paige haefer

The Evolution of a Bulldog

Paige Haefer ’17

from Fall 2017

During times of reflection, we can all identify moments that profoundly change who we are, what we believe, and who we strive to become. As children, it seems that we dream big and believe that the life changing moments we will experience will be grand, sweeping, and adventurous. However, as we grow up, I think more common than not, the moments that change our course of life and impact us the most happen in unexpected places and through the daily interactions we experience. The people we meet and communities we join are far more impactful than we ever imagine them to be.

I found this to be true through my experience at Butler University. Never did I imagine that a small, liberal-arts University, set in the quaint state of Indiana, would introduce such instrumental mentors and instill community values that have completely reframed my view of the world.

I graduated this past May from Butler’s College of Communications with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Communication and Organizational Leadership with minors in Strategic Communication and Sociology. Before making the move to Indianapolis, I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin. Growing up, I always had a bit of Hoosier influence from my mom, an Indiana native and IU grad. Yearly trips to Indy were common to visit my grandparents who still live here today. While looking for colleges, I was determined to get out of my Big Ten college town. A small classroom setting and high student involvement opportunities were my driving factors on the college search. I applied all over the Midwest and ultimately landed at Butler University in the city I had grown up visiting. I wasn’t too sure what I wanted to study but I knew I liked the options at Butler, was drawn to the beautiful campus, and had only had positive interactions with the current students, faculty, and staff. So, in August 2013, my family packed the mini van and helped me make the move to Indianapolis and my new residence in Schwitzer Hall.

Plenty has changed at Butler in my four years as a student. New buildings have appeared, new people have joined and exited the community, and student organizations have grown and expanded. Change is inevitable and often welcomed. I know personally, I have changed a lot in my four years at Butler. My first-year on campus I truly was a bit more soft-spoken and shy, especially my first few weeks. I wasn’t very sure of who I was or what I wanted, and I am genuinely grateful now that my experiences at Butler have helped me change

Part II of Blog

Involvement on Campus Evolves

Over my four-year Bulldog career, I was blessed to experience a wide variety of campus involvement and leadership opportunities.

My first-year (Historically, a student’s first year on campus was referred to as their “freshman” year experience. Recently, most Universities have replaced that reference by the term “first-year.”) on campus I bounced around, joining various campus organizations, attending as many events as I could, and applying for everything and anything I could. This is probably a typical first-year experience. You want to do it all, meet everyone, and be everywhere. I think it took me about a year and a half to realize the areas I wanted to focus on for my college career. Ultimately, the areas I was truly passionate about and ended up investing time in were: on-campus employment at the Office of Admissions, social Greek Life, Butler’s Welcome Week leadership, and Student Government Association (SGA).

At the Office of Admissions, I served various roles over four years including tour guide, telecounseling supervisor, student assistant, and events and visits intern. In Greek Life, I found a home at Alpha Chi Omega sorority where I served my chapter as Vice President of Philanthropy and even got involved at the national level as a Student Trustee on the organizations non-profit Board of Trustees. Welcome Week and the first six weeks of college are instrumental to a successful four-year experience and because my experience with this was so positive I was determined to continue this for future Bulldogs serving as a Student Orientation Guide and Student Orientation Coordinator at the beginning of my sophomore through senior year fall semesters.

SGA has been my most involved opportunity. I applied for the Student Initiatives Board at the end of my first-year—excited to see what college student government was like. In high school I was a part of student government which mostly consisted of planning prom and designing a class t-shirt. Never did I expect to be a part of such incredible impact at the collegiate level. After sophomore year I ran to be Vice President of Student Initiatives, leading a 30-student board in addressing campus concerns. Heading into senior year I made the leap and ran for Student Body President and won! Serving my University and peers in this way was challenging, but I can’t picture any better way to experience senior year than through total investment in and service to the community in this way.

Although I had the opportunity to learn from, grow through, and be positively challenged by four unique areas of campus involvement in addition to my classroom experiences, I have found a common thread through it all. I enjoy facilitating conversation, problem-solving, building community, and advocating for change. Butler involvement has helped me discover my passion for people.

Organizations Grow and Improve

Change is a key part of the college experience. I think everyone changes at Butler, and hopefully always for the better. A key change that occurs within students can be seen in their student involvement. As students go through their four years, they change from organization participant to organization leader to, in some cases, organization founder, innovator, or revolutionizer. SGA is no exception to the way that student involvement evolves and grows over time. The summer after my sophomore year I had just been elected Vice President of Student Initiatives for SGA. I was nervous and excited about the opportunity. My role was a new one—previously this role had been known as the Vice President of Administration—and, while the duties of this role did not change much, this name change reflected just one of many changes that would occur to SGA over the course of the upcoming summer.

In summer 2015, SGA went through a rebranding process. Similar to the way that Butler University as a whole rebranded that year. SGA leadership felt as though the organization had gotten away from its core purpose: To represent every student at Butler University and truly be the voice for students on campus. That summer at SGA retreat, the newly renamed SGA Marketing and Communications Board worked tirelessly to craft a new SGA brand from scratch, one that would reflect the core mission of the organization, feel fresh, and remain recognizable. Across SGA, boards were renamed, roles were tightened up or reevaluated, and an overall vision of cohesion and unity was pushed. The most significant change to campus was the switch from a student organization assembly to a student elected, smaller senate. Looking back now on two years of this new SGA structure and refocused brand, its definitely different and its definitely not perfect. But, the overall impact seems incredible positive for campus.

