Ball State University student Alivia Varvel of Brownsburg helped bridge the gap between a low-income, predominantly African-American Muncie community and local law enforcement.

Varvel was part of a student team that partnered with Ball State’s Department of Criminal Justice, the Whitely Community Council, and the Muncie Police Department for this immersive learning course aimed at promoting positive police and community relationships.

Varvel, who will graduate May 4 with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in digital forensics, created an engaging, discussion-based forum for attendees to learn and better understand the critical relationships that bolster a community. Varvel also helped to create pamphlets on best practices of police-community engagement. She met with the Whitely Board of Directors, police officers, and attorneys to collaborate, and the class aims for these booklets to serve as a resource for cadets in training.

“I wanted to participate because this is such a prevalent issue right now,” Varvel said.

The forum, held on April 6, consisted of a Police Simulator, which put participants in the shoes of an officer, breakout sessions with officers speaking on police engagement and judicial representation, and a guest presentation by Officer Tommy Norman of Arkansas, a police officer from Little Rock, whose videos on community policing have helped him gather more than 1 million likes on his Facebook page

After graduation, Varvel hopes to be in a career where where she can continue to bridge gaps between police and their communities.

“Ball State has so many resources, like the ones we’ve utilized in this project, that helped develop my career-critical skills like communication and teamwork,” Varvel said. “With these skills, I feel confident to build positive relationships in any community.”