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Thursday, December 18, 2014
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BSC English Faculty Member Involves Students in Active Dialogue (w/photo)

When students enter Dr. Frank Ball's English classes at Bluefield State College, they are encouraged to bring an open mind and willingness to participate in classroom dialogue. Ball, a professor of English who received his Ph.D. from the University of Montpellier, France, realizes that the learning experience involves students. "I encourage a dynamic classroom, where students have not only a right but a duty to express their ideas, while the rest of us are challenged to consider them," Ball noted. "Truth and insight result from these exchanges." "I don't want to coach students in how they should answer," he continued. "I can look in the mirror and see myself and know my thoughts. I seek independent thought and feedback from each student." In Ball's Humanistic (Classical) Tradition class, students read some of the greatest works of classical European literature. His goal is for each student to experience the insights of great writers in order to come to their own conclusions about the great truths of all time and how different human communities have dealt with them. Many of his most interested students are those majoring in engineering technology, computer science, or allied health sciences. "Some of our best students are in the technologies," he added. "They are better able to deal with the people of different cultural backgrounds after having had the class." As an undergraduate, Ball spent a semester as an exchange student in the French-speaking African nation of Senegal. The African people have an appreciation for the equality of human beings, he said. "They have a great deal of wisdom when it comes to the spirit and understanding the mystery of creation and the universe." In 1967, he traveled to southern France to pursue postgraduate education at the University of Montpellier. He met his wife, Anne, while he worked as a tutor in France. Their sons Arthur (age 20) and Philippe (1 8) are BSC students. "In France, I developed an appreciation for other social and political stances," he noted. "The French express themselves very freely and honestly. They will respect opinions and positions that they don't necessarily share." He brings that same openness into the "opinion-friendly environment" he seeks to foster in his classes at Bluefield State College. "Students entering my classes tell me they expect the reading to be difficult. However, once they see how the questions relate to their own lives, they start analyzing their values, motivations and attitudes--and those of the people around them," he said. "The excitement and participation keep the class entertaining."