Record-setting gift moves Ball State closer to strategic goals

Topics: Administrative, Immersive Learning, Honors College, Miller College of Business, Building Better Communities

August 15, 2007

Ball State is a big step closer to its goal of making immersive learning opportunities available to all undergraduate students, thanks to a history-making benefaction from the George and Frances Ball Foundation.

The $10.5 million grant is the largest ever by the foundation to any organization and also will help to expand programs offered to students through Ball State's Honors College.

"We are immensely grateful to the George and Frances Ball Foundation for this very generous endorsement of our immersive learning initiative," said Ball State President Jo Ann M. Gora, who has made immersive or action-oriented learning a priority of the university's current strategic plan. "Shaping our students for leadership in the 21st century requires that we help them develop qualities and competencies not easily conveyed in a traditional teacher-centered classroom. These include the ability to work collaboratively and across the various disciplines in order to produce real-world solutions to real-world problems.

"This new endowment will help make it possible for every Ball State student to have the opportunity to participate in an immersive learning opportunity like our popular and successful Business Fellows program, in which teams of students — under the guidance of a faculty mentor — engage on-site with Indiana businesses and organizations on specific, problem-based projects," she explained.

Of the total grant, $6.5 million has been designated for enhancement of immersive learning at Ball State, explained Ben Hancock, vice president for university advancement. The remaining $4 million will go toward expansion of the Honors College — another key objective of the strategic plan — and, particularly, toward increased scholarship support.

As part of its drive to promote academic excellence among students seeking a rigorous learning experience, the university has set a goal — by 2012 — of having 10 percent of each year's freshman class enrolled in the Honors College.

"To attract and retain our most gifted students, we must continue to build an intellectual, academic and social environment that challenges them to spread their wings and allows them to interact with other high-caliber students," said James Ruebel, Honors College dean. "Gifts such as this go a long way toward making that intellectually rich and challenging environment a reality."

The foundation's latest donation to Ball State marks the third time in the past 19 years that it has given $5 million or more to help advance the university's educational mission.

In 1988, the foundation made its first $5 million benefaction, following up in 1998 with a gift valued at $8.5 million (a then-record for private giving to Ball State), including $2 million worth of paintings and other creative works for the Ball State Museum of Art.

"It strikes me as particularly noteworthy that the lion's share of the foundation's 1998 gift was destined for the university's Fund for Innovative Academic Programs," reflected Gora, who became Ball State's president in August 2004. "We are fortunate, indeed, that close to 10 years later its members continue to reflect that kind of progressive, forward-looking view so integral to our efforts to redefine education at the collegiate level."

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