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Butler Ranked No.1 in Midwest for Second Straight Year by U.S. News & World Report

BY

PUBLISHED ON Sep 08 2019

For the second consecutive year, Butler University has been named the No. 1 Regional University in the Midwest, according to the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings released today

Butler also ranked as the No. 1 Most Innovative School for the fifth straight year, the No.1 Best College for Veterans, and within the top-10 schools for Undergraduate Teaching among Midwest Regional Universities.

“I am pleased that our ranking reflects the high quality of education we provide at Butler University,” President James Danko says. “In addition to a highly-engaged educational experience, thanks to our outstanding faculty, we continue to underscore the importance of innovation, which creates an environment that both supports our students and challenges them to succeed.”

In addition to its strong position in the Midwest, Butler ranked within the top-20 among nationally-ranked schools (such as Harvard, Duke, and Stanford Universities) in three key areas identified by U.S. News as critical in providing students with the best possible undergraduate experience: first-year experience (No. 13), senior capstone experience (No. 18), and study abroad opportunities (No. 19).

“We are especially honored that this year’s rankings distinguish Butler University as among some of the most prestigious in the country,” Danko says. “I am so proud of our students, faculty, and staff, whose dedication to excellence has led us to earn this great recognition.”

The U.S. News first-year experience category recognizes schools that help new students feel connected well beyond orientation week. Butler’s First Year Seminar is required for all new students and is taken in a two-semester sequence. There are no exceptions, as all new students reflect on questions about self, community, and the world. 

Senior capstone experiences give students nearing the end of their time at college the chance to create a culminating project drawing on what they’ve learned over several years, such as collaborative research between Butler students and faculty, or recitals put on by graduating art students. 

And the study abroad category highlights universities that allow students to complete a substantial amount of credit hours outside the U.S., while also immersing themselves in new cultures. At Butler, about 40 percent of students travel abroad by the time they graduate, making the University ninth in the nation for undergraduate participation.

Butler also ranked just outside the top-20 on a national level for its focus on co-ops and internships (No. 21) and service learning (No. 23). Schools in the internship category either require or encourage students to apply what they’ve learned in class to a real-world setting, like the more than 90 percent of Butler students who complete at least one internship before graduation.

Universities in the service learning category require students to volunteer in the community as part of their coursework. Through Butler's Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR), all students take at least one course that involves active engagement with the Indianapolis area.

For undergraduate research and creative projects, Butler ranked No. 59 in the nation for the opportunities it provides students to complete self-directed, formal research, often under the mentorship of a faculty member.

For each of these national categories, U.S. News surveyed higher education leaders from across the country, asking college presidents, chief academic officers, and deans of admissions to nominate up to 15 schools they felt best embraced each type of program. The final rankings include the 20 universities that received the most nominations in each category. 

“It is quite gratifying that our peer academic leaders recognize the quality of a Butler education which is distinguished by the teaching and learning that occurs inside our classrooms, and is further enhanced by the rich experiences offered outside,” Provost Kate Morris says. “I am proud of the high-quality education and experience our students receive thanks to our outstanding faculty and staff.”

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

AcademicsCampus

Butler Ranked No.1 in Midwest for Second Straight Year by U.S. News & World Report

The University also ranks within the nation’s Top-20 schools for programs in three key areas.

Sep 08 2019 Read more
Scooter and Shana
CampusStudent Life

How Butler’s New Therapy Dog is Breaking Down Barriers to Seeking Support

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 17 2019

Floppy black ears bouncing in the sunlight, Scooter trots down a busy sidewalk at Butler University. Students pass by, winding down from the chaos that comes with the first full week of classes. Scooter looks up at them from the end of his Butler-themed leash, giving that look that only dogs can give.

And for student after student, just seeing Scooter brings instant joy. Their faces transform as they smile back. While some walk away grinning after just a quick pet, others stop in their tracks for the chance to rub Scooter’s belly or feed him a treat from the bag Shana Markle carries with her on their afternoon walk through campus.

Scooter, a one-year-old Cavachon, joined the Butler University Counseling Center as a therapy dog in August 2019. He’s cared for by Markle, the Center’s Associate Director. Markle says it’s not rare for universities to offer this service, but it isn’t common, either, and the counseling staff at Butler wanted to stay ahead of the game when it comes to supporting student health.

“We talk a lot about being innovative and just trying to provide the students with the best experience we can,” Markle says. “For us, it’s an opportunity to provide a better experience for them, and also to remove barriers and be more accessible. There’s still a stigma related to coming to counseling, and this makes it a little easier for people to come in who might not otherwise.”

With depression and anxiety on the rise among teens and young adults, many university counseling centers have a hard time keeping up with the demand for care. Average counseling center usage increased by up to 40 percent between 2009 and 2015, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, while school enrollment only rose by 5 percent.

While adding Scooter to the mix won’t magically solve these issues at Butler, it does make the Center more well-rounded by introducing a new approach when it comes to this very real challenge of how best to care for mental health, Markle says. For students who don’t need clinical care, just petting a dog can be enough to reduce stress. And within regular counseling sessions, having a dog around will allow Markle to implement new forms of therapy for students with more serious illnesses.

Animal-assisted therapy goes deeper than just having a furry thing to pet. Interacting with dogs in a clinical setting can provide relief to students who’ve struggled with leaving pets behind at home, or who are going through trauma and other diagnosable mental issues.

According to Pet Partners, a national nonprofit organization that trains and registers therapy animals and their handlers, humans and animals can bond in beneficial ways. Research shows that therapy dogs can help relieve pain, improve mood, encourage more social behavior, and lower blood pressure. Plus, by stimulating the release of endorphins, dogs usually just make people feel happy.

Plans to bring a therapy dog to Butler began taking shape during the 2017-18 academic year, when one of the Counseling Center’s doctoral fellows brought her expertise in animal-assisted therapy to campus. Student Affairs leaders at the University carefully studied the benefits and potential risks of such a program, considering what has worked best on other campuses in order to shape policies for animal-assisted therapy at Butler. Soon enough, it was time to pick a puppy and decide who would take the dog home each night.

Of the three full-time staff members, Markle was in the best position to take on a new pet. She says it took as much effort to convince her husband as it did to convince her colleagues, but after some time—and some begging from their teenage son—the couple decided to take a chance. On Labor Day 2018, they brought an eight-week-old Scooter home.

Over the next year, there was a lot of paperwork for Markle and training for Scooter. A therapy dog’s role goes deeper than that of an emotional-support dog—the use is more intentional and clinical, which meant Scooter needed to be certified with a pet therapy organization.

Scooter started taking obedience courses at just 12 weeks old, one of the youngest students in his classes. Despite having the extra playfulness of a puppy, Markle says he did a great job. He was trained and tested in a range of skills, from following basic commands like sit and stay to remaining calm in a crowd of strangers, before becoming registered with the American Kennel Club as both a “S.T.A.R. Puppy” and a “Canine Good Citizen.” He also passed an evaluation for dogs who demonstrate advanced skills in urban settings. After a little more practice interacting with other dogs, Scooter will likely become certified by Pet Partners, one of the most well-known and respected national pet therapy organizations.

But all the effort was worth it, Markle says, because when students interact with Scooter, she can see their stress melt away.

 

Scooter and Shana

 

During therapy sessions, it can be therapeutic for patients to breathe along with Scooter, or hold onto him to stay mentally grounded while discussing traumatic experiences. Students know Scooter will never judge what they say.

"Human connection is very important to our well-being, but relationships can also be a source of stress,” Markle says. “Even healthy relationships require effort to maintain and can be quite challenging.”

With a dog, the relationship will be genuine, accepting, and unconditional.

Students can play with Scooter or brush his curly black-and-white fur. They can try to teach him a new skill or just let him curl up at their feet. Or, for students who would rather not interact with a dog, he doesn’t need to be in the room. The animal-assisted therapy service will be carefully tailored to each student’s needs.

“To me, Scooter represents more than the day-to-day assistance he’ll be able to provide,” says Scott Peden, Executive Director of Student Health & Recreation. “It’s kind of a representation of our efforts to meet the students where they are and address whatever barriers they face when seeking out our services.”

Peden says Scooter has already had an unexpected impact on the Counseling Center staff. After a tough session, therapists can relax by rubbing Scooter’s ears or taking him outside for a walk.

“Therapists need therapists, because what they do is really a tough job,” Peden says. “So it’s nice to have Scooter in-house to be a support mechanism.”

But animal-assisted therapy isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. Markle and the other counselors are more than happy to make any accommodations necessary. Scooter is hypoallergenic and doesn’t shed, but there will still be some campus offices he never visits. A sign on the Counseling Center’s door also informs guests how to ask that Scooter be put away before they enter.

“It’s so important for us, as a Center, to be a support for everyone on campus,” Markle says. “We’re there for everyone. We would not want the presence of a therapy dog to be a barrier for others.”

The animal-assisted therapy program fits into Butler’s emphasis on mind and body wellness, one of the eight dimensions included under the BUBeWell student experience model that was introduced last year. This initiative aims to help students grow and learn, both inside and outside of the classroom.

“Right now in higher education,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Ross, “there’s a significant movement looking at student wellbeing as the foundation for student success. We’ve taken that framework to heart here by creating BUBeWell. It’s comprised of eight dimensions that we feel are important holistically for student development.”

ScooterWithin the mind and body dimension, the Counseling Center will be expanding outreach in a variety of ways throughout the next year. Scooter is just one part of that. Staff members are also introducing a series called Let’s Talk, providing opportunities for groups of students to gather and share whatever is on their minds. Counseling staff will be visiting the Efroymson Diversity Center, too, hosting sessions that address topics specific to students of color.

Ultimately, the goal is to make resources for maintaining mental wellbeing more accessible to students. That often means getting out of the Counseling Center and meeting students where they’re at, whether that’s in another campus office or right by the sidewalk on a sunny afternoon.

Olivia Jacobs, a Community Assistant in her junior year at Butler, first met Scooter during a training about how to help fellow students find the best on-campus mental health resources.

“Having Scooter here shows me that Butler’s Counseling and Consultation Services is innovating,” Jacobs says. “It’s so exciting that they are looking at different routes for making student mental health a priority. And by the intentional ways they are implementing Scooter, it also shows me that they are still accommodating to everyone. I would just encourage people—if they see Scooter around campus—to go up and say hi, and to go pet him, because it’s his job to be a support.”

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager 

kgrieze@butler.edu 

260-307-3403

Scooter and Shana
CampusStudent Life

How Butler’s New Therapy Dog is Breaking Down Barriers to Seeking Support

This fall, Counseling Center staff introduce animal-assisted therapy. Meet Scooter, their newest co-worker.

Sep 17 2019 Read more

Students’ Summer Experiences Embolden Them for Future

By Tim Brouk

For Butler University students, summer is a time to learn, discover, inspire, and create. From analyzing viruses, to traveling for Fulbright programs, to interning in China, the Butler community didn’t let summer break go to waste.

Courtney Rousseau, a Career Advisor on campus, says the summer months provide great opportunities for students to explore new things and figure out what they want to pursue professionally. Whether through research or internships, students can work on building a network of connections while gaining hands-on experience.

Molly Roe in Glasgow, Scotland
Sophomore Molly Roe poses in Glasgow, Scotland.

Over summer 2019, Butler students spread out from downtown Indianapolis to Beijing. Some presented research for the first time, some boarded their first airplane flights, and others used the summer to focus on projects that turned into passions.

“I was very lucky,” says sophomore Molly Roe, who traveled to Scotland with the Fulbright UK Summer Institutes program to study the nation’s innovative technological advances at the University of Strathclyde. “It made me have a broader understanding of what’s going on in the world. After being in the same place my entire life, I was seeing things from different perspectives.”

Studying viruses

Senior Jenna Nosek spent more than two months with the Harvard University Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program, where she worked on analyzing viruses. Her summer research focused on the trichomonas vaginalis virus, which infects protozoa in sexually transmitted diseases. 

She also attended the Leadership Alliance National Symposium and presented a research poster on her findings after networking with faculty, graduate students, and fellow undergrads.

“It was, overall, an amazing experience for both an internship in research and understanding what it is like to do research at an R1 doctoral institute,” Nosek says. “This program also focused a lot on personal and professional development in regards to personal statements and application process for multiple programs.”

At Butler, Nosek is an undergraduate researcher in Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Stobart’s lab. Stobart loves giving students opportunities to expand their field experience.

In July, Stobart took seven young researchers to Minneapolis for the American Society of Virology annual meeting, where they presented talks and posters on recent lab findings on the respiratory syncytial and mouse hepatitus viruses. The students discussed the multi-faceted work, exploring the understanding and treatment of the viruses.

“This meeting is normally attended by graduate or postdoctoral students,” Stobart says. “So this was a great opportunity for them to both present and see how science is conducted and discussed in a real scientific meeting.”

Fulbright experiences

Roe wasn’t the only Butler student involved in a Fulbright summer program. Sophomores Josiah Lax and Emma Beavins explored the intersection of arts, activism, and social justice at the University of Bristol Summer Institute. This marked the fourth year in a row Butler had multiple undergraduates in Fulbright UK Summer Institutes.

Josiah Lax in Bristol, Enland
Dance Pedagogy sophomore Josiah Lax in Bristol, England

Dacia Charlesworth, Butler’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships, says there are only 60 spots for the Fulbright UK Summer Institutes. And thousands of people apply.

Lax described his Fulbright experience at the University of Bristol as one he will cherish forever.

During his June stay, the broad curriculum ensured no day was the same. He worked with a Bristol activist to create sustainable fashion one day, then attended a Pan-African conference about decolonization the next.

“The biggest takeaway from my time in Bristol is that everybody has the power to make an impact and create change,” Lax says. “What makes us individual, and consequently, the unique paths we each choose, allows us to tackle various issues from new and effective angles.”

Now that Lax is back on Indiana time and entrenched in a new schedule of dance classes, the Fulbright experience is still close to his heart. The fact that only about 1 percent of applicants receive such an opportunity was not lost on him.

“Earning this opportunity was one of the most exciting moments in my life,” Lax says. “I think I may have even cried. I felt as though it was one of the first times I had individually been recognized with such an honor. I rarely feel proud of myself, but I can’t help it with this.” 

A summer of firsts

It was a summer of firsts for Gwen Valles, a junior majoring in International Studies and Spanish. To get to her first internship as part of the Mingdun Law Firm in Beijing, she had to board an airplane for the first time.

