Indiana University Kokomo

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Marilyn Skinner receives the highest honor given by the state of Indiana, the Sagamore of the Wabash, recognizing her decades of service to children.

Marilyn Skinner receives the Sagamore of the WabashMarilyn Skinner receives the Sagamore of the Wabash.

Skinner, director of Indiana University Kokomo's Center for Early Childhood Education, was "humbled" to receive the award.

"I don't feel like I've done anything extraordinary, I just do what I do," Skinner said. "I love to help people. I've been so fortunate in terms of my own life, having doors opened for me, and having a good education. I really have appreciated that.

"That's why when I see someone who needs help or encouragement, or a little bit of hope, I provide it so they can be successful in their lives."

Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke was one of several community leaders who nominated Skinner for the award, which was given by Gov. Mike Pence and presented by State Rep. Mike Karickhoff.

"Marilyn is most deserving of this award, as a long-time advocate for children," Sciame-Giesekce said. "She has tireless energy as a servant leader, who continues to make our community a better place."

As director of the early childhood education center, Skinner leads efforts to ensure all Howard County children begin kindergarten prepared to succeed. She's been an advocate for young children since beginning her career as a teacher at Kokomo's Bon Air Elementary School, nearly 50 years ago.

She moved from the classroom to administration, where she had the distinction of being the first woman to serve as assistant principal, principal, and assistant superintendent in the Kokomo school system.

Skinner, 75, jokes about how she has "failed retirement" several times. After she retired from Kokomo schools, she worked part-time for Head Start, and then supervised student teachers for three universities, before deciding it was time to "really retire."

She came out of retirement again nearly nine years ago, to serve as director of the early childhood center when it first opened, funded with a $1.5 million Lilly Endowment grant. Her careful planning has allowed the center to continue its work, still using the original grant money.

The Kokomo community also benefits from her efforts. She led the 2013 United Way of Howard County campaign as chairperson, and surpassed the $1.8 million fundraising goal. Skinner also volunteers extensively, and has held leadership positions in Altrusa, Rotary Club, and Partners in Education.

The Indiana Commission for Women honored her a trailblazer for women with its Torchbearer Award, and she also received the Indiana Women of Achievement Award for Distinction in Early Childhood Education from the College of Sciences and Humanities at Ball State University.

Skinner said, though, her greatest sense of achievement is not from these kinds of awards and honors.

"My success is seeing the students I had in school succeed," she said. "I see a lot of them in the community who have gone on to have successful lives. They have good jobs, and are active and give back in the community. I see the young children who have participated in programs at the early childhood education center, and are now successful in school. That makes me proud."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The Seiberling Mansion is decked out in its holiday best, ready for its annual Christmas celebration, with help from Indiana University Kokomo volunteers.

Decorating the Seiberling MansionDanika Smith and Jaina Hattabaugh decorate the Seiberling Mansion.

Danika Smith, Naomi Rush, and Jaina Hattabaugh, together with Dean of Students Sarah Sarber, were among the elves preparing the mansion, home to the Howard County Historical Society, for the annual holiday celebration. Each year, volunteers from community organizations are assigned a room to decorate. The IU Kokomo students worked in the Pioneer Room, using a festive red and silver theme.

Smith, who is student body vice president, hopes to make the service project an annual tradition, and to involve more students.

"This was meaningful to us, knowing that the Seiberling Mansion was IU Kokomo's first home," she said. "It was cool to look around and think about what it would have been like to attend classes there, and to see how far we've come since then."

The mansion was built in the late 1800s, and was a private residence until it became the IU Kokomo campus in 1946. The campus moved to its current home on South Washington Street in 1965.

Sarber encouraged the community, especially those connected to the campus, to visit and see the holiday decorations.

"The mansion is very special to the community, and very significant to the history of IU Kokomo," she said. "It was great to see the different themes and decorations throughout the house."

This year is the first IU Kokomo volunteers have participated in decorating, as far as historical society Executive Director Dave Broman knows.

"In some ways, it's coming home for IU Kokomo," he said. "It's a big job to decorate the Seiberling. It's a big house, with lots of room. It takes a lot of people, and a lot of decorations to make it as beautiful as it is for the season."

Hattabaugh would like to see decorating at the Seiberling become a campus tradition.

"I love Christmastime and the holidays," she said. "It was a fun way to get involved in the community and lend a helping hand at the Seiberling Mansion."

The mansion is now open for the Christmas season. For additional information about tours and tickets, go to www.howardcountymuseum.org

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — Persistence pays off for Indiana University Kokomo senior Samantha Thieke, who recently began her first broadcast journalism job, as a reporter for WLFI-TV, the CBS affiliate in West Lafayette.

Samantha ThiekeSamantha Thieke"Now I have a career I'm proud of, and it makes me grateful I came to IU Kokomo, to get a college degree in my home town," she said. "I'm able to do what I want to do with my life, on my own terms. It's pretty neat to have a job, even before I graduate."

Her official title is multiplatform journalist, which she describes as "kind of a one-man band thing." Thieke shoots and edits her own video, writes her stories, and posts them on the station's website, along with reporting on the air.

"Most of the time, it's just me working by myself," she said. "That's the way the industry is shifting."

