Carroll Community College is arguably home to some of Westminster’s brightest students and prominent faculty, and many in the community attest that the college would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the great environment that was created by the determined staff of the campus, who strive to better students in any way possible. One of the people behind the college’s great success is Dr. James Ball. He’s a leading figure at Carroll, holding the position of vice president of academic and student affairs for nearly 14 years. Upon meeting Ball, one would admire his sense of confidence, his devotion to professionalism, and his passion for improving and shaping Carroll for the students that attend. But, pushing past the paperwork and the suit and tie, there’s more to this man than meets the eye.
It may be questionable just exactly what “student affairs” are, and why do we need someone in charge of them? These “student affairs” are much more important and crucial to the college than most people tend to believe, and Dr. Ball is the driving force and mastermind behind them.
“I handle the instructional programs and oversee the faculty as well as the student services that we offer like library tutoring, student registration processing, financial aid, advising, and student life,” says Dr. Ball. “It’s a broad level of responsibility.”
Ball worked hard to achieve the position he’s in today. “When I first came here,” says Ball, “I started off in this position I’m in now. Prior to coming here, I had worked at Howard Community College for 20 years. I started off in the counseling center there and I taught Psych, Human Relations, Career Development, and so on. I taught a lot of the counseling related subjects. Then I became full time faculty. I released counseling and kind of moved around the institution there for a number of years into different positions, each position carrying a different responsibility. Ultimately I left HCC as the Vice President of Student Affairs. Then I came to Carroll, because I had instructional background as well to oversee both instruction and student affairs.” When asked if he was happy here, Ball smiled and exclaimed “I love it here; Carroll Community is a great college.”
Outside of the college, Ball transforms into a musician. Whether it’s rocking out a beat on the drums or shredding some notes on the guitar, he finds peace and solace through the expression of creating beats, tempos, or even just covering a classic rock song.
“Primarily,” says Dr. Ball, “my biggest interest is music. I’m a musician. I play the drums and guitar; those are my two main instruments, although I have played trumpet in the past and a little piano.”
Back in high school, he was even in a band with Greg Hawkes, who played the keyboard for the New Wave band The Cars back in the 80s. Aspiring to be a famous jazz musician when he was just a boy in elementary school, Ball had no idea that he’d end up where he is today.
“I wanted to be a drummer,” says Ball. “My fantasy was to move to New Orleans and play jazz. When I first went to college, I majored in music for about a year and a half. Then I decided I really didn’t want to major in music; I was afraid of what the life of a musician might entail, in terms of being able to support myself. At that time, the dorm director came to me and said, ‘You know there’s this program at our college that you may want to think about getting into; it’s an undergraduate counseling program.’ And when I looked into it, I thought it really would be something I enjoy and something I would excel at, so I got involved in that program. I got my master’s degree in counseling from University of North Texas. My first job was at a college down on the coast of Texas as an advisor and a career counselor.”
From a desire to be a professional musician to the vice president of a college seems like a drastic shift in career paths, and for Ball, he didn’t even think it was possible.
“If you had told me that I would eventually get a doctorate and work in a higher education environment when I was first majoring in music,” says Ball, “I would have told you that you were crazy. I would’ve thought, ‘What? That’s not me. I’m a musician.’”
Although Ball chose to continue with an advising and counseling career, he still finds time to practice his number one passion.
“I still play music,” he says. “I’m still active. I’m in a band now; we do a lot of classic rock. We play every once in a while, and practice when we find time.”
Every great figure has some background of inspiration and motivation, and certain morals and values that they live by. When asked what his favorite quote was, Ball retrieved a piece of paper that he keeps displayed in his office, and it read:
“Excellence can be achieved if we:
-care more than others think is wise,
-risk more than others think is safe,
-dream more than others think is practical,
-and expect more than others think is possible.”
Ball applies this quote to every aspect of his life, especially when it comes to Carroll and its faculty and students.
“I apply it in every way possible,” he says. “When we try to plan and think about what we’re doing here, we try to reach that level of excellence. We try to think beyond what is doable and practical. We think about what would be preferable, especially for students. The way we engage students on campus is very different than what many campuses do. Our faculty really understands that engaging the student and the learning process takes them beyond the classroom; it takes them to other levels of life and helps them see the world in different ways. It’s something that many of our faculty embraces. We dare to do a lot. We think outside of the box to the extent that we can, and we try to put that into practice; it’s not always easy to put it into practice, but we try.”
Ball understands the plight of students who are undecided in which career path they wish to pursue. He was in the same position once, and can connect with students more easily by understanding the struggle they face. It’s why he works diligently to make sure that each student has the ability to thrive and succeed in every way possible, because he knows that it’s hard enough trying to figure out life itself at such young age.
“If you’re unsure about what you’re trying to do, don’t worry about it,” says Ball. “Deciding what you want to do with your life is an extremely difficult thing to do. For students who are undecided, know that it’s okay to be in that place. But you have to keep moving. Stay broad, pick up as many areas of interest as you can, try things out, and then slowly try to narrow your focus. Stay flexible and be open to change because the world is changing fast.”
Dr. Ball plays a vital role at Carroll. Although some students may never get to meet him, he’s helping them along with their studies in more ways than one would think possible. He makes sure that things run smoothly and efficiently within the school for the faculty and staff, and he’s always looking for ways to improve the experience for students.