Ball State University holds a soft spot in John Emert’s heart, he said. The University saw his potential and because of it, he has been able to see his own growth.
Emert is retiring from his position as dean of the honors college May 31, 2023. Emert has been with Ball State since 1989, starting as an assistant professor of mathematics.
“I still remember when I interviewed here back in February of 1989 for the job in mathematics, every person that I met was always forward thinking,” Emert said.
He said during the interview, there were talks of new buildings such as a bell tower and a new science building.
“I love the opportunity to work with various majors, and that's what led me full-time into the Honors College in the first place,” Emert said. “Then when the [dean] position became available, there was a national search. I applied because I could see how much more potential there could be here.”
Before Emert was the dean, he held the position of associate dean of the Ball State honors college. He became acting dean in 2016 after his predecessor, James Ruebel, became unexpectedly ill. When Ruebel stepped down from the position, Emert was appointed interim dean for the year. Then, Emert put his hat in the ring for the job of the dean.
“It's wonderful, it really is a wonderful opportunity to work with so many different majors, so many different interests and people who really are eager to take advantage of opportunities,” he said. “That's what makes the job day that I look forward to doing.”
Besides working in the Honors College, Emert is also involved with admissions and developmental work. Emert said every day could look a little bit different because of the many jobs he has within Ball State. One thing that stays consistent throughout Emert’s many jobs is being a teacher and mentor to students.
Emert said his door is always open, and students know that.
“So most every day, there'll be some time during the day where [a] student pokes their head in. It's just a ‘Hello.’,” Emert said.
He isn’t just a mentor to students. His mentorship expands to his fellow faculty members and staff. Coralee Young, the secretary to the dean and office manager, has been working with Emert for almost 11 years.
“He's very cautious with our workload, [and] that we're well,” Young said. “You know, I'm a very busy person, I have a lot going on, but he's always checking in to make sure that we're handling everything okay.”
Emily Rutter, associate dean of the Honors College, began her job July 1. Rutter said she is still new to the role of associate dean, so she looks to Emert for guidance.
“I think this is a wonderful place to work, and I think a lot of that is due to John's leadership and always striving for innovation and inclusivity,” Rutter said. “I think that's something that is quite valuable, so I think, on this campus, we're certainly in step with the values and aspirations of the campus at large.”
Rutter noted there are a lot of conversations between her and Emert on how to best serve students and how to ensure they can create an equitable workplace for faculty and staff within the Honors College.
“I think one of the things that I really valued about John, as the leader, is the way in which he kind of does hear all perspectives but is also able to synthesize and make executive decisions,” Rutter said.
Young said Emert comes to work every day with a positive attitude, always ready to start the day bright and shiny.
“There's just so much that we've done day-to-day together,” Young said. “There are all kinds of memorable times with his family [that] are always good. He's hosted several get togethers at his home, and those are always fun.”
Emert, a University of Tennessee graduate, has a bachelor of arts degree, along with a masters of science and a Ph.D in mathematics. He has a total of 20 choral pieces published by a small publishing house and continues to gain small royalties from his pieces.
For Emert, the decision of retirement wasn’t a rash one.
“My wife and I started thinking about this actually before COVID[-19],” Emert said. “People miss out on retirement because they're unwilling to make the decision and make the timely decision.”
Though Emert won’t be in office as the dean, nor will he be teaching, he plans to be around campus for a seamless transition for the new dean and his staff after his retirement.
“I am interested, in fact, I already know it's going to happen. I'll continue to serve as a reviewer or as an adviser for honors programs and honors colleges,” Emert said. “So I will do the occasional external review, or I'll go visit another school’s honors college program to see how things are going, listen, observe, make recommendations.”
The search for the new dean has begun. Applications are accepted until Dec. 30 and can be submitted to bsu.peopleadmin.com.
“We really do have something special [at Ball State], it plays off the story of Beneficence,” Emert said. “It plays off the way that the Ball Brothers saw the potential of having a school in town and the value that brought to the community. And it plays off the way that, you know, we as a school can continue to help support the community and support each other.”