“It was intense,” says Valles, who represented Butler thanks to the Asia Summer Internship Program. “When we landed, it was just incredible.”

After a 15-hour plane ride, Valles got to work conducting research on intellectual property laws, collecting data, and learning about intellectual property laws in China. Her favorite part was policing knock-off products that mimicked items from Huda Beauty, a cosmetics line by YouTube star Huda Kattan. Valles found these bootlegged items in Mexico, Brazil, and India.

“People were taking Huda’s logo and making their own mock products,” she says. “They were even impersonating her online and were registering for trademarks. But we found the names filing were not her.”

Valles enjoyed the chance to use her multilingual skills with international cases. A student of Mandarin since eighth grade, Valles was able to practice the language in a professional office setting. And she was one of the few people in the office who could navigate websites written in Spanish.

From learning Excel to maintaining the brand of a YouTube giant, Valles will treasure her Chinese internship experience as an early, but major, stop on her career journey.

“I’m very interested in working for the U.S. government,” says Valles, adding that law school or a master’s degree in Public Policy are on the horizon. “The dream is to one day become a Supreme Court justice.”

‘It really inspired me’

A Political Science and International Studies major, Ashely Altman broadened her worldview without leaving Marion County. From May to August, the sophomore interned for attorney Fatima Skimin in downtown Indianapolis.

Altman worked with Skimin and about a dozen other lawyers in the office and online. She focused on immigration cases—something very personal to her. When she was a child, Altman witnessed the complicated process of attempts made by her mother and other relatives to immigrate from Mexico to the United States.

“That’s why I decided to go into this field,” Altman says. “At every law firm I go to, it’s something different. It’s something that further emphasizes my want and my need to do something about this topic and these issues.”

Altman’s cases worked with citizens from India, Africa, and the Middle East. She noticed that Skimin could speak four languages in order to better communicate with her clients, which inspired Altman to take an Arabic class to add to her Spanish and English.

“I got to see the entire immigration process from beginning to end,” Altman says. “It’s a big deal and very rewarding in the end.”

And that wasn’t the only thing that kept Altman busy this summer.

She managed to collaborate with online news outlet BuzzFeed for a piece on immigration and asylum-seekers in the U.S., which will be published soon. BuzzFeed interviewed Spanish-speakers around Indianapolis, and Altman served as an interpreter for the two-week project. She was on-hand for every interview, and she later transcribed every quote.

“I was there to facilitate anything they were trying to communicate with the reporter,” Altman says about the June assignment. “It really inspired me to become part of the change.”

Gwen Valles visits the Great Wall.
Student LifeUnleashed

Students’ Summer Experiences Embolden Them for Future

From study abroad to internships, Bulldog undergrads made their mark on the world this summer.

Chatham Tap
CampusCommunity

Chatham Tap to Fill Vacant Restaurant Space on Campus

BY

PUBLISHED ON Sep 12 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Chatham Tap, a family-friendly restaurant and pub with two locations in the Indianapolis area, will soon open a third location on the Butler University campus. The addition will fill the space at the intersection of Sunset Avenue and Lake Road, which previously housed Scotty’s Brewhouse before the chain closed in July 2019.

Chatham Tap opened its first pub 12 years ago on Mass Ave. Three years after that, a second location launched in downtown Fishers.

“And we have been searching ever since for the right place to open a third one,” says David Pentzien, one of three Chatham Tap owners.

Pentzien says the restaurant is designed to feel like a friendly neighborhood pub. Rooted in English culture, it caters especially to soccer fans looking for a place to watch their favorite games.

“We intend to warm up the space so you get the true feeling of an English pub,” he says.

But with an extensive offering of craft and import beers, along with a menu focused on a wide range of sandwiches and starters, Chatham Tap draws all kinds of guests through its doors. Offerings also include soup, salad, award-winning wings, pizza, burgers, and the house speciality—fish and chips.

Bruce Arick, the Vice President of Finance & Administration at Butler, says the owners of Chatham Tap have been delightful to work with throughout the whole process.

“We are excited to welcome Chatham Tap to our campus,” he says. “Both for the Butler community and our neighbors, I believe this space will be a great environment for people to create valuable connections and build relationships—all while enjoying meals from a quality menu. We’re also thrilled to be supporting the Indianapolis community by embracing local ownership.”

Butler and Chatham Tap finalized a lease for the space in late August, and if all goes as planned, Pentzien expects to be open for business by the end of October. They anticipate employing approximately 50 people at the restaurant, with at least two of the General Managers having an ownership interest at the location.

The space will maintain the same indoor footprint as Scotty’s had, but Chatham Tap plans to increase the amount of outdoor seating. The location’s conference room will continue to be available for private parties and business meetings.

“We think this can be a great nexus between the neighborhood and the university,” Pentzien says. “We’re going to come in with a game plan, but we’re going to evolve quickly to meet the needs of the people who come to call Chatham Tap at Butler their place to gather.”

 

Hours for the new location:

Monday - Thursday, 11:00 AM - midnight

Friday, 11:00 AM - 1:00 AM

Saturday, 11:00 AM - 1:00 AM

Sunday, 11:00 AM - 11:00 PM

As is tradition for Chatham Tap, the location will also open early (and serve breakfast) for key weekend soccer matches and stay open late for Butler cultural or athletics events.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

317-940-9742

Chatham Tap
CampusCommunity

Chatham Tap to Fill Vacant Restaurant Space on Campus

Local pub’s third location will encourage connection between Butler and surrounding neighborhood.

Sep 12 2019 Read more
Researchers in woods
UnleashedCommunity

Fighting Indy’s Honeysuckle Invasion

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 11 2019

Just because something’s green doesn’t mean it’s good, says Rebecca Dolan, former Director of the Friesner Herbarium at Butler University. Some plants invade areas in harmful ways, driving out native species that are essential to healthy, diverse ecosystems. In Indianapolis, one major culprit hides behind a guise of sweet-smelling innocence: Amur honeysuckle.

Back in the 1950s, the flower-and-berry-covered shrub was introduced throughout Midwestern urban areas, promoted by the USDA Soil Conservation Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) as a beneficial plant that would grow quickly, help stabilize soil, and reduce erosion.

“But it turns out that it spreads too quickly,” Dolan explains. “It got out of control. And it creates a monoculture of one species that blocks out native plants that are more valuable in the landscape from an ecological perspective.”

When city leaders recognized the invasive nature of the honeysuckle, several organizations started removing the shrubs on a large scale. Dolan retired from Butler last year, but she has continued her decades-long study of this species and the ongoing efforts to eliminate it from areas around the city. Most recently, she received a $7,500 grant from the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park at Newfields to assess the progress of ecological restoration that began there in the early 2000s.

Dolan first started research at the Art & Nature Park in 2002, when she was hired by Indy Greenways to inventory vegetation near what is now the Central Canal Towpath. Then in 2004, as the Indianapolis Museum of Art was taking over the Art & Nature Park, Dolan worked with Butler Biological Science Professor Travis Ryan, Herbarium Assistant Marcia Moore, and Biological Science Professor Carmen Salsbury to conduct additional vegetation and wildlife surveys in the area. Now, Dolan and Moore are going back to see what’s changed.

To do this, the researchers will tally and analyze the plant species along five transects—or linear sections of land—that were examined in the original study. Dolan will compare the findings with data gathered in 2004, assessing what has changed in the quality of the habitat as a result of restoration efforts.

She hopes to determine whether the honeysuckle removal has been successful: Is the plant gone, or are there still traces that could grow back? And if it has been eliminated, what’s replacing it? Are desirable native species coming in strong, or has it just been replaced by another kind of invader?

When invasive plant species take over an area, Dolan says it affects everything living there. For example, the honeysuckle makes nesting more difficult for Indy’s native birds, and its berries aren’t healthy to eat.

“It’s like fruit candy for the birds,” she explains, “whereas our native shrubs, like spicebush, produce berries that are high in oils—a better energy source for birds that are going to migrate back south in the winter.”

The honeysuckle also drives away pollinator insects that specialize in native plants.

“When the native plants go—the spring wildflowers and the native shrubs—then those specialist insects lose their hosts,” Dolan says. “It cascades down, and then the birds that would eat the insects don’t come to the area. And it continues on.”

Invasive plants disrupt habitats in ways that threaten ecological resilience. This can lead to problems such as flooding or erosion. Contrary to what people thought when Amur honeysuckle was first introduced, the plants don’t stabilize the soil at all. Their roots are too shallow, and their leaves block a lot of sunlight from getting to the soil. This, combined with chemicals released from the honeysuckle’s leaves and roots, prevents many native plants from growing.

So, are efforts to remove the honeysuckle working?

Dolan has yet to analyze data from Newfields—that report will be finished by the end of 2019. But she has been conducting similar research over the last five years in areas along Indy’s Fall Creek, where the nonprofit group Keep Indianapolis Beautiful had organized a community project to remove the honeysuckle invading there.

According to Dolan’s findings, the richness of the area’s plant life has more than doubled since 2012, mostly with native species. While overall habitat quality has shown some improvement, seeds brought in by wind and animals introduced eight new invasive plants.  Early detection of these invasives will make controlling them easier, and she will continue monitoring the area.

At Newfields, junior Butler Biology major Torey Kazeck had the chance to help collect data over three weeks at the end of the summer. As she plans to pursue a PhD after graduating, she was excited to gain more hands-on experience in the field.

“I hope this work helps the community see what invasive species do, and why we should remove them,” Kazeck says.

Few similar studies existed before Dolan’s surveillance of honeysuckle removal, especially near urban waterways, despite evidence of the harmful impacts invasive shrubs can have in these environments. Because soil health along rivers and streams can impact water quality, Dolan—who was on the Ecology Committee for Reconnecting to Our Waterways—saw the importance of documenting the restoration process. 

During much of her time at Butler, Dolan focused on traveling to rural areas to study rare plants. But when she started seeing the value of looking at what was in her own backyard, she got more involved with urban flora research.

She says more urban communities are starting to see how protecting local ecosystems can help defend against climate change effects. While Indianapolis doesn’t deal with more obvious problems like sea level rise, the city does have issues with flooding, erosion, and heat. Establishing more green spaces in urban areas can reduce these threats, Dolan says, but that will only work if the plants filling those spaces can get along with one another.

Researchers in woods
UnleashedCommunity

Fighting Indy’s Honeysuckle Invasion

Rebecca Dolan’s research follows progress of removing invasive plants from local ecosystems.

Sep 11 2019 Read more
DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10 2019

Many life-threatening diseases come from slight variations in our genetic codes. A problem with the BRCA1 gene makes a person more prone to certain cancers, for example, and mutations of the hemoglobin-Beta gene can lead to sickle cell anemia.

Not everyone with genetic mutations will develop the associated conditions, but just having a variation can change a person’s life—they’ll need to get tests, take pills, go through surgeries, and constantly worry that doing all of these things still won’t be enough.

So, what if we could fix the problem at its root?

Using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for more than $711,000, that’s what Butler University Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor Alex Erkine is trying to work toward. The project falls into NSF’s fairly new Rules of Life category, which aims to promote discoveries related to fundamental questions about how living things work.

Erkine says genes can have a wide range of functionality levels. Scientists already understand that the level of functionality depends both on certain aspects of the gene itself, as well as on the quality of the proteins that bind with the gene. These proteins work as activators, helping determine the gene’s level of functionality by dimming it up or down—imagine a light dimmer controlling the brightness in a room.

The problem is, biochemists have never completely understood how that gene-regulating dimmer works. If we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how to control or replicate it, and we can’t effectively edit a person’s DNA. Erkine’s project combines biochemistry with informatics, or machine learning, to try and change that.

In the physical lab, researchers will transfer strands of unique DNA sequences into cells. Then they’ll rate each cell based on how functional the DNA sequence is. In the past, similar tests have only been able to analyze a few DNA samples at a time, but using bioinformatics and machine learning will allow Erkine and his collaborators to compare more than 10,000 cells at once.

The ability to work with such a large group of DNA sequences is game-changing, Erkine says, because researchers can find patterns that never would have shown up when only comparing a few samples. Using bioinformatics tools makes this possible.

While scientists have been trying to understand the gene activator mechanism for decades, Erkine says both the DNA sequences and the ways they interact are highly variable and almost random—but not completely. Patterns do emerge within large enough data sets, which is why massive amounts of data are key. Erkine says computer-based tools are necessary in trying to understand these near-chaotic processes because finding those patterns will help us predict how genetic structures might interact after the activators are edited.

By identifying common features between strands with similar functionality scores, the informatics tools should help answer the question of what makes one gene functional and another gene cause disease.

The finished project is expected to shed some light on how genes are regulated and exactly how specific parts of a gene would need to be altered to prevent certain diseases. Scientists already know which part of the gene needs to be changed—as they can recognize mutations in DNA—and they now have the power to make those specific changes with the recent discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing system. But Erkine’s project is trying to answer the question of how to change sequences in ways that achieve the desired outcome of curing disease. So, we can already recognize and remove a genetic mutation, but what DNA sequences can we use to effectively replace it?

One of the project’s goals is to create a computational algorithm that will predict how certain changes to the gene activator mechanism (or the dimmer) will affect the genes it is working on.

“It sounds easy—just create an algorithm,” Erkine says. “But in reality, the problem is not trivial, because we do not fully understand how activators work. Our project, first of all, addresses the question about the mechanism of activator function. Then, as a byproduct, we hope to create a machine learning model (or algorithm) that can be used with CRISPR DNA editing for medical purposes.”

Some of this analytics process will take place at Butler, with help from PharmD students Brad Broyles and Andrew Gutierrez.

Broyles, who is in his third professional year of Butler’s Doctor of Pharmacy program, says working on this research has been the most valuable part of his time at Butler. He’s excited for the chance to learn about complicated aspects of biology while sharpening his computer skills, and he hopes the results will help make the field of biochemistry more receptive to new ideas.

Researchers at Purdue University also received close to $250,000 from the NSF to collaborate with Butler on this project. Purdue will handle most of the computer-based process Erkine calls the dry lab.

Back in 2015, Erkine had the chance to spend his sabbatical in Cambridge, England, with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. He has continued collaborating with the institution ever since, publishing an article in 2018 that helped lay the foundation for his current project.

Erkine says our current lack of understanding about how some molecular mechanisms work has a lot to do with long-held beliefs in the field of biochemistry—beliefs about what is and what isn’t worth studying.

