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Experiential LearningUnleashed

Butler EPICS Students Develop Video Game to Help Children with Autism

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Dec 04 2019

A trio of Butler Software Engineering and Computer Science students are developing a fantasy adventure computer game with the goal of helping Indianapolis children with autism.

As part of Butler University's Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program, Matthew O’Hern, Maya Sanchez, and Parker Winters will deliver the game, which mixes in communication cues along with classic battle play similar to the classic Nintendo Entertainment System games The Legend of Zelda, to Sycamore Services, Inc., a nonprofit organization that offers services to adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Matthew O'Hern and Parker Winters
EPICS student developers Matthew O'Hern, left, and Parker Winters went old-school for their project.

With Winters creating the maps and environment design, Sanchez and O’Hern developed the main character as well as the artificial intelligence code that drives the baddies—skeletons, zombies, goblins, and evil knights. Along the way, the hero interacts with shopkeepers, travelers, and allies that change facial expressions during these digital conversations. The students and Sycamore Services believe that video gaming can reach an autistic child in augmenting behaviors for face to face interactions away from screens.

Children will play the yet-to-be-named game on computers at the Indianapolis center, located in St. Vincent Hospital. The game contains battle modes, more than 40 world maps, and 600 portraits of characters within a dialogue system where characters in the video game converse—the driving force behind the game’s creation.

“When the opportunity was presented, I couldn’t say ‘no’ to it,” says O’Hern, a Software Engineering sophomore. “We’re developing it as an instructional source to help children grow their social skills.”

Established almost 20 years ago, EPICS classes provide free information technology services to nonprofit organizations and Butler programs. The class started with just four students as an elective, but it has since quintupled in enrollment, growing into a required class for Computer Science and Software Engineering students. Students get early experience working with clients on developing a website, app, or videogame. The fall 2019 class features five student teams working on projects on and off campus. The students selected their preferred project after organizations presented their needs in the beginning of the semester.

O’Hern has already taken the EPICS class twice. His first experience was leading the development of an interface that helps doctors share and gather data for the InVascular project at IUPUI. And this fall’s project has been even more fulfilling, leading to potential internship opportunities.

Most EPICS projects will allow future students to update them. O’Hern said his video game will be left open for future developers to add levels, characters, and more facial expressions for the children to learn from.

Using the cross-platform game engine Unity, O’Hern and his team created a fantasy world with swords that light up to vanquish skeletons and zombies. While helping children is the ultimate goal, adding the retro spin has been fulfilling for the students. The simple, old-school Nintendo vibe of the game also ensures that gameplay will work on almost any computer.

The battles, the interactions and dialogues with the characters, and the movement of the main character, which the player will be able to name, were all created to be easy yet engaging. O’Hern says the gameplay “disguises” its educational aspects.

Digital costuming

The Department of Theatre’s costume shop is brimming with thousands of hats, dresses, suits, and shoes to clothe actors and actresses. A paper-based system has successfully organized the garments for decades, but an EPICS team led by senior Maya Grandstaff is making strides in digitizing the process. 

The Marketing and Management Information Systems major and her classmates are developing a website where users can search for specific garments by size, color, and style while finding the garments’ locations in the tall hanging racks. Directors, show designers, and outside clients looking to rent costumes can access the massive inventory from the comfort of their couch.

Team members Eromo Algibe and Kameron Leisure spent weeks creating the framework of a database to be filled by Theatre staff and faculty members. By the end of the semester, the frontend user application will feature forms to filter searches. The team is testing basic queries from the front end, which will reach back to the huge database.

“They can just click submit and see what they have,” Grandstaff says. “It’s really cool now to go to a show and see all the costumes, components, and changes that go into it. It really helps you understand how diverse the program is.”

Eromo Algibe works on a project.
EPICS student developer Eromo Algibe works in the Butler Theatre costume shop.

Sam Royal didn’t think sifting through old Renaissance-replica gowns and 1930s-style men’s suits would help his career at first, but a recent job interview proved otherwise. The senior says the job recruiter was particularly interested in his EPICS work.

“It’s all about getting that experience but helping someone out at the same time,” says Royal, a senior studying Management Information Systems.

Panos Linos, Professor of Software Engineering and Computer Science, is pleased to see the program that he is coordinating continue to grow.

“Students need to have a platform to use the skills they learn in their classes, and to apply them in a real setting,” Linos says. “The value of a Software Engineering education comes from applying it to real life. And EPICS is a great platform for that.”

Other EPICS projects in the works this fall:

  • Working with Indy Hunger Network, a team is developing an online calculator for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Users will be able to track their available credits for the most efficient and nutritious ways to feed their families.
  • Participants in Butler’s Healthy Horizons program will receive a new digital process to keep track of activities, points, and incentives. The online component will be more interactive than its print and PDF predecessors.
  • A team of EPICS developers are creating an online memorial for Holocaust survivor Eva Kor, who died July 4 at 85. An active public speaker until just months before her death, Kor gave the Butler Spring 2015 Commencement address, promoting messages of forgiveness, strength, and survival. The website will allow users to “plant” digital flowers in a garden. Each purple flower will contain the name of the person being remembered, the date, and a message. 

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Community Partnerships

Through collaboration and strong partnerships, Butler Beyond will unleash the potential of our brilliant faculty and students on the complex issues facing our community. Support for this pillar will expand Butler’s reach and roots in the Indianapolis community and beyond by cultivating deeper integration with local organizations and businesses, increasing experiential learning opportunities for students, nurturing new ventures, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Experiential LearningUnleashed

Butler EPICS Students Develop Video Game to Help Children with Autism

As part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service program, students provide free IT work to the community

Dec 04 2019 Read more
The Farm at Butler
Butler BeyondCampusCommunity

Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Nov 25 2019

This story is part of a mini-series exploring The Farm at Butler, its methods, and its mission. Part one of six.

 

On the west side of Butler University’s campus, nestled between a leafy stretch of the Central Canal Towpath to the southeast and Butler’s athletic fields to the northwest, a one-acre farm sits in stillness. If you walk along the narrow plant beds, the sun on your neck and the songs of house finches fluttering in your ears, you’ll probably forget you’re still in the heart of Indiana’s capital city.

Today, The Farm at Butler (previously called the CUE Farm) is an ongoing sustainable agriculture project that serves a wide range of roles on campus and in the Indianapolis area. The Farm teaches people about growing produce in a way that’s healthy for both humans and the Earth. It promotes research and place-based learning for faculty, staff, students, and members of the community, and it connects food to a variety of careers through recruiting student interns to help keep things running.

But back in 2010, it started as just a place to grow food. A student-run group called Earth Charter Butler broke ground on the space with help from the young Center for Urban Ecology & Sustainability (CUES), an academic center at Butler that celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year. But the effort was mostly student-driven.

Julie Elmore, a 2010 graduate from Butler’s Biology program who helped launch The Farm, first learned about an ethical framework called the Earth Charter in an honors class. The global sustainability movement, which formed in the late 1990s with a mission of uniting Earth’s cultures to work toward protecting the planet and bringing peace to the world, inspired Elmore and a few of her classmates to grow more connected with nature.

“One of the things that kept popping up regarding how you can relate the planet to people was food and where our food comes from,” she says. “We wanted to see more local food, and how much more local can our food get as students than being produced on campus?”

When the students graduated, the CUES took over. The Farm became one part of the Center’s mission to educate and empower Butler and Indianapolis in following best practices of urban ecology.

After funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust helped the CUES hire Tim Dorsey as full-time Farm Manager in 2011, Dorsey worked to expand the project from one-third of an acre to its current one-acre plot. The Farm now grows more than 70 different kinds of plants—closer to 200 if you include the different species of each crop. In just one acre, the space fits onions, garlic, bell peppers, cabbage, hot peppers, tomatoes, peach trees, apple trees, berries, and way more.

