President Geoffrey S. Mearns has brought changes to Ball State since he began in 2017, including institutional initiatives and planned renovations and buildings on campus. Although not quite as glamorous, the new budget model is expected to further shape the potential of the University’s faculty and students.
Ball State is changing from a centralized, incremental model to an incentive-based budget model. The new model aligns human and financial resources with strategic priorities and encourages innovation and effective resource management. In this fiscal year, the University is operating under the centralized model while testing the new one. The goal is to have the University’s new budget model in effect for fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1, 2020.
For example, under the new budget model, indirect costs recovered from grants and contracts to help cover daily University operations such as heating and lighting—will go directly to the college where the funded research is taking place. Under the centralized budget model, 80 percent of indirect cost revenue went to the University’s general fund.
Under the new model, deans will have more flexibility within their colleges, allowing them to better incentivize, reward, and support faculty with an extra boost of financial support.
The new budget model will likely affect colleges within the University differently.
“There really is more agency,” said Dr. Paaige Turner, dean of the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM) and a member of the University’s budget planning steering committee. “We’re able to say, ‘Here’s how we’re going to allocate and reward certain types of work that we think is valuable and important—to the college, to the department, and to our community.’ There will be more accountability and responsibility, both of which are good things.”
In terms of our research profile, we are regarded as very strong and well known across the nation. And that’s a testament to the faculty, to students who have passed through our doors, and to the leadership of the institution. We’re doing very well.” —Dean Maureen McCarthy
In the College of Sciences and Humanities, for example, the impact might not be so discernible, Dean Maureen McCarthy says. Faculty in the college have already been extraordinarily successful at securing funding, including grants from the National Science Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Institutes of Health, which support much of the work happening already.
“In terms of our research profile, we are regarded as very strong and well known across the nation,” McCarthy said. “And that’s a testament to the faculty, to students who have passed through our doors, and to the leadership of the institution. We’re doing very well.”
For CCIM, Turner says she anticipates some exciting changes to result from the new budget model. There’s a renewed push within the college to seek out different funding opportunities, both independently and through partnerships within the
University, and the potential for additional revenue to go toward the college is a driving force. “Up until now,” Turner said, “our sponsored projects participation hasn’t been particularly robust. Oftentimes, the field of communications hasn’t been seen as a fundable research area,” she continued, “but the reality is that we are. We have a lot of opportunities to partner with other individuals around the University. There’s a lot we can achieve.”
Communication provides a means for putting information into context and giving it meaning, Turner added. That’s already being showcased through projects like Professor Garfield in the Center for Emerging Media Design and Development and through the Department of Telecommunications’ partnership with Visit Indiana.
Now, to bolster efforts, Turner said, the college has created a faculty fellowship for sponsored projects. Serving as a liaison between CCIM and the Sponsored Projects Administration, the fellow will develop and implement college-level support for research, grant applications, and other funding opportunities. It’s a way to “make sure that we’re talking with the right people, and that we’re sharing information,” Turner said, as well as a means for monitoring, assessing, and disseminating information about projects and research within the college.
“This fellow will help us transform from our current state to the desired state, reflecting the realities of the new budget model, and the opportunities that are now available to the college,” she said. “We’ll be able to do things differently, and this individual will have the time and the resources to help us make that transformation.”
McCarthy said the College of Sciences and Humanities will keep moving forward and continue supporting the individual research of its faculty. “I see us continuing to mature in our mission to provide these unique, immersive learning experiences,” she said. “And the reason I say that is faculty members are so often engaging students. And through that, you can access additional visibility and external funding. Those things go hand in hand.”
Turner, too, said that while there’s continued work to be done in CCIM, there are big things to come from faculty and students in the college.
“I think this budget is going to help our faculty be recognized as the experts they are, and they’re doing amazing work.” Turner said. “They’re doing amazing research. They’re doing amazing creative projects. They’re doing cutting-edge teaching, and there are grant and contract opportunities for all those areas. We’re now recognizing that we have more that can be funded, and others are recognizing all of the expertise our faculty and students can bring to all kinds of projects. There’s endless potential.”