Established when Ball State became a University in 1965, the College of Sciences and Humanities (CSH) provides students with the skills they need to think critically, act globally, solve problems, and make sound judgments. As home to most of the University Core Curriculum courses, CSH serves Ball State students of all majors.
Its graduates serve their communities as writers, physicians, teachers, scientists, public servants, and in many more professions. CSH’s accomplished alumni include diplomat Jeffrey Feltman, Indiana’s first female state archaeologist Amy L. Johnson, tech entrepreneur Scott McCorkle, geologist Michele Murday, conservationist Jane Hardisty, retired FBI special agent Robert “Bob” Holley, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture CEO Jill Isenbarger, physician Robert Reed, risk analyst for the International Space Station Adam Mullins, and writer Ashley Ford.
In the midst of Ball State’s Centennial, CSH Dean Maureen McCarthy sat down with Ball State Magazine to reflect on the college’s proud past and bright future.
Which three of CSH’s accomplishments are you most proud of?
Our commitment to teaching is long-standing. We grew up as a teacher-training school, and that 100-year-old tradition is reflected on our University’s campus today. As they have done throughout Ball State’s history, CSH’s remarkable faculty work with Teachers College to train strong teachers who are experts in their subjects, ranging from English and history to biology and physics. Today, CSH also prepares many other professionals to become leaders in their fields and communities.
Ball State does more than educate students. We serve our neighbors near and far.
CSH reaches out to the community in many ways. The Big Questions, Big Ideas discussion series, conducted in partnership with the Muncie Public Library, involves several departments within the college, offering an opportunity to learn about the big issues facing our world today. Faculty also engage students in the community through immersive learning experiences. In We Can Do Science, for example, aspiring teachers develop hands-on, minds-on lessons for children at two after-school programs.
CSH also invites our neighbors to enjoy our campus. In the Charles W. Brown Planetarium, we offer free, state-of-the art shows. We also offer free naturalist programs at Christy Woods and the Dr. Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse. Throughout the year, we offer the community the opportunity to engage in a variety of science experiences, and we host the East Central Indiana Regional Science Fair annually.
For decades, research by CSH faculty has benefited our state, our nation, and our world. The Bowen Center for Public Affairs, with support from Old National Bank, surveys Hoosiers about their views on current issues and then shares the results with members of the General Assembly. The results of the survey are regularly featured in media outlets nationally. The Center for Middletown Studies furthers the pioneering work of Robert and Helen Lynd in examining the past, present, and future prospects of midsize cities like Muncie. One of our biologists is seeking a cure for the white-nose disease that is devastating the bat population. Our Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management is highly engaged in sustainability efforts.
What three initiatives are you most looking forward to?
Our students will continue to work side by side with faculty in immersive learning, research, and community engagement — this level of interaction between students and professors makes Ball State unique. In our Department of Anthropology, for example, students and faculty work together to search for artifacts on construction sites before the project begins. In four different departments, students produce scholarly journals.
In all of our departments, our faculty help students translate the skills they learn in class to a host of careers. Some of our professors have partnered with the Career Center and alumni in the Skills Infusion Program to show how the transferable skills they learn in the classroom, like critical thinking, can be applied to any profession. This will serve our students well. We don’t know what the jobs will be available in 2030 or 2040, but our students will be ready for them.
The most visible example of our bright future is the 208,000-square-foot Foundational Sciences Building. When it opens in 2021, it will feature state-of-the-art equipment and laboratories, enhancing research in aquatic biology, conservation biology, biotechnology, nanochemistry, synthetic medicinal chemistry, and many other disciplines. The new facility will help our dedicated faculty to train the next generation of professionals in the STEM fields.
The best is yet to come.
What are three facets of CSH people should know?
We have a remarkable past, and we’ve become a college that provides students with the skills they need to analyze situations, solve problems, and be lifelong learners. Our college includes disciplines in the humanities; the natural, mathematical, and computational sciences; and the social sciences. We remain steadfast in our commitment to prepare students to become the next generation of leaders.
As a community of educators, we believe in the power of the humanities to teach students to become critical thinkers and effective communicators. We believe in the power of the sciences to inspire a culture of discovery. And we believe in the power of the social sciences to analyze and address society’s most pressing challenges.
Our students have unique opportunities. What impresses me is that students who come to this institution have potential. Despite, or perhaps because, many are first-generation students, they are committed to their education and work hard. They know the value of a Ball State education.
How does CSH encourage students to live the Beneficence Pledge?
The Beneficence Pledge is reflected in our college’s curriculum. The coursework we offer helps our students understand and develop respect for all people.
Our Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, for example, helps students understand how life circumstances can lead to poor choices resulting in incarceration. Our majors leave the program as better citizens who understand relevant risk factors. Through Access to Justice, an initiative of the Legal Studies Program, our students are helping people who cannot afford representation with issues like housing and navigating the court system. In the sciences, our faculty advocate for scientific literacy.
We encourage students to think critically about their own belief systems. We are not aiming to change people’s minds, but we are helping them to see different perspectives.
How does CSH empower students?
We empower students to be successful in any career today or in the future.
Through undergraduate research, including the Chemistry Research Immersion Summer Program, or CRISP, our faculty mentor our students, working side by side with them in the labs. Our students have a level of independence enabling them to immediately conduct research, write about their results, and contribute to the larger scientific community’s understanding. Students don’t truly understand the science until they’re put in a position to apply the knowledge. This empowerment is unique and distinguishes us from other universities.
In immersive learning experiences, professors mentor the students, but the students are responsible for solving a real problem for a community partner. In the classroom, our professors teach transferrable skills, like effective communication, in a way that requires our students to engage with what they will find in real life.
What would you like to highlight for the Centennial?
As we move into our second century, Ball State will continue to equip students to have fulfilling careers and lead meaningful lives. Propelled by an innovative, immersive approach to education and guided by our enduring values — excellence, integrity, social responsibility, respect, gratitude, innovation, and courage — we empower students with passion and purpose.