Keynote Address for President Jo Ann M. GoraTuesday, October 13, 2009, 12:30 p.m.; Woodland Country Club, Carmel, Indiana
It's a great pleasure to be with all of you today, especially because I know many of you have Ball State ties, including Scott Wise, one of your panelists this morning. In fact, one of the first students I met when I came to Ball State was Bill McCrea's son, Jaron, who was earning numerous awards as a student filmmaker. Jaron graduated in 2005 and is finishing his graduate work at Columbia University this year.It's my great honor to be here at the 19th annual Linkages conference. I know that this group is a hub of innovation and collaboration, and I'm sure many of the discussions this morning about turning these difficult economic times into new opportunities have focused on those concepts. But you are not alone in that focus.I travel around the state speaking to all sorts of groups, whether they are professional networks like this one, a local Chamber of Commerce or economic development group, or an educational foundation. At nearly every one of these meetings, no matter the location or speaking topic, I am asked this question: "What abilities should we at Indiana colleges and universities develop in our students so they can be future business leaders in our state?" Today, let me ask you that same question.Lots of excellent answers. Let me summarize what I heard: "Determined. Imaginative. Able to work and collaborate with others. Problem solvers. Positive attitude. Seeking constant improvement."All of these answers revolve around two central characteristics: innovation and collaboration. I believe these two characteristics are absolutely essential in the 21st century, and I'm proud to say that they are two things Ball State is known for because of our long tradition of student-faculty collaboration and innovation. We are now on an intentional path to strengthen that tradition through a process called immersive learning, which we have made the cornerstone of our strategic plan.Immersive learning pairs an interdisciplinary group of Ball State students with a faculty mentor to work on a project with a community partner for at least one semester and often longer. These students develop real-world solutions to real-world problems. This is truly a win-win situation. Over and over again, students tell me that these projects teach them much about themselves and prepare them for the world of constant collaboration and innovation that they will enter after graduation. And as I visit with leaders of businesses, communities, and non-profit organizations around the state, they praise our student teams and the guidance and support they provide for their organization's future.Our strategic plan calls for us to offer immersive learning opportunities to every undergraduate student by 2012. We’re making great progress. In the last academic year, more than 2,700 of our students from 35 academic departments and all seven of our colleges completed 160 immersive learning projects. In just two years, we have increased by more than 1,000 the number of undergraduates participating in immersive learning.Many of these projects involve our Office of Building Better Communities, which connects Ball State faculty and students with community partners like your company throughout the Hoosier state. Last year, we completed BBC projects in 64 Indiana counties, many of them here in Hamilton County and Marion County. In fact, Frank Sabatine, who heads that office, has joined us today and he has brought materials describing what Building Better Communities can do for your business.Here are just two examples of immersive learning and the real-world solutions that Ball State students and faculty have provided to community partners.The first immersive learning project is with Design PD, a computer software and consulting company based in Fishers. The company started in 2003 and specializes in solutions for the public safety industry. Back in 2006, Design PD created the Field Training Tracker. It was designed as a Web-based system that could manage the documentation of a recruit's field training in a police department, fire department, or other public safety organization.But then, Design PD had to fully develop the Field Training Tracker. To do so, it had to be tested and customized and marketed and deployed across platforms. So the company turned to us at Ball State. Vinayak Tanksale, instructor of computer science, and an immersive learning team of students did all of those things. They took the Field Training Tracker through the development and testing phases, wrote a marketing plan for the product, and even compiled a list of emergency management agencies that might be interested. I had the pleasure of traveling to Logansport, Indiana, in early 2007 to observe the field testing of the product with the Logansport Police Department, which was so impressed with the students' efforts that they wound up buying the Field Training Tracker, as have several other public safety departments around the Midwest.I'm sure many of you have heard of my second example, Project 18. For those who have not, Project 18 is a statewide campaign to fight childhood obesity that is gaining increasing national attention. The name comes from Peyton Manning's uniform number with the Colts. Eleven Ball State students from a variety of majors partnered with Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at Saint Vincent, Marsh Supermarkets, and Strategic Marketing and Research Incorporated on this project during the spring and summer months.Our students provided several real-world solutions for Project 18. First, they developed an 18-week health and wellness curriculum for third- through fifth-graders. It already has been adopted by 249 Indiana schools in 60 counties, including 46 in Marion County and another 10 here in Hamilton County.The students also put together the Marsh Down the Aisle program, a nutrition awareness program that you have probably seen at one of the 92 Marsh and Omalia's stories in the state. Marsh Down the Aisle encourages Indiana parents, elementary students, and families to select from more than 600 tagged healthy food items located on the store shelves. Another part of the program is the Marsh store tours that educate children and parents about reading food labels, observing the food pyramid, and practicing portion control.The final solution provided by our students was a public-relations plan for Project 18 community outreach. This past summer, a Project 18 van traveled to more than 40 community events and county fairs around central Indiana, reaching approximately 10,000 families. The students assisted with several activities designed to increase awareness and provide education about healthy eating and active lifestyles.This project was so successful that it has had several ripple effects. One is that Project 18 is part of the latest version of our Education Redefined marketing campaign, which began a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps you already have seen one of the television commercials or one of the billboards on the interstates around Indianapolis. Our campaign features students and recent alumni telling their own stories about their transformative experiences at Ball State. One of them is Janet Kamiri, a senior health education major from Minnesota, who was one of the leaders in writing the Project 18 curriculum.Our Education Redefined marketing efforts don't stop with traditional media, such as billboards, print advertisements, and television commercials. These students, including Janet, also are telling their stories on an ongoing basis at our Web site: www.bsu.edu.In a section we call "The Chronicles," you can view the television commercials, which are only 15 seconds long, as well as 90-second versions of each student's story. In fact, let's look at the commercial featuring Janet and her work with Project 18. And now, here is the longer 90-second version of Janet's story.So how do we at Ball State know that all this emphasis on innovation and collaboration really makes a difference? In many of the same ways that you do, based on the conversation I heard over lunch. We continue to receive positive feedback from our community partners in immersive learning; many of them have become repeat customers. The number of students and faculty participating--as well as the number of community partners--increases with each year.Here is more positive reinforcement. To fully implement our vision of collaboration and innovation, we kicked off our national capital campaign, Ball State Bold, 13 months ago. The campaign will raise $200 million by 2011, and its components mirror our strategic plan objectives, centered on immersive learning. We, in fact, plan to create an additional 100 unique immersive learning opportunities as part of the campaign. Despite the difficult economic conditions since we announced the campaign, we already are nearly 90 percent of the way toward our goal.I firmly believe that an important test for any university is how it is meeting the needs of the general public, and our efforts in immersive learning and emerging media provide proof that we at Ball State are meeting that test. The innovation and collaboration displayed by our students and faculty provide exemplary service to the businesses, communities, and citizens of Indiana. That is why I am proud to be Ball State's president and to represent the university at events like this.It's been a great pleasure to be with you today for the CEO-NET Linkages Conference. We do have a few minutes left, so I would be happy to take any questions you may have about what's happening at Ball State.
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