President Geoffrey Mearns addresses the faculty at the Fall Convocation August 16, 2019, at Emens Auditorium. Apart from undergraduate retention rates, Mearns reflected positively on the Ball State's past year. John Lynch, DN
President, provost reflect on past year at Ball State's Fall Convocation
Editor's note: A previous version of the article misspelled the names of some of the award recipients and awards. A correction has been made to reflect the correct spellings.
A review of past achievements and goals for the future was the focus of the 2019 Fall Convocation.
President Geoffrey Mearns and Provost Susana Rivera-Mills addressed Ball State’s faculty members at the convocation Friday at Emens Auditorium.
Rivera-Mills, who completed one year at Ball State in July, began her speech to faculty members by recounting her experience at the university.
During her time as provost, she said she had the opportunity to travel across Indiana where she met students, alumni and friends of the university “who never failed to welcome me and more importantly, share with me their pride in our university and gratitude for what we accomplished.”
“Ball State is a university deeply committed to student success, academic excellence and community engagement,” Rivera-Mills said. “In one word, we are about impact.”
She praised the work of last year’s strategic plan and the work ethic of her fellow administrators and faculty, who were then recognized in an awards ceremony. Recipients of each award were as follows:
- Lawhead Award: Jagdish Khubchandani
- Rawlings Outstanding Distance Education Teaching Award: Jennifer Palilonis
- Excellence in Teaching Award: Amy Leitze, Kristin Cipollone
- Outstanding Diversity Advocate: Patricia Lang
- Outstanding Junior Faculty: Emily Rutter
- Outstanding Faculty: Jackie McKinney
- Outstanding Research: Maoyong Fan
- Outstanding Teaching: Mellisa Holtzman
- Outstanding Administrator: Laura Helms
- Outstanding Faculty Service: Tarek Mahfouz
- Outstanding Creative Endeavor: Jill Christman
- Outstanding Advisor: Barry Umansky
When Mearns took the podium, he shared some personal anecdotes and reflections on the university’s achievements over the past year.
He laid out plans for the next academic year, but also acknowledged Ball State’s shortcomings, speaking specifically in the area of undergraduate retention, which he said has declined over the last years.
Ball State’s retention rates have been dropping every year for the past five years — 81.7 percent in the 2014-15 academic year to 78.3 percent in the 2018-19 academic year, according to Ball State common data set.
“We are not serving some of our undergraduate students as well as we can, and that's disappointing,” Mearns said. “That's also having an adverse impact on our operating budget, and I believe this declining metric is a blemish on our otherwise sterling institutional reputation.”
To combat the issue, Mearns announced that he had tasked the provost and Vice President of student affairs Ro-Anne Royer Engle to lead a task force that would create a strategy to improve the rate.
Mearns also highlighted the accomplishments of the previous year adding that the progress the university has made “simply increases expectations.”
“It raises the bar for me and for all of us, and I believe we will meet and exceed those expectations by continuing to implement imperatives and our new strategic plan,” he said.
Mearns spoke about both last year’s successes and the next steps the university will take in during the second year of “Spreading Our Wings” — the consultative process of the strategic plan.
One example he gave of engaging and impacting the community was when the Muncie Community Schools (MCS) board approved giving recurring raises to MCS employees, the first raise MCS employees have received in eight years.
Mearns concluded his speech by asking for continued support of the plan.
“I ask that you continue to join, to join me on our flight path to that bright future, to a bright future as we continue to elevate this excellent university into an extraordinary one,” Mearns said. “Now, let's go to work.”