“The mission of The Farm, at first,” says CUES Director Julia Angstmann, “was to be a model for other agriculture projects in the city—to show what can be done on an acre, and to show how to do it in an ecologically sound way.”

And while The Farm still stays involved across Indianapolis, recent years have seen a return to its roots of focusing on Butler.

“We still have that original motive of being an educator in the city,” Angstmann says. “But we have renewed our commitment to the Butler community.”

 

READ MORE:

Part 1: Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

Part 2: Farming Full-Time: How Tim Dorsey Discovered the World Through Agriculture

Part 3: A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

Part 4: Sustainability on the Syllabus

Part 5: A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

Part 6: So, Where Does All The Food Go?

 

Explore the full Farm at Butler mini-series here

 

Media Contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

The Farm at Butler
Butler BeyondCampusCommunity

Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

Since 2010, The Farm at Butler has been a place for people to connect with the world and one another.

Nov 25 2019 Read more
The Farm at Butler classes
AcademicsExperiential Learning

Sustainability on the Syllabus

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Nov 25 2019

This story is part of a mini-series exploring The Farm at Butler, its methods, and its mission. Part four of six.

 

Some of the classes held at The Farm might seem obvious—a biology course about soil health, an environmental studies course looking at urban food systems, or a chemistry class studying contaminants. And yes, all of those happen at The Farm. But especially since the CUES received a major grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) last June—totaling almost $600,000—its curriculum has placed a new emphasis on weaving The Farm into a wider range of classes across campus.

Led by CUES Director Julia Angstmann, the NSF-funded project aims to promote scientific literacy by integrating STEM-related topics into non-STEM courses at Butler. Based on the idea that all people would benefit from a basic understanding of science before working together to solve societal challenges, these courses use the power of place-based experiential learning to connect students with science. Down on The Farm, where you can watch things grow and help make it happen, the class content comes alive.

As the project unfolds over the next three years, Angstmann will evaluate how campus farms and other green spaces can become centers of learning for all students. The NSF often tries to develop ways for non-STEM majors to continue engaging with science in their careers and personal lives, and by bringing religious studies, communications, health, and other disciplines down to The Farm, Butler is doing just that.

 

Having Faith in Nature - RL 384

Brent Hege says Christians usually interact with nature in one of two ways: as a resource for humans, or as an equal being.

“There’s a lot of ambiguity in the Christian tradition about the relationship between Christianity and the environment,” explains the Lecturer of Religion. “Some Christians think the environment is ours to use as we see fit—that we can exploit it because it’s not really as important as human beings. Other Christians think that’s totally misguided—that stewardship means respect, care, and love for the environment.”

In the ecotheology class he teaches at Butler, Hege focuses on that second part—how can humans use religion to see nature through a “loving eye,” caring for the earth and treating all things equally?

For the next time the class meets, Hege has added more place-based learning to the syllabus. In a new unit at The Farm, students will study how farmers think about their relationships with nature. Through interviews with workers at The Farm and with people who buy food from it, they’ll see how urban agriculture highlights a range of perspectives about the environment.

Hege’s research on the relationship between environmentalism and Christianity hasn’t touched directly on sustainable farming. But growing up in Pennsylvania, he spent a lot of time working on family farms and eating local produce. It wasn’t always as easy to find small-scale, sustainably-grown food when he first moved to Indianapolis, so he’s excited for the chance to work with the CUES.

“I think one of the things about farming—or even about gardening—that I find so compelling is that it keeps us connected to rhythms, cycles, and patterns,” he says. “It reminds us that, as hard as we try, we’re not really in control of everything.”

Hege wants to show students how Christianity can be a resource for addressing environmental problems. He hopes they learn to be present in their surroundings, noticing more of what they walk past every day and considering the role they play among it all.

“All of us are part of this natural world,” he says. “So no matter where we’re coming from, we have an obligation to think about how we live impacts all these other things.”

 

From Farm to Twitter - ORG 358

Lindsay Ems knows social media can be destructive. She knows it can be used to tear people down and target minority groups. But in her service learning class that has partnered with Indianapolis organizations every semester for more than four years, Ems focuses on how social media can empower communities. 

In the course, the Assistant Professor of Communication pairs student groups with local organizations to help solve digital-media-based problems. Whether through live-Tweeting an event or developing a new campaign strategy, students help tell stories about the organizations.

The class has worked with a variety of Indy-based groups, including Cancer Support Community Central Indiana, Heartland Film, and Damien Center. They’ve partnered with The Farm at Butler about four times, and other food-related partners such as Indy Urban Acres, Keystone-Monon Community Garden, and Garcia’s Gardens.

As part of the NSF grant, the course will soon start working exclusively with farming-based groups. Ems says empowerment often comes down to food access, so it’s important for agricultural organizations to tell people what they do. She says there are so many places in Indianapolis trying to provide fresh, organic produce, but it won’t make a huge difference unless they can get the word out.

Social media can make the whole food experience more efficient. But posting on Instagram isn’t always a priority for farmers who just love being outside, so Ems says college students make a perfect match.

“When you get these organizations who are resource-strapped to begin with,” she says, “they see [social media] as something they don’t have time for. And we have students who are so good at it—so fluent and literate in the technologies.”

Erin Underwood, a senior majoring in Human Communication & Organizational Leadership, worked on The Farm team when she took ORG 358 last fall. Before the class, she knew The Farm existed, but she says she didn’t know much about it. That was exactly the issue her team worked to solve.

The group spent the semester building a social media plan for The Farm’s channels, dedicating each month to promoting a different value. They created content highlighting topics from how The Farm benefits individual and community health to how the methods used there help care for the earth. For each theme, they explained the importance of the value and told the story of how The Farm is living it out.

Erin says the chance to work with a real organization taught her to collaborate, instead of just building a plan without understanding what it needs to accomplish.

“You need to be there to learn about them, listen to them, and hear what they need,” she says. “You need to spend time understanding them so you can effectively make a social media plan in their voice. We could post the best content in the world, but if it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from The Farm, then I think it loses some of that spirit of what they really want to do with social media.”

Erin says there’s some value in classes that stick to hypothetical projects, building mock content and strategies for the sake of practice.

“But the fact that we were trusted as students to get experience with something like this made all the difference,” she says of ORG 358. “It felt like the work we did was valued and really appreciated by our community partner, which was a cool thing to see.”

Ems hopes the course helps students think more critically about their own social media use. She wants them to see that the same tools they use for posting memes, sharing animal videos, or chatting with friends can provide valuable ways to reach people in need.

 

Cultivating Well Being - PWB115-BI

Growing a garden does more for your health than convincing you to actually eat all the fruits and vegetables you spent weeks watering and weeding. Working in the sun and digging in the soil can improve overall well being in a variety of ways, and Butler students can earn class credit learning how.

In Cultivating Well Being, Farm Manager Tim Dorsey challenges students to think about where food comes from, how to grow healthy foods, and the role gardening can play in a lifetime of well being. After a few days of readings and discussions, students get their hands in the dirt right down on The Farm.

“We’re always looking for ways to be more a part of Butler’s academic life, so this was a good step into that for us,” Dorsey says about the class, now in its fifth year. “We’re able to engage students in a course that fills a requirement while exposing them to our space. They can see right where the food is coming from.”

Zach Madere, a senior Pharmacy major taking the class this fall, makes the most of that experience by visiting the Farm Stand each week to buy some of the produce he helped grow. Back in his kitchen, he cooks his own meals using cilantro, arugula, onions, and spinach that couldn’t be much more local.