“In short, biochemistry is about specificity,” he explains. “It looks at specific structures interacting with other specific structures in specific ways—key-and-lock sorts of interactions. But this is simply because that’s easy to study. Everything that does not necessarily interact specifically or strongly is ignored by biochemistry. It is considered noise: noise that is nonessential, non-functional, detrimental—that essentially stands in the way of new biochemistry developments.”

Erkine wants researchers to think about things differently. The human cell is full of interactions that occur randomly, but that doesn’t make them any less important to understand. Because if his research works, he says, we’ll find a way to get to the root of diseases we’ve been trying to cure for decades.

DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

Alex Erkine receives more than $711,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study gene regulation.

Sep 10 2019 Read more
Class of 2023
Unleashed

Butler continues upward trend, set to welcome third-largest class ever

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 26 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS—Butler University will welcome its third-largest class ever this fall when approximately 1,125 first-year students begin classes on August 28.

The Class of 2023 is hardly an anomaly—Butler has been experiencing a surge in interest and enrollment during the last decade. The Class of 2022, with 1,336 first-year students, is the largest class in the University’s history. The second-largest is the Class of 2020. 

Since 2009, the number of applications to the University has increased by about 140 percent. This year, Butler received 14,896 first-year applications—the second-highest number ever received in an admission cycle. In 2018, the University received the most applications ever (16,431). Comparatively, in 2009, Butler received 6,243 first-year applications.

“Our growth aligns with the overall Butler 2020 strategic plan,” Vice President for Enrollment Management Lori Greene says. “We were asked to enroll 4,700 full-time undergraduate students by 2020. We are ahead of schedule. We hit 4,726 in fall 2018. Now, it is really more about sustainability and trying to determine what our ideal size is as an institution in terms of meeting the expectations of the student experience.”

So, how has Butler been able to achieve a prolonged increase in interest and enrollment when, across the nation, the benefit of a college degree is in question, college is more expensive than ever before, and private institutions face increased competition from several directions?

Greene credits Butler’s awareness of the changing landscape, as well as the University’s ability to increase its potential applicant pool.

“We have to be very mindful of all of the different choices a student has,” Greene says. “It is important that we try to engage students in deeper conversations about where they are, what they are looking to do and achieve, and how we can play a role in that on a much deeper level than ever before. Then, it comes down to expanding our markets and growing our pool to new areas.”

Expansion beyond the Midwest—where Butler has historically pulled most of its students from, Greene says—is reflected in out-of-state versus in-state application and enrollment numbers. 

The recruitment team has grown its efforts in Colorado and the Mid-Atlantic, for example, building on increased student interest, and utilizing other resources such as graduate connections. There are a select number of institutions that can truly say they have a full national reach, Greene says. There are pockets where Butler can grow when it comes to awareness, and that is what the focus is on now.

There is also the fact that high school graduates in the Midwest are declining, and students have many more choices when it comes to career paths, Greene says.

“Our out-of-state number will have to grow,” Greene says. 

For the Class of 2023, 55 percent come from out-of-state, and 45 percent of the class is from in-state. The majority of this year’s class is from Indiana and Illinois, but New York, Minnesota, California, and Colorado round out the top 10.

Since 2015, out-of-state applications to Butler have increased by 47 percent. There has been an increase in applications from Connecticut, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas, for example.

Incoming first-year students represent 35 states and eight countries (Mexico, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, Spain, South Korea, South Africa, and China).

Despite the increases in class size, quality has not shifted, Greene says.

This year’s incoming class has 39 valedictorians, 24 Lilly Scholars, and 41 21st Century Scholars. About 20 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. The average GPA is 3.86.

“When you see schools go through a growth pattern, you might see quality drop,” she says. “But if anything, we are getting stronger each year. The typical Butler student is involved and is someone who is interested in raising their hand and being part of the conversation. That hasn’t changed at all.”

This year’s incoming class is also diverse, with 19 percent of the total class identifying as multicultural. This is a proportional increase from last year’s class, of which 17 percent identified as multicultural.

“That is very intentional,” Greene says. “We hope this continues to grow and we can attract students who are interested and willing in being part of a dialogue and conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This doesn’t just stop with admission: This is very much about retention, as well.”

 

A group of activists 

The Class of 2023 has also stuck out for another reason: They take an active role in the community around them and strive to shape the world they are living in.

Butler Admission Counselor Tim See visits about 100 high schools each fall. Most are on the West Coast, covering California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, and Idaho. 

This class in particular, he says, had a common theme of activism and awareness of what was going on around them. 

“They had a much larger view of their role in a community and were ready to hit the ground running in terms of doing something to enact change instead of searching for their voice or their role,” See said. “This was seen over and over again in essays and letters of recommendation.”

Students were leading marches, protests, and walkouts. They were starting social advocacy groups and nonprofits. Many students talked about leading or taking part in The Women’s March, as well as organizing protests in response to school shootings. 

One Butler incoming first-year student, for example, volunteered at an orphanage in China, where she had been born and adopted from as a young child. One has helped bring healthy food and clean water to people in need, and another has been an advocate against racism and sexual misconduct. Right here in Indianapolis, one incoming student helped build an organization to defend his high school guidance counselor when she was fired for being married to a woman. 

In so many ways, the Class of 2023 has already made an impact across the country and the world.

“Students are much more globally minded and aware,” See says. “With social media and access to knowledge and news, they understand what is going on and want to be a generation that plays a major role in making change.”

Greene says a major difference she has seen is the idea of being very involved, but not just for the sake of involvement. Students are no longer just filling up their resumes with a laundry list of activities.

“I have seen much more meaningful involvement with this generation,” Greene says. “It is typically around issues that are core and central to them as individuals.”

Class of 2023
Unleashed

Butler continues upward trend, set to welcome third-largest class ever

About 1,125 students make up the Class of 2023, part of a surge in enrollment over the last decade.

Aug 26 2019 Read more

Melísenda Dixon's Fight to Improve Inclusive Curriculum

By Katie Grieze

When Melísenda Dixon wants something to change, she doesn’t keep quiet. She speaks up, starts a movement, and helps give others a voice—just like her mom taught her. 

Dixon spent her early childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She grew up in a neighborhood where she witnessed violence and discrimination against racial minorities on a regular basis. Her parents taught her how to live in the world as a person of color—Dixon is Black and Mexican-American. They taught her how to speak up for herself, and when to let things go. 

But she says the lesson that stood out most was the importance of her voice. 

From a young age, she saw her mom advocate for a variety of causes, from teacher pay to gun violence prevention. Dixon would go along to the rallies, watching her mother protest injustices without ever getting too distracted by anger. She decided she wanted to be like that. 

So when Dixon was sexually assaulted during her first year of high school, she did something about it. 

Her family had moved to the small town of Pullman, Washington, the year before. There was only one public high school, which meant she couldn’t escape her two assaulters. After reporting the attack and filing a civil lawsuit, Dixon says all she got was a temporary protection order. That didn’t do much to help her feel safe.

The following year, Dixon wrote a research paper about sexual assault. Part of her paper involved a survey among classmates, which revealed that there was much more sexual misconduct at her school than she ever imagined. She asked some of the other survivors why they hadn’t reported their cases. Many said they had already seen how Dixon’s case was handled, and they didn’t have much hope of getting a different response from the school. Data in hand, Dixon went back to the school’s leaders. 

Look, she said, this isn’t just my voice that’s not being heard. It’s all of ours. You need to do something.

Nothing changed. She went to the school board next. There, she says she just got questions about what the survivors were wearing at the time of their assaults. 

So she applied to the Youth Advisory Council for College Board, which helps students from across the U.S. work toward improving education. When she got accepted, she felt like she could finally use the voice her parents had always taught her to have. 

“I’m going to try to be a voice for people if they feel like they don’t have a voice,” she says. “I had already gone through a lot of abuse in Wisconsin, so when I was assaulted in Pullman, I couldn’t let it just destroy me. I needed to get myself up and continue to push through.”

With the national organization behind her, Dixon started making progress. She helped implement new sexual misconduct prevention curriculum at her school and at more than 500 other schools across the country. She organized for speakers from Alternatives to Violence to meet with students and discuss topics of consent. She advocated for teaching every child and teen, starting in elementary school, how to stay safe and speak up. 

The main message she wants to spread?

“It’s not your fault. I feel like that’s something people think is just so easy to know. People say, ‘Obviously it’s not your fault.’ But so many people blame you. So many people ask what you were wearing.”

And being a survivor of sexual assault doesn’t need to define who you are, Dixon says. 

“Just because I’m a survivor doesn’t mean my personality is made up solely of what has happened to me,” she says. “It’s what I’ve made of my situation. I’ve done so much more than be sexually assaulted. I’ve tried to impact others’ lives, and I’ve done that in multiple different ways.”

Yes, Dixon has made her voice heard in a variety of ways, including with issues beyond sexual misconduct. For example, after classmates told her to go back to Mexico—and that Mexicans were only good for picking fields and cleaning toilets—she realized how many other people in her town were facing racism every day.

Again, she wasn’t going to let it go. Working alongside a few friends, she established a Black Student Union at her school. The members often collaborated with similar student organizations at nearby Washington State University. They organized walk outs. They held discussions and forums. But they mostly just wanted to create a safe space for students to talk. 

“One of the most rewarding things was to see that we can come together if we are organized and we are really trying,” she says. “We can come together, and we can help each other.” 

When it came time to start applying for college, Butler was the only school Dixon applied to. Her brother, Nathaniel Dixon, graduated from the University in 2017, and she had already fallen in love with the campus and its diverse student body during her visits to Indianapolis. Still, her parents told her not to make up her mind so fast. 

“So then I applied to 22 schools,” she said, laughing. “And I got into 20.”

But she knew from the start that she wanted to go to Butler. She’s excited to start this fall as a Management Information Systems major with a minor in Healthcare Management. She eventually wants to help run a children’s hospital, but in the meantime, she plans to make the most of every moment at Butler. 

“At college, I want to make an impact,” Dixon says. “I want to feel like I didn’t just do academics—that I actually made an impact on Butler’s campus and also within the Indianapolis community.”

Melísenda Dixon
Unleashed

Melísenda Dixon's Fight to Improve Inclusive Curriculum

After surviving sexual assault and facing racism at her high school, she turned to advocating for others.

Changing Hearts with a Rainbow Sticker

By Katie Grieze

Dominic Conover didn’t see himself as an activist until 10:00 PM on a Saturday night in August 2018. 

He was at work, hosting guests at a Mexican restaurant, when his phone started ringing. The screen showed the name of a classmate he barely knew. 

Hanging up from the call, Conover stepped outside to take a breath and think about what he’d just heard. Shelly Fitzgerald, a counselor at Roncalli High School—the Catholic school Conover attended in Indianapolis—had been placed on administrative leave for being married to a woman. 

Conover decided he wasn’t going to deal with it.

He told his boss he needed to leave early, then rushed home and started a group chat with about 40 students he knew to be allies. Right away, they got to planning. 

In just more than 24 hours, they organized a Monday-morning rally at Roncalli High School. Conover went to church on Sunday, then spent the rest of the day calling every student in his contacts: Will you go buy some flowers and meet me by my car at 7:00 AM tomorrow? We’re going to protest.

The next morning, more than 200 rainbow-clad students flooded the parking lot, grabbed one of the Long’s Bakery donuts Conover had ordered, and lined up single-file as he blasted Pride music from his car speakers. Carrying bouquets for Fitzgerald, they marched to her office. 

Fitzgerald wasn’t there—she’d already been suspended. Still, standing in the flower-filled room, Conover led a prayer for inclusivity. 

God, we ask that you end this division in our Church.

Conover, who is now starting his first year at Butler University, was one of six Roncalli students who launched the LGBTQ advocacy group Shelly’s Voice. While rooted in the original protest against Fitzgerald losing her job, the organization didn’t stop fighting when things died down. Instead, they’ve been expanding ever since to support other members of the Catholic Church who experience discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Before Fitzgerald was suspended, Conover says he was “so blind to discrimination.” He knew it existed, but he had never witnessed it so directly within the LGBTQ community. Since then, he’s worked toward making sure all students at Roncalli and other Catholic schools feel loved and have access to the support systems they need. 

“It flipped everything,” Fitzgerald says about the work of Conover and his classmates. “It turned the most hurtful situation you can imagine into the most beautiful thing.”

Shelly’s Voice didn’t celebrate an official launch until December 4, but Conover says it started way before that. Between organizing protests and writing letters to Church leaders, the members began the school year by passing out rainbow-colored stickers to students and teachers all around Roncalli. The stickers became marks of encouragement for the school’s LGBTQ community, as students wore them to class and teachers placed them on their doors to show support. Conover, who is now the Chair of Event Coordination for Shelly’s Voice, collected the names of student allies he saw wearing the stickers over the next few days.

“Those were the students who were ready to start fighting, like we were,” he says.

Not long after the news broke about Fitzgerald, Conover and his friends spread the word to get about 300 students to wear rainbow colors to a home football game. He says school administrators had banned the word “Pride” from the event, but this only pushed the students to pass out even more stickers and Pride-themed bracelets up and down the bleachers. One of the football players, who is now a chair member for Shelly’s Voice, carried a rainbow flag onto the field when the team ran out. 

 

 

“We went into that football game and just started spreading our message,” Conover says. 

At the time, Conover thought that message was so positive no one would really challenge it. 

“I was mistaken,” he says.

After appearing on The Ellen Show in September and receiving a $25,000 donation from Shutterfly to help support the cause, the students of Shelly’s Voice were on a roll. They held a launch party in December, when Indiana Youth Group became their official fiduciary agent. Conover was at the height of his activism in the start of second semester, gathering letters to the Church and speaking with the media about the organization’s mission. Leaders at Roncalli had warned him to stop, but he didn’t want to keep quiet.

“To the administration,” he says, “I was being a little too loud.” 

In February 2019, Conover was called into a meeting for what he understood would be his last warning: Stop with the public statements, or don’t graduate. 

“They basically hung my diploma over my head for my silence,” he says.

And it worked. For the next three months, Conover didn’t want to jeopardize his chance to graduate and come to Butler in the fall. So he backed off, but he says staying silent was harder than being a voice for the LGBTQ community. 

“Your mental health can get so much worse when you aren’t able to advocate anymore,” Conover says. 

But through it all, Conover and Fitzgerald have been there for each other, reminding each other to always respond with kindness. 

“We’re not changing minds,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re changing hearts. And you can only change hearts by building relationships with people.” 

