia Hess ’22

Name: Sophia Hess

High school: The Waverly School

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Major/possible major: environmental studies

Why Mount Holyoke: I chose Mount Holyoke because when I visited I felt welcomed in a way that I did not feel anywhere else. I loved seeing women from all places and perspectives engaged in cooperative work, without being over competitive or close-minded. Also, the campus is gorgeous and that was a factor I considered when choosing.

Favorite places so far on campus: I absolutely adore the greenhouse and the two lakes. The Science Center also really appeals to my inner geek, with the DNA stairs and amoeba rugs.

How I spent the summer: This summer I spent at home, teaching music lessons and babysitting. I went diving with my family and learned to salsa dance with my friends. I also returned to the summer camp I attended for years, this time as a counselor.

In 10 years: I want to live in San Francisco and have a job that still gives me time to paint and play music. My dream is to have a small house that lets me walk or bike just a short while to the beach.

Career aspirations: I hope to work in conservation and sustainability efforts that also consider about the social implications of that work. Octavio Aburto is a marine biologist who works directly with small fishing communities in Mexico to come up with solutions that advocate sustainable fishing but also benefit the community economically. This is the type of work I hope to do, a mix of sustainability and humanitarian work. Humans and nature are one and the same.
Diving experience: I am a freediver, which means that I dive while holding my breath instead of using a scuba tank. I grew up around the ocean and learned to dive from my father in the kelp forests off the Southern California coast. I like freediving because it allows me to be quieter and closer to some animals than with a scuba tank, and there’s less heavy gear. For my senior project in high school, I filmed a short film underwater in the kelp forest and composed the soundtrack. I hope to convey the beauty of these forests to those who do not have the chance to see them firsthand, and to inspire more ocean conservation. My record breath hold underwater is about one minute and the deepest I ever dove was 40 feet!

A noteworthy interest/talent: I am a painter and the ocean is my muse. I usually work with acrylics but have started experimenting with watercolors and oil pastels. I enjoy making work that uses colors and textures from the sea and shapes them into something new. My art is somewhere between surreal and abstract and I love that I can shape the ocean’s beauty into something of my own.

Proudest moment: During my senior year in high school I had the idea to organize a river clean-up near my school. A third of my tiny school showed up — and those 30 people gathered over 300 pounds of trash. My idea came to fruition at a level I never expected. Seeing that huge pile of trash was one of my proudest moments.

Influencers and social media: Here are some of my favorite accounts:

  • @martine.emdur — underwater paintings!
  • @symmetry_breakfast — beautiful food
  • @humansofnewyork  — beautiful humans

Patronus: an otter

The quirkiest thing: My family and I mispronounce street names on purpose.

Book: “The House of Spirits” by Isabel Allende

Music: Radiohead!

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