(Photo: Emily Schneider)
By: Samantha Jewell, Social Media Editor
What brought you to Regis University?
Well, my first time that I ever taught here it was because Dr. Arne G’Schwind was going on sabbatical and he was teaching a class on Media Aesthetics that we still teach now. The department at the time did not have anybody to teach it, so a close friend of mine and Arne’s, Dr. Brian Ott suggested me to Arne and the department and Rob was like, “Oh yeah I know Susan!” And the rest is history, I have been here ever since that class! I adjuncted for about two years, and then I was a full-time instructor for four years, and now I am on the tenure track.
How did you get into the field of communications / studying public memory?
So, what got me into the field of communications is a little different than public memory. What got me into communications was an incredible teacher at Queens College who taught an introduction to interpersonal communication. I took this class and well it was one of those classes that I think a lot of students can relate to, I had to go! It was not because there was an attendance policy, it was not because of anything it was because I wanted to talk about exactly what we were talking about in class every single time. So, I was excited to go to class, and I was like, “Oh my God! The world finally makes sense because of this class”. It was also because he was also kind of a nut job and he was the most unconventional teacher I have ever known, and that made learning exciting. What made me study public memory is a much longer story but what I can say is this, is that all my life I have been fascinated with questions of memory and issues of what we remember and what we don’t because of the difficulties of my own personal life and my mother being bipolar and when she was institutionalized when I was a child, my siblings and I have forgotten that whole portion of our history, and it was something that we never talked about growing up and so I always knew there was something significant about memory in terms of identity. When I got to Colorado State for my masters, and I started to read the emerging literature of public memory and public history I was like, “AHHHHH! It all makes sense now!!” Ever since then I have been fascinated with this area of research.
What do you like to do outside of teaching?
Well, okay, one of my favorite things is, I have a young daughter she is two and a half, her name is Amelia, so there is a lot of playing with play-doh, and building sandcastles in our back year. But, in terms for me for fun, it probably won’t shock you that even for fun I am like, let's go to the museum that sounds like a great time!! So every year on my birthday my husband and I go to the museum, he is like, “it's your birthday!! Time to go to the museum!!” On a more like frequent basis, I go to the gym, and the gym for me is an excellent way for me to find community. I go to barre class, I go to random courses all over the city which is kind of weird, but I have my barre class, I have my spin class, and my boot camp class. I have friends in all those spaces which I love. I love movies; I love pop culture, I teach pop culture too, I love going hiking. I love just sitting around and going shopping. One of my most favorite things, I love going to the thrift store and finding things that I couldn’t see anywhere else. All of my clothes come from the thrift store! Everything I wear always comes from the thrift store because I love it and it’s soothing.
Who is the most influential person in your academic career?
In my academic life, there is a scholar by the name of Carole Blair, and she is currently the president of the National Communication Association, and she has written about public memory. Blair was the first author of public memory that I had ever read. Carole is a redhead too, and she is at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill https://comm.unc.edu/people/department-faculty/carole-blair/ and she is a friend and she motivates me, inspires me all the time. Everything that she writes, everything that she does, the passion for what she does never cease to amaze me. She never seems to get bored, and I love that, but she also has unquestionably been the reason why I push myself because she got easily rest on her laurels, but her work is consistently innovated, consistently questioning. That is the kind of scholar I want to be.
What is your favorite Jesuit Value? Why?
I would have to say Contemplatives in Action; we can think lots of things, everybody has lots of thoughts. Last week Time Wise was here, and he was giving a unique presentation about race in America. One of his central premises was about how we need not just to think things about race, but we have to do them. I am privileged; I am middle class, I am white, I am sitting here at an excellent institution where I have a great job. Because I am white I do not often have to think about race; I especially don’t have to think about what it means to be white. But, if I don’t put what I think about race into action then I do nothing. It does not matter what my thoughts are about how imperfect our racial system is in America if I am not doing anything about it, then I am not helping. So, unless I am putting my beliefs into belief and action, then it is no good. So, for me, that is more important than all the others because otherwise we are just going to consistently be in a position as humans to blame other people or be unhappy with situations but never empower ourselves or being empowered enough to make the change.
Is there anything else you would like to leave with the Regis Community?
What I would really like the Regis Community to know is that learning is not a thing that we do in any one place and that if you have actually learned anything at Regis I hope that it is that our lessons are not meant to be housed within any institution or any space, but they are intended to cultivate a way of questioning that will be with you forever. So, we don’t want to teach you knowledge we want to teach you a way to think and that that way of thinking about any method of one thing but the way of questioning and now a skeptical examination, not housed in anger but a questioning housed in curiosity, a questioning housed in an attempt to make things better than what we know. That as we liked to say in this country, “creating a perfect union.” That was creating a perfect union in the United States means that we have to be willing to let learning happen throughout our entire lives no matter where we are.