How One Graduate Found His Future in the Cloud

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“Lots of electives. Lots of options. In addition to corporate, you can do project management or the more technical. I gravitated toward the technical side.”
 

Nathan Hiscock, client innovation director for CleanSlate Technology Group in Carmel, Indiana is talking about Ball State University’s online master of science in information and communication science.   

 “Lots of opportunities for networking and building relationships. And the program is not so . . .” He winces before he says the word. “Not so . . . academic.” 

An Academic Program With Real-World Projects 

His point is that the online master’s in information and communication science is a classroom complete with industry challenges in real-time. You negotiate while collaborating with business professionals, faculty active in their industries, student peers in mid-career, and alumni who have proven themselves in the realm of management and technology leadership.

Nathan likes the fact that incoming students are required to have three years of work experience,  who, in his opinion, “have better mindsets and a certain level of professionalism.” 

“If you’re used to doing it a certain way,” he says, “it can be frustrating to work with someone who’s not producing.” 

As far as collaborating with alumni leaders, Nathan was already one of those alumni leaders when he enrolled. 

Earned His Bachelor’s in Computer Science 

After earning his Ball State bachelor of science in computer science in 1999, he worked in IT software services consulting for more than 20 years while also launching several businesses. 

But when weekly cross-country travel began creating more stress than he wanted early in his career, and with a second baby on the way, he realized “his higher calling as a father and husband took priority.” 

That’s why, in 2010, he established 3i Consulting, a technology consulting firm where Nathan was president, solutions architect, and creative ideator for more than a decade. 

In 2021, he decided to reinvent himself, pursue Ball State’s master’s program, and focus on the cloud practitioner curriculum to learn the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform and operate competently in that expanding technology environment.   

Cloud Technology Class Hooks Hiscock 

Ball State was the first university in the country to partner with  AWS Academy to deliver this curriculum. With his first class on cloud technology, Nathan was obsessed. 

After earning the foundational certificate as AWS Cloud Certified Practitioner, he completed certificates designated as AWS Certified Solutions Architect – Associate, AWS Business Professional, and AWS Cloud Economics. 

In addition to cloud technologies, the master’s also allowed Nathan to explore and develop leadership, communication, and technical skills relevant to today’s companies and organizations.  

Because faculty are actively engaged in creating career opportunities through the program’s active alumni association and industry partnerships, students like Nathan are provided career development workshops and faculty mentoring to help guide them to jobs that match their career ambitions.

Professors Guide Him to CleanSlate 

For Nathan, faculty recommended the position of client innovation director with CleanState. “I collaborated with my professors who by then knew me and my capabilities,” he says. 

Nathan is responsible for partnerships, solution packaging, presales, and demand generation for CleanSlate’s service products.  

“I engage partnerships, drive the pursuit process, provide technical presales support, lead training and seminars, train sales staff on service products, help market our products, build community, and recruit talent.” 

The master’s program couldn’t have been more central to his professional advancement for Nathan.  

“The program is more than just learning academic content,” he explains. “Sure, there’s plenty of that, but there’s also community. You learn about yourself. You gain new advisors with insight into your potential and partners in your future. Alumni believe in the program and bring you along as well.” 

Timely Counsel with Faculty Helps Clemons Finish Bachelor’s

“When professors go out of their way to try to reach their students and understand them as individuals, it speaks volumes,” says Vonda Clemons, who—with consultation from faculty and advisors—recently earned her Ball State bachelor’s online in early childhood education.

After earning an associate degree, Vonda left college for a few years before deciding to finish her bachelor’s degree at another Indiana school. She found the school was not a good fit and resumed her search.

Then She Looked at Ball State

When she inquired about Ball State’s bachelor’s in early childhood, she says a counselor made the transfer process easy. “She laid out the classes and made sure that I took the right classes in the right semester,” says Vonda, who is now a master teacher at TRC Head Start in Anderson, Indiana, for students ages 3 through 5. “When I emailed her about anything, she would get back to me in a timely matter.”

Another professor helped her decide whether she wanted to pursue licensure. Another set up weekly Zoom meetings to offer help with assignments.

Ball State’s program is designed specifically for child care professionals like Vonda, who have an associate degree in early childhood education, and are seeking positions that do not require a teaching license.

T.E.A.C.H. Made Tuition Affordable

“I worked full-time while pursuing my degree,” she says. “I knew I had to work so the online early childhood degree was a great fit for me.”

