BY RACHEL BISCHOFF – STAFF WRITER
Joining Centre’s faculty this fall is new Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts, Dr. Jennifer Goff—or as her students like to call her (with her enthusiastic permission), Jen. Jen is the first new faculty member to the Dramatic Arts department in two decades, comprising a third of the department’s main professor faculty and serving as a new face among long-time professors Patrick Kagan-Moore and Matthew Hallock. As a Dramatic Arts major, I can say that this shift in the faculty has been met with excitement and curiosity as our largely-female department now has a professor who represents this majority-demographic. But Jen is adding much more to the department than the representation of women. She is a bona fide theatre practitioner, a professional actor, a Netflix enthusiast, and hybrid dog/cat-person.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Jen for a short conversation. I learned of her passion for education, her belief in the power of theatre, and her hopes to grow both professionally and personally in her new Centre home. Unedited and wholly quirky, here is thirty minutes with Centre’s own, Jen.
RB: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where have you come from and how have you gotten to where you are now?
JG: I’ve taken a long and winding road to get to where I am now. Theatre was always where I wanted to be and what I wanted to be doing. We also can blame my grandfather for it. We called him Gandalf. He was really into storytelling so I think he’s what created the love of theatre in me and my brother…I went on to graduate school so I could really be doing this full time and helping other people get to a place where they can do this full time.
RB: What were you doing before getting into education?
JG: When I got out of undergrad, I got an internship at a theatre in South Carolina and I moved there to live there for 9 months, and I stayed for 8 years. I continued working with the theatre that I moved there for; I founded my own theatre company; I worked as Chief Curiosity Officer at a marketing firm; and while I was there I also went to graduate school and got my masters.
RB: So how did you get to education from there?
JG: Well, I was always interested in teaching. A lot of my family are teachers. But I didn’t feel ready to teach until I knew enough to teach. I didn’t feel ready to teach when I was fresh out of undergrad… so I went out in the world and did theatre for a while so that I would actually have something to teach, if I got to the point where I wanted to teach. And I did!
RB: What is really driving you to be an educator now?
JG: The education portion I think is extremely important because I believe in what theatre is and what it does for society and what it does for individuals. I think it is a really valuable tool within the liberal arts curriculum and within society as a whole…I think that it builds confidence, creativity, and empathy. I just love seeing all the ways that my students surprise me in it.
RB: How has it been being a Centre professor so far?
It’s been a really big change from my last job. My last job was at Virginia Tech, which is huge. I was teaching a 500-person lecture. Here I have a total of 31 students for the entire semester. It’s been really nice to—within the first week even—know who my students are and get a sense of them as people. The classes have been really engaged which has been a lot of fun. My students have shown up wanting to learn, which is kind of the job. So, I’m glad.
[At this point in the interview, a giant dog passed by the door and Jen immediately cut off the interview to say:]
JG: OH, THAT’S A FLUFFY DOGGO. What a beautiful dog. He’s so HANDSOME.
[Said dog was attached to the leash of Creative Writing professor Azita Onasloo and was truly the fluffiest dog of all time – half-Irish Setter and half-Golden Retriever, named Percy, if anyone is interested. It was a perfect interruption if there ever was one. And once Percy left, Jen and I got on the subject of dogs.]
JG: I’m a pretty big dog person. My husband and I are also cat people. Him more than me. He exclusively likes cats, but I love them both.
[Back to things that aren’t as immediately exciting as dogs.]
RB: There are a lot of women students in our department and I know it’s been important to us to have a perspective of a woman who is also doing this in their life. How have you worked to approach that aspect of this position?
JG: I think there is a certain degree of responsibility to a woman-heavy student body having now a woman presence as an educator, and I definitely take that seriously. I’ve definitely had experiences in theatre as a woman that male professors won’t have had. It’s not good or bad—it’s just true. So, certainly I can relate to and advise on certain challenges that might be encountered in the outside world, which I am happy to do. But, I’m not only available to female students… I’ve got a lot of perspective. It’s just a different perspective and a new perspective.
RB: What is your goal for this job at Centre?
JG: I hope to be a resource to the students. That is my first and foremost [goal]. Whatever that ends up meaning, whether it’s just giving them some insight in the short time that I have them or really helping to guide them to a career in the theatre—wherever they fall along the continuum of those things I really hope I can be a strong resource to them, not only in terms of theatre practice, but in terms of how to use theatre to ask questions they have. Because not everyone’s questions will necessarily revolve around theatre, but theatre can be a great too to ask questions. So, hopefully, that can be a part of what they do here. I want to continue to expand diversity in all kinds of ways. I just want to challenge myself and challenge my students. We don’t get to stop learning.