October 16, 2017

A world of wiggle room within Mount Holyoke

Maddy Skrak ’18

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Every time I’ve introduced myself in a new year of college, I’ve proudly announced a new proposed major, per my latest crystal ball reading for my future career.

I arrived my first year as a biology and Spanish double major on the pre-health track. Second year, a Spanish major with a minor in psychology. Third year, a self-declared major combining psychology and journalism, with a minor in Spanish. And finally, four years later, I am proud to say that I am a Spanish major with a Nexus concentration in journalism, media and public discourse.

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Maddy Skrak, spreading her wings at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst

Quite the metamorphosis, right?

As a veteran of switching my major for what feels like 10,000 times, I can say that crossing out what you don’t like is just as important as figuring out what you do like! A redheaded Goldilocks, I shopped and shopped for the perfect porridge and am thrilled that Mount Holyoke served up the flexibility and diversity of classes for me to build upon each line of intellectual inquiry.

In four years, I’ve learned so much about myself through my studies and have distilled my chain of interests into a combination of courses that fits me just right. I accomplished this by exploring my distribution requirements and choosing from the plethora of majors and minors offered here. (Fact: You don’t have to pick your major right away. You must declare your major by the second semester of your sophomore year, but you can always change your mind.)

A liberal arts education allows you to follow your intellectual curiosity and trust your gut. It gave me the wiggle room to explore until I found what truly makes my heart race and my skin burn with a need to talk about it!

Maddy Skrak's pencil, after an especially intense class of note takingMaddy Skrak's pencil, after an especially intense class of note taking

On becoming that student

Over my MHC career, I tried classes in economics, math and the sciences. I went from taking notes for classes that didn’t suit me that well to ripping through paper — because my pens couldn’t take notes fast enough, because I was craving to cement every word into my notebooks and memory — for my classes in journalism, Spanish and Latino/a studies.

I am now that student who stays after class to ask my professor more questions, because I can’t stop thinking about the ideas raised by the lecture. Discovering what gets me fired up has transformed my classroom experience because professors here are just waiting for you to engage and connect with the work they’ve devoted their lives to.

The intersectionality across MHC courses also fuels students to explore. This semester, I’m taking “Race, Racism and Power,” which dovetails with my “Latinx Immigration” course and adds insight into my Spanish class, “The Feminist Gaze in Latin America.” Although my major is Spanish, I constantly use my journalism skills from my Nexus concentration — without which I wouldn’t have discovered my newly-found passion for immigration studies.

Often after a fellow student makes a comment in class discussion, I’ll hear them say something along the lines of, “But that’s just through my (insert major) lens.” Mount Holyoke students bring different lenses, angles and perspectives to every class, which allows us to look at topics and problems together with a magnified clarity.

Maddy Skrak takes in the valley atop the summit of nearby Mount Tom
Maddy Skrak takes in the valley atop the summit of nearby Mount Tom 

Think zig-zags, not straight lines

No quest for knowledge or careers is formed along a straight line. It’s the combination of different experiences and activities — a zig-zag pattern —that will lead you to your passions.

Now that I’ve found my route, I have a multitude of opportunities to dig even deeper into Mount Holyoke’s community of knowledge through Community-Based Learning opportunities and clubs and organizations, all centered around self-discovered interests.

Mount Holyoke students have a thirst for knowledge and a will to learn and mindfully deconstruct our complicated world. In that ethos, I know that even if my interests change, I will never stop learning, nor will I forget the critical thinking elements and lenses that each field of study has taught me.

Find the major you heart!Find the major you heart.

Crystalize your interests

So take the time to shop and pick the major you love! Expand on your interest, mold it, reshape it and see where it can take you. Sometimes your crystal ball reading might be clear or maybe you don’t know what you want to do with your life yet. Crystal ball or not, both mindsets are welcomed and encouraged at Mount Holyoke!

Major curiosity? Visit us!

Maddy Skrak ’18 hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She majors in Spanish and is pursuing a Nexus concentration in journalism, media and public discourse. As a member of the varsity hunter seat team, she has ridden in open flat and intermediate fences — and in her senior year will move up as an all-around open rider. Skrak is the marketing content development assistant for the Office of Communications and Marketing and is an Equestrian Fellow for the Office of Admission. Her summer 2017 internship with the Chronicle of the Horse magazine was funded by the College’s Lynk initiative. The fall of her junior year, Skrak studied abroad in Sevilla, Spain, where she fell in love with Europe and significantly improved her Spanish skills — which she will continue to do her senior year when she lives on the Spanish Language Floor. Among her favorite ways to pass time on campus, beyond riding? Staring at the stunning fall foliage, hiking and running around the Pioneer Valley, and buying ginger ice cream from Atkins Farms Country Market!
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