MU professor Stephen Ball wins Kemper Fellowship

MU associate professor Stephen Ball was the first of five recipients of this year’s fellowship.
Cait Campbell / Graphic Designer

While working toward his master’s degree as a student at MU, Stephen Ball had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate laboratory class.

At first the experience was terrifying, but he soon realized he enjoyed giving instruction as a teacher, he said. Now, Ball is winning accolades for his teaching style both inside and outside the classroom.

Last week, Ball, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Science and Exercise Physiology, was awarded one of the William T. Kemper Fellowships designating teaching excellence at MU. The fellowship includes a check for $10,000 and is awarded to five MU professors annually.

The fellowship was created in 1991 with a $500,000 gift from Kemper’s estate, according to a news release. He died in 1989 after spending 52 years working in the banking industry.

Commerce Bank chairman Jim Schatz and Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton presented Ball with the award. Prior to receiving the award, Ball had no idea he had won.

“I knew that I’d been nominated, but I hadn’t thought about the award since I was nominated back in January,” Ball said. “I was pretty shocked and obviously so.”

Ball said his work as a teacher doesn’t stop with being a professor at MU.

“I have a diverse job,” Ball said. “I represent the Department of Nutritional Science and Exercise Physiology, but I also represent MU Extension. Although I’m proud to teach a large introductory course, my contributions to teaching excellence were considered in other contexts, which extend to audiences outside of traditional campus teaching.”

Ball has been a professor at MU since 2002. His "Introduction to Exercise and Fitness" course enrolls 750 students annually, according to an MU news release.

In his work with MU Extension, Ball has led programs like "Jump into Action," the "Active and Healthy School Program" and "Smart Moves." In 2002, Ball also created a video series entitled “Fitness and Wellness for a Lifetime.” Ball said the series provides basic fitness and wellness information aimed at the everyday consumer.

The extension program allows him to work with different groups of people by providing outreach to Missourians, Ball said.

These programs have reached 40,000 students in Missouri, according to the news release.

“I have the opportunity to teach outside of what we consider typical college teaching,” Ball said. “One of the things I like about my job is that I get to work with a lot of different audiences, so I might work with kids, I might work with teachers, I might work with the elderly. It’s interaction with lots of different audiences that I enjoy.”

In the news release, Stephen Jorgensen, dean of the College of Human and Environmental Sciences, said Ball deserved the fellowship.

“Rarely do we see a teacher so capable and dedicated to the task in so many varied instructional venues,” Jorgensen said in the release.

He will continue to improve his teaching in order to engage his audiences, Ball said. He said he thought his commitment to engaging the audience was possibly one of the reasons he received the fellowship.

“One of the things that I always try to do is listen to my participants, whether they’re college students or any audience, and learn what works and what doesn’t and try to improve,” Ball said. “The audience is changing. If you look at the college teaching examples, a college student 20 years ago is a lot different than a college student is today, and they expect different things. We constantly have to have different strategies to reach our audiences and engage them.”

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