Professor dreams of teaching on trail


Taylor Fox
Staff Writer

The Appalachian Trail extends 2,200 miles down the Eastern coast of the United States, and Joe McCall, a Troy history professor, has hiked 1,700 miles of them.
“My dream summer would be to take American and International students to spend a month hiking a portion of the Appalachian earning the students credit while building deeper relationships on the trail.”
McCall hiked the Appalachian Trail from north to south with his son Chris over a period of four and half months in 1996.
“I was 45 when I hiked the Appalachian Trail, and so physically it was challenging,” McCall said. “The reward of hiking the AP trail was I got to know myself better. I was hiking with my son. He was 17, and the reward was getting to spend four and half months together.”
Currently, McCall is writing his dissertation on the environmental history of the Appalachian Trail as the final part of earning his doctorate at Auburn University while working full-time in Troy’s history department.
McCall’s first passion is teaching at Troy and, in particular, teaching history.
“History is the least popular subjects for students in America,” says McCall. “I know it is an uphill battle. I try to make it a class that will help them to understand not only the history of the world but to understand the people of the world.”
To accomplish this goal, McCall supplements his lessons with various historical resources to give more depth.
“The thing about McCall is: When you are in his class, you feel like he is pulling information from a lot of primary sources that he has actually met and talked to,” said Benjamin Keenan, a senior history major from Robertsdale.
In addition to class material, McCall also sets up trips to key locations in Alabama history. It was on one of these trips that Keenan visited Horseshoe Bend, a Native American battlefield on the Tallapoosa River in central Alabama where a battle took place in 1814.
McCall also invites students who are not in his class to attend these trips when there are available seats. He gives preference to members of International Student Cultural Organization (ISCO) or National Association on the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), two of the student campus organizations that he helps advise.
“Mr. McCall has not just been an ISCO adviser but more of a general guardian,” said Grishma Rimal, a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Kathmandu, Nepal. “The amount of encouragement he provides us inspires us to strive for perfection.”
McCall’s dream for ISCO is to see traditional American students develop genuine relationships with international students and foster a sense of appreciation for cultural differences through mutual understanding. McCall said that he firmly believes these relationships, over time, can change the world.
McCall is married to Xiaojuan “Silvia” Li, a Chinese visiting scholar he married in 2011. Silvia currently works at Troy University’s International Studies Program in Pace Hall.
With so much of his life built around his time at Troy, McCall said that he loves teaching at Troy, and he is “probably one of the happiest people, occupationally, on the planet.

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