Xiaoxi Zhang is a new English professor at Ball State University for the English Department. Although academic progression is an important ideal to uphold to her, her passion is to help students succeed and get the most of their time at Ball State. Although she acknowledges that college comes with struggles and complications, she hopes for her students to thrive and dream big during their education at Ball State.

How would you describe your perspective on teaching?

To me, teaching is like a multilateral interactive process in which the instructor creates a comfortable, free learning and thinking environment for everyone in class. Furthermore, this process brings together different people for engaged conversations about things of common interests across borders and divisions during their education at Ball State. It is, in a way, like building a new community that consists of not only an instructor, different students, and the different people around them, but also a wider range of people as represented in the works we study and discuss in class and the audiences of these works.

Are you working on any projects at the moment? Is it purely for your study or something that will influence your teaching? photo of Xiaoxi Zhang

I am working on a few creative writing projects, besides academic research. It is both an extension of my academic interests and a way for me to figure out how to teach more effectively in different contexts and situations. As someone teaching literature classes in which many students are also aspiring creative writers or teachers of literature, I feel that the creative works of my own bring me closer to my students. We can quickly identify our shared experiences and common struggles, integrate that into our readings and analysis of other reading materials, and have productive conversations from there.

What are you currently reading if anything?

I am reading and rereading many works as I teach them in class. It feels like even if it is a piece of work that I already read in the past, or taught in a similar class, with different students there are always different ways to approach a same piece of work. That is the beauty of literary analysis and composition; it always gains with readings and dialogues in different contexts.

What are your hobbies or interests?

I like music (across stylistic divisions), foreign language learning, and talking to people (if they have time for me).

Who are your biggest role models and how did they influence your goals and career?

Everyone who struggled to create something beautiful and inspiring for others despite being in dire circumstances are role models for me. They remind me of my own values that I hold dear in my heart and convince me of my own choice in my career, as a teacher and literary person. Their existence embodies the beauty of life and humanity and gives hope to other people who are either struggling themselves or aspire to carry on the same struggle for others.

What is a piece of advice you would offer students?

Dream big, trust your instincts, and do not get discouraged when things do not work in your favor right away. College years are the times when young aspiring people are both exposed to the more complicated sides of society and enjoy resources to find the underlying cause of many questions and issues. In a sense, it may either be a place to realize a dream or a place of disillusionment. It is normal if not everything is working well all the time, but don’t get frustrated – think about what you still have and don’t let the obstacles prevent you from pursuing what you want.

For more information, please visit the Ball State English Department website, and meet more of our new faculty here at Ball State!