2023 Immersive Learning Faculty Awards

2023 Immersive Learning Faculty Award Winners

Ball State University's Offices of the Provost, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, and Immersive Learning are pleased to announce the 2023 Immersive Learning Faculty Awards. 

These awards recognize demonstrated excellence in creating, mentoring, and implementing immersive learning courses. This event celebrates not just our award winners but every individual involved in community-engaged, high-impact activities. We appreciate all that our faculty, students, and staff do to promote immersive learning on our campus and in the community.

This year's immersive learning awards celebrate some of Ball State's most impactful projects taking place in the fall 2021, spring 2023, or summer 2022 semesters. The Office of Immersive Learning received twelve exceptional nominations this spring, and many of the nominees had to overcome restrictions, uncertainty, and disruptions due to the COVID Pandemic. Despite the many challenges, these instructors produced exceptional results with their students and community partners.

Awardees received an $1,000 honorarium, a trophy, and were honored at the 2023 Immersive Learning Showcase held live in Cardinal Hall on May 2, 2023. We extend a special thank you to past award recipients who served on our review committee: Kathryn Ludwig, Chris Baas, and Tom McConnell.

Fine Focus

Faculty: John McKillip (Biology)

Community Partner: Small World Initiative

A professor in a labcoat (John McKillip) talks in front of students.Students in John's ongoing Immersive Learning course produce a web and print journal cleverly called, Fine Focus, dedicated to showcasing the research of undergraduate students, internationally, in all fields of microbiology. Fine Focus is managed entirely by undergraduate students from production to print. With several community partners around the globe, students in this course work to address two major issues in microbiology: increasing diversity in STEM and the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. The class is divided into two teams. The Review Team learns firsthand about the process of scientific writing, double-blind peer review in the sciences, and the professional communications that take place among invited reviewers, corresponding authors, and community partners during manuscript management. The Marketing Team is comprised of (usually) non-STEM students who design, market, and promote the journal in creative ways. Fine Focus provides a destination for students and their mentors to possibly become published authors from work performed as undergraduates, while learning about the publishing process at the same time, and; secondly, this work in antibiotic discovery addresses the global crisis of multi-drug-resistant bacterial pathogens for which there are no effective antibiotics to treat these infections. John’s role, for 10 years now, according to his nominator, has been “Speaking with authority and listening with humility, Dr. McKillip equips students to become better informed about the importance of collaborative science and responsible research practices, provides them with the necessary tools to develop competencies needed, and offers them nurturing mentorship that promotes acquisition of skills for professions beyond science.”

Match Point 2.0: The Rise of HBCU Men’s Volleyball

Faculty: Adam Kuban & Jennifer Palilonis (Journalism and Strategic Communication)

Community Partners: First Point Volleyball Foundation, USA Volleyball

Behind the scenes of a video interviewThis project strategically chronicled the development and inaugural season of men’s volleyball programs at 6 HBCUs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. This sports-centered opportunity involved 10 undergraduates from the School of Journalism & Strategic Communication and the Department of Media and 4 graduate students from the Emerging Media Design & Development program. These cohorts worked in tandem, under the astute guidance of their faculty mentors, where the graduate students organized a comprehensive transmedia campaign around original content primarily produced by the undergraduates, including a 30-minute documentary, 8 podcast episodes, and 10 feature stories for a related blog. The social-media campaign around Match Point has achieved more than 1 million impressions, and the documentary alone has been viewed more than 1,500 times across 3 platforms.

Specifically, this Match Point 2.0 project strategically chronicled the development and inaugural season of men’s volleyball programs at 6 HBCUs in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference: Central State University (Ohio), Fort Valley State University (Georgia), Kentucky State University, Morehouse College (Georgia), Paine College (Georgia), and Benedict College (South Carolina).

The advent of men’s volleyball programs at these HBCUs equated to the most significant growth of the sport in the past 50 years, according to the NCAA.  Funded by USA Volleyball ($400,000) and by FPVF ($600,000), these 6 new athletic programs awarded scholarship opportunities to many players of color, bringing underrepresented communities into a historically white, affluent sport.

