Graduate Nursing Student Battled COVID as Brand-New RN

Sabrina Manahan prepares for her shift as an ICU nurse

In her first year as an RN, bachelor of nursing alumnus Sabrina Manahan confronted COVID-19 when she prepped a patient for the ventilator.

“I held his hand and cried with him as he said goodbye to his wife, not knowing if it would be his last,” says Sabrina, who is now in Ball State’s online master’s in nursing. “He made us promise to do everything possible to save him.”

These were the early days of the pandemic. Like other hospitals, her hospital was beginning to isolate cases with COVID from other patients.

Begins Search for Master’s Degree

Meanwhile, Sabrina was comparing graduate nursing programs.

Easy choice. Except for clinicals, her alma mater’s master’s in nursing was online. She knew the professors. She knew the staff. Class time and study time would fit around her work schedule. Online study decreased the risks of students spreading the virus among classmates. And she could pursue a concentration leading to a family nurse practitioner’s license.

“I chose this concentration so that I will be able to treat the general population rather than a smaller demographic in which I work with now,” she says, referring to her present position in ICU. “I have always wanted to work in a small family clinic.”

Treats COVID Patients Every Day

Today Sabrina works at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, Indiana.

“I am working with COVID-positive patients on a daily basis, so it was nice that I’d not have to worry about time from school if I were to need tested—or if I were COVID-positive,” she says.

Treating COVID-positive patients isn’t quite as harrowing as it was during her first year as an RN, says Sabrina.

“To Others This Was Pure Terror”

“We had a whole floor designated for COVID patients, and every day you were randomly assigned to either work on the trauma unit or the COVID unit,” she says. “To some, this was no issue, but to others this was pure terror.”

Many nurses questioned giving COVID patient care when the risks were still unknown, says Sabrina. They watched experienced RNs cry when they huddled from fear and lack of information.

Nursing staff were receiving updated guidelines—daily—from the Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization which triggered changes in procedures.

Constant Battle to Keep Up

“It seemed to be a constant battle with new surges of infection that we had to keep up with to make sure we had enough beds, supplies, and staff to manage the great increase in patients,” she says.

Sabrina was one of few who volunteered to work the COVID floor.

“I was able to volunteer with less fear than others because in the beginning it was mainly affecting people in their 40s and above,” she says. “I was only 24 years old so I figured it would be safer for me to go to our COVID unit than my coworkers in their 40s and 50s.”

Not that she’ll ever forget that first step inside a COVID patient’s room.

Says She Was Shaking as She Put on PPE

“I remember I was shaking as I put on my PPE,” says Sabrina, referring to the personal protective equipment worn by health-care workers. “It was a lot of stress knowing that if you didn’t wear everything correctly or take it off correctly that you could risk spreading or contracting the virus.”

“The most sobering aspect for me was having to hold up an iPad for family members to say goodbye to their loved ones,” says Sabrina. “I could never imagine not being able to be there with a loved one while they passed, and I was having people do it every day.  I still get angry thinking about it to this day.”

Pandemic Impact Considered in Grad Class 

The impact of the pandemic has found its way into her graduate classes, she says.

“We have discussed the pathophysiology of coronavirus and how it has impacted health care,” she says. “We discuss how the pandemic has greatly advanced telehealth and the way people access health care.”

Connie McIntosh, associate professor of nursing, learned Sabrina’s and other students’ stories when they were in her nursing information technology class. “Being able to balance graduate work with a full-time professional nursing role is not easy,” says Connie. “Being able to do it during a pandemic is heroic-like.”

Gruver Helps Open World of Sustainable Resources to Online Students, Too

Early in his online Food Systems course, Josh Gruver, associate professor for Environmental, Geology, and Natural Resources, asks his students to step away from their laptops and go interview someone who functions as a link in the local food system.

From conversations with a chef, farmer, fisherman, food pantry manager, or truck driver, students learn where food is grown, produced, distributed, transported, and, most importantly, how it landed on their plates.

It’s not a typical assignment for online students, who pursue Ball State programs wherever they have an internet connection. But Ball State programs are not so typical.

Assignment for Local Involvement

Another assignment, which Josh requires of students in both his on-site and online classes, asks students to volunteer in a setting such as a soup kitchen, a food pantry, or a local farm.

