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New Award Recognizes Outstanding Graduate Faculty

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Graduate Faculty Mentor Award winner Dr. Kristin Perrone-McGovern (right) was honored with a plaque at The Graduate School’s spring award ceremony.

In the Graduate School, students are at the heart of our mission to provide an atmosphere that fosters scholarship, creativity, intellectual freedom, interdisciplinary study, student-faculty collaboration and integrity within a diverse climate of teachers and learners. The way students learn, grow and experience graduate study is largely influenced by the mentors who walk alongside them during their journey.

With this in mind, two of the Graduate School’s Graduate Recruiting Ambassadors, George Hickman and Robert Young developed the Graduate Faculty Mentor Award.

“I was approached by George first to help him with putting the award together,” Young said. “I thought it was a great idea, recognizing a graduate student mentor. In my own experience, so many professors have reached out to help me, and I know that experience has to be the same for many other departments on campus. We received many nominees for the award—more than I expected for the inaugural year. It really just shows how great Ball State’s teachers are and the important role they play in graduate students’ lives.”

The duo created the Faculty Mentor Award to honor outstanding graduate faculty mentors who are devoted and available for students and who assist their mentees in defining and achieving their own pathways to success. The winner of the award in its first year is Dr. Kristin Perrone-McGovern, a professor in the Department of Counseling Psychology and Guidance Services.

“Dr. McGovern has been essential in helping me to progress in my doctoral studies, encouraging me and supporting me in pursuit of professional activities that will further my career goals,” said Julie Matsen, who nominated McGovern for the award. “I look to her as a model of success in furthering applied neuroscience methodologies in the field of counseling psychology.”

Sharon Bowman, chair of Department of Counseling Psychology said, McGovern is, hands down, the best mentor and “encourager” among her faculty. McGovern’s former students are “shining examples” of her mentorship and instruction—as academics or clinical practitioners, their work with students and clients reflects the mentoring McGovern provided, Bowman said.

This award represents more than recognition of the guidance provided by Ball State faculty; it’s also a tribute to one of the Graduate School’s tenets to take students’ passions seriously. Students who feel supported and encouraged by dedicated faculty gives them the confidence to pursue their passions and grow, both professionally and personally.

Many strong candidates

We received so many strong nominations for the Graduate Faculty Mentor Award in its inaugural year that we’d like to recognize the following finalists:

We appreciate all graduate faculty for continuing to make connections, build relationships and challenge students in their programs.

This post was written by Ciara Johnson, a second-year graduate student at the Center for Emerging Media Design and Development and a former graduate assistant at the Graduate School.

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Professor’s Kenyan ties provide cross-cultural research opportunities for Ball State students, faculty

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Students in Shivembe, Kenya, rejoice after receiving school supplies collected by Ball State University students and faculty in the Educational Psychology department.

As Ball State University students passed around packages to school children, Wilfridah Mucherah, Ph.D., saw tears in many of the students’ eyesa sharp contrast to the school children’s excitement, exhibited by bright eyes and wide, toothy smiles. It’s hard for those of us in the states to imagine kids in elementary and middle school jumping up and down, rejoicing about receiving a school uniform. But for these Kenyan children, school uniforms make all the difference in whether or not they can receive an education.

Mucherah, a professor of developmental psychology in the Educational Psychology department, was born in Shivembe, Kenya, a small village in the northwest part of the East African country. In 2000, she returned to the village to visit family, as she does annually, taking along her two young sons. She visited the village’s primary school not far from her childhood home with her 3-year-old son in tow.

“He got so excited because most of the kids were barefoot, so he took off his shoes,” Mucherah remembered. “He thought it was so fun, because he thought it was by choice, right.”

She noticed that some children remained in the village during the day, not making the 30-minute trek to school. She suspected, and confirmed with the school’s headmaster, it was because these families couldn’t afford school uniforms, a requirement to attend school in Kenya. When she returned home, she spoke with her husband about providing uniforms for the children most in need. She asked her mom to identify the children who cannot afford uniforms, not realizing the final count would total 20. Although she and her husband could not provide for all, they purchased 12 uniforms that year.

“I was so proud of what we had done,” she said. “It was such a big deal, and everyone was talking about it in the village. We are like stars, right. And it was good to see those 12 kids go to school.”

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Ball State University professor Wilfridah Mucherah, Ph.D. hands a pencil and a pen to a child at a primary school in Shivembe, Kenya.

What began as a donation of 12 uniforms by Mucherah and her husband has evolved into a cause embraced by the entire Department of Educational Psychology. Faculty, staff and students have rallied behind Mucherah, her native village and the primary school to deliver uniforms, desks and other school supplies, painkillers and more. Students formed a group called DESK, Delivering Education Supplies to Kenya, to help collect donations for the cause. Last year, the groupwith the help of matching funds faculty within the departmentcollected $4,000 to deliver more than 250 uniforms to students in both primary and secondary schools in Kenya.

