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Urban Planning staff member earns Graduate School Exemplary Recruiter Award

Christine Rhine, administrative coordinator for Urban Planning, receives her award from Deb Mix, acting associate dean of the Graduate School and professor of English.

Urban Planning Administrative Coordinator Christine Rhine doesn’t just meet the needs of the students she encounters in her position, she works hard to anticipate their needs as well. Her work is instrumental in guiding students to the program, and her work earned her the Ball State University Graduate School’s Exemplary Recruiting Award.

“I was shocked when I realized Dr. [Carolyn] Kapinus was talking about me!” Rhine said, thinking back to the award ceremony when Kapinus, Interim Associate Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, read aloud the nomination. “I hadn’t suspected a thing when Dr. [Eric] Kelly asked me to accompany him to the presentations.”

To stay a step ahead, Rhine uses her empathy and understanding for students, putting together materials that address potential questions and objections before they become obstacles to a student entering the program.

“I noticed early on that many people don’t know what urban planners do, so I put together a PDF of stories about some of our graduates. This gives incoming students a chance to picture themselves in a variety of planning-related careers and helps them determine if it’s the right degree for them,” Rhine said. “I’ve tried to imagine what it would be like to live on the other side of the world and be applying to attend school here. I have so much respect for students who make such a commitment, so I really try to think ahead to what they need and how I can help.”

Ensuring a knowledge and understanding of what the Urban Planning program has to offer was not the only way Rhine connected with prospective students. Her creativity and willingness to step outside of the box prompted the creation of a new process of writing open letters to newcomers. The letters present a friendly face to newly enrolled students and answer some of their questions from a current student’s point of view.

And others in the program take notice of her Rhine’s efforts. Lohren Ray Deeg, an associate professor of Urban Planning said Rhine prints the word “Welcome” in students’ native languages to hang on the door, visits students who are sick and helps international students feel a sense of community.

“Christine makes every student feel welcome to the department, exhaustively,” said Lohren Ray Deeg, associate professor of Urban Planning. “Christine is the epitomé of hospitality, service and care to our student body, and not only serves the department with distinction, but is a living testament of what service is. Our student and recent alumni agree that Christine’s heart is what makes the Department of Urban Planning a special place in theirs.”

Rhine’s background in news reporting, empathetic nature, and strategic communication techniques create an enjoyable and memorable experience for how prospective students remember and feel about not only the program, but the university culture as well.

“A couple of years ago I met several urban planning students at a Graduate School event who indicated that Christine was instrumental in their decision to attend Ball State University,” Kapinus said. “Christine demonstrates the importance of the work administrative coordinators do in furthering the mission of our university.”

Although Christine admits that “taking care with every email communication to address each person by name is very helpful in setting the tone” when communicating with prospective students, she didn’t realize until the award how much the small things she does in her job everyday impact students.

“Who knew that adding an exclamation point here and a smiley face there could make a notable difference for students looking for support within the university climate?”

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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Admissions specialist’s work with students fulfills dream of becoming a teacher

LindaJones

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.”