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Classics Master Devondra McMillan plans to cultivate her passion in Classics as she pursues graduate study after receiving the Joukowsky Grant. McMillan serves as not only a Greek and Latin teacher but also Assistant Housemaster of Cleve. She described her eight years at Lawrenceville as “phenomenal.”
Her graduate studies will focus primarily on an interdisciplinary approach to a specific classical time period. McMillan plans to study the transition of Republican Rome to Imperial Rome around the time of Augustus. She is especially interested in studying the material culture (changes in architecture, housing, tools, etc.) of this time.
The Classics Master is interested in both Classics and Classical Civilization. She notes that she may also look into philology as another option. She has applied to a number of programs both in the United States and Europe. McMillan is particularly excited by the the prospect of studying abroad in the United Kingdom.
Her contributions to the Lawrenceville community go well beyond her interactions with students. McMillan recalls her discovery of her passion for Classics in high school, “I denied it for a really long time because it struck me as being very impractical.” She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University; as the first boarding school and college graduate of her family, she added, “Using that education to do Classics was a hard sell…you [feel the] need to do something practical, [like be a] doctor, lawyer, [or] businesswoman.”
McMillan shares this interest in Classics with students as she “tries to get the Classics club up and thriving.” She coordinates both the National Latin Examination (NLE) and the National Greek Examination (NGE) at Lawrenceville. She currently teaches the introductory I, II, III sequence, the intermediate IV, V, VI sequence, and Honors Latin, an independent study in Greek, and Humanities-Cultural Studies.
McMillan developed her love for Classics into an enthusiasm for teaching; she noted, “stepping away from [teaching] is difficult.” After receiving the Joukowsky Grant, McMillan knows that “[she] can’t walk away from that opportunity… but [she is] going to miss everyone horribly.”
Although she is enthusiastic about her studies, McMillan plans to return to Lawrenceville. She commented, “I’m really excited to go off and research and be a scholar for a little bit, but teaching is a passion.”
McMillan plans to return to Lawrenceville where she will incorportate topics covered in her graduate studies. One of her goals is to lead a formal Greco-Roman Civilization elective. More recently, she and Classics Master Jacob Morrow have introduced an introductory Greek sequence for students who have completed or are on track to complete their language requirement.
Rachel Park ’14, a student of McMillan’s last year, comments, “I learned so much about how to push myself to extreme limits…she’s a great teacher that actually cares.”
When asked about what she wants to leave behind during her time away, McMillan remembers, “The proudest I’ve ever been was [when] one of the parents came up to me…and said that [my class] was their child’s hardest class, and also his favorite. If that’s the legacy I could leave behind I would be very, very happy.”
Students describe McMillan as something of a paradox: partly a friend partly a disciplinarian, partly an indtimidating teacher, partly a supportive mentor. Students refer to her class as the most demanding experience of their academic lives yet the most rewarding at the same time.
Perhaps those who have lived with her are the most appreciative of her presence outside the classroom. Opinions Editor Emeritus P. Nash Jenkins ’11 recalls, “After three and a half years, I’m still not quite used to calling her Devondra, and my heart still skips a beat when I hear a late-night knock on my door: I assume it’s her busting me – with a grin dripping with schadenfreude, mind you – for being up after lights out.
If I stumble across a strategy to evade the obviously imminent zombie apocalypse, I presume the plans are her brainchild. And on the rare occasion that I nosh on Moroccan food, I find myself comparing it to whatever leftovers I could scrap, post-begging, from her apartment during study hall.
For my six terms in Cleve and nine at Lawrenceville, she was my Scrabble rival when my friends became too vincible… and, at the lowest points of my high school experience, the best confidant and my closest friend. She’s easily the smartest woman I know and though she’ll probably sic her German shephard on me for this, quite possibly the kindest.”
-Claire Crowley ’14