During her time at Villanova, freshman Mia Arrington from Maryland, has learned that she is more than what she appears on paper.
Before deciding to attend Villanova, Mia struggled deciding between Villanova and Spelman College, which is the number one historically black college, known as an HBCU. She remembers that all of her friends from high school thought that she would be attending Spelman, but for her, Villanova offered a new challenge she hadn’t faced before.
“I felt at home at Spelman when I visited, but at the same time, I was really impressed with Villanova, and I felt that I could make it my home with some work. I thought that I would have to challenge myself more as Mia and make myself do something different, because at Spelman I saw myself being comfortable and fitting right in, but Villanova offered me an opportunity for growth. Sometimes it’s been difficult, but most of the time, it’s been rewarding, and usually it’s rewarding after it’s been difficult. I feel like Villanova has definitely been a humbling experience, but I have also had moments where I appreciate myself more since I am starting to realize that the surface level isn’t everything I am.”
She has found bits of her home at Villanova in the Black Cultural Society and in REACH, a multicultural outreach program for which she mentors a 10th grader at a high school in Philadelphia. Though she remains undeclared, she aspires to declare a double major in Political Science and Philosophy. She has always been interested in politics since her father and her grandfather are both former politicians turned lobbyists. Since she was a little girl she’s loved going to work with her father, which has allowed her to become more conscious of what’s ethical and of the grey areas in politics. She has been able to see the benevolent side of these grey areas under the influence of her father who lobbies for underrepresented and underserved groups, which functions as her main inspiration. In regard to Philosophy, she has always liked it, but her main push to the field was when she learned that another one of her inspirations, Angela Davis, majored in philosophy.
Last semester, she decided to attend Kate Szumanski’s Workplace Wednesday Workshops. Meeting Kate at these workshops was, as she said, a really transformative experience.
Kate ended up asking her to speak during Early Action Candidate’s Day on a panel about professional development and internships. She recalls, “I was the last person to speak on the panel, and I started during the last two minutes before it was supposed to be over. I talked about how I met Kate, what employers look for, and what I will be doing this summer. I was nervous, but afterward, a girl came up to me and asked me questions about what I had talked about, and we exchanged information. I was so happy because I did the same thing last year when I attended a panel on campus, so that was a big thing for me.”
Attending these workshops, where she learned how to write a cover letter and improve her resume, allowed her to receive a research position on campus through the Villanova Match Research Program for First Year Students. Currently, she works under Dr. Meredith Bergey in a medical sociology study concerned with World Trade Center Cough that some 9/11 survivors are afflicted with, causing respiratory issues. They are studying the sociological reasons why the recognition of this condition was dropped off in medical and political fields.
This summer, she will be interning at the Congressional Office of U.S. Representative from Texas, Sheila Jackson Lee, on Capitol Hill while working at a waterpark during the weekends. She received this position when over Winter Break, she and her father attended an Investiture at Capitol Hill where every representative was hosting an Open House. She decided to venture to Sheila Jackson Lee’s office since she had prior met her at the Congressional Black Caucus over Fall Break.
She said, “My dad told me that I have to be aggressive, so I went over to Sheila Jackson Lee wanting to congratulate her for being sworn in again. I introduced myself, said what I was studying, and how moved I was by the whole program for it was so encouraging and empowering. I don’t know if she remembered my name, but I think she remembered me being really aggressive from the Fall. I ended up meeting her legislative counsel after she had to leave since they had already had work to do once they were sworn in. I had just been mingling, eating the food, and then her legislative counsel complimented my coat. That’s how the conversation started. I told her I was at Villanova, and she said that if I was interested in interning at the office to send her a short cover letter and a resume. Not much later, my application was approved, and in the summer, I will be serving under the legislative counsel.”
Mia’s most formative experience at Villanova took place over Spring Break, where she embarked on a Social Justice Experience to San Diego and Mexico, in the areas of Tijuana and Tecate, for a border immersion experience with other Villanovans sponsored by CASA. They spent half the week in San Diego on one side of the border, learning about that culture, lifestyle, and history. In the middle of the week, they met with Border Control Officers before they left for Mexico. During the week, they volunteered at migrant shelters and schools.
Concerning the experience, Mia recalls that “It was life changing for me, though it was something that was hard to grapple with. I want to commend the grassroots organizers that are standing up for their own communities because they are doing a lot of work and they hosted us. Other people on the trip thought that their faith was being tested, and they had more accountability for themselves and their actions, and their faith was tied into that. I felt the same. My grandfather was a pastor, so it was very important to him that we were connected to God. While we were there, I could only think about him, but we were without our phones, so even though I wanted to call him, I couldn’t. I don’t believe that it was a coincidence that he made peace with everything on Earth at the same time I was having all of these revelations. When I got back, he had already passed. I am really grateful for that experience, for it helped me learn that it even though it helps to look good on paper, it’s important to be more than that.”
Her trip also inspired her to return to studying the Spanish Language, a language both of her grandparents, who she called the trailblazers in her family, were proficient in and taught. “I have always loved Spanish, and on the trip we immersed ourselves in the language. It reminded me that our language barriers have such deep impacts on our lives, especially at the border where it is so tense, polarized, and politicized. I remember that we went to a Home Depot where people were looking for work. One of the men said that he was so afraid when we got out of our car speaking English, and since we were a big group, he didn’t know what would happen. I thought that was so mind-blowing, because he was a grown man who reminded me of my dad, and he might be afraid of me even though I’m just an eighteen-year-old girl. Our ability to speak Spanish eased over that tension. I understood and truly felt that these people are worth fighting for, and they need advocates to represent them steadfastly. I am going to be that person.”
To her fellow Villanovans, Mia had a few pieces of advice. “Be serious about what you’re here to do, but don’t take yourself too seriously because I think the most meaningful work can be done when everybody checks their privilege and remembers that no one person is better than anybody else. Also understanding what circumstances may be affecting someone’s life and their productivity will help your work become as fulfilling as possible, not only for you but for other people. I sometimes take myself too seriously, and I have to remind myself to relax, so it’s something that I am also learning, but I think it can do everybody some good.”