“At Luther’s English department Christmas party my senior year, I mentioned offhandedly to one of the English faculty that I wanted to be a writer, but was going to graduate school instead,” Tomscha says. “He said to me, ‘Jennifer, people do do that, you know. People are writers.’ This moment, and the challenge of it, really stuck in my mind.”
She went on to earn her master’s in theology at Harvard Divinity School, but afterwards took a few years to test herself, to see if she could be a writer, on her own time. “I lived in a drafty old apartment in Central Square in Cambridge with two other Luther alumni and wrote short stories,” she says. “I also lived in Korea for a summer and in Montana for awhile, before I was accepted to the MFA program at the University of Michigan. Now I really feel like I’m doing what I love, which is trying to find a balance between the energy required to teach smart, curious college students and the time needed to finish my novel.”
Jennifer says there is a lot of talk now about what it means to be a “global citizen” and that she believes Luther was ahead of its time. “At Luther, being a global citizen meant more than simply taking a J-term trip to Chile or spending a year in Nottingham. And more than using the resources of another country to create a lucrative business deal or to open up a new market,” she says. “My classes and the community of fellow students and faculty at Luther challenged me to consider my obligations to others, both global and local, and I spent time in and out of class determining my own values. Now, ten years after graduation, I live in Shanghai, an amazing and wildy developing city, and I’m glad my education at Luther prepared me for this challenge.”
Jennifer feels that new students should be open to new academic experiences, as well as to new social and life experiences. “I currently work with first-year college students all the time, and I see many come to college with a very set idea of what they want to study and how they’re going to get on to the next stage of their lives, usually graduate school or a good job,” she says. “Worrying about what will happen in four more years sometimes keeps students from exploring the possibilities in other disciplines.”
When Jennifer first arrived at Luther she thought she might study political science and go on to law school. “Then I took an introductory philosophy class to fulfill a requirement,” she says. “We had one discussion about the concept of free will early on in the semester and I was totally hooked. My initial plan never happened for me, and I’m happy about that now.”
Her last bit of advice? “Oh, and do your reading,” she says. “Your professors will appreciate it, and you will learn a lot.”
Jennifer wrote a weekly column in Luther Chips during her senior year.
It was wonderfully fun, and probably one of the more formative experiences of my life. For the first time, I wrote for an audience and under a weekly deadline.
—Jennifer Tomscha '04