INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Oct. 8, 2020)—Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded Butler University a $2.5 million grant to fund its Butler Beyond Transformation Lab. The creation of the Transformation Lab is a significant step in advancing the University’s new strategic direction, Butler Beyond, which was unveiled last October.

Lilly Endowment made the grant through Charting the Future of Indiana’s Colleges and Universities, an initiative designed to help higher education institutions across the state develop new strategies to address challenges to financial sustainability and help them better prepare students for successful, meaningful lives.

The Butler Beyond strategy builds upon Butler’s strengths in delivering an exceptional undergraduate residential education, while expanding to offer opportunities for lifelong learning and new educational pathways that are more accessible, affordable, and flexible. The Transformation Lab will serve as a hub of resources, expertise, and activity to accelerate the development of future-oriented models of education and related ventures that contribute to the long-term success of the University and the learners it serves.

“Butler University is extremely grateful to Lilly Endowment for its support of our efforts to expand access to higher education through creation of new educational models and ventures within the Butler Beyond Transformation Lab,” says Butler President James M. Danko. “In keeping with our founding values of diversity, inclusivity, and equality, we are driven by an aspiration to put higher learning within reach of all who desire to pursue it by creating new, high-quality educational pathways and options that will prepare students for long-term success.”

The Transformation Lab will work with internal and external constituents to advance opportunities to identify, design, and pilot future-oriented education initiatives that align with both the University’s strategy and the educational needs of the community. This will include exploring emerging concepts designed to create greater access to education, adapting the educational experience to those who want to continually upskill and reskill, and pivoting higher education to an increasingly digital experience. Co-creation of innovative solutions will be a primary tenet of the Transformation Lab’s work, achieved through collaboration with a robust network of education experts, corporate leaders, workforce and economic development organizations, non-traditional education providers, and other forward-looking universities.

“We look forward to partnering with other institutions and organizations that share our sense of urgency and optimism in searching for solutions to the challenges facing higher education,” Danko says. “Butler is committed to being a leader in the development of new forms of education, thereby generating solutions not only for ourselves, but for higher education, students, and society more broadly. This grant to fund the creation of the Butler Beyond Transformation Lab is a significant milestone in Butler’s history.”

Along with establishing a $500,000 seed fund allocated to supporting select projects and ventures, funding from Lilly Endowment will be used to enhance a physical space on campus for the Transformation Lab, convene local and national higher education experts and university faculty and staff for discussion and collaboration, and add additional personnel to support stakeholders in moving ideas to viable solutions.

The Transformation Lab is modeled after practices often used for navigating transformation and change in industries outside of higher education. Benefitting from Butler’s collaborations with several major technology companies, venture studios, and other leading universities, the Transformation Lab will bring together the resources, expertise, and network necessary to move quickly from idea to pilot, and, ideally, to a scalable solution for some of higher education’s most pressing challenges.

The $2.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment to establish the Transformation Lab is a meaningful step toward the University’s goal to raise a total of $25 million for initiatives that drive transformation throughout the University and within the broader landscape of higher education as part of its $250 million Butler Beyond comprehensive fundraising campaign.

This implementation grant was awarded as part of the second phase of Lilly Endowment’s three-phase Charting the Future initiative. In the first phase, Butler received a $250,000 planning grant in 2019 to prepare the implementation proposal. Grants under a third phase, which is competitive, will be awarded in 2021. Those grants will support collaborative efforts that seek to have a large-scale impact on the ability of higher education institutions in Indiana to fulfill their educational missions.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff, and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

Butler Beyond: The Campaign for Butler University is the University’s largest-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, with a goal of $250 million to support student access and success, innovations in teaching and learning, and community partnerships.

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