Beyond an introduction to and an examination into the importance of HBCUs, those enrolled in this 3credit-hour course had the following SLOs:

  • Identify key terminology and game strategy associated with a specific sport, which are important for aspiring journalists and sports reporters
  • Apply and improve your knowledge and multimedia skills associated with documentary storytelling strategies
  • Define and explain how (transmedia) storytelling campaigns can help (nonprofit) organizations build their brands and contribute to fan motivation and recruitment campaign efforts.

Related to these SLOs, students faced a number of challenges that tested and honed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills, including but not limited to:

  • How to conduct interviews with sensitivity toward the challenges associated with playing a sport as a minority
  • How to determine which story arc(s) comprised the eventual documentary
  • How to present those arc(s) in a way that informed but not overwhelmed the viewers;How to compromise and negotiate with each other re: subjective production elements such as choice of visuals, music selections, presence/absence of narration.

Graduate students involved in the project learned to apply design thinking and user experience design to create a transmedia campaign intended to engage audiences and promote a core story tent pole (the documentary), as well as extend storytelling across multiple platforms.

Promoting Inclusive Excellence Through Urban Design: Case Study Nora Community, Indiana

Faculty: Dorna Eshrati (Architecture)

Community Partner: Nora Alliance

Dorna Eshrati standing outsideThe LA 403: Immersive Learning Urban Design Studio involved fifth-year Landscape Architecture students in hands-on experience in inclusive urban design - including but beyond universal design – by working with the Nora Alliance to propose urban design solutions for Nora, a neighborhood in north Indianapolis, Indiana. In the Fall of 2021, students, faculty, and community partner collaborated to gain an in-depth understanding of factors shaping inclusive urban design. Selected sites within the neighborhood were carefully analyzed to capture existing strengths and barriers to inclusivity and identify potential design alternatives to create multifaceted inclusive urban spaces. The project investigated ways to enhance social and environmental justice by proposing a comprehensive master plan, designing Nora’s urban spaces, and engaging Nora’s community in finding strategies to create an inclusive urban environment.

The project investigated these questions in Nora:

  • What were the physical, social, cultural, and political opportunities and barriers to using the selected site?
  • What were the characteristics of inclusive urban spaces in Nora?
  • What were the design solutions for such inclusive urban spaces?
  • How could we engage the community in the stewardship of the selected case of study and promote social and environmental justice?

The project resulted in the following deliverables:

  • A proposed inclusive master plan for Nora
  • Guidebooks for inclusive urban design that contained best practices in inclusive urban design and specific recommendations for the selected case studies;
  • An in-person community forum with the target community to understand the importance of their role in shaping the future of their urban living environments.

Over the analysis and design process, students were exposed to real-world urban design problems where they could apply their acquired knowledge from the classroom and compose a series of solutions to address the needs of Nora’s urban spaces. By learning to analyze and combine all the interconnected elements such as buildings, streets, public spaces, landscapes, neighborhoods, and all other in-between spaces, LA 403 students were able to holistically approach each project to create a more human-centered design which emphasized the well-being of the users within.

In addition, students learned verbal and visual communication skills to collaborate with community members in a real-world context. The community partner and members provided the students with the necessary information regarding the existing condition of the site and the needs of the community. The community gave students real-world feedback on the design alternatives to select the most feasible ones. Community-oriented design explorations also allowed students to embrace a collaborative spirit, strong work ethic, applied research design, careful attention to detail, service to the community, and best urban design practices toward achieving quality design, economic viability, equitable procedures, and community livability that are necessities in any real-world designs that they will be doing as professional designers.

Sustainability Stories

Faculty: Adam Berland (Geography and Meteorology) & Adam Kuban (Journalism and Strategic Communication)

Community Partners: Muncie Action Plan, Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, IUPUI Office of Sustainability

Behind the scenes of someone taking a group photoSustainability Stories is an interdisciplinary, immersive learning collaboration across Ball State’s College of Sciences and Humanities and College of Communication, Information, and Media. Students in this course have launched a website with media and mapping to promote awareness and networking of sustainable practices in Indiana among the business, nonprofit, and government sectors. As co-directors of Sustainability Stories, Drs. Berland and Kuban have poured energy and extensive planning across colleges and institutions into making this project successful and spread from a local project to a state-wide initiative. Moreover, the assignments they craft ask students to produce artifacts in the course that they can use in their respective professional portfolios, helping them become stronger job candidates upon graduation.

