CREATE’s Summer Civics Learning Academy

Tina Ahmadi is a 3rd year PhD student at Ball State University, studying Educational Psychology. She spends the majority of her time studying restorative practices in schools and learning from the experiences of a group of incredible elementary educators. She also has worked on developing K-12 curricular materials ranging from virtual reality games for teaching the scientific method to activities highlighting the role of climate change in exacerbating inequality. Before pursuing graduate work full-time, Tina taught Biology and Integrated Chemistry/Physics at Pike High School and designed and delivered summer camps and enrichment courses to younger students at Northwestern’s Center for Talent/Development and Park Tudor’s Summer Program.

Dr. James Connolly is George and Frances Ball Distinguished Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Middletown Studies. He received his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization from Brandeis University in 1995 and came to Ball State in 1996. His scholarship examines American urban history, including city politics, the development of smaller cities, print culture, and the transition from industrial to postindustrial life in the American Rust Belt. He has written or edited seven books and numerous articles and essays. Dr. Connolly has received a Fulbright Scholar Award (Free University Berlin) and research grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, and several private foundations. He also has helped produce several digital humanities projects. Dr. Connolly teaches courses on the history of American cities, reform during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, immigration history, and the history of democracy in the U.S.

BSU Lecturer Kate H. Elliott coordinates the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication’s Magazine Media concentration and chairs the College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM) Engagement Task Force. From 2018-2020, Elliott supported Ball State’s historic partnership with Muncie Community Schools (MCS) as a faculty fellow to the provost. Alongside teachers, administrators, and community partners, Elliott is working to realize a holistic educational system that nurtures student success and community well-being. She continues to serve MCS as a member of the MCS-Ball State Academic Innovation Council. She teaches Media & Society and courses within the Magazine Media concentration. Committed to community-focused storytelling, she guided a team of student journalists in profiling farmers, nonprofit leaders, and residents in food deserts as well as a team supporting ecoREHAB, a Muncie nonprofit that transforms abandoned properties into energy-efficient homes for residents in need.

Cornelius and Mary Dollison have been married 62 years, working together as partners to promote the importance of community. Cornelius was born in Muncie, and Mary is from Louisiana. They met in high school and started Ball State University together. After attending Ball State University for 2 years, Cornelius and Mary married. They realized that were not able to afford both of them attending college at the same time. Cornelius left school to work full-time, and Mary continued her studies and graduated in 1964 with a Bachelor of Science in Education. While Cornelius was not attending college, he did continue his education, taking numerous courses and earning certifications in a variety of areas related to electrical engineering. Cornelius worked as a process engineer for General Motors for over 20 years, retiring at age 51. Mary taught 31 years in Muncie schools. In 1987, the Dollisons co-founded with Raushana Shabazz Motivate Our Minds, an out-of-school-time provider serving elementary schools across Muncie. Motivate Our Minds is currently celebrating its 37th year of operation. Even while working, raising a family, and starting Motivate Our Minds, the Dollisons prioritize civic engagement. Currently they volunteer almost daily, working with organizations such as Kiwanis Club of Muncie, Industry and Whitely Community Councils, Habitat for Humanity, League of Women Voters, NAACP, and the American Association of University Women.

State Representative Sue Errington served on the Delaware County Council and in the Indiana State Senate before her first election to the Indiana House of Representatives in 2012. Errington currently serves as the ranking minority member of the Environmental Affairs Committee. She also is a member of the Elections and Apportionment Committee and serves as vice chair of the Statutory Committee on Ethics. A long-time proponent of women’s rights and good government, Errington serves on the board of directors of Muncie OUTreach, the Land Conservation Fund Advisory Committee of the Muncie-Delaware County Community Foundation, the Delaware County Meth Health and Home Coalition, the Delaware County Tobacco Free Coalition, the Muncie/Delaware County Coalition of Women’s Organizations, and the board of directors of the Second Harvest Food Bank. She also is a member of the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL) and is a member of the Recycling Advisory Committee of the Muncie Sanitary Board. She taught Spanish and later served 17 years as the Public Policy Director for Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Errington lives in Muncie. She and her late husband, Paul, have two married daughters and two grandchildren.

Julie Fierce
Julie Fierce is a high school English and speech teacher at Delta High School. She has taught in the Muncie community for 17 years and co-directed the youth writing programs through Indiana Writing Project for the past 7 years. She has three sons and loves going on adventures and teaching students to enjoy writing and find their own voice.

