By Jennifer S. Gasiorek—
Muncie, IN – “Shirley Chisholm said, if you don’t have a seat at the table, bring a folding chair. Beyond having a seat at the table, having a voice that is valued, respected, and heard is vital. Often, the terms diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging and community engagement are talked about, but we must also walk that walk. Those words need to go beyond being a tagline, they need to be practiced with purpose and invested in with intentionality,” Jeffrey D. Scott, Chancellor of the Muncie-Henry County Campus said.
“Our communities, your college is more than just a motto at Ivy Tech Muncie-Henry County,” Qiana Clemens, Executive Director of Resource Development, said. “Our communities are the backbone of the college and we, as Ivy Tech employees and community members, strive to support the communities we serve.”
Clemens is a native born of Muncie. She grew up in the Whitely neighborhood on the northeast side of town. After graduating from Muncie Central, attending college in Tulsa, OK and subsequently returning to Ball State, she moved to Halteman Village with her son. Missing the closeness of her community, Clemens and her husband made the decision to move back to Whitely. Growing up in Whitely, her neighbors became family and her understanding of the meaning of community was given life.
“I love the closeness and safety of my community. I love knowing my neighbors and that my neighbors know, not just me, but my parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents,” Clemens said. “Whitely is an education first community, and I want to be a role model for future generations of servant leaders. There’s no better way to do that than from right here in the community that modeled the way for me.”
Clemens is not the only Muncie-born member of the Ivy Tech community. Dr. Mia Johnson, Chancellor of the Anderson Campus and former Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the Muncie-Henry County Campus was born and raised in Muncie as well. Dr. Johnson attended both Anthony and Storer Elementary Schools in her youth and graduated from Muncie Central High School. She learned servant leadership from her grandmother, Betty Barnes, and the other “mothers” in her church community.
As a 1st generation college student, Alisa Wells, Director of Community Engagement and Wraparound Support, understands the importance of community support. She is a Muncie native and graduate of Muncie Southside High School. Following high school, she attended college for one year on the Groups Scholarship, a program designed to increase college attendance among first generation, underrepresented students in Indiana. Wells left college to start her family with the promise that she would return some day to finish her degree.
Wells’ community wrapped around her as she struggled through many hardships that continued to make it difficult for her to move forward. She was able to return to college as a single mom working two part-time jobs. During her college years, she experienced a different tragedy each year. The community she grew up in and the community she gained through her days at college supported and nurtured her, making her goals possible.
“Though I struggled, one thing I never did was quit!” Wells said.
Ren’a Wagner, Director of Diversity, Equity and Belonging, is the only child of Reverend and Mrs. James Lawson. She was raised in the Whitely Community and attended school at Longfellow Elementary School where she made life-long friendships with members. Upon graduating from Northside High School, Wagner chose to put off college. She began her family immediately after high school. A few years later, she and her husband, Jon, were married. Wagner has been a part of the Ivy Tech community for 30 years and vigorously supports her community in attaining their educational and life-long goals.
“Looking back, I realized that I didn’t have a plan after high school and when you don’t have a plan, you’re lost. That is why, to this day, I am adamant about having a plan,” Wagner said. “I believe that when you have a vision and a plan, that gives you purpose. When you know where you are going, a vision and a plan will help you get there.”
Wagner uses this passion for planning and preparing in her position with Ivy Tech as she helps students navigate the new community they have entered into. With an understanding of Muncie, she is able to help students who are uncertain of where to go and how to get there. With the aid of her fellow teammates, she is able to assist students back on track when they lose their way.
“It’s very rewarding to hear how they [students] have been promoted in their jobs or were able to find a better job because of their degree or certification from Ivy Tech,” Wagner said.
Following graduation from high school, Clemens went onto college and earned her Master of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2020. This degree was a work of love and commitment to her personal life as well as the community she grew up in and serves today. Clemens currently serves on the City of Muncie Small Business ARP Committee, City of Muncie Nonprofit ARP Committee, Boys & Girls Club of Muncie Marketing Committee, Whitely Community Council, Altrusa Club, and the Hillcroft Services Board of Directors. She also volunteers to head up the digital strategies, graphic design communications and marketing efforts of her church, Destiny Christian Center. Clemens was also a 2016 Athena Young Professional Award nominee.
Clemens’ service to her community is also driven by her desire to support youth development and education. She founded the Black Achievers program at the YMCA, Directed and Co-Founded the Summer AIM program with the Buley and Ross Centers, Boys & Girls Clubs and Motivate Our Minds, supported Early College students at Muncie Central High School, and utilizes her current role at Ivy Tech Community College to support learners from diverse backgrounds.
“I’ve always wanted to help give young people, especially those young people of color and those who are marginalized, what I had growing up – a strong sense of community, love and respect, and the intrinsic value of education. Formal or otherwise,” Clemens said.
