At the Fall Opening Convocation last week, President Mearns presented twelve awards to faculty and staff who have made extraordinary contributions to the University community. We are proud to say that six of those award recipients are part of the College of Sciences and Humanities.

Congratulations to Emily Rutter, Dave Largent, Sergei Zhuk, Molly Ferguson, Kristin Ritchey, Lisa Kuriscak, and all of the award winners.

Emily Rutter – Outstanding Diversity Advocate

Emily Rutter and President Mearns

Dr. Emily Rutter (she/her/hers), is the Associate Dean of the Honors College and Associate Professor of English. She is the author of four books and has work published in African American Review, Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, and MELUS, among other journals.

The Outstanding Diversity Advocate Award is granted in honor of a faculty member’s outstanding efforts in promoting and facilitating inclusive excellence.

How has winning the “Outstanding Diversity Advocate Award” impacted your career?

“It’s wonderful to be recognized as an advocate, a role that is very meaningful to me. I also share this award with all the students (past and present) and faculty whom I have worked alongside in African American Studies; the faculty and staff who participated in the Antiracism and Intersectionality Faculty Learning Community and similarly titled Community of Practice; and the members of the Student Antiracism and Intersectionality Advisory Council (SAIAC), a student organization I advise.”

What is the best advice you’ve received from a mentor?

“I deeply admire the poet-theorist Audre Lorde (1934-1992) and am guided and mentored by her writings. Lorde’s essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” has had a particularly profound impact on my teaching, scholarship, and service to Ball State and beyond. Lorde concludes the essay by affirming, “It is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.” I’m committed to breaking silences and working across lines of difference to create the just and equitable world we all know is possible.”


Dave Largent – Outstanding Faculty

Dave Largent and President Mearns

Dave Largent is an associate lecturer in computer science. He received his M.S. in Computer Science right here at Ball State University. Mr. Largent specializes in Pedagogy, group stages of development, and diversity. Through his industry experience, he has received multiple recognitions including recently winning the Immersive Learning Faculty Award for CS4MS+. 

The Outstanding Faculty Award is granted to a faculty member who has a cumulative academic record of more than five years at Ball State University and has exhibited excellence in teaching, intellectual or creative activity, and service.

What do you find most exciting about computer science?

“I enjoy working to solve a problem, and then writing instructions for a computer to follow to perform the solution I envisioned. I live for the moment when a “lightbulb” turns on for a learner new to computer science. That moment when a concept with which a learner has been struggling suddenly makes sense is exciting and very rewarding for me as an educator involved in the process.”


Sergei Zhuk – Outstanding Research

Sergei Zhuk and President Mearns

Dr. Sergei Zhuk is a professor of History. Professor Zhuk is a former Soviet expert in US history, particularly in the social and cultural history of colonial British America. In 2002, he successfully defended his new (now American) Ph.D. dissertation at Johns Hopkins University, which focused on imperial Russian history. He has taught American colonial history, and Russian/Soviet and Ukrainian History at Ball State University, the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University since 1997.

The Outstanding Research Award is given to a single faculty member in recognition of outstanding research achievement as a cumulative work or a significant single contribution. All nominees must have demonstrated exemplary scholarly productivity at Ball State University for at least five years.

How has winning the “Outstanding Research Award” impacted your career?

“First of all, this award influenced my perception of my research tremendously. I realized that not only my colleagues from my own field of knowledge/specialty – “cultural Cold War” and Soviet Studies – were interested in my research and archival findings. Now I know that people from outside of my field also care about my findings and discoveries. For any researcher, such an acknowledgment, like this award, is proof of his/her importance and relevance.

Second, this award was a recognition of the importance of my Ukraine in today’s interpretation of history and politics, because all my recent research is based on Ukrainian material and Ukrainian archives. I realized that my Ukraine matters and it is important also for the Americans.”

What tips on conducting research can you give to a student that may be new to the field of research?

“The most important tip for such students is “do not give up”, even if you failed at the beginning of your research career. The next tip: try to use all available sources to get your information; for a historian, like myself, the most important source is the archival documentary collection. The next tip: do not be afraid of spending your time and energy in your search for truth. And another tip: be open-minded for any theory and interpretation, do not fear to experiment with various theories and material to get closer to the truth.”


Molly Ferguson – Outstanding Teaching

Molly Ferguson and President Mearns

Dr. Molly Ferguson is an Associate Professor of English. Dr. Ferguson teaches courses in women’s and gender studies as well as postcolonial literature. Her primary areas of interest in terms of research are gender, folklore, and the literature of austerity in modern Irish literature. She has published in Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Studi Irlandesi, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Nordic Irish Studies, and New Hibernia Review.

The Outstanding Teaching Award is given to recognize teachers that exhibit the greatest levels of pedagogy, creativity, and innovation in their lesson plans and classrooms. Candidates for nomination should have shown leadership in developing teaching scholarship and teaching techniques.

What about Ball State’s campus do you enjoy the most?

“I love more organic, spontaneous things on campus – skateboard season, the hammocks, people dancing at the scramble light, and protests. I used to love the Happy Friday guy, but I haven’t seen him in a while. I love when students wear unique outfits or when I see them dressed up for an interview or a Greek event. All of these things remind me how lucky I am that I get to be around young people all the time.”


Kristin Ritchey – Excellence in Teaching

Kristin Ritchey and President Mearns

Dr. Kristin Ritchey is an Associate Professor of Psychological Science and Director of Undergraduate Studies & Assistant Chair. Dr. Ritchey’s research interests include adult reading comprehension, drawing of inferences while reading expository text, and text factors (e.g., graphics, headings) that affect text comprehension and memory.

To win the Excellence in Teaching Award, students submit faculty members for consideration. The top 10 nominees advance to the final round. Then, each candidate is requested to provide a plan on how to transform an already-existing course into something more creative with a focus on raising student engagement. The Selection Committee for the Excellence in Teaching Award then meets to analyze the Enhanced Course ideas, interview each finalist, debate the candidates, and choose the winners. Four faculty members and three students make up this committee. The Excellence in Teaching award provides each recipient with a plaque, recognition at the Fall Faculty Meeting, a professional development stipend, access to a course enhancement team, and a stipend for participating in a paid lecture series.

What do you like about teaching students at the college/university level?

“I enjoy teaching college students because I can see the direct impact of our classroom experiences on their personal and professional development. The skills they develop as Psychological Science majors prepare them for a wide variety of career options, and hopefully, give them a foundation for lifelong learning. I’m only partially joking when I tell my students that they will save the world, because their combination of scientific literacy and regard for humanity is a powerful combination. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’m helping train the next generation of psychological scientists and world-savers.”


Lisa Kuriscak – Outstanding Advisor

Dr. Lisa Kuriscak focuses her research on the acquisition of Spanish, especially pertaining to second language writing, pragmatics, and study abroad. She completed her B.A. at Canisius College, did research on a Fulbright grant in Galicia, Spain for two years, studied Mapuche in Chile for a year, and then did her M.A. in General Linguistics at SUNY Buffalo and her Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics at Indiana University. She is the “go-to person” for Ball State Spanish study abroad and has taught in summer study abroad programs in Spain since 2008. At Ball State, she typically teaches courses in linguistics, composition, and conversation.

The Outstanding Advisor Award is given to a faculty advisor who enhances student experiences through innovative activities outside of the classroom. Outstanding advising activities may include academic or career advising, work with student groups, unique projects, and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate research or creative activities.


Congratulations again to all award recipients. Thank you for your continued efforts to make Ball State and the College of Science and Humanities a thriving environment to teach and learn.