Paths to Success: Paul Love

Submitted on November 11, 2010 at 9:27 AM

Paul Love explored a neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt, thanks to a Fulbright Scholarship. The U.S. State Department program is designed to promote international learning with American students. Love investigated back alleys, and back yards, looking for evidence of an ancient castle. It's a long way from Volunteer State Community College, but that's where this journey started - with a passion for history kindled by a provocative professor.

"When I was eight my family moved from Nashville to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia," said Love. "It started an interest in the Muslim world and the Middle East."

When he first attended college, though, that interest was in the background.

"I got into Vol State as a communications major, but I had a class with Dr. Ruff and five days after that class I changed my major and decided to go into history."

Dr. Bob Ruff is a Professor of History and Political Science. His classes attract students looking for a challenge. Some will drop out due to the work load. The ones who stay often end up taking several classes with him.

"Dr. Ruff allowed me to do unorthodox study of the Middle East, with a lot of freedom to explore," said Love.

"History doesn't turn out to be most students' favorite class. What I try to do is find out what the students are interested in," said Dr. Ruff. "What I argue in class is that whatever a student is interested in; is in this class, history. The idea is to discover your strengths."

For Love that interest turned out to be the medieval history of the Middle East.

"A lot of the rhetoric and writings from that period are used for modern messages and people are using it today, out of context," Love said.

Love built his passion for the history of the Middle East as a Vol State student and then transferred to Western Kentucky University to pursue a bachelor's degree. The Fulbright gave him nine months in Cairo to research a siege of the castle.

"The difference between learning in the classroom and actually being somewhere is big. The language immersion makes a big difference."

In Dr. Ruff's World History class a new set of scholars are learning speak out, ask tough questions and look at the world in new ways. They sit in a circle and fire off questions and answers to each other about the class readings. Some of the students in the class have returned for the summer from other schools, just wanting to participate in another Dr. Ruff class.

"Almost without exception the students who come through that class are amazing," Dr. Ruff said. "Now, they don't always start out that way."

To find out more about programs at Vol State, visit the Social Science and Education Division.

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