By Kasy Long
Feb 23, 2023
Kale Walker is known as “Mr. Terre Haute” at Indiana State University. He’s a historian – but you won’t find his research published in historical anthologies or books. Instead, you’ll see his passion for history expressed through every conversation he has with Indiana State students, faculty, staff, and the Terre Haute community.
Walker contributes to Indiana State as a training specialist and human resources generalist, but his work extends beyond the job title. He mentors students, helping them achieve their personal and professional goals.
“I accommodate each student and their needs. I stay with students all through their college years and then beyond graduation,” says Walker, who compares his mentoring to intrusive counseling, a form of advising involving a beneficial relationship that leads to increased academic motivation. “I want to change every negative into a positive.”
He knows the importance of a mentor because of his own experience as an undergraduate student at Indiana State, where he earned degrees in African American studies and sociology in 2002. Walker also completed a master’s degree in human resource development in 2010, and he’s currently pursuing a PhD in higher education leadership.
Walker came to Indiana State in 1997, at a time he describes as the lowest point of his life. Then, he met University College Dean Linda Maul, PhD. She convinced him he could be great. Now, he hopes to be a similar mentor for today’s students.
Walker asks students to remember when they were children. What did they want to be when they grew up? Are they pursuing those dreams? Have those goals changed? Do they have the right resources to follow their passions?
What can he do to help?
“I don’t look at myself as setting goals. I look at myself by how much I can impact other people. I want to help students get to the next level — wherever they want to go,” Walker says.
During his 15 years as a staff member at Indiana State, Walker has also advised students in the Brotherhood of Successful Scholars [formerly known as the Student African American Brotherhood] – a student-run organization designed to increase the retention rate of Indiana State’s African American students.
“I try to figure out what’s going on with our students [at Indiana State] and what they need from me. How can I help them be the best they can be? I want to help our students make positive connections and have positive experiences here on campus and beyond Indiana State,” Walker says.
His position as training specialist and human resources generalist also enables him to introduce new faculty and staff to Indiana State. As he leads orientation meetings, Walker shares the history of Indiana State and the University’s history with Terre Haute. Faculty and staff agree that they learn more about history in Walker’s presentations than they could have imagined.
“I never knew about Black history until I came to a college campus. It fascinated me because I didn’t grow up learning about Terre Haute’s history, particularly the community’s Black history,” says Walker, who is a proud Terre Haute native. “I look at all history through a positive lens. Even bad history can create great history. It depends on how you look at it. When I reflect on history, I always look at the positive things.”
Walker wants people to know about their hometowns, especially if they’re from Terre Haute. As he says, no matter where people go, they will always be asked: “Where are you from?” A hometown remains with a person, he explains.
Reviewing local history, Walker recalls notable individuals who attended or worked at Indiana State: U.S. Senator Birch Bayh; NBA basketball legend Larry Bird; aerospace pioneer Willa Brown; journalist Erika Celeste; musical artist Burl Ives; Green Acres actor Alvy Moore; U.S. Ambassador Cynthia Shepard Perry; and college basketball coach John Wooden, among many others.
Creating conversations about Terre Haute makes Walker happy. There is never “too much” information to share, including about Terre Haute’s Black Italians’ connections to infamous mobsters Al Capone and Frank Nitti; the Underground Railroad assisting as many as 2,000 slaves who came through the city between 1830 and 1850, and many other stories.
Looking to the future, Walker believes the next generation of Sycamores will continue to bring positive change to the University and Terre Haute. He asks students, “How great do you want to be? Indiana State is the place to begin your dreams.”
Whether he’s reviewing the past or anticipating the future, Walker is available to help students, faculty, and staff achieve their goals. He’s here to create new history right now at Indiana State. Because real game-changers wear BLUE!