There is so, so much to talk about here, and fortunately that's because I have a lot of positive things to say. Let me start with my experience in the English department. Although I switched my major from telecommunications to creative writing at the end of freshman year, I wasn't very involved with the English department until I was a senior. There were two main reasons for this: firstly, I was involved in so many extracurriculars already that I didn't have time to get involved with the department or learn much about it. Secondly, my increased involvement specifically with a campus church led me to decide that I wanted to ultimately become paid staff with that church. So, how heavily involved I was with my major, much as I was growing to especially love poetry and occasionally read my own at readings, had little to do with my life plans and was of little concern. Said life plans were entirely scrapped when, after nearly two years of intense questioning, I left Christianity and became an atheist right before the start of my senior year. I lost most of my social support system, as all of my close friends went to the church. But it also cleared my schedule -- so I finally had time to get involved in the English department my last year of school, and I am, pardon, so fucking glad I did. My minimal participation in my major for three-fourths of my college career could have been used against me in the English department -- I could have not been given as many opportunities to be in positions of creative control and leadership, to read my work in front of new audiences (including a partially paid-for trip to read at the University of Alabama), to all-around be encouraged and supported by my English department peers and faculty. But I was, without reserve, and this is something for which I'll always be grateful -- especially since the amazing creative writing faculty that challenged and encouraged me so much my senior year gave me a new career goal: to teach undergraduate creative writing, and be as passionate and genuine toward my students as my professors have been toward me. One of the bullet-point prompts for this section asks, "Do you spend time with professors outside of class?" and I can tell you, absolutely. And not just to talk school-ish things, though mine have always been willing to do so. My advanced non-fiction professor, Honors College thesis advisor, and a general wise mama-figure in my life took me out for coffee a few weeks ago and the first thing she asked me after initial hellos was how I was doing after a hard breakup. Another English department associate professor I get beers with regularly has become a surrogate big brother, and we talk about everything from mid-90s SNL sketches to how religious influence has played out in our lives. I could cite multiple other examples, but you get the idea. "Do professors know your name?" doesn't even touch the kind of community that exists in the English department. And speaking of community, I think "community" is a more accurate word than "competitive," at least in my department. (Having once been a telecommunications major, Ball State's star department, I can tell you competitive tension definitely exists amongst various tcom organizations and the stripes of people within them.) One of the reasons it was so easy for me to get involved quickly was that my peers were enthusiastic about my presence; there is much more a sense of building each other up, both as writers and as people, than trying to become "the best." We generally know who the standouts are in the department, but there's not much in the way of envy or headbutting. We eat, drink, work, and live together. We like each other. Picking a favorite class is pretty tough, as I've had some outstanding ones in both the English department and Honors College. Since I haven't talked about the Honors program yet though, I'll go ahead and do that. First, I know a lot of people who decided not to do the Honors College although they had the credentials to get in, for a variety of reasons: mainly, 1) not knowing about the automatic half-tuition Presidential Scholarship (!), 2) not wanting to worry about doing an Honors thesis to graduate, and 3) not wanting to take classes with "Honors college kids." (A stereotype exists of Honors College kids as being "book smart" and obedient teachers' pets who can't think critically for themselves, lack basic social interaction skills, and don't possess the self-awareness to not take themselves so goddamn seriously and chill out. Unfortunately, this portrayal is often way more true than I like to think about.) Some of those people are happy they didn't, some wish they did. All in all, I'd say it's generally a better idea to be a part of the Honors College if you can, rather than not. One, the professors are the sort that will meet with you outside of class for beers. They are generally down-to-earth yet quirky, intelligent people that are interesting to learn from and know. Two, there are some really sweet Honors College-only colloquium classes about a lot of different things: fairy tales, Disney movies, and banned books, to name a few. Two colloqs I took, one over Italy and another photography, had non-required trips at the end of the semester to Rome, Florence, and Venice, and New York City, respectively, that were two of the best experiences I had in my time at Ball State. I don't remember exact figures, but both were pretty affordable -- definitely less expensive than a normal, independently planned vacation. Three, the scholarship opportunities can be pretty sweet. I was named a Whitinger Scholar, one of ten the College selects from incoming freshmen each year. It's a full-ride scholarship that comes with a $1000 stipend to put toward an internship or some other educationally-relevant experience the College approves of. (I used mine to live in Nashville for six weeks while interning with an organization that rescues and rehabilitates child soldiers from Southeast Asia.) You don't have to live on campus to keep receiving the scholarship, so I put leftover money from the scholarship checks, after estimating costs for rent, groceries, extras, etc., into a high-interest savings account and graduated college this May with more money than what I came in with. The College offers some other scholarships as that pay just about as much, and provides a lot of resources for seeking graduate scholarships and fellowships as well. They love being able to say someone from their College received this-or-that award, and they love seeing smart kids get money. As far as requirements go, I think they are largely fair though is one change I'd like to see made: more non-Western/non-white-male-centered history. As of now, the Honors College only requires one non-Western history course, and I don't believe the University Core requirements are any different. I think teaching history from a perspective not centered on only white men and their wars and possessions is an intellectually fair and needed thing in our society today, to further work against prejudices and make students aware of privileges and disadvantages that exist for themselves and others. There seems to be a good balance between learning for learning's sake and more practical concerns. The Honors College loves its intellectualizing, but in no other department did I hear nearly as much about visiting the Career Center, building my resume, and generally doing everything I can to be a successful human being in "the real world." We definitely have intellectual conversations outside the classroom -- philosophical talks over whiskey mixers on porches in summer is part of what set me on the path to becoming an atheist. But I have intelligent talks about books, music, politics, religion, and much else outside the classroom with my peers fairly often, especially with those I know from the English department. But smart, sociable, well-read people are liked people in pretty much any department at Ball State – and for that matter, everywhere else too, so making yourself into one is a pretty good move.
