Disability is not a factor for mathematics leader

Everything in Dr. Marla Bell’s world is seen in black and white. Born with a rare‚ genetically triggered disease called achromatopsia‚ Bell’s sight was greatly affected.

Georgia (Jul 14, 2005) — Everything in Dr. Marla Bell’s world is seen in black and white.

Born with a rare‚ genetically triggered disease called achromatopsia‚ Bell’s sight was greatly affected. Typical traits of achromatopsia include hypersensitivity to light‚ color blindness and nystagmus (wobbly eyes). It affects approximately 8‚500 people in the United States. And Bell isn’t the only one in her family with this disease. A brother was also diagnosed with achromatopsia.

Bell’s condition was never a factor when she chose to pursue a math career. In fact‚ her father unknowingly inspired Bell to teach at the college level when he told her‚ “You could teach at a place like this‚” shortly after arriving at Western Carolina University. After completing her undergraduate degree at Western Carolina‚ Bell attended Clemson University completing both the master’s and doctorate programs in mathematics‚ with a concentration in statistics.

Bell started her career in a teaching position at KSU. She has spent her entire 11−year career with KSU‚ teaching an average of three classes per semester. “I consider myself a ‘utility player’ because I teach a variety of courses‚” said Bell. “I help out whenever or wherever necessary.”

Bell has been the assistant chair of the mathematics department for seven years‚ serving as interim chair during 2003−2004.

Service is a top priority for Bell when it comes to KSU’s diverse mathematics faculty. “I try to make their jobs easier in order to help them perform better‚” said Bell. “Assisting in scheduling classes to something as silly as fixing a projector that won’t light up…that’s what I’m here for‚” she continued.

It’s obvious that Bell’s colleagues appreciate her dedication. They presented her with a plaque for outstanding service and leadership. “I’m most proud of it because it came from the people I value; we’re all family.”

When teaching‚ Bell talks freely about her visual impairment‚ always informing students about it on the first day of class. She lets them know that it’s normal for her to hold a book very close to her face or that she has to be very near the computer screen in order to view the information.

“I have found that connecting with students on a personal level actually helps my teaching‚” said Bell. “Almost everyone knows someone with a disability and can relate to my condition. This helps them to forget about that aspect and concentrate on math.”

As each class ends‚ Bell finds it rewarding when she has helped students overcome their fear of math. “I had one young lady who was petrified of statistics‚ but she left the class with a smile. I just try to lessen that fear — one step at a time.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu