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Educational psychology professor leads department toward success in recruiting

Jerrell Cassady, the 2015-2016 Excellence in Recruiting Award winner, shares recruiting insights during a fall training session.

Jerrell Cassady, the 2015-2016 Excellence in Recruiting Award winner, shares recruiting insights during a fall training session.

It’s important for us at the Graduate School to recognize excellence, but even more important is to share knowledge and support within the university community. So each year, when we give a program director in the Graduate Enrollment Management (GEM) program the Excellence in Recruiting Award, or GEMMY Award as we call it, we also ask the winner to share insights in a training for other leaders in the GEM program.

The 2015-2016 winner Jerrell Cassady, who oversees two masters and one Ph.D. program in the Department of Educational Psychology, was nominated for not only the breadth of his recruiting, but also for the innovative ways in which he used recruiting best practices.

“The most notable aspect of Jerrell’s efforts as a recruiter is that he is not just active, but proactive, in every possible avenue for attracting students to our programs,” wrote Sharon Paulson, chairperson of the Department of Educational Psychology and a professor of psychology, in her nomination of Cassady for the award.

During the training earlier this year, Cassady illustrated his proactive efforts, particularly with changing one of the master’s programs into an entirely online program. Cassady anticipated a drop in enrollment in the department’s master of arts program in educational psychology due to changes at the state level related to teacher pay scales and advanced degrees. To remain solvent, Cassady knew the program would have to make some changes to attract new students. But many of the students in this new audience were choosing other programs over Ball State.

“If you can’t beat the competition, change the game,” he said.

The answer, Cassady found, was to change the program’s delivery mode, a move that proved to be beneficial.

“We wouldn’t have survived otherwise, because we weren’t accessible,” Cassady said.

But Cassady emphasized that he doesn’t work alone. He often calls on experts from across the university, including those who work in the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and the Division of Strategic Communications, to assist with marketing materials, messaging and data to drive decisions. He also credits his colleagues in the department, including 2016 Meritorious Service Award-winner Linda Jones, with providing care and support to students from even before they apply all the way through graduation.

Cassady shows that it’s not only about the tools within reach, but how and when those tools are applied that can make a difference in providing an experience that prospective students want to be a part of.


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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.”