Ball State Graduate School Blog

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

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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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