Melissa Gentry
Melissa Gentry is the Supervisor of the Ball State University Libraries GIS Research and Map Collection. She provides instructional sessions and programs and curates special exhibits and creates custom maps and open education resources for use in K-12 and college classroom projects, including distance-and home-school learning. She is a member of the board of the Delaware County Historical Society, a University Coordinator of the Notable Women of Muncie and Delaware County, and a member of the American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters. She has presented programs at the Indiana Association of Historians, the National Council on Public History, the In Her Own Right Symposium with the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, the Indiana Historical Bureau, the Indiana League of Women Voters Annual Meeting, and the Midwestern History Conference. She also provided a tutorial session on creating online maps for the Muncie Schools Education Innovation Summit.

Lexi Gribble
Lexi Gribble is the Manager of Education at the Indiana Historical Society and the State Coordinator of National History in Indiana. Prior to working at IHS, she graduated from Ball State University with degrees in Social Studies Education and History and taught middle and high school social studies in Indiana.

Tim Kalgreen
Tim has been the Director of Civic Education for the Indiana Bar Foundation since August 2019. His team puts together programs and professional developments for teachers and students around the state to help them learn civics content and activities. Tim also manages relationships with other organizations, schools, and businesses to advance policies and initiatives related to civic education. Before joining the Indiana Bar Foundation, Tim worked as a program coordinator at the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education for 12 years, conducting similar civic education programming for Ohio. He graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s degree in history and a Master’s degree in education.

Anand Marri
Dr. Anand R. Marri is the acting Provost of Ball State University. He previously served as Dean of Ball State University’s Teachers College since 2020. He led more than 220 faculty (tenured, tenure-eligible, and contract), 100 staff members, and 5,000 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students. Dr. Marri’s academic research focuses on economic literacy, civic and multicultural education, teacher education, and urban education. He has been awarded more than $6.5 million in grant awards from funders including the Spencer Foundation, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the New York State Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, Ball State Teachers College, Columbia University Trustee Joyce Cowin, and the Teagle Foundation. As CREATE’s Co-PI, Dr. Marri ensures project fidelity by meeting regularly with CREATE’s Principal Investigator David Roof, and communicating with Ball State’s upper administration.
Elizabeth Osborn
Dr. Elizabeth Osborn is the Director of Education at the Indiana University Center on Representative Government. She is a part of the team that created the award-winning free civics interactives Engaging Congress, Freedom Summer 1964, CitizIN, and the Center’s latest project, Action Citizen. Dr. Osborn is responsible for the Center’s curriculum development, is the primary facilitator/presenter at workshops, and presents regularly at conferences. Dr. Osborn received her Ph.D. in U.S. History from Indiana University in 2004. Before joining the Center, she was the creator of the Indiana Supreme Court’s nationally recognized educational outreach program “Courts in the Classroom.” She taught at several Indiana University campuses in Bloomington, Columbus, and Indianapolis and taught high school social studies in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Spencer Ozbun
Spencer Ozbun serves as Vice President at The Remnant Trust, where he leads the digital strategy and educational programs to expand the reach and engagement of the collection. With a background in nonprofit management, Spencer is dedicated to expanding the Trust’s educational purpose of providing awe-inspiring interactions with original sources to new generations. Spencer holds a master’s degree in emerging media design and development from Ball State University, bringing expertise in design thinking and human-centered design to drive innovation for the Trust in its effort to digitize its 1,600+ collection.

Reza Paikar
Reza Paikar began his career as a lecturer at Samangan State University, Afghanistan. He earned his M.Sc. from Ruhr University Bochum in management and economics. During his career at Samangan State University, he worked as the dean of the economic faculty for more than five years. As a recipient of the prestigious Institute of International Education’s Scholar Rescue Fund (IIE-SRF), he currently works as a fellow for educational economics at Ball State University’s Teachers College.

Arin Phillips
Arin Phillips is a Muncie native and the daughter of Annette and Gary Phillips. She is a K-12 graduate of Burris and attended Central State University, a historically Black university in Xenia, Ohio. In Muncie she worked as an early childhood educator at several schools, most notably Huffer Memorial Children’s Center and Longfellow Elementary School in the MP3 program. She became a sworn police officer at the Muncie Police Department and graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in 2021. Arin also sits on the CASA board and was selected to be the MPD Community Engagement/Resource Officer to focus on homeless and opioid addiction outreach with the help of MPD Social Workers. Arin focuses on building relationships with Muncie youth and with Sgt. Kesler developed Operation Recess and Books and Badges, two programs that attempt to bridge the gap between local law enforcement and the children they protect. Her most important (and expensive) job is being a mother of three, to Avery (11), Liam (8), and Miles, a three-year-old Australian Shepherd. She enjoys anything related to true crime, Beyoncé, and shopping. Arin tries to live her life according to the Maya Angelou quote “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

Dan Ridenour
Dan Ridenour built a highly successful 30-year banking and finance career before feeling called to help the City of Muncie work its way out of an impending financial disaster. He served for four years on Muncie’s City Council and was elected Mayor in 2019. He is passionate about community service and has actively supported organizations to help children to prepare for Kindergarten, seniors repair their homes, and high school students excel. He is the author of three books on personal financial literacy, an IRONMAN 70.3 finisher and long-distance runner, and a 42-year Pacers season ticket holder. He and his wife Sherry have four children and four grandchildren.

