Erin Boomershine Inspired to Pursue Master’s Degree While Wrapping Up Bachelor’s

Erin in the classroom

While finishing her bachelor’s in computer and information technology (CIT), Erin Boomershine was already doing graduate research toward Ball State’s online master of science in information and communication sciences. 

In fact, she’s teaming up with Ball State professors on two research projects. 

A primary project, “The Machine Wisdom Project,” will have local application, says Erin. Her research, along with that of Chris Davison, associate professor of computer and information technology, and David Hua, associate professor of computer technology, will lead to an application allowing students in the Applied Technology building to register their comfort level with the building’s temperature. An artificial intelligence system will use that information to, ultimately, alter the HVAC system to improve student comfort.  

Erin Receives Funding for CareDEX Project 

For a secondary project, known as CareDEX, Erin has received funding from the University of California-Irvine’s Summer Research Undergraduate Fellowship. CareDEX, a project founded by Professor Davison, enables an “incident commander” to communicate with first responders in case of an emergency in assisted living facilities. Erin’s role is to encourage local assisted living facilities to participate in the research and testing process.  

Explaining her fascination with computer and information technology, Erin says, “It encourages exploration and discussion regarding common problems in the world of computers. This discussion allows students to begin crafting their own solutions, which is one of the things I love about CIT.” 

Says Smaller Classes Meet Student Needs 

Erin insists that “smaller class sizes make the learning experience more tailored to students’ needs.” 

That was the case, she says, in courses such as systems administration fundamentals, internetwork design and administration, and infrastructure services. She not only explored a variety of subjects but also discussed her exploration with classmates.  

“All of these classes were extremely immersive as the final projects were case studies or RFPs,” says Erin, referring to projects where students function as tech consultants. “Not only were these projects interesting but they allowed me to understand the formal communication aspect of technology, which I have grown to love.” 

 Worked as Teaching Assistant 

As an undergraduate, Erin worked as a teaching assistant within the Department of Computer Science on campus.  

“This position helped me further my formal communication regarding technology and code,” she says. “I have learned multiple ways to explain problems and solutions to those who may not be CIT or computer science students.” 

Profs Showed Erin Her Potential 

Professors Davison and Hua helped Erin understand her potential when she was a CIT major.  

“Both of these professors have helped me understand CIT from an outside and industry perspective via personal stories,” she says. “These stories helped me understand the vast area this major covers and all the possibilities that will be unlocked post-graduation.” 

Post-graduation, Erin plans to become a business analyst or technology consultant. 

Newman Works to Launch Online Delivery of Bachelor of Social Work

With the Ball State University bachelor of social work (BSW) now online, students at laptops world-wide can thank Adrienne Newman, among many others. 

Assistant professor of practice of social work, Adrienne spent months exploring what an online BSW would mean to the community, current and potential students, and, ultimately, the clients served by graduates. 

“The success of our longstanding BSW , and more recent master of social work (MSW) , are good drivers for potential students to consider pursuing an online BSW with us,” she says. 

Ball State’s on-campus social work major enrolls more than 250 students. It was the first accredited program in the state and is the oldest accredited program in the state. 

“Offering an online BSW gives those who are working, raising families, have caregiving responsibilities, or live too far from campus an option,” she says. 

Besides its delivery method, Adrienne says the online BSW has some enticing features: all required courses are offered in both fall and spring semesters; independent studies give students the opportunity to concentrate on favorite subjects; field placements with reputable organizations; a department where students are on a first-name basis; and faculty who expose students to diverse interests. 

For the other half of her title, assistant director of field education, Adrienne coordinates all aspects of the student’s practicum experience, helping them develop a resume and prepare for interviews. She also helps them prioritize the social service agencies or organizations where they are interested in doing their 400 hours of field work. 

“During their practicum, I work with faculty liaisons who help students and supervisors determine learning activities, monitor student progress, problem solve as needed, and celebrate the students’ successes.” 

No matter the modality, she says, “our focus will always be to provide a quality learning experience that fully prepares students to enter the job market, no matter where they currently live or plan to live.” 

That’s the same preparation Adrienne received when she graduated from Ball State with degrees in social work and criminal justice. 

