Benjamin S. Kelley: Dean Of School Of Engineering And Computer Science, Professor Of Engineering

August 24, 2004

Q: If you could teach in any other academic discipline, what would you choose and why?

Benjamin Kelley

Outside of my own technological world, I am fascinated about the peoples and cultures of other regions. I find it intriguing that, as God's children, we all are created from the same source of DNA and require the same life-sustaining elements. Yet by circumstance, one's life journey -- to a great extent -- depends on the indigenous culture. So if I could teach a course in another academic discipline, I would choose comparative geographic cultures.
Admittedly, my education in this arena is far more from experience and curiosity than formal study. I'm fortunate to have been immersed in the foreign cultures of Kazakstan just after the breakup of the Soviet Union, of Iraq as Saddam was captured and Colombia during its struggles with drug trafficking. My youngest son spent his first three years in Vietnam, and it's striking to observe his distinctive American mannerisms and wonder what would have been otherwise. In my own journey from a rural Southern farm, I remember well life's choices that could have led down a path with a very different ending.
But a teacher needs to paint the big picture for students. In engineering, I am able to do that because I've devoted years to understanding mathematical and physical systems. In the case of geographic cultures, I'm able only to connect a few of the dots. Perhaps an even stronger desire than to teach such a course is to help provide students with real-life, eye-opening cross-cultural experiences.