by Emily Graham, ’22 (CLAS)
Eager to see the programs at UConn Stamford, we recently welcomed the newly-hired Professor Suzanne Barnett. What is it like to work at a regional campus? What are her academic interests? These are all questions that we’re dying to figure out!
“If you told someone who knew me as a child that I was going to be an English professor when I grew up, they’d go, ‘Yeah, that checks out,’” joked Visiting Assistant Professor Suzanne Barnett. “After all,” she continued, “I’ve always loved English. I knew that my academic speciality would be Romanticism after I fell in love with Percy Shelley at 13.”
Years later, while she did indeed stick with her passion for Romanticism during her time as an undergraduate, she soon became interested in the classics — particularly Latin — as well, cultivating full-blown interest in the intersection between the classical world and their influence in Romantic literature. During her undergraduate studies at Hunter College, Barnett realized teaching was her calling. Working at the university’s writing center, she appreciated the connections that she made with students and faculty.
After shuttling around the United States as a professor for a few years, Barnett eventually found her home at UConn
Stamford last year, a place she found to have a diverse student population as well as a “unique atmosphere apart from Storrs.” While that could be chalked up to the fact that Stamford mostly consists of commuters and part-time students who have obligations outside of class, this alternative population of students excites Barnett. “Since there are far fewer residents on the Stamford campus, the community has to come together in unexpected ways. But that doesn’t stop anyone. I can’t tell you how much I love walking into my building to see students play ping-pong or chat during their downtime. Our student community may look different [than the Storrs campus], but it is certainly just as strong.”
As for when she isn’t teaching, she is writing or editing. Since the publication of her first book Romantic Paganism — an investigation of the radical political and religious uses of classical literature and culture within the Romantic period — in 2018, Barnett has turned her attention to the creation of shorter articles, along with her duties as associate editor for Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions. And while she has many articles and books in the works, she is currently most excited to write about how Percy Shelley’s literature has had a recent resurgence in popular culture, like for instance in episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
“I have the best job ever,” Professor Barnett admits at the end of our meeting. “When you study English, you reap many benefits. Contrary to what the rumors suggest, we are not limited to a set path. Majoring in English gives you a foundation in critical thinking and communication; these are skills which we all need and which can transcend any barriers.”