Our college leads many of the university’s reported 4,000 immersive experiences each year. Faculty guide interdisciplinary, student-driven teams that collaborate with businesses, nonprofits and government agencies to address community challenges.

Without a doubt, the current immersive model produces transformative results, but it presents some challenges. In the typical one-semester class, faculty and students often struggle to build the relationships, secure the funding and do the work needed to address complex issues. But last fall, Ball State’s Office of Immersive Learning presented us with an opportunity to expand the existing model to better address persistent problems.

CCIM will be the first to pilot an Immersive Learning Collaborative — a two- to three-year, college-wide partnership with one community partner. CCIM Dean Paaige Turner said this long-term, multi-phased effort will allow CCIM to learn about, rally behind and dig into a wicked problem through coordinated projects, programs, research and volunteer efforts. The collaborative, she added, does not preclude faculty, staff and students from working with other community partners.

“CCIM’s decision to pilot a sustained collaboration reflects the values of our faculty, staff and students. We are members of this community. This collaboration will allow us to work together to create meaningful change and live meaningful lives, not to just complete an assignment or a course. I am very proud, but not surprised, that our faculty quickly and whole-heartedly committed to this program.” — Paaige Turner

Group of volunteers pose in front of recycling truck

2019 fall neighborhood cleanup in Thomas Park/Avondale. Photo: Office of Community Engagement at Ball State University.

Choosing the 8Twelve Coalition

After an exhaustive review of potential partners, the CCIM Engagement Taskforce decided on the 8Twelve Coalition. This team of more than 20 organizations and neighborhood associations works to improve the quality of life in some of Muncie’s urban core neighborhoods, with a focus on neighborhood revitalization, community building, food insecurity and education.

The 8Twelve Coalition has been a rewarding partner for the university. Since 2016, CCIM has engaged in nearly 45 projects with the 8Twelve or one of its partner organizations. Last March, many of you joined hundreds of fellow faculty, staff, students and alumni in the 8Twelve service area during CCIM’s Community Service Day. We dug into work at Habitat for Humanity properties, garden and indoor cleanup at Maring-Hunt Library, meal prep and donation sorting at Muncie Mission and family photos at the Ross Community Center.

Volunteers work in gardens as part of the Community Service day 2019

2019 garden clean up day. Photo: Office of Community Engagement at Ball State University.

Coalition chair Jena Ashby said the 8Twelve has a sound strategic plan to tackle Muncie’s interconnected challenges, any many of the coalition’s needs align with CCIM’s strengths. She said the coalition looks forward to this more strategic, long-term approach to guide the group’s work with the university.

“We are beyond excited for this partnership,” said Ashby, also director of Impact and Programs for Muncie Habitat for Humanity. “Depth of relationship with residents and coalition partners has been the strength of this coalition, and we know that depth of relationship with CCIM staff, faculty and students will also transfer to a strong partnership and greater achievements.”

A Strategic Multi-Year Partnership

Given Ball State’s history of collaboration with the coalition, it’s clear 8Twelve has the capacity and stability to manage a project of this nature. Suzanne Plesha, director of Immersive Learning, said the university hopes the collaborative will serve as a model for other colleges. Results of the 8Twelve Collaborative may serve as a model for organizations and cities working to empower and restore neighborhoods, she added.

“Many of the 8Twelve partner organizations already work with Ball State on a variety of immersive projects, but most of those classes follow a ‘one and done’ format,” said Plesha, who developed the collaborative concept. “A multi-year relationship will enable CCIM to coordinate immersive efforts across disciplines and allow students to share information from semester-to-semester and year-to-year.

“In this way, students can pick-up projects where previous classes left off generating efficiencies, sparking more creative iteration, and increasing project outputs exponentially. We believe this type of transdisciplinary collaboration will allow students, faculty, and our partners to have an even greater impact on complex challenges in our community.”

The CCIM Engagement Taskforce spent the spring and will continue to dedicate time this summer to brainstorm with the 8Twelve about its one “wicked problem” and how our college can collaborate to make a lasting impact in the 8Twelve service area.

Next Steps

This fall, CCIM will formally introduce the 8Twelve Immersive Learning Collaborative to the college. We hope to hold a CCIM Service Day for faculty, staff and students to meet and work alongside residents and community leaders. In spring 2021, select faculty will kick off projects, programs and research in support of the 8Twelve.

If you are interested in discussing or learning more about the collaborative, please email me, Kate Elliott, chair of the CCIM Engagement Taskforce, or call me at 765-285-6993.



Kate Elliott headshotKate Elliott is a lecturer of Journalism, coordinates the Magazine Media concentration and chairs the CCIM Engagement Task Force. Since 2018, Kate has supported Ball State’s historic partnership with Muncie Community Schools as faculty fellow to the MCS-Ball State Academic Innovation Council. Alongside teachers, administrators, and community partners, Kate is working to realize a holistic educational system that nurtures student success and community wellbeing.