For some students still looking for a class to take next semester, Ball State’s English and Journalism departments have an option. 

Journalism and English majors and minors can sign up for English 400 and Journalism 299X, taught by Rai Peterson and Colleen Steffen. This immersive-learning class get students outside the classroom to work with their hands. 

At the Book Arts Collaborative in downtown Muncie, adjacent to the Mad Jax building, students can learn how to letterpress print, bind books and publish their very own pieces.

With dozens of binding techniques, one of the top ten wood block/wood type collections in the country, 72 sets of type and twenty historic printing presses available for student use, journalism professor Colleen Steffen says the opportunities are unique and not available at other schools.

“It's such a rare opportunity,” Steffen said. “We have access to all this incredible equipment, and it’s not like behind a glass case. There's only a handful of centers for the book at universities in the U.S., so places where they have a made a special place in the curriculum to study the history of the book. The history of the book is the history of written communication, like that's the heart of why we’re here and what we’re doing.”

Steffen says she wanted the class to leave students with something they could take with them, and not just something that ends at the end of the semester. 

“I wanted to see what our heritage in the pressroom has to tell us about what our job means, and how we do our jobs and the importance of our jobs now, not just 100 years ago,” Steffen said. “We’re learning why our industry abandoned the printing press, and then we found out it hasn’t solely abandoned it. There is a lot of stuff from that era that carries over into our jobs.”

During in-class lecture times, students learn about the history of books and newspapers, the Guttenberg printing press and more, while learning about skilled trades.

Ball State student Tier Morrow says this hands-on environment allows her to express herself in a way that traditional classroom lectures do not.

“It’s different than my other classes because I’m not just sitting in a classroom just bored out of mind; I’m using my creativity,” Morrow said. “I just really enjoy getting to create stuff with my hands because i think it looks so much more realistic, so much more valuable when it’s hand-printed like this. “

She says that the immersive learning opportunity gives her a background that others in her program don’t have.

“I get to learn the history behind it and it makes journalism so much more valuable, because you start from the bottom and learn what they did to begin with and then you get to go translate that creativity onto the computer and show it off to other people.”

In addition to the creativity and history, Morrow says she appreciates the teamwork and collaborative environment at the Book Arts Collaborative. 



“We take onto the different skills at different paces. We’re all learning the exact same stitches, but some of us take to it quicker and some of us take to it slower. So if we miss a class or just fall behind on learning something, everyone is just willing to jump in and help somebody else. Like if somebody needs help with setting chase or something needs printed, nobody hesitates, they just jump in and help,” Morrow said.

The classes are offered at 9:00 AM and 2:00 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays next semester, with outside of class lab hours.

To find out more information about the classes, email Rai Peterson at rai@bsu.edu.