Almost a year after Fitzgerald lost her job, Indy’s Cathedral High School fired a gay teacher. To Fitzgerald, it was like ripping off a scab, and she started sharing some posts online that reflected her anger. 

One day that week when she was scheduled to meet with Conover and hadn’t replied to his emails, he sent her a text. 

Hey, are you mad? 

I’m okay. I just haven’t had time to respond to your message, she texted back.

No, Conover texted, I don’t mean mad at me. Just in general.

He went on to say that he’d noticed how her posts over those days had been different from normal, and he just wanted to remind her—like she had always reminded him—that they could only win with kindness.

As Conover starts at Butler with a major in Political Science, he’s looking forward to studying at a school that’s not only excited about his activism, but has recognized his work in Shelly’s Voice with a Morton-Finney Leadership Award. The scholarship, which Butler has been awarding for more than 20 years, honors students who have shown leadership in promoting diversity throughout their schools or communities. Receiving the award confirmed the commitment Conover first made to Butler when he saw the Efroymson Diversity Center during a campus visit at the beginning of his senior year. Looking into the room, he saw a sign with a message about Butler’s mission of inclusivity. 

He showed the sign to his mom and said, I think this is the place I want to be.

“I looked in that room, and at that moment I noticed that this University was somewhere I could be me,” he says. “It was a university that would be proud of what I was doing.” grad caps

During the 2019 graduation ceremony at Roncalli, Conover and a friend snuck in large stickers of the phrase “Jesus Loves All,” with the last word printed in rainbow. After taking their seats in the front row, they pulled out the decals and stuck them to their mortar boards—an act that reignited the advocacy Conover had let go for most of the semester. 

And he picked up right where he left off. Over the last year, Shelly’s Voice established PRISM, a gender and sexuality alliance for high school students on Indy’s south side. They’ve hosted trainings to teach people how to be supportive and accepting allies of the LGBTQ community. They’ve held a rally at the building for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. And just a few weeks ago, Conover had the chance to tell his own story—his full story—as the keynote speaker at a Los Angeles event for the Ariadne Getty Foundation, which had provided some legal and publicity guidance to Shelly’s Voice members earlier in the year. 

After describing his months of both speaking out and being silenced, he said he would never forget that late July day in L.A., when he was able to open up about the difficulties he faced while trying to spread a message of equality. 

“It is on this day,” he said to the crowd, “that I can finally say I feel both proud and safe to be doing what I’m doing.”

Fitzgerald says that even though she would love to share Conover with the world, she’s proud he decided to stay in Indianapolis. 

“Our community needs people like him,” she says. “And I really anticipate that Butler is going to be a place for him to thrive. He can be here and feel accepted. But even more than that, he can belong. He’s going to make a difference here—I promise.”

Shelly's Voice Advocacy Group
Unleashed

Changing Hearts with a Rainbow Sticker

When Shelly Fitzgerald lost her job for being married to a woman, Dominic Conover helped create 'Shelly's Voice.'

A New Perspective on Service

By Larry Clow

In the summer of 2018, Hannah Kelly got an up-close look at the life she might have led. She and her sister, Grace, were adopted from China as young children. After growing up in Lexington, Kentucky, the siblings were back in their home country for a week of volunteering with OneSky for All Children, a children’s home in Beijing.

Each day, Kelly and her sister walked from their lodgings to the orphanage, where they spent hours playing with the kids. Despite the barriers that came with differences in languages and age, Kelly and her sister developed a rapport with the children in the home.

“We made a strong connection with them just by giving them attention and love,” Kelly says. “It definitely gave me a different perspective on myself, too. I could see what my life is like versus what it could’ve been. Seeing how the culture is in China, and what those children have to deal with versus my life here, it caused me to take a step back.”

Making connections with others and learning to see the world—and herself—from different perspectives are two of the many reasons Kelly loves volunteer work. 

“Volunteering is fun, especially when you do it with friends,” Kelly says. Throughout high school, she volunteered at local food pantries, the Lexington Humane Society, and other organizations. “Helping out in the community is a really important thing to do. I definitely want to keep up my volunteering while at Butler and help out the Indianapolis community.”

It’s something she will continue to pursue during her time at Butler as part of the 2019-2020 class of Morton-Finney Leadership Program Scholars.

“I’m honored to be part of the Morton-Finney Leadership Program,” she says. “I’m excited to promote diversity and inclusion on campus, just as I did in high school. Dr. John Morton-Finney had an amazing legacy that I hope to honor and respect through my time here at Butler.”

Kelly believes her outlook is a great fit for Butler. She visited campus for Butler Business Day and Butler Scholars Day, where she was able to meet other Bulldogs and fall in love with the community.

“Butler was everything I wanted.”

Hannah Kelly
Unleashed

A New Perspective on Service

Volunteering at an orphanage in China helped Hannah Kelly see her own life in a different way.

Bringing Water to the World

By Cindy Dashnaw

Nine-year-old Madeline Hoskins-Cumbey stood in shock at the local food pantry. She had never known that chicken came in cans or mashed potatoes in a box. Where were the apples and green beans?

How could so many people be in need?

“I just remember thinking that these were people my family might know,” says the Butler University first-year student. “It was a wake-up call: ‘Hey, people need your help. You can’t just sit back and not do anything.’”

So, during a museum trip in seventh grade, Hoskins-Cumbey found herself at a booth for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She applied to join the organization, which works to make sure children have the resources they need to develop healthy habits, and she became the youngest member of the nonprofit Alliance’s youth advisory board. In this role, she has worked with schools, businesses, and communities to ensure that the places where children learn and play promote good health.

“The Alliance challenged us by asking, ‘What’s a problem in your community, and what can you do about it?’” Hoskins-Cumbey says. “I started with our elementary school and created a community garden. Then things really just grew from there.”

She recruited her brother for help, and they soon found themselves busy starting community gardens, volunteering at food pantries, and coordinating walks to bring water to remote villages. They even taught others how to help. Before Hoskins-Cumbey was even in eighth grade, a friend of her parents asked her to teach an eight-week summer class for younger kids.

“Of course, I said yes,” she laughed. “After a while, it just became easier to combine everything into one organization.”

That organization is SMART2bfit, formally launched by Madeline and Carter Hoskins-Cumbey at ages 9 and 6, respectively. The service-learning nonprofit is still going strong a decade later. SMART stands for Service, Multipurpose, Activity, Real hope, and Teaching.

Though they began with three main activities—camps, community gardens, and walks for water—they now focus on Walk4Water events, in which school, church, and community groups carry gallons of water on walks to raise funds for building wells in remote areas around the world.

Now in its 10th year, SMART2bfit has just completed its 10th well. In all, SMART2bfit has given 929 people access to water they never had before.

“It’s a very big milestone for me and my brother,” Hoskins-Cumbey says. “Our first project was for a tank extension in Kenya, and now we’re drilling actual wells. It’s so inspiring how water can completely change a community.”

She hasn’t been to visit any of the wells, but not for lack of desire.

“Because they’re in such remote locations,” she says, “we’d be able to drill three more wells for the cost of us to visit one, and we just can’t bring ourselves to spend the money like that.”

But if her educational and career plans work out, perhaps she’ll get closer to a well. Hoskins-Cumbey is starting this semester with a major in international business, and with a wish to enter the Peace Corps.

“I applied to 11 colleges,” she says. “Butler was the school I visited the most. The campus feels community-esque, the dorms are near each other so people can enjoy time with friends, and there are a lot of ways to get plugged in. I am looking forward to connecting with others who have similar interests, who know you can be business-minded and still be service-oriented.”

Hoskins-Cumbey believes that young people today are highly aware of social issues like climate change and the suffering of others, and they want to know how to help.

“It’s not so much that you do it because you need service hours,” she says. “I think people today are good at heart.”

And to make a difference, she says, you just need to start small.

“With time and effort and hard work—that’s how we got to where we are now,” she says.

Hoskins-Cumbey believes in a lifelong commitment to helping others.

“Sometimes as you get older,” she explains, “it becomes, ‘This isn’t my problem. I’ve done my part. The next generation will have to figure it out.’ But as a global community, we’re all in the same boat. One person’s impact cannot completely change patterns. A combined effort is where the most change will be seen.”

Madeline Hoskins-Cumbey
Unleashed

Bringing Water to the World

At 9 years old, Madeline Hoskins-Cumbey launched a movement to bring food and water to those in need.

Lambda Chi Alpha to Return to Butler This Fall
Student LifeCampus

Lambda Chi Alpha to Return to Butler This Fall

BY

PUBLISHED ON Aug 16 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Lambda Chi Alpha will return to Butler University’s campus this fall.

The fraternity will begin recruiting sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the fall, and then will participate in formal recruitment in January 2020.

“We are excited to rejoin the Butler community and are optimistic we will be a real asset to campus,” Lambda Chi Alpha’s international Director of Communications Tad Lichtenauer said. “Recruiting the right young men who are focused on academics, giving back, extracurriculars, and who understand the importance of leadership and service are what we are pushing.”

The international headquarters of Lambda Chi Alpha suspended the Butler chapter in January 2017 after a conduct review.

Lambda Chi Alpha will move to the former Tau Kappa Epsilon property in January 2021—they plan to tear down the existing house and build a new one. The former Lambda Chi Alpha house, located on Sunset Avenue, was sold to Butler by the fraternity’s housing corporation. The University has no plans for the property at this time.

“Butler emphasizes the holistic well-being of all students through BU Be Well,” said Butler’s Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross, III. “This was a perfect opportunity to bring back a fraternity that was a part of Butler’s community, while also underscoring our commitment to the high standards of academic and social integrity that we expect for all Greek organizations.”

"We are glad to hear they will be returning this semester," Interfraternity Council President and Butler senior Luke Rihm said. "We look forward to supporting Lambda Chi's founding class through this process."

Moving Lambda Chi Alpha into the former Tau Kappa Epsilon property will create synergy by being adjacent to other chapter houses located along Hampton Drive, Ross said.

“There continues to be significant student interest in Greek life at Butler, and fraternities and sororities contribute greatly to our robust student life,” he said. “I look forward to the positive contributions Lambda Chi Alpha will make to our campus community going forward.”

 

Media Contact:

Rachel Stern

Director of Strategic Communications

rstern@butler.edu

914-815-5656 (cell)

Lambda Chi Alpha to Return to Butler This Fall
Student LifeCampus

Lambda Chi Alpha to Return to Butler This Fall

Fraternity to start recruiting members in the fall, move to former Tau Kappa Epsilon property in January 2021

Aug 16 2019 Read more
The space designed to inspire collaboration between LSB and the business community is now open.
CampusCommunity

New Building for Lacy School of Business Ready to Serve Butler and Indy Community

BY

PUBLISHED ON Aug 14 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — The new building for Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business (LSB) is officially open.

After nearly two years of construction, the 110,000-square-foot building is now ready to serve a student population on the rise, along with the local, regional, and national business community.

The building is central to Butler’s 2020 strategic vision to make the University a leader in business, innovation, technology, and student-centered experiences that prepare graduates to pursue fulfilling careers and make a positive impact.

“It is a physical manifestation of a culture in which faculty and staff work in true partnerships with business leaders for the benefit of our students,” says LSB Dean Steve Standifird.

 

 

With a curriculum steeped in hands-on experience, adaptability, and student-faculty engagement, LSB has grown its enrollment by 60 percent in the last five years. As a result, the new building is about six times larger than the business school’s previous home in the Holcomb Building. LSB will serve 1,150 undergraduate business students this year.

The building will also be home to Butler’s Career and Professional Success office, which serves the entire Butler student body and includes the FirstPerson Interview Suite, featuring private interview rooms, work space, and a lounge for recruiters.

The $50 million building is complete, but fundraising efforts are ongoing as the University seeks to name the building. Support for the project has come from both the Butler community and beyond. Four of the top donors to date are not Butler graduates, but they invested due to their belief that LSB is making a strong impact on the Indianapolis business community. 

The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business, for example, connects local businesses with resources and advisors. And the Butler Business Consulting Group works directly with companies to solve business challenges.

The building will allow such partnerships to expand and will foster new program offerings, new centers, and new relationships with employers and business leaders. The Innovation Commons space, for example, was modeled after The Speak Easy spaces in Indianapolis and designed to facilitate collaborations between LSB and business community members. The new building’s cafe was added to encourage visitors to stay.

“Our goal was to create a space where there is no line between where the classroom ends and the business community begins,” Standifird says.

“Andre and Julia Lacy had an incredible philanthropic vision,” said Butler President James Danko. “They wanted to enrich learning experiences for young people; support experiential curricula that emphasize family-run businesses, innovation, and leading with integrity; and to invest in our city and state. We are honored to carry out the legacy they intended. I only wish they were here to see their vision come to fruition and to see how excited Butler students are about learning in this extraordinary new building.”

 

Media Contact:

Rachel Stern

Director of Strategic Communications

Butler University

rstern@butler.edu

914-815-5656

The space designed to inspire collaboration between LSB and the business community is now open.
CampusCommunity

New Building for Lacy School of Business Ready to Serve Butler and Indy Community

The space designed to inspire collaboration between LSB and the business community is now open.

Aug 14 2019 Read more
Two Butler professors explain what's going on in the trade relationship between the United States and China.
PeopleCommunity

Understanding the Trade War

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Aug 09 2019

When China weakens its currency, lowering the yuan’s value in comparison with the U.S. dollar, what exactly does that mean for America? It seems like the move would only damage the Chinese economy, right?

Even if the yuan’s sliding value does hurt China in some ways, says Butler University Professor of Economics Bill Rieber, it could be a strategic play in the ongoing trade war between China and the United States.

“And in the concept of a war,” Rieber says, “no one is really gaining.”

Rieber, an expert in international economics whose research focuses mostly on Asian economies, explains that a weaker Chinese currency means cheaper Chinese products. This seems appealing on the surface—American companies who trade with China can buy more for less money. And the savings trickle all the way down to consumers, who pay less for the final product.

But for businesses selling American-made goods, that competition can be hard to beat. Rieber says products might need to be priced cheaper than they would be otherwise, which essentially ends up lowering the wages of some American workers.

In response, President Donald Trump has placed tariffs on Chinese imports, trying to make these otherwise cheap goods less appealing. But China is playing the same game, Rieber explains. The nation’s recent decision to stop buying U.S. agricultural products threatens a vulnerable part of the American economy, which Rieber says could put a new kind of tension on Trump.

