Friesen’s Passion is Helping Others Make Healthier Food Choices

Carol Friesen holding puppets that she uses to educate young children about nutrition

Change is coming to the field of nutrition and dietetics and professor Carol Friesen is ready for it.

Graduate program director for Ball State Online’s master of science in nutrition and dietetics, Carol anticipates an increase in enrollment since the Commission on Dietetic Registration has raised the minimum education required for prospective Registered Dietitians. Beginning in 2024, students will have to hold a graduate degree to sit for the national registration examination.

“We have developed a flexible online master’s degree for current dietitians who want to complete a degree while working,” says Carol, referring to the accrediting agency Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics.

Inspired by a Teacher’s Suggestion

Carol, who has taught at Ball State since 1996, says she decided to become a dietitian in high school at the suggestion of a teacher.

“My passion has always been to help people from all walks of life learn how to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families,” she says.

Since choosing a career in higher education, she has published 39 articles, presented more than 90 peer-reviewed research posters, given 46 oral presentations, written chapters to nine books, and received 38 grants funded totaling $2.26 million.

Research Focuses on Nutrition Education

Most of her research has focused on nutrition education projects that seek to reduce childhood obesity, with a special interest in early childhood education; increase mothers’ breastfeeding incidence and duration; help families prepare and serve healthy, low-cost meals; and improve the nutrient intake and nutrition knowledge of individuals for use in schools, at home, and the workplace.

“Our graduate faculty are all engaged in research, putting them on the cutting edge of knowledge in their specific domains,” says Carol. “Each of us take pains to provide individualized feedback to help each student become better tomorrow than they were yesterday.”

Carol says her online colleagues are keenly aware they are teaching working adults.

Profs Prepared for Evening Emails

“Our faculty are great about keeping an eye on emails in the evening and on weekends when non-traditional students squeeze in their studies,” she says. “Let’s face it, the chances are pretty good that you are going to have a question outside the time frame of 8-5 Monday through Friday.”

Until recently, the graduate nutrition and dietetics program was only offered on campus.

When classes were moved online, says Carol, the student demand for the program “skyrocketed.” The recent implementation of the “Prior Learning Policy,” where current dietitians can earn up to nine graduate credits, if they did not receive graduate credit for their supervised practice, is also helping make graduate school more attainable and achievable for our adult students.

More Students Fulfill Goal Online

“While I truly miss interacting with our students in a classroom setting, knowing the flexibility of online education helps more students fulfill their goal of obtaining a master’s degree and advance in their career as a registered dietitian nutritionist more than makes up for missing that ‘in class’ vibe,” she says.

Although Ball State’s program provides an ideal opportunity for RDNs, Carol says she worries about current dietitians who have not earned their master’s degree.

“Ultimately the job market may not be kind to registered dietitian-nutritionists who do not have a graduate degree,” she says. “I hope our online program will provide the flexibility current dietitians need to achieve their degree.”

Combining a Love for People and Data With Quantitative Psychology

After graduating from Weber State in 2012 with his bachelor’s degree in psychology, Mike Nguyen took time off to pursue his career. It wasn’t long before he felt the “itch” to go back to school. But finding the right graduate program proved to be a little challenging.

Even though Mike’s work as a consumer insights consultant for Intermountain Healthcare, the largest healthcare system in Utah, deals heavily with data analytics, he still pulls from his psychology background to draw insights from research to discover what consumers are thinking. It’s his love for people that drew him to Ball State University’s online master’s in quantitative psychology.

“A lot of my friends pursued MBAs or MHAs, which they recommended to me. And, while those programs made sense for someone who works in analytics, they didn’t feel right,” says Mike.


“I was looking for the perfect combination of people and data – I was looking for something like quantitative psychology.”


Sensed Hesitation

It didn’t make sense for Mike and his husband to uproot for his education, especially with their full-time careers, an assistant coaching position, a newly built home, and his in-laws all residing in Utah. But Mike’s friends who completed their graduate degrees online weren’t necessarily convincing him that this was the way to go for his own education.

“They described feeling unattached from their schools and being unable to get to know their professors. I didn’t want that experience,” says Mike.

Mike was unsure if an online education would provide the same connection as an in-classroom experience. He also had concerns about time management and receiving the proper attention from professors. Still, he made the decision to reach out to Dr. Holmes Finch for more information about the online master’s in quantitative psychology degree.

