The Pathways Project is a Graduate School initiative for inclusive excellence for students, faculty, and staff designed to foster equity and mentoring in graduate education at Ball State University. The Pathways Project features three distinct programs, which center and support students from marginalized backgrounds (e.g., domestic Students of Color, LGBTQIA2S+ students, students with disabilities, low-income students, student veterans, students with dependents, etc.).

  • The Pathways Mentoring Program - for undergraduate and graduate students interested in collaborating with a faculty/staff mentor
  • The Building Mentoring Capacities Workshop Series - for faculty and staff mentors interested in equitable mentoring practices
  • The Action Research Collective - for graduate students interested in conducting research

Ultimately, The Pathways Project aims to cultivate inclusive excellence by supporting marginalized students as they pursue and complete postbaccalaureate degrees. Learn more about programs within The Pathways Project below.

Pathways Mentoring Program

Pathways is a mentoring program that supports undergraduate and graduate students from marginalized backgrounds as they pursue graduate education and beyond. The Pathways program includes the following features:

  • Mentoring Partnerships
  • Community-building Gatherings
  • University-sponsored Professional Development Programming
  • Small Grant Funding 


Building Mentoring Capacities Workshop Series

The Building Mentoring Capacities Workshop Series is a set of learning and development sessions for faculty and staff to engage in conversations about mentoring students in culturally relevant, anti-racist, and equity-minded ways.

2020-2021 Workshops

Moving from Race-Evasiveness to Disrupting Racism for Equitable Mentoring
  • Wednesday, October 7, 2020, 2-3:30 p.m.
  • This session will be led by Dr. Natasha Croom, Associate Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs and Special Advisor to the Dean for Diversity and Inclusive Excellence in the College of Education at Clemson University. Through this session participants will expand their thinking about how racism, and other forms of systemic oppression, have shaped the ideologies, structures, and cultures of graduate education, thus shaping how we understand mentoring and support practices with Students of Color aspiring to and matriculating through graduate education.
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Equity-minded Mentoring for Marginalized Students
  • Thursday, November 5, 2020, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • This session will be led by Dr. Robin Phelps-Ward, Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence in the Graduate School. Through this session participants will explore the differences between mentoring and additional forms of support (e.g., advising, coaching, teaching, sponsoring, etc.), examine the framework for equity-mindedness, and apply it to their roles mentoring students.
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Opportunities & Challenges Facing Mentors in a Time of Change
  • Wednesday, January 27, 2020, 10-11:30 a.m.
  • This session will be led by Dr. Stacy Blake-Beard, Professor of Management at Simmons College’s School of Business. Through this workshop, Dr. Blake-Beard will focus on the mentor’s experience of building and maintaining these critical developmental relationships. Attendees will have the opportunity to deepen their understanding of mentoring through this workshop by thinking about the adapting parameters of mentoring given the challenges we currently face.
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Action Research Collective

The Action Research Collective (ARC) centers the knowledge, creativity, and expertise of graduate student leaders to produce information needed to advance support and success for graduate students from marginalized backgrounds at Ball State University. Foremost, this initiative aims to expand professional development opportunities for underrepresented and marginalized graduate students and demystify the graduate school pipeline. 

Throughout the academic year, the team of ARC research partners, across various graduate programs at Ball State University, will meet bi-weekly to design and execute a research study while gaining vital experience conducting research to transform Ball State's climate. 

Supported by the Graduate School and guided by Dr. Robin Phelps-Ward, Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence and Assistant Professor of Higher Education, ARC is a space for graduate students to confidently engage in critical scholarly inquiry while building a sense of belonging on campus through professional development opportunities and mentorship. ARC meets bi-weekly based on a schedule mutually agreed upon by team members. 

The first Interest Meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 16, 12-1:30 p.m. via Zoom.

For more information, please reach out to Dr. Robin Phelps-Ward at


Program Coordinators

Dr. Robin Phelps-Ward

Dr. Phelps-Ward is the Graduate School's Faculty Fellow for Inclusive Excellence, an Assistant Professor of Higher Education, and the Director of the Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education (SAAHE) Master of Arts program at Ball State University.  Dr. Phelps-Ward is dedicated to cultivating equitable, just, and supportive environments for People of Color across educational contexts, and she commits her scholarship to simultaneously and complementarily exploring the experiences of those who are racially marginalized and minoritized while developing pedagogical and institutional strategies for eliminating such oppression.

Her research focuses specifically on mentoring and formal mentoring programs to support Students of Color, Black faculty and staff belonging, Black women and girls’ natural hair and identity development, and pedagogical practice for critical-consciousness and social justice. She returned to Ball State in in fall 2019 after working at Clemson University in the Department of Educational and Organizational Leadership Development teaching primarily in the Student Affairs Masters of Education program. 

Dr. Phelps-Ward is currently an active member of the Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). Her work can be found in Gender & Education, The Western Journal of Black StudiesThe Journal of Student Affairs Inquiry, and the Journal of Public Scholarship in Higher Education among other outlets. You can read more about her scholarship on her website. CONTACT DR. PHELPS-WARD.

Katie Bittermann 

Katie Bittermann is a master's student in the Social Work program at Ball State University. Katie enjoys working with children and hopes to one day combine her love of farming and social work in her future career. This is Katie's second year serving as a graduate assistant for the Pathways Mentoring program. Katie supports Pathways mentees and mentors in the College of Health, College of Communication, Information, and Media, College of Business, and several departments in the College of Sciences and Humanities. CONTACT KATIE.

Brandy Pugh 

Brandy Pugh is a doctoral candidate in the School Psychology program at Ball State University. Brandy's research focuses on Black children and disciplinary practices in schools. This is Brandy's first year serving as a graduate assistant for the Pathways mentoring program. Brandy supports Pathways mentees and mentors in the College of Architecture and Planning, the College of Communication, College of Business, College of Fine Arts, and the social sciences departments in the College of Sciences and Humanities. CONTACT BRANDY.