“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” he says. “I think it’s so cool that The Farm is literally in our backyard. I think it’s awesome to be a part of that—to grow something—then to actually use what we grow.”

But the class content goes beyond just a how-to on home-grown vegetables. Students also learn about broader societal issues in agriculture and food production, considering ways they can help face global challenges.

“I’d like to see them consider how the ways we answer questions in society—specifically relating to food systems, consumer choices, and government policies—not only affect society,” Dorsey says, “but have an impact on communities, families, and individuals.”

 

READ MORE:

Part 1: Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

Part 2: Farming Full-Time: How Tim Dorsey Discovered the World Through Agriculture

Part 3: A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

Part 4: Sustainability on the Syllabus

Part 5: A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

Part 6: So, Where Does All The Food Go?

 

Explore the full Farm at Butler mini-series here

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

The Farm at Butler classes
AcademicsExperiential Learning

Sustainability on the Syllabus

As The Farm shifts to a primary focus on education, classes across the Butler curriculum find ways to use the space.

Nov 25 2019 Read more
Students get a tour on the Detroit Trek
Experiential LearningUnleashed

LSB Treks Allow Students to Get Inside Peek in New York, Detroit

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 11 2019

Detroit, Michigan, has gone by many names: the Motor City, Hockeytown, and The D, just to name a few. Comeback City is its latest, and that moniker was witnessed by Butler University students.

With the help of alumni like Steve Hamp ‘70, Detroit caught the eye of the Andre B. Lacy School of Business’ Trek program. During Fall Break, nine Business students took part in the second annual Detroit Trek. Hosted by Butler grads, the students met professionals and toured national companies and venues like Quicken Loans, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Ford Field, NYX Inc., and the Detroit Empowerment Plan, where homeless women craft specialized coats to combat global homelessness.

“Trips like this are exciting and fun and advertise Detroit as a destination for graduates to participate and be a part of its renaissance,” says Hamp, who coordinated the Ford Field and Ford Motor Company visits.

The Detroit Trek is the second such trip of its kind within the LSB. A New York Trek has enjoyed a successful five-year run. It concentrates on Wall Street and the world of finance. The 2020 New York Trek will take 10 more Business students to the Big Apple in March.

Both Treks were funded by alumni donations before Michigan native Amy Wierenga ‘01 and her husband, Luis Felipe Perez-Costa, established a $100,000 endowment to ensure the Treks’ continuation.

“It’s so valuable for students to be able to experience the culture of several different firms first hand—to directly interact with people in different kinds of roles in a low-pressure setting,” says Wierenga, who is a Butler Trustee. “Many students don’t realize how diverse the potential opportunities are within and across firms, how many different ways there are to apply their talents and plug into a career. Thanks to the Treks, students get exposed to, and can explore seeing themselves in different seats. They can say ‘I could see that being me in five or 10 years.’”

From trains to electric autonomous vehicles

Hamp, who earned an American History degree from Butler before spending the last four decades in Detroit, introduced Pamela Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative, to talk about entrepreneurialism with the students over lunch before a behind-the-scenes look at Ford’s development of the old Michigan Central Station. The 105-year-old landmark will be the new home of the car manufacturer’s electric autonomous vehicle research and development.

At Ford Field, the students experienced a rare glimpse of the inner-workings of an NFL franchise in midseason. They met Detroit Lions President Rod Wood, and took a tour of the stadium, which included the opportunity to walk on the turf and stand in the end zones where Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 141 touchdown passes and counting.

Whether picking professionals’ brains or conversing with alumni over dinner, almost every interaction had a common thread for the students.

Bradley Herzog in Detroit
Senior Bradley Herzog stands inside Michigan Central Station, a future home to Ford vehicle research.

“Everyone we talked to was very passionate about the city and the direction it’s going,” says Bradley Herzog, a senior studying International Business and Spanish. “It was great to see people moving back into the city and finding jobs there. There’s a lot of positive things to say about Detroit.”

Herzog and sophomore Emma Ryan cited the visit to the Empowerment Plan as especially impactful. CEO Veronika Scott was studying fashion design in college when she came up with the idea to create coats that convert to sleeping bags. More than a decade later, the Plan has grown into much more than coats. Ryan was impressed with the tremendous social impact a young entrepreneur has made in a major city.

“Many of the people making the coats were domestic violence victims,” says Ryan, a Finance and Marketing major. “It was a safe place for them with a full kitchen and supportive environment. They were paying them to make coats, but also to unwind and recharge. There was yoga and classes to earn their GED. They could stay for two years and get back on their feet.”

Ryan was also impressed at the number of young women represented at major companies at every level. Two recent college graduates at GM spoke to her about finance and what their job paths have consisted of. In the two young businesswomen, Ryan found inspiration and confidence in her own career path, which now might include Detroit.

“After graduation, I was planning on moving to Chicago or New York,” says the Evansville, Indiana, native, “but after this trip, I saw a different side of Detroit: I saw the booming business side.”

Next Treks: Windy City? Bay Area?

Graham Honaker, Executive Director of Principal Gifts for Butler Advancement, revealed the Trek program could extend to Chicago and the Bay Area. Applications for the New York Trek number in the dozens and Detroit is not far behind. Not bad for a program that started with a cup of Starbucks coffee. Honaker met up with Michael Bennett ‘09, then an analyst with JP Morgan Chase & Co., in Manhattan. The young alumnus spoke about bringing Butler Business students to New York to get an early taste of what working on Wall Street is like.

“It’s so competitive to get into the financial sector in New York,” Honaker says. “From that Starbucks, we outlined the program and launched it a couple years later.”

Bennett is thrilled to see the Treks grow. Only 10 years removed from his own Butler graduation, he is happy to help bring Butler students to the Big Apple for the Trek and, later, as professionals.

“It’s how to get your foot in the door; you have to be there to make that happen,” says Bennett, now director of investment counseling for Citibank. “During these Treks, they have proximity to companies and alumni. It’s engaging and fun, and there’s some elements of excitement around it. It’s a major recruitment tool.”

Whether it’s Detroit Rock City, the City That Never Sleeps, or any other market brimming with Butler alumni, LSB Treks are worth every mile.

“I would highly recommend attending as many as you can,” Herzog says. “There’s no downside. You get the opportunity to see so many companies inside the city. We were really privileged to see and talk to so many successful professionals. It’s an opportunity you don't get at a lot of colleges.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Students get a tour on the Detroit Trek
Experiential LearningUnleashed

LSB Treks Allow Students to Get Inside Peek in New York, Detroit

Business students tour companies and network with alumni

Nov 11 2019 Read more
A Sparki robot used in the Analytical Reasoning course
Experiential LearningUnleashed

Robots Enhance Coding Prowess, Passion in the Core Curriculum

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 01 2019

Getting Butler University Dance majors to learn computer coding was as easy as a plié in first position, thanks to robots.

In Computer Science Professor Panos Linos’ pilot Analytical Reasoning course in 2010, part of the Butler Core Curriculum, the goal was to give students not majoring in Computer Science or Software Engineering some experience in coding. So, Linos employed robots, something he thought would get non-majors excited about using things foreign to almost everyone in the class, such as the Python language. The class, now in its ninth year, teaches students to program robots to do small tasks like drawing shapes, making a sequence of noises, and flashing lights in a pattern.

A recent final project saw a group of Dance majors choreograph their robots to “dance” a routine, something they could all relate to. The students had a classical music score to back up the bots.

“All five robots performed a ballet together,” says Linos, with a laugh. “It’s very challenging to synchronize all of these robots to do the same routine.”

