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Passion for football coaching drives grad student’s thesis work


Dan Tracy

Dan Tracy (second from right) poses for a photo after receiving the 2015-2016 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award with (left to right) Associate Professor Chrysostomos Giannaoulakis, graduate student Shea Brgoch, Jamie Johnson and graduate student Bekka Westrick.

Ball State graduate Dan Tracy knew when he came to Muncie to pursue a master’s degree in Sports Administration that he also wanted to continue pursuing his passion for coaching football. Jamie Johnson, graduate coordinator for Sport Administration, said he was initially skeptical Tracy could balance the rigor of graduate school with the demands of coaching, but found Tracy to be true to his word — he was able to manage his time while serving as Muncie Central High School’s defensive coordinator. Tracy’s passion for coaching lead him to explore the topic more in-depth in his thesis “Examining Prior Experiences and Career Attainment of FBS Football Head Coaches” — which earned him the 2015-2016 Distinguished Master’s Thesis Award.

“I had known upon entering the graduate program in sport administration that I had wanted to study the sport of football in some context, and then as I progressed in my own coaching career it became clear I was interested in the career progression of college football coaches,” Tracy said in an email.

He had always thought that the “easier” route for future coaches would be to play their sport in college; however, Tracy was unable to find studies that looked at the transition from athlete to coach among U.S. college football coaches.

“The opportunity to explore [an] under-researched topic that was of interest to colleagues and myself was intriguing,” he said.

Tracy’s study of literature on coaching career progression and development is the only one of its kind, Johnson said. Given the strength and significance of Tracy’s work, Johnson believes the thesis has great potential for publication. The work is currently being reviewed by the International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, a respected journal in the coaching field.

“The quality of work exhibited in Dan’s thesis was equal to that seen at the dissertation level,” Johnson wrote in his letter nominating Tracy for the award. “Any of his four research questions could have stood alone for thesis work, but Dan aspired to provide a wide-ranging analysis that could inform multiple audiences and be practically relevant.”

Tracy gives some credit to Johnson, who guided and mentored him throughout the process.

“Dr. Johnson was always there to challenge me when I wanted to take a shortcut in the process and was there to calm and refocus me when the project became overwhelming,” Tracy said. “I am grateful to him for his leadership, mentorship and friendship over the last three years.”

Tracy also said he feels fortunate for his experience at Ball State, from his work and interactions with Johnson to colleagues at Ball State and Muncie Central and the faith community he found at St. Francis of Assisi University Parish and Newman Center.

“I will forever cherish my two years in Muncie and would encourage all who have the privilege to pursue post-secondary education to consider Ball State,” he said.

Tracy graduated in May of 2016 and now serves as a campus missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.


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Grad student’s creativity, passion for teaching earns him Graduate Assistant of the Year award

Joshua Barkley, right, accepts the Graduate Student of the Year award for 2015-2016 from Nancy Prater, left, director of marketing and communications for Online and Distance Education.

Joshua Barkley, right, accepts the Graduate Student of the Year award for 2015-2016 from Nancy Prater, left, director of marketing and communications for Online and Distance Education.

Ball State University offers graduate assistantship positions for nearly 1,000 students on campus each year. And every year from that pool of students, one is chosen to receive the Graduate Assistant of the Year award. Joshua Barkley, this year’s winner, used his expertise and passion for plants as a teaching assistant to help students learn and retain information.

“It is truly an honor to win and I am proud to have been associated with such a wonderful university,” Barkley wrote in a post on LinkedIn about receiving the award. “I would also like to thank all those involved in surprising me with this award and bringing in my family to help celebrate.”

Barkley is now a landscape designer with GPD Group in Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from Ball State in May with a master’s in landscape architecture. During his three-year tenure as a teaching assistant in various plants classes, he left his mark not only on his students, peers and faculty, but his designs can also be found in the area. He had a hand in the design of the Yorktown gateway project that welcomes travelers exiting Interstate 69.

In the classroom, Barkley was well-liked by students and always eager to help, said Susan Tomizawa, the instructor in the department for whom Barkley worked. Barkley’s undergraduate studies in horticulture and design at Purdue University were a major asset to his students. He combined that in-depth knowledge with personal stories and anecdotes to help students make connections to the information.

“One trait that stands out is his ability to make learning interesting, and one in which I, myself, have taken lessons from,” Tomizawa wrote in her nominating letter.

Tomizawa said Barkley helped student identify plants using imagery, stories and associations.  

“I enjoy hearing students repeating, sometimes several months later, the techniques that Josh has used to help them remember large quantities of information,” Tomizawa wrote.

He lead hikes on campus and through nearby landscapes looking at trees, shrubs and perennials to teach students how to identify them by bark, leaf and bud. In the weeks leading up to finals — when the weather could produce cold, snow or freezing rain — he would accommodate requests for additional refresher hikes.

