Taking Center Stage: Cameron Professor Ben Williams

Taking Center Stage: Cameron Professor Ben Williams

By Neal Kirmer

Staff Writer

Cameron University Assistant Professor of Theater Ben Williams does not fit the image of a traditional college professor. With a shaved head that is often covered in a newsboy cap, a neatly trimmed beard and pierced ears, he is younger than most would imagine a college professor to be.

Williams is part of a new generation of college educators who are breaking the preconceived notions of who someone in academia should be. This new breed of professor dresses more like the students in their classes and are often mistaken for students themselves. They have visible tattoos.  They are more connected with the students. They know the language and trends that are popular with their students.

Like many of the new generation of educators, Williams possesses an innate ability to connect with students.

“I fall into the Millennial generation,” Williams said. “There is a lot of relatability between Millennials and Gen Z. A lot of the struggles are the same. A lot of the things that they are going through, it hasn’t been that long for me since I last went through them.”

Williams instructs students in Technical Direction, Scenic Design, Lighting Design and Sound Design. He did not initially look for a career in Stage Theater; he intended to gain an education in vocal music.

“I didn’t really find what I was looking for there and ended up doing more theater in college than music,” Williams said. “I found out quickly that I can’t act [laughs], but I really enjoy doing things back stage.”

Williams’s love for the technical side of theater afforded him many opportunities. He attended graduate school at Kent State where he received his Master’s degree. In the past, he worked in Virginia with the Alluvian Stage Company as well as in California with the Pacific Conservatory Theatre.

Later, Williams and his wife, Susie, moved to Kansas to be closer to family. Job opportunities led him to Lawton to work at the Lawton Community Theatre (LCT) which eventually led to a position at Cameron University.

“I was looking for a full-time job and they [LCT] didn’t have something available,” Williams said, “but they knew that the previous professor was retiring and they put my name in.”

Williams sees himself at Cameron for the foreseeable future. With connections to local theater groups as well as his duties at Cameron, there is no shortage of activities to keep himself busy.

“The other day I built a gelatinous cube. There is always interesting things to build that you would never think about,” Williams said. “I enjoy watching other people learn about these things and light up when they create them.”

Shayson Lenee’ is one of Williams’s students in the Theatre Department. Williams’s relatability is one of the things that draws students to his classes.

“He easily relates to all the struggles that we bring,” Lenee’ said. “He uplifts us. When he walks into a room you become comfortable. You know that he doesn’t just want to be a teacher; he wants to be somebody who helps students.”

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