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.”