Success and Support

by Jackson Borman ’20

When Ethan Cunningham started his first year at Butler, he felt confident in the classroom. He was going into engineering, had already taken classes like chemistry before and was confident that his high school had prepared him for the next level.

But Cunningham says that first semester served as a wakeup call for his academics.

“First semester didn’t go as planned,” Cunningham says. “You don’t realize the workload that college comes with—for me, that was a rude awakening.”

During his second semester at Butler, he decided to visit the Learning Resource Center (LRC) for an individualized meeting with their student development specialists. He was unsure about the meeting at first, but by the end of his time in the office, Cunningham says he felt calm and reassured.

“I was so nervous because I did so bad my first semester, but we ended up talking about rap music,” Cunningham says. “It was helpful, knowing that you could talk to them as like a friend instead of someone who is just yelling at you to get better.”

Over the course of a couple of meetings, Cunningham worked with the student development specialists on bettering his time management skills, building new study methods, and coming up with strategies for homework assignments and projects.

While these concrete skills helped him succeed academically during his second semester at Butler, one of the biggest benefits about his time in the LRC was connecting with the people in the office.

“It’s a really positive atmosphere. You can go in and rant about whatever and they will listen,” Cunningham says. “In the office, it is usually upbeat. You can go in when you’re having a bad day, but usually come out with a smile, or at least a slightly less annoyed attitude. They always try to make it better.”

Now, more than halfway through his junior year, Cunningham feels confident about his grades, as well as his adjustment to college.

“It’s been a great experience, just having a positive atmosphere,” Cunningham says. “Ever since then, my grades have gotten better. It has worked out tremendously.”

Janice Ruston is an academic advisor and student development specialist at the LRC. She works with students like Cunningham to help them with school work as well life changes, such as the transition from high school to college.

“It could just be tweaking something that you are already pretty good at and maybe looking at it a different way or attacking it with a different study strategy to help you get where you want to be,” Ruston says.  “Whatever it is, we will figure it out.”

Ruston says that like in Cunningham’s case, one of the most frequent problems that students come to the LRC needing help with is time management.

“Butler students in general are go-getters and want to be involved in all these great things and that also contributes to the time management struggle,” Ruston says. “I think we [help with] that in a very comfortable way.”

But student development specialists at the LRC don’t limit their help to new students.

Katelyn Castiglia is a senior at Butler, but didn’t start coming to meet in the office until just recently. She has gotten help from the LRC with her post college plans, such as studying for the MCAT and advice on her personal life.

“Coming into senior year, there was a lot on my plate and I just wanted someone on campus to talk through everything with,” Castiglia says. “I didn’t go there because I needed a tutor, I went there because I wanted an extra opinion.”

She sees the office as a support system that is helping her achieve her goals for post-graduation.

“Everyone in that office is willing to help. They are very open to meeting you wherever you are in your academic or personal journey,” Castiglia says. “It’s definitely a safe zone where I know I can bring anything to them and talk through it with them and they will listen from an outside perspective.”

Another service offered by the LRC  is workshops on topics that students frequently need help with. The workshops are open to any student who is interested, and cover a range of subjects from decision making to how to prep for finals. The workshops also include sessions where tutors from the Butler Writer’s Studio and Speaker’s Lab come to help students with class papers or presentations.

Jen Mann is another academic advisor and student development specialist at the LRC. She thinks that the workshops can be great for students who might be apprehensive about asking for help.

“[The workshops] are good for students who maybe aren’t brave enough to come through our door to ask for that help themselves,” Mann says. “We like to present it in a different format because it also presents the safety of being in a group and some anonymity.”

Another way that the LRC helps Butler students is through their class called LC100 “Strategies for Success.” The course is one credit hour and is graded as a pass/fail class, but teaches students about different skills that they might need in college or beyond such as goal-setting, study skills, persistence, and emotional intelligence.

“[The class] allows students to get some practice every week with sharpening the skills that they need to be successful as a student at Butler,” Mann says. “Twice a week, these students are getting the full attention of someone who wants them to be successful.”

Emma Hawn is a first year student who was in Mann’s LC100 class last semester and is recommending that her friends take it as well.

Even though she is no longer in the class, Hawn said that she still values lessons learned and the connections that she has made in the LRC. She even visits Mann from time to time just to say hello.

While they offer many services and serve as a resource for students that can guide them in the right direction, the LRC’s main focus is supporting students in whatever ways they can.

“We are willing to meet students wherever they are to help them reach whatever level of success they want,” Mann says. “Our job is to support. I think students take a lot of comfort in knowing that there is a space where they can come and be imperfect, yet supported.”

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