Jan Balakian, professor of English

Photo: Ally Balakian ’23

Following a Literary Legacy

Jan Balakian ’83, a professor of English at Kean University in New Jersey, teaches American drama and modern American literature, inspired by Bucknell’s legendary English professor, Jack Wheatcroft ’49. Her most recent play, Dreams on Fire, is set before the 2016 presidential election and explores the experiences of college students, mental health and the transmission of trauma across generations. It premieres April 20-27 at Kean.

1. How did Bucknell shape your career?

Jack Wheatcroft’s beautiful lectures on literature inspired me.

2. What class opened your eyes the most?

Wheatcroft’s drama survey ended with the American plays that shaped my career.

3. If you could go back to college, what would you do differently?

I’d take psychology, philosophy and wish I’d taken Joe Fell, sociology. If I were scientific, I’d study neuroscience, since I am interested in anxiety/depression and the brain. I’d take more risks, since I’m fearful of the new! I’d make more time for so many special people.

4. What fun moment at Bucknell is the most memorable for you?

All of the cultural events that I drank in and my talented classmates/roommates (Heather Sawyer ’83, Lynne Bird ’83, Maria Mantikas ’82, Lisa Schenkel ’83, Greg Galterio ’83, Brian Schneider ’83) were memorable, as was Matthew Karanian ’82, editor of The Bucknellian. Mary Ellen Cashman ’83 helped me when I was anxious. Being last on the tennis and swim teams was memorable. I’m glad they accepted me.

5. What lesson did you learn at Bucknell that you still carry with you?

Work hard but make time for people. I think I was in the library too much! Do not be afraid of the new.