On Thursday, Oct. 7, Ashley Ford, author of “Somebody’s Daughter” and Ball State alumna, was joined by Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns in Sursa Performance Hall. The event, titled “A Conversation with President Mearns,” gave insight into the experiences that affected Ford’s writing.
This event was Ford’s second visit to campus this year, as she previously held a reading of her book Sept. 15. Ford has made plans to visit campus several times this year as part of Ball State University’s Fall 2021 Writer-In-Residence program.
Ford’s next visit to campus will be Nov. 11, when she will host the “Somebody’s Daughter” Book Club. Jill Christman, professor of English and Ford’s former English professor, will join Ford at the event.
During Ford’s conversation with Mearns, she spoke about her book, personal inspirations and time on campus as a student at Ball State. Mearns quoted a passage from her book that said, “To me, the whole place [Ball State] was out of a storybook, quaint and magnificent.”
On the topic of opportunities Ball State offers, Ford encouraged students to look into joining clubs, as well as take classes that actually interest them. Ford, who graduated with the class of 2011, explained how college can be more than just an educational opportunity for students.
“When I got here, I stopped feeling stuck for a really long time,” Ford said. “I kept finding ways to move through this school and find what was right for me.”
In addition to her memoir, Ford has worked on podcasts and wrote for various publications. She previously had the opportunity to profile Serena Williams, Missy Elliott and Vice President Kamala Harris.
“I wasn't afraid to ask [Harris] whatever I wanted to ask,” Ford said. “I don't softball, but I do let them know that I'm not there to embarrass them. I'm not there to get any gotcha moments — that's not how I do my writing, that's not how I do my interviews — and I make very sure that they know that nobody's here to embarrass you.”
After Mearns’ interview with Ford, he gave her a chance to ask him questions. Ford asked, when he retires, what he would be glad he achieved at the university.
“People will say it mattered that Geoff Mearns was at Ball State University,” Mearns said. “It mattered, not just in the institutions in terms of programs, but that I made a difference, a positive difference in the lives of other people.”
The closing question that Mearns had for Ford was the message that she had for Ball State students.
“There is nothing wrong with you, there’s nothing about you that needs to be fixed,” Ford answered. “To stop trying to fix yourself, and spend a lot more time just figuring out who you are.”
After the talk concluded, Ford met with the audience in the lobby of Sursa Performance Hall for a book signing. Grace Wagner, senior theater major, was one of many who stayed after the event to have Ford sign her copy of “Somebody’s Daughter.”
Wagner said Ford’s words for students were “cathartic” in their nature and that hearing from someone who has walked the same path as a student was reassuring.
“Hearing what she had to say about letting yourself have those dreams and [seeking] out those opportunities … that is something that's OK [for you] to do for yourself,” Wagner said. “[That] was really impactful.”
Parker Hickey, senior acting major, joined Wagner in the audience of the event. Hickey, who is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, like Ford, said hearing Ford talk about her time as a student was comforting.
“It felt as though she completely remembers exactly how it [felt] to be where we're at right now,” Hickey said. “She had a lot of sage advice.”