Diverse Paths Lead to Common Bonds | Butler Stories

Diverse Paths Lead to Common Bonds

Monica Holb ’09

from Fall 2016

The services and programs Butler offers create rich and varied student experiences, and all foster meaningful relationships that lead to student success.

Students in class with professorNo two Butler University students experience the University or its programs the same way. Yet time and again, students achieve similarly exceptional outcomes—high four-year graduation rates and post-graduation placement rates. How do so many different academic and co-curricular experiences produce students who achieve comparable success as alumni?

According to Provost Kathryn Morris, it’s the people with whom students engage that change them from wide-eyed, first-year students to happy and successful graduates.

“The key to transformation is relationships,” Morris said. “At Butler, students have the opportunity to work closely with faculty and staff who are truly dedicated to their development and well-being.” The most recent Gallup-Purdue Index examined college experiences that were associated with the greatest likelihood of alumni thriving in well-being and workplace engagement, and its findings reflect Morris’ sentiment. (For more Gallup results, visit www.butler.edu/gallup.) Data illustrate that having faculty support was strongly associated with how graduates fare later in life, and Butler outperformed the national index, including graduate comparison groups from Indiana universities, the BIG EAST, and peer and aspirant schools.

Butler provides students myriad ways to create those meaningful relationships, from academic programs and spiritual discovery to service learning and residential life.

From the beginning of their collegiate careers, students connect with academic advisors in their majors to determine future ambitions.

“Advising is made up of a series of personal conversations between students and their faculty advisors to discern where students might best devote their energy,” Morris said. Students who have not chosen a major enter the Exploratory Studies program. Their advisors are housed in the Learning Resource Center and are trained to help with evaluating potential academic pursuits.

For Butler student Katelyn Sussli ’16, that meant her advisor worked to understand her passions. “She got to know me at my core,” Sussli said.

An advisor may guide job-focused students to an internship through the Internship and Career Services Center, where career counseling experts can open doors to relationships in the working world. Students pursuing graduate school can conduct research alongside their professors and present at national conferences and at the Undergraduate Research Conference, hosted by Butler and open to students across the Midwest and beyond. Morris compared student-faculty collaborative research as being akin to an internship for a student looking for a career in academia instead of industry.

“The key to transformation is relationships.”

Concurrently, the Center for Faith and Vocation helps students discern their own vocation or passion. “That sense of vocation can often be tied up with one’s spiritual life,” Morris said. Sussli described the Center as not just a religious place, but a spot to come together as students with diverse faiths or no faith to develop spiritually. “The Center is creating a space where we can share our beliefs and our values,” she said.

With an eye toward their futures, students also embrace the present and explore a Core Curriculum that allows them to connect deeply with professors, fellow students, and the Butler community

One important component of the University’s Core Curriculum is service learning. Within the Indianapolis Community Requirement, students learn in class with a cohort and then serve outside the academic buildings, establishing profound bonds on and off campus and reinforcing lessons learned in the classroom.

For her service learning experience, Sussli combined her political science interests with a course on Modern and Political Thought and an opportunity to teach English to a woman from Nepal.

“It was one of my most humbling experiences,” Sussli said of the blended coursework and community engagement. It allowed her to get outside the “Butler bubble,” break down a stigma, and build an impactful relationship—and then reflect on it with her professor and classmates.

“The learning is reciprocal,” Morris said. Students give of their time, but the people to whom they provide service teach the students as well. Other service learning experiences and reflections on those experiences are supported by the Center for Citizenship and Community and the student-run Volunteer Center. They provide students weekly opportunities to serve and create influential relationships.

Butler student does service project with childrenBeneficial connections are built in the classroom, in the community, and within the walls that students call home while living at Butler. “Our faculty-in-residence program is steadfast at Butler and is special for a small school. It is very high touch and allows students and faculty to interact in unique ways in their living environment,” Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Anne Flaherty said.

Building on this dynamic, Butler is transitioning to themed living communities for all first-year students. The new Fairview House—with its 16 themed living communities encompassing areas such as wellness and creativity—makes it even easier for students to build impactful relationships and a community around shared interests and ideals.

“Our vocation,” Morris explained, “is to support young people as they grow and develop personally and academically. All of these services are ways to create connections to facilitate that growth.”

From discerning academic pursuits to exploring spiritual vocations, Butler students’ diverse experiences and the relationships they cultivate make extraordinary success a common outcome.

“What separates Butler is the amount of passion and care that our faculty and our staff have,” Sussli said. “They go above and beyond to build relationships. They are truly committed to the success of the students.”