“Students like this exercise. It gives them an appreciation of the day-to-day food work system that is continually in process,” says Josh, who teaches in the graduate certificate in sustainability program. “I thought online learning would inhibit my ability to help students learn by doing – but that turns out not to be the case.”

His passion for sustainable natural resource management, he says, was ignited during his Peace Corps experience in Papua New Guinea (PNG) nearly 30 years ago. He spent two years helping communities manage their resources – their forests, their fisheries, their clean water.

Peace Corps Lesson

That’s where he found a government that allowed large multi-national corporations from 1st world nations rob the country of resources such as timber, fish, and gold.

“The ocean waters there are teaming with tuna – but you can’t get tuna on the island. It’s been fished out by the Japanese,” says Gruver. “As a 24-year-old, it blew my mind and woke me up to the kinds of dehumanizing and ethically dubious things that happen in places like PNG.”

Realities such as this on the other side of the world is why Josh, in 2015, put together a local team of volunteers—students and colleagues—to create the Muncie Food Hub Partnership (MFHP) which today is, in his words, “still connecting area growers and eaters.”

Helping to Nourish Muncie

“Our mission is to nourish and strengthen the Muncie community through the robust exchange of fresh and affordable local food,” says Josh, director of the MFHP. “We are helping small-scale, diversified crop farmers sell more produce, and we’re helping residents who live in low food access areas connect with healthy fresh nutritiously dense foods.”

He says that at least two of his online students have visited MFHP and one is managing a farmers’ market in Yorktown, Indiana.

“My central goal as a scholar is to integrate knowledge produced at the university with local knowledge and experience to create working solutions toward natural resource-related issues.”

How He Buffed Up Online Teaching Skills

During the COVID-19 pandemic, his central goal was buffing up his online classroom skills with consultation from Ball State’s Online and Strategic Learning.

“They helped me go from never having taught an online course to putting one together that I am really proud of – with a very short timeline,” he says. “Learning how to develop and teach an online course really kicked up my course management system game.”

 

TEACH Scholarship Making Degree Possible for Soanirina DeJong

After working as a certified nurse’s assistant, a front-desk receptionist, a Dairy Queen manager, and an instructor’s aide, Soanirina DeJong is on her way to a teaching career with the class she holds in highest regard.

Soanirina is lead teacher at a child care center in Lafayette, Ind., and enrolled in Ball State’s online bachelor’s in family and child: early childhood education.

Her work assisting in such classrooms has led to her prepare to teach early childhood. “I have always wanted to teach, but these experiences have reignited a passion to pursue teaching young children,” says Soanirina, a junior.

“We’re More than Glorified Babysitters”

She wonders why early early childhood teachers don’t get the credit that elementary and secondary grades teachers do. “In early childhood education, the typical thought is that we are nothing more than ‘glorified babysitters’ which is unfortunate,” she says. “Early childhood education is so much more.”

Soanirina earned her associate degree in early childhood from Ivy Tech in Lafayette through the TSAP (Transfer Single Articulation Pathway) program, which allows students to easily transfer into a corresponding bachelor’s degree at Ball State with junior-year status.

She also qualified for a Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) scholarship which is available to early childhood professionals in Indiana. The scholarship covers most of the student’s tuition and costs for books.

Helped Her Transition to Lead Teacher

“T.E.A.C.H. made it possible for me to go back to school and pursue a career that I was passionate about,” says Soanirina, who, while pursuing the bachelor’s, has transitioned from a teacher’s aide position to hers as lead teacher.

Ball State is one of few public universities in Indiana offering an online bachelor’s degree in family and child: early childhood education.  For Soanirina, one benefit has been the opportunity to use tools and materials from the bachelor’s program in her current classroom.

Like many in the program, she works full time, while studying part time, taking two classes each term.

Says Discussion Board is a Listening Platform

One of her favorite online tools is the discussion boards. “The discussions boards really serve as a platform to ‘listen’ to other people’s experiences and their opinions on the current discussion or question,” she says.

Soanirina says she “talks regularly” with some of her online professors. “I always make it a point to ask questions when I do not understand something,” she says.

The feedback, says Soanirina, can be very reassuring. “This helps me gain confidence in myself and teaches me that educators and teaching professionals are always learners, too,” she says.

“I wanted to change their life trajectories:” Alumnus Jeremy Coleman

In his first job after college, Jeremy Coleman saw the world from the viewpoint of a correctional officer.