Eventually she earned her MSW while working as a social work practitioner and administrator in Nashville, Tennessee, for 27 years.  

“My greatest impact in social work,” she says “was my efforts to improve access for older adults to home and community-based care that was paid for by Medicaid funding. Providing alternatives to nursing home care was critical for the quality of life and well-being of older adults in Tennessee, and it was a less costly way to provide services.” 

She joined the Ball State social work faculty in 2016. 

“When I decided to make a change in how I practiced social work, I was very happy to learn that Ball State was hiring a social work professor,” she says. “I felt that my skills, interests, experience, and goals were a good fit. Fortunately, the hiring committee agreed.” 

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.”

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.

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.”

Army Veteran Balances it All: Career, School, Mountain Bikes

When Josh Michael was 18 he set out to do what most other high school graduates did at that time: go to college. He moved to Indianapolis in pursuit of an associate degree in computer aided drafting and eventually found a career in sales.

Fast forward 10 years, and Josh found a new calling: to serve his country. Even though he would be older than 80 percent of his battalion, he joined the Army as an infantryman and soon deployed to Afghanistan to fight on the frontlines.

In 2011, Josh’s unit was deployed to Logar Province, one of the most dangerous areas at the time. With only 20 days remaining in his deployment, he took a direct hit from an 82mm mortar round. The blast destroyed his left elbow and knee, and also left him with a traumatic brain injury. It took a year and a half at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to recover from his injuries before being medically retired with a Purple Heart.

But that’s not the end of Josh’s journey.

“I wanted the best.”

Having had sales experience before joining the Army, Josh was fortunate to find employment with a company dedicated to hiring military veterans.

“When I retired [from the Army] my company hired me right away,” says Josh. “It was very challenging to transition into a civilian job. They let me work a few hours a week, while I was still recovering, to get to know the company.”

But the sales profession is competitive. Josh knows this. He often times describes his career as “high pressure.” So, when he decided it was time to use his GI Bill and earn his bachelor’s degree, Josh knew he couldn’t afford to put his career on hold.

Ball State University’s online bachelor degree programs provided Josh with the option to further his education – with the same academic rigor as on campus – while also continuing his career.

“There are many online schools that offer a bachelor’s degree in business administration,” says Josh. “But I wanted a school with a strong reputation as a university, not just an online school. I wanted the best.”

A Balancing Act

Josh leads a very busy life. In addition to his full-time career and course load, he’s a husband, mountain biker, and an active churchman. So, discipline – which his military career taught him – is one key to this balancing act.

“Balancing life is a difficult mission for anyone. I have learned to be efficient by embracing the challenge,” says Josh. “I would like to do other things, but my end goal is to be a positive impact on society. Being a well-educated veteran is the best way I know how to do that.”

Another key factor to Josh’s balancing act is the support of his academic advisor, Laura Waldron. He notes that the degree completion timeline is very important to him. Working with Laura has helped him strategize his course load, based off his job’s schedule, and remain on track to graduate on time.

“Josh and I connect regularly throughout the semester … and we discuss what is going well for him or questions he has,” says Laura. “He works tremendously hard to balance life, a full-time job and a full academic load, and he does it well. He’s incredibly driven to complete his degree in four years and he sets very high standards for himself and his course work. I am very proud of him.”

Even though there’s only 24 hours in a day, Josh makes his schedule work, and advises others that they can, too.

“You will be surprised how much time you have for school when you make it a priority,” says Josh.

Well-deserved Honors

Since Josh is always pressed for time, he enjoys how Ball State’s online bachelor’s in business administration program has allowed him to work at a pace and in an environment that is best for him, where he can focus without many distractions, other than his dog Lieutenant Colonel Bunker.

Plus, having to commute to campus wouldn’t leave much time for Josh’s mountain biking excursions. His involvement with mountain biking began as an opportunity for physical fitness and therapy, but it became something more.

In 2014, Josh was selected to join former President George W. Bush for the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative’s Warrior 100K (W100K). The W100K is an annual 100-kilometer mountain bike ride for U.S. military servicemen and women who have been wounded or injured since September 11, 2001. Josh has participated in every ride since.

