The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association.
Earlier this month we invited you to spend 60 seconds with the new members of the U.S. Studies Online editorial team. Now the new members of the BAAS Executive Committee have kindly let us learn more about their lives, their interests, desert island books, and memorable moments…
Sat in my office at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, hoping the dark grey clouds will go away.
If you could time-travel to observe one moment in the history of America, where would you go?
I’d like to be at the Constitutional Convention so every time American politicians say “The Founders meant x when they wrote the Constitution,” I could step in and tell them whether they were right or wrong.
Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
Where to start? My dinner table can only seat 6 so based on that: Linda Greenhouse (former Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times); Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (for the inside scoop on the current Supreme Court); President Bill Clinton (I’ve been fascinated since he was elected in 1992 – the first election I really paid attention to); Mark Thomas (some of the best comedy gigs I’ve been to); and Bruce Springsteen for some after-dinner entertainment. Plus me, of course!
You’re stranded on a desert island, but luckily you pre-empted it. Which book do you take with you?
Probably Stephen King’s The Stand. I discovered King in my early teens and have been a fan ever since. Plus it’s well over 1000 pages so would keep me going for a while until someone came to rescue me.
What has been your most memorable career moment so far?
Finally hearing from my external examiners that they’d passed my PhD would be a highlight!! I had major corrections and it took forever for them to be approved – I was so relieved! Then I had to go and take minutes for an exam board meeting so I didn’t have much time to appreciate it.
What advice would you give to early career academics?
Remember that you can say no to things – it can be really hard when opportunities come your way, whether getting experience, publications, responsibilities within your department – but there are only so many hours in the day and time off is important. Trying to find a work-life balance is crucial – make sure you have a good mentor who can help advise you and help you to work out the really important from the less important things.
What is the most exciting thing you have planned in the next six months?
I’m off to spend some time at the Billy Graham Centre archives in Wheaton, Illinois in June and July. There’s nothing quite like being in the archive.
How did you come to your current area of research?
I was studying at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as part of my undergraduate degree. I took a class on legal history and in one of the early seminars we got talking about religion and education in the context of the US Constitution. I suddenly realised that there were major differences between the UK and the US: by then I was hooked!
What profession other than academia would you like to attempt?
I’m always in awe of anyone who has any kind of artistic ability, whether music, painting, photography, acting. I can’t do any of those but I do wish I had some skills in those areas. More realistically, I’ve always been interested in the law, so maybe something in that field.
What book is currently on your bedside table?
Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and John LeCarre’s A Most Wanted Man are both sat there at the moment.
Be honest; how long has it been there?
They’re from the two book groups I belong to (American Literature, and Crime Fiction – it’s good to have something to do outside of work!) and I’ve had them about three days thus far. Plenty of time to get to them before the meetings next month …