Adjunct Professor in Computer Science Jeremy Eglen now leads the course with a new robot—Sparki. Each student gets their own small robot, which is equipped with motorized wheels, an LCD screen, and little arms for gripping small objects. They also have sensors to help them see light, identify objects, and follow the lines of a maze or edge of a table.

Most of the work is done in groups. The students help one another on assignments with colorful names like Back-Up Bot, Episode 1: The Phantom Obstacle—one that involves writing a program that makes the robot move backward for two seconds without crashing into an obstacle.

The robots have been effective in getting students hooked on coding. Linos says the students treat their bots like their pets, carrying them around and celebrating new tricks that took hours to compute. While some students might have taken a coding class in high school, Analytical Reasoning is more hands-on. They can see their hours of meticulous coding create action for Sparki.

“You can sense the excitement of the students,” Linos says. “The motivation and passion I saw in the students was a great measure of this class’ success.”

Coding encoded in most careers

Whether future teachers or rising anthropologists, students in Eglen’s class realize the importance of basic coding

Jeremy Eglen instructs his students.
Computer Science faculty member Jeremy Eglen, second from left, helps his students code.

Journalism sophomore David Brown already knows the need for coding experience in a competitive job market. He found Analytical Reasoning as an ideal fit.

“Coding seemed so inaccessible to me,” he says. “But it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you put your time into it, it’s doable.”

Despite taking a coding class in high school, first-year Journalism major Brook Tracy admitted feeling intimidated by early coding assignments. But after early success in getting Sparki to move around in response to her coding, that changed.

“I thought learning how to code was way out of reach. There was no way I could do that,” Tracy says. “But it is something that’s attainable. You don’t need to be a crazy genius to learn how to do it, but my family and friends are still amazed at what I can do now. You just have to be detail-oriented and listen to instructions, and you can figure it out.

“And If you’re the person at the office who can code, your human capital goes up. Whatever field you go into, this experience will boost your resume even higher.”

Eglen agrees. He says there aren’t many jobs that don’t require computers and the ability to work them.

“Knowledge of programming is going to help you, no matter what your career is,” Eglen says. “And some of the students find out they actually like it.”

‘Still Alive’

Students program their robot.
Students program their Sparki robot in the Analytical Reasoning course.

First-year student Hannah Goergens, a Creative Writing and Computer Science major, enjoys the creative atmosphere in the Analytical Reasoning class, which serves as an appetizer before her Computer Science main courses.

In her spare time, Goergens programmed her robot to “sing” a tune called Still Alive from the video game Portal. She downloaded sheet music for the song, which is sung from the perspective of a robot, and got to work scripting every note, pitching Sparki’s bleeps to match the melody.

“This took me a week,” Goergens says, “right after we learned we could make it learn music. I’m just a big Portal fan, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Inspiring the coder within

The Sparki robots used in the class run about $150 a piece, and they are covered by Core Curriculum grants. The Core Curriculum covers a broad student educational experience, which includes getting STEM students into art classes and vice versa. Analytical Reasoning has been especially effective, says James McGrath, Faculty Director of the Core Curriculum. He has seen positive results when students are taken outside of their comfort zones.

“Lots of students think they’re not good at math, music, or writing,” McGrath says. “One of the purposes of the Core is to foster students to be well-rounded, no matter their focus of study. In these classes, they’re actually approaching the subject in ways not thought of. They may find they’re good at something they didn't know. They’re using a whole other part of their brains.”

Linos says programming drones would be a natural next step for the course, but whether they fly or dance, the robots are making some former Analytical Reasoning students change majors to Computer Science or Software Engineering. The class gave them the confidence that they can—and should—code. 

“It was very gratifying to me—as an educator, as a facilitator of their learning—to see them learning how to write code in a fun way,” Linos says.

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

A Sparki robot used in the Analytical Reasoning course
Experiential LearningUnleashed

Robots Enhance Coding Prowess, Passion in the Core Curriculum

Designed for humanities majors, the Analytical Reasoning course teaches coding with an assist from robots.

Nov 01 2019 Read more
youth and community development Butler
AcademicsAlumni Outcomes

Butler Education Alumni Inspire New Major

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 28 2019

When faculty in Butler University’s College of Education started hearing the stories of the many trailblazing graduates who have pursued youth-focused careers outside the classroom, they saw those paths forming a map for how to better serve future students.

“We really began to think, ‘How do we create a purposeful, intentional program to offer a valid and useful pathway for students who want to pursue careers working with young people in the community, but not within a traditional classroom setting?’” says Angela Lupton, a Senior Lecturer of Education. 

This fall, COE launched the new non-licensure Youth and Community Development major as an answer to that question. Students in the pathway share foundational curriculum required for all COE majors, but they also choose from one of five interdisciplinary, community-focused intensive areas: Sociology with an emphasis in Social Work; Recreation and Sport Studies; Human Communication and Organizational Leadership; Arts Administration; or Entrepreneurship and Innovation. To finish out the major, all students complete full-time internships within youth-focused organizations related to their concentrations.

“We don’t see this at all as an alternative pathway for those who decide not to become teachers,” says Shelly Furuness, an Associate Professor of Education who worked with Lupton to develop the new major over the last four years. “It’s a pathway for you to see yourself as an educator, but not in the context of a traditional classroom.”

Furuness says each of the five intensive areas was inspired by the career paths of former students, from entering the field of social work, to pursuing student affairs roles within higher education, to serving youth through nonprofit work. Others have gone on to roles as professional school counselors, museum educators, and a variety of other youth-focused positions.

“We want to help broaden the concept of what educators do,” Furuness says. “Our vision for the COE is that we imagine a world where we are trying to push the status quo and help students see schools and communities as they could be.”

Building the curriculum involved listening to voices from across disciplines, and Lupton has already received ideas for ways to add more concentration options. It took a University to raise the major, and Lupton believes the program is all the stronger for it.

“I think the opportunity to work with colleagues across campus was a really powerful process,” she says. “I was amazed at the number of people who kept saying, ‘Oh my gosh, where was this when I was an undergrad?’”

 

Making Meaningful Connections

Amanda Murphy loves education. She loves working with young people. But she has never loved being in a classroom.

Murphy first applied to Butler as an English major, then switched to Exploratory before move-in day. From there, she bounced around to political science, communication, and education until the start of her Sophomore year. She knew she needed to settle on something soon, but nothing seemed to fit.

Then in fall 2018, Lupton visited one of Murphy’s COE core classes to announce the new Youth and Community Development major.

“I thought, Woah, this is exactly what I want,” Murphy says. “You have the ability to work with young people, to study educational theories and practices, while not having to be in a classroom.”

Now a student in the Human Communication and Organizational Leadership area of the Youth and Community Development major, Murphy says her favorite thing about the program is the freedom it allows for personalization, which let her satisfy most of her required credits with classes she’d taken before switching.

While Murphy still isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do after graduation, she knows she wants to work with high school students.

“I just think that’s such a cool age for young people,” she says. “They make these huge bounds in social and emotional development. But when I was in high school, I didn’t like any of my classes. I still did well in them, and I enjoy learning, but the most meaningful connections I made were with people outside the classroom.”

She says high schoolers need people who are dedicated to being there for them and guiding them, and she wants to be one of those people. She’s passionate about educational advocacy, especially when it comes to fighting for equitable testing practices or LGBTQ and gender rights within schools. She wants to advocate for these things, but she mostly wants to help young people become leaders in advocating for themselves.

“Once you give them a little taste of leadership, that’s going to stick with them throughout their entire lives,” she says. “It’s a stepping stone that they’ll remember and will actually use to make a change within their own lives and communities.”

