By: Dani Tinkel
Dani Tinkel is a sophomore at Ball State University majoring in English Education and minoring in Spanish and Gifted and Talented Education. She is an active member of Ball State’s English Education Club and has previously traveled with the club to the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention. This semester, Dani is assisting Dr. Pamela Hartman with her research on the fine arts in the English Language Arts classroom.
I met Dr. Pamela Hartman in the spring of 2018 purely by coincidence. I was a junior in high school, nervous about my decision to major in English Education and still not entirely sure if Ball State was the right fit for me, so I scheduled an appointment to meet with the head of Ball State’s English Education department. The head of the department at the time just happened to be Dr. Hartman herself. Not that that had meant anything to me then; I hadn’t even begun to fill out the Common App yet. However, the meeting went well, and by the end of it, not only was I feeling more confident in my future career path, but I was also quickly warming to the idea of becoming a Cardinal.
In the summer of 2019, during freshmen orientation, I found myself in the Honors House picking classes for my first semester at Ball State. I had just picked out an ENG 150 class when the faculty member assisting me laughed. “That’s funny you picked that one,” he said, “my wife is the one teaching that class.”
At that, I had to laugh too, because somehow, through another coincidence, I had just met Dr. Matthew Hartman—husband of Dr. Pamela Hartman. At that moment I had to wonder if all of these chance encounters would mean something for my future at Ball State. As it turned out, they did, because this year, with the help of the Honors Undergraduate Fellowship Program, I became Dr. Pamela Hartman’s research assistant.
The highlight of being Dr. Hartman’s research assistant is being able to be an intern in her ENG 150 class. While my research assistant duties—taking notes, organizing data, and editing material regarding how the fine arts in the secondary English Language Arts classroom affects preservice teachers— have their own charms, it is the interning portion of my fellowship that I truly love. ENG 150 is the first class that many freshmen and sophomore English Education majors take, and sometimes it can be overwhelming for newcomers. That is why I take pride in being a reliable support system for the students in that class, and why I make an effort to be more than just Dr. Hartman’s intern to them.
I remember how intimidating ENG 150 was when I was a freshman. I want my role in the classroom to help ease students’ nerves in the same way that my first meeting with Dr. Hartman eased mine. I love seeing them light up when they finally realize that I am not some alien from No-Fun Planet, but that I am a fellow peer, here to help them navigate the English Education major not just for this semester, but for every semester going forward.
Not only has my Honors Undergraduate Fellowship provided me opportunities to become a peer mentor, but it has also allowed me to obtain valuable professional experience. When I am not assisting ENG 150 students or organizing research, I help Dr. Hartman coordinate classroom activities. Despite only being a sophomore, I have gained insight on creating lesson plans, effectively balancing a classroom schedule, and incorporating pedagogical methods into assignments. This is especially valuable for me, considering most English Education majors do not experience these aspects of the major until junior or senior year.
If you are on the fence about pursuing a fellowship, I believe without a doubt that you should take the opportunity. You don’t need to have some chance meeting with a professor before the semester starts, and you don’t need to be the perfect Honors student to be the perfect candidate for a fellowship. In fact, I recommend something else entirely. My advice for pursuing a fellowship is to create lasting relationships with your professors. I didn’t enter into a fellowship with Dr. Hartman because we happened to run into each other a few too many times. I got involved in this fellowship because Dr. Hartman and I built a genuine relationship during my time as a student in her class.
It was through that relationship that I became even more passionate about her research and wanted to become a part of it myself. The Honors College’s diverse array of educators can be a great tool to help you find a professor that shares your passions and interests. But you won’t know what or whom is out there until you start looking. So here is your sign. Go and explore what your professors have to offer, but remember, in the words of Erin Morgenstern, “The truest of tales require time and familiarity to become what they are.”