Where They Were Before: Joseph Marchal combines learning, research, writing into career
Editor's Note: Where They Were Before is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various professors and their lives before teaching.
Joseph Marchal, associate professor of religious studies, said one of the “greatest tragedies of our culture” is how teachers are treated.
“People don’t see most of the work that we and other educators do,” Marchal said. “We keep really long hours, hours of preparing classes, grading, meetings, serving the community, while also keeping up a research and writing agenda.”
Learning, however, is something Marchal has never found difficult and has always loved. He was identified as a “smart child,” and he used his intellect to learn as much as he could as often as he could.
Growing up in a large family with both his parents working as educators, Marchal experienced poverty and was exposed to many different cultures at a young age. He often had to work a variety of jobs, but they eventually lead to positive outcomes in the future.
“When I was young, I delivered newspapers, raked leaves, shoveled snow and babysat,” Marchal said. “As I got older, some of that work set me up to do landscaping work on summer and winter breaks, which helped me to afford the expenses of college.”
Marchal also spent time working in a cardboard factory.
“I learned the value of a person’s time and effort doing that work with them, but a lot of them would also tell me stories about how often they didn’t have as many choices as they would’ve liked,” he said. “May of them encouraged me to not mess up my opportunities when I got into college and then graduate school.”
Marchal attended the University of Notre Dame for his bachelor’s degree, Harvard University for his master’s degree, and University of California, Berkeley for his doctorate. It was at Notre Dame where he first declared a major in religious studies.
While studying, Marchal said he was drawn to people in more creative fields like music and photography. The friends he made taught him how important it was to be passionate about both life and work.
“[Being passionate] involves risk-taking, but it also requires a day-in, day-out grind, doing what you love every day, in whatever way you can,” he said.
After earning his Ph. D, Marchal worked in a number of positions across the country — including California, Maine, Texas and Iowa — before securing his current position at Ball State.
“I’ve loved getting to know our country and all of the different ways colleges and universities educate their students,” Marchal said.
He has also traveled to speak on different topics in countries like France, Norway and South Africa and studied in London for six months.
“I’ve spent half my life in the ancient world, and the other half in the modern world,” Marchal said.
Even with all of his traveling, Marchal’s opinion of where he lives has not been changed.
“I have family and friends all over the country, all over the world, but I love living in the Midwest and love the students we get at Ball State,” he said.
Juli Thorson, a professor of philosophy, said Marchal is intelligent, bright and always willing to help even if he may appear intimidating.
Marchal has been working at Ball State for 10 years, but has taught in college for a total of 14 years. In classes such as “Sex and the Bible,” he said there is never a dull moment and the conversation is almost always interesting, even if there is a bit of controversy.
He also has made a habit of writing, and said that research, teaching and writing are all connected. He has published four books, written 19 book chapters, written 13 articles for journals around the world, edited three books and has two edits, one book and ten more articles publishing in the future.
“I have published work on women, slaves, eunuchs and barbarians, and my work covers a wide range of topics including baptism, prophecy, apocalypse, healing, circumcision, friendship, the military, sexual ethics and empire,” he said.
While he prefers not to reveal personal information, such as his age, he is always happy to talk for hours about how much he loves his job and his ability to continue growing in his field.
“I am really happy because I love what I do,” Marchal said. “I work with colleagues who love it too, and I love it when students learn all kinds of new things with us.”
While he feels like teachers don’t get enough credit for all that they do — like working long hours, “preparing for classes, grading, meetings, serving the community,” as well as researching and writing agendas — Marchal said he “wouldn’t trade this job for anything.”
Contact Justice Amick with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.