“Maybe Dr. Finch sensed my hesitation, as he was quick to resolve my concerns,” says Mike.

Dr. Finch shared that there wouldn’t be a single deciding factor to Mike’s decision, so he took a hard look into the qualifiers he set for choosing a university and its online graduate programs.

The university Mike would attend needed to be non-profit, have an on-campus presence, be engaged in research, and it had to be at least 100 years old. Ball State checked off all of those boxes.

Being an assistant high school boys’ volleyball coach, having a Division I men’s volleyball team to cheer for during his studies was, as Mike puts it, “the cherry on top.”

Connected Across Time Zones

After Mike was accepted into the program he was quick to follow the University’s social media accounts and subscribe to a Ball State sub-Reddit to keep up with the student community. And, of course, he made sure to follow the men’s’ volleyball team throughout their season.

“These things made me feel like I was a part of the student body, even though I was two time zones away,” says Mike.

Mike also attributes the faculty he worked with, particularly Dr. Finch, for the connection he felt to the University and the success he had as a student. Dr. Finch was not only one of Mike’s professors but also his advisor, and always met him with the same excitement for learning and understanding of course materials. He also made a conscious effort to group students by time zones to make collaboration easier for schedules.

“As his student, he was always happy to answer my questions – and I had a lot of questions,” Mike remembers. “He has a mentor-like quality to how he approaches students. And, despite how much I felt like Bambi trying to learn how to walk on the ice with my statistics courses, he was excellent at coaching me along.”

Applicable Education

Mike took a quick inventory of his current skillset and of those needed to achieve his career aspirations. His interests were leading him more and more in the direction of statistics and survey design – both of which he needed advanced knowledge to become a leader in his field.

Throughout his studies, he found that the education he was receiving could be applied to his current job immediately, and on a daily basis at that. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he frequently used his new quantitative and qualitative skills to understand Utahns’ thoughts and behaviors at a given time. The insights they gained from survey responses helped to shape statewide campaigns that encouraged Utahns to wear masks.

Mike’s skills also expand into continuing medical education research as well. His statistical work as a second author on a research paper will hopefully soon be published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery.

Mike graduated in May 2020 and made plans to travel to campus to attend Spring Commencement. However, plans shifted once Ball State had to postpone Commencement due to the pandemic. Mike still celebrated his achievements and plans to visit the University at a later time.

For those who are considering earning their degree online, he offers this bit of advice:

“Ignore any perceived stigma [about online programs]. You will find that, in many ways, it is a lot harder. You have to push yourself harder and be disciplined,” he says. “Most importantly, you’ll get what you give – so, give it your all.”

Online M.S. in Nursing Student Pursues Assignment in Middle East

Like others in her master’s program, Cory Hasik was in a rush to graduate last December.

But unlike others, she had semester courses to finish early so she could pack for an excursion 7,000 miles and seven hours away.

First Sergeant of Indiana Army National Guard, Cory was being deployed to the Middle East as a flight paramedic. As the senior enlisted medical professional of her unit, Cory’s aeromedical evacuation unit is responsible for providing air evacuation of casualties, in her words, “to a higher echelon of care.”

Her specific location and assignment remain classified. “I can say that it is a dynamic environment that changes quickly,” she reported, soon after arriving at her site of deployment. “The operational environment is dynamic due to threat and heightened by COVID-19.”

Ready to Transport and Treat

Cory says her unit is equipped with the tools needed to transport and treat COVID patients.

Leading up to her deployment, Cory worked full time as a telemetry unit nurse at the Jesse Brown V.A. Medical Center in Chicago. She was also enrolled in the Ball State Online master of science in nursing and pursuing the nurse administrator concentration.

Cory wasn’t surprised that Ball State accommodated her military obligations. When she first considered MSN programs in Indiana, she concluded that Ball State University not only “offered one of the state’s highly comprehensive online [nursing] administrator programs” but were also “large supporters of military students.”

She Saw Military Support First-Hand

She was in the middle of a practicum at the Adam Benjamin, Jr. VA Outpatient Clinic in Crown Point, Indiana, when she learned that she would be deployed overseas.

