#bsuenglish Remembers Dr. James Ruebel

James Ruebel Honors College

Many English Department students and faculty are also affiliated with the Ball State Honors College and were deeply affected by the passing of Dr. James Ruebel, who had been the Dean of the Honors College since 2000.

“I’ve been acquainted with Dr. Ruebel since he arrived at Ball State many years ago,” Professor Elizabeth Dalton remembers. “We’ve worked closely for the past six years working together to teach an integrated humanities class every fall. For four of those six years we also led field studies to Rome and, usually, Florence, Italy. These were two-week field studies where students explored art, architecture, history, and literature of the cities.”


Drew Miles, a senior Creative Writing major, was one of the students who accompanied Dr. Ruebel on one of the trips to Italy. “My favorite memory of Dr. Ruebel was when he, my friend Katie, his wife Connie, and I ate dinner together at a restaurant in Florence, Italy. We shared very heartwarming conversations and learned a lot about each other’s lives. It was an event I will always treasure,” he says. “Dr. Ruebel taught me in classes throughout my freshman year and took my class on a trip to Italy. He mentored me in several different ways, most importantly in persistence and giving. He was a leader, an altruist, and a friend. He believed in his students and I always felt his support when I faced obstacles in my life.”

Professor Dalton also reflected fondly on her trips to Italy with Dr. Ruebel. “He offered our students a great deal to ponder during his Roman Forum lectures and tours, which transformed the ruins into a living city. An indefatigable navigator of the city, he often led the group on walking tours of more than five or six miles a day in order for students to visit important and sometimes out-of-the-way sites, such as the Keats’s grave in the Protestant Cemetery or the Anita Garibaldi sculpture on the Janiculum. His fascination for the city was infectious, and his example as a traveler and scholar inspired our students,” she recalls.


Dr. Brent Blackwell also had plenty to say about Dr. Ruebel. “Jim was a great mentor and friend to everyone he engaged with, from students to colleagues. My fondest memory with him occurred about three years ago.  I was in Montepulciano, Italy on my honeymoon.  I told my wife that we needed to get Jim a bottle of the best wine we could find, since he was a lover of fine wine, and much of what they produce in the Montepulciano area is not shipped out of the country.  After sampling many of their finest, we settled on a nice bottle of Ercolani Rosso from 2011.  We carefully packed it in our luggage and kept it close like a newborn. When I got back to the states and presented the bottle to Jim, I gave him the entire story of the wine, even remembering the name of the vineyard where this particular bottle was born.  I was so proud, knowing how much Jim enjoyed fine wines.  I said, ‘So you’ll have to save this for a special treat with your wife, Connie.’ After he thanked me, he shot me his wide, sylvan smile and said that he would be cracking this cork that evening.  ‘A wine like this comes around once in a great while,’ he said.  ‘So never set such a fine specimen on a shelf to dust away.  Enjoy it immediately.’ I laugh to myself every time I think about that smile. Why treat such a fine thing like an artifact, locked in a museum? Enjoy it now while it’s here.”


Professor Dalton concluded her interview by painting a picture of the kind of man that Dr. Ruebel was. “Dr. Ruebel was genuinely interested in the academic and personal well-being of Honors College students. He was a generous educator whose office door was nearly always open to students passing through the building, and students felt comfortable stopping by for a chat. He advocated lifelong learning through reading and the study of the humanities not only in the classroom, but through example. He was an avid and curious reader of a broad range of literature, and he enjoyed the visual arts. I will miss working with such an excellent educator. Students, staff, and faculty will miss his steady and encouraging presence in the Honors College.”

A celebration of Dr. Ruebel’s life will take place on Sunday, October 23 at 1 PM in Sursa Performance Hall for anyone wishing to pay their respects.

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Jennifer Grouling Recommends “The Stormlight Archive” by Brandon Sanderson

“Expectation. That is the true soul of art. If you can give a man more than he expects, then he will laud you his entire life. If you can create an air of anticipation and feed it properly, you will succeed.” (Sanderson, Words of Radiance, p. 1077)


Brandon Sanderson masters the art of expectation in his series The Stormlight Archive. A planned series of ten books, only the first two are out: The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance. Unlike other fantasy series of their length, these 1000 + page books never feel slow. Even when you have a good idea what’s coming, that sense of expectation and excitement never goes away. Sanderson exceeds expectations with engaging characters, witty dialog, creative world-building, and masterful pacing. It’s a fantasy series you’ll find seriously addictive. I’m already craving re-reading it, and I rarely re-read novels!

