Volunteer Voice: Marija Tesla ’11

June 17, 2020 at 7:30 AM

Marija Tesla ’11

A dedicated leader and human rights advocate, Marija Tesla ’11 believes firmly in Mount Holyoke's important contribution to the evolution of gender equity and the College's commitment to making change in the global community. As a student, she served as President of the MHC Student Government Association (SGA) and has continued to take on leadership roles beyond the gates as both President and Head Class Agent for the class of 2011, a member of the Mount Holyoke Fund Committee and a former young alumna Trustee. Now pursuing a joint degree from The Fletcher School (M.A. in Law and Diplomacy) and Boston College Law School (J.D.), she knows that that has never been a more important time to support Mount Holyoke and the world's future leaders.

What has life been like for you during the pandemic?
I am high risk for COVID-19, so I have spent all of my time in my apartment in quarantine on my own. I walk 10,000+ steps every day and run every other day. I cook and bake and do side planks on my yoga mat and read novels before I go to sleep. I spend a lot of time in front of a large window while I sit at my desk and do work on my MacBook. It feels like I am working from a treehouse, and I am cherishing my time at home. There are white curtains which dance when I open up my windows and flowers when I manage to pick up a bouquet and there are photographs of my friends, family and Emily Dickinson. There is a mini Eiffel Tower I picked up on my last trip to Paris, and there is an American desk flag and an owl pencil case covered in "I voted" stickers. Life has been hard, but I have found meaning and silver linings in the small things.

How have your Mount Holyoke connections helped you through this time? What has the MHC network meant to you?
Recently I had a Zoom call with two friends that I made during our first year at MHC. One friend was calling from Shanghai, China, where it was 8:30 a.m.; one from Berkeley, California, where it was 5:30 p.m.; and I was calling in from the Boston area, where it was 8:30 p.m. We were all born in different parts of the world and have since lived in many different parts of the globe. MHC always reminds me of how interconnected and interdependent we all are in this world. My friendships and the diverse perspectives of my friends have meant the world to me over the years, and especially right now, as we all fight this pandemic.

Why is it important to you to support Mount Holyoke at this time?
The College believes in equity and justice. I chose MHC because of this reason. I always felt like the school was there for me and that it would never sacrifice me or leave me behind for the greater good … and we are seeing that right now in this pandemic. I have certainly been left behind and sacrificed in other communities and throughout my lifetime as a former refugee, and MHC walks the walk. MHC is truly uncommon and is always a leader. So many colleges and universities are making the SAT and the ACT optional right now due to the pandemic, but MHC was one of the first colleges to make these tests optional because of equity concerns, and it did so in the early 2000s. The College has always given me hope, and hope requires determination and courage, and at Mount Holyoke we have never lacked in either. I will continue to fight for and support MHC because it has always fought for me and for students like me.

Why do you believe it is important for alumnae to support the College?
Because there is no place in the world like Mount Holyoke College. It is a home to so many of us who have not always felt at home in many different corners of the globe. We need to support the College's evolution and its place in higher education and history, as it continues to contribute to the evolution of gender equality and our own understanding of gender in the United States and the rest of the world.

What has your MHC education meant to you?
Everything. I got a memoir, “French Lessons” by Alice Kaplan, in the mail this week from a small independent bookstore in Maryland. I could not figure out who sent it to me. Naturally, I texted many of my MHC friends to see if it had been one of them. In the end, I posted a photo of the book on Facebook. It turned out that one of my English professors from MHC had sent me the book to surprise me during this pandemic. It meant the world, and it is symbolic of my Mount Holyoke experience and education. As a speaker of many languages who definitely gets lost in them, I have a feeling my professor was trying to tell through Kaplan herself that, “There is more than one way to speak.” I look forward to getting lost in the pages about language, memory, politics and writing — my favorite things. The learning continues.

MHC Development

Written by MHC Development