Editor’s Note: This Q&A article has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Julie Griffith, the last member to join Ball State’s board of directors after her appointment by Gov. Eric Holcomb, likes to tell people she “was raised on the sunny side of the Ohio River in Indiana.”
Griffith is currently Executive Vice President of Strategy, Partnerships and Outreach for the Indiana Innovation Institute. A 1979 Ball State political science student, she is a member of the Ball State Foundation Board of Trustees and the Dean’s Advisory Council for the College of Science and Humanities.
Griffith sat down with The Daily News to discuss her role as a director and her time at Ball State.
Q: Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
A: I grew up in a small town [called Scottsburg] in southeastern Indiana. As my brothers and I often say, we hit the parent jackpot because we had great, amazing parents. [I have] two brothers with whom I speak every day, still. We had a typical small town experience…I was involved in all high school activities and had a wonderful upbringing there.
Q: What made you come to Ball State for college?
A: I have visited other places, and it was a different experience then than it is now. But this place felt like home. It was comfortable for me. I love culture. I knew I would get a great education here, and I did. It was exactly what I needed and again when I came here I think I grew up in a town of 3,500 and Ball State had 15,000 at the time so it is five times the size of my hometown. It was a little overwhelming, but I always felt welcome here. I always felt like I had the right kind of support if I needed it. It just felt like home. The other places were lovely, but this was a place for me. It was very clear very early on.
Q: In the various institutes you served, what were some of your professional responsibilities and plans?
A: I’ve usually worked in very large organizations, and now I’m working for a startup. It was a wonderful experience for me. When I started, we were really a year old – I think I was the fourth person hired. We all do a lot of different things and rely on each other for a lot of things – you can do that at these other places too, but you always have other resources on hand if you need them if you’re in a large organization.
I would say that legislatively, when I was a lobbyist and did government and regulatory affairs for Duke Energy, we passed some pretty significant pieces of legislation that I think were helpful to the company . It was really fun, and it’s not just doing these things, it’s the process that’s so important – the teamwork that it takes not only internally, but externally to make these things happen .
Then when I was at Purdue [University], I had a fairly large portfolio. My title was vice president of public affairs, but the way I explained it to others is that public affairs was sort of all the outside stuff that the university does. When the [vice president] for marketing communications on the left, which were grouped under what became public affairs. So merge these two organizations [and] Raising the profile of the institution has been a lot of work and a lot of fun. [It was] very rewarding. Trying to pull those things together and further the mission of the institution and raise the profile was something a lot of us worked together for, and I think we were successful in doing that.
Q: Can you briefly describe Ball State’s board nomination process?
A: The process is really only done within the governor’s office – they do their own internal audit process and honestly, I can’t speak to how the governor’s office does these things. But I had just finished serving for the past three years on the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications, which is a gubernatorial appointment. I received a call [November 2021] afternoon and a gentleman from the governor’s office called and said, “Hey, I just wanted to thank you very much for your service to the commission.” And I said, ‘Well, I was excited to do it. I learned so much and was really grateful to have this opportunity. And he said, “We’re glad you like public service, because we have another role for you if you think about it.” I was surprised and delighted. I am so thrilled to be able to serve the university that has served me so well for so many years. I am so looking forward to having this opportunity.
Q: What types of activities did you participate in as a student?
A: Two things really stand out in terms of things that really shaped me, and one is something that no longer exists — it was called the London Center program. We were then in the quarter system, and we were between 20 and 30 to spend a quarter in London. Being able to travel around Europe with these kind of friends and learn so much about the cultures of other countries – having this kind of experience – has really changed me in a good way.
The other thing I did in my senior year that really shaped me, besides all the other things you do as an undergrad, is the internship program that I followed as part of the [Department of Political Science]. I did an internship in the State Senate that started in December, and then we went through the end of that session, so it’s been a long year. It ended in April, which really changed the trajectory of what I thought I could do in my career over time, and I still have very close friends who were also on this program that I stay in touch with contact.
Q: What inspired you to join the Foundation’s Board of Trustees and the Dean’s Advisory Council of the College of Science and Humanities? What are some of your responsibilities in this role?
A: I have been on the Dean’s Advisory Council for some time. Michael Maggiotto was the dean when I first arrived and now Maureen McCarthy is great. They are both amazing. I’ve been asked to join, and I try to only join the things that I know I’m really passionate about and want and have time to do.
I think I served on the Foundation Board for four years. I was the chair of the pledge philanthropy committee, so there’s a lot of stuff that goes into all the work of the foundation, but one of the things that amused me the most was when you looking for support for the institution, I can talk to a lot of alumni about support for the institution and they are so excited about the direction of the university. So when you have conversations like that, and you feel like you’re helping advance the mission of the university through your work on the foundation, it’s really rewarding to be able to do that. When you can do that, it’s definitely not hard work, it’s just something you have fun doing.
Q: When you graduated from Ball State, did you plan on returning to a role?
A: I knew I would be involved in one way or another. I didn’t know how. Even when I lived in Houston for a while, I remained engaged at the alumni level. If you had asked me on graduation day, ‘Are you going to be involved with the Ball State Bold campaign, or are you going to be involved with the Bowen Center – are you going to be involved with anything?’ I’m sure I wasn’t considering this because I didn’t know what opportunities were in front of me at the time, but I knew I would stay committed one way or another. I’ve been engaged in a form or fashion literally since I graduated.
Q: What kind of impact would you like to leave on the Ball State community?
A: I don’t think of it in terms of individual impact because I think in life pretty much everything you do is a team sport. There are several other board members and the incredible leadership team that President Mearns has assembled, so whatever impact I may have, I will be part of that team.
I don’t know if Ball State has ever been in a better position than it is today or had a brighter future than we’ve ever had, so I’m really excited to be on the board and working with everyone and frankly, getting to know the students too – that’s why we’re here to further the mission of the university. I consider my involvement as a collective impact and not an individual one.