“It may be that [China is] trying to retaliate in those states that were big supporters of President Trump during the election,” he says. “They are trying to hurt agriculture in the Midwest.”

But Su-Mei Ooi, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Butler and an expert in U.S.-China relations, says we should be careful not to make assumptions about China’s adversarial intentions toward the U.S. Within her studies about the ways China is depicted within American political rhetoric, she’s found U.S. politicians and media outlets often villainize China in a way that exacerbates conflict between the two countries.

For example, Ooi’s research has analyzed whether China intentionally devalues its currency to give Chinese exports an unfair advantage and make it impossible for the U.S. to close the trade deficit it has with China. She says American leaders often frame it that way, painting China as “a cheat” in order to justify their own actions in the trade war. In the past, China has devalued the yuan to give Chinese goods a competitive advantage, but Ooi says this no longer holds true.

“There was a time when China was manipulating its currency,” she says, “but that has been long gone. In fact, more recently, economists have claimed that China’s currency is overvalued compared to similar economies.”

That’s because China’s government has been intervening in currency markets, buying and selling currencies in ways that have made the yuan’s value artificially high. This is the very opposite of what they are being accused of now, Ooi says. She explains that the yuan’s recent drop in value was actually an appropriate market response to the new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Villainized ideas about China within “popular imagination” have fueled a lot of unfounded anti-Chinese sentiment among Americans, Ooi says. And that’s what has helped U.S. leaders justify their actions in the trade war.

“There needs to be some kind of justification, right?” she says. “Some kind of rally around the flag effect to motivate people to suck up the costs of this trade war. And I think it’s the use of these kinds of tropes that perpetuate misunderstanding and allow the current administration to do that.”

Ooi explains that this political technique of “othering”—capitalizing on fear of difference to unite supporters—is nothing new. But she says within Trump’s presidency, it’s been a little more blatant, fueling long-held stereotypes about China.

“These are powerful assumptions that we hold that we don’t question,” she says. “‘Oh, of course China is a rival power and must want to dislodge us from our pedestal.’ But this may or may not be true—we are inferring China’s intentions from a deep-seated fear of our own decline.”

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

Two Butler professors explain what's going on in the trade relationship between the United States and China.
PeopleCommunity

Understanding the Trade War

Two Butler professors explain what's going on in the trade relationship between the United States and China.

Aug 09 2019 Read more
New Data Analytics Boot Camp
AcademicsCommunity

Butler University Launches Data Analytics Boot Camp in Partnership with Trilogy Education

BY

PUBLISHED ON Aug 07 2019

Indianapolis, IN (August 6, 2019) – Today, Butler University Executive Education announced the launch of a data analytics boot camp, in partnership with leading workforce accelerator Trilogy Education. Geared toward adult learners and working professionals, the Butler Executive Education Data Analytics Boot Camp teaches the analytical, technical, and teamwork skills necessary to become a proficient data professional.

The 24-week, part-time program begins November 19, 2019 and includes two, three-hour evening classes during the week (6:30 to 9:30 PM) and a four-hour class on Saturdays (10:00 AM to 2:00 PM). Enrollment is now open at bootcamp.butler.edu.

“Butler University Executive Education has partnered with Trilogy Education to help meet the ever-growing demand for data professionals in Indianapolis,” said William Gulley, Executive Director of Butler Executive Education. “Collectively, Butler University and Trilogy will aid students with rigorous, hands-on coursework, and an excellent support structure that will feed the city’s increasingly data-driven economy.”

The ability to create actionable insights from complex data sets has become a universal need across businesses in every industry. According to data from Burning Glass, Indianapolis employers struggled to fill more than 23,000 open roles in the last year alone requiring some level of data proficiency. Nationally, roles like data scientist, business analyst, and research analyst rank among the fastest-growing professions.

“The number of job openings in Indianapolis requiring data analytics skills was 53 percent higher in 2018 than the year before,” said Dan Sommer, CEO and Founder of Trilogy Education. “Butler University recognizes that this growth in demand is creating a gap between the skills companies need and the ability of Indianapolis’ workforce to supply those skills at scale. We’re excited to partner with Butler to help increase the city’s pipeline of data-savvy talent.”

Pairing Butler’s strengths with Trilogy’s market-driven data analytics curriculum offers students of the new program both the competence and confidence to succeed as data professionals. The program’s curriculum covers everything from data programming to data storytelling and helps students build proficiency in technologies like Excel, Tableau, Python, Pandas, SQL, MongoDB, JavaScript, basic machine learning, and more.

In addition to classroom instruction, students will spend a minimum of 20 hours a week on outside projects, homework, and experiential learning activities, ranging from visualizing bike sharing data in Indianapolis to mapping worldwide earthquakes in real-time. They’ll build a professional project portfolio to showcase their abilities and hone their competitive edge in the employment market. Students will also receive a range of career-planning services, portfolio reviews, recruiting assistance, and extensive staff support.

Boot Camp students will gain the knowledge and skills to conduct robust analytics on real-world problems and receive a Certificate in Data Analytics from Butler Executive Education.

 

Apply Now

To learn more about the Butler Executive Education Data Analytics Boot Camp, visit bootcamp.butler.edu. You can apply online or by calling (317) 210-2385.

 

About Butler University Executive Education

Butler University Executive Education offers custom in-person development, and online certificate programs, to both individuals and businesses seeking to expand their knowledge to meet the rapidly changing needs of today’s business environment. Executive Education’s programs are built around what organizations want their employees to learn, and what skill-sets individuals need to advance their careers. For more information, visit https://www.butler.edu/executive-education.

 

About Trilogy Education

Trilogy Education, a 2U, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: TWOU), is a workforce accelerator that empowers the world’s leading universities to prepare professionals for high-growth careers in the digital economy. Trilogy’s intensive, skills-based training programs bridge regional talent gaps in coding, data analytics, UX/UI, and cybersecurity in more than 50 markets around the globe. Thousands of working adults have successfully completed Trilogy-powered programs, and more than 2,500 companies—ranging from startups to the Fortune 500—employ them.

New Data Analytics Boot Camp
AcademicsCommunity

Butler University Launches Data Analytics Boot Camp in Partnership with Trilogy Education

Offers part-time professional data analytics program in Indianapolis beginning November 19  

Aug 07 2019 Read more
For the second year in a row, Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.
AcademicsCampus

Butler Makes Princeton Review’s ‘The Best 385 Colleges’ For Second Straight Time

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 06 2019

For the second year in a row, Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.

Butler is again included in the 2020 annual The Best 385 Colleges guidebook, which showcases the schools Princeton Review recommends to college applicants. Only about 13 percent of the country’s 3,000 four-year colleges and universities are profiled in The Best 385 Colleges, which is one of the company’s most popular guides.

“We chose the 385 colleges for this edition as our ‘best’ overall, academically based on data we gathered in 2018-19 from more than 1,000 school administrators about their schools’ academic programs and offerings,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Editor-in-Chief and lead author of the book.

In Butler’s two-page profile in the book, students highlighted the impressive student-to-faculty ratio, the willingness of professors to collaborate with students on research, and the vast study abroad offerings.

Students said innovative technology is continually being introduced into the classroom, professors are willing to support student ideas and modify lectures to support student interests, and most coursework and internships provide real-life experiences.

“Different majors have inventive requirements and classes: some science classes have semester-long research projects; one class participated in a simulated village while studying modern China; while the business school has a Real Business Experience course,” the guidebook says.

Students highlighted the welcoming and accepting student body, along with the inclusive Butler culture.

The best 385 colleges are not ranked hierarchically. Published annually since 1992, the book features detailed descriptions of each college, including admission and graduation rates, as well as excerpts from surveys of students and graduates.

For the second year in a row, Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.
AcademicsCampus

Butler Makes Princeton Review’s ‘The Best 385 Colleges’ For Second Straight Time

Students highlight experiential learning, study abroad offerings, innovation, and inclusive culture.

Aug 06 2019 Read more
Academics

Make That ‘Dr.’ Physician Assistant, Please

BY Cindy Dashnaw

PUBLISHED ON Aug 01 2019

U.S. News & World Report ranks Butler University’s current master’s degree program for physician assistants (MPAS) as 37th in the nation, up 60 spots in just six years. Now, starting in January 2020, the University will add to this success and expand its PA offerings with the launch of a post-professional PA doctorate degree where every credit is earned online—one of only five in the nation. Butler’s new Doctor of Medical Science (DMS) degree program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

DMS Director Dr. Jennifer Snyder ’97 knows better than most how much PAs need this opportunity, especially via the convenience of online access.

Snyder graduated from Butler’s bachelor’s PA program and has worked in both family and emergency medicine. She said PAs have the full confidence of the patients they treat—but not necessarily of the practice managers and hiring professionals responsible for filling higher positions.

“When we investigated offering this degree, we discovered through focus groups that PAs are missing out on promotions and leadership positions because decision-makers assume that those holding doctorates are more qualified,” Snyder says.

Butler’s DMS program will give PAs the doctoral degree they need, along with business acumen to advance in leadership within their institutions or clinics. Additionally, it will give PAs an opportunity to critically evaluate medical literature and benefit those still in clinical practice who simply want to extend their medical knowledge to better serve their patients.

The module-based curriculum allows students to enter into the program at any one of six starting points in the academic calendar. And the online structure of the program, with no required campus residency, means that students can take classes in a way that best suits their schedule.

 

Same Butler rigor, easier access

Butler’s DMS program is a natural evolution of its MPAS degree, developed with the same rigor and quality. Both she and Erin Vincent, Director of Academic Program Development, say living up to Butler’s reputation of educational excellence is paramount.

Vincent points to the structure and success of Butler’s latest online degree program, Master of Science in Risk and Insurance (butler.edu/msri), launched last year.

“Butler faculty is and has been brainstorming ways to creatively address the future of higher education across campus,” Vincent says. “We’re hoping to launch several more graduate programs very soon. The MSRI and the DMS are the start of a great, strong portfolio of advanced degrees at Butler University.”

Individuals are eligible to apply for the DMS program if they have earned an entry-level PA degree from an accredited program and have either a license to practice medicine or hold a national certification from the NCCPA.

Academics

Make That ‘Dr.’ Physician Assistant, Please

Online advanced degree for physician assistants to launch January 2020.

Aug 01 2019 Read more
Grant signing ceremony on July 23
UnleashedCommunity

Two Butler Professors Receive Grant for National 10-Year Study

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Aug 01 2019

Through a partnership with the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), two Butler University professors are helping mothers stay informed.

Eileen Taylor, an Instructor in Communication and Media Studies, first started working with Associate Professor of Sociology Krista Cline about five years ago. After meeting at a Brown Bag Series event where Cline presented her research on the unattainable expectations mothers often face, the two women—one from the College of Communication and the other from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences—saw a chance to combine their expertise on a shared project.

Their initial research included a survey of the moms of high school student athletes within the state of Indiana, with the goal of understanding moms’ perspectives of their children’s participation in extracurricular activities. Now, a $361,007, ten-year longitudinal grant from Indianapolis-based membership organization NFHS will allow them to expand that research nationwide.

Cline, who has studied various kinds of role strain, says even mothers with full-time jobs usually cover most responsibilities at home. When a child is involved in activities outside the classroom, that can add even more strain.

“As I became a parent myself,” Cline says, “I started to recognize that the literature out there that says, ‘We put all these expectations onto moms, especially working moms,’ is true. We expect them to give 100 percent at home, and we expect them to give 100 percent at work, and those two worlds can’t merge.”

The original research, which Cline and Taylor plan to publish soon, focused on the roles mothers usually serve in high school athletics and how mothers felt about themselves as a result of that involvement. Also, did moms believe participation in athletics benefited their children?

Yes, according to responses from nearly 450 mothers across the state. And beyond just the competencies and education these activities create for students (such as team-building or problem-solving), most mothers loved the chance to get involved and watch their children grow. That’s called role enhancement: when mom’s felt like they were doing something good for their kids by getting them involved in sports.

Other moms, however, felt a sense of role strain. These parents felt like their kids’ extracurricular participation created too much to balance, especially when it came to time and finances. They often felt unsupported and uninformed. That’s where Taylor and Cline’s new research is expected to come in.

By learning more about the experience of mothers, this study will provide insight on how to better communicate with and support them. Why do some moms of high school athletes feel role strain? What information do they need? How can NFHS, which works to develop and standardize high school sports and performing arts organizations across the country, collaborate with mothers to provide more support for whole families?

 

On July 23, leaders and students from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) gathered on Butler University's campus to celebrate the organization's partnership with professors Eileen Taylor and Krista Cline. They signed a $361,007-grant, which will fund a national study of mothers' experiences regarding their high school students' participation in extracurricular activities.

 

Throughout the study, the researchers will follow the perspectives of mothers from the start of their student-athletes’ freshman year though the end of their first 90 days in the workforce following high school or college.

Drawing on Taylor and Cline’s research over the next 10 years, NFHS members plan to develop a better system for communicating with mothers, who they hope will become a point of messaging for the NFHS within every household. The organization will also use the research as evidence of the benefits of participation in high school extracurricular activities, and they hope to go through mothers to educate student athletes about the reasoning behind rules and academic requirements. This should help improve relationships between parents and athletic officials, as well as make sure families have all the necessary information to make informed decisions about their students’ futures.

For example, when Taylor’s first child played football in high school, she didn’t find out until the end of his last season that athletic scholarships for college have academic eligibility requirements. While most mothers in the initial research did know about these requirements, Taylor says many didn’t understand quite how competitive those athletic scholarships are. She hopes the system this research helps create will help mothers make more informed decisions when encouraging their kids to play sports, spreading the understanding that while athletic scholarships might be tough to get, sports teach valuable skills that students will take into college and beyond.

Taylor explained that the focus on mothers came from the idea that, when it comes to high school athletics, fathers are often involved in more obvious ways. Moms, on the other hand, tend to be part of a “silent organization” that’s involved in more nuanced ways: transportation, food preparation, laundry, and so on.

“Mothers are kind of the biggest pieces of their children’s extracurricular athletic lives in high school,” Cline says. “Oftentimes, they’re the ones getting their kids to practices and games. They’re the ones putting the money in for their kids to participate. But they are often overlooked.”

Based on the idea that moms tend to be the closest and most consistent messengers to students, Taylor and Cline want to help make sure athletic officials include moms in more intentional, valuable ways.

“It’s research of moms, by moms, with diversity of perspective,” Taylor says.