“I met so many talented and hopeful young people that all shared a similar story of abandonment and abuse,” he says. “I wanted to dramatically change the life trajectories of the students most affected by economic inequality, discriminatory housing, and economic policy.”

In a later job, where he mentored students facing challenges in schools throughout Indianapolis, Jeremy discovered what he calls “the magic of the classroom.” Finding that he had a unique connection with students, he pursued his teaching license and, in his first year, landed in a classroom of 38 fourth-graders, where he “loved every minute of it.”

Students Discover Voice, Power

“The students that I mentored discovered their own voice and power and made tremendous progress in schools,” says Jeremy, who today is principal of Brookview Elementary on the east side of Indianapolis.

While teaching in a local charter school, he enrolled in Ball State’s online master of arts (MAE) in educational administration and supervision.

“The beauty of the Ball State program was its emphasis on practice which is what made me choose Ball State’s MAE program over other programs,” he says.

Jeremy says the program was “foundational in my understanding of how to think like an administrator.”

Says MAE Class was Jolt He Needed

He remembers vividly his first class with Dr. Marilynn Quick, associate professor of educational leadership.

“It was challenging, it was rigorous, and it was also exactly the jolt that I needed to see leadership clearly,” he says. “I remember a few things about my first MAE class with Dr. Quick: reading Machiavelli’s The Prince and Six Thinking Hats. Both were wonderfully designed to induce critical thinking and analysis. But the third indelible experience from her class was the self-assessment rubrics.”

Jeremy assumed the role of Brookview principal in 2019. Part of his responsibility is setting the tone and establishing direction for the school.

“But none of that is possible without talented and dedicated staff and great students.  We have both at Brookview,” he says. “I will take some credit for hiring some of our rock star teachers!”

EdD Was Next on His Journey

In 2013, Jeremy enrolled in Ball State’s online doctorate of education (EdD) in educational administration and supervision.

“One of the major determinants for starting the journey was the level of support I would have along the way,” he says. “I heard horror stories of people who were ‘all but dissertation’ with little hope and even less support.”

Jeremy says he knew he had expert guidance for his “dissertation journey” with Dr. Serena Salloum, Ball State associate professor of educational leadership, as his chair.

Dr. Salloum Helped Him Persevere

“They say a leader is someone you would follow to a place that you wouldn’t go by yourself,” he says. “This journey is arduous and would’ve been impossible for me to go it alone. During the challenging stages of writing the dissertation, knowing that Dr. Salloum was in my corner, helped me persevere.”

Jeremy says the EdD was life altering and prepared him to be a better researcher, writer, and, ultimately, a better leader.

EdD was Crowning Achievement

“Commencement was the moment for me,” says Jeremy, who recently received his degree. “I can remember very clearly being at Worthen Arena and enjoying an overwhelming sense of being ‘home.’ It was the crowning professional accomplishment of my career.”

Jeremy has also partnered with The National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemist and Chemical Engineers (NoBCChE), 100 Black Men of Indianapolis, Teach for America, and Keep Indiana Learning, all dedicated to improving the lives of minority students.

Rawlings Winner Coker Leads Students Online Through Pandemic Year

“When the crisis hit she did the best out of all my teachers to care for us students and making sure everything she assigned was reasonable and doable.”

“She was constantly checking in with her students, and making sure we were doing okay, staying safe, and to see if she could help us with anything.”

“She made the transition from in-class to online easier and has continued to check up on students individually to see how they have been doing during these dark times.”

That Was Just a Few of Them

That’s just a few of the glowing student comments the Rawlings Award selection committee read before they chose Dr. Kesha Coker, Ball State assistant professor of marketing, as the 2020-21 award winner.

Given annually, the award recognizes outstanding online teaching at Ball State University, saluting faculty members who demonstrate creativity, innovation, and dedication in the online classroom.

Ironically, Coker won the award teaching Spring 2020 classes that began in a face to face format until COVID-19 drove Ball State classes fully online through the fall of 2020.

Posted Top Course Evaluations

“Dr. Coker met this challenge and successfully accomplished her course objectives while posting the top course evaluation performance in our department among all faculty,” says Dr. Russ Wahlers, chair of the Department of Marketing, who nominated Coker for the Rawlings award.