Adding to this experience, President Bush published “Portraits of Courage” in 2017. The book is a collection of portraits he painted of veterans he had met throughout his life. Josh was one of 98 veterans selected for this honor.

May 2020 brought more well-deserved and hard-earned honors for Josh: graduation and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Now or Never: Miller, 77, Proves It’s Never Too Late to Earn Bachelor’s Degree

There were only two concerns Jane Bell Miller had before starting her educational journey online. One, if she could manage the technology involved. Two, how she would pass a math class after 60 years of not studying the subject.

Miller isn’t like your typical online student. At 77 years young, she set out to complete her bachelor’s degree through Ball State Online.

“Academic success is not about the age of the body or how long since you were last in school,” said Miller. “It has everything to do with determination and a willingness to do whatever it takes.”

Now or Never

Rather than attending college after graduating from high school in 1958 – a decision she’s always regretted – Miller began working as a secretary at the University of Virginia. However, throughout the course of her 40-year secretarial career, Miller picked up enough credits at community college to earn her associate degree in 1997.

Twenty years later, Miller decided that if she was going to earn her bachelor’s degree, it was now or never. Ball State Online academic advisor, Laura Waldron, helped Miller determine which of her prior courses would transfer into the bachelor of general studies program.

“Taking that first step is the hardest. From then on, it’s just a matter of following through on the next step, and the next,” said Miller. “I credit Ball State’s staff with making my online learning experience so successful.”

Miller has never felt disconnected to her instructors or classmates, even though her classes are completely online. In fact, being an online student has given her the freedom to open up in assignments and discussion boards in a way that might otherwise be intimidating in a classroom setting.

A Fueling Factor

Completing her education means more to Miller than just a diploma; it’s also a way to keep her mind active and sharp at her age.

“A factor fueling my focus on education is that my mother died of complications from Alzheimer’s, so I am willing to do anything in my power to try to avoid the same fate. Luckily for me, I thoroughly enjoy the process of learning,” said Miller.

It’s evident Miller’s doing just that, as proof of the 4.0 GPA she’s maintained every semester at Ball State.

“It is so satisfying to see that my brain can handle the material just as well as a 20-year-old [student],” said Miller.

Never Stop Learning

Miller is set to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s in general studies, but admits that her learning will not stop there. After graduation, she plans to resume piano lessons and work to improve her bridge game as a way to continue exercising her brain.

“I had held back for years before looking into finishing my degree,” said Miller. “I’m so glad I decided, ‘It’s now or never.’ ”

As for that math class, Miller proved once again that there wasn’t a challenge she couldn’t tackle. She did, however, make sure to celebrate her passing grade and no longer needing to study probabilities and statistics again.

Children Motivate Michelle Thornburgh to Bachelor’s Degree

As the first college graduate in her family, Michelle Thornburgh was determined she wouldn’t be the last. While teaching toddlers in an Early Head Start classroom, she resolved to teach her own young children at home that a college degree is worth the time and effort. Now that her bachelor’s degree is in hand, she’s considering graduate school and eventually managing an early childhood education program.

Q: What motivated you to pursue your bachelor’s degree?

A: The motivation that helped me obtain my bachelor’s degree was my three children. I am a mother to three, ages 1, 3, and 5. When I began my career at Ball State I was expecting, and already had a 1- year-old and a 3-year-old. Balancing the children, pregnancy, and birth was sometimes a challenge. Along with my children at home, I also am a teacher in an infant and toddler classroom. Still, I am the first college graduate from my family and wanted to show my children that if you work hard at something, you can do it.

Q: How has your education influenced your professional life?

A: I have used my education often on the job. Working daily with children in a classroom setting provided me the opportunity to incorporate new ideas, teaching strategies, and skills learned through my courses and see them unfold in the classroom.

Q: How did instructors and advisors lend their support?

A: While pursuing my degree online, I had instructors that were very understanding. They took time to invest in me and answer questions through both email and phone conversations. Whenever I needed assistance, it was comforting to know that the instructors were there to assist in any way possible. My experience in the program has been nothing but positive. There is such a strong support from advisors and instructors.