Grant signing ceremony on July 23
UnleashedCommunity

Two Butler Professors Receive Grant for National 10-Year Study

Eileen Taylor and Krista Cline to research benefits of high school extracurriculars through perspectives of mothers

Aug 01 2019 Read more
Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.
Arts & CultureCommunity

Butler Prof: ‘Local Newspapers Near Crisis Point’

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 30 2019

To understand media mergers like the proposed one between Gannett and GateHouse Media, Nancy Whitmore says “you need to understand the state newspapers are in. And it is a sad state.”

Whitmore, a Professor of Communication at Butler University, explains that mergers are often meant to help papers hold on long enough to figure out a more permanent business model for surviving the digital age. In the time when local print papers provided the main source of information, advertising dollars were key. Now, as most of that money goes to big technology companies such as Google and Facebook, more newspapers have tried to hold their ground with funding from subscriptions. Whitmore says this model mostly works for larger national outlets, but local newspapers struggle to convert readers into digital subscribers.

So mid-sized and smaller papers are “really in a tight spot.” Gannett and GateHouse both focus on these sorts of local outlets.

Horizontal mergers between similar companies can help save money, often by combining and sharing human resources, editing, design, and printing teams. The combined company would also be able to boast a more widespread audience—a draw for advertisers looking to reach the most people.

But good journalism will still be expensive, and combining companies usually means cutting jobs. Whitmore says it’s hard to tell how many layoffs a Gannett-GateHouse merger could cause, since most local newsrooms are already spread thin, but some job cuts would be likely. And there would be consequences.

“I think we are almost at a crisis point here,” she says. “If you’re not getting local journalism, you are losing the independent voice that is monitoring those in power.”

According to Pew Research Center, the number of Americans working in the newspaper industry has been slashed almost in half since the early 2000s. Wages are down, closures are up, and many of the papers that survive have started to publish less frequently.

While mergers and acquisitions can keep some struggling outlets on their feet, about 1,300 communities in the United States have lost local newspaper coverage altogether.

Whitmore says ethical concerns sometimes surround the idea of big companies owning so many media outlets, but a financial need to merge for the survival of local journalism might start to outweigh those worries. Plus, since GateHouse and Gannett own mostly local papers that aren’t in direct competition with one another, Whitmore says combining the two companies might not raise regulatory concerns.

“But mergers are expensive,” she goes on to explain, “and they don’t always work out well. You’ve got different cultures—different ways of doing things. It’s not always smooth sailing.” 

Whitmore predicts that, if anything holds back a merger between Gannett and GateHouse, it will probably be the financing. Given the already-dismal state of local outlets, she’s not sure a deal can be done. But for the sake of local newspapers, she hopes it works.

Because without journalism, even at the most local level, Whitmore says communities will be left vulnerable to “people in power doing unseemly things.”

 

Nancy Whitmore (Professor of Communication at Butler University) specializes in research and teaching about the laws, ethics, and economics surrounding the media industry.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell) 

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.
Arts & CultureCommunity

Butler Prof: ‘Local Newspapers Near Crisis Point’

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.

Jul 30 2019 Read more

Alum Works to Create ‘Next Big Thing in Solar Power’

By Larry Clow

When Dan Kroupa ’12 walked into Professor Todd Hopkins’ chemistry research lab 11 years ago, he realized for the first time that his passion for science and chemistry could lead to a career. But he didn’t know that such a career would prompt him to tackle one of the most pressing issues in history—or that it would earn him accolades from Forbes Magazine.

Kroupa, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, was recently named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” list for his work on next-generation solar energy technology.

“We’re developing entirely new semiconductor materials that enhance, and could one day replace, current solar absorbers,” he says.

The technology that Kroupa is working on will make today’s solar cells more efficient and easier to produce. The sun is a tremendous source of energy: According to Kroupa, the solar energy that hits the earth in less than two hours contains more power than all the energy humans consume in a year.

The problem is that solar energy is diffuse. Current commercial solar technology doesn’t capture as much of the solar spectrum as it could, and producing solar panels is capital-intensive. While the cost to produce solar panels is declining, Kroupa says panels will need to become even cheaper and more efficient before they’ll be widely adopted.

“Silicon absorbers make up 90 percent of the market. These things are extremely expensive to make and fabricate, and kind of big and rigid. We need to have a very vast amount of solar cells deployed to capture a sufficient amount of that solar radiation,” Kroupa explains. But the results would be worth it. “If we could harvest just a small fraction of solar radiation, we’d be set for a long time.”

Kroupa’s research has found an answer to both challenges through something called quantum cutting. As part of the process, a layer of perovskite (a compound made from common elements) is applied to a silicon solar cell. That coating, applied via a special ink, manipulates the sunlight so that the solar cell can more easily absorb it and convert it into electricity.

“We’re taking high-energy solar photons and converting them into multiple lower-energy photons,” Kroupa says. “It’s a fancy way of saying that we’re getting two-for-one. And if we apply that coating on the surface of the solar cell, we can see improved performance.”

It was Butler that helped guide Kroupa to cutting-edge solar technology research.

“Butler was where I saw that I could apply this unique skill set to solving specific big problems, and one of the areas that I saw could use help was solar energy conversion,” he says. The University is also where he met his wife, Madalyn (Menor) Kroupa ’12, and developed the leadership skills he now uses to guide researchers in the laboratory.

After graduating from Butler, Kroupa earned his PhD at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he worked on next-generation solar technology as a researcher at the federal National Renewable Energy Lab.

The scope of renewable energy projects can be large, and the stakes are high. With so many pressing problems, it can be challenging to remain optimistic while plugging away in the lab. The key, Kroupa says, is to keep things in perspective—and to make a list of what you can accomplish each day.

“The idea is to look at the big picture, but develop a plan for the things you can do to start chipping away at the problem,” he says. “You need to focus on the important things to accomplish for your specific problem while keeping an eye on what you’re working toward. Everything we do in the lab is driven by that.”

Being named to the Forbes list was “exciting,” Kroupa says. “It was the first validation that what we’re trying to do as a company might be a good idea. Getting on the list definitely raised our company profile a little bit. As a startup, you’re always looking for credibility, so any way you can demonstrate that external validation is good.”

Kroupa’s research is being spun off into a private company, BlueDot Photonics, where he is the Chief Technology Officer. There are plenty of challenges ahead, as Kroupa and his team work on refining the technology, finding investors, and determining the best way to bring their product to market. But, he’s optimistic. “It’s going to be the next big thing in solar power,” he says. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to scale it up and prove it out.”

Dan Kroupa ’12 named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” for research on more efficient solar cell
UnleashedAlumni Outcomes

Alum Works to Create ‘Next Big Thing in Solar Power’

Dan Kroupa ’12 named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” for research on more efficient solar cell

Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet.
PeopleCommunity

Global Warming? Climate Change? How do we talk about what’s happening? Butler prof looks to set the rhetoric record straight

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet. All of them want to tell the world how bad things will get if we don’t take better care of our Earth. The thing is, not all of them have the right words to make people listen.

An English Professor at Butler University, Reeves studies how climate scientists communicate with one another, with policy makers, and with the public about their research findings. While not a climate scientist herself, she teaches courses about the rhetoric and language of science. Through working with students on how to talk about climate change, as well as through interviewing climate scientists over the past several years, Reeves has learned about the nuanced challenges scientists often face in discussing their research.

“In science, you don’t talk about absolute facts: You talk about evidence,” Reeves says. “But normal people listen to dramatic claims. They have trouble getting that we have loads of evidence from research to support that we are heading into a really terrible time if we don’t do anything about it. We are going to have more extremes, more heat waves and draughts, more heavy rains, more wildfires, and stronger hurricanes.”

Reeves says we might view this summer’s heat waves as a sort of “test run” for what climate scientists are warning about the future, and how that heat will continue to affect us.

“Extreme and prolonged high temperatures place an enormous burden on communities and citizens, especially the most vulnerable,” she says. “If you’re wealthy enough to be sitting in your cooled home, you may dismiss this very clear sign of climate change. But if you’re poor, or if you have to work outdoors, you probably wish someone would get to work on the problem.”

Starting in 2008, Reeves decided to start conducting interviews with climate scientists to gain more background for the unit of her class that discusses climate change. She focused on those scientists involved in writing climate assessment reports for the United Nations—reports that analyze where the climate is now, and what will probably happen in the future. These scientists also look at how climate change is already affecting the Earth, and they build recommendations for what humans can do to help.

Researchers see a stark future in the data, but they struggle to spread the word. Reeves says policy makers and members of the public often misunderstand the concept of climate change, especially the way scientists talk about it. This has caused climatologists to sometimes disagree among themselves about what kind of language to use when sharing their research.

“You have a set of data,” she says, “but you have to write about that data, and you have to decide how strong your language is going to be.”

Reeves explains that scientists need to balance the ethical responsibility to stay within their data with their desire to help the public understand.

“It is a tenuous balance between explaining the science in a simple and clear way without simplifying and over-stating,” she says.

But it doesn’t matter what the studies show if people don’t want to think about the future. Scientists want to convince the population that, even though we are facing so many other problems, we need to put climate change at the top of the list. They just aren’t sure how.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu 

260-307-3403 (cell)

PeopleCampus

New Faces, New Mission: Diversity Center Gets a Makeover

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

The Efroymson Diversity Center is undergoing some cosmetic changes. 

The Center is getting a fresh paint job. Old books—like ones on how to update a resume using Word Perfect—are being removed and replaced with new ones. Dry erase boards, comfortable furniture, and communal spaces are in the works, along with an expanded prayer and meditation room.

But the physical transformation happening in Butler University’s Atherton Union is far from the only shift the Diversity Center has been experiencing over the last few months. With three new staff members and a brand new mission, the Center, known around campus as the DC, is ready for a makeover of different sorts. Instead of being largely viewed as just a physical space with a fixed location, the Center has set out to make its presence felt all around campus and the wider Indianapolis community. 

“We are mobile,” emphasizes Tiffany Reed, the new Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.

In the spring, Student Affairs conducted a study of the DC and its programs, including an outside consultant, feedback from more than 600 students, and stakeholders from more than 20 departments across campus. Three main themes emerged: They needed to address the physical space, increase outreach, and staff hired must be up to date on best practices when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The physical transformation is underway. Three new hires have been made. And outreach is just one item on the Center’s long list of goals.

“Butler’s founding mission was focused on diversity and inclusivity,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross, who led the DC study. “Given Ovid Butler and his role as an abolitionist who propagated the need for education for all, and access to education, it is imperative that we continue to work and strive to create conditions where all students can be successful and all students can thrive. The Diversity Center is critical to that mission. It is a hub for learning outside the classroom. It helps as we work to create and sustain an intentionally inclusive campus environment.”

The first key to bringing the mission to life was hiring three new faces of the DC. In addition to Reed, Gina Forrest, who served as interim Director of the Center since February after longtime Director Valerie Davidson retired, has been named Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Thalia Anguiano has been named Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.

Forrest will primarily focus on partnering with others across campus to enhance the student experience through diversity, equity, and inclusion. She will work closely with students, staff, and faculty, facilitating new workshops and trainings on how to have crucial conversations. Forrest will also look beyond campus, working to create meaningful partnerships throughout the wider Indianapolis area. She will consider the resources Butler provides to its students, as well as how the University responds to bias incidents, for example, to ensure appropriate support.

“This work is so much more encompassing than the actual Center,” Forrest says. “We want diversity, equity, and inclusion to be part of the University’s identity. By having all these different initiatives happening in tandem, it becomes proactive work, not just a reactive thing we say we are doing.” 

Reed will work collaboratively with faculty, and the Office of Admission to hone in on student success and retention. Reed will focus on being intentional about supporting students. 

For example, this year’s Dawg Days 2.0, which strives to create a welcoming environment and provide connections, resources, and programs for students who are underrepresented at Butler, will include a wider range of students, such as first-generation students, 21st century scholars, multicultural students, students of color, and LGBTQ students. 

“It is important to create intentional spaces for students of color, or for the LBGTQ community, but it is also important for spaces to intersect because many of our students are also first generation or biracial. They want to know how they fit in at a predominantly white institution,” says Reed, who as a student at IUPUI often studied and hung out at Butler’s Diversity Center because IUPUI didn’t have one.

Because of her experiences at IUPUI—fighting to get a Diversity Center of their own as an undergraduate and seeing firsthand how helpful it was to have a space on Butler’s campus—she also hopes to create partnerships with other universities. 

Reed has also been busy revamping the mentorship program, now dubbed the DC Squad. It will be much more robust, encouraging ongoing relationships instead of having mentors meet with their mentees just once or twice a semester. 

Anguiano will focus on programming and working with the student organizations that are housed in the DC. 

“I plan on challenging our student orgs within the Center to work much more collaboratively with one another to enhance dialogue and bring different perspectives from different lenses,” she says. “If it is Hispanic Heritage month, we might look at what it means to be Latinx and part of the LGBTQ community. We want to encompass different identities and bring more collaboration.”

As much as their roles differ, they will all work as one unit, striving to bring the mission of the DC to all parts of Butler’s campus, and beyond.

The Center’s physical space might be getting a new makeover, but in reality, if everything is working, the DC will be traveling to a building near you soon, collaborating with faculty across campus, visiting classrooms, partnering in many different ways.

“The goal is for you to feel connected to the DC as a collective unit,” Reed says. “It is about utilizing all of our different powers to move the space beyond this space. For us, the Center could be in Jordan Hall, a residence hall, a sorority house. We want it to travel wherever it is needed. That’s the ultimate goal around diversity, equity, and inclusion. That way we are reaching everyone.”

PeopleCampus

New Faces, New Mission: Diversity Center Gets a Makeover

Butler's Diversity Center has three new staff members, and a brand new mission. 

Jul 22 2019 Read more
$41.4 million raised in fiscal year 2019
GivingCommunity

Generous Donors Drive a Banner Fundraising Year for Butler

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 19 2019

Fiscal year 2019 was a banner year for philanthropy at Butler University, with 15,823 generous graduates and friends contributing $41.4 million, representing the second highest fundraising total in the past 10 years. The gifts will bolster academic programs, enhance student life initiatives, and support Butler Athletics, cementing Butler’s status as the No. 1 regional university in the Midwest, a distinction made this year in U.S. News & World Report’s Best College Rankings.

