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Tireless efforts earn CICS director Graduate School Exemplary Recruiter Award

If you meet Steve Jones, director of the Center for Information and Communication Sciences, in line at the grocery, be careful—you might be recruited to the center’s graduate program. His spirit, hard work and abilities to cultivate relationships earned him recognition from the Graduate School as the recipient of an Exemplary Recruiter Award.

“Dr. Jones is a recruiting machine,” wrote College of Communication and Information Sciences Dean Roger M. Lavery in his letter nominating Jones for the award. “He has strong relationships with several feeder programs across campus, and he constantly recruits students in the hallways, at the pool, at his church…everywhere.”

Beyond the university and the Muncie community, Jones has made connections with feeder institutions across the states of Indiana and Michigan, making regular trips to maintain relationships with faculty at other colleges and universities and creating student pipelines to the CICS program through his efforts.

Jones’ commitment to students begins even before they apply and extends well beyond graduation. He serves as a professor, mentor, career counselor, some students’ best reference and has even officiated the wedding of a former student.

“Dr. Jones spends more time building and maintaining relationships with alumni and employers than any other person I know,” Lavery wrote.

Jones’ efforts have helped the CICS program improve the quality of its applicants and maintain a high placement rate of 95% for students, even before graduation, according to Lavery’s nominating letter.

“[Jones] devotes 10- to 12-hour weekdays in the office to accomplish the many achievements and maintain the relationships that keep CICS in the top-tier nationally of information systems graduate programs,” Lavery wrote. “I can think of no more suited for this prestigious award.”


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Ball State grad’s final project aims to improve lives of Chinese citizens through landscape architecture

Ball State University alumnus Chenyuan Gu was the winner of the 2015-2016 Outstanding Creative Project Award.

Ball State University alumnus Chenyuan Gu was the winner of the 2015-2016 Outstanding Creative Project Award.

Ball State University alumnus Chenyuan Gu opted to study more than 6,000 miles from his home—a small island near Shanghai, China—but he was able to connect his final project in the Master of Landscape Architecture program back to the region where he’s from.

Chen’s creative project, aimed at improving the lives of Xiamen Village residents through ecotourism, was the recipient of Outstanding Creative Project for the 2015-2016 school year.

Chen targeted Xiamen Village, located near the Tea Valley National Park in Zhoushan Island, because some basic facilities of the park are located in the village–a visitors’ center, parking and a restaurant.

“So every time I went to the park, I would come by the village. And I mainly [talked] to people in charge of the National Park for the whole project,” he wrote in an email.

Chen is part of a younger generation of Chinese experiencing rapid urbanization of many areas of the country, he said. He wanted to use his education as a landscape architecture student to bring a healthy, active and eco-friendly lifestyle to those residents—mostly elderly and children—who remain in rural areas, in the hopes of reducing loneliness and isolation.

This examination of issues related to urbanization could have a strong impact in the field, said Simon Bussiere, Chen’s advisor on the project and a former professor in the program.


“Chen is a wonderful student, and his work is a critical contribution to the field, particularly in light of the ecological and cultural impacts China is facing due to rapid urbanization and subsequent development pressures,” he said in an email.

Chen’s project specifically introduces ecotourism to an area of Tea Valley National Park. The goal was to create sustainable economic development in a way that conserves the natural environment and cultural heritage of the area. Chen also involved local residents, communities and other stakeholders in developing the ecotourism process.

But the most important aspect Chen learned from the project was not related to the village or ecotourism–it was the process for conducting research. Not only were his advisor and advisory committee members helpful, but also his classmates and Geri Strecker, an assistant professor in the College of Architecture and Planning, who assisted Chen with his writing.

“Writing such a long paper would be my biggest challenge as an international student,” Chen said. “So I am very happy that CAP [has] Geri to help students with their writing. In my last semester, I would talk to Geri [about] my project every week and figure out which is the best way to express my idea.”

Chen said he has also improved his English-speaking abilities throughout his time at Ball State. He will take these skills, paired with his Ball State graduate education, as he continues his education at Harvard University’s School of Design.

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


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.”


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.”


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.”