CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Earlier this summer Dr. Ben Ntatin, Austin Peay State University associate professor of mathematics, traveled to the Central American nation of Honduras to teach a couple college-level math classes at the Soto Cano Air Base. When he arrived in May, Ntatin discovered the enrollment numbers for his courses were a bit low.
“When I arrived, I had one student,” he said. “I worked really hard to recruit students because some didn’t even know they had tuition assistance available to them. They had to apply to college for the first time.”
Ntatin attended assemblies and meetings at the base, pitching the idea of a college education to the U.S. soldiers stationed at Soto Cano. He eventually convinced nine students to enroll in one course and six to try another one, continuing APSU’s new foray into Honduras.
Last year, the Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell decided to offer the soldiers stationed at Soto Cano an option other than online classes. The Center pitched the idea of teaching in Honduras to professors at APSU’s Clarksville campus, and during the spring semester, APSU assistant professor of history Dr. Sheena Harris became the first faculty member to spend a few months at the airbase.
On May 22, Ntatin arrived as the second APSU faculty member to teach in that Central American country. His students were all soldiers stationed at the air base.
“They were very good students,” he said. “It was the same impression I’ve always had of soldiers. They’re very disciplined and a desirable kind of student. I had to be more flexible because they are active duty, and sometimes they went out on missions. Even so, they were very conscientious to make sure they did all their assigned work. I was very impressed.”
In his off hours, Ntatin lived in military housing, ate in the local mess hall and taught himself Spanish.
“I speak many languages, and Spanish was one I always promised myself I would learn,” he said. “I occupied myself during the day trying to learn Spanish, and I came back being able to speak it.”
The Austin Peay Center @ Fort Campbell is looking to continue its presence at the air base, sending APSU professors in subjects such as English, history and mathematics to Honduras for eight weeks each semester. Ntatin said he’d like to go back to motivate these soldiers to pursue a college education.
“Personally, it breaks my heart when I see servicemen and women not having a job,” he said. “You need to see the amount of work they do, the discipline they have and the things they do. I was very forceful about that point when I was recruiting them. You have tuition assistance here so you need to use it. And I think the fire of learning was lit in them.”
For more information on the program, contact Ntatin at email@example.com.
Photo cutline: Dr. Ben Ntatin, APSU associate professor of math, stands with his students at the Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras.