Ball State University (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2017 Proceedings
Publication year: 2017
Pages: 8522-8529
ISBN: 978-84-697-6957-7
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2017.2313
Conference name: 10th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2017
Location: Seville, Spain
Community-engaged teaching and research have become increasingly important at institutions of higher education across the United States, especially with public institutions who receive state funding. For the past decade, immersive learning has been a highlight of Ball State’s Strategic plan and community engagement continues to be a central focus of the university’s institutional mission. Each semester, dozens of engagement projects are implemented through community-engaged research, faculty consulting, community training programs, student-driven immersive learning, and volunteerism. Projects are designed based on community challenges and should be beneficial to both university and community partners.

Ball State’s Community Engagement Action Plan, developed initially in 2015, required that university officials and community leaders determine priority areas for projects. Neighborhood revitalization emerged as a top priority in Muncie, Indiana, home of Ball State University. As a result of deindustrialization and the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the past 50 years, many of Muncie’s neighborhoods have declined. Based on this community need, the Building Better Neighborhoods program was launched in partnership with a local foundation and a grass-roots organization dedicated to empowering Muncie residents to identify and solve community challenges. Building Better Neighborhoods coordinates expertise and resources from Ball State University to support the development and activities of 48 neighborhood associations in the Muncie area. Over the past 4 years, the BBN program has resulted in multiple immersive learning partnerships, customized training programs for neighborhood leaders, an online resource guide and an annual IDEA Conference tailored to neighborhood associations.

This paper will provide examples of the types of campus-community partnerships that have been created through the Building Better Neighborhoods program and will outline positive program outcomes. It will describe the infrastructure necessary to support engagement projects and discuss lessons learned about establishing reciprocal partnerships and maintaining ongoing, productive relationships despite turnover in the student body and volunteer community leadership. The program could serve as a model for other universities looking to expand community engagement in local communities and to integrate with grass-roots initiatives.
Community Engagement, Immersive Learning, Service Learning.