The site is centered on an interactive map of Indiana that visitors can browse by geography or sustainability topic (e.g., water quality, energy), and then link to multi-platform stories containing original media content about each organization including key takeaways, a feature story, and photo collage. Stories were developed in Fall 2021 and again in Fall 2022 by Dr. Kuban’s students in Advanced Writing and Reporting (JOUR 413). The prototype for the website and interactive map were developed by Dr. Berland’s students in Geographic Information System Design (GEOG 448).

Sustainability Stories began as a partnership with Muncie Action Plan Task Force 5: Managing Community Resources. During the 2021-22 academic year, we broadened our reach beyond Delaware County with the goal of producing a long-term project that would be a statewide resource for practitioners in the sustainability sector, educators, legislators, and the general public. To this end, we developed community partnerships with the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute and the IUPUI Office of Sustainability. We are leveraging the established statewide community presence of both of these entities to build the project into the future.

Immersive Learning Faculty Award Past Winners

Christopher Baas and Jeremy Merrill, Department of Landscape Architecture and J.P. Hall, Department of Architecture
Project:  Halteman Park
Community Partners:  Halteman Village Neighborhood Association, City of Muncie, Muncie Parks Department

Barbara Giorgio-Booher, School of Art and Tom McConnell, Department of Biology
Project:  Conservation Tales
Community Partners:  Rinard Orchid Greenhouse, BSU Stream Ecology Lab, Indianapolis Zoo

Kathryn Ludwig
and Andrea Wolfe, Department of English
Project:  Midwestern Stories
Community Partner:  Minnetrista Museum and Gardens

Sanglim Yoo, Department of Urban Planning
Project:  Brightfields for a Brighter:  Solar Potential Analysis for the City of Muncie
Community Partner:  Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter

Jill Christman, Department of English
Project:  Indelible: Campus Sexual Violence Project
Community Partners:  The Facing Project, Jana’s Campaign, Lantigua Williams and Co. 

Peggy Fisher, Department of Communication Studies
Project:  Preserving the Past and Looking Toward the Future: Historic Preservation and Digital  Storytelling for a Muncie Landmark Church
Community Partner:  St. Mary Catholic Church 

Darolyn “Lyn” Jones, Department of English
Project:  Sitting at the Feet of our Muncie Elders: Stories of Resistance and Resiliency
Community Partners:  Delaware County Senior Center, Westminister, and Whitely Community Council

Sarah Vitale, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Project:  Philosophy Outreach Project (POP)
Community Partner:  Muncie Community Schools 

Special Recognition was given to:
Jill Christman, Mark Neely, and Todd McKinney, Department of English
Project:  River Teeth Learning Lab
Community Partner:  River Teeth: A Journal of Narrative Nonfiction, University of New Mexico Press

Carolyn Dowling and Jessi Haeft, Department of Environment, Geology, and Natural Resources
Project:  Lead (Pb) in Muncie and Delaware County
Community Partner:  United Way of Delaware County

Dave Largent, Department of Computer Science
Project:  Computer Science for Middle Schoolers +
Community Partners:  Northside Middle School, Daleville Junior/Senior High School, Burris 
Laboratory School, Northside Middle School, Muncie Central High School 

Jennifer Palilonis, School of Journalism and Strategic Communication
Project:  David Letterman Learning Experience
Community Partner:  Ball State University Office of the President, David Letterman 

Mary Annette Rose, Department of Educational Studies
Project:  Measuring and Reporting for Sustainability
Community Partners:  Ball State University, Center for Energy Research Education Services

Elizabeth Agnew, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Project: Muslims in Muncie
Community Partner: Islamic Center of Muncie

Stacey Allred, Department of Elementary Education
Project: Summer Learning Fun at Camp Adventure
Community Partners: Muncie Community Schools, Camp Adventure, Burris Laboratory Schools, Yorktown Community Schools, Wes-Del Elementary School

Kate Elliott, School of Journalism and Strategic Communication
Project: Harvesting Hope: A Yearlong Food Storytelling Project
Community Partner: Second Harvest Food Bank

