Dr. Jason Powell is currently an associate teaching professor of Honors Humanities at Ball State University. He also serves as Vice President for the Beneficence Family Scholars.
What goals do you have for your courses?
I guess the goal of my courses is to incite opportunity for transcendence. I know this sounds cheesy, romantic, even downright ridiculous, but I firmly believe that one of the greatest abilities we have as human beings is to transcend our traditional modes of thinking about, acting in, and encountering our world. I must admit that I don’t believe in teaching in a historical or cultural vacuum, in the sense that any answer or opinion is valid just because it is offered.
I believe in truth that transforms us. Not that I am opposed to any and all ideas, but I do think there are significantly bad ideas that need to be discarded. So, I teach argumentatively, not to inform but to transform. Again, cheesy and naïve, but I believe in the power of ideas. My goal is not to try to shut off ideas, though I am certainly guilty of that at times, but to see if we can move toward something greater.
What are you reading right now?
What am I currently reading? I typically read about 15 books at one time, which is pretty awful. I get bored way to easily, so I switch up my reading on a regular basis. It keeps the perspective broad but it is not a very effective way to approach literature – getting snippets here and there. I think they eventually work themselves into a modicum of cohesion, but it takes me a while to get there. I read primarily in literature, philosophy, history, theology, politics, as well keeping up with some of the currents in the social sciences.
If you could be any inanimate object, what object would you be?
As an inanimate object I would love to be Rodin’s The Thinker. To be in a perpetual state of intellectual curiosity. I can never shut this thing off between my ears anyway, so why not be fixed in that position?
Who are your biggest heroes?
Of course one of my biggest heroes is John Dos Passos! He died in 1970 so we walked the planet together for 3 years. I also think that Gustavo Gutierrez is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. And his writings have done so much of my philosophical, theological, and sociological thinking. And now for the super-cheesy: I try to emulate the people I work with. I teach with five really remarkable and cool people, who have made me a better teacher, thinker, and person. So a shout out to Jackson, Alex, Beth, Obed, and Tim, as well as to my superiors upstairs, Barb, Amy, John, and most definitely Coralee!
What advice do you have for Honors students?
I always tell my students that I do not like to give advice, especially in one-on-one conversations—although in class we talk about how to live all the time. But I think the greatest gift we can give ourselves is to truly love who we are. Not in some egocentric selfish manner, but to accept the full spectrum of our flaws and foibles, talents and successes. It is a never-ending journey, but the more we really like who we are, how we think, and how we engage our world, the more we can flourish.
Interested in taking a class with Dr. Powell or one of the other fantastic Honors College professors? Check out the course catalogue and sign up!