Who We Serve

The Mid-East Honors Association is comprised of honors colleges and programs from the following regions:

  • Eastern Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Northern Kentucky
  • Southern Michigan
  • Ohio
  • West Virginia

Institutions that are close to these states, while not strictly within our designated region, are welcome to join MEHA and attend the annual conference.

Board of Directors

Deborah L. Bachmann

Deborah L. Bachmann

Purdue University Northwest, President

Debbie Bachmann is the President of the Mid-East Honors Association, with an extensive career of over 30 years in secondary and higher education. In her capacity, she oversees a dedicated Board responsible for cultivating educational experiences that foster advancements and innovations in honors programs across the five states surrounding Indiana.

A passionate advocate for community service, Debbie is committed to ensuring that educational access and opportunities are available to all individuals. Proudly an Alumna of Purdue University Northwest, she has contributed her skills and dedication to the university for the past twenty-one years, currently serving as the Administrator of Honors College Student Leadership and Programming.

Beyond her role at the university, Debbie is actively engaged in the community. She holds the position of Board President at the Hammond Education Foundation and is a valued member of the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors and The Challenger Learning Center Board of Directors. Recognizing her outstanding commitment to service, Debbie was honored with the 2022 Northwest Indiana Influential Women of the Year award.

In addition to her professional and community commitments, Debbie finds joy in involvement with organizations and events that emphasize philanthropy and giving back. In her leisure time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, exploring new places, and traveling, cherishing the company of her beautiful children and grandchildren.

Laci Fiala

Laci Fiala

Hiram College, Vice President

Dr. Laci Fiala, an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology at Hiram College, teaches a variety of courses in Criminal Justice and Sociology majors, such as Introduction to Sociology, Research Methods, Law & Society, Criminology, Senior Capstone, and a variety of electives and special topics. She also has expertise with special topics ranging from victimology, school violence, and substance use and crime to social inequality, childhood and family.

Dr. Fiala is also a self-professed “numbers nerd” and quantitative researcher who specializes in survey research methodology and content analysis. Her research emphasizes youth, young adult, and family issues. She has published and presented on topics ranging from school violence to young adult financial management to new parent experiences.

Prior to Hiram, Dr. Fiala was a professor of sociology at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio. There she taught over 20 different courses in sociology and criminal justice as well as specialty courses in the Honors Program and Global Scholars Program on topics such as cross-cultural issues in education, victimization and gender inequalities. She also served as chair of the faculty for three years and was the co-director of the Honors Program. Dr. Fiala currently serves on a number of committees at Hiram, including Assessment and Academic Program Review, and is the current director of the college’s Honors Program.

 Jim Buss

Jim Buss

Ball State University, Treasurer

Dr. Jim Buss is a historian by training and an honors educator by experience. He is the author of “Winning the West with Words: Language and Conquest in the Lower Great Lakes” (2011) and co-editor of “Beyond Two Worlds: Critical Conversations on Language and Power in Native North America” (November 2014), as well as numerous peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. His scholarly interests center on the intersections of settler memory, Native American history and public commemoration.

Adrienne L. Pounds

Adrienne L. Pounds

Cleveland State University, Secretary

Adrienne Pounds serves as the Secretary for the Mid-East Honors Association, and works as the Program Manager for the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Honors College at Cleveland State University. In this role, Adrienne is responsible for Honors admissions, student engagement and leadership development, alumni engagement, and social media. During her 5 years in Mandel Honors College, she helped to secure over $9 million in grant funds for a new Honors pipeline program. Throughout her 25-year history working in higher education, Adrienne has worked in for-profit institutions, two- and four-year colleges, and with graduate programs, and has served in several capacities including leading as a college vice president and interim president.

Adrienne is a proud alumna of Ohio University where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health Science. She possesses a Ph.D. in Leadership and currently working towards a master’s degree in project management. In her free time, Adrienne enjoys riding her bicycle around trails in Northeast Ohio, golfing, and listening to jazz music.