Similarly, Dr. Johnson is also a strong supporter of local youth. Though, as an adolescent, she had the innate desire to leave Muncie, and Indiana, behind. After pursuing and earning her Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts from Ivy Tech Community College, Dr. Johnson pursued her dream of leaving Indiana and moved to North Carolina to attend the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Upon completion of her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, Dr. Johnson returned home to Muncie, Indiana. Moving away from home made her realize just how much Muncie truly meant to her. With her return, she continued her secondary education and earned her Master of Science in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and later, she went on to earn her PhD in Global Leadership from Indiana Tech.
“The size of Muncie, and now, Anderson, for me, are perfect for building strong communities which is very important to my family. While I still believe it’s important to travel outside of your hometown, I encourage folks to come back and serve in the communities that raised you. My positions within Ivy Tech have allowed me to be present and have a voice when decisions affecting my communities, both geographic and demographic, are being made,” Dr. Johnson said.
Dr. Johnson started at Ivy Tech as a student but returned to the college as an employee later. She understands how both the student and employee sides of the college work, something that has helped her throughout her career with the college. With a steady rise, she moved from a grant funded position in the testing center to Chancellor of the Anderson Campus. Her experience has a been a large part of her dedication to serving her students and the communities she is a part of.
“There is an African proverb that I feel sums up the importance of community perfectly,” Dr. Johnson said, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”
While Dr. Johnson prefers to be behind the scenes, her contributions to the community have not gone unnoticed. She is a 2021 Athena Award Nominee, the 2019 Ivy Tech Community College Distinguished Alumni for the Muncie-Henry County Campus, was recognized as one of the 2018 Muncie Star Press 20 Under 40 (presented by M Magazine), a 2018 Athena Young Professional Award Nominee, and the 2017 Ivy Tech Community College President’s Award for Excellence in Instruction winner.
Dr. Johnson serves on the boards of the YWCA Central Indiana Branch and the Community Foundation of Muncie Delaware County. However, she reminds others that serving on boards is not the only way to give back to your community.
“This can also come through volunteering and financial support. I am very introverted and would rather be “behind the scenes” working to make things happen than center stage,” Dr. Johnson said.
Following a failed marriage and becoming a single mom, Wells returned to college to study social work. Wells graduated from Ball State University with a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and a minor in Sociology. Through the community of support, she gained during her time at college, Wells discovered her passion for education and supporting others in pursing their educational goals. This drove her to attend Indiana Wesleyan University and earn her Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership in 2015.
“There were many people who were a part of my web of support. My family, academic advisor, who helped me to know when and what to take in my course of study and how to successfully traverse the university culture and the Social Work Department Chair and faculty members who embraced me,” Wells said.
Wells continues to support and nurture her community by serving as a member of the Dr. Martin Luther King Dream Team, working on the Youth Citizenship Committee for over 20 years. She also serves as a member of the Ball State University Social Work Advisory board, the Whitely Community Council, the Urban Light CDC Neighborhood Engagement Committee, the Heart of Indiana United Way, and the Sustainable Muncie Board of Directors.
“I actively support those in my community who want to make the Muncie Community a desirable place to live, work and play for all of its citizens,” Wells said, “That is what giving back means to me!”
With time, Wagner went to college, earning her Associates of Science in Biblical Studies from CH Mason Bible College and her Associates of Science in General Studies from Ivy Tech Community College. With her degrees, she understands what Ivy Tech students from across the Muncie Community face on a daily basis and can support them through their faith as well as academically.
Wagner serves as the secretary for Jackson Family Life Services, on the Second Chance Dads board, is a member of the Muncie-Delaware County Black Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the Whitely Community Council. Her service to her community includes co-founding the Forward Vision Community Organization, Single Moms Rockin’ It Solo, Excel Youth Leadership Academy, and SHARE University. Her organizations are dedicated to assisting and supporting local community members in moving forward in and reaching their goals.
“Do it for the cause, not the applause,” Wagner said. “I read this quote on a poster years ago and I live by this every day. When it comes to giving back and being dedicated to our community, its’s not hard, it’s what we were created to do.”
Ivy Tech Community College supports all its employees in supporting and serving their communities. The college provides full time staff with 8 hours of paid volunteer time each year, allowing them to take time out of their work week to work within their community.
The commitment made to the community includes new ventures, including an initiative to support single mothers, support and guide first generation students, assist young people of color and underrepresented students in achieving their goals, and encompassing all members of the community Ivy Tech serves with wraparound services.
Wells said, “My personal mission statement is to motivate, inspire and empower others to be the best representation of themselves.”
“There’s a reason why Community is our middle name,” Clemens said, “At Ivy Tech, we are dedicated to our community, and we focus on being leaders in the communities we serve while supporting all members of the community, no matter where they are, who there are, or where they are from.”
Scott said, “These four strong, innovative and collaborative leaders are Muncie-born and raised. They are truly difference makers. We are just so beyond proud to have them as a part of our Ivy Tech team.”
To learn more about Ivy Tech Community College Muncie-Henry County Campus, visit them online at ivytech.edu/Muncie or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College serves communities across Indiana, providing world-class education and driving economic transformation. It is the state’s largest public postsecondary institution and the nation’s largest singly accredited statewide community college system. It serves as the state’s engine of workforce development, offering high-value degree programs and training that are aligned with the needs of its communities, along with courses and programs that transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and a member of the North Central Association.