In this series, Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, chats to members of our community to find out more about them. Each fortnight she’ll be asking, what is the one regret that has shaped their past, and what is their one hope for the future.
This week Mona’s guest is Frank Cogliano, Professor of American History and Dean International, North America.
Mona Siddiqui: Frank tell us a little bit about the kind of research you do in American History and then also your work as Dean International.
Frank Cogliano: So my area in American History is what we in the field of US history call Early American history – always in Scotland people laugh when I say that ‘cos they say ‘how early is early?’ But I work on the American revolution and I’ve done a lot of work in particular on Thomas Jefferson.
I really enjoy the Dean International aspect of my job, because it involves representing the University internationally and it brings me back to the United States and Canada pretty frequently, or it used to back when we could travel. What I really love about it is meeting alumni and prospective students in particular.
MS: How have you found this role and the attitude of people in the States during the last few months?
FC: I’ve been pleasantly surprised, because even though the past few months have been unlike any other we’ve encountered in the recent past, globally, quite frankly, I’ve been amazed at the willingness of colleagues and partners in the US and Canada but also prospective students to really kind of try to see beyond this moment and to work collaboratively – people have been very very understanding.
MS: If you look back at your recent or distant past, what is your one major professional or personal regret?
FC: My biggest regret, and I’ve thought particularly with regards to this past year, is both personal and professional: I miss meeting new people. I can’t believe I’m about to say this but I miss having a long layover at Newark airport on my way to California, meeting a stranger and asking them what they do and telling them what I do. I really miss those random encounters.
Corollary to that I really regret that there’s a cohort of students on campus right now, both postgraduates and undergraduates and although I taught some of them I really don’t feel like I know them.
MS: And what’s your one hope that you’ll carry forward?
FC: I hope that we keep the connections we’ve re-established in this year; that has been one thing technology has made possible for us. None of us wants to be in any more Zoom meetings than we absolutely have to be but once we get past this, Zooming old friends is something I hope we continue to do.