Coker joined the business faculty in 2017. Her capabilities were evident early, and she received the university’s Miller College of Business Outstanding Teaching Award for 2019.

Dr. Joseph Chapman, Director of the Center for Professional Selling in the Department of Marketing, has had the opportunity to review Coker’s teaching effectiveness annually.

He says her teaching scores are “exemplary.”

“This is an amazing accomplishment given the limited time faculty had to convert classes from face to face to the online format,” he says.

She Was Impressed With Students’ Initiative

Coker was impressed how students took the initiative to stay engaged and complete assignments on discussion boards during the epidemic.

“What’s unique about the Ball State online classroom is that we are guided by the spirit of Beneficence—we all showed up for each other and were grateful for the opportunity for education online in a time when online was much needed,” says Coker.

Wahlers says that while the Rawlings Award speaks to distance education, Kesha has also published numerous articles in highly respected peer-reviewed marketing journals, papers in top national conferences, and has a well-developed stream of research in progress.

Claims Award Was a Class Effort

The award, notes Coker, “reflects the need to continually innovate and be creative to enhance the educational journey for our students, especially given the unprecedented times created by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

She says it was a class effort.

“We kept calm and chirped on, showing our resilience, and we were better together—that’s the Ball State way!”

For Hyeseok Lee and Co-workers, Ball State Becomes Online Destination

While serving as an an assistant teacher at an international academy on an island just off the southern tip of South Korea, Hyeseok Lee realized she’d need a master’s degree to continue teaching.

After extensive research, she applied and was accepted at several graduate schools with online elementary education programs but ultimately chose a program from an American school she’d never heard of: Ball State University.

“I wanted a program that gave me flexibility so I could take care of my children and work on my courses at the same time,” she says, impressed that it was “a state university with a long history.”

Ironically, when Hyeseok talked to the principal at her academy about leaving to do graduate work, she learned that her principal had graduated from the same Ball State.

Ball State Online Made it Possible

Hyeseok left the academy on the island of Jeju in 2020 so she could become a full-time mom and a part-time student in an online elementary education degree program with a concentration in early childhood.

“It is amazing to raise a child and worth so much to do it,” she says. “I like the fact that Ball State makes it possible.”

Hyeseok says it’s exciting to connect with so many people outside of Korea, and she’s become good friends with classmates.

“I love my professors as well,” she adds. “They have been helpful and knowledgeable for me to continue my learning.”

She’d Never Heard of Canvas Either

She thinks the most appealing aspect of Ball State’s online classroom is its flexibility. “I love Canvas [Ball State’s learning management system],” she says. “I’d never heard of it before but it is easy to navigate and to use.”

When students introduced themselves at the beginning of the semester, Hyeseok says some of her classmates were interested in knowing more about student life in South Korea.

First of all, she explains, the 13-hour time difference between Ball State faculty and South Korea does not impact her since classes are available when she is available—or asynchronously.

Hyeseok earned her undergraduate degree with majors in child welfare, public relations, and advertising from one of the top women’s universities in Korea.

Took Path Through Women’s Schools

In addition to attending a women’s university, she also attended a girls’ junior high and a girls’ high school.

She says the belief that education was primarily for men stems from the influence of Confucianism which held that seeking knowledge was “men’s work.” To help achieve gender equity, leaders founded Sookmyung Women’s University, Hyeseok’s alma mater, in 1906, as the first women’s university in Korea.

Home for Hyeseok is Jeju Island, a tourist destination, located 60 miles south of the mainland.

Her Home is a Vacation Destination

“Its advertising slogan is ‘Hawaii of Asia,’ and it’s the warmest place in South Korea,” says Hyeseok. She describes it as “a volcanic island with beautiful nature, beaches, and famous oranges.”

In recent decades, she says, Jeju has become known as one of busiest honeymoon and vacation destinations in the world.

Hyeseok’s detailed research for graduate schools and successful application may have paid off for some friends in South Korea, too.

Two other assistant teachers at the international academy enrolled in Ball State online degrees, based on her word of mouth alone.

 

ABA Student’s Senior-Year Diagnosis Made Graduation a Steep Climb

With just one semester left to finish her online bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis, Melissa Courtney’s steps to graduation turned steeply upward when she was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism. Her doctor told her that this life-threatening blood clot was damaging her lungs and she might want to sit out for a semester.

