December 11, 2017

Subtle things: nine MoHo-isms

Maddy Skrak ’18

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As a naturally inquisitive and chatty person, I was in uncharted territory when I recently lost my voice for a week. Vivid hand language and creepy whispering became my primary modes of communication. And when sounding like a strangled mix of Darth Vader and the Cookie Monster started to feel obnoxious, I stopped attempting to talk and interacted with my community from an even quieter perspective.

This unexpected experience helped me see that it’s the subtle things that help forge the mosaic of our community. Here’s a look at some of the distinctive things, -isms and unspoken traditions that make Mount Holyoke such a special place.

The audience in Chapin Auditorium
An audience in Chapin Auditorium 

Snapping

They’ve done it again — I have chills from the speaker’s powerful words on stage! In communal support, a symphony of snaps echoes across Chapin Auditorium at different frequencies. The crescendo fades as they continue to their next point. Mount Holyoke students share a deep respect for their peers’ voices — literally and figuratively. We use snapping as a mode of communication, and it emerges not only in speeches on stage, but also in class dialogue or casual conversation. This is our way of responding without distracting the speaker or ringing as loudly as clapping.

Although snapping is a familiar enough phenomenon to many people, one could call the Mount Holyoke community “snap happy,” because we are always eager to support our peers in recognition of a particularly empowering or beautifully stated piece of discourse. It’s subtle, but nothing beats the elevated feeling of approval that flows from a beautiful wave of snaps.

Respect for pronouns

A rookie mistake is to assume someone’s pronouns. If you step onto our extremely inclusive campus, it’s always best to ask someone how they self-identify. Our community welcomes all pronouns, sexualities, ethnicities, races and genders. I trust that my pronouns will be respected by my peers, and vice versa. This is a silent understanding that speaks loudly for how we relate to one another on campus.

A student strikes a power pose, Commencement 2017
A student strikes a power pose, Commencement 2017

Feminism

As an inclusive women’s college, I think it goes without saying that we all believe in the advocacy of a woman’s right to political, social and economic equality with men. Although we may not each identify as “feminist,” I dare to speak on behalf of the student body in asserting that we believe in equality across the sexes and genders and advocate for female empowerment. 

A worldy view of the Williston Library A worldy view of the Williston Library 

Intersectionality

I don’t think I’ve ever sat down in a class or lived a day at Mount Holyoke without using the term “intersectionality” in conversation. This word goes beyond academic use, and reflects the deeper value of diversity across the intersections of identity. Rather than categorize people in boxes, we deconstruct labels and build bridges to gain a more profound understanding of one another — and take that greater understanding out into the world. Nobody puts a MoHo in a corner!

Students hanging out on Skinner Green
Students hanging out on Skinner Green

Sun

The sun has a subtle, yet notable, effect on campus in the winter: When a warm day breaks through the freezing temperatures, you can count on nearly every student to magnetically mobilize toward Skinner Green. Or to climb from the recesses of their residence halls and heated study spaces to soak in the vitamin D. And when spring breaks the long winter season, the campus transforms from silently snow-covered to loud and filled with frisbee, picnics and laughter.  

Students at the Talcott GreenhouseStudents at the Talcott Greenhouse

Sustainability

This campus initiative is reflected by little actions, such as students always having a water bottle parked in front of them in class, frequently tabling for environmental issues and organizing energy-saving or recycling competitions. Over the years I’ve also gotten some awesome stuff — including mirrors, a mini fridge, nice shorts and a picnic blanket — by scavenging the free bins in residence hall basements.

OneCards at the ready

The OneCard is our all-access pass to campus. Beyond granting us entry to residence halls, OneCards are also used for meal swipes, letter retrieval and sometimes class attendance. It’s also a source of endless jokes, since nobody’s picture ever seems to look especially attractive (my friends say that my first-year photo makes it seem like I’m wearing a toupee.) Everyone looks so different from first year to senior year — it’s a full adult transformation!

No fashion police

At Mount Holyoke, when it comes to fashion, you’ll see nearly every style under the moon! From gala gowns to pant suits, we accept everything free of judgment and will probably even give an understanding nod if we spy a good “groutfit.” Because — heck knows — we’ve all been there!

Skinner Green on a perfect fall daySkinner Green on a perfect fall day

Crazy for our campus

Because our campus is so stunning, just about everyone in the Pioneer Valley seems to take family photos or senior pictures on campus. There are also many local dog walkers around Mount Holyoke. You can always count on a MoHo getting excited when they see a dog on campus — for me, I always spring straight toward the two wrinkly shar-peis!

When walking around campus, MoHos tend to take the path less travelled. We take this quite literally, by rarely taking sidewalks and often walking through the grass to get places. And lastly, a integral member of our community who lives outside is Jorge. We all love our campus goose and don’t even blink when he honks while trying to eat our food outside of Prospect Hall!


I’m thrilled to have regained my voice, but am grateful to have had the chance to listen more intently to pick up on the nuances of my community.

Inside Abbey ChapelInside Abbey Chapel

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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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