Student Spotlight: Olivia Plunkett
Olivia Plunkett is a senior studying statistics in the Department of Statistics, part of Florida State University’s College of Arts and Sciences. As an active member of the FSU community, Plunkett is president of the Society of Undergraduate Mathematical Students and a member of Women in Math, Science & Engineering (WIMSE), a living and learning community housed in Cawthon Hall. She has been recognized for her academic excellence on the President’s List four times, and is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Eta Sigma and Golden Key International honor societies.
Where are you from and what is your anticipated graduation date?
I was born in Chicago but raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My anticipated graduation date is April 29, 2022.
Tell us a little about your background and what brought you to FSU.
I looked for a school that had an excellent reputation, high enrollment, strong math curriculum and offered course credit for International Baccalaureate exam scores. To foster independence and experience a different part of the country, I focused on out of state schools. FSU checked all these boxes and is near my father’s family in Ocala.
You originally began as a math major before switching to statistics. What inspired you to change your degree path?
I’ve always enjoyed math and knew I would pursue it in college. However, I didn’t take a statistics course until sophomore year. I realized then that I enjoyed statistics and decided to minor in it. After taking several courses for my minor, I realized I was a few credits away from a statistics major. I considered double majoring in math and statistics. There were two statistics courses and one programming course that I wanted to take before graduating. Keeping a math major would have prevented me from doing that, so I switched my major. Additionally, after speaking to data analysts through my internship and to teaching professor and director of the Statistical Consulting Center Steven Ramsier, who was also my adviser, I realized I wanted to pursue a career in data analysis and that a statistics major best fit my goals.
What on-campus resources have helped you achieve success?
Since freshman year, I have been involved in the WIMSE LLC. Through WISME, I received advice on my résumé, made friends and participated in mentorship opportunities. In my sophomore year, I became a Calculus I learning assistant, and through this position, I developed leadership skills and strengthened my mathematical communication skills. I secured my current internship as a student success analytics intern in the Office of Institutional Research through InternFSU, which allowed me to gain practical experience analyzing university data.
You are president of the Society of Undergraduate Mathematics Students. How has this experience shaped your time at FSU?
Being a member of the FSU Society of Undergraduate Mathematical Students, SUMS, has been a great way to meet other students who share my love of math and statistics, while being on the executive board of the organization has strengthened my communication and leadership skills. Being on the executive board also opened the opportunity for me to serve as the sole undergraduate representative of the Math Department Curriculum Committee.
How has COVID-19 impacted your time at FSU?
COVID-19 significantly impacted my sophomore and junior years at FSU in a mostly positive way. When FSU switched to online courses and closed the dorms due to COVID-19, I stayed at my Nana’s house in Florida since I was unable to return home. Over the summer, my dad drove from Wisconsin to help me move out of the dorm. For safety and because I could take my courses online, I spent my junior year with family in Milwaukee. Initially, transitioning to remote learning was difficult since I had just adjusted to navigating life on FSU’s campus and attending in-person college courses and office hours. However, I grew to enjoy the flexibility of online courses and the time I was able to spend with family.
Are there any faculty or staff who have helped and inspired you?
I have had many wonderful professors who have helped me through their teaching methods and dedication, such as assistant professor Jonathan Bradley, assistant professor Nicholas Cogan, assistant professor Grayson Jorgenson, assistant professor Sanghyun Lee, dean’s postdoctoral scholar Owen Lewis, professor and associate dean Timothy Logan, assistant professor Matthew McCurdy, dean’s postdoctoral scholar Matthew Russo, assistant professor Steven Ramsier and teaching faculty Justin Shows. These professors explained course material clearly and patiently took their time to answer my questions. Dr. Logan was the first professor whose office hours I attended.
My positive experience encouraged me to attend other professors’ office hours, which have been crucial to my academic success. I had the opportunity to take three courses each with Dr. Ramsier and Dr. Shows and got to know them well. They provided me with career advice and are references in my job search. Additionally, my internship supervisor Samantha Nix provided me with guidance, advice on preparing job application materials and insight into working in higher education.
Following the completion of your program, what are your plans? What are you looking forward to most after graduation?
I am currently applying for positions in the data analytics field and hope to have a position secured before I graduate. I am concentrating on positions in institutional research but am also applying for positions in various industries. I’m most looking forward to having a different routine than what I’ve had in school; it’s both scary and exciting.
What advice do you have for fellow students?
Look for an internship or relevant job experience early on. Students should seek out experiences like leadership positions in organizations or volunteer experiences that can help them gain the soft skills employers want. Challenge yourself to try things outside of your comfort zone. I did that when I volunteered to be on SUMS’s executive board. I wasn’t sure I would have time to take on this leadership position, but I’ve been managing my time well and meeting challenges successfully. Lastly, it’s important that students go to office hours. Face-to-face interactions with professors can help you build relationships that will be useful when you apply for internships, graduate school or full-time employment.