Ball State president bullish on growth potential

Inside INdiana Business

MUNCIE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — The president of Ball State University says he is optimistic about the growth trajectory for the school and the Muncie community at large. Ball State recently set a new record for total enrollment with more than 22,000 students, including its largest-ever freshman class. The university is also continuing with several major capital projects, including the more than $87 million Foundational Sciences building, which broke ground earlier this month.

In an interview in Studio (i) with Gerry Dick, Geoffrey Mearns said several factors have contributed to the progression of the Muncie campus.

“Our marketing efforts, we’ve been more intentional, more visible and vocal marketing the university across the state,” said Mearns. “We’re the first large four-year public university in the state to go standardized test optional. So we saw a significant increase in applications. But it’s also a reflection of the quality of our programs, the quality of our facilities and really the commitment and dedication of our faculty and staff.”

Earlier this summer, Ball State held a grand opening ceremony for its new Health Professions building, which is home to the university’s College of Health. Mearns also cited plans for two new residence halls, a new dining hall, a new multicultural center, joined by the East Mall greenspace.

Beyond the campus boundaries, Ball State is also seeing success with its takeover of Muncie Community Schools, which recently marked its first anniversary. Mearns says the partnership is off to a good start.

“It’s going to be a long time. It took a long time to get into the challenges that we face. We were able to recruit an outstanding school board. They’ve stabilized enrollment in the first year. They’ve run an operating budget surplus for the first time in a generation, which allowed them last year to give a supplemental salary increment to the teachers and staff. This year, the faculty, the teachers and staff, are getting their first raise in 10 years. So we’re on a good trajectory. Again, it’s going to be a long-term commitment, but we’ve now been able to mobilize our partners throughout the community.”

Mearns says the community partnership that has developed continues to expand. Working with a group of business and community leaders known as Next Muncie is starting to bear fruit.

“It’s helped us to bring a residential riverfront development project to downtown Muncie; it’s helped us attract some new businesses there. We see that there’s a sense of optimism in the community, that these projects, big and small, can help improve the lives of people all across our community.”

Mearns adds having that sense of optimism is critical to the community’s success.

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