Over the summer, while Cardinals had left the nest to return home for a much-needed rest from academia, the Honors College was hard at work. We made many new additions to the Honors College house, staff, and student experience! To our Class of 2027, this House may not look much different to you, but to our Class of 2024, the Nest is very different from its 2020 self, or even its Spring 2023 self! What changed over the summer? So Much!! From new administration and faculty to an entire organization merger, the Honors College is growing, evolving, and flying higher and stronger than ever!
New Administration and Faculty!
As Dean John Emert retired at the end of the 2022-2023 school year, the Honors College was excited to welcome Dr. James Buss to the staff as the new Dean of the Honors College! Dr. Buss started his college career at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in History and master’s in Policy History, then continuing on to receive his doctorate in History from Purdue University in 2007. He then became a Visiting Instructor of History at his alma mater of BGSU, followed by a six-year stint at Oklahoma City University, notably also serving as the Director of the Honors Program from 2012 to 2013. Salisbury University then welcomed Dr. Buss onto their staff as the founding dean and Director of the Thomas E. Bellavance Honors Program until 2018.
In 2018, Buss traveled to Northern Kentucky University, where he took on the title of Dean once again, implementing new honors admissions and recruitment protocol, which increased NKU Honor’s 50% increase in applicants and a near 50% increase in Honors enrollment. Over his six years at NKU, the Honors College has more than doubled in the number and percentage of students from underserved populations, creating higher retention rates for Black and Hispanic/Latino students than any other American university’s average. Dr. Buss’s dedication to the students and university he serves made him an ideal candidate for Dr. Emert’s replacement, and we are excited to welcome him to our Honors staff!
The Honors College is excited to now boast seven full-time faculty professors, having recently promoted Bridget Lester and Galit Gertsenzon from their positions as lecturers into Honors College Faculty. Their shared office, now located next to Honors Advising in Room 104, is a great place to make introductions and to learn more about their journeys to Honors.
The Virginia Ball Center joins the Honors Nest!
Looking around campus, a little white house with a picket fence may seem a touch out of place amidst large, industrial buildings with lots of brick and windows. But the Ball Honors House has been a part of campus since before the Great Depression, and has been home to many members of the Ball family, especially Virginia and Edmond Ball. Edmond, son of one of the original Ball Brothers, married fellow pilot and adventurer Virginia in the 1950s, when they both returned to this very house to begin their life together. As they aged, Virginia took an interest in immersive learning opportunities, believing them to be the superior deliverance of education and creative inquiry. Thus, she spearheaded the Virginia Ball Center for Creative Inquiry (VBC), which was housed at the Kitselman Center in Muncie until this year, and provided the first immersive learning opportunities on Ball State’s campus.
Winning 8 Emmy Awards across 33 nominations, 10 International Aurora Awards, and even 1 musical in development for a Broadway production, the Virginia Ball Center is spearheading what it means to be creative and inquisitive. The Honors College is incredibly proud to be merging the rich history of the VBC with the rich history of the Ball Honors House into one central location, which also brings the VBC’s Jen Blackmer and Kristin Ramsey into the fold.
Meet the VBC Staff joining us in Honors!
Jen Blackmer has worked for Ball State University for roughly 20 years as both a Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance and as the Director of the VBC. Jen’s award-winning plays have been produced across the country, and include Human Terrain, Unraveled, Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, Delicate Particle Logic, Borrowed Babies, I Carry Your Heart With Me, and Predictor. She is the recipient of the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award for Emerging American Playwright, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Tribeca Film Institute Award, the Indiana Women of Achievement Award, the Gold Medallion from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, and the Outstanding Creative Endeavor Award (2010, 2018) and Excellence in Teaching Award (2010) at Ball State. Learn more about Jen and her involvement with Ball State on her online at www.jenniferblackmer.com.
All-Star Assistant Director and Project Manager of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry is Kristin Ramsey, who is now a part of the Honors College staff! This is Ramsey’s twenty-first year at Ball State and is excited to be a part of the Honors College. She will be handling VBC projects during its final year of their grant and will slowly take on other Honors College duties. She has two children, Mia who is a freshman at Ball State and Madden who is a freshman at Delta High School. Kristin enjoys creating handmade note cards in her free time and watching her son play basketball. We are excited to welcome her aboard the Honors College team!
Our New Honors Secretary and Student Ambassador Positions!
When entering the Honors College, you will no longer be met with the faces of students, and will instead be greeted by our new Honors College Secretary, Ellen Leigh! Leigh is a graduate of Ball State’s School of Art, where she recently obtained her MFA in Studio Art. Having a background studying Painting at Lorenzo de Medici in Florence, Italy under the tutelage of South African artists Rose Shakinovsky and Claire Gavronsky, Leigh graduated with a BFA from the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, MN in 2001. Her creativity and student-centered attitude make her an ideal candidate for becoming the first point-of-contact for the Honors College.
With the addition of Ellen Leigh to the staff as the Honors College Secretary, our student assistants who used to operate the front desk will be transitioning into a different role on staff. Students who previously were known as Student Assistants are now Student Ambassadors, who will help to perform outreach for prospective students and parents through events and Honors Inquiry Appointments. With the changing of their duties, these students will now be occupying the space in the Dining and Conference Area to complete their meetings.
While the Honors College may be packing the House with new staff, we are also packing the House full of new students! The Fall 2023 incoming freshman class for the Honors college currently totals around 450 students- the largest incoming Honors class in history! With the great recruitment and retention numbers in Honors, plus the additional staff needed to help assist all of these wonderful students, the House needs more room! So please excuse our mess while we welcome the VBC and all of our new faculty, staff, and students to the Nest
The Honors College may be changing, but our principles and ideals are holding strong! If you are curious to how any of these new changes to Honors may impact you, feel free to ask any of our amazing faculty and staff!