“I was offered the opportunity to complete my clinical requirements in an abbreviated time frame,” says Cory. Course instructor and Ball State associate professor of nursing, Dr. Connie McIntosh, worked with Cory so she could complete clinic hour requirements and a final paper by Dec. 1, before heading to premobilization training.

Nursing Was Opportunity to Change Lives

Cory had entered the nursing field in 2017 after finishing her bachelor’s in nursing, and after five years as a paramedic.

She liked the fact that bedside nursing allows nurses the opportunity to change the lives of their patients. Having served a previous role with a V.A. outpatient clinic and, most recently, with a V.A. medical center, Cory’s goal is to create a future job where she can broaden services to veterans as well as improve policies and processes.

“The military has provided me many leadership development courses,” says Cory. “However, the lessons learned from this master’s program will make me a more well-rounded leader, capable of handling diverse and challenging issues.”

Nursing Team Was Helpful

Cory says Diana Bantz, associate director for graduate nursing programs, and Shantelle Estes, graduate advisor, were also instrumental in helping her finish her semester before her deployment.

A 17-year veteran of the Indiana Army National Guard, this is Cory’s third deployment. She served in Iraq as a clinical medic in 2005-2006 and in Afghanistan as a line medic in 2011-2012.

Master’s Degree is a Life Changer for Haris Vrabac

Haris Vrabac knew Ball State University was the only school he wanted to earn a master’s degree from. He’ll even tell you that the University “holds a special place in his heart.” And for a good reason.

In high school, Haris didn’t take his education very seriously. In fact, he admits that he never imagined he’d go to college, let alone earn two degrees.

But when his skills on the football field turned into a scholarship opportunity with Ball State, his attitude about education began to shift.

“In sports, you can break a bone or tear a ligament at any moment and your career can be over,” says Haris. “I learned that if I wanted to be successful one day and be able to provide for my family, then I needed to grow up and get serious with my education.”

His hard work in the classroom paid off, earning him a bachelor’s in general studies with a concentration in organizational communications. This taste of educational success left him wanting more.

Haris had one year remaining on his football scholarship and he wasn’t about to let it go to waste. It was time to achieve another educational milestone.

Support Before the Start

One year is a tight timeframe, but the former student athlete was determined to earn his master’s degree and even more determined that it would be at Ball State.

“I had built a strong relationship with the University,” says Haris. “And I knew that it was the only place I wanted to further my education; the only place I fully trusted.”

Initially, Haris applied for a different one-year degree option at Ball State, but graduate admissions must have known he wasn’t entirely convinced the program was right for him. They advised him to speak with Dr. Allen Truell about the master’s in business education.

Not only did the online degree program offer the flexibility he wanted, but it also offered a customizable track that allowed Haris to take both general business as well as business education courses geared toward his career goals.

Haris was sold.

More Than a Master’s Degree

Haris now operates a transportation company in Detroit, which his father started years ago, and uses his degree daily. He particularly uses the skills that will help push the company into future growth such as customer relationship management, international sales and marketing, communication and problem solving.

“I believe I received a world-class business education,” says Haris. “The skills I gained gave me so much confidence and understanding of the business world.”

But a degree and skills are far from the only things Haris walked away with after graduation. He also walked away with a mentor and role model in Dr. Truell.

Haris credits Dr. Truell with always being there, “every step of the way.” From explaining course content until Haris fully understood to responding quickly to all communication to being there during a tough time, he could always count on Dr. Truell.

“Dr. Truell is not only a great professor, he is a great person who taught me a lot about not only business but life,” says Haris. “I am truly thankful for meeting him and taking his program. Out of all of my professors, he is one of the few who I still communicate with today. I would do anything to help give back to this program.”

Setting New Goals

With his master’s degree in hand, Haris is eyeing new goals within his career. He wants to become more involved in logistics and sales at this father’s company, and even has ambitions of becoming a business trainer or coach.

In addition to business skills, Haris also gained an understanding and appreciation for the educational side of business. Learning how to create lesson plans and use various learning styles to teach opened a new view to the business world he never knew was there.

Whatever he decides, he will be prepared to tackle these goals, thanks again to his master’s degree in business education.

“Going from someone who thought he would never make it to college to having a master’s degree is something that I am truly grateful for and proud of,” says Haris. “I can honestly say that earning my master’s degree in business education has changed my life.”