With her financial aid nearly spent by the end of her junior year, Vonda applied for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, a program designed to compensate qualifying students who demonstrate a commitment to the field of early childhood education. She says T.E.A.C.H. paid 90 percent of her tuition and books and provided a $50 stipend each semester.

“The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship allowed me to take classes that I would not have been able to afford at the time,” she says. T.E.A.C.H. counselors helped her get a waiver that allowed her to take more than two classes at a time.

Practicum Led to Teaching Position

Vonda completed her practicum at TRC Head Start, where she was initially hired as a teacher’s assistant. “I felt blessed to be able to do my practicum at my job and still get paid,” she says. “I became friends with the lead teacher, and she is now my supervisor.”

During the pandemic, Vonda taught virtual classes for two years, took her students and their families on virtual field trips, and connected them to the EPIC book club, a popular learning and reading platform, which introduces young readers to books in all languages and genres.

Wants to Make Greatest Impact

She also learned to enrich her classroom through DonorsChoose, a charity that funds requests for books, class trips, and supplies from teachers across the country.

Vonda knows her bachelor’s degree means opportunities for the future. “I enjoy working with families,” says Vonda, who is considering a master’s degree. “And I want to work in my community where I know I can have the greatest impact.”

Nursing Alumna Nurtures Process Improvements

While working as a transplant nurse coordinator at University of California, Irvine (UCI), Samantha Sulkoske, then a Ball State master’s in nursing student, observed the wait time for patients scheduled for organ transplants.  

As part of a personal initiative supported by team leadership and physicians, she created a triaging tool to evaluate each patient referral and schedule their evaluation, which allowed for timely transplants and decreased waiting times.

“It streamlined the scheduling process and supported expedited workups for listing and a shorter turnaround time for transplantation,” says Samantha, now clinical expediter for the Swedish Transfer and Operations Center (STOC), which is part of the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle.  

Her Triaging Tool Wins IONL Scholarship 

The tool at the center of the project, “A Triage-Based Approach for Managing Transplant Referrals,” won Samantha the 2021 Indiana Organization for Nursing Leadership (IONL) scholarship.  

She presented her project at the annual Kidney/Pancreas Transplant and Nephrology Symposium, attended by health care professionals around the country. 

“My colleagues at UCI Health have informed me that my process is still used today,” she says. 

Siktberg Nomination Was Huge Accomplishment: Samantha 

Dr. Linda Siktberg, director of Ball State’s School of Nursing, nominated Samantha for the (IONL) scholarship. 

“This passion for process improvement is what eventually led Samantha to choose an administrative/leadership career path,” wrote Dr. Siktberg in her letter of recommendation. 

According to Samantha, “The honor of being nominated for the scholarship by my professors and Dr. Siktberg was a huge accomplishment in and of itself.” 

Discovers Passion for Process Improvement 

While considering a master’s in nursing, Samantha looked at several schools. “Ultimately, I chose Ball State because of my experience there as an undergraduate student and their flexibility in course work through online options,” she says. 

At first, Samantha was going to pursue the family nurse practitioner concentration. But after working on the transplant referral project, she realized her passion for process improvement.  

“I’ve discovered I really have a knack for process improvement,” she says. “I originally started my studies with a family nurse practitioner concentration, but after working on this project I realized my passion for process improvement and leadership. I decided to switch concentrations to nursing administration, and I have continued to advocate for process improvement in my professional career.”  

Testing Instrument Reduces Lab Times 

While working as an oncology nurse navigator for Ascension St. Vincent in Indianapolis, Samantha implemented the use of a POC (point of care) testing instrument to reduce lab turnaround times—and patient wait times—for chemotherapy infusions. This quality improvement project was then selected to be used to maintain CoC (Commission on Cancer) accreditation for the cancer program at Ascension. 

At the Swedish Transfer and Operations Center, Samantha oversees the input, output, and flow of overall patient volume as they proceed from admission to discharge. 

Will Pursue Ball State MBA from Seattle  

From Seattle, Samantha will soon begin her Ball State online MBA. “A degree in business will open myself up to the opportunity for entrepreneurial pursuits,” she says. 

She’s impressed by the fact that the MBA consistently ranks in the top 20 online business schools in the United States. She says the online MBA, added to her BSN and her online MSN, will give her a “three-peat” for degrees earned at Ball State. 

Graduate Nursing Student Battled COVID as Brand-New RN

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.”

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