Barb Stedman grew up in northeastern Ohio but started becoming “Hoosierized” in 1977, when she came to Indiana to attend Taylor University. All of her degrees are in English, and her primary teaching and research interests have been in cultural studies and environmental literature, especially Indiana’s environmental literature.
After teaching at several other institutions (including an ESL school in Pakistan), she began teaching at Ball State in 1991, first in the English Department and later the Honors College. Since 2007 she has been Ball State’s first and only Director of National and International Scholarships, as well as the Honors Fellow for the Honors College.
Outside of Ball State, Barb has been an active volunteer and leader for community organizations, particularly the Robert Cooper Audubon Society, the Wildlife Resqu Haus, the Living Lightly Fair, and AWAKEN (an Afghan relief organization).
How did you get into teaching honors?
In 1993, when I was still teaching in the English Department, I learned about HONR 189 and asked the Associate Dean, Joanne Edmonds, to consider me for the course. I had significant international experience, and at the time the course was typically taught by using novels as a way to explore non-Western cultures. I knew it was a perfect fit for me.
Joanne gave me a section of 189 during spring semester 1994, and I fell in love with both the curriculum and the students. The following fall I started teaching the humanities cycle as well, and soon I added a colloquium or two to my teaching load. By 2000, I was teaching only Honors courses, and from 2003 to 2007 I gradually moved out of teaching and into the work that I do full-time today: help Ball State’s top students find and apply for national and international scholarships. I love my job.
What are you currently reading?
The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It’s a fascinating novel about a captain in the South Vietnamese army who is actually an informant for the Viet Cong. For several years I’ve been working my way through all of the Pulitzer Prize fiction winners, in no particular order; this novel won in 2016.
I read a lot of non-Western fiction, but I get into non-fiction kicks for months at a time. I was a biology major for half of college, so I like to read books about science that are aimed at non-scientists. I’ve read all of Mary Roach’s books, for example, and before I die, I want to understand quantum mechanics. (Death will undoubtedly come before I meet that goal.)
What are some of your hobbies or interests?
Without question, my biggest passions are birds and Elvis Presley.
I’ve been a serious birder since 1979, when I took an ornithology course in college, and I pursue that interest nearly every day, even if it’s just scanning the skies and trees for birds as I drive or walk somewhere. I always have a pair of binoculars in my car, in case I happen to spot an interesting bird, and no matter where I travel, exploring local bird populations is a top priority for me.
As for Elvis, I’ve been a devoted fan since 1968, and I always managed to slip him into every Honors course I taught. (Who better exemplifies the model of the tragic hero than Elvis??) My car’s radio is always set to either the Elvis channel (on Sirius XM Radio) or NPR.
Beyond Elvis and birds, my top hobbies are gardening, reading, and finding new and exciting IPAs. And even though it’s not a hobby, sustainability is a passion, too. I’m fairly obsessed with finding ways to reduce my footprint on the planet.
What is a piece of advice you would offer your students?
Get to know the good people of Muncie by getting involved with a local not-for-profit.
Get enough sleep and take your multivitamins.