 

From Camp to Career

At a recent Butler admissions visit, Lupton met with a high school senior who was interested in the COE. He said he planned to become a classroom teacher, so Lupton explained some details about Butler’s licensure programs.

And while I’ve got you here, she told him, let me tell you about the new Youth and Community Development major.

As she talked, Lupton watched the wide-eyed expressions of the student and his mom. They looked at Lupton, and then they looked at each other, and then they looked back at Lupton.

“I thought, ‘What is going on here? I clearly hit a button,’” she recalls.

Okay, I need to confess to you, the student said. Part of the reason I like working with young people is that when I was younger, I had the chance to be involved in an amazing camp program. Throughout high school, I’ve gone back every summer to be a counselor. I always thought teaching would be a good fit for me because I could work with young people during the school year but still have my summers to go back and be a part of that program.

He stood in shock because, for the first time, someone was telling him that working with youth in recreational settings could be a viable year-round job.

“It was just such an ‘aha’ moment for him and his mom,” Lupton says. “They were both like, ‘That’s what you are meant to do.’”

Lupton says people too often think that whatever they enjoy doing most can’t be a career.

“This major stands in the face of that and asks people to think about those experiences they have adored and would love to keep doing,” she says. “It’s very possible that this pathway could lead you there.”

 

 

Revealing a Path

Through launching a nonprofit organization and following his passion for working with youth through sports—all after realizing a traumatic brain injury would prevent him from teaching in a classroom—College of Education graduate Mark Spiegel helped inspire curriculum for Butler's new Youth and Community Development major.

As a soccer coach in Indianapolis and founder of the nonprofit organization Make Your Own Ball Day, Mark Spiegel gets to spend his days with kids who are just as excited to be there as he is. Back when he was student teaching in English classrooms, asking high schoolers to read the next chapter of Shakespeare, that wasn’t always the case.

Still, a career outside the classroom wasn’t always the plan for Spiegel, who graduated from Butler University in 2013 with majors in English and Secondary Education.

He first came to Butler from Lee's Summit, Missouri, not quite sure what to study. He just knew he wanted to play soccer and volunteer with kids—the rest would work itself out, he figured. So he took “the money route,” declaring majors in Business and Mandarin while spending the rest of his time either out on the field or mentoring youth in the community.

But everything changed during a soccer practice his sophomore year. A ball struck the back of his head, leaving an injury that has caused him daily headaches ever since. After another hit during a game the following season, Spiegel had to quit soccer and drop out of school.

“The head injury knocked me off this automated, sleepy track of what many people consider to be the American Dream,” he says. “But I was faced for the first time with figuring out what I was really passionate about.”

It took years—and a challenge from his therapist to find life through giving life to others—but Spiegel eventually went back to coaching soccer and volunteering with organizations that let him work with kids outdoors. He came back to Butler to finish his degree, this time in Education. And he graduated, but only after realizing while student teaching in his last semester that the chronic headaches would prevent him from ever working in a classroom.

“I was finding myself in situations where I had 32 kids looking at me, when I was in pain to the point where I needed to remove myself, but I didn’t have that ability,” he says.

He needed flexibility. He needed to take care of his health. But he also needed to follow his passion for making an impact on kids' lives.

Today, Spiegel works with the Indy-based youth soccer club Dynamo F.C., where he mentors kids and develops curriculum. He spends his evenings coaching young athletes from around the city.

“Coaching soccer has been the most appropriate and purest platform for me to advocate for the kids I want to reach,” he says. “I get to teach kids how to play soccer, but I also get to teach them important lessons of character and integrity.”

Whenever he’s not coaching, Spiegel works on Make Your Own Ball Day, the event-turned-nonprofit he first launched in 2012. The program serves children in two important ways, Spiegel says, helping kids in the United States appreciate what they have while providing resources for those in need.

At events where young people build their own soccer balls from materials like duct tape and crumpled newspaper, the organization teaches kids about thankfulness through showing them part of what it’s like to live in a developing nation. Spiegel also works to build soccer fields and establish youth camps in communities around the world, where he collaborates with schools and orphanages to promote mentorship, leadership, education, and gender equality.

The organization not only allows Spiegel to work with kids in his own way—it will change lives for students at Butler, where Education faculty say Spiegel’s story helped inspire the Entrepreneurship and Innovation track within the new Youth and Community Development major.

“It’s cool to hear that the College of Education is moving toward a broader view of impacting kids through any means necessary,” Spiegel says, “whether that’s through sports, mentorship programs, or teaching in a traditional classroom. When I heard that, I was like, ‘Yep. That’s what I would have done if I was at Butler right now.’ I would have eaten that up.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

youth and community development Butler
AcademicsAlumni Outcomes

Butler Education Alumni Inspire New Major

Youth & Community Development major offers path for students who want to work with youth outside the classroom.

Oct 28 2019 Read more
esports rendering
CampusStudent Life

Butler Ready to Launch First Esports and Gaming Space, but Much More to Come

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 24 2019

 

 

A new space on Butler University’s campus dedicated to esports and gaming is in the works. But it will be about much more than one of the world’s hottest industries.

The Esports and Gaming Lounge is set to open in late November. It will be located in Atherton Union, adjacent to the newly designed Plum Market at C-Club, which will open around the same time. Open to the campus community, the space will have stations dedicated to esports, or competitive, organized video gaming. There will be 16 gaming PCs, an area of gaming consoles, and an area for tabletop gaming.

But this is just the beginning. Plans for a much larger, 7,500-square-foot multi-use space in the Butler Parking Garage are in the works, says Eric Kammeyer, Butler’s new Director of Esports and Gaming Technology. The space is slated to open fall 2020, and it will build upon the Atherton Union space, featuring 50 gaming PCs, an area of gaming consoles, and room for technology-infused corporate trainings and events or youth STEM and esports camps. It will also have broadcasting production capabilities for live events such as podcasts or esports competitions, a coworking space, a cafe, and a small office space available for lease to support new ventures.

In addition to the Butler esports team that competes in the BIG EAST and will start practicing in the new space, gaming and innovative technologies are being incorporated into the wider Butler curriculum, as the new spaces will enable campus to serve as a sports hub for the greater Indianapolis community. These new spaces will foster student access, community partnerships, and innovations in teaching and learning—all key aspects of Butler’s new strategic direction.

“While competitive and recreational esports is a key driver of this new space, our vision is larger,” says Butler’s Vice President for Strategy and Innovation, Melissa Beckwith. “Our goal is to create a space that will ultimately support curricular innovation, serve the K-12 community, and align with two of the city’s economic engines—sports and technology. Integrating these efforts is the key to creating maximum impact for our students, faculty, and broader community.”

 

Future Esports & Technology space in the Sunset Avenue Parking Garage, expected to open in fall 2020

 

Why invest?

In 2014, more than 70 million people across the globe watched esports on the internet or television, according to Newzoo, the leading provider of market intelligence covering global games, esports, and mobile markets. That same year, a single esports event retained viewership that surpassed the NBA’s Game Seven.

Newzoo expects that esports viewership will increase to 427 million people and top $1 billion in revenue in 2019.

“Gaming is extremely popular among students, and its popularity will only continue to grow,” says Butler’s Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross. “Universities must be responsive to students’ changing needs and interests, identifying innovative and meaningful ways to engage them on campus. This investment in Butler students is important as we continue to enhance the student experience.”

It is also an area exploding with job opportunities. 

Butler Assistant Professor of Creative Media and Entertainment Ryan Rogers just published a book on esportsUnderstanding Esports: An Introduction to the Global Phenomenon. The book explores the rise of the esports industry and its significance, and is the first comprehensive look at an industry that has risen so quickly.

Because of that accelerated growth, the industry needs employees.

