As our university faced the reality of a virtual, live-streamed Fall Faculty Convocation, the President’s Office knew they still wanted to maintain the special, surprise element of our Outstanding Awards process. As many people may know, award winners normally learn of their award for the first time while they are sitting in the audience of convocation. Since the President’s Office still planned to invite the winners, they wanted them to find out of their win in a special way. As such, the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs worked with nominators, department chairs, and family members to arrange an in-person surprise for all Outstanding Award winners. At that surprise, they were given a sign for their yard and told of their win!

This year, not one but three CCIM faculty members were recognized with Ball State Outstanding Faculty Awards—Dom Caristi, Peggy Fisher and Carrie Shue. I had the honor of orchestrating surprise events for them. They share what the recognition means to them and their reaction when they found out they had won an Outstanding Award.

Car parade preparation

The department of Communication Studies getting their car parade ready to drive by Carrie Shue’s and Peggy Fisher’s homes.

Outstanding Service Award: Dom Caristi

What does receiving this Outstanding Award mean to you?

I don’t know anyone who does what they do to get recognition. Having said that, recognition is wonderful. It validates that people appreciate what you do. For people making above a sustenance wage, pats on the back are more valuable than money.

What was your reaction at the surprise event organized for you?

Kristen McCauliff lives across the street from me, and we had been talking about having an afternoon “happy hour” in the front yard for weeks. The day we had originally agreed to, we had heavy rain in the morning and a chance of rain that afternoon. Kristen contacted me that morning to ask if we should postpone. Thinking it was just our two families, I said we could wait until 4 p.m. and decide on the spur of the moment (not knowing other people would be involved). Kristen said we should wait a day.

The next afternoon when I went out to get lawn chairs, there was not only Kristen and her family, but several others. Barb Stedman, my nominator was there for my award, not knowing that she was also receiving the Outstanding Advisor Award (I nominated her). She should have been suspicious when Honors College Dean John Emert was going to come to my house for my award (I mean, I like John, but why would he show up at my house for my award?). So I was surprised Happy Hour turned out to be an award presentation, and Barb Stedman, who thought she was coming to see me receive an award, also received her award. Lots of surprises all around.

Dom Caristi and Barb Stedman

Dom Caristi and Barb Stedman both won an Outstanding Award, not knowing that they had nominated each other.

Outstanding Teacher Award: Peggy Fisher

What does receiving this Outstanding Award mean to you?

It is so very special to me. I have been teaching since 1986 and work hard every semester to keep my classes current, interesting, and impactful. I see my classroom as an opportunity to make a difference in my students’ lives. I try not only to teach course content, but to also teach life lessons–how to be a compassionate, caring person who makes positive contributions to family, friends and community. The students teach me as well. So many come with lived experiences that we can all learn from. Being recognized at the university level is an honor, and certainly a surprise.

What was your reaction at the surprise event organized for you?

Oh this was a surprise for sure! My chair, Glen Stamp, was coming over to look at how I painted a room–or so I thought. I was standing in my front yard when he arrived, and noticed a string of cars down the block. I thought there was an accident, and was ready to head on down there to see if anyone needed help. The caravan started moving and turned into my driveway. I remember Laura O’Hara on the bullhorn announcing I won, and then the sign was planted in my yard. I was overwhelmed as folks drove past me with fun signs and shouts of joy–one by one. My husband recently passed, so this show of love from my colleagues was so wonderful and touching. It was nice to have something positive in my life after such a difficult summer. I have the best department, and will miss them when I retire at the end of the academic year.

Peggy Fisher

Peggy Fisher’s reaction when the Communication Studies car parade drove by her home.

Outstanding faculty Award: Carrie Shue

What does receiving this Outstanding Award mean to you?

I am honored and humbled to be selected to receive this award. This award really honors all the individuals I have had the privilege to work with during my career at Ball State University. I am thankful for my students … their energy, curiosity, and willingness to engage in collaborative learning. I have learned so much from the meaningful service work done in collaboration with outstanding Department of Communication Studies, CCIM, and University colleagues, as well as engaged community partners. I am exceedingly grateful for my research partnerships with participants and collaborators that answered important questions. I hope to represent all of these individuals as they are the reason I even qualified for consideration for the prestigious award.

What was your reaction at the surprise event organized for you?

Kristen McCauliff organized a department car parade to share the good news with me. I actually didn’t even realize that I had been nominated again. Glen facilitated the update of my nomination materials from last year. I had no clue that I was even considered for this year’s award. Glen asked to drop by my house Monday morning because he was running errands and wanted to touch base about a chapter we are working on. We were to meet on my back deck, outside, safely 6-feet apart.

When he rang on my doorbell, I said I’d meet him out back but he seemed to want to go by way of the front walk so I grabbed my mask to follow him. It was at that point that I heard Laura O’Hara on a bullhorn announcing my name as the winner of the award. It still didn’t really register and I was confused to see my husband standing there. As my department faculty members in their cars drove slowly by my house, I was able to wave to all my wonderful colleagues that I haven’t seen in months. I was just so happy to see them. And then Kristen came out of her car and put the sign in my yard. I think that was when it hit me that I had actually won the award. I was stunned … and still am. I am so thankful to be a member of a department with such caring, generous, talented, supportive faculty.

Carrie Shue poses next to her Outstanding Award sign

Carrie Shue poses next to her Outstanding Award sign.