One of the best things about The Stormlight Archive is the world-building. Sanderson manages to create an amazing and different world without transgressing into the multiple-page descriptions that can bog down fantasy novels. While keeping common fantasy elements such as magic, high courts, and battles, Sanderson’s world is truly unique and creative. The world is plagued by massive storms. The grass retracts into the earth for protection, the animals are often huge crustaceans, and the humans gather money through gems that are recharged when the storms hit. There are also delightful spren, which are a cross between fairies and the daemons from the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. Sanderson’s spren are a significant part of the world of Roshar. Some seem to be simple atmospheric elements—windspren dart around in a breeze and flamespren dance around the evening fire pit. Others depict human emotion, such as gloryspren and fearspren. There’s even rumored to be intoxicationspren. However, as the story progresses it becomes apparent that spren have a key role in the story, and two of the best characters are intelligent spren who have bonded with main characters.

Although it’s a fantasy world, Sanderson deals with issues of race and gender that reflect tensions in our own world. In The Stormlight Archive everything is based on eye-color: there are the “superior” lighteyes and the oppressed darkeyes. Men and women have different societal roles. Men are the soldiers and women are the scholars. Women, at least light-eyed women, must cover their left hand, which is seen as scandalous. All three of our main characters interact with these societal constraints from different angles. Kaladin, our dark-eyed hero, has been burned multiple times by bright-eyed lords, but he must learn to protect even those he hates while struggling with his own unusual rise to power. Shallan, a women of high birth with a low sense of humor, must balance proper appearances and her commitment to her family with her own love of exploration and scholarship. Dalinar, the bright-eyed lord with the king’s ear, struggles with his own privilege and the abuse that other high-lords dole out upon the dark-eyes. He even struggles with the war to avenge his brother (the former king)’s death because he has doubts about the intentions and culture of the race who took credit for the assassination.


The books switch POV, mostly between those three characters, sometimes including the secondary main characters as well. In addition, after each section of the books, there is an interlude part that involves POV from minor characters (sometimes only mentioned in that one chapter), and this is where we gain a much greater understanding of the world and the events that are unfolding. The books each feature flashbacks for one of the main characters: Way of Kings for Kaladin and Words of Radiance for Shallan. The interludes and flashbacks add an extra dimension to the story without bogging down the reading experience. Rather than excessive backstory, they read like the gradual uncovering of the mystery that makes up the world and the lives of these marvelous characters.

Like many fantasy novels, the main plot is one of ancient evil (the Voidbringers) and ancient magic returning (the Knights Radiant). While the larger battle between these forces of good and evil is just getting started by the end of the second book that doesn’t prevent the first two books from having their own exciting climaxes. Again, Sanderson masterfully manipulates the reader’s expectation. The first two books could stand alone as good books, not just as set-up for later novels.

In terms of triggers, this book has violence, although it stays away from sexual violence, and in that way is a safer choice than something like Game of Thrones. There is, however, domestic violence, so if that’s a trigger you may want to avoid it, particularly the second book.

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Autumn Stars to Steer By Workshops


Stars to Steer By is an event series hosted by the English Department to help Humanities majors find their way. The next event is October 26th in Bracken 104. 

September’s Stars to Steer By event, hosted in Bracken 104 by Career Coach Eilis Wasserman, was dubbed, “You Don’t Have to be a College Professor to Work at a University.” The panel of Ball State faculty was comprised of  Jim Mitchell, Associate Director of the Career Center, Michael King, Residence Hall Director, Professor Molly Ferguson, who teaches various courses on campus, Brandon Pieczko, Digital Archivist for Manuscript DSC00252.JPGCollections, and Lola Mauer, Associate VP of Annual Giving. They discussed pursuing alternative career tracks in the world of academia. Professor Ferguson represented those who do wish to teach, but the other four speakers discussed their own careers at Ball State that many people do not consider right away. The objective of the night was to show that there are plenty of other opportunities to be explored in a college setting outside of teaching. We will always need professors, but we need plenty of other professions as well.

The next event in the Stars to Steer By series is called, “Personal Branding: Uncovering Your Authentic Self,” and will take place on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 at 6:30 PM in Bracken 104. Ball State University alum Monica Scalf of The Playground Group will be speaking and demonstrating how to create and maintain your professional online presence. Make sure to bring your computers! The workshop will help you work on your professional LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.14519943_1515648545115795_3564882755781426045_n