Change can be scary and at the same time have incredible purpose. Student organizations come and go based on campus interest. SGA has changed and reformed but the core purpose of the organization remains and has stood the test of time. I view the changes as positive ones. These changes to our student government are a reflection of lessons learned at Butler. Personally, I feel that the changes in SGA have allowed more students to know about it as our brand is unified and easy to recognize. The board name changes have cleared up some confusion on what these actual boards do and the unification has allowed even more students to get involved by relying on single channels sharing applications, events, and opportunities. SGA is feeling less segmented and more unified and unification is always a positive change for our world. I am proud to have been a small part of some of these changes to SGA and hope that my leadership as President allowed some type of continued positive growth and change to take place.

People Change You

When I think about the changes I have seen at Butler, in myself, in SGA, and in other campus areas, I am not just struck by the outcomes of these changes but I can almost always associate with a specific person or people that were the core influencers, leaders, or mentors in that situation. Instead of thinking of specific events, I want to share a bit about a handful of the people who have been inspirations and mentors to me. The personal changes I have accomplished as well as organizational changes I have had the chance to be a part of are directly correlated to the incredible things I learned from the people on this campus.

SGA Leaders—As one would expect, student government brings together some of the most driven and inspiring student son a campus. While it has been great to be a part of some incredible change and evolution facilitated by this organization, looking back on my time in SGA, I am most thankful for the peer leaders I learned from. While everyone in SGA has impacted me in some way, Katelyn Sussli ’16, Cristina McNeily ’17, and Logan Schwering ’18 come to mind immediately. Katelyn was the SGA President before myself and I had the chance to serve as her Vice President. I learned a lot from her about humility and about always putting your best foot forward no matter the situation. Cristina helped me realize that asking questions and learning about things that are unfamiliar to you is the best way to build community, to celebrate differences instead of letting them divide us. Logan, has taught me to take advantage of your whole day and make sure every moment is spent engaged and following your passions.

Alpha Chi Omega—As tour guides we tend to describe Butler’s Greek life as “prominent but not dominant” and while the prominence of Greek Life is different for students across campus, I can personally say that my involvement in a Panhellenic sorority was always a positive one. To experience a group of women who’s genuine goal is to just love you and help you become a better person is a pretty jaw-dropping experience. Nobody is forced to be in Greek Life and women (or men) stay because they want to, not because they have to. From my experience, Greek Life at Butler has been about fostering community and personal connections. The women in my chapter have become my greatest role models and cheerleaders. From personal tragedy to personal victory, I have had at least one, if not many, more women of Alpha Chi Omega step in and show me nothing but love and support. To be part of an organization based on values is a pretty powerful thing.

Student Affairs Staff—How many people truly love their jobs enough to stay at work until well past 11:00 PM or even overnight? Through my high level of campus involvement, I have had the opportunity to experience first-hand how much our Student Affairs staff and program care about students. I have had countless meetings with Caroline Huck-Watson, Director of the PuLSE Office and an SGA Advisor, that go well past 10:00 PM. Anne Flaherty, Dean of Student Life , is seen at campus events no matter what day of the week it is and is quick to respond to campus concerns or student questions. Not only are these two women excellent at their jobs, they also are mothers and have families of their own. The Student Affairs staff truly cares about making the student experience as incredible as possible here at Butler even if that means sacrificing their own personal needs. That’s dedication and passion that I strive to emulate in my future career.

Communications Faculty—I definitely don’t want to forget to mention one of the most important aspects of the college experience. Our education. While every college and department has something special to offer, I want to brag on my College, the College of Communications. Scott Bridge, the College’s Internship irector will send you an email at 4:00 AM with not one but 10 paid internship opportunities. Professor Jessica Moore has  provided her students with her cell phone number to text or call her with questions from class. But, she also offers to skype with you on the weekends to help with major projects. Professor Janis Crawford is an advisor that puts up with my continuous “double checking” that I have accomplished all required courses and has continued to forgive me for my inability to understand Doodle polls. Professor Lindsay Ems introduced me to incredible books and thoughts and continues to engage with me in these ideas even a year after class is done. It makes it much easier to learn and get the most out of your curriculum when the folks charged with educating you want to be there and will go above and beyond to make sure you get the most out of your college experience in the classroom.

Community Stands Firm

Change will not stop at Butler University. Students will continue to grow over the course of their undergraduate careers. SGA and other student organizations will continue to transform with the ever-evolving needs and goals of student bodies, and the student experience not only at Butler, but across the country, will continue to revolutionize.

Despite ongoing transformation on Butler’s campus, the true brick and mortar of our 295 acres—the community itself—holds true. Through the continuous desire of the student body to be active and make the most out of their college experience, mentors and teachers such as the examples I listed previously, and an ever-engaged alumni presence—The Butler Way that most students cite as their favorite part of campus lives on.