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After Discovering Her Passion, Alumna Eyes Ph.D.


Jenna O’Connor ’16 of Haverhill, Mass., entered MCLA with a strong desire to become a journalist, but instead quickly discovered her passion for sociology. After being accepted into five of the six graduate programs she applied to, she will head to Boston this fall to pursue her master’s degree in gender/cultural studies at Simmons College.

“Within my first few days at MCLA, I serendipitously fell in love with sociology, and declared the second major almost immediately,” O’Connor said. The following semester, she added a minor in women’s studies.  

“It is very rewarding to contribute to the field in the hope of awakening others’ sociological imaginations,” O’Connor said. “Sociology is a field that continues to aggressively create and maintain remarkable research, and inspire critical thinking that will, I believe, eventually change society for the better.”

She attributes her successful acceptance into multiple master’s programs to her family and friends, and to her professors at MCLA. “They have not only taught me how to write, present, and interact with academia, but how to think independently and critically about many different issues.”

At MCLA, O’Connor pursued a rigorous academic program.

“Since my freshman year, I took between 18 and 21 credits every semester, and still wanted to take more. I was constantly working, studying, reading, and writing, but I loved every minute of it. 

She continued, “I recommend all of my departments very highly to anyone who wants to pursue higher education. Not only are all of the professors brilliant and dedicated individuals, but the course materials will push the boundaries of one’s intellectual capacity, and leave an insatiable hunger for more.”

O’Connor, who finished her double major in English/communications and sociology with a minor in women’s studies within four years at MCLA, highly recommends that others consider majoring in two disciplines.

“Take advantage of everything that MCLA has to offer,” she said. “If you’re like me, you want to get your money’s worth, so do as much as you can within your four years.”

Ultimately, O’Connor, who worked as a teaching assistant and a research assistant to two of her professors during her senior year, aims to become a college professor. These experiences, she said, taught her more about herself and her trajectory in academia than she ever hoped for.

“I also gained priceless advice from these professors, which will undoubtedly help me in my future career as a professor myself, and through my many years of graduate education ahead,” she added.

Her many activities at MCLA included participating in LEAD Academy, serving as president of the Sociology Club, and attending a number of conferences. These included MCLA’s Undergraduate Research Conference, as well as conferences of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) and the American Sociological Association’s Honor’s Program.

Everything about MCLA, O’Connor said, was the “best part” of her college experience.

“Not only are the classes and professors amazing, but the social situations and mingling with different kinds of people really helped me to find my true self,” she said.

“MCLA nurtured my confidence, and I am now able to apply everything I’ve learned in my majors and minor to my everyday life,” O’Connor added. “The community, students, professors, courses, events, clubs and the greater Berkshire community truly helped me find my true self in this non-linear journey, and I couldn’t be more thankful.”