Adam Kuban expects his students to get messy.

He wants them in the thick of a project throwing around ideas, pushing through difficulties, planning in real-time, discovering how to build partner relationships, and taking calculated chances.

“I’m always asking them ‘Why did you choose to do that?’ ‘Why that direction?’ ‘Why that creative or esthetic choice?’ I want them to be able to think on a deeper level. Not just what and how to do things, but why they’re doing them,” says Kuban, associate professor of journalism and Ball Brothers Foundation Honors College Faculty Fellow.

It can be intense.

“This requires adapting, processing, and evaluating—none of which are easy. In other words, it’s messy. And I want students to embrace the mess!”

Kuban received his doctorate in mass communication from the University of Utah. He was honored with the 2016 “20 Under 40” award from The Star Press and Muncie Magazine and the 2015 Ball State University CCIM Excellence in Teaching Award.

With a background in journalism and meteorology as well as being an athlete, his immersive learning projects often have pizzazz.

They typically focus on science-related or sports-related issues, such as partnering with First Point Volleyball Foundation in association with the U.S. Men’s Olympic volleyball team to create Match Point. His student team is exploring documentary and social media deliverables to encourage boys to take an interest in playing volleyball.

Before the volleyball project, Kuban co-created Water Quality Indiana, a curricular program that blends science with journalism to address local, regional, and even national issues pertinent to water quality. Previous partners have included FlatLand Resources and Red-tail Land Conservancy.

I’m always looking for my students to have opportunities to immediately apply their knowledge and their skills,” Kuban says. “I want them to be able to identify a complex problem and work with a community partner in an attempt to solve that problem because that’s real life.

His research for these projects is a hybrid of community-engaged, traditional, and creative scholarship.

“I can write a manuscript. I can publish in traditional journals. And I usually do after I’ve led my projects. How do you assess? How you evaluate what the students gained, what the partner gained, what the community gained from that endeavor?

“But it’s also the creative scholarship that’s very much a part of my identity. Deliverables such as documentaries and magazines might have pragmatic application for the everyday media consumer, and that’s important.”

Since joining Ball State in 2011, Kuban’s embraced the Department of Journalism and the College of Communication, Information, and Media. “They see value in creativity and actively encourage that in their faculty members, and then through their faculty members, we give students transformative experiences.”

His projects emphasize interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement. He wants his students to learn how to execute strategy and become efficient project managers and content creators.

“I rarely ever expect anything from somebody that I don’t expect from myself. I place work ethic and attitude at a premium. I value authenticity, honest discussion, and respect for different backgrounds and perspectives.

“I want my students to have reason for why they’ve pursued the career they have chosen. In the long haul, I’m not just preparing them for their career; I’m preparing them for the rest of their lives.”

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