Alumni profile: Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos

We caught up with Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos, Senior Lecturer at the University of Manchester, who graduated from Kent with an MA and PhD in Postcolonial Studies.

What are you doing now?
I am a Senior Lecturer in post-colonial, post 1945 – World Literatures in English at the University of Manchester.

What attracted you to your course, and to Kent? Where did you study prior?
Prior to attending Kent, I studied for my BA in English at The American College of Greece. My college had a tremendous career and further HEI opportunities office and we were encouraged, back in 1992/3, to visit and look through brochures from universities all over the world and explore MA opportunities.

A friend of mine, Maria Palaska, and I, became intrigued in the new discipline of Postcolonial Studies offered at a handful of places (Stirling/Kent/Lancaster/etc.) but thought Kent’s programme looked the most exciting! So we took ourselves to downtown Athens, scoured the bookshops and started reading Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri and Kazuo Ishiguro. 

Which aspects of your degree did you enjoy the most, and why?
I loved all aspects of my MA degree in Postcolonial Studies and my PhD in Postcolonial Studies. The courses on the MA were all terrific (postcolonial theory; Irish postcolonial studies; South African literature; Caribbean post-colonial fiction and poetry). I was SO fortunate to be taught by Lynn Innes, Caroline Rooney, Abdulrazak Gurnah and Louis James. In the 1990s Kent also ran a spectacular film studies programme and so we were also very lucky to be able to attend talks by Ian Christie, Murray Smith and Elizabeth Cowie. 

The MA in Postcolonial Studies was just excellent – Kent worked with the British Council to fund and host a ‘writer in residence’ series and students benefitted enormously from this.  In my time there I met Cyrus Mistry and Manju Kappur among many others. 

What impressed you most about our academic staff?
The staff went out of their way to make us feel at home, to introduce us to unfamiliar but exciting material and to encourage us to embrace this burgeoning field. We really felt like we were part of something important and valuable! Staff ran reading groups, hosted social events, organized research seminars and provided an intellectually stimulating environment at all times!

Which skills/knowledge did you learn on your course that you use most now in your career?
Critical thinking; confidence in the field of postcolonial studies; theoretical range; research skills; cross-cultural knowledge. 

Were you actively involved in any research centres or projects?
I was involved in the weekly activities set up for MA/PhD students. 

Are you still in touch with any of your fellow students?
Yes, almost all of them. 

Did you undertake any work experience whilst at Kent? What did you do? Did you find it was helpful in your studies and has it benefited your career to date?
Yes, I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and this benefited me enormously as I gained a lot of experience in teaching and lecturing. 

Could you describe a typical day in your current role?
I am a full time academic and so my days consist of: teaching/lecturing/mentoring/researching. I am also currently PGR director for my school which oversees over 200 PhD students and so I also spend much time looking at applications; approving pre and post viva reports, organizing and delivering PGR and GTA training. On the research front I am working on a book and I am also a Co-I on the GCRF Network + project MADAR (Maghreb Action on Displacement and Rights).

What are your future plans/aspirations?
Who knows! To find ways to continue doing good work!

What is your favourite memory of Kent? 
Lots of things: the many friends that I made; the Gulbenkian cinema evenings; the reading groups; the lovely campus; Canterbury!

What advice would you give to somebody thinking of coming to Kent?
I would tell them that it was the home of postcolonial studies and they would do well to think of going there for their studies.

How would you describe your time at Kent in three words?

Exciting! Friendly! Invigorating!