His dedication and professionalism inside the classroom and beyond made him an asset to the department. He took a difficult project in Fishers last year, approaching the challenge with patience and diligence, and has also encouraged other Purdue University students to consider a graduate degree at Ball State, said Jody Rosenblatt Naderi, director of the landscape architecture graduate program. Some have chosen to follow in Barkley’s footsteps and will begin their studies in the fall.

It’s clear from the praise Barkley received in several nominating letters, his presence has made an impact within his cohort of graduate students, the faculty with whom he has interacted and the students he instructed.

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Admissions specialist’s work with students fulfills dream of becoming a teacher


Graduate Admissions Specialist Linda Jones, right, poses for a photo with Robert Morris, acting vice president for Academic Affairs, after receiving a 2016 Meritorious Service Award for Academic Affairs.

At the Staff Recognition and Retirement Awards Program, Graduate Admissions Specialist Linda Jones began to wonder what was going on when she realized her son and many of her colleagues in the Department of Educational Psychology, including John Jacobson, dean of the Teachers College, were all in attendance.

She was still surprised though when Acting Vice President for Academic Affairs Robert Morris called her name to receive the 2016 Meritorious Service Awards for Academic Affairs. Jones was among five recipients of the award from various areas of the university.

“I fought back tears,” Jones remembered of that evening. “I felt truly blessed. We all work really hard, and we don’t necessarily expect a pat on the back.”

Jones said she always wanted to be a teacher, but her family couldn’t afford to send her to college. After a 30-year career with ADT Security Services, Jones started in the department with a part-time job that gradually turned into a full-time gig.

“It’s not teaching, but I am a teacher,” she said. “I’m a guide of sorts. I’ve fulfilled that dream, in a sense.”

Jones was nominated by one former student who she helped guide through the admissions process. Xiaopeng Gong—an alumnus of the Ph.D. Educational Psychology program who is now an assistant professor at Western Oregon University—wrote in her nominating letter that Jones cares for her students, both personally and professionally.

“Linda is family to us,” Xiaopeng wrote, “She is always there to help. She cares for us both personally and professionally, and is the one who always goes the extra mile.”

Seven years ago when Xiaopeng was still working in China, she called Ball State to check on the status of her application to the Educational Psychology graduate program. It was Jones who answered the phone and the one to deliver the devastating news that Xiaopeng’s application, which she spent two years preparing, had been delayed in arriving to the department and the deadline for application had passed.

But Jones tracked down the application and found that upon review, Xiaopeng qualified for admission to the department’s doctoral program, which was still enrolling students. Jones conferred with the program’s director and double-checked that Xiaopeng was interested in applying for a different program. Two weeks later, Xiaopeng was accepted and offered an assistantship.

“For Linda, this might be something that happens everyday,” Xiaopeng wrote in her letter. “But for me, this was a life changing moment. Who will care about a potential applicant who is thousands of miles away in a foreign land? Linda does. I would never be where am now without Linda being there, doing her job and caring.”

Over the years, Jones has made many connections to students like Xiaopeng, befriending and mentoring them throughout their time at Ball State and staying in touch even after they’ve graduated, she said.

“I love students,” Jones said. “That’s why I’m here.”

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Orientation speaker aims to encourage success among incoming graduate students

Wil_Davis speaking

Pictured is Wil Davis, CEO of Noble Why and interim president Ball State Innovation Connector, during a speaking engagement.

Ball State University Graduate School’s fall orientation is all about encouraging new professional and personal relationships and creating connections among students and potential mentors. This year’s speaker embodies that mission, leaving a successful company to better help people build relationships and foster connections.

Wil Davis  president, Ball State Innovation Connector has extensive experience in corporate leadership as the cofounder of Ontario Systems, a software company specializing in healthcare and other systems management and one of Muncie’s great success stories. Last year, the company was named Indiana’s top place to work by the state Chamber of Commerce, a tribute to the culture a leader like Davis can create.

But what Davis really loves is to encourage and nurture people, facilitating the building of relationships and communities around passion and purpose.

“That’s what I feel rewarded by,” he said.

He’s able to do that as the founder and CEO of Noble Why where he serves as a business consultant to improve company cultures. He found his way to Ontario Systems and his current position after feeling disappointed and unfulfilled with the work he was doing in his first couple jobs. But, he admits that those jobs weren’t a waste of time, and he wouldn’t be where he is today without them.

He’s bringing his experiences and message as the keynote speaker for Fall Orientation 2016. He hopes to help students articulate their own “Noble Why” to help guide them in life’s decisions.  

“I hope students are challenged to think about their lives from an intentional perspective, connecting their passions and personal purpose with their vocational and avocational lives,” Davis said.  “As students begin their graduate careers, our goal is to prepare them for a life of success in things that matter!”

To learn more about Davis, his full biography is available online. He’s also the author of a book about company culture.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to register for orientation. Wil Davis will be speaking at 1 p.m. in Pruis Hall.