For five years, the #ButlerBound program has delivered good news to prospective students around the country. With a personal touch and a lot of drool, Trip – Butler’s live mascot – surprises future Bulldogs with their acceptance letters or scholarship announcements.
We followed up with three current students who once received the furry herald to hear about their #ButlerBound experience and to find out what they are doing now.
One room. Dozens of applicants. Only a few full-ride scholarships on the line.
This is the stressful scene Allan Schneider sets while recounting the final leg of a marathon he’d been on his entire life to get to Butler University. As an Indianapolis native, Allan couldn’t help but view Butler as the cream of the crop when it came to colleges. But the reality of actually attending was a little more sobering.
“It was always my number one choice, but by the time I was applying it fell because of the cost,” Schneider says, now a psychology major in the Class of 2022. “I only felt that the scholarship interview went fine, which didn’t boost my confidence. But the worst part was hearing it would be three more weeks before I found out if I got it.”
But it would only take three days.
After being instructed to stay in his study hall to show prospective parents and students around, Allan heard one of his teachers, a Butler alumna herself, shriek in delight down the hall.
“Then in walks Trip with his handler and he asks: ‘Are you Allan Schneider?’ I knew right away what was happening. All I could think was: don’t look like an idiot,” Schneider says. “That was the start of the best day of my life. For sure.”
Trip and his handler, Michael Kaltenmark, didn’t have to travel far that day. Allan’s study hall room at Bishop Chatard High School is only three miles east from Butler’s campus. They arrived by van, but had it been Allan on the other end of Trip’s leash, they would’ve arrived on foot.
Allan had been running cross country for most of his life, an extracurricular that sent him on a path through Butler’s campus almost every day for practice. As a kid, every student and professor with whom he interacted was friendly and treated him like an equal. That warmth stuck with Allan, setting the expectations high for his Butler experience even after accepting the scholarship.
But time and time again, Butler continues to exceed those expectations. After underperforming on an exam, one of his professors offered to walk him through all the questions he had, which was when Allan recognized the professor sincerely cared about how he was doing.
“Not just in the class, but in my everyday life, which kind of shocked me,” Schneider says. “This really made me realize how incredible everyone at Butler is, and how the people here truly care about you and want you to succeed in every aspect of your life.”
For the younger Allan Schneider who once ran through Holcomb Gardens as a child, he is living a dream come true.
The bell tower is still ringing with every passing hour. The campus remains home to friendly faces. And he is still running, growing every step of the way.
It’s only ever taken one question to find Keelen Barlow in a game of Guess Who: “Does your character wear a Butler t-shirt?”
“I’ve been wearing one for as long as I can remember, probably since I was two. That’s when my grandpa and grandma started taking me to all the basketball games at Hinkle,” Barlow says. “This place has always been a second home for me ever since.”
Which is why it was all the more special when, in the middle of an otherwise average week, Keelen’s mom made sure he didn’t have any plans made for the following Wednesday after school. Surprises like this weren’t the norm in the Barlow household, so Keelen started working on some theories.
He knew he was waiting to hear if he had been accepted into Butler. He knew his mom wouldn’t set aside time for bad news. He also knew that another Indianapolis native, Allan Schneider, got a personal visit from Butler’s live mascot, Trip, with the news that he was Butler Bound after reading about it in the IndyStar.
Days later, while watching a soccer game with his buddy Jared, Keelen voiced his suspicions for the very first time: “What if Trip is coming to my house on Wednesday?”
He was spot on.
Many members of his extended family gathered around on that Wednesday, including the grandma he’s continued going to every basketball game with after his grandpa passed when he was five. Then, right on cue, Trip and Kaltenmark knocked on the door with a special delivery.
“I don’t necessarily want to say that every moment of my life had been leading up to that, but…” Barlow says, “that’s kind of exactly how it felt.”
Now, as a journalism major in his first year, Keelen is still going wherever the next hunch takes him. But no matter where every uncertain lead goes, whether it’s covering a local beat for class or on assignment for the Butler Collegian, Keelen knows he is exactly where he needs to be.
“Back when I made my first official visit, my current advisor Scott Bridge told me: ‘We’d love to have you. And whether you come here or not, know that I’m here for you,’” Barlow says. “He spoke to me like I was a real person, not another applicant. I didn’t feel that anywhere else.”
Unlike other first-year students, Keelen has a deeper appreciation for the way campus has evolved without losing its essence since he first arrived as a child. Because, in a way, the same can be said of him.
“Of course I still wear Butler t-shirts,” Barlow said. “There’s just a whole lot more around me now.”
You probably can’t describe a seahawk as well as you can count off teams and schools that use the bird as its mascot. South River High School in Edgewater, MD, is one of those schools.
So you can imagine the confusion South River’s players and fans felt as a bulldog panted his way into the locker room before a women’s basketball game.
But that night, Brooke Blevins felt clarity. She was going to be a bulldog, too.
“My younger brother and I hadn’t put Butler on our list of schools to visit initially, but it ended up being on the way between other options,” says Blevins, now a sophomore studying with the College of Communication. “I knew right away once I got to campus that Butler was a place I could definitely call home.”
That feeling ended up being the key ingredient to her success. Because being 600 miles away from home for the first time not only brought the occasional wave of isolation, it also left Brooke without plans for her first fall break. With her new peers making plans for quick visits home to reconnect with family and friends, Brooke’s options dwindled as the days passed.
“But then someone recommended that I apply for the Fall Alternative Break, and honestly everything I’ve really loved about Butler since started with that trip,” Blevins says. “Doors for more and more opportunities just keep opening up.”
After spending a long weekend in Kentucky by helping with affordable housing projects, Brooke put herself up to be on the committee for the following year’s trip. She turned those connections into a job with the volunteer center on campus. Then into a six-month internship in Singapore working in her dream field of event management, all while juggling the demands of a double-major in Human Communication & Organizational Leadership and Strategic Communication.
That’s a full plate for any student, but one that Brooke never takes for granted.
“I’ve discovered new passions and ways to follow them to their highest potential,” she says. “Even though I feel like I’ve already been able to do so much with my time at Butler, I know there is still so much more to look forward to.”
Brooke traces all the excitement in her voice back to that night in her high school gymnasium, when the desire to attend Butler was fulfilled in the form of bulldog waiting just for her.
“I see Trip every once in a while on campus, but I can’t be sure if he recognizes me since he’s always surrounded by a crowd of students.”
A crowd of students who, just like Brooke, see that bulldog and know they’re home.