“It is incumbent on us, as an institute of higher learning, to prepare students for jobs and get them thinking about new jobs they may not have previously thought about, or may not even know exist,” says Rogers, whose research has explored the ways video games influence their audiences and users. “It is imperative to serve students, and this is a growth field. There are opportunities for students in this field, from competing, to working, to conducting research. As a higher ed institution, we should work to understand why, like anything else, this is happening and how it is happening.”

 

Curriculum

Rogers teaches an esports class. He also teaches a class that works with FOX Sports. This semester, that class is working closely with Caffeine, a new broadcasting service that is mostly geared toward streaming video games.

But it is about much more than just integrating esports into the Butler curriculum. There is a much broader, cross-disciplinary effort being made toward integrating gaming into pedagogy across campus.

James McGrath, Professor of Religion and Classics, says: “There is real educational value in the mixing of gaming and learning because, I remember at one point in my life, learning was fun.”

McGrath says as educators, it is easy to fall into old habits such as talking at people, or doing “other boring things like that.” But, he says, there is a reason that students spend hours playing video games. These games give people the freedom to fail and try again.

“We often forget the need to incorporate failure in any educational experience that is ultimately going to lead to success and learning,” he says. “The only way to become good at something is to do it repeatedly, and fail, and if you get penalized for failing, you will never get the chance to ultimately get very good at it.”

Incorporating game-like elements, such as a point-based system, into higher education sparks learning, McGrath says. This is the gamification of higher education. 

For McGrath, this started when he was teaching a course on the Bible. The second day of class, he knew he had to teach his students, essentially, a history lesson about why Bibles are different and where the table of contents comes from, for example. He decided to create a card game, Canon: The Card Game

“People like to game,” McGrath says. “Faculty are starting to recognize the value of these types of things as part of culture and things we can harness for good in terms of learning outcomes. The fact that institutions such as our own are being more aware that people need to be well-rounded and that involves different things, even gaming, is a huge step toward true innovation.”

Jason Goldsmith, Associate Professor of English, quite literally studies video games. 

He offers a course called Video Game Narrative, which looks at how video games tell stories and what they can do differently from a standard novel or film. One iteration of the course studied Lord of the Rings. The students read the novel, watched the film, and then played online with people all over the world. The class looked at how the narrative shifted based on environment.

“These kids grow up playing video games much more than watching movies, so it is vital that we teach them to think about this medium critically with the same attention we ask of them when reading Shakespeare,” he says. “If they are playing these games, and if they will one day produce these games, we must encourage them to think more deeply about the relationship between story, game, and what players want out of a game.”

Goldsmith has also gamified aspects of classes he teaches, such as a course he recently taught on Jane Austen. Austen played many games when she was younger, and games play a crucial role in her novels. Students had to create a Jane Austen game, complete with a character sheet that reflected the characteristics Austen valued in her main characters.

Goldsmith says he looks forward to studying the broader cultural significance of gaming, while also making sure Butler continues to evolve and prepare students for emerging career opportunities. 

Butler is working University-wide to do just that. 

 

Future Esports & Technology space in the Sunset Avenue Parking Garage, expected to open in fall 2020

 

Competition

When John George ‘18 started at Butler, he had two passions: sports and video games. But he had never heard of esports.

He was watching ESPN one morning and heard something about competitive video games and esports. His mind was blown. He started Googling like crazy, and he found there was this whole world out there with teams and leagues. He started playing League of Legends and was hooked.

By the time he was a senior, he heard about Rogers and his esports class. After the first class, he ran up to Rogers, and the two decided to start the Butler esports student organization. There wasn't much interest that first year, and George was the only senior at the meeting. There were a handful of others.

“I can’t believe we went from having some interest, to now being on the brink of an actual space on campus,” says George, who worked for Echo Fox, an esports organization in Los Angeles, running a podcast and producing video after graduation. “We used to all practice in our dorm rooms apart, so the chance to all be together will be amazing.”

Interest has grown quite a bit, too. In 2018, the esports team started competing in the BIG EAST. The team competes in two titles in the BIG EAST now—Rocket League and League of Legends

“The BIG EAST Conference and our members have been formally exploring the esports space since 2017,” says Chris Schneider, Senior Associate Commissioner for Sport Administration and Championships at the BIG EAST. “It’s exciting to see growth on each campus, and Butler University is certainly one of the leading programs in the conference.”

Growth on Butler’s campus over the last few years has really skyrocketed. There is discussion around Butler-sanctioned scholarships, Kammeyer says.

“Interest on campus has mirrored the explosion of this industry at the global level,” he says. “We continue to work with our partners at the high school level to develop advancement opportunities much like traditional sports. We want to provide an end-to-end solution for those that want to pursue anything that falls under the umbrella of esports and innovative technology, from music and production, to competition, to developing the games they are playing.”

 

Community

Butler is not the only member of the Indianapolis community active in the esports and gaming space. 

Ryan Vaughn, Indiana Sports Corp President, says esports is no longer an emerging phenomenon, but rather something that the wider community is very much engaged in. However, Indianapolis lacks the physical space to bring this sport to life.

“With basketball or swimming, for example, it is easy for us as a city to demonstrate we have the infrastructure here to compete with other cities to host major events. But for esports events, it is different,” Vaughn says. “It will be a game changer for us to now have a community space and a University to partner with.”

Esports also differ from other sports in their clear connection to STEM fields and tech, Vaughn says. To continue to grow in these areas as a state, it is important to recognize and develop that connection.

Scott Dorsey agrees. Dorsey, Managing Partner at High Alpha and Past-Chair of the Indiana Sports Corp, sees Butler’s new esports and tech space as key to developing Indiana’s workforce.

“Esports is an excellent example of the collision between sports and technology in Indianapolis,” Dorsey says. “We are a city that embraces our sports legacy and is well positioned to leverage our explosive growth in technology and innovation. Butler’s planned esports and technology park will be an important asset in our city as we build on our unique strengths and further develop, recruit, and retain top tech talent to the state.”

Potential partnerships with professional sports teams, other universities, K-12 schools, and start-up companies are all part of Butler’s larger plan, says Kammeyer. 

This past summer, for example, Butler partnered with NexTech, an Indianapolis-based organization committed to elevating the technical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills of K-12 students, to host their Explorers Camp and provide programming for the Catapult Program—an intensive summer experience for high school students interested in exploring careers in technology.

“The investment Butler is making in innovative and transformative technology will be a tremendous asset for our city as we work to open doors for youth to explore opportunities in related fields,” says NexTech President Karen Jung.

Partnerships could lead to potential internship opportunities for Butler students, summer camps for community members, and mentorship programs for the esports team, for example.

Take the Indiana Pacers, for example. In 2017, Cody Parrent was hired to be their Director of Esports Operations. That year, they were one of 17 inaugural teams in the NBA 2K League. The league drafts players 18 years old or older from all over the world. 

Since that inaugural year, the league has added six new teams, including one from China. 

“We have seen interest grow exponentially,” says Parrent, who coaches the team, serves as the general manager, and works on partnerships.

As part of his partnership work, Parrent has spent time guest lecturing in Butler’s esports classes. And that has led to the Pacers having multiple Butler interns—a multimedia intern and a business operations intern.

“A lot of people know about the gaming side of esports, but there is a whole other side, which is the business side of things, and that is what I see as the most exciting part of what Butler is doing,” Parrent says. “The sport itself is open to everyone, as is the business side of things. We are ecstatic about finally having a hub that will bring everything together. The possibilities are endless.”

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

esports rendering
CampusStudent Life

Butler Ready to Launch First Esports and Gaming Space, but Much More to Come

The new space in Atherton Union will open in late November, with a second Parking Garage space planned for 2020.

