Mikhaela Andersonn poses with her First-Gen stole around her shoulders.
Image credit: Lewis Glass, Paradise Photo & Video

Senior Snapshot, Mikhaela Andersonn ’23: “What Can I Do for the Greater Good?”

Morgan Gallegos ’25
May 15, 2023

Before coming to Wellesley, Mikhaela Andersonn ’23 knew she wanted to major in psychology and Spanish, but she didn’t plan to study misinformation and radicalization online. 

Andersonn recalls hearing the phrase “alternative facts” after the 2016 election and says she was confused by the misinformation about vaccines on social media during the COVID-19 pandemic. She developed an interest in how misinformation spreads online after these events, but after she took POL1 329: Political Psychology, she decided to study digital policy and civic engagement. 

“Being at Wellesley means finding your voice and finding what you’re passionate about and then fine-tuning it,” Andersonn says. “I came here with an interest in psychology, but then I started asking myself, ‘What can I do for the greater good? What can I do for digital policy? What can I give to other people in my quest for knowledge?’” 

Andersonn wrote her honors thesis on the relationship between civic engagement, identity, and social media based on interviews with 44 women of color. Her thesis advisor, Linda Charmaraman, senior research scientist at the Wellesley Centers for Women and visiting lecturer in education, gave her access to these interviews, which were conducted from 2013 to 2014. “It’s kind of like a time capsule…but being able to see what people were talking about online during the infancy stage of online activism is interesting,” she says. Her research has helped her understand the shifts and trends in activism on social media. “I’m seeing patterns in the way people define and conceptualize topics like civic engagement and political consciousness, and their interviews give me the rich context of their answers.”

Being at Wellesley means finding your voice and finding what you’re passionate about and then fine-tuning it.

Mikhaela Andersonn

Andersonn is a Near-Peer Mentor with WellesleyPlus, a program that supports first-generation and under-resourced students throughout their first year at the College. She is also a teaching assistant for WRIT 201: Intensive Writing Workshop, a course she took as a sophomore that she says gave her confidence in her writing abilities. She meets with students once a week to help them develop personalized academic assignments that reflect their interests and helps them find a writing process that works for them. 

“I see them smile when they’re happy about their writing and hear them say, ‘Oh, I’m actually really proud of this piece,’” Andersonn says. “I’m like, ‘Good, you should be really proud!’” 

Andersonn was inspired to mentor students in part because of the support and encouragement she has received from her peers. “I’ve taken on a lot of mentorship opportunities that I never thought I would because so many of my peers have given me advice and been open about their experiences at Wellesley … I wanted to do the same for others,” she says. 

She says the opportunities she’s had at Wellesley have helped her gain confidence in herself. In summer 2022, she worked in the Youth, Media, and Wellbeing Research Lab at the Wellesley Centers for Women, where she researched digital well-being and the role of social media in adolescent mental health. “Our lab’s research was dedicated to helping teenagers protect their mental health online,” she says. “We also invited speakers and held workshops to talk about the positive and negative aspects of social media and how to deal with them.” 

This past Wintersession, Andersonn was an Albright fellow. She and her group held a mock African Union meeting to discuss how Kenya can secure its digital sovereignty and implement stronger data protection regulations. “Before we started researching, I didn’t know anything about this topic and neither did anyone in my group, but working on this project for three weeks taught me how to work in a group setting and led me to so many interesting discoveries,” she says. “I genuinely had a very good experience and loved the sense of comradery between students and alums.” 

After she graduates, Andersonn hopes to pursue an advanced degree in security studies. Her long-term goal is to become a research analyst and digital policy advisor.

Andersonn encourages incoming first-years to “explore and see what possibilities are out there.” She says her five-year plan changed during her time at Wellesley because she took classes outside her comfort zone and had research opportunities that changed her career goals. “Be flexible with your plans and understand that sometimes things aren’t going to work out, but that doesn’t mean everything’s lost,” she says.