Director of PR Grad Program Finds Relationship Built with Students Most Rewarding

Ask the average person to describe what someone in public relations does and you will most likely get varying accounts of everything from event planning and promotion to working with the media and wrangling celebrities.

Ask YoungAh Lee, director of the public relations graduate program at Ball State, and you will get a much more nuanced answer.

“Public relations is a science of human communication behavior. It connects people at every level.”

Lee would know. After all, she has nearly 20 years’ worth of experience in the field – from entry-level positions to co-founder to professor to director. Lee got her start and initial spark for public relations serving as a public information officer for the New Zealand Embassy in South Korea.

“I didn’t even know what PR was. The job was mainly about promoting New Zealand to the Korean people and boosting the country’s reputation in Korea. As I saw my research and hard work pay off, I found myself enjoying strategic communications. It was the spark that started my career.”

From there Lee joined one of the largest PR agencies in Korea, working for clients such as Microsoft, Häagen-Dazs, and the Korean Government.

“I felt an immense amount of satisfaction in enhancing the reputation of various organizations.”

That passion led Lee to co-found her own PR consultancy with fellow colleagues of hers and then later, to further her education in the field of PR. While earning her master’s and PhD at the University of Missouri, Lee found another passion sparking, just as it had for public relations years earlier. This time, though, it was a passion for teaching.

“I took my first step as a teacher when I was a graduate assistant and found a genuine desire to teach students about the huge impact PR has as a critical means of building relationships. I wanted to develop students as PR practitioners, and from there, I found my reason to become a teacher-scholar.”

Lee followed her combined desire to practice and teach PR to Ball State University. She was brought on in 2014, and, by 2016, took on the task of revamping the graduate program.

“We needed an improved program that progressed with the new technology of the world. The times are changing rapidly, and I believe that PR should change with it.”

As director of the graduate public relations program at Ball State, Lee utilizes all of her skills honed over her years in PR to recruit, admit, advise, and educate students in public relations. She also promotes the program on a national scale, but for someone as engrained in the world of PR, it makes sense that she takes the most pride in building relationships – although at this point in her career it is with students not clients or businesses.

“I really enjoy the personal bond I create with my students. While teaching and advising them, I get to learn more about their dreams, their personalities, their strengths. I get to see them succeed and cheer them on in their endeavors. It’s such a rewarding job.”

The Master’s Degree in Public Relations at Ball State – offered either online, on-campus, or as a blend of both – delivers all the foundational and current skills and experiences necessary to lead and excel in the many facets of public relations.

Coach Continues to Learn and Grow with Master’s Degree in Athletic Coaching Education

For junior high and high school athletic coach and educator Wes Padilla, sports are more than a leisure activity or learning experience, they are a way of life. They were a core tenant of Padilla’s life growing up in southwest Wyoming. From Little Leagues and pick-up games to varsity sports and athletics, Padilla excelled on the field; however, during his freshmen year of college, an injury put him on the sidelines where, for the first time, he was able to watch and observe a different side of the game: the coaching.

This experience reshaped Padilla’s perspective and athletic coaching became his new central focus. Upon graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education, Padilla pursued this passion with coaching positions in Rock Springs, WY, and later in Ogden, UT. Padilla, however, was not satisfied to remain stagnant in his experience and wanted to deliver a more consistent and dependent athletic program to his students and athletes.

“I saw a lot of coaches who were doing the same thing every year and getting stale. I wanted to increase my knowledge, get better, and earn more credibility.”

He, therefore, decided to pursue an online master’s degree in athletic coaching. Padilla researched schools to find the right one for him. He narrowed his list down to a few select schools, one of which was Ball State University. He liked what he learned about the school and its master’s degree program in athletic coaching education, specifically the people noting, “The professors and academic advisors [were] willing to communicate and help me out in the application process. I found it very relieving that there was a lot of support.”

One such professor was Dr. Larry Judge, coordinator of the Graduate Athletic Coaching Education Program. Through their conversations, Padilla discovered a connection to Judge that assured him Ball State was the right choice for an online master’s program.

“Wyoming is a rural state and it is uncommon to find others who are passionate or have connections with it. Dr. Judge was a former University of Wyoming coach and were able to talk about Wyoming and share some common ground. I had a great feeling after that conversation and felt like it was all meant to be.”

Backed by a great experience interacting with and learning from the faculty and advisors, Padilla officially enrolled in online courses at Ball State. He soon discovered what he was learning was directly applicable to his current position.

“I have been able to directly use the information [in this program] on a day-to day-basis. The knowledge I have gained has made me a more effective coach and educator.”

Padilla continued to take courses and went on to earn his master’s in athletic coaching education in December 2017. He hopes to be an example to his student athletes on the importance of the continuous support of growth and learning.

“No matter where you are in respect to experience, you are always capable of growing and developing a deeper understanding in your profession.”

The master’s degree in athletic coaching education offered at Ball State Online is designed for coaches and athletic instructors who want to become better, more effective coaches and educators. It was the first such program to go online in the country and continues to break ground on innovative teaching methods and licensure.

M.D. Pursues His MBA to Transition to the Business Side of Health Care

Jonathan Kirkwood knows a thing or two about managing a busy schedule. Between practicing medicine full-time as a hospitalist, starting up and running a boutique biotechnology investment fund, and raising three children with his wife, an OBGYN, he has no time to waste. Which is why pursuing his MBA online with Ball State University was not only ideal but necessary.

“I needed an avenue that offered flexibility on when I could watch lectures. Ball State’s MBA program offers me that flexibility as there are times I am watching them after midnight when I get home from the hospital.”

Kirkwood of Illinois first entertained the idea of pursuing his MBA after switching tracks in his medical career, from a private practice model to an employed physician model. He soon realized it was not the right arrangement for him. He reflected on his competitive advantages and knowledge base – concluding that he had the skills, experience, and specializations needed to work in biotechnology; however, he’d need to advance his education in business.

To do this, he enrolled in Ball State’s online MBA program, choosing to concentrate in finance and health economics and policy. While he is currently taking courses, Kirkwood has already found value in what he has learned.

“The education has further solidified the foundation of business principles I had garnered through experience in building and managing hospitalist programs. I now have a greater understanding of ‘why’ we came to the decisions we did in the past. The rounded education has also been a good catalyst in my current venture in understanding emerging biotechnology equities.”

On top of the valuable information he has already gained, Kirkwood credits his advisor, director of MBA and certificate programs Jason Webber and the faculty with helping him to succeed and manage courses around his busy schedule.

“He [Webber] has really optimized my schedule for my pursuit of knowledge in the time constraints of my current life. There have been several times where I needed to take courses in a different order. Also, several professors have been quite engaging in discussing my vision and my approach to investing.”

Although he isn’t due to graduate with his MBA until 2019, Kirkwood has already taken a big career step forward with what he has learned so far in the program by launching Indiana’s first boutique biotechnology investment fund – Kirkwood Scherer Capital Ventures – earlier this year.

Kirkwood credits his time in the MBA with accelerating this process and providing him with the knowledge base and flexibility he needs to run a successful business, practice medicine, and raise a family – all on his time.


The Master of Business Administration at Ball State – offered either online, on-campus, or as a blend of both – delivers all the practical and rigorous experiences necessary to excel in today’s global and digital economy. It is ranked No.16 Best Online MBA program in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

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