Oct 24 2019 Read more
Students visit IU Health warehouse
Experiential LearningUnleashed

From Beer to Cars to Medical Supplies, Students get a Broad Look at Business

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Oct 23 2019

Instructors of the Operations and Global Supply Chain Management course within Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business realized no PowerPoint presentation could compete with sending students out to explore 300,000 square feet of industry.

The goal of the class is to expose Business students to operations concepts by giving them opportunities to tour the facilities of companies and soak up the knowledge of professionals first hand at their workplace.

Led by Assistant Professor Janaina Siegler and Faculty Lecturer Matthew Caito, the class has taken students on site visits of companies all over Indiana. These trips help students understand concepts of distribution, profit maximization, and waste minimization. They also help students see what life is like inside some of top corporations by giving them a behind-the-scenes look at what makes these businesses truly function.

Students walk in IU Health warehouse.
Business students walk in the huge IU Health Distribution Center warehouse in Plainfield, Indiana.

A recent visit to the Indiana University Health Distribution Center in Plainfield, Indiana, found Caden Castellon and some classmates in a warehouse of the 300,000-square-foot facility, where medical supplies are prepared for shipment to 17 Indiana hospitals. From hospital beds to tongue depressors, the supplies were organized on palettes, conveyor belts, and bins, all of which were moved around by robots the size of Butler Blue III. Shelving soared at least two stories tall, and the facility was cooled by ceiling fans larger than helicopter blades.

“Actually going to the site and seeing how things work is always eye-opening,” says Castellon, a junior studying Finance. “It just broadens the picture of business.”

By the end of the semester, the students will have seen how seven different companies organize their logistics with the ultimate goal of saving time, labor, and money.

Whether Finance, Marketing, or Accounting majors, all Business students take the Operations and Global Supply Chain Management course.

“Marketing people find the money, the finance people count the money, and it’s up to operations people to save the money,” Caito says. “This is an easy class to get engaged with because so much of it is experiential.”

Before the students toured the facility, Derrick Williams, Executive Director of Supply Chain Logistics for IU Health, explained how investing in a distribution center has saved millions of dollars in just two years by consolidating operations in a one-stop-shop. The facility’s AutoStore robots help keep things organized, making the most of available technology. Students were able to see that efficiency first-hand.

A student watches an AutoStore robot.
Finance junior Caden Castellon watches IU Health's AutoStore robots prepare hospital shipments. 

“I personally love having the opportunity to go out and visit somewhere like this,” says Ben Greenblatt, a junior studying Finance. “It gives you a lot of new information that I had no idea about.” 

Opportunities everywhere

Like the clockwork of a well-run facility, Caito says students start seeing operations and supply chain management concepts everywhere they go. They see why certain products are placed along the perimeter of the grocery store (consumers tend to buy more from those areas) or how concession stands at Indiana Pacers games are staffed to meet fans’ hunger and thirst demands.

“After they go to the tours, they’ll come back impressed at all the details that have to happen in order to be successful,” Caito says. “It makes sense, and I hope in five, 10, 15 years, a student can reflect back on the class and say, ‘that’s where I learned where theory is important, but also that doing things that makes sense is really important—anticipating what the needs are going to be.’”

The variety of companies that have partnered with the course are diverse in product, service, and size. Tours of Sun King Brewery had to be divided up to fit all of the students interested in how the popular Indianapolis brewer makes its beers and ships bottles, cans, and kegs all over Indiana. A visit to the UPS World Port started at 11:00 PM on October 4 and extended into the early morning of October 5, when the airport was at its busiest.

Other Indiana visits this fall have included the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Jeffersonville, Subaru Indiana Automotive in Lafayette, and Cummins in Columbus.

Join the club

The course’s popularity has led to the formation of the Butler Global Supply Chain Club. The student-run organization’s meetings often consist of case studies, guest speakers, and networking opportunities. 

Club President Tim Evely took Operations and Global Supply Chain Management a year ago. The experience inspired him to lead the club, which allows members to take Caito and Siegler’s class tours without being enrolled in the class. 

“Supply chain is applicable everywhere, in any business,” says Evely, a senior majoring in Finance and Accounting. “In any decision-making process, supply chain opportunities must be considered.”

Evely’s class also visited sites around the Hoosier State. A tour of the Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing plant in Columbus, Indiana, was especially impactful. Like the IU Health Distribution Center, the sheer size of the Toyota facility astounded Evely and his classmates. They encountered a complex that measured 10 football fields long, which would take a full hour to walk around. Watching the assembly line in action and getting to see a finished product was something he could not have experienced in the classroom.

“We got to see what we’re working on in school translate in the industry,” Evely says. “It’s a good feeling to get out of the classroom and see the real-world applications.”

Upcoming Operations and Supply Chain Management events

  • III International Symposium on Supply Chain 4.0, October 24-28, Lacy School of Business Building
  • Guest speakers Clay Robinson, Co-Founder and CEO of Sun King Brewing Company, and Cameron Panther of Celadon Logistics will discuss entrepreneurship, distribution, and manufacturing processes from 5:00–7:00 PM November 7 at the new building for the Lacy School of Business.

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Students visit IU Health warehouse
Experiential LearningUnleashed

From Beer to Cars to Medical Supplies, Students get a Broad Look at Business

Students experience operational techniques up close during visits to Amazon, Sun King Brewery, and more.

Oct 23 2019 Read more
Sally Perkins
Arts & CultureUnleashed

If Susan B. Anthony Had a Smartphone

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 10 2019

 

 

What would the fight for women’s suffrage look like in 2019—a centennial after women won the right to vote?

Sally Perkins, a professional storyteller and Director of Butler University’s Speaker’s Lab, imagines Susan B. Anthony would be texting her fellow activists. Ida B. Wells would be tweeting about the importance of the black female voice. Anna Howard Shaw would become Ellen DeGeneres, and the spirit of Sojourner Truth would shine through Queen Latifah. And no matter how hard the fight for voting rights became, none of them would give up.

In Digging in Their Heels, a one-woman storytelling performance that will hit the stage in New York City later this month, Perkins captures the complexities of this part of American history she’s found most people don’t know much about. Through modern references and comedic elements, she makes this 100-year-old story more accessible to audiences who don’t know much about what it took to win the vote.

The show races through 72 years in 60 minutes. But Perkins helps audience members keep track of the 16 characters by assigning each suffragist a modern alter-ego—a well-known woman who mirrors the suffragist’s personality and activism style. The characters use smartphones and social media to communicate, “in some ways pointing to the fact that they didn’t have that technology,” Perkins says. “It was so difficult what they did.”

And the performance doesn’t shy away from those difficulties, which emerged both from those outside the movement and between the women leading it. Instead, Perkins shows where black women experienced racism from their white counterparts, even as they all worked toward a shared goal.

“I’m doing what I can to bring that truth to the story,” she says. “We cannot talk about issues of gender without talking about issues of race.”

 

Sally Perkins

 

The show first launched at the IndyFringe Festival in 2018. Perkins has performed at several venues since, including a show for Indiana’s League of Women Voters and a few visits to out-of-state conferences. On October 17, she’ll take it to New York for the United Solo Theatre Festival, a 10-week international event dedicated to one-person shows.

When Perkins first applied to perform at the festival, she didn’t really think she had a chance. But she received her acceptance in April, and her October show is now listed as a bestseller among the more than 120 performances on the United Solo calendar. If the first performance sells out completely, Perkins will be able to schedule a second, and that process could repeat for up to eight total shows throughout the course of the festival.

