Jo Ann Gora: Promises made, promises kept at Ball State University
By Rick Yencer
MUNCIE, IN - Ashley Swartz was sitting outside Emens Auditorium while Ball State President Jo Ann Gora was giving her fall speech about better pay, smarter students and gracious donors for a new world class planetarium, a digital media center and a greenhouse for the famed Wheeler orchid collection.
Last spring, Swartz was a student graduating with education in computer science. This year, she is designing websites for the university and working on other online applications.
Naturally, Swartz was on an iPhone when asked about the president's speech and her perception of her alma mater and new employer.
"It is great to be part of what is going on here," said Swartz, about all the physical changes in buildings, the behind the scenes upgrade in technology and excitement of being in a community of higher education.
Swartz was the symbol of what Gora talked about in the university's commitment to its students and the education faculty provide.
"We here at Ball State are preparing our students for a lifetime in careers," said Gora.
Nearly 1,000 faculty and staff attended the fall convocation where Gora talked about delivering on promises of better pay, and more accessibility while pushing immersive learning, building better communities and the growing campus culture.
Gora started out talking about salaries and the commitment the board of trustees made to increase pay for faculty and professional staff by 3 percent and 2.5 percent for service and other staff.
Faculty promotion increments went up from $3,700 to $6.000 for full professors and $2,500 to $4,000 for associate professors.There's also a pool for additional raises based on merit and other factors that includes another 1.5 percent.
Gora also talked about planning and communication with more sessions for both but spent more time on the incoming class that includes more academic honors candidates and higher SAT scores.
More than 17,000 students applied for the 3,600 freshman openings and the average SAT scores are 20 points higher than last year.There's more diversity and more foreign students. In the last decade, the number of foreign students has gone from 300 to 800.
Gora also pointed out in that same decade since she arrived, more than $520 million has been spent on buildings, construction and improvement on campus Just this spring, the Legislature approved $33.1 million to finish the geothermal projects and another $12.2 million for renovation of the Teachers College and Applied Technology Building.
The geothermal project has been a huge project for the university, giving it international attention and the ability to heat and cool 47 buildings at $2 million less then current cost.
Ball State also broke ground Friday for the new Joe and Alice Rinard Orchid Greenhouse near Christy Woods and the university will break ground again in October on Charles Brown Planetarium, one of the 10 largest university planetariums in the word.
One of Gora's favorite stories was the gift by Mark Holden, a corporate CEO, to fund a new communications center merging telecommunication with journalism. His son, Matt, is seeking a master's degree in media and his father was impressed with the advances in media and communication.
There were plenty of other stories and awards that Gora mentioned that can be found in her speech at www.bus.edu at the office of the president.
But the Ball State president ended by offering her thanks to faculty and staff for their accomplishments and their work to improve the education and lives of students.
"I pledge to continue doing whatever I can to make it easier for you to have a lasting impact on our students and to celebrate your accomplishments," said Gora.