“I had worked so hard to get to where I was,” she says. “Waiting even another semester to graduate made me upset. Along with migraines, nose bleeds, and fatigue came depression, anxiety, and anger.”

Melissa questioned whether she could keep up with her studies or if hospital stays might interrupt her classes.

Disability Services Listens

So she turned to her advisor Amy Chamberlain, student success specialist for online students. Amy, who had successfully helped Melissa transfer into the ABA program as a junior with nearly 65 credits, introduced her to Ball State’s office of disability services.

Melissa says disability services staff listened to her concerns about the upcoming semester. “They helped me determine what accommodations would be best for me based on my concerns,” she says. “Once we came up with the accommodations, they sent them to my instructors.”

Disability services requires that students meet with professors one on one to talk about leniencies needed for particular assignments.

She Explained Medical Needs

“I explained to my instructors my needs and made sure they were aware that this was not something I wanted to abuse,” says Melissa, noting that disability services checked in with her several times throughout the semester.

Melissa had transferred from a community college after earning an associate degree in human services.

“I transferred to Ball State because I knew the ABA program there was amazing, and I needed a school that was going to be affordable,” she says.

Better in all Categories

According to Melissa, compared to her previous school, Ball State was more equipped for larger classes, professors responded sooner, classes felt more organized, and she seldom waited for grades to be posted.

“I feel that I learned something from every single one of my classes, especially my ABA-related classes,” she says. She enjoyed multiple classes with Kacyn Tucker-Ramer, Ball State lecturer of applied behavior analysis.

“She made the lessons fun and always told me what I did well or where I could improve,” says Melissa. “I genuinely felt that she cared about my education.”

Advisor Amy Went Above and Beyond

Since graduating with her bachelor’s in December 2020, Melissa has worked as a registered behavioral technician (RBT) at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Terre Haute, Ind.

Her goal is to earn a master’s degree at Ball State and eventually work with autistic children.

Melissa says advisor Amy was with her every step of the way, from application to graduation.

“She went above and beyond as an advisor, and I do not know what I would have done without her,” says Melissa. “She was my own personal cheerleader when I was sick. She motivated me to continue and made it a simple process to do so. I cannot thank her enough.”

Angela Bricker: “Still in Awe of the Differences ABA Can Make”

In her first year as an elementary teacher, Angela Bricker (BCBA-D), was surprised that so many of her young students were diagnosed with autism.

So she joined an applied behavior analysis center to learn ABA principles and techniques. While at the ABA center she began taking evening classes to learn more about ABA, while using the principles with clients during the day.

“I started working in the ABA field due to my interest in helping students that I didn’t think were getting what they truly needed in the general education classroom,” says Angela, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate (BCBA-D) and Ball State assistant teaching professor of special education.

Has Love for the Science

“I fell in love with the science of ABA,” says Angela, who completed Ball State’s MA in special education in 2008. “I have now been in the field for over 25 years, and I am still in awe of the differences ABA can make in the lives of others.”

During her 25-year career, she has worked in clinical, home, educational, and residential settings, and has established multiple school-based programs for children with autism.

She began teaching in the Ball State master’s in ABA with an emphasis in autism program in 2009, and today she teaches and mentors adjunct faculty as a content specialist.

ABA Master’s is Largest in the Nation

Ball State was the first university in the state to offer such a master’s program. The master’s in ABA with an emphasis in autism has grown to be the largest in the nation.

Angela thinks she knows why.

“Reputation! Students who enjoy the program and become successful share their experience with others,” she says. “We truly have an amazing set of courses, and they are set up to help students with lots of different backgrounds.”

Program Gives Students World Perspective

The master’s in ABA with an emphasis in autism enrolls students worldwide, which only broadens the classroom perspective.

“Sometimes I will have a zoom meeting with a student at 8 a.m. Eastern Standard Time,” says Angela, “and then another at 11 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in order to accommodate students from around the globe.”

One uniqueness of the program is having students collaborate with international peers on class projects.

“Having the ability to collaborate this way is so important within ABA, and I think most students find this to be a positive experience,” says Angela. “It allows them to become more comfortable with different formats of technology for communication.”

On the Forefront of Training Professionals

Another advantage is its history. The department has been on the forefront of training professionals to help special populations with best-practice methods for decades.

After teaching in the ABA program for more than a decade, she believes her faculty colleagues are passionate about the science for the benefit of students.

