Topics: Emerging Media, Alumni, College of Communication Information and Media, Administrative

December 3, 2008

A major investment in emerging media by Ball State University promises to provide critically needed human capital and foster economic development across the state and region.

The new $17.7 million Emerging Media Initiative (EMI) was unveiled by President Jo Ann M. Gora close on the heels of an announcement that Ball State also is launching a distinguished speaker and workshop series named in honor of its most prominent alumnus, CBS "Late Show" host David Letterman. The series will provide students regular, direct engagement with communications and emerging media leaders of national stature. Among those on tap for the program are legendary newsman Ted Koppel and "The Art of Innovation" author Tom Kelley.

Already Ball State programs in telecommunications, architecture and other disciplines, as well as pioneering ventures such as the Center for Media Design, enjoy broad recognition as leaders in emerging media applications. This latest commitment of resources will focus and accelerate the university's expertise in this important and growing sector of the Indiana economy.

"Web 2.0 applications and related Internet-based communication and entertainment innovations are growing dynamically, spawning new businesses and media products," said Jim Jay, president and chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based TechPoint. "Having a leading university lend a robust research capability to the sector, with an eye toward putting the results into the marketplace as soon as possible, is a great opportunity for Indiana. Ball State is a true asset in this effort."

Not a minute to lose

"A decade ago, Google wasn't even a blip on the business radar, let alone an Internet icon and a new verb in our vocabulary," observed Gora. "Five years ago, YouTube had yet to distribute its first video. And even a year ago, if we were talking about a Surface, you would have thought we were talking about the kitchen counter instead of a breakthrough user interface.

"At the rate of change we're experiencing today, 'keeping pace' is falling behind. We don't want to just help manage the changing economic landscape or merely to try to anticipate that change. We want to create it, and with this investment, we are focusing our historic strengths in emerging media on addressing the human capital and economic needs of the state. The impact should be felt in business, communications, education, public and social services, health and medicine, and many other fields."

EMI plans to invest $17.7 million in institutional and new private resources during the next five years in four components: leadership and sustainability, faculty and research, student opportunities, and engagement and economic development.

Leadership and sustainability

The initiative will be led by Dave Ferguson, newly appointed associate vice president for emerging media. Ferguson also is the director of the Center for Media Design (CMD), funded by two $20 million grants from Lilly Endowment Inc. CMD is widely recognized for leadership in applied research, interdisciplinary projects in digital media design, digital content development and media use research.

Faculty and research

EMI will emphasize emerging media in attracting and retaining faculty across the university.  Included will be the establishment of an Emerging Media Faculty Fellows program, through which the university will provide incentives and start-up funding for the hiring of new faculty —across the curriculum — with expertise in the study and use of emerging media.

One of the first Emerging Media Faculty Fellows is Mahesh Senagala. As Ball State's newly appointed Irving distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Architecture, Senagala is working at the forefront of understanding emerging media's impact on architecture. His work redefines the role of media in design, professional practice, education and construction by investigating the rapidly changing relationships between digital technologies, architecture, cities and globalization. Recognized worldwide as an emerging media leader in his field, Senagala serves as president of the Association for Computer Aided Design in Architecture (ACADIA).

The initiative will add a research faculty member and laboratory — Ball State's first — that focuses on the relationship between emerging media and learning. An additional hire and laboratory is anticipated each of the following four years.

Student opportunities

In addition, EMI will encourage and enable more student involvement in emerging media, starting with establishment of a new scholarship: the Randy Pond Emerging Media Scholars program to recruit talented students.

Pond, a 1977 graduate of Ball State, is executive vice president of operations for Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif. His recent $1 million gift to Ball State Bold, the university's latest and largest capital campaign, will underwrite the new scholarships.

At the same time, additional funds will be dedicated to help strengthen the university's award-winning student Digital Corps — Indiana's only Apple-certified training team. EMI will promote student and faculty innovation by funding interdisciplinary and entrepreneurial projects with potential for commercialization opportunities.

Engagement and economic development

EMI has established a national advisory board. The board will bring together top names in the emerging media sector to analyze trends and developments, consult on curriculum, and advise on commercialization opportunities. It is comprised of Randy Pond; Dale Herigstad, chief creative officer of Schematic TV; Kurt Kratchman, former chief strategy officer of Schematic and now an emerging media entrepreneur; Glenn Platt, director of the interactive media studies program at Miami University (Ohio); Jeff Yapp, executive vice president of MTV; and Jay Williams, senior vice president at Craig Murray Productions and a 1991 alumnus.

The initiative will flex, as well, the muscles of two new Ball State entities whose purpose is to facilitate commercialization: the Technology Transfer Office and Ball State Innovation Corp. 

Finally, under the leadership of Michael Hicks, the Ball State Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), formerly the Bureau of Business Research, has partnered with TechPoint to execute a series of studies on the growing emerging media sector in Indiana.

"We asked ourselves, 'What strengths can we leverage to do our part to advance Indiana's economy?'  Our answer is emerging media," Gora said. "The Emerging Media Initiative is an obvious next step for the entrepreneurial university. Hoosiers can expect the same accountability and results from EMI that have become to be synonymous with Ball State through successes such as the Inaugural Scholars, immersive learning and Building Better Communities."

For more information on EMI, visit