From the take over of Muncie Community Schools, to a series of community forums and campus visits, President Geoffrey Mearns has spent his first year in office trying to get to know the communities he joined. 

On campus, Mearns and his wife Jennifer completed several informal campus visits, where they walked around parts of the university in order to get to know it and Cardinals better. Mearns said while simple, it is one of his proudest accomplishments so far. 

“What is particularly gratifying to me is that a consistent theme that I have heard from all of those people, even given their diverse perspectives, is their passion and pride for Ball State,” Mearns said. “They’re proud of what we have accomplished in the first 100 years and passionate, enthusiastic and optimistic about the future.” 

One of the ideas from the transition committee was to separate the campus into a little more than a dozen “zones,” and give Mearns the opportunity to interact with students, faculty and staff. He said the informal visits allowed him to see the campus and make connections with people at the university. 

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However, when Mearns moved to Muncie, he didn’t just want to get to know the Ball State community — he wanted to spend time getting to know the Muncie community and improving the relationship between the city and the university.

Through a series of community forums hosted by The Star Press, Mearns got to hear from the community on a number of topics.

“I am optimistic that we have all of the resources or necessary ingredients to revitalize and rejuvenate Muncie and our neighborhoods and the economy here,” Mearns said. “The forums gave me an opportunity to hear from people in the community and their perspectives. 

Another big part, and what he said was the biggest challenge of his first year in office, was the takeover of Muncie Community Schools through House Bill 1315. 

“I never could have imagined that would be an opportunity presented to us,” Mearns said. “On the one hand, it has absorbed some of my time and energy in a way that we didn’t anticipate last May, but I think some of that time and energy has been invested wisely.”

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Since taking office, Mearns has engaged and communicated with the university in new ways. A website was created to allow for the administration to be more transparent and communicate with the public on the latest updates. 

During the long process of passing House Bill 1315, Mearns said the university website was updated with new information to answer the many questions asked by the public. 

Mearns also said another part of being transparent is allowing people to participate in the critical decision-making process. During the strategic planning process, the university held numerous forums where students, faculty and staff, could ask questions and give their opinions. 

While Mearns said he has been very present at student events, he hopes in the future he can attend more.

“I must say that everyday, particularly in the academic year, there is often not just one opportunity to see our students work but two or three,” Mearns said. “I just wish there was a way for me to make more events because I really enjoy going to athletic events. I enjoy going to see our students perform.”

Contact Andrew Smith with comments at ajsmith15@bsu.edu or on Twitter @AndrewSmithNews.