Critical thinking a classroom theme for Ball State physics professor

Physics professor Ronald Cosby wasn't expecting to stay at Ball State University his whole career when he was hired in the 1970s. But he'll end his teaching career at the university at the end of the semester.

Students and faculty gathered to honor the retirement of the distinguished professor yesterday.

Cosby said he stayed at Ball State his entire career because of research and teaching opportunities and that he'll miss spending time with students.

"I enjoy the engagement that I have with students in the laboratory and doing research," he said.

Cosby said his goal has always been to help students gain knowledge, judgment and skills so they could improve their chances on getting a job and becoming successful. It's important for students to learn critical thinking skills to make good choices in life.

"It's not all about the factual knowledge," he said. "They need to take [critical thinking] skills to solving lifelong problems in the appropriate way."

Graduate student Garrison Turner said he appreciates Cosby's unique way of teaching.
"He has a way of asking simple questions in a difficult way," he said. "He can stump anybody and then when he shows you the answer, you realize how easy it was. He just makes it complicated."

Even though the challenge may frustrate some students, Turner said it makes Cosby a good professor.

"It forces us to think through the problem," he said. "He's not about memorizing. He's about finding things out through a process and technique."

Turner said it's Cosby's compassion that makes him great.

"He cares an awful lot about his students," Turner said. "He's very helpful."

Senior physics major Molly Reber said Cosby's retirement is a loss to the university.

"We love Dr. Cosby," she said. "He is the [physics] department."

Professors often live vicariously through their students and their achievements, Cosby said. He said he appreciates when students who have graduated contact him and tell him how grateful they were to have him as an educator.

Cosby said he would be lying if he said he didn't enjoy the compliments, but the department will continue on without him.

"It's time for new blood and new ideas," he said. "They'll hire someone younger with new talents and the department will be fine. I'm proud of this department."

Cosby said he is ready to leave Ball State after 40 years.

"It's been wonderful, but I've been in this field almost half a century," he said. "It's OK to do something else."


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