A discussion in 2006 about how the department could become more engaged sparked the idea to collaborate with universities in the area. Mucherah wrote to two universitiesMoi University in Eldoret and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology in Kakamegaand both agreed to the partnership.The agreement, signed officially in 2007, prioritizes student and faculty exchange, research collaboration and capacity building. Since then, only two groups of students took immersive learning trips because of student travel bans to the country, but faculty are still allowed to travel to Kenya.

Last summer eight Ball State faculty visited the area, providing research workshops for both universities in an effort to increase the number of doctorate degrees. Students and faculty from Moi and MMUST have also visited and attended Ball State, and Mucherah has conducted research, published and presented at conferences in partnership with Kenyan faculty. Department Chair Sharon Paulson said the cross-cultural research has enhanced literature in the field.

The benefits of the partnership extend beyond academics, Paulson said. The collaborations with the schools in Kenya have provided a better understanding of cultural diversity and enriched teaching within the department, she said.

“Such relationships are hard to build without a personal foundation,” Paulson said. “[Mucherah] opened the door to countless opportunities for both students and faculty.”

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Primary students at a school in Shivembe, Kenya, show off school supplies they received as part of an ongoing partnership with Ball State University.

The collaboration has continued to grow, beyond the department. The most-recent visit involved faculty from Telecommunications and Unified Communications to assist the universities with communication and technology. But Mucherah said that the program’s start within the Educational Psychology Department has been key to its success.

“The department has just rallied. The students are excited about it,” she said. “It is a very healthy program.”


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Meet Nick, an Anthropology professor with a green thumb

Ball State’s graduate students aren’t the only ones who engage in high-impact learning experiences. Today, we are pleased to introduce you to Nick Kawa, an environmental anthropologist and a graduate faculty member in the Department of Anthropology. Originally from Batavia, IL, Nick earned his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Florida and has been teaching at Ball State for three years. Last summer, he helped to organize a collaborative project between community members and students to transform an empty lot into a thriving community garden.

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

On his role in creating the HUB Community Garden: 

“Over the past year, I have been involved with the HUB Community Garden in downtown Muncie. It’s a collaborative effort involving Ball State students, local business owner Hans Heintzelman, and a number of community members, including retired preacher Charlie Mason. The project began with the simple goal of converting an empty lot owned by Hans into a community garden. I helped put Hans in contact with students from the Landscape Architecture program last winter and together they began to design a site plan. Once the design was completed, we received donations of mulch, soil, and raised planter beds for the garden. This spring we broke ground, installing the planters as well as stone pathways on one end of the site. On the other end of the site, Hans had a granite bench installed that memorialized his nephew who passed away in a car accident. I was also able to acquire paint from the Muncie Sanitary District and together we spent an afternoon putting up a mural, which was a fun activity that brought the group together.”

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Photo credit: Hans Heintzelman

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Photo Credit: Hans Heintzelman

On the significance of the HUB: 

“One of the things that Hans emphasized was that he wanted the garden to be a “hub” or focal point for other projects that are dedicated to revitalizing downtown Muncie. For that reason, students laid a circular brick patio at the center of the site that symbolizes “the hub” and serves as a meeting space. The garden was inaugurated this June and since then we have hosted several events, including a barbecue with live music for the Downtown Art Walk. We also had a successful first summer of gardening, producing lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, greens, and herbs. We hope that this space can continue to grow and serve as model for similar initiatives in the city. Right now, Hans and I are in contact with the city of Muncie to see if we can expand the project to an empty lot a few blocks away where we hope to work with BSU students to design another community garden and pocket park.”

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Photo credit: Christine Johnson

On the ways this experience has shaped his teaching:

“It has been a real pleasure to be involved with this project and I am hoping to get more anthropology students involved in it in the future. Right now I have a group of students in my course ‘Ecological Dimensions of Culture’ that are identifying other empty lots that may be converted into gardens and green space. More than just beautifying downtown, we want to think about how we can create meaningful social spaces in the city. A lot of post-industrial cities like Muncie are looking to re-invent themselves and I think anthropologists can play a valuable role in that process.”

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Photo credit: Hans Heintzelman

On the Department of Anthropology:

“We want our graduate students to gain practical knowledge and skills that will help them develop meaningful careers. In the Applied Anthropology Laboratories, our Master’s students have been actively involved in a number of contracts and grants, especially in the field of archaeology. Currently, we are also working to develop more research projects in Muncie to attract cultural anthropologists with interests in community development, environmental conservation, and urban renewal.  Since our graduate program is relatively small, our Master’s students get a lot of attention from faculty. They also develop a real sense of camaraderie among themselves, which I think makes the program special.”

His advice to incoming students:

“Get to know your peers and faculty. Take advantage of the resources and opportunities that are available here on campus. Get involved in research at the local level. And develop a broad network of contacts. All of these things will help you make the most of your experience at Ball State.”

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

Photo credit: Nick Kawa

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Nick!
If you’d like to learn more about Ball State University’s Master of Arts program in Anthropology, visit the department’s website or contact the graduate program director, Jennifer Erickson.
To read Nick’s work or watch his academic presentations, visit his website