I've had an excellent experience with the academics at Ball State. I'm an English Literature major and an Honors student with a history and humanities double minor who started out as a teaching major and a spanish and professional writing double minor, so I've gotten a pretty broad sampling of the classes offered here. Overall, the professors I've taken classes from have been extremely helpful, willing to meet outside of class if I have questions or need additional help, and genuinely seem interested in helping me get the most out of my 4 years as far as setting me up with unique opportunities like immersive learning courses, student assistantships, fellowships, and even internships. If you're serious about wanting to get practical experience in your field, Ball State is an excellent school; just to give an idea of the emphasis on practical skills, our teaching majors begin to develop their professional portfolios their first year and are student teaching by their third. The most interesting class I've taken would have to be a toss up between an immersive learning course in which our class partnered with the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Museum in Indianapolis to improve the existing exhibit and a year-long humanities course in which we read all the way from ancient classics like the Iliad to Persepolis, a modern graphic novel/autobiography about life in Iraq. I also took several classes with one of our study abroad programs in Worcester, England which have really shaped the way I think about British literature and drama. The Ball State honors college is also an excellent choice for students that want to get the most out of their college academics; classes are discussion and not lecture-based, and conversations from class have a tendency to keep going even after class is over. Generally the academic atmosphere is pretty open and relaxed with some friendly competition, but nothing cutthroat or overly stress-inducing. Ball State is definitely the right place for students looking for practical experience and unique opportunities.
Class sizes at Ball State University are usually under 40, excluding the major lecture courses, which makes it easier for professors and students to get to know each other. My English Education class is my favorite class because the professor shares real life applications of the work we are doing. She challenges us to be creative and formulate ideas that will be transferrable to the classroom. Class participation is extremely common at Ball State Universities. Many professors embrace the idea that every student has something valuable to contribute, and by talking students contribute pieces of their value to the rest of the group. It is all part of building a positive and beneficial learning environment. The fine arts, specifically theatre and dance is a major program at the university. This year a group of musical theatre and other fine arts students performed "The Circus in Winter," and it was the world premiere. The production was completely student written, composed, blocked, and directed. Similarly, the telecommunications department offers up to date equipment, thanks to alumnus David Letterman. Students have internship opportunities and on campus involvement through the campus radio and t.v. stations. The most successful program at Ball State however, is likely the education department, considering the university started out as a teacher's college. Education majors create a digital portfolio that exhibits their finest work and serves as a resume for future employers. They have the chance to showcase ideas that they would like to implement into the classroom. Education majors also get experience in the field through practicum and student teaching requirements.
Within the last few years, Ball-State University has really stepped it up academically. Incoming students now need to have higher GPA's and grades in order to be accepted in to the school. Students attending the university now need to receive a grade of C or higher in order to pass a class. However, not all departments have the standard 90%, 80%, 70%, 60% grading scale. For example, the grading scale in the school of music is much more intense. In fact, anything lower than a 75% is considered to be failing. Generally, most students genuinely care about their grades and will work hard in their classes. So if you are interested in coming to Ball-State, you must be willing to study! But don't let this frighten you. The classes here are great! Most of my classes are fairly small--usually around 20-30 students and the professors know how to make the class interesting. You'll soon find that you enjoy the work for these classes. Another great aspect of Ball-State's academics is the Honors College. The students that are accepted into this college are in for a real treat! These honors courses are set-up quite differently than typical courses. Many of them are primarily discussion based and there are several interesting course subjects that you would not otherwise have access to. Some of the other perks that come with the honors college is priority course scheduling, an opportunity to live in newly renovated and air-conditioned honors dorm, and extended access to books from the library. So if you have the grades and you're interested in a different kind of learning experience, you should definitely look into the Honors College!