I am thankful for the opportunity to have been a student the last two years at Ball State University. I have gained so much knowledge in such little time. My experience here is a testimony to encourage those who are beginning their educational journey. By working hard, being disciplined in my courses, and balancing a very busy home life, I was able to obtain my degree on time and with a grade point average that gave me the opportunity to attend the Teachers College dean’s list recognition ceremony.

Kat Parker Enrolls in Ball State Online to Finish What She Started

After dropping out of Ball State 30 years ago, Kat Parker of Indiana recently returned to pursue an online bachelor’s degree in general studies. For Parker, returning to school was not about pursuing a new career, but achieving an old goal—for herself, her children, and her mother, now deceased. Today Parker serves as a Ball State student ambassador to other online students returning to college.

Q: What motivated you to return to college to pursue your degree?

A: Back in 1987, I had poor study habits and poor time management skills which – combined with a strong taste for independence and a love of socializing – did not make for a successful student. I quit Ball State within a year. As I got older, I regretted the wasted opportunity and hated feeling like a quitter. I also regretted disappointing my mother by dropping out. When she passed away and my oldest daughter was getting ready to leave for college, I wanted to prove to myself that I could go back to college and be a better student. I wanted to show my daughters that it is never too late to learn, and I wanted to honor my mother’s desire for me to earn a college degree.

Q: Can you give a specific example of how your education has helped you in the workplace already?

A: I am currently taking a business writing course. I recently was able to use what I have learned to carefully compose an email to [middle school] administrators about some issues that needed attention. Using the 3×3 writing process really helped me make my key points clear and concise so I did not overwhelm the recipient with needless information. The administrators, as a result, have been positive in their responses to my concerns.

Q: How do you balance your education and your career?

A: I have been a student now for more than three years, and I still struggle finding balance. When I am at work, I think about the things I need to do for school and at home. When I am studying, I am thinking about what I need to do for work. It is a rough cycle. It really comes down to finding a good time management system that works for you. I try to list everything I need to do for school, work, and home into one calendar to help me keep track of what I need to be doing.

Q: What motivated you to become a Ball State Online Student Ambassador?

A: It had been more than 25 years since I had been a student in college and a lot had changed. I wished there was someone to guide me through the Blackboard system and tell me what to expect as an online student. I was overwhelmed and almost quit my first couple of weeks because I felt like I was not prepared for all the changes. When I read about the Ambassador program, I saw this not only as an opportunity to get involved with the university, but also to meet new online students who might be looking for someone to help them through their first semester.

Student/Police Officer Says Ball State Online “Has Made the Impossible Possible”

Even though Jason Boring planned to enroll in an online bachelor’s degree in criminal justice program, he liked the idea that Ball State was not hundreds of miles away. He had grown up in east central Indiana so he knew the university projected credibility.

An officer for New Castle Police Department, Boring was looking toward the day he would retire—at a young 45—and begin a second career in criminal justice.

With family responsibilities that include four children, he knew it would be impossible to study on campus or even attend full time online. But realizing it was time to finish his bachelor’s, he enrolled in Ball State’s online undergraduate degree in criminal justice and criminology in 2015.

Q: You’ve been pursuing your degree one class at a time, correct?

A: Being able to work on the online classes piecemeal has been a huge help. So I read a chapter, I do a quiz, then I take a test once the kids are in bed. My Kindle and the ease and mobility with which I can read my textbooks has greatly helped. Online classes allow me to take smaller bites, but still make very real progress on my degree. It has made the impossible possible. I am not in a particular hurry to graduate because I’ll be working 20 years to gain my pension.

Q: Have you had to adapt to online education?

A: This is the first experience I have had with online study. My main challenges have been adapting my learning style to a more self-reliant approach. Online study has been harder for me than having a professor and classroom time. Scheduling has been a struggle, too, due to my work and other family obligations. However, the professors have been very accessible to me via phone, text, e-mail. My advisors, too, have been very quick to help. They have helped me get the classes I need.

Q: What will your degree do for your second career?

A: I would like to transition my career from a police officer “on the street” to a management-related position within law enforcement, such as probation. I also enjoy teaching so I might go for my master’s and teach at a community college or at the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy as well. Regardless of which particular field I enter after retirement, a BA degree from Ball State will help me greatly on my way. I think that it will strengthen my skill set and help open doors in the future.

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