For more than 100 years, graduates of Ball State University have accomplished mark-making achievements that have left both the Ball State community and the world proud一bestselling novels, award-winning journals, memorable lectures and emotional musical compositions.
A quick glance at the history of Ball State’s alumni and their success is enough to highlight the seemingly endless amount of talent and potential in our graduates. To celebrate and honor the many alumni who have demonstrated outstanding service and support to Ball State, excelled in their professions or served their communities for great distinction, Ball State’s Alumni Association presents the Ball State Alumni Awards each year after considering every nomination.
This year, the Alumni Association awarded 11 Ball State alumni for their achievements. Meet them below:
Ashley C. Ford, MA ‘18, was awarded this year’s Alumni Award of Achievement.
Ford became a New York Times bestselling author with her memoir, Somebody’s Daughter, in 2021, which started as an essay in a Ball State University classroom. Since graduating, she has profiled influential women including Missy Elliot, Anne Hathaway and Kamala Harris, as well as hosted several podcasts and worked for Buzzfeed.
As Ball State University’s Writer in Residence for Fall 2021, Ashley donated her honorarium back to the Ball State/Muncie community by the purchase of books for Burris Laboratory School, Muncie Community Schools, the Youth Opportunity Center, the Ball State Multicultural Center, and even the Office of Inclusive Excellence
Dr. Dennis P. Morrison, Ph.D. ‘86 and MA ‘84, was awarded this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award.
Morrison, an independent consultant and owner of Morrison Consulting, taught both undergraduate and graduate crisis intervention for Ball State’s Department of Counseling Psychology.
“With four degrees from the University, I got a well rounded education in several areas all of which set me up for success post graduation,” Morrison said.
However, his flight to success wasn’t without turbulence. While his pledge to Beneficence never wavered, Morrison’s grades suffered because of the risk of failure — a fog so thick it can weigh down your wings.
“I didn’t fail because I wasn’t smart. I failed because I didn’t believe I was smart, and my grades reflected my expectations,” Morrison said. “My advice to students would be directed at those who, like me, didn’t have the confidence or self esteem to risk succeeding. If you never really try, you can never really fail. But try you must, even if that is completely foreign to your own self-perception.”
Morrison used his degrees from Ball State to join and serve in the U.S. Navy — supporting Naval Aviators and Crew in the hazardous regime of military aviation.
Benjamin Yoder, BS ’07, was awarded this year’s Benny Award.
Yoder has spent the last 13 years making his childhood dream come true; teaching. After obtaining his Music Education degree, Yoder dedicated himself to his students, music and passion for diversity and inclusion. Now, he serves as the Orchestra Director for Hamilton Southeastern Schools, where he has taught for the last twelve years.
“[Yoder’s time at Ball State] also opened up my world view and helped to shape me into the person I am today. I will be forever grateful for my time at Ball State and the relationships that I’ve formed with folks who have also made Ball State a part of their journey,” Yoder said.
With his passions for music and teaching tucked under his wings, Yoder has accomplished and served as the Ray Ashley Award recipient, Young Alumni Council President (2019-Present), Indiana State Music Association Competitions Judge, and Graduate of the Last Decade Award (2016). Yoder was named a quarterfinalist for the 2018 Grammy Music Educator Award by the Grammy Museum. In 2018, Hamilton Southeastern School District was quoted in “One for All,” reflecting his commitment to inclusion and diversity in the classroom, and, in 2020, he was named Indiana’s Outstanding Middle School Music Educator by the Indiana Music Education Association.
Maris Schiess, BA ’13, was awarded the G.O.L.D. Award.
Ball State offered Schiess opportunities and connections one of a kind to the university, helping carve her passions toward advertising. Making the most of her time on campus, she flew high; becoming a Vice President of an advertising agency within two years, Schiess credits Ball State to her vast skill sets. She now works as an Integrated Media Director at Merkle, a Dentsu Agency, where she leads the agency’s US B2B media team for intel, and the global B2B media team for VISA.
“I feel Ball State offered me access to opportunities I wouldn’t receive elsewhere; with a program size that allowed for personal attention combined with ample access to growth-oriented activities outside the classroom,” Schiess said. “I was fortunate to be a part of multiple student organizations and extra projects that really gave me the practice needed to take into my profession.”
Schiess has been recognized by the state of Indiana as one of 2015’s “Indy’s Best and Brightest” through Junior Achievement of Indiana and serves as the President of the Board at Ovar’Coming Together; a nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness and improving the quality of life of women affected by ovarian cancer.
