Southern’s Unsung Hero: Janet Sanford


Monica Zielinski – Managing Editor

To outsiders, Jennings Hall room 120 seemingly doesn’t exist. A hallway sign indicates the room is beyond the external door which leads outside to the loading dock. Tucked away on the side of the building is Janet Sanford’s office.

What used to be a custodial closet was turned into the chemistry stockroom manager’s space for doing “30 things the faculty doesn’t have time to do.”

“This is my office,” she said. “I love this office. I like it because I can stash things. I have room to file things. I can play my own music whenever I want. It’s private and a little hidden so students aren’t walking by and I’m not constantly looking over or having them say ‘hi.’”

Sanford said her job includes chemical inventory, purchasing, receiving, budgeting, hazardous waste management and safety.

Senior chemistry major, Cody Edson, is currently in the process of completing an Honors College thesis and Sanford was able to help him. Edson plans to test for arsenic in water using a new method.

“I went to her the other day with a long list of supplies I needed to begin my research and she was able to get everything I needed quickly—saving me a bunch of time,” said Edson.

Edson also said Sanford is a fantastic person and an asset to the Chemistry Department.

In 1992—over 20 years ago—Sanford was hired at Southern and worked part-time until she was offered a full-time position in 1998. She went back to school to earn a master’s degree in chemistry at Southern in 2001.

The Ohio native moved to Connecticut as a little girl and lived in Cheshire then Wolcott. After graduating from high school, she attended Central for two years and then moved to Vermont for three. She returned to Connecticut after her plans changed.

“Things work out differently than we expect but I believe that in life, you have so many different paths that you can go down. I don’t think there’s any one path that’s right or wrong. I think we do certain things and that just opens up more paths,” she said.

Sanford said the best part of her job is “having the opportunity to be around young people and to get to experience some of their lives with them and support them in the process of learning.”

She said she’s “full of advice for students” and although it sounds simplistic, she always reminds students to read the text before class.

“Then the professor will be filling in information instead of you hearing it for the first time and feeling confused. That would be my favorite piece of advice to give.”

When she’s not in Jennings ordering supplies or meeting with students, Sanford said she spends her time doing a variety of things. For the past three or four years, she’s been making cards with some women from her church and recently joined various Meetup groups.

“I’m kind of doing a self-exploration right now,” said Sanford. “I don’t believe we ever stop learning and growing so right now I’m involved in something called SoulCollage. Meetups are my thing. I’m part of several.”

According to the network’s website, Meetup allows people to create a group or to find and join a group they’re interested in. There are over 214,000 groups in 178 countries.

Sanford said SoulCollage meetups start with guided meditation which trigger things in the subconscious mind. Participants then flip through magazines and cut out images which catch their eye. Next they take pictures from their collection and arrange them on cards.

“It’s funny but as you look at them and you watch the card form you kind of realize what the card is about. It’s about something every time. One of the ones I did was basically a quick scan of my life,” she said.

One of the cards had a picture of a little blond three-year-old girl laughing. Another was of a stoic, serious woman who was walking down the street. Sanford said this represented a piece of her life when she wasn’t very happy. One other card was of a woman on the floor who looked like she was having a hard time getting up.  

“I said that’s like me—I’ve been crushed in my life and sometimes I feel like that woman and I totally empathized with her when I saw the picture,” she said.

But then there was the last card: one which depicted her life now. She found an image of a woman but cut the photo down until all that was left was her arm with a pen in hand, writing in what appeared to be a journal.

“It represents my life because I’m always learning new things and I’m always journaling, said Sanford. “I journal a lot and I believe it’s a great way to process your life.”

Photo Credit: Monica Zielinski – Managing Editor

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