The lives of English students, past and present, are celebrated in Bianca Pagano’s office. Photos by Grace Hensley.
SAMANTHA COHEN | STAFF REPORTER | email@example.com
The personal spaces we inhabit are a reflection of ourselves — from dorms to offices — and that much is true for members of the Butler campus community. Read on to discover the next of our Bulldog Burrows through a Q&A style interview.
When Bianca Pagano, the administrative specialist of the English department, started at Butler University in February of 2022, she recognized that the office she worked in was not conducive to work nor very welcoming to the students of the English department. Since then, it has been her mission to revamp the English office into a cozy space that is welcoming to all English students, staff and faculty.
THE BUTLER COLLEGIAN: Can you introduce yourself and what you do here at Butler?
BIANCA PAGANO: My name is Bianca Pagano. I am titled the administrative specialist of the English department. It’s a fun title. It’s kind of long, but basically I do all of the administrative work for the chair [of the department]. [I] just keep English moving relatively smoothly most of the time.
TBC: How long have you been at Butler? What prompted you to redecorate and rearrange the English office?
BP: I’ve been here since February [of 2022]. When I got to the office, it had been not [necessarily] neglected, but just one of those situations where things accumulated over time [in the office]. I took a look around and I was like, “This is not a place where I would want to hang out; how can I make it a place where students want to hang out?” I spent a lot of time trying to get rid of filing cabinets [with] things that people hadn’t looked at in many, many decades. I got rid of all of the things we didn’t need, all of the clutter. I tried to make sure everything was student-focused.
TBC: You said that you wanted to make the English office student-centered. How have you done that?
BP: I set up this music system so we can have music. The student workers can [connect with Bluetooth] to it so they can play [music]. We have a coffeemaker that our [department] chair was kind enough to give us the go-ahead to pay for through our budget. It’s open to all of our majors and minors. All of the English majors or minors come in here to get coffee, tea and hot chocolate. We love our lamps — you can see it adds to the ambiance. We try not to use the fluorescent lights; we try to keep it kind of moody. We’ve got comfy chairs here for the students. I turned this giant wooden cabinet over here into a lending library. Students can come and take a book and give a book. It’s open all the time; students can walk in and do that. I really tried to make sure everything was student-focused.
TBC: What has the process of redecoration and reorganization been like for you?
BP: I spent a lot of time doing a physical cleanout and moving huge things around. It was a lot of really [cleaning up dirty spaces] and getting things out. Once that happened, then there was shuffling of all the furniture. [The current office setup] is the third setup that I’ve had, just [to try to] see what works, what makes things look the roomiest. At home, I made a little heart garland out of old or recycled books. I’m always trying to make crafts. There is a sculpture I made out of books. Just little things, trying to make it a fun, interesting space. This semester, I haven’t really done a lot. [I’ve just put up] ridiculous decorations. I try to always decorate my doorways with ridiculous things and things that might be fun. I try to always be student-centered, like, “What might students like?” I’m trying to kind of lighten the hallway [since the English office is] a dark corner here in Jordan.
TBC: What is your favorite part of the office?
BP: I really like [the] display cabinet. When I got here, this cabinet had an inch of dust inside and hadn’t been touched in years. I rewired it so the light works, and I cleaned it all up. I put stuff in there so it wasn’t so cluttered. We have a student publication, “Manuscripts,” for undergraduates, [so we have] some of the original issues from 1935 to 1936 [in the cabinet]. That’s really my favorite thing, is having [the first editions of “Manuscripts”]. People can see that this is something that has been student-focused for this long.
TBC: Why was redecorating the English office so important to you?
PB: It’s really important to me that our English students have a place where they can just come and sit and hang out. There isn’t a lot of that for them. The other buildings have been revamped, [and] they have lots of public spaces. Some departments even have big common spaces. We’re not one of those, even though we are such a large department of 20-plus faculty and loads of students; we don’t have a giant, common student space. I want them to feel like this office is theirs. It’s not just for the professors. I want people to feel like it’s okay to have that connection, just have no [reason for coming into the office] and sit in the chair and talk to people for no reason. It’s not about an assignment. It’s not about office hours. I’m trying to give that permission for connection again.