Schiess also mentored and led a team as Marketing Vice President and leader at the Junior League of Indianapolis for five years. She gives back to Ball State and advertising by serving as an AAF guest speaker, judging AAG’s “Thrive or Die” competition, and judging for the 2020 National AAF ADDYs. Additionally, she devotes her free time to volunteering at the Indianapolis Zoo, living a zero-waste lifestyle, and managing her own small business.
Juli Metzger, BS ’85, MS ’88, was awarded this year’s Benny Award.
A recent retiree from the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication, Metzger has maintained strong connections with the university as both an alumna and faculty member.
As an editor of three newspapers and publisher of three others, Metzger often recruited on campus and hired Ball State students. As the founding coordinator of the $4 million, 8,000 square-foot Unified Media Lab, working with units across the College of Communication, Information and Media to usher in an era of cross-platform trans-disciplinary media education, she has given each student interested in student media a place on campus to call home.
But what Metzger may be best known for are her industry and local connections, including several immersive projects, like Unmasked: The Stigma of Meth to inform Muncie, a digital and print newsletter focusing on Muncie’s underserved segments.
“For me, Ball State showed me a path I didn’t know existed,” Metzger said. “The university’s influence has been great in even small ways. Shortly after I left Muncie, which happened to be my hometown, and was fully adulting in a new town at a new job and with new people, I got a phone call from a Ball State friend. It was Warren Vander Hill, then provost of Ball State. He was ‘traveling’ through my area and noticed my name in the newspaper (I was city editor there) and decided to check on me. It taught me the importance of those personal touches, and I’ve tried to emulate that in my career and personal life.”
Hannah Fluhler, College of Health, Honors College BS ’19 was awarded the GOLD Award.
Fluhler, after attending Burris Laboratory School kindergarten through high school and Ball State undergraduate studies program as a nursing major, graduating Magna Cum Laude, received a Fulbright Research Scholarship to Melbourne, Australia (2019-2020). After completing the program, Fluhler pursued a Ph.D. in Nursing and one year of full-time coursework completed at Northeastern University (2020-2021).
“I formed influential relationships at Ball State with my nursing and honors college professors, classroom and sorority/extracurricular peers and mentors, and with my freshman dorm mates, too!,” Fluhler said.
Ball State reciprocated the support Fluhler represented through the Beneficence Pledge, and continues to support further academic endeavors. She has completed numerous academic research presentations as a result of undergraduate research funded by BSU Honors College Ruebel Fellowship (National Association of Neonatal Nurses [NANN] Research Summit and national conference, IU Health Regional research conference, Indiana Center for Nurses Research Summit, IUH Ball Memorial Hospital nurse’s week presentation). She continues to practice nursing as a Registered Nurse and Pediatric Home Care Nurse with Maxim Healthcare.
Brittany Moran, BA ’19, was awarded the GOLD Award.
Moran attended Ball State University as a Centennial Scholar and received departmental honors from her the Elementary Education Department. During her time at the university, Moran took every opportunity she had to impact her community; including sitting as the President of the honors group, Kappa Delta Pi, and regularly volunteered at MP3, an after-school program.
“When I think of Ball State, I think of all of the amazing people I met and all the unique opportunities I was able to pursue during my time there. Courses and professors in both the Teachers College & Honors College challenged me to think outside of my previous experiences and truly ponder the impact I can have on the world around me, both through my career and personal endeavors,” Moran said.
Near the end of her college career, Moran was able to successfully start and run an after-school reading program, “Readers to Leaders,” for low-income Hispanic youth in her hometown, Palatine, IL — designing and implementing this program to counteract the effects of Summer Reading Setback. Now, as a fourth-grade teacher in the MSD of Wayne Township, Moran hopes to start a similar program in the Indianapolis area. After graduating, Moran was invited back to speak at Kappa Delta Pi’s induction ceremony and helped Ball State’s women to continue taking every opportunity and fly.
Katherine Ittenbach, MBA ‘12, was awarded the G.O.L.D. Award.
Ittenbach was a legacy to Ball State University — with both parents and all three of her brothers’ alumni— determining her fate to rebel at a young age. While determined to make her own way, Ittenbach attended another university for her undergraduate studies and found her flight path was inevitable over Muncie.
“Although I did not receive my undergraduate degree from BSU, I have a closer relationship with alumni at BSU,” Ittenbach said. “I feel Ball State gave me everything that my undergraduate degree at another university did not. It gave me a network, friends, opportunities to get involved, and a sense of camaraderie I wasn’t expecting — it is this network that has outlasted the degree.”
