Butler University’s Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR) gives students opportunities for growth and self-discovery through service-learning. Donald Braid, Director of the Center for Citizenship and Community, says the ICR goes beyond the volunteering most students perform in high school: These classes create personal, mutually beneficial relationships that can change the trajectory of students’ lives.

Launched in 2010 as part of the Core Curriculum, the ICR requires all Butler students to spend at least one semester connecting knowledge they learn in the classroom to partnerships within the community. Working with an ever-changing list of partners, Braid estimates more than 50 ICR classes are taught each semester. Either built into a Core Curriculum class or part of a specific major, all ICR classes share goals of fostering empathy, understanding, and reciprocity.

Offered in all Butler colleges, ICR classes provide a wide range of experiences depending on student interest and major. Braid describes ICR courses as involving a process of self reflection students don’t often expect.

“This is a learning experience that will stay with people for a very long time, and each student may respond differently,” Braid says. “The ICR is not about getting students into the community, it’s about getting community in the students.”

Co-author of the Field Guide for Urban University-Community Partnerships,Joshua Yates, notes that although it is becoming more common for universities to require students to do service-learning, Butler’s ICR offers a model for others to follow.

The impact Butler continues to have on students and the surrounding community through the ICR earned the University the Carnegie Community Engagement Classification in 2015. The designation, given to colleges that have successfully fostered mutually beneficial connections with local organizations, speaks to Butler’s commitment to serving Indianapolis.

While students are required to complete at least one ICR class, this could be any time within their four years. Braid, who has taught ICR courses through First Year Seminars, Global and Historical Studies, and Social World classes, says taking ICR classes at different times can have different benefits. 

For first years, ICRs can help students discern what they value, or help them discover interests outside their majors. For older students, Braid says ICRs may help “deepen their educational experience” by opening their eyes to how service, community, and empathy can prepare them for life at and beyond Butler.

No matter when students complete this requirement, ICR courses provide students with opportunities to meet new people, consider new ideas, and better understand themselves and their roles within the community.

“[ICR] is a process I can facilitate as a faculty member, but the students reflect on their experiences and reach their own conclusions and new understandings,” Braid says. “For example, when you meet someone in the community who is different from you, you begin to perceive what those differences are and how they offer insight into both our uniqueness as individuals and our common humanity.”

Junior Mathematics Education major Maddie Jacobson completed her ICR as a first-year student through a Social World class called Making a Difference in the World, taught by Braid. Initially seeing the ICR as a “credit to get done,” Jacobson could not have predicted the impact that the ICR would have on herself and her career at Butler.

Jacobson chose an adult daycare center, A Caring Place, for her ICR, and quickly took a liking to spending time with a unique group of elderly people who had physical and cognitive impairments. Soon spending more than the required 20 hours per week at the center, Jacobson caught the attention of her class’ Advocate for Community Engagement (ACE), who was in charge of coordinating students’ time on site and facilitating the relationship between the partner and Butler. Jacobson has now stepped into the role of an ACE, which she describes as, “a special opportunity to see the impact the ICR has on her colleagues.”

“The ICR allowed me to grow as an individual, inside and outside the classroom. The values I learned from my service work came through reflection journals and classroom discussion,” Jacobson says. “This experience is unique because you have a team behind you that truly cares about the service you are doing and wants you to make deeper connections at your partnership and in your schoolwork. Being part of the ICR, I feel I was most impacted by the growth I made in my personal confidence. The participants at A Caring Place made me feel welcome, loved, and appreciated. They served me as I was serving them.”

Braid says the ICR courses and community partners are constantly changing, giving students multiple opportunities to get more involved in the community. Jacobson encourages students to view the ICR with an open mind: “It is a collaborative, engaging process and an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and reflect on the ways service can enhance your personal, social, and academic learning.”