Olivia Vejcik ’20
By Sasha Nyary
Olivia Vejcik wanted to be a leader, so she chose Mount Holyoke College.
“I wanted an environment that was going to be the best possible space for me to learn,” she said. “I loved the idea of being surrounded by women in leadership, by being in an empowered space with other women. I was especially impressed when I read about all the alumnae from women’s colleges. I was stunned.”
Vejcik is well on her way toward joining that exclusive club. She’s already served as an aide to Sen. Tammy Duckworth from Illinois, helped produce a documentary for the Nielsen company, worked for an intergovernmental affairs firm — and been elected president of Mount Holyoke’s class of 2020.
“Being elected class president was a really big moment for me, my proudest moment,” said Vejcik, who in that role inspired her fellow students with her Convocation address. “It meant that I was supported by members of my class, that people trusted me to represent them.”
In the spring of her junior year, Vejcik was selected to participate in the College’s MHC Semester in D.C. The work she did that semester and the relationships she developed led to a summer working for Sen. Duckworth.
“I was pretty much by her side the entire day,” Vejcik said. “I wrote biographies of the people that she was supposed to meet with. I recommended meetings for her and sat in on them, including one with the ambassador from Iraq. I went to hearings and wrote memos about them. I tried to help with the legislative proposals that are going through that staff's office. It definitely made me think about possibly running for office.”
Her advisor, Calvin Chen, associate professor of politics, was a large part of her political education, Vejcik said. Chen was the director of the MHC Semester in D.C. when she was there and oversaw her independent study that was part of the curriculum.
“He’s so attentive,” she said. “He really made us think critically and think about the ways that you conduct research and bring in other disciplines. We had long conversations in his office about politics and my time in Washington and my career. He really emphasizes how he can help me professionally.”
“I like not being afraid to raise my hand in class,” she said. “I like not being afraid to speak my mind. Advocating for yourself. Having the reasons behind an idea that you're articulating. Mount Holyoke gave me the power and the ability to do that. I don't know if that would have happened if I had gone to a traditionally coed institution.”