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Talking with … Clarence Ball III

Interviews | Nov 17, 2017 |

Clarence Ball III“Talking with…” helps you get to know a different Gabelli School faculty member, administrator, or staff member in each installment. This week, we’re learning more about Clarence Ball III, lecturer in the communications and media management area.

Briefly, what did you do before starting at the Gabelli School?
Wow. You’re taking me back. Well, before accepting my position with the Gabelli School, I was the interim director of forensics—speech and debate—at my alma mater, Tennessee State University. In that capacity, I coached several national finalists to win with top-six-ranking speeches at both the National Forensics Association Championship and the American Forensics Association Championship. During my coaching tenure, I aided the team in winning more than 360 local, regional, and national awards. As a professor, I taught courses in communication theory, persuasion, and Aristotelian rhetoric. I also handled travel requisitions and helped raise between $30,000 and $35,000 to be allocated for TSU forensics student scholarships, team travel, and operations.

What is the most interesting part about teaching undergraduates?
Undergraduates never cease to amaze me with their bright ideas for the future. Teaching Gabelli School students is invigorating because they are intent on changing the world for the better. They inspire me every day to be a better educator.

Is there a simple way people can work on improving their communications skills in their everyday lives?
Absolutely. I undergird all of my teachings in corporate communications on the premise that Aristotle was right. His embrace of ethos—ethics, pathos—emotions, and logos—logic, should inspire the tones we use as we generate and deliver persuasive appeals. Meaning: our audience should literally hear ethical reasoning, passion and emotional connection, and science, research, or logic in the verbiage of the content we create.

Scholars often forget Aristotle’s teachings about kairos. Kairos essentially means being able to discern propitious timing for the delivery of properly developed content. A speaker that can master timing can exponentially change his or her corporate upward mobility.

What are some ideas for faculty and administrators looking to involve more students in service learning?
Working with the provost’s task force on service learning, I see opportunities for the university to take its existing service-learning output and catapult it to the next level. A lot of those opportunities can be filtered through the Dorothy Day Center for Social Justice. For the Gabelli School, our opportunities lie in creating a new hub for community partners.


Fun questions

Have you ever been skydiving or bungee jumping?
Absolutely not! If I stood on my desk you’d have to call the fire department. I’m scared of heights.

Favorite writer:
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail on forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time.”

I will never forget where I was when I first heard Zora Neale Hurston’s words. Even in the 10th grade she made me think about life and what it all meant. As a dreamer, I look out on the Hudson River and wonder, will my dreams come in with the tide or will they be mocked to death by Time? I guess only time will tell.

If you weren’t living in the New York metro area, where would you be?
I think I would choose D.C.; I’d like to be close to changes in policy and also have avenues to effect change. It keeps me going.

Last museum you visited:
This summer I went to the American Museum of National History with a group of students. We visited an exhibit on activism in the Americas and it broke my heart. The students were moved to tears by the [Black Lives Matter] section of the exhibit; they said they live in constant fear of being mistaken for someone who deserves to die. I still get chills.

Last movie you watched in a theater:
OK, don’t judge me. I went to see IT because my Business Communications students kept saying it was scary. There was some good cinematography, but clowns just don’t scare me. Now, Chuck-E- Cheese, when the animals start singing, playing instruments, and offering you pizza…that’s some scary stuff.

Favorite Thanksgiving food:
I cannot wait to get on the plane for Texas in November. If my accent didn’t tell you already, my people are creole, out of south Louisiana. When I was a child, my great-grandmother, who was from St. Martinville, Louisiana, taught me a recipe for cornbread dressing with shrimp and crawfish. I make it every year, mostly because it is the best thing you ever tasted. But also because when I make that dish I can hear my great-grandmother speaking French and guiding me in her tiny Texas kitchen. That dish brings me a peace that I cannot describe.


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