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Gatepost Interview: Kristen Abbott Bennett, English professor

By Nadira Wicaksana

What is your educational and professional background?

I went to Syracuse as an undergraduate and that’s how I decided that I wanted to pursue a Ph.D. in literature. I was very interested in critical theory at the time. I had planned ... to go straight into studying theory. I took one year off to come to Boston, and one year turned into a few more. I ended up getting a master’s in education at UMass Boston and worked briefly in the Boston Public Schools before working in the music industry for a few years here in Boston. I decided that I got sick of living on vampire hours and going to bed at 4 or 5 a.m. Now, that’s when I get up. But I wanted to go back and get that Ph.D. I got into Tufts and graduated in 2015 with my doctorate in English. Early modern studies is my primary field. Medieval studies is an additional one.

You mentioned being in the music industry. What did you do in particular?

I managed a startup record label and all the bands on it, including booking tours and promotional stuff. Then, it went under, as new record labels do, and I started my own management and booking agency, working with local bands. ... That led to me doing a lot of work with the Paradise Rock Club near BU. Then I ended up managing – that’s where I left off.

How did you become interested in your discipline?

My favorite subject was always English. I was a big reader and writer. I’d never expected to teach. I’d wanted to be a journalist in the early days – that was part of the reason I picked Syracuse, because of the Newhouse School, which is a great journalism school. Then I discovered literary theory. I couldn’t figure it out, so I loved it. I was enchanted. I’d found a puzzle that had many different kinds of solutions and many different ways of thinking about it. I had some amazing teachers.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?

I’d have to say going back to school and sticking it out and getting my doctorate.

What are your first impressions of Framingham State?

My first impression since my first introduction to anyone here has been that the people who work here especially are just kind and compassionate. They care, and they really put students first. They don’t just talk about it – they have programs in place to do it. They have built departments with people who genuinely care about student success. The students are delightful – they’re a lot of fun to work with. We’ve broken the ice, so they’re starting to speak up and talk about their ideas and themselves. It’s a very collegial, creative and fun environment.

What are some things you like to do in your free time?

I can’t wait until winter to go skiing. I skied for Syracuse for a year and I just took it up again last year, so I’m eager to ski again. I like getting outside – I spend a lot of time at my computer – whether it’s taking a walk, going hiking. We have family up in Maine, and I try to get up there whenever I can, getting outside and into nature.

Even though you’re new to the community, do you have any advice for FSU students?

I don’t know if I’ve been here long enough to be an authority, but there are a lot of offerings here that go beyond classes. There are many, many lectures and talks, and opportunities to be engaged with the community. I would say get out and try things out, and to see what truly interests them before they settle on a major, and to also remember that just because you’ve chosen a major doesn’t mean you can’t change your mind. Be sure that you’re choosing to study something that you care about particularly. ... The goal is really to learn how to learn in this dynamic 21st century environment and to take opportunities to learn things and put yourself into situations where you might be uncomfortable, but you learn your own best practices for learning.


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