Gora: Immersive Learning Spurs Innovation, Collaboration

In her second guest post, Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora offers her insights on the following topic:

  • Tell us something that not enough people know about your college or university that makes it such a special place.

While many Indiana citizens and others around the country know that Ball State is redefining education through immersive learning, they often are unaware of the breadth and intensity of those experiences.

Immersive learning is a more focused and intense form of experiential learning, as interdisciplinary teams of students work with a faculty mentor to provide real-world solutions for real-world problems faced by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and communities across Indiana and literally around the world. These projects hone our students’ skills in innovation and collaboration and help them to turn knowledge into judgment and judgment into action.

In the last two years, more than 5,300 Ball State students from 38 academic departments and all seven of our colleges completed 285 immersive learning projects in 69 Indiana counties. Those students have helped to open an arts industry incubator in Brown County, conducted the annual perch count on Lake Michigan, and developed the I-69 Culinary Trail for nine counties stretching from Indianapolis to the Michigan state line. They have written an 18-week nutrition and wellness curriculum with our partners at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent and Marsh Supermarkets that is now being used by nearly 250 elementary schools in 60 counties. And they have written a crisis communication protocol for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security that affects every county in our state.

The reach of our immersive learning experiences is tremendous. Two of the students involved in the Culinary Trail project are from China, learning about Hoosier culture (and cuisine) as well as marketing and communication.  And a group of Ball State students, mostly from Indiana, spent 10 weeks in China, just outside Hong Kong, working with one of the leading toy manufacturers in the world on a Six Sigma initiative.  This spring, 40 students from our College of Architecture and Planning are visiting 56 cities in 23 countries and applying these new cultural and architectural perspectives to design projects in their own hometowns.

Bringing bright students together with talented faculty in immersive learning projects creates a unique educational experience, one that defines Ball State.

Tomorrow: Ivy Tech’s Tom Snyder

Gora: Higher Admission Standards Critical

Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora offers her insights on the following question:

  • What is the number one change you would like to see in Indiana’s higher education system that would help serve students better?

Indiana has a strong system of higher education, with a well-balanced set of educational options that meet a wide range of needs. Hoosier families need to know what it takes, both academically and financially, to take full advantage of these opportunities.

For Indiana to contribute to the nation’s economic recovery, we need to produce high-ability graduates who can make an immediate impact upon earning their college degrees. The trend of colleges and universities increasing admission standards will continue, so students must commit themselves—beginning their first semester in high school—and earn an Academic Honors Diploma.

By increasing admission standards at Ball State, we are attracting brighter students. Through our emphasis on immersive learning, these students see the connection between rigorous academic course work and applying it to benefit Indiana companies and communities. Through those deep relationships, our students stay in college, earn their degrees, and, in many cases, flourish in the companies and communities that they connected with at Ball State.

The job market in the 21st century is changing, and having a college degree is necessary to compete. For some time, one of the most compelling arguments has been the comparison of lifetime salaries. On average, career earnings for those who hold a college degree are about $1 million more than those who have only a high school diploma. 

This disparity will become even more striking as we continue to adapt to global competition. Jobs that require only a high school diploma will continue to evaporate. I’d like to see more communication about the inextricable link between higher education and a sustainable livelihood today and in the future.

Families should view higher education as an investment and seek financial advice from the best sources. A recent study indicated that more than half of Hoosier families overestimate the cost of college. Parents should review not only the costs but also the scholarships and aid that are available. I think most families will see higher education not only as accessible but also as a sound financial choice.