Matina Skalkogiannis is a legend in Irish Studies in Montreal and we are delighted to be able to share her interview with Gabrielle here. Matina is the Assistant to the Principal at the School of Irish Studies at Concordia University, specializing in academic administration. We try not to gush too much on this site, but we simply cannot emphasise enough how much she is valued and adored for her intelligence, her professionalism, her dedication, and her heart. In 2020, Matina was awarded Concordia’s Staff Service Award for her work with the School of Irish Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Who is your favourite academic? / Who (academic or not) has shaped your critical thinking the most and why?
There are so many, but at the moment, I am inspired by Tressie McMillan-Cottom. She really has made me think more about intersectionality and the experience of Black women and women of colour.
What are you reading for work and/or for leisure these days?
I’m reading Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, which I’m really enjoying. I love the author’s ability to get into her characters’ most inner thoughts and emotions. The main character hides her anger and dissatisfaction under a veneer of dutifulness; I’m intrigued by the difference in interior versus exterior life. Another book I read recently was No. 91/92 – A Diary of a Year on a Bus by Lauren Elkin. She’s previously written about female flâneurs. The author lived in Paris for a while, and this book is the result of notes taken on her phone while riding the bus in the era of the events at Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan, while dealing with the loss of a baby.
What podcast do you recommend?
You Must Remember This is one of my favourites. I love stories about Old Hollywood, and these are so well-researched. Listening is enjoyable; a wonderful combination of deep insight and juicy gossip. In particular, I liked the six-part series on Joan Crawford (shout out to Dr. McGaughey, who I know also enjoys this podcast!)
What is your favourite part of working in an academic department?
I find the faculty, the students, and my colleagues to be so inspiring. I love being around people thinking in new ways, from new perspectives, and in disciplines ranging from theatre and film to history and literature; seeing students respond to those new ways of thinking is inspirational.
(GMK: I’ll add that all of us the GMM team feel the same way about Matina’s work, which is the lifeblood of the School of Irish Studies!)
What book or movie changed your life?
Reading Judy Blume’s writing when I was a pre-teen had a lasting and formative effect on me. She wrote honest books about childhood and early adulthood; these discussed issues like menstruation, bullying, and body image. I remember feeling like my eyes were opening to the discussion of the very private in a very public way. Also, in terms of skill, and for her amazing ability to comment on the complexity of friendship, Elena Ferrante’s work.
Do you play music while you work? If so, what?
Yes! I like laid-back folk when working, sort of coffee house vibes; think along the lines of KT Tunstall, Fleetwood Mac, and Joni Mitchell. I also really enjoy listening to classic and soon-to-be-classic albums from beginning to end. Taylor Swift’s folklore grows on me more and more with every listen.
What do you know now that you wish you had known at the beginning of your career/degree?
Job titles don’t mean anything. It is the dignity and the commitment that you bring to your job that means everything.
What is your favourite way to de-stress?
Pre-pandemic? Facials. During pandemic times? Streaming feel-good shows like Emily in Paris, Veep, as well as classic movies Criterion.
What advice do you have for ECAs?
Keep on learning, always keep an open mind, and don’t let anyone discourage you from your path.
Is there a research initiative that you would like to use this platform to highlight?
UBI Works and their work on universal basic income; I want to develop my thinking around this more and encourage others to do so too. I really feel strongly about squashing moralistic readings of poverty, which the pandemic shattered anyway. I’ve started thinking about what it means for everyone to be provided for, and what it looks like to leave no one behind.
What are your essential work tools/supplies and why?
Amenable colleagues; a comfortable set-up with a good screen; a solid internet connection.
How has the pandemic affected your professional practice?
I use *much* less paper working offsite, which has been eye-opening, but I definitely miss interactions, and absolutely soak them up when I am on campus.