IU East’s Class of 2023 brings academically talented group

September 12, 2019 |

Indiana University East welcomed one of its largest incoming freshman classes this fall. The Class of 2023 includes 451 freshman from Indiana, Ohio, in addition to 12 other states and two international countries. The majority of freshman students are taking courses on campus, while 46 are in the online programs.

group photo of freshman students doing the Wolf Wave

Incoming freshmen Ali Harris, Megan Christman, Macie Reck, Makenna Gunckel and Alex Austerman were the top graduates at their high schools. They are part of a group of 14 valedictorians and salutatorians in the Class of 2023 to choose IU East.

The incoming freshman class is academically outstanding, and includes 14 valedictorian and salutatorian matriculating from high school. This represents the highest number of salutatorians and valedictorians choosing to attend IU East in a single year, and nearly doubles last year’s highest group of nine students.

Michelle Malott, executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs, said the Class of 2023 has already distinguished itself as an inquisitive group ready for coursework.

“We’ve been very pleased with how this incoming freshman class has demonstrated that they are here ready to learn, to be an active part of campus in the classroom as well as through extracurricular activities and service,” Malott said. “I look forward to seeing what this group of students will do during their next four years.”

This group of valedictorians and salutatorians are from Centerville, Connersville and Portland in Indiana; Arcanum, Ansonia, Bradford, Camden, Eaton, Hollansburg, Lewisburg, and New Paris in Ohio; and Carlinville, Illinois.

Each are new members of IU East’s Honors Program, an intellectually enriched curriculum for highly motivated students, allowing them to pursue academic excellence. This year, the Honors Program welcomes 55 new freshman students entering the program.

The Class of 2023 is part of Indiana University’s Bicentennial celebration year.

Alex Austerman of Connersville, Indiana, is one of two valedictorians from Connersville Senior High School who chose to attend IU East this fall. He is a business administration major and plans to pursue a variety of academic concentrations to enhance his education. He hopes to one day have an internship with Walt Disney Company and then to work for a corporation after receiving his degree.

“I chose to attend IU East after visiting the campus and loving everything that I saw,” Austerman said. “So far, I have had an amazing time as an incoming freshman. All of the staff and students have been welcoming and happy to answer any questions that I have had. Everyone seems to want the best for the students and all of the professors seem genuinely nice and happy to help every student in any way that they can.”

incoming class gathered in bleachers to listen to speaker

Chancellor Kathy Cruz-Uribe addresses the Class of 2023 during the First-Year Convocation on August 23.

Another factor in his decision was receiving a full-ride scholarship, allowing him to get his degree without the burden of debt and student loans.

Ali Harris is from Portland, Indiana, and graduated as a valedictorian from Jay County High School. As a graduating senior, Harris evaluated her college options and narrowed the choice down to three across the state.

She determined IU East offered the experience she was looking for including a close commute to her Portland home. Coming from a high school graduating class of just over 220 students, the campus also offers the kind of environment she wanted.

“So far as an incoming freshman, my experience at IU East has been amazing,” she said. “I have had several meetings with different staff members the first week after I moved here and they all have been very kind and openhearted. I have connected personally with a couple staff members and I look forward to talking to them more.”

Harris toured IU East on Red Wolves Day and Scholarship Day, where she received a valedictorian scholarship and a Red Wolves Scholarship.

students gather around to talk with dean

Incoming freshmen students talk with Denise Smith, dean of the School of Business and Economics during the First-Year Convocation.

“Both times I was on campus I felt at home,” Harris said. “The staff members were always there and explaining how much they are involved with us and how much they care, and the other students that were around campus just casually walking were all super friendly and almost every single one said hi or waved. I knew IU East was the school to go to right then and there.”

Harris plans to major in biochemistry and minor in Spanish. “After I graduate from IU East with my bachelor’s degree, I would like to pursue certification to work with radiologic equipment. My ultimate goal is to attend medical school to become a nuclear medicine physician, which is someone who uses radioactive materials to diagnose and treat patients,” Harris added.

Macie Reck of Bradford, Ohio, looks forward to meeting new people and connecting with faculty this year. She plans to apply to the nursing program offered through the School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“I chose IU East because it is the only university that I felt most at home at. This place is like a big happy family and I find that very comforting,” Reck said.

Once Reck completes her bachelor’s degree, she wants to continue her education by pursuing a master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. She plans on a career in nursing. “Ever since I was little I saw the kind of relationships that my family members had with their nurses while in the hospital, so I want to be able to create those relationships with people as well,” Reck said.

Makenna Gunckel of Arcanum, Ohio, chose IU East because she wanted to attend a university that offered a close-knit experience.

“Everyone on this campus treats each other like family and strives to help their fellow classmates succeed in college,” Gunckel said. “From the moment I stepped foot onto this campus I knew that I wanted to be a Red Wolf. Not only does IU East have an exceptional education program, it also has a campus full of people who will support and help you every step of the way.”

Gunckel graduated as valedictorian from Arcanum High School in Arcanum, Ohio. She plans to major in elementary education and minor in early childhood education. Her ultimate goal is to become a child’s life specialist so that she can work closely with children and their families to provide educational and emotional support during difficult medical procedures. She is interested in using play therapy and art therapy to help lessen the anxiety children have during medical procedures and providing a sense of a normal childhood.

“I chose this major because I have a love for children and want to help them when they experience these stressful situations,” Gunckel said.

While Gunckel has her future planned, she’s also adjusting to life as an adult.

“My short experience as a freshman has been both exciting, and a little frightening,” Gunckel said. “High school decisions were primarily made on a student’s behalf, while collegiate decisions are strictly personal adult decisions. These decisions carry significantly more weight than any decision we have ever made before. Fortunately, the faculty and students have been extremely helpful with this transition. I am excited to see how IU East will continue to challenge me.”

Like many incoming freshman students, Gunckel as well as Reck, Harris and Austerman had an opportunity to get familiar with IU East campus, faculty, staff and their peers before the start of the semester on August 26.

Incoming freshman attend New Student Orientation held through June and July which introduces students to IU East systems, services and campus experiences. In addition, the week before classes began there were just over 160 freshman students on campus for IU East’s Extreme Summer JUMPSTART, a program giving students the opportunity to get a head start on settling into college life and getting set up for academic success.

On August 23rd, the Class of 2023 was welcomed to campus during the First-Year Convocation Ceremony. The event is a ceremonial beginning to a new student’s academic experience at IU East, where students recite the IU Promise, receive their IU pin and sign their class book.

Additional activities and events traditionally offered at the beginning of the semester to all students at IU East provides a welcoming environment including Back with the Pack and Follow the Pack. There’s a wide variety of student organizations to join and Red Wolves Athletics events to attend as well.

“In my first year of college, I am most looking forward to getting to know my professors and advance down the path towards my future,” Austerman said. “I cannot wait to embark on this journey and I am going to work as hard as possible in college to ensure that I set myself up for success in the future.”