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Ball State University property management students help med students settle in

By Carla Earhart, Ph.D., and David Martin
The historic Maplewood Guest House in Muncie, Indiana
The historic Maplewood Guest House in Muncie, Indiana

The five Ball brothers moved to Muncie, Indiana, in the late 1800s to take advantage of the area’s natural gas reserves to power their glass manufacturing plant—Ball Corporation, the maker of Ball canning jars. Maplewood Guest House is one of the original Ball family homes, located in Muncie’s Minnetrista Historic District, east of the Ball State University campus.

Members of the William C. Ball family occupied Maplewood for many years. It then became the property of the Ball Brothers Foundation and was used as office space or as a guest house by Ball Corporation and other related businesses. However, in the summer of 2016, the Maplewood Mansion was up for lease. Learning that the historic home would be available, we wondered if Maplewood Mansion might provide community-engaged immersive experiences for students studying property management at the university. The idea was shared with university leaders, who agreed this was an opportunity worth investigating.

We then learned of Ball Brothers Foundation’s interest in turning the mansion into short-term housing for medical students from the Indiana University School of Medicine. These medical students, in our area for four to six weeks completing their medical clerkship at Ball Memorial Hospital and other area health centers, often had challenges finding suitable places to live.

Ball Brothers Foundation has a vested interest in providing an outstanding Muncie experience for these medical students through “Optimus Primary,” their project to recruit more medical professionals to live and work in the Muncie area. However, the foundation was ill-equipped to focus on the housing needs of the medical students, as the foundation staff is not skilled, knowledgeable, or interested in continuing to serve as property managers of Maplewood Guest House. But, they were definitely interested in working with someone who would manage the building as short-term housing for the medical students. By August 2017, the partnership was formed. Maplewood Guest House was leased to Ball State University, medical students began moving in, and property management students began community-engaged immersive learning experiences at the site.

About Optimus Primary
Optimus Primary is a project of the Ball Brothers Foundation, a philanthropic group based in Muncie, Indiana. The long-term goal of the project is to improve the health of residents of East Central Indiana. The short-term goal is to showcase Muncie as a desirable location so more healthcare providers want to live and work in the area after completing their medical training. Project partners Ball Brothers Foundation, Indiana University School of Medicine, and Ball State University are working together to make this happen.

Supporting students and Muncie

As with any new property management venture, the first task for our students in fall 2017 was to create a mission, vision, and values statement:

  • The mission of Maplewood Guest House is to provide supportive and comfortable living accommodations for medical students working in Muncie and East Central Indiana while also providing Ball State University students with opportunities for immersive learning.
  • The vision of Maplewood Guest House is to promote Muncie and East Central Indiana as a preferred location for completing a medical residency and to highlight the region as an ideal place to live and practice medicine.
  • We value community partnerships, positive impressions, a sense of community, and immersive learning.

A sampling of other activities completed by property management students includes:

  • Evaluation, suggestions, and implementation of building improvements
  • Content for the Maplewood website and social media sites, including Facebook and Instagram
  • Resident handbook, including policies, procedures, and an introduction to Muncie
  • Resident satisfaction survey, resident newsletter, and electronic message board

When vacancies and students’ schedules permitted, members of the class stayed overnight at Maplewood to understand the resident experience more fully.

The focus on the resident experience recently expanded as property management students created and implemented a Muncie Trivia Contest during a resident dinner. The trivia questions were designed to shine a positive light on the Muncie area by exposing the residents to “good news” that they might not be aware of. Gift cards to Muncie businesses were provided to winners.

Praise for the partnership
In the words of Jud Fisher, president and CEO of Ball Brothers Foundation: “Not only does this partnership provide a one-of-a-kind experience for the BSU students, but it also serves as a way to ‘sell’ Muncie. Recruiting top-notch medical professionals to this area and changing the long-term health outcomes for the citizens here is the ultimate goal, and the property management program team is helping to make it happen. Property management student Nick Gill, a 2023 IREM Student Leader, shared: “Our project at Maplewood not only equipped me with hands-on skills but also fine-tuned my teamwork, communication, and time management abilities. This immersive learning journey helped shape the trajectory of my career and highlighted the importance of real-life experiences in my personal and professional growth.”

So many wins

Several groups have benefited from the work at Maplewood Guest House:

  • Over 400 medical students have been housed here since the partnership began, with positive experiences reported. A 2019 article in IU Medicine Magazine reports that Maplewood “may be the finest medical student housing anywhere in the United States.”
  • Property management students report not only an increase in content knowledge (e.g., maintenance, legal issues, customer service, policies, and procedures) but also an increase in many transferable skills, like teamwork, leadership, professionalism, communication, time management, conflict management, problem-solving, social media, computer skills, and other technical skills.
  • Ball Brothers Foundation has benefitted from this work, confident that someone is caring for the mansion on a day-to-day basis. They continue to invest in structural improvements and amenities for the continuation of Maplewood as housing for medical students.
  • This partnership has been highly successful, resulting in a favorable view of the Muncie area. So many medical students select Muncie for their training that funding was provided to open a second housing site (Village Promenade) using vacant apartments in Muncie’s “Village” district.
  • A welcome but unanticipated consequence of the project has been that many of the property management students have also grown more connected to Muncie from the immersive learning projects they have completed at Maplewood Guest House.

It’s too soon to know whether the goal of using Maplewood and Village Promenade to attract more medical professionals to live and work in the Muncie/Delaware Country area will be realized. However, we’re encouraged by the positive feedback we have received, especially the fact that some medical students are returning to the area for a third or fourth rotation of medical training experiences.

Journal of Property Management

Carla Earhart, Ph.D., and David Martin have been partners in educating Ball State University property management students since fall 2017. Dr. Earhart was the founding director of the property management program when it started in 1999 and will be retiring in July 2024. Earhart and Martin are part of an award-winning team of faculty (including Sotiris Hji-Avgoustis, Ph.D., and Dina Zemke, Ph.D.) who have overseen student projects at Maplewood Guest House.

David Martin and Carla Earhart, Ph.D., have been partners in educating Ball State University property management students since fall 2017. Martin serves as the manager of Maplewood Guest House, assisting Earhart with immersive learning classes that use Maplewood Guest House as a project site. They are part of an award-winning team of faculty (including Sotiris Hji-Avgoustis, Ph.D., and Dina Zemke, Ph.D.) who have overseen student projects at Maplewood Guest House.

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