An audience handed white index cards up to Southside Middle School’s stage Wednesday night as a moderator read aloud the questions written on them, curious about how the new president of a former teachers college was going to help the public schools in the surrounding city.

President Mearns sat with a panel of Ball State and Muncie leaders at the first of three public forums moderated by The Star Press Sept. 13.

Though the topic of the night was how to better connect education and communities between the Ball State and greater Muncie, panel members quickly agreed that K-12 students deserve help with home lives and financial support to pursue higher education.

There are two more public forums:

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 27

Time: 6 p.m. 

Place: Minnetrista, 1200 N. Minnetrista Parkway, Muncie

Theme: Arts and Culture 


Date: Thursday, Oct. 12

Time: 6 p.m. 

Place: Cornerstone Center for the Arts, 520 E. Main St., Muncie

Theme: Economic Development

“I believe [Ball State has] an obligation—a moral obligation—to serve Muncie,” Mearns said.

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And Mearns, Star Press executive editor Greg Fallon said, is setting the example in part with the scholarship fund he and his wife Jennifer made.

“President Mearns is listening,” Fallon said, approving of Mearns' initiative to financially support Muncie Community Schools students to attend Ball State.

Not long after, Mearns announced the George and Frances Ball Foundation will contribute $150,000 to the scholarship.

Aside from working with students, the audience asked for updates on initiatives between the university and areas of Muncie — namely, the south side.

“The city has not neglected it,” Julius Anderson of Muncie City Council said. “I still think that we really need to do something big out here in this area.”

Maren Orchard, a current Ball State student and graduate of Delta High School, appreciated the sentiment, but believed schools were not represented on the panel, since no current Muncie K-12 educator was present on stage.

“We were disappointed to see that,” the senior public history and women and gender studies major said.

Orchard attended the forum with fellow Honors student Alyssa Larsen, a senior social studies education major. The pair are working on an Honors thesis that will create a guide for honors colleges nationwide to engage with their off-campus communities.

“I think it’s interesting that they’re talking about education, but there were no Muncie educators [on the panel],” Larsen said.

All things considered, Orchard said the forum showed “drive and initiative” from Ball State, and took into consideration how Muncie locals fit into the university when the opposite is usually more heavily discussed.

Near the forum’s close, some in attendance came to the stage to discuss what they felt may have been left out in discussion. One Muncie resident said parking for community members is insufficient at Ball State and bars people from campus who otherwise would visit.

The next public forum will cover arts and culture. Community members, including representatives from the Muncie Public Library and Ball State faculty, will join Mearns at Minnetrista Sept. 27.