Ittenbach currently serves on the Board of Directors for The Indiana War Memorials, the Ball State MBA Advisory Board, The Columbia Club Long Range Planning Committee, and the Harrison Professional Committee. She received the Miller College of Business Award of Achievement and has been a guest speaker at Alumni Day, LEAP Seminars, Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and Professional Women’s Conference.
“Use your early years to learn, work hard, and get ahead. Set yourself up for success early so you can work towards that work/life balance when focusing on a family. Everyone has a path that is different, but I loved every aspect of being 100% committed to my career when I could,” Ittenbach said.
Brian Main, BS ’12, was awarded the G.O.L.D. Award.
Main credits Ball State for shaping his character and personality to who he is today, keeping his wings tucked in as he continues his role of superintendent of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Bremen. However, Main has a once in a lifetime moment at Ball State University, Benny flapped her wings.
“[Main and his wife] were dating or engaged for all but two months of our 5 years together at Ball State; I couldn’t imagine my time at Ball State without her,” Main said. “She’s the love of my life, the mother of my three boys, and the best Cardinal in our house.”
At Ball State, Brian served many roles, including Undergraduate Representative on the Provost’s Education of the Future Taskforce, Co-Creator and Coordinator of the College of Architecture and Planning’s First-Year Mentoring Program, and Vice President of the Ball State Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Brian was later awarded the prestigious Smith/Litten/Keys Award for outstanding research and creative endeavor as an undergraduate at the Ball State University Student Symposium. After his time on campus, Main has designated his life to giving back to his community and continues impacting community groups including the Boys and Girls Club and the Boy Scouts, local churches, businesses, and philanthropic organizations to bring new and exciting programming to our park system.
“Despite nearly a decade passing, the relationships and friendships I formed at Ball State are still strong. They’ve successfully crossed states, time zones, and lately even continents, and this week doesn’t do that I don’t talk to anyone I met while at Ball State,” Main said.
Brian has been designated a Michiana Forty Under Forty Recipient by the South Bend Regional Chamber and the Young Professionals Network of South Bend (and was the youngest of all 2017 inductees), an award established to “shine the spotlight on 40 of the region’s most talented and dedicated young executives, leaders, professionals, employees and adults who demonstrate career success and community engagement, all before the age of 40.”
Alicia Herder, BA ‘14, was awarded the G.O.L.D. Award.
Herder is an independent producer and was featured at Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival in 2014. After receiving her MFA from UCLA in Film Directing in 2018, she went on to direct several short films, winning multiple Official Selections in festivals worldwide.
Herder’s latest feature, ‘La Leyenda Negra,’ was an Official Selection at Sundance 2020 in the NEXT category, which promises the selected movie will shape a more significant wave in American cinema. Her film got distribution with HBO Max as an independent film, creative with a budget of less than $500 thousand and first-time actors.
Herder is also a co-host of a comedy educational podcast ‘Witch, Yes!’ where she and her co-host, Terra Keck (Ball State ’13), look into different spiritual and witchy topics. As a Podcast host, she uses her platform to contribute and raise money and awareness for important causes. As a filmmaker, her work focuses on putting women, BIPOC and LGBTQ people at the forefront of media.
“Ball State gave me the resources and the tools to become the person I wanted to be when I grew up,” Herder said. “The experience was foundational to my character, and my time at Ball State taught me drive, perseverance, and to always dare to dream.”
Kean Zimmerman, College of Science and Humanities ’12, was awarded this year’s G.O.L.D. award.
Zimmerman, the Claims Council at Tokio Marine HCC – D&O Group, made a point to support students and staff from all aspects of his on-campus and off-campus life while a student at Ball State University. When he wasn’t helping to plan and promote community events with the Student Honors Council, he volunteered his time with the Residence Hall Association as the Issues and Facilities Director.
After graduating with honors from Michigan State University School of law on a full scholarship, Zimmerman took and passed the Connecticut bar. Since that time, he was also barred in the Federal District Court for the District of Connecticut and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court. The Super Lawyers publication recognized Zimmerman as a Rising Star in 2018.
Zimmerman has multiple executive board positions for the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, including President-Elect, and currently serves as the Co-Chair for the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee for the Connecticut Bar Association and a Deputy Region 1 President for the Hispanic National Bar Association. Recently, Zimmerman was also a speaker at the CBA’s 2021 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit.
“My time at Ball State prepared me for many of life’s challenges in ways that I couldn’t truly understand until I was a few years removed from Muncie,” Zimmerman said. “Ball State is where my interest in law sparked, which has manifested into the career I have today. Ball State also taught me the importance of philanthropy and why it’s so important to give back and uplift your communities. I strive to support and mentor aspiring law students as much as I can, including increasing the pipeline of diverse attorneys in Connecticut.”