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Q&A with English professor S. P. Cooper

Updated: Nov 16, 2019

Dr. Shawn P. Cooper is an assistant professor of English at Rochester University. He went to Oakland University for his undergrad degrees in English and history, as well as his master’s degree. He earned his doctorate from Wayne State University.

What brought you to RU and why do you choose to do your job?

“I’ve lived in Rochester my whole life, and I got to know people in the are during grad school, including Dr. Zac Watson, the department chair.”

What’s the easiest and hardest part of your job? Why?

He listed grading as the hardest part because of its tediousness but admits “I would do the rest for free, but don’t tell them.” He also believes it is harder to start a semester because people have just come off of summer break and “it’s difficult to get people excited.”

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

“I always love when a student says, ‘I loved your class so much I want to become an English major’ ” but also “the individual success of my students.”

What do you do outside of your job to stay sane, relieve stress, etc? Or what are your hobbies?

“I play the piano and the organ, and in fact, my previous job before starting here, I was the music director at the Archdiocese of Detroit. I also watch test cricket. I’m a big cricket fan.”

Where did you grow up?

“I’ve lived in Rochester my entire life. I grew up in a subdivision right next to Spencer Park. It was like my backyard growing up, so I know it intimately.”

What is your favorite thing to do in the Rochester area?

His favorite thing to do is go walking in the Rochester parks. He said, “Getting outside is just as important as sitting inside and reading your books.”

What is your most prized possession?

“I have a giant room with my piano, my desk and it has just books all the way around; it’s lovely. So you know my books, but also my real prized possession is my family.”

What is your most embarrassing moment?

“There was a day when the choir director neglected to schedule anyone to sing, so it was just me and the priest. I had to sing the mass. I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. I don’t think I’ve ever been more uncomfortable, more unhappy, more miserable, or more embarrassed all at once.”

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?

“It is extremely difficult to get a Ph.D., especially when you have a small child. There were times when I simply threw my hands above my head and screamed ‘This is impossible!’ ”

Who was your biggest influence?

“Dr. Finucane was a medievalist and I would drop classes regardless of my schedule just to take his classes. I wish Dr. Finucane was still around to see what I have accomplished. I hope I would have made him proud.”



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