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“Great Things”: What Does It Mean?

Whether you know by heart the history of Mount Holyoke College or have no clue what a Mount Holyoke is, the about page on the college’s website is sure to impress all audiences. Featured on it in large print is a synopsis of how Mary Lyon transformed higher education for women in the United States by founding Mount Holyoke as the first women’s college. Now its students are taking over the world, one change after another (or multiple changes at once, even). This powerful blurb then ends with an awe-inspiring quote by Mary Lyon, “Go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things.”

What’s more, when you visit the Williston Memorial Library, the short yet captivating hallway between the reading room and the Information Commons will undoubtedly grab your attention. On the pristine white wall hang portraits of notable Mount Holyoke alumnae, along with brief summaries of their revolutionary achievements. From Virginia Apgar with the game-changing Apgar score to Pulitzer Prize winner Suzan-Lori Parks, all of these women have left their marks in the world in unforgettable ways.

Current students at Mount Holyoke are also on track to becoming great history-makers, as seen in various articles featured on the Mount Holyoke website. From news on the new pilot semester in D.C. in which five students get to work with people from the White House, to a first-year student receiving an international award, Mount Holyoke is made of greatness material, and Mount Holyoke knows it. The college doesn’t shy away from its mission to empower students by promoting these incredible accomplishments of past, current, as well as incoming students.

With constant reminders of great things Mount Holyoke students have done, I don’t think it’d come off as a surprise that when I first arrived here, I longed to be great. I wanted to contribute to my community. To have myself and my ideas heard by as many people as possible. To ignite change and make the world a better place! To see my name on social media! Even now, at times, I still imagine myself bringing about changes as earth-shattering as the Mount Holyoke students you’ll find on the news.

But I also wonder if the only way to be great is to work on something that will make me be widely recognized. As if the certification of greatness will only be handed to me if I have done something with tangible effects. Must I leave a documented legacy for me to be great? Can greatness exist in other forms? I might venture to assert a “yes.”

I think juggling being a full-time student, working, and participating in extracurricular activities while still maintaining a decent social life is greatness in and of itself. I think being kind to others in a society that is constantly gnawing at your patience is also a great thing. I think being kind to yourself despite everything is another great thing. So the next time I cross the hallway to the Information Commons in the library, I will say to myself, “These people are great. And so am I.”

What about you? What is your greatness?


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ren dinh

Mt Holyoke '19

Ren is an English major and Japanese minor at Mount Holyoke College. Ren uses they/them pronouns, prefers their name not capitalized, loves dogs and music and books and listening to people from different lands and waters of the world.
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