When Brittney Grim, director of student and young alumni philanthropy and 2018 Ball State alumna, was a student at Ball State, she said she wished there was a program for students who performed well in school and were involved but maybe didn’t get the recognition they felt they deserved from the university.
“I was a student who got good grades — I was involved, but I was always one or two levels too low to get recognition,” Grim said. “I wish I could have had someone recognize me for all the work I was doing and the impact I was making in the community, on and off campus.”
Grim completed her undergraduate degree at Ball State in 2013, and now, she works alongside students from the Ball State Foundation Philanthropy Education Council (PEC) to create the Top 100 Student Awards.
According to the foundation website, these awards honor “100 outstanding Ball State undergraduate students who excel in three categories: academic excellence, campus leadership and community impact.”
Grim said only juniors and seniors can apply for or be nominated for the awards this year, and fifth-year students are eligible to be nominated because they are still seniors. However, graduate students are not eligible for the awards.
Faculty and staff members are encouraged to nominate students through emails they have received that include a video from Grim explaining the program or through any potential communication from their departments.
“We are so grateful for the continued partnership with faculty and staff, and this is an opportunity for them to get their department or area on campus recognized, as well as recognize the outstanding students they work with daily,” Grim said.
Faculty and staff can nominate students through a link on the foundation website, where they fill out basic information about the students, including their year, major and why they deserve to be nominated.
Grim said students can nominate themselves as well, but they will need a letter of recommendation from a faculty or staff member. Students will also have to fill out an application for the awards after being nominated, and have until the end of November to turn their applications in.
“We’d like to get at least 150 nominations and hope that at least 100 of those students — or all 150 — would apply,” she said. “Then, we have alumni and donors who are judges, and they will judge and narrow that down to the Top 100 and then the Top 25.”
Grim also said the alumni and donors will judge students based on several different forms of criteria, including academic excellence, campus leadership, community impact and their answers to three application questions. The students will be scored on their responses, based on a scale from one to 190.
Grim said the PEC still isn’t sure which alumni will be judging students, but members are waiting to see how many applications they receive before picking the committee.
“We don’t have a set number of how many [alumni] from each college will participate — we are definitely trying to diversify the choices, potentially with some faculty and staff,” she said. “We’ll know closer to the time at the end of October or early November.”
Aléthea Kessler, junior special education major and PEC president, learned about the council her freshman year when members promoted the group at the Scramble Light. Although she was involved with multiple different clubs her freshman year, she stuck with the PEC because of its “community values.”
Grim said the PEC took inspiration from colleges including IUPUI and Butler when discussing creating a Top 100 program at Ball State but didn’t look to see if other Mid-American Conference schools had a program like this and mainly looked at other schools in Indiana.
“It was a whole organization thing just as far as fleshing out what we want — what do we want it to look like? What are other schools doing as inspiration for what we want in our school to be doing in our program?” Kessler said. “It was just a big brainstorming session.”
She said she wants students to separate the Top 100 from being connected to GPA.
“They [are] looking for the Top 100 students as far as involvement in the campus community, and also the classroom,” Kessler said. “We don’t even ask your GPA.”
Kessler said the Top 100 students will be announced via a press release from the university in early February 2022, and the Top 25 students will have a banquet around the time of One Ball State Day in April.
Blake Reynolds, junior finance and risk management insurance major and PEC vice president, heard about the council as a freshman through social media callout posts. Reynolds’ involvement with the Top 100 started at a PEC executive breakfast.
“In the early stages, I was part of the brainstorming,” Reynolds said. “We decided that we’re going to do a banquet for the Top 25 and still honor the other 75 through a graduation cord.”
Although Reynolds has been heavily involved in the planning process, he and other students will not have any access to nominations and will not be a part of the judging process.
“Anyone on the PEC wouldn’t have been eligible to be a Top 100 student,” Reynolds said. “Brittney didn’t think that was fair because she says she likes to think that we’re all Top 100 material.”
As of Sept. 28, Reynolds said the program has had just more than 100 nominations, but he is hoping it will grow in future years. Students have until Oct. 15 to apply and be nominated.
“If they get accepted as a Top 100 student, [they] are going to be very excited to be a part of it, especially being the first year of the program,” Reynolds said.
Tavyn Smith, senior elementary education major, joined the Young Alumni Council (YAC) after her supervisor, Abby Haworth, recommended her for the council and is also involved with planning for the Top 100 Student Awards.
“[Haworth] is a Ball State alum and sat on the council when she graduated,” Smith said. “She shared some of the things the council does for the campus and the community and thought I would really enjoy being the student representative for the YAC.”
Smith said she hopes the YAC will stay involved with the Top 100 students after they graduate, and give them “insight on how to navigate through life after undergrad.” She also wants the program to show students the importance of being involved.
“I think the Top 100 will push students to become more involved in things on campus, taking their studies more seriously, getting involved with clubs and organizations, and even giving back to the Muncie community,” Smith said.
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