The new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business (LSB) was one of the fiscal year’s landmark achievements. Twelve Founders Circle donor families each made $1 million gifts to lead the fundraising effort, which has totaled more than $21 million to support construction of the building. The atrium of the new building will be named in honor of these donors’ visionary investment in Butler’s future and the lives of future business students.

On June 7, the University marked another milestone as the Board of Trustees approved a $100 million renovation and expansion of Butler’s sciences complex. With the help of generous lead donors, more than $27 million has already been raised toward the total $42 million fundraising goal. Butler will hold a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project this fall, but work is beginning immediately.

In another major infrastructure project this year, Butler announced a second phase of renovations to Hinkle Fieldhouse estimated to cost $10.5 million. To date, $10.1 million of that total has been raised through generous philanthropic support. The renovations began in May and will include enhancements to the Efroymson Family Gym and the men’s soccer locker room. The installation of an HVAC system will provide air conditioning for the main court, the concourses, and the Efroymson Family Gym.

Butler’s most dedicated donors also were recognized during the fiscal year. In September, the University celebrated the launch of the inaugural Carillon Society, which honors individuals who have made cumulative gifts of $100,000. The celebration inducted 248 honorees into the Carillon Society—representing more than $73 million in philanthropic support that has impacted nearly every corner of the University. Additionally, eight new plaques were unveiled on Cornerstone Plaza, recognizing the generosity of those whose cumulative giving has reached $1 million or more.

“This level of generosity demonstrates the incredible loyalty of our alumni, faculty, staff, and community, and the commitment we share to advancing Butler’s mission of providing the highest quality liberal arts education,” says Butler President James Danko. “Philanthropic support helps us to more effectively advance integrated learning in business, science, innovation, and technology. We are grateful for the many partners who have placed their trust in Butler and invested in the lives of our students with their gifts.”

Butler employees showed significant generosity this year, providing gifts totaling $1,042,196 from 599 faculty and staff donors, up from 424 faculty and staff donors in FY18 and 349 in FY17. This total indicates 59 percent of full-time Butler employees made a gift to the University in FY19 in a powerful demonstration of support for the institution’s mission and vision.

Butler’s annual Day of Giving marked its fourth year in record-setting fashion. The University raised $311,183—a 159 percent increase from its inaugural year in FY16. Of special note, this year’s Day of Giving raised $21,899 for the Butler Emergency Assistance Fund, which provides gift assistance to students with short-term, unforeseen financial hardships that might impact their academic success at the University. The Fund was a new initiative in FY19 that has already provided assistance to 16 students thanks to donor support.

“Exciting things are happening at Butler, and we’re grateful to the donors and community partners who have come alongside us this year with their support and enthusiasm,” says Jonathan Purvis, Vice President for University Advancement. “Philanthropic partners are making a difference in the lives of our students every day by establishing scholarships, providing resources for our outstanding faculty, investing in state-of-the-art facilities, and supporting community partnerships that enrich student learning. Butler donors are absolutely integral to our students’ success and the impact we make in the community.”

Photo by Mike Dickbernd
UnleashedCommunity

Brain Club Fights Stigma of Mental Illness

BY Larry Clow

PUBLISHED ON Jul 19 2019

In her classroom at Riley Hospital for Children, Sara Midura ‘16, MS ‘20 sets aside Fridays for one of her students’ favorite activities: Brain Club.

The Educational Liaison for Riley’s Simon Skjodt Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit, Midura works with children and teens coming out of behavioral health crises. It’s often a scary, uncertain time for the kids. That’s where Brain Club comes in.

In the hour-long weekly sessions, psychologists help students develop dialectical and cognitive behavioral therapy-based skills to cope with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

“It’s a lot easier to talk about your brain and how it functions rather than say, ‘I have anxiety,’” Midura says. Brain Club teaches students how to remove the stigma from their diagnoses. Issues such as eating disorders or suicidal thoughts aren’t personal failings—just different things a person’s brain can do. And with the right kind of coping skills, students can respond to life’s difficulties in healthier ways.

Midura can see the relief on students’ faces after Brain Club. “It makes things less vulnerable for them,” she says.

Midura’s path to teaching and working with youth at Riley was “like divine intervention,” she says—with a little help from Butler’s College of Education faculty. Midura always knew she wanted to be an educator, but she thought she’d be an elementary school teacher in a more traditional classroom setting. She says Lecturer Theresa Meyer pushed her to get a special education certification.

“She literally cornered me at an event and said, ‘I cannot believe you’re not getting your special education certification. You have to!’” Midura recalls. It was during one of Meyer’s classes that Midura first visited Riley Hospital, and from there, her career path took shape.

“Everything opened up,” she says. “It was really clear that was where I wanted to be. I was lucky to be able to student-teach there. I can remember all the classes and things I learned at Butler, but it was really the people who changed me, supported me, and made me think bigger.”

Any given day might find Midura working one-on-one with students, advising parents on how to help their children transition back to school, or providing teachers and schools with the tools to help students succeed once they’re back in the classroom. She also collaborates with physicians, psychologists, behaviorists, and social workers on treatment plans.

But like for many teachers, Midura’s most rewarding moments come from the students.

“The kids are obviously the best part of my job,” she says. “They teach me so much, and their resilience is really incredible. The biggest challenge is the time—I love forming those relationships with kids and their teachers, but it’s hard to support both in the way they truly need in the limited time I have with them.”

That support for students and teachers is crucial, and it has informed Midura’s approach to her work.

In the past, teachers in Midura’s role focused mainly on academics, helping students keep up with missed school work. But now, Midura concentrates on long-term solutions. Her work has attracted some positive attention, making her a top-25 finalist for Indiana Teacher of the Year 2019. She has also collaborated with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a hospital system in Portland, Oregon, to build a framework that helps teachers support students who are coming back to school following treatment in behavioral health units.

“One week of missing school is not going to be as detrimental as not setting students up with a long-term plan, or making sure the people in their lives understand what they need,” she says. “And if we’re expecting parents to follow a treatment plan, we have to give that same information to teachers because it’s the only way kids will be able to change their behavior and build up their resiliency.”

And that’s Midura’s ultimate goal. Among the many challenges that come with facing a mental health crisis, one of the most difficult is a feeling of powerlessness. It’s especially true for children and teens, Midura says, but the work she does at Riley “gives them their power back. And that’s huge.”

 

Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Photo by Mike Dickbernd
UnleashedCommunity

Brain Club Fights Stigma of Mental Illness

At Riley Hospital, Sara Midura works with students coming out of behavioral health crises.

Jul 19 2019 Read more
Bob Jones
People

Old National Bank’s Bob Jones Joins Butler’s Lacy School of Business

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18 2019

Bob Jones, Chairman of Old National Bank, will join Butler University’s Lacy School of Business as a Senior Advisor of Ethical Leadership, the University announced.

In this role, Jones will be a part of the school's leadership team, as well as a mentor to students, faculty, and staff. He will hold office hours, present in classes, and advise the Dean. The only previous Senior Advisor in the school was Andre B. Lacy.

“We expect that by having Bob as part of our team, he will, in the most positive way, force us to be a better version of ourselves,” Dean Steve Standifird said. “He will force us to think deeply about who we are and what we want to accomplish.”

Jones joined Old National Bank in 2004, and continues as Chairman of the Board. Under Jones' leadership, Old National Bank was recognized as a leader in ethics, equality and impact by the Ethisphere Institute, Bloomberg, and VolunteerMatch. In 2016, Old National was recognized as one of the Best Banks to Work for. Jones has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business News, CNBC, and Bloomberg Television, as a spokesperson for Old National and community banking.  

Jones serves on the boards of the University of Evansville, Riley Children’s Foundation, ABA’s American Bankers Council Chair, and International City/County Management Association-Retirement Corporation (ICMA-RC). He served on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Board of Directors, where he was a member of its Executive Committee and Chaired the Audit Committee.  

“I am honored to become part of the Lacy School of Business team,” Jones said. “I have long admired the work of Dean Standifird. I deeply appreciate his vision for the school and aligning it with a focus on ethical leadership.”

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels presented Jones with the Sagamore of the Wabash award and the Distinguished Hoosier Award. Jones was inducted into the Evansville Regional Business Hall of Fame and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Hall of Fame. Jones was also appointed by Governor Eric Holcomb to serve on the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission. He also serves on the Second Curve Capital Advisory Board.

Jones brings to Butler a depth of knowledge and experience about how to create an ethical organization, Standifird says.

“This is an approach to leadership that is highly consistent with the Butler Way and will add significant value to our students, faculty, and business partners,” he says.  

Bob Jones
People

Old National Bank’s Bob Jones Joins Butler’s Lacy School of Business

Bob Jones, Chairman of Old National Bank, joins the Lacy School of Business as Senior Advisor of Ethical Leadership.

Jul 18 2019 Read more
Tom Pieciak performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.
Arts & CulturePeople

In The Moment: Butler Summer Institute Student Explores Spirituality Through Jazz

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18 2019

Tom Pieciak ‘21 can’t explain why he loves jazz. He just knows it makes him feel good.

To him, the genre is more than music. It’s a raw, organic expression of humanity, but perhaps it’s even more than that. For Pieciak, jazz is spirituality.

After watching Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary during his sophomore year at Butler University, Pieciak discovered this wasn’t uncommon.

“I saw how deeply spiritual his music was,” Pieciak says about the jazz saxophonist.

At the time, he was trying to decide which project to pursue during the 2019 Butler Summer Institute (BSI). The Jazz Studies major knew he wanted to research something relating to music, and he had been long fascinated with existential questions and philosophical topics, already starting to connect the two interests.

“It makes music an even more emotional experience for me,” he says of how philosophy affects his trumpet playing. “I really feel like what I’m doing is beyond me: I’m simply a vessel for this kind of creativity.”

After a meeting with Matthew Pivec, an Associate Professor of Music at Butler and Pieciak’s BSI faculty mentor, the two agreed there was something in the intersection between jazz and spirituality. For his project over the last two months, Pieciak interviewed musicians and listened to recordings to study why and how the genre can inspire such a spiritual experience. He also asked what it even means to be spiritual—how people express spirituality in different ways, and whether you can be spiritual without being religious.

Pieciak first started playing jazz in high school, when he fell in love with the freedom the style offers. So far in his research, he’s found it’s that space for creativity that might help set jazz apart when it comes to spiritual expression. He says the improvisatory nature of jazz—the room it grants for living in the moment—is similar to how humans handle spirituality.

“Within jazz,” Pieciak says, “I like to think that when I’m really in the element, I’m connecting myself to this bigger purpose.”

 

During the 2019 Butler Summer Institute, from May 19 - July 19, rising junior Tom Pieciak studied the power of jazz music to be a vehicle for spiritual expression. Pieciak feels this connection in his own music. Here, he performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.

 

Now, he and the rest of his quartet have the chance to perform every month at Monon Coffee Co. in Broad Ripple. While playing in a group, Pieciak often feels a different kind of spiritual connection in the community that emerges when the bass, drums, guitar, and trumpet all come together.

“You’re listening to each other,” he says. “You’re trusting each other.”

Based on this direct experience of how spirituality can show itself in different ways through jazz, Pieciak has broken the concept into three categories for his project: divine (anything relating to religion or a higher power), community (the spirituality involved in relationships between people), and individual (or, everything else). He assigned jazz songs to each of these categories, providing examples of their musical expressions.

At the beginning of the summer, Pieciak wasn’t sure he’d be able to find enough people to speak about his topic. But with a bit of digging and some help from Pivec’s network, he found five artists to study and had the chance to interview four of them. Some of these musicians are directly involved with church communities, with “one foot in jazz and one foot in religion,” like Indianapolis-based Rev. Marvin Chandler, and Ike Sturn, the music director for jazz ministry at a church in New York City. Pieciak also studied the history of spiritual expression in jazz, as well as identified recordings that reflect that relationship.

Pivec says with so many elements to consider and perspectives to balance, “it gets a little bit messy in the organization process.” And it isn’t the sort of project that will lead to any momentous discoveries. But that’s okay, Pivec says, because the project is giving Pieciak the chance to explore something meaningful.

“Really the biggest thing for the talented young people at the Butler Summer Institute is, in many ways, the transformative experience,” Pivec says.

During the regular school year, students take courses meant to fill certain requirements, often offering less freedom. But for this project, Pivec says “there’s nothing students are not capable of.” For Pieciak, he’s already felt the project’s influence.

“It has been affecting, already, the way I approach practicing and the way I approach writing,” he says. “It’s coming from a much more organic place.”

Scheduling constraints limited the number of interviews Pieciak could conduct this summer, but he plans for the BSI project to be just a stepping stone to a longer-term pursuit down the road. He will share his results at conferences, but rather than presenting any finite conclusions, he hopes he might encourage jazz musicians to embrace the spiritual nature of their music and change their crafts accordingly. He also hopes his research will prompt people to reflect on their own expressions of spirituality, even beyond the realm of jazz.

Tom Pieciak performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.
Arts & CulturePeople

In The Moment: Butler Summer Institute Student Explores Spirituality Through Jazz

Through the Butler Summer Institute, Tom Pieciak had the chance to research something deeply meaningful to him.

Jul 18 2019 Read more
Hopkins is studying which aspects of music education curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field.
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Are Music Education Grads Ready for Reality?

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 15 2019

During her last two years at a small high school in Villa Grove, Illinois, Abigail Hopkins rarely went to class.

But that was okay. Her teachers knew where she was.

Hopkins had stepped in to help when the music program at her school faced budget cuts. The general music teacher there, who had to take over band, choir, and other music classes at all levels of the K-12 school, didn’t know how to play any band instruments. Hopkins was a star in the band room and had been playing violin for years, so the teacher asked her to help out as a Teaching Assistant during the hour she was scheduled for band class each day.

One hour snowballed into five. Hopkins got caught up sautering sousaphones and meeting with music shops, and she eventually became known as the school’s unpaid band director. She had an office and everything.

“If I didn’t have to be in the classroom, I was in the band room,” she says.

Beyond repairing instruments, Hopkins sometimes conducted rehearsals for the junior high ensembles or helped coordinate concerts. She loved helping, but she worried what might happen when she graduated. Through researching for a paper in her high school English class, she learned the situation wasn’t unique.

Now a rising sophomore at Butler University, Hopkins hasn’t let it go. The Violin Performance major would love to be a full-time performer, but she says she knows she’ll probably end up teaching. She wants to be ready.