“As a department we have biweekly meetings to stay in touch and brainstorm ways to keep the program successful,” says Angela. “Each course is also set up with a content specialist who will reach out to all instructors teaching that specific course several times throughout the semester.”

If you have ever watched what ABA can do, she says, then “you would understand the thirst we have for more knowledge in this field.”

Leitze: Students Need Faculty Relationships to Make a Connection

For just one student in North Dakota, Ann Leitze, professor of mathematical sciences and graduate advisor, began teaching online.

In the fall of 2009, she chose to admit the student and teach in a hybrid format, virtually to her online student and face-to-face to main-campus students. Her goal was to grow the online MA in mathematics education. Today, she routinely has 85-90 students enrolled online each semester in the MA’s three concentrations, two graduate certificates, and another MA.

“Without a relationship with the professor and classmates, many [students] do not feel comfortable reaching out to the professor—or classmates—for help.”

Led by Lifelong Love of Learning

“Having online math programs available is absolutely necessary for Indiana math educators to pursue graduate study,” Ann says, noting that a “lifelong love of learning” drew her to graduate study and eventually teaching at the university level.

She says about 50 percent of her graduate students are Indiana teachers. “For many years, Indiana teachers pursuing graduate study were few and far between,” she recalls. Although she sees progress, she thinks a need remains for teachers with advanced degrees.

Ann is proud of the success in growing Ball State’s graduate math education program, which offers concentrations for elementary and middle school mathematics teachers, secondary school teachers, and elementary or middle school mathematics education specialists as well as the master’s in foundational mathematics teaching in the community college.

License for Specialists Approved

She’s happy to report that the third concentration, for elementary or middle school mathematics education specialists, was recently approved by the State of Indiana as the only program in the state leading to a new Indiana license for elementary mathematics specialists.

As graduate advisor for math education, she wants online students to know that professors support them.

Says Relationships Required

“Without a relationship with the professor and classmates, many of them do not feel comfortable reaching out to the professor—or classmates—for help,” she says.

Ann says she sets high standards for her students.

“I challenge them to perform to their full capacity,” she says. “I want my students not only to have an understanding of mathematics at the appropriate level, but also to have familiarity with appropriate models and methods for teaching mathematics.”

Believes Her Role is Mentoring, Modeling

She believes her primary professional role includes both mentoring and modeling.

“I push myself to model best teaching practices for both students and junior faculty,” she says.

Earlier in her Ball State career, Ann led the Elementary Urban Semester, working with K-12 teachers in underprivileged schools. Designed to integrate science and mathematics at the elementary school and university levels, the program received the 2002 School Science and Mathematics Association Award for Excellence in Integrating Science and Mathematics and the 2004 American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Best Practice Award in Support of Diversity.

DoDEA Educator Earns 4 Graduate Degrees from Halfway Across the World

As an alumna and assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership at Ball State University, I am confident that I made the right decision in choosing this institution to become a successful educational leader, administrator, and scholar.

I grew up in the Indianapolis area, and after graduating with my bachelor’s degree in education, I came back to the area to begin my teaching career. After a few years, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to teach at a United States Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)-Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DoDDS) middle school on a United States Army Garrison in Seoul, South Korea. With a passion for learning and traveling overseas, I began an enlightening career of teaching military children, serving United States military families, collaborating with educators and school leaders, and expanding my knowledge of Asian cultures.

Reputable and Rigorous Online Graduate Degrees

During the latter part of my first school year in South Korea, I decided to pursue a degree and license to become a school administrator. Searches for reputable and rigorous online graduate education degrees led me to Ball State Online. I was familiar with Ball State’s reputation in Indiana and throughout the country. I was thrilled to be admitted into the Department of Educational Leadership master of arts in education in educational administration and supervision (MAE) and building-level administrator licensure programs.

The opportunity to study online at Ball State University was ideal for my situation. Although I was living on the other side of the world, I taught children with DoDEA standards. My professors at Ball State designed courses to best meet the needs of practitioner-scholars. I could do my job as a teacher each day and complete my Ball State coursework as a student during the evenings and weekends.

The coursework was relevant to my work as a teacher and emerging educational leader in the school, and I found myself wanting to take more courses and pursue more degrees. Following the end of the first year of coursework for the MAE, I began taking courses towards a master of arts in educational psychology and a gifted and talented education add-on license. The coursework was practical and relevant to my school and me. I felt rewarded by learning opportunities that I had due to guidance from professors and expectations within individual courses.