M. Beth Borst

M. Beth Borst

Ivy Tech Community College, Professional Representative

Dr. M. Beth Borst is Founding Dean of the Ivy Tech Community College Honors College, where she is also a professor specializing in Leadership. Prior to joining Ivy Tech, Borst worked for Gannett, a bi-lingual newspaper in Washington D.C., and the Indiana State Senate. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Indiana University, an M.A. in Adult and Community Education from Ball State University, and an Ed.D. in Adult, Higher and Community Education also from Ball State. Her research interests include collegiate honors programs and pedagogy, adult learning, and gender and leadership. She is co-author of the book Community College is College: A Resource for High-Achieving Learners (In progress). 

James B. Williams

James B. Williams

University of Indianapolis, Immediate Past President

Dr. James Williams has served as the Executive Director of the Ron & Laura Strain Honors College at the University of Indianapolis since 2015. He is also a tenured associate professor of history and received the UIndy Teacher of the Year Award in 2016. His educational background is in medieval history with a doctorate from Purdue University and a master’s from Oxford University. Under his leadership, the Strain Honors College has grown its annual graduates by over 450% and been recognized by the National Collegiate Honors Council with their Student of the Year Award.

Dr. Williams currently serves as Past President of the Mid-East Honors Association and Vice Chair of the National Collegiate Honors Council’s Assessment and Evaluation Committee. He has previously led the Mid-East Honors Association as its President, hosting the conference in Indianapolis, and served as Secretary for many years.

Mya Bell

Mya Bell

Purdue University Northwest, Student Representative

Mya Bell is a student member of the Mid-East Honors Association Board and currently serves as the President of the Purdue Northwest Honors College Student Advisory Board. She is a first-generation college student majoring in Political Science and Human Development and Family Science with minors in Sociology and Youth Studies. In her role on the MEHA Board, she assists in the planning process of the conference. Mya is especially looking forward to the Student Service Project!

Mya can be found in a variety of environments, from serving as a STEM Educator at the Challenger Learning Center of Northwest Indiana or as a delegate in the American Model United Nations. She loves discovering new passions and participating in new opportunities. She is extremely involved on her campus, serving as a mentor, the vice-president of the PNW Food Pantry Committee, and a student representative for the 2023 PNW Chancellor Search Advisory Committee to name a few.

One of Mya’s greatest passions is giving back to her community. She organizes and participates in service projects for non-profit organizations, such as Fair Haven Rape Crisis Center and the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana. She is extremely thankful for the appreciation for philanthropy that the Purdue Northwest Honors College provided for her. Mya hopes to share this love for giving back to other students and inspire them to make change on their campus and their community.

After finishing her undergraduate degree, Mya plans to pursue law school in the Chicago-land area and later obtain Master’s and Doctoral Degrees. She is particularly interested in Criminal Defense Law but hopes to partake in government roles and policy-making as well. One of her dreams is to create a non-profit organization that serves children and families in the future!

In her free time, Mya enjoys spending time with her four younger siblings playing games or exploring different parks when the weather permits. Additionally, she enjoys reading, attending concerts, and trying new restaurants or attractions with friends! Fun facts include that her favorite color is pink, she is a big fan of documentaries, and she is a cat lover!

Nathaniel Geise

Nathaniel Geise

Ball State University, Student Representative

Nathaniel Geise is a non-traditional first generation student. He has obtained an Associate of Science in Logistics and Supply Chain Management from Ivy Tech. He is currently at Ball State University pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in International Business with a minor in Spanish.

Nathaniel previously attended the Mid-East Honors Association conferences of 2022 and 2023 as a student presenter, and is a student member of the MEHA Board for the 2024 conference. International policy and politics are one of his passions, and both conference presentations were heavily focused on the United State’s position within the world order and how that has affected geopolitical conflicts and tensions in the modern age. After presenting alone the first year, and with a group of two peers presenting for the first time during his second year, Nathaniel was excited to join the board for 2024 and be available to help new students as they take part in their first conference. He believes in the power of a like minded community, and wants to contribute so that others can experience MEHA conferences for years to come.

