Professor Sarah Cooper
Professor of Film Studies
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
When I first decided that I wanted to pursue academic research, I was completing a BA degree in French and German, and my original intention was to specialise in French and work in a French department, if such an opportunity presented itself. It did and, for several years, I worked as a lecturer in French at Cambridge. The more I advanced, though, the more I became interested in film (as a result of graduate studies in the area and teaching French film), and I eventually made the move into Film Studies, at King’s.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
I have worked on French cinema, most notably documentary, but also contemporary French directors. My most recent book was on film theory. I was drawn to this area first through a specialisation in French culture, based in my first degree course. But as I advanced, the work that I did in French culture expanded to include film (Cambridge offered no teaching in film when I was an undergraduate but began to do so when I was a graduate). This, coupled with an interest in Critical Theory and Continental Philosophy, which dovetailed with debates in Film Theory, is what led me to work in the area I now do.
Tell us about a couple of your achievements that have been particularly rewarding.
I think teaching is, in itself, one of the most rewarding things that I have done, irrespective of nominations for teaching excellence and an award for supervisory excellence. I’ve also enjoyed the administrative roles that I have served in at department and School level: running the department during a period of strategic expansion was exhilarating, and serving the School at a senior level was also a privilege. Finally, completing each of my books in turn has felt very rewarding, and, with an extended period of leave ahead of me, I’m looking forward to advancing with the next one!
Do you have professional role models? Who are they and what do you find inspiring about them and their accomplishments?
I have been influenced and inspired by so many other academics over the years that it is impossible to identify any one person as a role model. I’m constantly open to being influenced anew, so I am sure that inspiration will continue to come from others as it has done to date.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
I enjoy all aspects of my work at King’s: the administration is crucial to the functioning of the institution and the discipline, the research is enriching, and the teaching is perhaps the most important element of university work for me.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
I think that they intertwine and complement one another. There are times when one aspect is predominant: for example, while I was Head of Department, Deputy Head of School and Head of Education, administration was obviously my central activity, but the subsequent period of leave will prioritise research.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
Academic research tends to extend beyond the workplace and this is part of what I love about it – it is a fundamental part of my life rather than just a job – but it is important to set boundaries around email, especially in a world where connectivity 24/7 seems to have become very important. I enjoy the balance that I have achieved over the years between my career and life outside the workplace and wouldn’t have it any other way!
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
I think that it’s important for everyone to find their own path, but key to my own career has been enjoyment, and I think that if you find that in everything that you do, you will thrive.