Alumna gives College students graduate school advice

Students, professors and lovers of literature made their way to the New Library Auditorium on Oct. 8 to hear Lyra Plumer, class of ’05, speak about her journey to graduate school in a presentation titled “Clarissa and the Transatlantic Gothic.”

The presentation was part of the College’s Inaugural Young Alumni Lecture Series.

Now a candidate earning a doctorate in English at Princeton University, Plumer began speaking about her reasons for entering graduate school and how she decided to leave her job as a high school teacher to pursue a master’s degree and become a college professor.

According to Plumer, teaching high school students was difficult in the sense that she found herself being “an entertainer, the police and a psychologist,” all at once.

Plumer said that as she entered her first year of graduate school, she felt an intimidation toward her well-traveled, well-read and well-rounded colleagues and classmates.

“Everyone else seemed to be light years ahead of me,” Plumer said, forcing her to play catch-up for the next two years.

Plumer described the seminars in graduate school as “provocative, rigorous discussions between students,” and even competitive.

“My colleagues tended to distinguish each other on how they sounded in class,” she said.

Plumer found that element of competitiveness sparked some of the best conversations she had in her life. To Plumer, the challenge was terrifying, exciting and a continual exchange of ideas.

During the lecture Plumer offered a few words of advice for students who were looking into graduate school.

As a student, Plumer suggested soliciting everyone’s input on academic pieces. She said students should also create strong relationships with professors for outstanding letters of recommendation.

Plumer believes students should involve themselves in research as undergraduates before applying to graduate school.

“It was really interesting since I don’t really know what I’m doing in terms of grad school,” Jenna Geiger, senior English major, said. “It’s always nice to hear another English nerd talk.”