History professor uses experiences to guide students

Associate Professor Suzanne Ament playing the guitar.

History Associate Professor Suzanne Ament uses her vast real-world experiences to guide how she teaches at Radford University.

Ament studied in the former Yugoslavia and traveled in China, Turkey, Romania, Israel, Mexico and Western Europe.

While Ament didn’t see these experiences – she has been blind since birth – she uses them to transcend the text that lies within a book and to discuss her first-hand knowledge with students.

One of the places in which Ament has lived is Russia – both pre- and post-Soviet Union.

“One of the highlights of my time in Russia was visiting Saint Basil’s Cathedral,” Ament said. “If you go to Moscow, go to Saint Basil’s. It’s an amazing place to be if you can get into it – it’s always being renovated.”

Russian history, Ament’s Ph.D. concentration and a course she teaches, has some difficult concepts for students to grasp.

“The trickiest thing for American students to learn about the Soviet Union is that Americans assume the system they believe in is going to work,” Ament said. “Basically, if you go out to the store, you can buy something in the United States – if you have the means. Soviets went to the store and there was nothing there. You’d have to know somebody or go through their work.”

Trust - and its cultural differences - is also something that Ament covers in her Russian courses.

“If two Soviets were talking, they could go for half an hour without telling each other anything about themselves,” Ament said. “It is amazing to watch a civil conversation in which they say nothing – because they don’t trust each other. We assume that people are well-intentioned here in the U.S. and that people won’t be arrested for criticizing something.”

While traveling, Ament has a partner – her fourth Seeing Eye Dog, Ulla.

Oct 14, 2016
Max Esterhuizen
(540) 831-7749