This week we meet Professor Stella Bruzzi, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. Here, Stella chats to us about fostering one of the new undergraduate degree programmes for UCL East and working to support staff wellbeing throughout the pandemic.
What is your role and what does it involve?
I am Executive Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities. In a nutshell, this entails giving strategic oversight to the faculty’s nine departments and programmes in the principal areas of education, research and operations. The arts and humanities matter to me and I see it as my role to ensure that they matter and are valued by others, both within UCL and outside.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I joined UCL in April 2017. Prior to that I spent 10 years at the University of Warwick which I joined as Head of the Department of Film and Television Studies before spending three years as Dean of Arts (known as ’Faculty Chair’). Latterly, following three years spent on a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, I went back into my department as a full-time lecturer.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
It feels as if I’ve only just got started at UCL, so I’m delighted that I can already look back and see that I’ve begun things here of which I’m proud. I’d single out the fostering of one of the new undergraduate degree programmes for UCL East, namely the Creative and Applied Humanities. With the Slade, the Bartlett and Engineering, UCL has a rich history in applied and practice-based learning, though not in the rest of the humanities - till now, that is. I’m no longer leading the programme’s development (the day job is pretty all-consuming at the moment) and CAH may be all the better for it!
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
Ah, I should have read all the questions and not answered as I went along, as I may well have answered that! But in reality, my ’to do’ list is full of the present, not so much the future at the moment... instead, top of that list are three things: supporting staff wellbeing through the current crisis (I’m interviewing for a new Vice Dean Wellbeing); listening to the voices of our students when, in the light of Black Lives Matter, they call for change to our curricula and culture; ensuring that we are equipped to provide a world-class education for all our students next term, returning and freshers.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Don’t make me choose! Favourite album? Abdullah Ibrahim Live at Sweet Basil or Johnny Cash American Recordings (which is cheating as there were several volumes - all superb). Favourite film? Rear Window and All that Heaven Allows are as close to perfection as cinema gets. Favourite book? Probably still Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, although cantering through my Muriel Spark collection at the moment makes me wonder if that shouldn’t be The Girls of Slender Means. I’ll get to that next week, so ask me then.
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
I’m pathologically incapable of remembering either jokes or card game rules, except ones that involve chickens, roads and shouting out ’snap’.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
First, I’d choose the chef well, so Yotam Ottolenghi (so long as he didn’t complain about the fact that I’ve only got a regular-sized hob). Guests, in no particular order, would include founding feminist Betty Friedan, agitational filmmaker Emile de Antonio, actress Grace Kelly and the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. Sadly, I doubt very much if they’d all get along, so I’d also welcome some good wine - preferably a not-too-fruity white from the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Be who you want to be, not what you think others want you to be.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I really enjoy needlepoint.
What is your favourite place?
The best view of Florence (my birthplace) is from Piazzale Michelangelo, so that’s where I’d like to be transported, please.