President Geoffrey S. Mearns greets Wayne and Dolores Zage in the lobby of Sursa Hall on Jan. 24. Wayne and Dolores Zage are both computer science professors at Ball State. Breanna Daugherty // DN
Expectations from Ball State faculty, community members for President Mearns
Questions about transparency, a future game plan and community engagement were all posed to Geoffrey S. Mearns Jan. 24 when the Board of Trustees announced him as the university's 17th president.
Even though Mearns’ contract doesn’t go into effect until Aug. 1 staff and faculty members have high hopes for what he, and his presidency, will bring to campus.
“I think he’s going to be very collaborative," said Marilyn Buck, associate provost and dean of University College. "I expect him to be able to help lead us. He’s worked on a strategic plan at Northern Kentucky University and we’ll be able to move that forward now as well.”
During his first press conference at the university, Mearns revealed that within his first 100 days as president, he plans on familiarizing himself with the campus. He also intends to begin working on the strategic plan — something Loren Malm, interim vice president of information technology, sees as an advantage for the university.
“He talked about the strategic plan and starting that early in his presidency," Malm said," I think that’s going to be a tremendous benefit for the institution to get started on the next iteration of our strategic plan, so I’m looking forward to that."
The Board of Trustees has been looking for someone to replace former President Paul W. Ferguson since March 14, 2016, when the board began holding public forums. Now that Mearns has been appointed, Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services, said she looks forward to Mearns’ vision.
“I’m very excited for the vision and the leadership that I think the president will be bringing to our campus," Bales said. "I think in the comments that he made today, we can all look forward to a president that wants to move the institution forward and I think is very eager and looks forward to working with students."
Mearns not only has hopes to start the strategic plan as soon as possible — he hopes to make campus a more inclusive environment.
“He’ll, as he said, reach out to the university and to everyone, students, faculty, staff, everyone and helping to get to know everybody and learning," Buck said. "Making this institution his as well as he talked about it being ours."
Though it is too early to really set expectation for Mearns, University Police Department Chief James Duckham said he hopes the new president will continue to fit in with UPD's goals for campus.
"Just to keep building on the positives of the student-centered stuff that we’ve done and continue to just build relationships, increase the diversity, all those type of things," Duckham said. "I think that’s great.”
Not only does Mearns plan on making campus more inclusive, but he also hopes to foster relationships with community members.
“From a community perspective I think that we are just hoping for a really community engagement, right?" Scott Smalstig, vice president, fund development for Meridian Health said. "We’re very lucky to have Ball State University in this community and so the more connected Ball State is to this community, the better off everyone is."