Professors at Ball State generally know your name. Only the core classes contain a lot of students, but even then professors will learn your name if you participate. My favorite classes have been my immersive classes, but I also enjoy my literature courses. My least favorite course was MATH 125. MATH 125 is the core math course that every student has to take. The class was not too bad, but it was boring for me. I learned most of the information in high school. Most students don't study enough, but studying is relative to the individual. Some students can pass without studying, others need to study a lot. Class participation is very common. I have only had one or two courses in which no one participated, but that was mostly due to the professors' lecture style. I am an English Literature major with minors in Digital Media and Peace and Conflict Studies. I love all three of my departments. The professors in each of these departments are the best of the best. The academic requirements for Ball State are not hard to meet if you do the work. Many students think they can never turn in an assignment and still pass, but they are sadly mistaken. Education at Ball State is geared toward both getting a job and learning for its own sake; your experience depends upon the program you choose to pursue and your own personal contribution to your studies.
My studies have put just enough pressure on me to make it challenging, but not impossible. There are classes that are super easy and take little to no effort to get a good grade in. I've had classes that, at times, were a heavy load but that is to be expected at any college. My opinion of the professors are generally good and what I like most about them is just how much they care about the students. My theatre teacher, who taught a lecture class with over 200 students, still made a valiant effort to get to know us individually. Although I cannot say that I was crazy for all my teachers, none of my professors have been apathetic or unapproachable. One thing that Ball State has that I particularly love is the Honors Program. Ball State offers classes that only those students of this college can take that offer very small class sizes (even in my none honor classes, most have never been over thirty) and interesting topics. If you are a student who loves the humanities and learning for learning sake, I would suggest applying for the Honors College. If not, the other classes are just as interesting and teach you what you need to know and beyond. The work load, in general, is very manageable and allows for a good amount of down time that students can use for fun.
I am one of those students that took until their second semester sophomore year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Choosing public relations as my major and professional writing as my minor, I have never felt so motivated and eager to go to class and learn about what I will be doing the rest of my life. Though the journalism department has it's ups and downs when scheduling classes, they make sure to be available for every student. In my experience, the teachers I have had want to help in every way they can. They can be harsh and tough but they are always honest. I have worked harder each semester to improve my work with their guidance. In my department, we are required to go to at least one Professional in Residence. Whether they are a graduate of Ball State or not, they come to talk to us about getting jobs, their experiences and what we can do to better our chances of finding a job after school. Ball State's requirements for my department are fair and make sure to have us take every class that will further our knowledge of what we love to do. I haven't experienced a class in my major that I did not like or that did not help me in some way.
Oh yes, academics, the reason we're all going to these schools. While I rarely have too much school spirit, I would pride BSU on giving the students an education worth their money (which is what we all look at when we get our 1st bill from the bursar right?). As an English Creative Writing major, Ball State has supplied me with so many opportunities and outlets for my art. More, than as a student writer, I thought were available to me. I've been given chances in publishing, internships, work, travel, and meetings with professionals. My classes are filled with both short and long term assignments which give me the ability to have creative outbursts as well as hone and edit the skill being practiced. My professors constantly urge work outside of the classroom and provide different templates of practice in order to help us all find our niche. My favorite part of the education at BSU is that they strongly encourage students to develop a community in their area of study that can help develop and sustain their education for years, even after leaving the university.
I think that it depends as to whether you communicate with your professors to if they will know your name and really talk to you. I know most of my professors, because I communicate with all of them regularly to keep up with assignments and ask questions about possible assignments. Just about all of my professors know my name. I would say that class participation really depends on the size of the class. There are some classes where you might have like 25 students in the classroom, while others, you might have around 130. The smaller the classroom, the more the students participate, and the larger the classroom, the more it is like a lecture class. I don't spend much time with my professors outside of class, besides emailing, that is. I have gone out to lunch with one of my professors, because she was truly interested in getting to know me. I really feel that students in general here really focus hard during class. Not much chatting goes on-people are pretty heavy on the note taking and listening to what the teacher is saying.
Academics completely depends on your major. Architecture and theatre majors have a lot on their plate, as do nursing majors. They're the ones you can usually find studying or in a studio working on projects. Class size and the personability of professors also depends on the department or specific class. Most core course have large classes, and the professors may not get to know you. But track specific classes tend to be smaller, maybe as small as 15 people. Some majors are competitive, some aren't. The wide array of majors really leaves your academic experience up to you. I started out a biology or. No class was smaller than 30 students, most with 60 or so. When I changed my major in the fall of my Sophomore year to Natural Resources and Environmental Management, I was welcomed with classes closer to 20 students. The department is so small, there's only eight professors, which means they really try to get to know their students and help them with internships and interviews. It's really incredible.