Ball State MBA Delivers for Business Executive – and She Tells Why

When Carolyn Van Sickle ventured into Ball State’s online master of business administration program, she hadn’t sat through a college course in more than 15 years. During that interim, she had become a business executive working in software delivery and sales management and today is a strategic accounts director for GE Digital.

Confident of professors and online support staff who were readily accessible via email, Van Sickle made the transition from boardroom to classroom with hardly a hitch. She especially liked the “synchronous” classes, which webcast lectures conducted on campus and allows online students to participate in the discussions. Most Ball State MBA courses are synchronous webcasts and can be viewed again at students’ convenience.

“I liked seeing the professor in an actual classroom full of students and getting to hear live the questions from the other students—both those in class and online,” says the California native. Now based in Phoenix, Arizona, Van Sickle pursued the Ball State MBA, with a sales management concentration, fully online and graduated in 2017 summa cum laude. Students also have the option of pursuing the degree on campus or a blend of online and on campus classes.

MBA Lifts Her to the Next Level

Leading large Internet of Things (loT) transformation programs for customers globally with a premier software company of the Industrial Internet, she manages a team of delivery and development contributors that includes data scientists, architects, engineers, project managers, and customer success managers.

Even with her credentials, the Ball State MBA alum took her sales career “to the next level,” in Van Sickle’s words.

“I was able to secure a position as a sales executive while in the program,” she says. “Prior to joining the program, sales managers were hesitant to hire me because I didn’t have any direct sales experience.”

Classes Had Diversity of Real World

With sales management classes, she could immediately apply what she was learning in class to the daily activities in her sales role. Management classes were insightful, she says, because “they taught me to better understand the work environment as a whole, especially what motivates managers and customers.”

Van Sickle also saw the value of a diverse student enrollment profile—in terms of age, work experience, and academic background.

“It was more like the real-world work environment than most business programs,” she says. “I have many friends who went to other top business schools, but they were in class with only people like themselves—late 20’s with minimal work experience. I also have friends who went the Executive MBA route—again, all students with the same level of experience and all around the same age. They didn’t learn to work with other generations.”

Collaboration Made for Great Discussions

She says that collaborating with online classmates was easier than she thought. For a final capstone project, her capstone team analyzed and recommended short-, mid-, and long-term strategies for consumer electronics retailer, Best Buy.

“The combination of company history, along with the turbulent retail industry, made for great discussions.”

Although her résumé includes Fortune 500 companies and nearly 20 years of experience managing and implementing digital solutions and services, Van Sickle believes her MBA provides yet another level of career security.

“With corporate America always in a state of change, my MBA gives me options that weren’t open before. In addition to going back into territory sales, I’m qualified for more roles and could even launch and run my own company.”

Nursing Faculty Have Her Respect

Marcie Baird pursued Ball State’s doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) because she knew the professors were masters of the online classroom and fully supportive of students working in the online format.

“I have great respect for the faculty.”


Marcie Baird credits great teaching with drawing her to Ball State’s online doctorate of nursing practice (DNP) program.

“I have great respect for the faculty,” says Baird, who teaches undergraduate nursing at a private university in central Indiana and serves as a nurse practitioner at a community clinic.

Because she had graduated with an online master of science in nursing from Ball State in 2009, Baird knew the quality of the online classroom when she enrolled in the DNP program.


“Professors could always be counted on,” says Baird, “to respond on time to assignments and questions.” Video presentations featuring faculty consistently made class content come alive. She also has high regard for the director of the DNP program and her advisor, Beth Kelsey.

“With her guidance, I grew as a student and a professional,” says Baird, noting that she worked with Kelsey on an article for an advanced practice journal that grew out of her DNP capstone project.


Required of all students, the capstone project is the signature of the Ball State DNP and consists of a scholarly plan to improve health outcomes in a healthcare system, clinical practice, or community setting.

Baird pursued her capstone, “Improving HCV Screening in a Free Clinic,” at her community clinic, which serves the uninsured. This project grew out of the faculty-supervised clinicals she performed at the same clinic where she discovered a population increasingly testing positive for Hepatitis C.”

She says the DNP degree has been a boost to her roles as a nursing professor and a nurse practitioner.

“Evidence-based practice is the foundation on which projects were built. Research was woven throughout the whole program,” says Baird. “It also brought a deeper dimension to teaching nursing.”

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