Melanie Swihart, assistant teaching professor of Dance at Ball State University, has been selected by Indiana Campus Compact (ICC) as a 2022 recipient of its Emerging Leader in Community Engagement award. 

The ICC Emerging Leader in Community Engagement award recognizes faculty that demonstrate leadership and innovation in advancing and shaping community engagement across the field and throughout their institution. 

“We would like to extend our congratulations to Professor Swihart for this well-deserved recognition,” said Suzanne Plesha, director of Immersive Learning at Ball State. “As a valued instructor in Ball State’s nationally recognized Department of Theatre and Dance, Professor Swihart has made it her mission to design and facilitate projects that prepare our students for fulfilling careers while also enriching the lives of local youth through the arts.” 

Since the Spring of 2018, Professor Swihart has led a community engagement project, “DANCE! Muncie After School”—now called “ARTS! Muncie After School”—which engages Ball State students with real-world collaboration opportunities and teaching experiences in partnership with Muncie Community School educators and administration. In this immersive learning class, student artists and future educators connect with elementary-age youth and, through art, provide afterschool programming that enriches the lives of school children. 

“Most of the children enrolled in this program do not have access to quality arts activities such as dance or theatre instruction. This program, coordinated by Professor Swihart, provides the necessary equipment and venues for the children to experience the arts,” Ms. Plesha said. “Through this project, our college students are doing the research, instruction, and reflection necessary to develop knowledgeable and empathetic curriculum that meets a need in the Muncie community and beyond.” 

Professor Swihart recently secured an internal Provost Immersive Learning Grant to expand the program and make it a permanent offering in the College of Fine Arts. This year she was joined by her colleague Dr. Andy Waldron, assistant professor of Theatre, to further develop the immersive work to include theatre and add capacity for more students to participate. 

One of the key imperatives of Ball State’s strategic plan, immersive learning provides high-impact learning experiences that involve collaborative student-driven teams, guided by faculty mentors. Students earn credit for working with community partners such as businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to address community challenges through the creation of a product that has a lasting impact. 

For more about Ball State’s immersive learning projects and resources, visit, call 765-285-2790, or email