Yaron Ayalon, assistant professor of history, started a Facebook page called Five Hundred Words. The purpose of the page is to help connect Ayalon with students in a way that he can offer advice. PHOTO COURTESY OF FACEBOOK
Professor uses social media to connect with students
One Ball State professor is using an unconventional method to help his students with their career goals and help them become better writers.
Yaron Ayalon, assistant professor of history, started a Facebook page on August 15 called Five Hundred Words. Since then, it has received 673 likes. Students ask anonymous questions regarding issues they face in school, including classes, connecting with professors and deciding or changing their intended major.
Ayalon answers the questions through posts on the site, and also makes videos about issues that affect college students.
Five Hundred Words is gaining popularity among Ayalon’s students, and he hope to have other professors join the website to give a more in-depth understanding on certain concepts that are important to students. Avalon focuses on writing.
“Out of all the skills anyone can pick up in college, the number one and most important skill is the ability to a write short statement or short essay of about 500 words which would be one or two pages because that is what you need for a cover letter for any job,” he said.
Ayalon said the ability to write well is important regardless of the field one is pursuing.
“Bad writing is one of those inflictions of this generation, and that includes my generation,” he said. “We just don’t write as good as people did 30 or 40 years ago, and I feel ... something has to be done to fix it.”
Ayalon is in his second year of teaching at Ball State and previously taught at the University of Oklahoma in and Emory University in Atlanta. He earned his Ph.D. at Princeton University, where he first started giving students advice as a teaching assistant.
A member of Ph.D. Pathways, an organized group of other professors, faculty, and alumni that pairs mentors with mentees, Ayalon is working to show underrepresented groups why it makes sense to go to graduate school. Ayalon’s specialties include the Ottoman Empire; non-Muslims under Islamic Rule; history of natural disasters.
Malika Begum, a former student of Ayalon’s from Emory university said he cautioned her to be realistic and practical but also to follow her dreams
“He gave me the confidence that I needed to believe in myself, it was anything specific he did or say that enabled me to be successful, but it was his attitude, his ability to recognize talent and then be a guide and a mentor to ensure that person becomes successful.” she said.
Another former student from the University of Oklahoma who used his advice is Daniel Fields. Fields is now a graduate student at Princeton University studying Near Eastern Studies.
The first time Fields met Ayalon was the last semester of his undergraduate education, when he enrolled in Ayalon’s course on the late Ottoman Empire/Modern Turkey. During that time, Fields spoke several times with him about pursuing an academic career in late Ottoman history.
“I learned that, despite not having received my undergraduate education at a “prestigious” university, there was no reason I could not get into some of the best academic programs in my field, provided of course that I had a passion for the subject and a willingness to improve myself.” he said.
Ayalon said he sometimes spends 10-12 hours a week with students outside of class.
“If out of 10 conversations I got one long term relationship with someone I can help get to the next step and achieve his or hers dreams, I’ve done way beyond what I have expected.” he said.