By the end of my third year as a Ball State graduate student, while living and teaching overseas, I also decided to pursue a specialist in education in educational administration and supervision (EdS) with a district-level administrator license as well as a doctor of education (EdD) in educational administration and supervision. Although my being an online doctoral student abroad was new to the Ball State faculty, every professor was extremely helpful and communicative throughout my programs.

During two years of rigorous internships for my building- and district-level administrator licenses, I had helpful and meaningful dialogue, experiences, and opportunities to learn with building- and district-level leaders. The internship projects also challenged me to focus on educational leadership in multiple aspects such as management, vision, and culture with teachers, administrators, students, and school and community stakeholders. These practices prepared me to be a more rounded and confident incoming school leader.

At the beginning of my fifth year in South Korea, I received a promotion as the assistant principal of a DoDEA middle school on a United States Naval Base in Japan. I was ready for this new challenge because of the preparation I received from my Ball State professors, particularly from the guidance of the Department of Educational Leadership faculty.

Faculty and Advisor Support Across Time Zones

While living and working in Japan for two years, I wrote my doctoral dissertation and completed all required coursework online. My dissertation chair and I met via web conference to talk about my writing progress regularly. We became accustomed to meeting late at night or early in the morning due to the time difference between Japan and Indiana.

Additionally, my doctoral advisor was always responsive and helpful when I needed additional support or had questions about my program. When I completed the EdD degree, I had the pleasure and honor of returning to Indiana from Japan to graduate and be hooded as a “Doctor” by two professors who supported me throughout the program. It was such a special day for my family and me. I was humbled to learn that some of the teachers and specialists at my school in Japan watched the commencement ceremony online!

Applying Her EdD to Her Career

After earning the EdD, I worked as the gifted resources specialist at a DoDEA elementary school in Quantico, Virginia. My education and skills acquired as a DoDEA teacher and administrator were extremely useful to me in this position. I enjoyed the opportunity to work with all students as they gained skills to be successful in the 21st century. My fellow educators and I focused on integrative STEM education approaches and College and Career Ready Standards to best prepare students for their futures. This opportunity gave me new insights into the needs of teachers and leaders of 21st century learners.

Towards the end of the school year, I felt ready to teach and guide educators and educational leaders to excellence in education within higher education. After talking with my dissertation chair, I learned that a position opened in the Department of Educational Leadership at Ball State, and I applied for it. The university made an offer, and I accepted an assistant professor position within the department that supported me for so many years.

To become a faculty member in the Department of Educational Leadership was an honor. Although I had a unique experience as an online doctoral student abroad, I was welcomed, mentored, and supported by the faculty as I made the transition from working in PK-12 education to higher education.

Achieving New Goals

During the past six years, I have taught courses, supervised principal interns, advised students, implemented program recruitment strategies, designed and led doctoral peer mentoring programs, worked with colleagues and developed an integrative STEM education course and book, received grants, published peer-reviewed articles, presented peer-review papers, and collaborated with colleagues throughout the college and within other institutions. The work that I have completed and continue to do at Ball State inspires me, and I am grateful for the opportunities I have at this institution.

I have focused on international studies, creative thinking, and educational leadership throughout my higher education and work in schools. Before I began working for DoDEA or taking courses through Ball State Online, I set a goal. My goal was to take undergraduate or graduate students overseas to study education systems. I wrote this goal in a notebook and shared the goal with friends and family members. I believed I could achieve this goal if I continued to work hard towards it every day.

In 2018, Ball State provided me the opportunity to achieve this goal by accompanying Ball State student teachers to Ramstein, Germany, during the fall semester of that year. I was the university supervisor while the student teachers complete their student teaching semester at DoDEA schools on the United States Air Force and Army bases in Germany.

Now, I am the Director of International Programs for Teachers College and work with faculty to develop and implement meaningful partnerships worldwide and within DoDEA. The relevant knowledge and practical experiences that I gained as a DoDEA teacher and administrator, Ball State student, and assistant professor have prepared me to be an effective leader and educator in multiple capacities. I look forward to future opportunities.

Dr. Rachel Geesa,
MA ‘12
MAE ‘13
EdS ‘13
EdD ‘14