Once Nathaniel completes his Bachelor of Arts in International Business, he wants to work with suppliers and customers internationally in business to business relationship management. He is taking another step in that direction this summer with an internship at Rolls Royce, and does not plan to stop there.

Leilany N. Porrata

Leilany N. Porrata

Purdue University Northwest, Student Representative

Leilany Porrata is a student member of the Mid-East Honor Association and is currently the Head of Supplemental Instruction at Purdue University Northwest. She comes from a PNW Legacy family and followed in their footsteps by majoring in Nursing. As a student member of this board, she assists in the planning process of the conference. This will be her second time attending this conference.

Leilany is very involved in her academics and excels in her undergraduate studies. She has expressed her love and devotion to education by becoming a tutor and supplemental instructor in her first year of college. She has now gone on to coordinate other students who have the same want to help other fellow students.

She currently works as a patient care assistant in the emergency department of a local hospital, where she practices her skills in the field going back to the community that raised her. She is involved in both her school community and church community. She is an avid member of her church and participates in various events within the community such as the Breakfast with Santa.

She plans to further her education with a nursing degree, hoping to become a Nurse Practitioner with a concentration in emergency medicine. She intends to give back to the communities that helped form her into the student and future nurse she is becoming.

During her downtime, she enjoys traveling and exploring new places alongside her family. She has an older sister, who is her role model and best friend, the two can always be seen together on and off campus. Her admiration for her family has driven her to the current career path she has taken. Her hope in this field is to advocate for her patients who may not have always had a voice.

Jenny Sheets

Jenny Sheets

Indiana University Kokomo, Student Representative

Jenny Sheets is a student member of the Mid-East Honors Association Board and is a 2023 graduate from Indiana University Kokomo. She completed her honors degree in Public Administration and Healthcare Management. Jenny is a first-generation, non-traditional student pursuing a second degree in nursing at Indiana University Kokomo. In her role on the MEHA Board, she assists in the planning process of the 2024 MEHA Conference. She is excited to aid those who may have never presented research by guiding, assisting, and showing them support during the conference.

Jenny is known to be highly involved at Indiana University Kokomo. She has long been a peer mentor, equity ambassador, and student representative for many areas. She is a former Director of Operations and the Immediate Past President of the Women in Business chapter. This chapter ensures that female students can learn and thrive in their respective areas before graduation. Women in Business serves the campus and community by hosting and planning engagements in the Kokomo community. They plan and host the annual LEAD Conference, which brings in speakers from various backgrounds to speak to the students during the conference. One of her highlights of serving was in the fall of 2021. Women in Business launched the Indiana University Kokomo Cougar Closet, a fashion sustainability initiative that allows students needing business attire for all types of situations, including internships and interviews, to come in and get items at no cost.

Jenny is a newly elected at-large board member of the Indiana University Alumni Association Kokomo Region Board of Directors. She currently is a co-chair of the program and activity committee, guiding the Board of Directors in planning events on campus. She hopes to continue her leadership on campus through the board. It is a perfect opportunity to continue to give back to her university and its students. She also started working with the Indiana Public Health Association student advisory board last year with its startup. She continued during this calendar year and has stepped up to become its first President. She hopes to continue to serve this student board and assist in providing students with further education in public health.

After finishing up her nursing degree, she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Healthcare Administration, a Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in nursing, and perhaps a Ph.D. in business. Her love for learning continues to drive her towards these goals. She hopes to become a nurse practitioner and a healthcare executive in the future. A long-term goal is to start a non-profit organization for underrepresented youth. Assisting youth with support, guidance, and financial assistance towards going to college and completing their degree programs!

Jenny loves spending time with her husband, kids, and family in her free time. She is also a huge music lover and attends many concerts yearly. She is a huge sports fan, watching or attending games on campus or cheering from home. Jenny is a lifelong Green Bay Packers fan! She enjoys gardening, hosting friends and family for an array of engagements at her house, and, most of all, enjoying life every day!

National Council