Sherry Riggin
Riggin grew up in Hamilton Township and moved south of Riggin Road to Muncie when she purchased her first home, now her rental property. She was involved in her family business, then began working in the Delaware County Auditor’s Office and learning how local government works. Riggin was elected Commissioner in 2012 and now is serving her 3rd term. She is passionate about doing the job to the best of her ability and serving members of the public who need her service. In her spare time, she enjoys being a Master Gardener and a Rotarian.

Robin Tate Rockel
Robin Tate Rockel is the community engagement manager for Indiana Public Broadcasting News, a collaboration of NPR and PBS stations in Indiana. As community engagement manager, she focuses on gathering experiences and identifying information needs of people around the state when it comes to Indiana policy and its impacts. Throughout 2024, IPB News conducted media literacy presentations in high school classrooms and is finalizing a teacher guide supported by Indiana Humanities. Other recent community responsive projects have included Civically, Indiana ( and The Indiana Two Way ( You can reach her at or 317-614-0488. Find your local station at

David Roof
Dr. David J. Roof began his career as a teacher, earning his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in Educational Policy Studies. He currently oversees the Center for Economic and Civic Learning (CECL) and is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies. Dr. Roof is the Principal Investigator of the CREATE project (Civic Renewal through Education for Agency, Tolerance, and Engagement), an innovative approach to instruction, student learning in civics, that integrates American history, geography, government, and media literacy funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Dr. Roof is a frequent keynote speaker and serves on the editorial board of several journals. He also has run several large projects for the U.S. Department of State and is on the Board of Trustees for the American Institute of Pakistan Studies. He has worked for many years as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Education.

Dorshele Stewart
Dr. Dorshele Stewart joined BSU faculty as an Assistant Professor in the History Department in the College of Arts and Sciences in 2009. She always knew she wanted to be a teacher and spent MANY summers with her Aunt, a now-retired public school teacher, in Milwaukee, who would let her tag along as she taught summer school. Dorshele was a 1st and 4th grade teacher in Gary Community Schools for 6 years and later pursued advanced degrees from Indiana University-Bloomington. Her teaching interests include social studies education, social justice in education, community engagement, and brave teaching. She proudly resides in Muncie and is involved in the local community and her place of worship. During her free time, Dorshele enjoys singing and binge-watching home improvement shows and reruns of ‘Designing Women,’ ‘Frasier,’ and ‘The Golden Girls.’ She also enjoys hanging out with friends over a good meal to laugh.

Sarah Vitale
Dr. Sarah E. Vitale is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Ball State University. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Villanova University in May 2014. At Ball State, she teaches Introduction to Philosophy as well as classes on contemporary philosophy. She is the recipient of the 2020 Lawhead Teaching Award in General Education, advisor to the Philosophy Club, and director and founder of the precollege Philosophy Outreach Project. Vitale also is engaged in the Muncie community. She is a member of the League of Women Voters of Muncie and Delaware County and the recipient of the 2019 Delaware County Mentor of the Year award from Project Leadership.

Leanna K. Weissmann
Leanna K. Weissmann was appointed to the Indiana Court of Appeals by Governor Eric Holcomb and began her service on September 14, 2020. She is a cum laude graduate of both Indiana University and its Robert H. McKinney School of Law, earning undergraduate degrees in Journalism and English in 1991 and her law degree in 1994. She is an active member of the Indiana Judges Association, the Indiana State Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the Indianapolis Lawyers Club, and the National Association of Women Judges. Before joining the Court, Judge Weissmann maintained a solo law practice in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, for more than 20 years representing indigent clients in an array of criminal, juvenile, and family law matters. Additionally, she served as a commissioner on the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission from 2013 to 2023. A proponent of civics education, Judge Weissmann created a constitutional program for elementary school students in 2001. Recently, she researched and authored Redefining Justice for Emerging Adults: How Specialty Courts Can Provide Life Changing Intervention, 55 IND. L. REV. (2022).

John West
John West has an extensive background in urban planning history and theory, land banking, tenant rights, low-income housing policy research, and program evaluation. His theoretical interest is in how ideas, technology, and local political action shape urban citizenship. An engaged teacher-scholar, West is the founding chair of the Muncie Land Bank, a planning agency that addresses property abandonment. He and his students have partnered with non-profits to create The Renter’s Book, an extensive collection of information, sample forms, and procedural steps to help renters understand their rights and advocate for their interests. They also spearheaded the creation of the state’s first landlord-tenant mediation program through partnerships with the Delaware County courts and others.