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Celebrating our people: Suzanne Frey-Kupper

nyThe Staff Awards are a great opportunity to show appreciation of the hard work that goes on day to day, here at Warwick! Find out more about our award winners and nominees in our series of interviews, highlighting their roles and achievements.

Suzanne Frey-Kupper, Associate Professor, Classics and Ancient History.

Tell us a bit about your role:

I teach and do research as a member of the Department of Classics and Ancient History. Teaching involves both BA and MA levels and the supervision of (currently) two PhD students. My roles include coordination of the Taught Masters course and of the Study Abroad programmes. I also represent the Department at the Humanities Research Committee of the Arts Faculty. I am an Archaeologist and Ancient Historian, and my research focuses on ancient artefacts, mainly coins, from excavations. My collaborations include collaboration with colleagues from Warwick and from other institutions in UK, Europe, North Africa and in the US.

I moved to Warwick in 2011 from Switzerland where I built up the Inventory of Swiss Coins Finds, a project of the Swiss Academy similar to the British Portable Antiquities Scheme. I was also working for archaeological services and museums, and as a lecturer at the University of Zurich.

Congratulations on winning the Global Contribution Award for your work on numismatics. Tell us more about this project:

Numismatics is the science of coins. This is a fascinating field because these small objects open the door to the ancient world and its cultures in general. Coins are one of the main primary sources of ancient history. They provide information on many areas of life in Antiquity, such as on historical processes, technical and artistic skills, social and economic phenomena, and religious beliefs.

I study coins finds from all over the Western Mediterranean and from the Northwestern Provinces in collaboration with many international teams (in nine countries, spanning three continents). Key sites are in Sicily, in Rome and Carthage, and on other Islands in the Western Mediterranean. We try to compare information from coins with information from other sources. It is touching to work e.g. on specimens melted due to fires and destruction caused by wars known from ancient authors. With my teams, we have identified such examples in destruction layers from Carthage destroyed by Rome in 146 BC and from Rome sacked in its turn by the Goths in AD 410. The islands are on crossroads where many cultures met over time: indigenous peoples, Greeks, Carthaginians and Romans. I have published coins from sanctuaries on Malta (ancient Melite), Gozo (Gaulos) and Pantelleria (Cossyra), and my main book is on Sicilian finds. I am delighted how well my research was received. It forms the basis of my contribution to Historia Numorum Sicily & Adjacent Islands, a comprehensive standard reference work which I am currently preparing with Keith Rutter and John Morcom. Other monographs will be dedicated to the coin finds from the Basilica Aemilia on the Forum Romanum in Rome and to the coins from seven Roman temples in Aventicum, the capital city of the Helvetii (Switzerland).

The Award highlights how you have gone above and beyond your role, what have been the key challenges of this project/event/activity?

Working with people from many places around the globe with projects in parallel can be quite challenging since research conditions are different everywhere. Time is also a challenge. Yet, planning and communication help to sort things out. Teaching students abroad is most rewarding too. Offering expertise elsewhere and learning from others is a win-win situation. My experience abroad has further strengthened my belief in research-led teaching.
I do not feel that I have gone beyond my role. People in antiquity were involved in wide networks, and I feel it is natural to do the same in trying to understand them. I involve students in projects here and abroad. I also offer them opportunities in activities outside classes. They count precisely because they do not ‘count’. I think these things make a big difference in todays’ business-oriented society.

The Staff Awards are a great chance for the University to improve and learn from staff initiatives over the year. If you could change one thing at the University, what would it be?

Coins are mass products and need to be studied as such. We have to assemble huge quantities of data. This applies also to other serial sources, texts, inscriptions and material culture in general (e.g. pottery). New evidence has to be identified and examined on the spot, if we aim fora good research outcome. This is time-consuming and in contrast to the limited periods of funding and research assessment. It is a wider issue beyond UK, and I do not know how it can be resolved. Yet, international collaboration is needed, and Brexit would be unhelpful.

What does winning a Staff Award mean to you?

I am still overwhelmed but also humbled because I am aware of how many staff members are providing outstanding contribution to activities at our University. For me is not only a personal award but also one that attests to the strength of the Arts Faculty at Warwick and of our Department, Classics and Ancient History, highlighted by Zahra Newby being highly commended for student experience.

A lot of staff and students took the time to nominate, if you had the chance what would you say to the person/people that nominated you for this award?

I have already expressed to that person my very warm thanks which I reiterate here. It will be hard to satisfy expectations after such an award but I will do my best. I should also like to express my gratitude to the members of the short listing panels. I am touched and it is rewarding to know that my work is valued by the University.

We hope you enjoyed the Staff Awards evening. Any highlights from the night?

It was great to meet so many colleagues across the faculties. Congratulations again to Zahra Newby from our Department. Another highlight was the award of Jacqui Carroll, who runs the Café Humanities and whose contribution to the atmosphere in the Humanities building is invaluable.

Enjoyed reading about Suzanne? Hear from some more award-winning colleagues…