Freshman Chelsea Murdock has always been passionate about African American and Multicultural Studies and was excited to add those as minors under her Secondary English Education major when she arrived on Ball State’s campus. But to her, learning about these subjects just was not enough, so she enrolled in the Black World Studies colloquium course with Dr. Gabriel Tait. Tait’s Honors 390 course this fall is unique because it’s not just based in the classroom, rather, the students are leading a philanthropy project that will directly benefit the Muncie community. Student-led philanthropy is important to the Honors College, and encourages these missions through various courses. This 390 course, Chelsea says, is unique because it “engages students philanthropically while still engaging us in our classwork at the same time.”

But what is the Black World Studies class experience? For Chelsea, “We examine the basis of Black culture, specifically in America, and see how the roots of this culture arrived in America. But then we’re taking that and partnering with Ladosha Wright, author of Curly Hair Adventures, a children’s book that explores the differences in hair types across the world, with a focus on Black hair and what it means within Black culture. Ms. Wright and our class are collaborating on an event for Grisham Elementary School during our class time in early November to talk about how to take care of Black hair.”

The care process of curly hair can be difficult if one does not grow up being taught the proper way to use products, brush, braid, or otherwise care for their hair, and this 390 class and Wright will be working together to go into the local elementary school to teach all of the students, staff, and community members in attendance about the proper ways to care for hair and the history behind the process.

Between the classroom educational aspect of learning about Black culture and history and the service aspect of planning this event, this Honors 390 section is gaining a unique immersive experience. “Just to be able to pour back into the community, it’s great. Community service can feel obligatory and like something we have to do, so to be able to just walk in and bring in what we’re learning and how we can help these students is so phenomenal. And we can each bring in our own majors and passions and utilize each other’s talents to make a strong and cohesive project,” Chelsea said. Unifying the Muncie community through this event, and a later talkback to discuss this event’s success with the community is the main goal of Tait’s 390 class.

Chelsea shares that the class of 11 is very tight-knit, making personal connections to create a well-rounded event and learning experience. This, she says, is because each student brings something to the table uniquely as an individual, whether it be a passion or a major. For Chelsea, this passion is sharing the experience and history of African American culture, not just based on her own experiences, but also in academic research and learning.

She says, “Our class really bonded over graphics on the Triangular Trade, and we watched how dots representing families moved across the map signaling the movement of African American people and culture. We also watched Roots, which is very riveting and a strong movie. It was crazy to me to see that my family, my people, are one singular dot across a map of thousands of dots. I’ve seen my family history for the first time in a digital format.”

The individual passions and talents of each student are also being utilized in the planning and execution of the curly hair event that the 390 class is working on: On that day, in our 11-person class, we each are taking a different position. One will be doing our videography and photography of how Ms. Wright and our class operate on the day of. Some of our other classmates will be talking with students themselves to make sure that they have the hair supplies necessary.

We’ll be doing a lot of the marketing work, the hands-on work, and just overall getting to talk to students. Students that day will also get to play with dolls with different hair textures and styles, that way they can practice and see how different products work on different hair types and find what makes them confident and comfortable. Each student will also be leaving with a comb and curly hair products, and the experimenting they can do with the dolls will help them practice and learn how to style their hair long after this event ends.”

Chelsea’s passion for the Honors 390 student-led philanthropy project is not just due to her personal connection to the subject matter of the course through her area of study, but it is also due to her status as a Whitinger Scholar for the Honors College. She recalls her first trip to Ball State, “I came to Admitted Students Day after, and the sunrise coming up as I entered Muncie just made me realize, ‘This is the right choice. This is home.’ Everyone at Ball State is so passionate and has so much heart, and it’s so encouraging and so inspiring. If anyone is reading this- apply. You never know what’s going to happen, so apply. Being on campus is incredible and just has such a sense of being home.”

Courses like Dr. Tait’s Honors 390 and passionate, driven students like Chelsea are the heart of the Honors College, and we are excited to be the home of such amazing student-led philanthropy classes.