Linda Hall chosen by students to give 12th annual Jon Ramsey Lecture: The professor of English encourages students to break out from the confinement of reading lists

Posted by Julia Leef

Professor Linda Hall's office is well-stocked with books, journal articles and newspaper clippings – sources that enabled her to discover other materials and to expand her reading repertoire, a theme that she will discuss in this year's Jon Ramsey Lecture on Dec. 1.

This annual lecture, renamed after former Dean of Students Jon Ramsey in 2004, began in 1999 as an opportunity for academic excellence and community building. Every year student members of the Honors Forum choose a faculty speaker to deliver a lecture on a subject of his or her choice.

"Students have the opportunity to choose a faculty member who has been influential to them," said Catherine Golden, director of the Honors Forum. "Many other lectures are based on the curriculum of the department, but what this lecture does is it says to Honors Forum students, who go that extra mile, 'you have an opportunity to choose'."

Hall, who won by a large margin of votes, according to Golden, is an associate professor in the English Department. She has already administered and spoken at a number of gatherings, including this year's First-Year Experience presentation with summer reading author Lorrie Moore and the graduation ceremony of 2007.

"I'm personally thrilled by the choice because Linda is my colleague, and I've heard her speak before," Golden said. "She's passionate, she's funny, she's demanding but also inspiring. These are the things that really stand out in students' comments."

Hall's topic of choice, "Who's Afraid of Self-Reliance?" is something that she said she tries to teach in all of her classes. She believes it is important that students read books that interest them, not just the ones assigned to them by a professor.

"I want people to just not be limited to their professors' preferences," Hall said. "I want to foster in people habits that will last them at least until middle-age. People have to learn to choose their reading on their own and not be dependent on others to choose for them."

One of the issues about which Hall will speak is that of summer reading material, which often consists of the same books across different schools.

"Why, if we believe in diversity in the classroom, don't we believe in diversity when it comes to books?" Hall asked.

One of the ways in which Hall said students could find new reading material is by pursuing a particular subject or work that they found referenced in another book. Instead of referring to a list of suggested reading material, students should feel free to browse on their own and look for topics that they truly find interesting or topics about which they want to learn more, Hall said. She also said that the process by which people learn is more important than what they learn.

"Don't ever ask us what we know. Ask us how we learned what we know," said Hall, summarizing another topic she will discuss in her lecture. "People, if they're just set free to choose for themselves, will surprise themselves. You very rarely know what you want until it comes to you."

"I encourage students to come," Golden said. "I think it will be a wonderfully witty and insightful talk."

The lecture is open to the public and will take place at 5:15 p.m. in Gannett Auditorium. 

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