Josh Gruver, Department of Environment, Geology, and Natural Resources
Project: Reimagining Local and Sustainable Food Systems: Muncie Food Hub Partnership and Mobile Market Development
Community Partners: Muncie Food Hub, Urban Garden Coalition, Ball State Student Farm, Edible Muncie

Pamela Harwood, Department of Architecture
Project: Maring-Hunt Community Garden Nature Play Pockets and Pavilions
Community Partners: Maring-Hunt Library, Thomas Park/Avondale Neighborhood Association

Elizabeth Bell, Department of Modern Languages and Classics
Project:  Bilingual Short Stories in Muncie City Schools
Community Partner:  Muncie City Schools

Beth Messner, Department of Communication Studies
Project:  Freedom Bus:  Celebrating East Central Indiana’s Civil Rights History
Community Partners:  Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Team; City of Muncie and Muncie Human Rights Commission, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Ball State University

Jennifer Palilonis, School of Journalism and Strategic Communication 
Project:  Blue Roots Project
Community Partners:  Circle of Blue, Project WET Foundation, Watershed

Rona Robinson-Hill
, Department of Biology
Project:  We Can Do Science
Community Partner:  Apple Tree Learning and Development Center

Tim Gray, Department of Architecture
Project:  GrOwING Green
Community Partner:  Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University

Pamela Harwood
, Department of Architecture
Project:  Head Start Nature Play
Community Partners:  Head Start of Muncie, Transition Resource Corporation

Terry Heifetz
, Department of Media, and Julie Metzger, School of Journalism and Strategic Communication 
Project:  Unmasked:  The Stigma of Meth
Community Partner:  Ball Brothers Foundation

Fred Kitchens, Department of Information Systems and Operations Management
Project:  Computer Information Systems Capstone Project
Community Partners:  Gatorade, Terrance A. Smith Distributing (Budweiser), Indianapolis International Airport, MasterBrand Cabinets

Janet Fick, Department of Construction Management and Interior Design
Project:  Rehabilitating Existing Houses for Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity
Community Partner:  Greater Muncie Habitat for Humanity

Lee Florea, Department of Environment, Geology, and Natural Resources and Adam Kuban, School of Journalism and Strategic Communication
Project:  Water Quality within the Upper Mississinewa River
Community Partners:  Flat Land Resources, Delaware County Soil and Water Conservation District, Red Tail Land Conservancy

John Pichtel, Department of Environment, Geology, and Natural Resources
Project:  Conversion of a Former Auto Salvage Yard to a Community Green Space
Community Partner:  City of Muncie

Andrea Wolfe
, Department of English
Project:  Down to Earth:  Small Farm Issues in a Big Farm World
Community Partners:  Becker Farms, Living Lightly Fair 

Ruth Jefferson, Department of Special Education
Project:  High Riding Art and Equestrian Day Camp
Community Partner:  Blackford County Community Foundation

Rai Peterson, Department of English and Russ Wahlers, Department of Marketing
Project:  Magic that Works: Marketing the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library
Community Partner:  The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Jonathan Spodek, Department of Architecture
Project:  EcoRehab Design-Build Studio
Community Partner:  ecoREHAB of Muncie, Inc.

Beth Turcotte, Department of Theatre and Dance
Project:  The Circus in Winter
Community Partners:  Big Brothers Big Sisters of Delaware County, Drury Lane Theater

Patricia Clark, Susan Tancock, Eva Zygmunt, Department of Elementary Education; Winnie Mucherah, Department of Educational Psychology; and Jon Clausen, Department of Educational Studies
Project:  Schools Within the Context of Community
Community Partners:  Buley Community Center, Longfellow Elementary School, Huffer Mem. Children's Center, United Way of Delaware County

Dave Concepcion, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Project:  Stance:  International Undergraduate Philosophy Journal
Community Partners:  EBSCO Host and Philosopher's Index 

Michael Daehn, Department of Theatre and Dance; Amy Hourigan and Ryan Hourigan, School of  Music
Project:  The Prism Project
Community Partners:  Interlock: The East Central Indiana Autism Society of America

Chris Flook, Department of Media
Project:  Stories and Legends:  Historic Preservation in Muncie
Community Partner:  Muncie Community Development

Juli Thorson, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Project:  Making Ideas Visible
Community Partner:  Gallery 308

Have Questions?

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