Topics: Emerging Media, Immersive Learning, Scholarships, College of Communication Information and Media

October 28, 2009

Volunteers, contractors and crew from "Extreme Makeover: Home Editon" cheer as the old structure is demolished and they prepare to build the new home.

A fruitful partnership with Hallmark Homes for the "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" build has netted scholarships for the four children featured in this week's show filmed in Bunker Hill, Ind., as well as emerging media experience for Ball State University students.

Ball State is providing four scholarships to the family of Andy and Heather Cowan, factory workers who struggle to support their children: Ryan, Trevor, Mason and Kori, who is battling a congenital blood disease.

Kori's doctors believe that some of her medical issues result from environmental problems in her family's home, including an extreme mold infestation. During one of Kori's hospital stays, she was inspired by a little girl with whom she shared a room and who remains one of her best friends. Kori has raised more than $35,000 for the American Cancer Society in honor of her friend while being restricted to the upstairs of her family's deteriorating home.

The story of the Cowan family — and Kori's inspiring efforts — not only tugged at the heartstrings of the show's producers, but also grabbed the attention of Ball State's administrators.

"The 'Extreme Makeover' team worked hard to provide the family with a wonderful, new environment," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora. "The changes they have made to their home will benefit the entire family for many years to come. It is my hope that seeing this transformation will inspire all of the children to work hard toward their goal of attending college.

"Ball State University believes that our approach to higher education — hands on, immersive learning — can also transform lives," she added. "It is my pleasure, therefore, to offer all of them a special scholarship to Ball State."

If the children apply and are admitted to Ball State, the university will provide them with scholarship support to meet their full cost of tuition for in-state students. Working through the Ball State Foundation, the university will supplement any state or federal gift aid to cover their tuition for four years.

During the filming of the show, many Ball State students helped behind the scenes. Dozens of students were involved directly with the home's construction while others contributed their emerging media skills to the effort.

Jennifer Palilonis and Brad King, assistant professors of journalism, helped pioneer extensive coverage of "Extreme Makeover" by guiding students in their 24/7 coverage of the project, from the demolition of the old house to the unveiling of the new one. They created a blog for the builder, interviewed volunteers and contractors and posted hundreds of stories, which may be reformatted to create a special multimedia package, said King.

This aspect of the project showcases Ball State's Emerging Media Initiative, which is a planned $17.7 million investment in focusing the university's historic strengths in this area, accelerating benefits to the state of Indiana with media-savvy human capital.