She is grateful for the opportunities she had on campus, including participating in Cougar News and leadership courses.

"I had thought because there wasn't a broadcast degree here, that I wouldn't be able to have a career in that field, but that's not necessarily true," she said. "It is more than possible to achieve your career goals with a general studies degree, and I am a walking example of that. IU Kokomo allowed me to earn a college degree in my hometown, where I had family to help me. I owe a lot to this school."

Thieke, 25, caught the news bug in high school, taking broadcasting classes at the Kokomo Area Career School, along with dual credit classes at IU Kokomo. She planned to take prerequisite classes on campus, and then transfer to a college with a broadcast journalism program, after she graduated from Eastern High School.

Her plans changed drastically, though, when she became a mother at age 20.

"Life happened," she said. "I put what I wanted to do on the back burner. I needed to stay in Kokomo, where I had family to help me take care of my son while I worked and went to school. I do feel like people who thought I had potential wrote me off as a statistic at that point, That's what kept me motivated to keep going towards my degree."

Setting an example for her son, Gabe, who is now 5, also motivates her.

"I want him to see that no matter what obstacles you face in your life, you can overcome them," she said. "When you have a child, your life is not about you anymore, but you do have to keep improving yourself, to make a better life for your child. I want him to be proud of me."

She took a few classes at a time, as they fit around her schedule with work and family obligations. Her journalism dreams seemed out of reach, though, with no broadcasting program.

A confidence boost from a significant weight loss pushed her to see how she could use her general studies degree to become a television reporter.

"I decided it was time to enroll full time, finish my degree, and get on with my career," she said."

She pursued internship opportunities, and beat out candidates from broadcast degree programs to earn one at WRTV 6, the ABC affiliate in Indianapolis. That experience confirmed her career choice, so she looked for another internship. This time, she garnered an opportunity at WLFI.

With graduation approaching, she started to worry about having to move far away to get a job. Her husband, Brandon, was willing to move, but she hoped to stay close to family.

"I just prayed God would open a door for us," she said.

Her opportunity came five weeks into her internship, when Thieke's supervisor encouraged her to apply for a full time opening at the station. She was both surprised and thrilled when she was offered the job. One of the requirements is that she lives in Tippecanoe County, so her family will move after she graduates.

Thieke is glad to see the finish line is sight for her college education, and has no regrets about the path she took to achieve her goal.

"Because of the way things happened, I feel I was able to grow and mature," she said. "I'm really proud of what I've done. It's taken me a little longer, but I'm going to have my degree, and I've started my dream career."

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

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KOKOMO, Ind. — The new fitness center at Indiana University Kokomo is much more than an exercise gym — it's also a place to build mental muscle and career skills.

IUKL0523Dave Hancock instructs his exercise science class.

Rachel Pace, a senior exercise and sports science major, said using the center's resources will make her more marketable.

"Having class in the fitness center lets us go out and apply what we're learning in the classroom, with real experiences," Pace said. "I'm going to be a better coach and trainer because of this opportunity."

David Hancock, assistant professor of health sciences, teaches class in the Cole Fitness Center, using a classroom tailor-made to enhance the campus's allied health programs. Students use the center itself as their laboratory, where they experience what they learn from books, lectures, and other activities.

"We can teach these classes in a regular classroom, but when we try some of the exercises, we would have to move outside," he said. "Now, we can just go into the fitness center, or use one of the group instruction rooms."

John Hughey, chairperson of the Division of Allied Health Sciences, said in addition to providing health and wellness benefits, the fitness center will impact students academically.

"Our idea is to conduct all of our health, exercise, nutrition, and sports-related courses in a place that provides students with a continual reminder of these themes," he said. "We were able to expand our course offerings, and our faculty can demonstrate different aspects of a subject immediately after classroom discussion. It also gives our student holistic connections with their subject material."

On a particular day, Hancock's introduction to exercise science students learn about how high intensity interval training can enhance mood, as part of a study of what a sports psychologist might do.

In the group fitness instruction room, he leads them through an exercise program designed for elementary school children. The students, dressed in fitness clothes, stretch up and then down, run in place, jump and squat, and do scissors jumps. Then, they return to their classroom to fill out a mood assessment questionnaire.

"This could be done in a regular classroom with children, but for bigger bodies, it's not as effective in that kind of space," Hancock said. "We're out in the fitness center all the time."

Matthew Sturgch, a freshman health sciences major, plans to be a physical education teacher, and maybe a strength and conditioning coach for college and professional athletes.

"It's a big plus to have this fitness center, and to have our classes in it," he said. "It helps us study and gets us more involved with our learning."

Warren Sims, a freshman sports and exercise science major from Kokomo, said having class in the fitness center will help him learn better.

"You can actually have hands-on experience, rather than reading about it in a book," he said. "It gives you a chance to try things, to be sure that sports and exercise is really what you want to do."

Hancock noted that the classroom also is a good place for group activities, with tables and chairs on wheels that can be moved around, and tables that easily tilt up to go in the storage area. His sports psychology class has already moved the tables out to try progressive relaxation techniques, when they needed room to be on the floor.

"They've pretty much thought of everything when designing this room," Hancock said.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.