Melanie Swihart, assistant professor of dance education at Ball State University, was selected by Indiana Campus Compact (ICC) as the 2022 recipient of its Emerging Leader in Community Engagement award.
The ICC Emerging Leader in Community Engagement Award recognizes faculty who demonstrate leadership and innovation in advancing and shaping community engagement in the field and at their institution.
“We would like to extend our congratulations to Professor Swihart for this well-deserved recognition,” said Suzanne Plesha, Director of Immersive Learning at Ball State. “As a valued instructor in Ball State’s nationally recognized Theater and Dance Department, Professor Swihart has made it her mission to design and facilitate projects that prepare our students for fulfilling careers while enriching the lives of local youth through the arts.”
Since the spring of 2018, Professor Swihart has been leading a community engagement project, “DANCE! Muncie after school” – now called”ARTS! Muncie after school– which engages Ball State students with real-world collaborative opportunities and teaching experiences in partnership with educators and the Muncie Community School administration. In this immersive learning classroom, students student artists and future educators connect with elementary-aged youth and, through art, provide after-school programming that enriches the lives of school children.
“Most of the children enrolled in this program do not have access to quality artistic activities such as dance or theater lessons. This program, coordinated by Professor Swihart, provides the necessary equipment and venues for children to experience the arts,” Ms Plesha said. “Through this project, our university students do the research, teaching, and reflection necessary to develop a knowledgeable and empathetic curriculum that meets a need in the Muncie community and beyond.”
Professor Swihart recently secured a Provost Immersive Learning Internal Grant to expand the program and make it a permanent offering at the College of Fine Arts. This year, she was joined by her colleague, Dr. Andy Waldron, assistant professor of drama, to further develop immersive work to include theater and increase the capacity for participation of more students. .
A key imperative of Ball State’s strategic plan, immersive learning delivers high-impact learning experiences that involve collaborative, student-led teams guided by faculty mentors. Students earn credit for working with community partners such as businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies to address community challenges through the creation of a product that has a lasting impact.
To learn more about Ball State’s immersive learning projects and resources, visit bsu.edu/immersivelearning, call 765-285-2790, or email [email protected]