Rising Starr teacher Barbara James earns first Clayton State Retirees Association Scholarship

Wed, 04/23/2008 - 9:53am
By: The Citizen

It is perhaps too obvious a connection to say that the first recipient of the Clayton State University Retirees Association (CSRA) Scholarship is a rising star among the University’s graduate students.

But it’s true.

Barbara G. James, who teaches English and gifted English to eighth graders at Fayette County’s Rising Starr Middle School, is indeed the first Clayton State University student to be awarded CSRA’s yearly $1,000 scholarship – the first such award at Clayton State targeted specifically to graduate students. One the university’s first 14 graduate students, James enrolled in the master of arts in liberal studies (MALS) program in 2006 and immediately made an impression on her first professor, Dr. Bill Pasch.

“Having met Barbara in the first semester of the operation of the MALS program, I can say without hesitation that she actually helped teach `Great Books’ week in and week out, so total was her dedication not just to our chosen texts but to the study of imaginative literature in general,” he said.

The university’s first graduate program, MALS has helped lead the way for three additional graduate programs – an MBA, a master of science in nursing and a master of health administration. In a similar fashion, as one of the university’s first graduate students, and an outstanding one at that, James has helped lead the way for dozens of graduate students over the past year-and-a-half.

A graduate of Fayette County High School, James has an undergraduate degree in American Studies from Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga. She subsequently married a Macon native, William B. “Bill” James, and lived there for 23 years before returning home to Fayetteville 12 years ago. Currently in her 19th year as an eighth grade teacher, she has also previously coached the Academic Team and sponsored school newspapers, literary magazines and a drama club.

Although, as Pasch and her fellow graduate students have noted, James is already an expert on literature, she is taking the history track in the MALS program.

"I am passionate about literature, especially Southern authors, and history, especially Southern history,” she said. “I am pursuing a degree in history which I hope will not only make me a better teacher, but will prepare me to volunteer after retirement at the State or National Archives or a similar institution.

“In due time I hope to retire to the North Georgia mountains, my `spiritual home,’ where I hope God will grant me enough time to write a historical novel about my Huguenot ancestors leaving France and coming to the New World,” she added.

Like many of her fellow MALS students, James is a non-traditional student, returning to class in a different role from her profession at Rising Starr. Although she had her doubts at first about becoming a student again, James says it’s been a great experience.

“I had my doubts about pursuing this degree at my age, but it has been one of the most exciting things I have ever done,” she said. “I have been impressed in particular with the professors I have encountered in the MALS program and with the program in general. One aspect that I especially like is that there are participants of all ages and backgrounds in the program. Another is the collegiality that the program strives to foster among, not just the participants, but between the students and the faculty as well. I can't say enough about how interesting, as well as enlightening, the courses have been.”

The Jameses have two daughters. Erin is currently working toward a master's in library science through Florida State University and Lana is a senior at Kennesaw State University getting a degree in Spanish and ESOL education.

“Words can never express how honored I feel to have been chosen as the recipient of the first Clayton State Retiree's Scholarship. The retirees have been so supportive and kind in so many ways, as has the administration,” James said. “The boost to my confidence from this honor is immeasurable; it has been a constant reminder that we can all reach the goal of being a `lifelong learner.’ I simply cannot say enough good things about every aspect of my experience at Clayton State.”

And there are many in the Clayton State Retirees Association, and the Clayton State College of Professional Studies, who would say good things about James.

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is a comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

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