That’s why she took on a project through this year’s Butler Summer Institute (BSI), a program allowing students to stay on campus for two months in pursuit of significant research questions. Through interviews with recent graduates of music education programs at several Indiana universities, Hopkins is studying which aspects of the curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field, along with which areas might have been neglected.

“My overall goal is to prolong the life of music education,” she says. “Because, sadly, it’s the first thing to be cut when there’s some sort of budget crisis.”

The project’s interviewees all have between one and five years of professional teaching experience, and they all come from undergraduate music education programs at Butler, Indiana University, Ball State University, or Indiana State University.

Hopkins hopes her findings will inform recommendations for schools to incorporate a wider variety of classes into each music concentration, better preparing graduates to take on what might be expected of them when funding gets cut.

So far, Hopkins has confirmed conversations with 10 recent graduates. Beyond questions about their college programs, she’s asking if the things they’re doing in their jobs today align with what they expected when they pursued careers in music education. She hopes she can make their feedback available for incoming students, who still have time to adapt their studies accordingly.

After completing the interviews, Hopkins and faculty mentor Dr. Becky Marsh will code the answers to find common themes. When the nine-week program ends on July 19, Hopkins will present her findings as a poster. She says the results can apply beyond Indiana, however, and she hopes to share the conclusions at music education conferences across the country.

Hopkins is studying which aspects of music education curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field.
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Are Music Education Grads Ready for Reality?

Butler student interviews recent Indiana grads for Butler Summer Institute project.

Jul 15 2019 Read more
The new Lacy School of Business buiding.
CampusCommunity

Butler’s Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business Unveils New Business Partners

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 15 2019

Indianapolis — The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business within Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business has announced 15 accredited partners to help member companies achieve their goals.

The Center, serving as a strategic advisory group for closely held businesses, designed the accredited partner program to provide Center Members access to a community of trusted resources. The lineup of partners brings a diverse set of skills, and expertise, for established companies of all sizes and industries.

Unlike general networking associations, the Center’s model is built to proactively identify a Member Company’s specific gaps between their current, and their targeted, performance. Once these specific gaps are identified, the Center assists Members by connecting them with Accredited Partners based on topic and expertise.

Below is the full lineup of the new accredited partner companies:

 

“The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business is excited to welcome our core group of accredited partners. Our focus has always been to help closely held businesses succeed, and by connecting our members with these high quality of partners, we’re well positioned to do that,” said Mark McFatridge, Director for The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business. “We vet and onboard partners who understand closely held business dynamics and roadblocks. All bring areas of expertise that will help take our member companies to the next level.”

About Butler’s Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business

The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business is focused on helping closely held businesses succeed. Housed within Butler's Lacy School of Business, the Center connects closely held businesses with the resources and advisors needed for them to achieve their goals. Center members gain a Butler-backed competitive edge for their business through research, business valuations, planning, educational opportunities, referral partners, and coaching. Learn more about how becoming a member can help move your organization forward.

The new Lacy School of Business buiding.
CampusCommunity

Butler’s Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business Unveils New Business Partners

The Center has announced 15 accredited partners to help member companies achieve their goals.

Jul 15 2019 Read more
The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.
UnleashedAcademics

Butler’s Oldest Study Abroad Trip Watches Climate Change Through Coral

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jun 27 2019

Back in 1969, they met at Butler University, loaded up five cars with camping gear, and were off to the Florida Keys for the inaugural Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef study abroad trip. Nearly everyone took a turn at the wheel—including students and the chairs of the Chemistry and Zoology Departments at the time—and they made it to Cordele, Georgia, the first night. Then, on to the Keys.

Before hitting the road, the students learned how to snorkel in the old Hinkle Fieldhouse pool, where Professor Emeritus of Biology James Berry transformed from Biology Professor to underwater guru. The week-long trip cost students about $45 that first year. They cooked their own meals. They shared one shower. They pitched their own tents.

Berry says he was inspired to start the trip when a student revealed he had never been south of Bloomington, Indiana.

“We wanted to show these students what the rest of the world looked like,” says Berry.

Fifty years later, the Tropical Field Biology trip is Butler’s longest-running study abroad program. Though the backdrop has changed—the class has gone to the Florida Keys, then Pigeon Key, then Jamaica, now Belize—the original reason for packing up those cars has not. The trip gives students a chance to see everything they learn about in a classroom up close.

Oh, that fish we read about in the textbook back in Indianapolis, it is swimming right next to me, and now I have to identify it and explain that it is important to this ecosystem because...

The study abroad trip has also morphed into a 50-year study, of sorts, on the effects of climate change.

“Back in the 1970s, we weren’t thinking much about global warming,” says Dave Daniell, who was part of the original trip in 1969 and is now Professor Emeritus of Biology. “We certainly heard about the possibility back then, but it was a relatively new concept. We were starting to chart out areas of the world that it might effect. As the years went on, it became clear that you could really see the effects on corals, as they were sensitive to a few degrees in temperature change. This trip, then, became a way to observe how corals were changing over time, year after year.”

Students are no longer paying $45 to go to Belize. They are not driving themselves. They are not cooking their own meals, pitching their own tents, or sharing a single shower. But the impact of the trip has not changed a bit since 1969.

In fact, because the effects of climate change have become increasingly apparent and detrimental with each passing year, the impact of the trip has only become more immediate and intense, says senior Matt Warren, who went on the trip this spring.

“The fragility of the ecosystem becomes so clear when it is right in front of you,” Warren says. “Let’s say we are only seeing 20 percent of it, because the other 80 percent has been damaged. What will the next generation see 10, 15, 20 years down the line? Will we even have this ecosystem anymore? And if so, what will it look like? When you are in Belize learning about everything this ecosystem does and impacts, it becomes impossible to not start wondering about all the things we are doing to ruin it, but then start thinking, how can we make positive change?

 

Underwater tests

Since 1997, the class has been visiting Ambergris Caye, Belize, home to the world’s second-longest barrier reef. The Butler group stays at the Belize Marine Tropical Research and Education Center, where the staff serve as hosts, providing the boats and leading the group to different reefs.

A typical day starts around 9:00 AM with breakfast, then a boat ride to the day’s snorkeling location. The class usually snorkels for about two hours before a lunch break. Then, it’s on to the next snorkeling spot. The goal is to snorkel in as many different ecosystems as possible. After a few more hours under the water, it’s back to the house for dinner and lectures until around 8:30 PM.

Shelley Etnier, Associate Professor of Biology, has been leading the trip since 2003. A lot of the learning happens before, during, and after the trip, she explains.

“We ask our students to learn more than 200 organisms before we even arrive in Belize,” Etnier says. “We have exams at Butler before we leave, lectures on the boat once we are there, exams underwater on slates with a mask and snorkel on while swimming, an exam at the airport. We write up every organism we see when we get back from snorkeling. If you go and snorkel for five hours and don’t know anything, you just think you saw a bunch of cool fish. But we know all of the fish, the algae, the coral, and invertebrates, and as a result, we become much more invested.”

Beyond biology, the course discusses what has shaped Belize, the ecotourism industry, the challenges the country is facing, the government, and what life in Belize is like.

All of this helps the students understand the social, cultural, political, and economic forces that influence the health of marine ecosystems. And it helps paint a full picture of how what they are seeing in the water every day has an impact on the entire country.

 

Drastic changes over the years

Etnier used to send out the same packing list to her students year after year. Historically, the weather in Belize was very predictable: Always leave the raincoat at home. Now, Etnier says, she makes sure students are ready for the elements.

“We never used to see cool, rainy weather before,” Etnier says. “But now, things aren’t as predictable as they were before. That is all associated with climate change.”

The trip’s location hopping wasn’t without reason, either. The effects of climate change had left them with less to study while snorkeling. In some places, hurricanes damaged the reefs, but the most common occurrence has been coral bleaching.

When temperatures get too hot, corals get stressed, causing them to spit out algae inside of them, which makes them lose their color and turn white. Corals can recover from a temporary stressor. But if the stressor is consistent, corals become weak and will not recover.

“Belize definitely doesn’t look like what it did in 2003,” Etnier says. “It is not as pristine. The country has done a great job protecting their reefs, but we still see major differences.”

Since 2013, the group has also seen an increase in floating algae. With a very rough, almost sandpapery texture, floating algae used to pop up here and there—maybe a piece or two. Now, Etnier says, it is everywhere. Giant tennis-court-size pieces of it, about six inches deep. The people of Belize need bulldozers to scrape it off the beaches.

Sam Ross, a senior at Butler, has always loved animals. He grew up watching The Crocodile Hunter and knew he wanted to get involved in biology and study animals in college.

But after taking Tropical Field Biology and going to Belize this past spring, everything changed for him.

“It made me really sad to come face to face with the reality that we continue to do things every day, even with the knowledge that what we are doing is incredibly damaging,” says Ross, a Biology major. “One might think a couple-degree change in temperature isn’t a big deal. But when we see the impact on the life in the ocean, it is a huge deal. And when we learn about everything that impacts an entire country’s way of life, you start to look at things differently.”

Ross still wants to study animals, but he now wants his research to be more impactful. Instead of just looking at snakes, for example, he wants to go to graduate school, get his doctorate in ecology, and teach at the college level. He wants to look at entire ecosystems, not just one species, and study how humans affect their lives and their existence.

“This course and experience made me really take a step back and look at the broader picture,” he says. “I might have known I always loved animals, but I never thought about the bigger picture and how everything is connected. Everything impacts everything else, and we need to take ownership and make change because no one else will.”

The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.
UnleashedAcademics

Butler’s Oldest Study Abroad Trip Watches Climate Change Through Coral

The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.

Jun 27 2019 Read more
Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
UnleashedAcademics

From the Top of a Glacier: Grace Hart Feels Climate Change Up Close

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 26 2019

Grace Hart stared out at the white ice. She couldn’t see where it ended, but she noticed a blue tinge marking the Icelandic glacier’s age. It had lived a long life.

According to the guide who’d just led Hart’s hike to the top of the slope, that would probably change within the next 200 years.

I want you all to spend a minute taking in your surroundings, the guide said before leading the group back down the trail. Think about where you are right now. Because this glacier changes every single day, and some day, it’s going to be gone.

Living in the Midwest, Hart had only ever heard news stories of the ice caps melting. Now, as part of her study abroad trip in spring 2019, she was seeing it happen live.

The guide broke the silence.

Remember this feeling, he said. When you’re trying to explain to someone why it’s important to slow down climate change, remember this.

Hart knows she will.

During the semester-long program through the School for International Training (SIT), the rising Butler University senior traveled around Greenland and Iceland to study topics related to climate change: what’s happening, how it affects people, and what we can do to help. She’d first read about the trip as a freshman Environmental Studies major. She had always wanted to go to Iceland, and the topic was right in line with her interests.

Hart says her choice to study climate change started with “a love of nature and a sadness that people were trying to destroy it.” Butler taught her about the real consequences climate change has already caused, even in Indianapolis.

“Seeing that in my own community cemented my goals of advocating for the environment and those who have been negatively affected by the irresponsible actions of people who are careless with the earth's resources,” Hart says.

Through almost-daily discussions about climate change in her environmental studies classes, Hart sometimes loses hope that things will get better. She believed visiting Iceland and Greenland would break that cycle and give her the skills to do something.

“I thought it would be really cool to learn about climate change from a place that is typically seen as very sustainable and environmentally friendly,” Hart says. “It’s a different conversation than happens in the U.S., where we have a long way to go.”

Calie Florek, Study Abroad Advisor at Butler, says SIT offers some of her favorite study abroad opportunities. Hart was the first Butler student to go to Iceland with SIT, but all the organization’s programs emphasize engaging with local communities. Through experiences such as internships, research projects, and home stays, SIT students really dive into a culture and learn about its people in ways not all study abroad programs offer.

When Hart first came to see Florek, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She’d had a challenging fall semester during junior year, and she decided to apply to the Iceland program in hopes of shaking things up. Commiting to a three-and-a-half-month trip with a group of strangers scared her, but she looked forward to feeling independent. 

The trip began in February, just missing the time of year when the sun never rises. They started in Reykjavík, Iceland, studying climate modeling and glaciology before heading to Nuuk, Greenland. For two weeks, the group learned about the country’s culture. Hart studied how climate research often excludes native people, and she loved learning the value of including diverse voices in those conversations. She says you shouldn’t make decisions about the land without asking the people who’ve been working with it for centuries.

There was also time for some fun. During a brief stay in Akureyri, Iceland (where Hart would return for the final part of her program), she traveled far enough north to see the arctic circle. She loved Akureyri for its beautiful location, deep in a fjord with mountains all around. Actual trees grow there, too, which can be hard to find in Iceland.

But Hart’s favorite thing was the endless light. At sunset, the sky turned orange and pink, then it just stayed that way for hours.

“At a certain point, I think I kind of got used to the fact that it was so pretty,” Hart says. “I had to think about it again and realize how cool it was that I got to be there.”

In her free time, she swam in geothermal pools, visited art museums, tried out new restaurants, and learned how to knit a sweater. She saw waterfalls and volcanoes. She snowshoed up a mountain. She even tried her hand at some Greenlandic dishes.

For most of the semester, Hart followed a set program, but the last five weeks were up to her.

 

 

Comparing Iceland to Indy

Hart first learned about food security through her classes and internships at Butler, where she spent a semester working on the campus farm.

“I really became passionate about it because the faculty at Butler are passionate about it,” she says.

During the last five weeks of her study abroad trip, which were dedicated to independent study, she wanted to see how an issue so prominent in Indianapolis might play out in a different climate.

Mostly through secondary research, Hart found that food security in Iceland isn’t really an economic issue: It’s a land issue. People there have started demanding foods that just can’t grow in the frigid climate, forcing residents to import most of what they eat. Beyond harming the environment, Hart says, importing can make the country especially vulnerable whenever trade gets disrupted.

Her study offered some solutions. She focused mainly on changes that might shift tastes back to what the land can support, such as subsidizing and labeling local foods. She also suggests more Icelanders rent garden pots to grow their own produce. Ultimately, she says, the country should try to become self-sufficient.

For now, Hart’s research is more of a personal exploration. She wasn’t able to share it with anyone outside of the study abroad group, but she believes her study could inspire change.

Hart would like to return to Iceland and build a community outreach program, which she hopes would get Icelanders talking about their food in ways they might not have before.

 

 

Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
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From the Top of a Glacier: Grace Hart Feels Climate Change Up Close

Butler student travels to Iceland and Greenland for program with the School for International Training.

Jun 26 2019 Read more