Digging in Their Heels first started taking shape in late 2017, then it unfolded over about 10 months of research and writing. Typically, Perkins is more of an oral performer than a playwright. But to juggle the stories of 16 women over 72 years, sharing the narrative of women’s suffrage demanded a more robust script. And to help keep audience members grounded in the chronology, she called on the skills of Butler CCOM colleague Armando Pellerano, Lecturer of Strategic Communication, to design an interactive set.

“The audience should never have to be thinking, ‘Where are we in the timeline of all this?’” Perkins says. “So I have a huge set with a timeline and a map of the United States, which helps people keep track of which states have granted women the right to vote at different points along the way.”

In Pellerano’s 20 years of experience in the creative services industry, he had never designed a set piece. But on a late-April day when he saw Perkins rehearsing on campus, he stopped to see what she was doing. They chatted about the graphics on her old set, and after a brief critique from Pellerano, Perkins asked if he could help her design something that would tell a better story.

Pellerano chose colors and patterns that captured a Victorian-era mood, making sure the set would complement Perkins instead of drawing attention away from her words.

“I was trying to find something that fit her vision,” he says, “as well as accomplishing what I wanted from a visual standpoint, which was getting people to focus on what she was talking about without being distracted by the background.”

During a recent local performance of Digging in Their Heels, Pellerano had the chance to see the set design in action.

“To me, the coolest thing was seeing her actually use all the pieces,” he says. “There’s a little marker that moves down for the timeline, and we made velcro pieces so she can reveal information more gradually.”

But the show was even more interactive than Pellerano expected, and he was amazed at the way Perkins connected with the audience. Plus, it told an important story he didn’t know.

“What I really learned about was the politics of that time in history,” Pellerano says. “You can read about something, but you’re not really situated in what the conventional wisdom of the time was or what the cultural norms were. To me, it was revelatory that these women were as strategic as they were about when to dig in their heels and when to back off.”

While Perkins has spent the last few months focused on her upcoming trip to New York, she says performance is just one part of her career. At Butler, she teaches public speaking classes and runs the Speakers Lab, a group of tutors who provide students with one-on-one help in creating and delivering speeches or presentations.

In the community, Perkins works with professional clients, helping them effectively tell their stories. She trains organizations on the basics, explaining the power of storytelling when it comes to fundraising, sales, organizational development, recruitment, and more. She also offers individual coaching for a range of story-based projects. This professional service work, along with her commissioned performance experience, strengthens what Perkins does at Butler.

“All my storytelling work has deepened, improved, and impacted the way I teach public speaking,” she says. “Before I started doing all of this, I would never have talked about the importance of storytelling in public speaking class. Now I totally do.”

But it works the other way around, too, and she lets a love of education influence her performing. When audiences walk away from Digging in Their Heels, she wants them to have learned something.

“I want people to feel inspired not to give up, even though, as I say at the end of the story, many of these women went to the grave without ever casting a vote,” Perkins says. “But we need to not give up with whatever our battle is. It matters to me that people walk away feeling inspired by the longevity of the movement, and that they think about how we can be better in the future, no matter what the issue is at hand.”

 

Digging in Their Heels
Thursday, October 17, 7:30 PM
410 West 42nd Street, New York City
Tickets: $45 (purchase here)

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Sally Perkins
Arts & CultureUnleashed

If Susan B. Anthony Had a Smartphone

Celebrating 100 years of women's suffrage, Sally Perkins takes her one-woman storytelling show to New York City.

Oct 10 2019 Read more
JUUL research
ResearchUnleashed

New Study: Students Report Harmful Effects from Vaping, Don’t Use JUUL to Quit Smoking

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 07 2019

When e-cigarettes first hit the market, manufacturers sold them as a cleaner, safer alternative to combustible cigarettes. They targeted current smokers, touting vape as a good way to quit.

“But that is clearly not how they are being used,” says Amy Peak, Butler University’s Director of Undergraduate Health Science Programs. Her recent research about the harmful effects of vaping included a survey of nearly 1,000 college students.

research results Peak recently completed this large-scale study in collaboration with Sarah Knight, a senior Health Science major, and they presented their findings at the 2019 Indiana Life Sciences Summit on September 26.

They discovered that, while vaping was originally promoted as a safer alternative for existing smokers, most young vape users are brand new to nicotine. And it probably isn’t any safer, either, with most users experiencing a variety of harmful effects.

In data gathered throughout the past year, Peak found that almost 60 percent of college students had used a JUUL—the most popular e-cigarette in the United States. Of the students who vaped, 90 percent had never smoked a traditional cigarette. Only 3 percent of respondents said they used JUUL in an effort to quit smoking.

“Vaping is clearly an entry-level thing,” Peak explains. “It is not something that the college population is using as a smoking cessation product.”

And for pretty much everyone who vapes, even occasionally, there are consequences.

The most common adverse reaction found in Peak’s study was coughing, a symptom reported in about a third of all users. Other common harmful effects included nose or throat irritation (20 percent of users), headaches (18 percent), shortness of breath (16 percent), and difficulty sleeping (6 percent). For most of these effects, Peak found that the more often someone vaped, the more likely they were to experience these side effects.

Nicotine withdrawal was also common, affecting 72 percent of heavy users, 54 percent of moderate users, and 8 percent of occasional users. Reported withdrawal symptoms included cravings, headaches, mood changes, and the inability to think clearly. Peak explains that the form of nicotine used in JUUL pods provides a faster, harder hit than combustible cigarettes, which makes vaping more addictive per use than smoking.

“There is no doubt that this is an addictive substance,” she says. “It is something that people are going to have substantial trouble coming off of if they are using it regularly.”research results

The study also found that almost all college students who vaped had done so in a social setting, sharing e-cigarettes with others, which could contribute to the spread of infectious disease. Of the respondents who used vaping products, 95 percent had put a JUUL in their mouths immediately after it was in someone else’s mouth. Peak says this could spread any form of bacteria or virus that is transmitted via saliva, including some forms of herpes, mononucleosis, influenza, norovirus, or strep throat—just to name a few. This risk of spreading infectious disease is not typically seen with combustible cigarettes.

“That, in and of itself, I think is a public health hazard no one is talking about,” Peak says.

Going forward, Peak plans to partner with Butler Biological Sciences Lecturer Mike Trombley to look deeper into that infectious disease potential.

Before collaborating with Peak on this research, student Sarah Knight had noticed many of her college-aged peers starting to use JUUL without knowing much about it. She wanted to help fill gaps in existing research about the risks of vaping, and she enjoyed the chance to be part of something that has such an immediate impact on public health.

“There is a misconception that vaping is a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes,” Peak says. “My hope is that, as this data comes out, we have mounting evidence that changes this idea.”

She explains that most people assume that just because you don’t see smoke or smell tar when using JUUL, it must be safer than a combustible cigarette. This has created an environment where vaping is a lot more socially acceptable than smoking.

“But this is just a different delivery device for an incredibly addictive substance—and a substance that is mixed with flavorings and colorings that have no business being inhaled,” Peak says.

Those candy-like flavors—now facing a potential ban—have made JUUL especially appealing to young people. And as new lung illnesses have brought vaping products under more nationwide scrutiny in recent weeks, Peak hopes this study will join the conversation in a way that helps teens and college students understand that adding an “e” doesn’t make cigarettes any safer.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

JUUL research
ResearchUnleashed

New Study: Students Report Harmful Effects from Vaping, Don’t Use JUUL to Quit Smoking

Professor Amy Peak and student Sarah Knight surveyed nearly 1,000 college students about experiences with JUUL use.

Oct 07 2019 Read more
Butler Beyond
Butler BeyondCommunityGiving

Butler Announces New Strategic Direction, Historic $250 Million Campaign

BY

PUBLISHED ON Oct 05 2019

 

INDIANAPOLIS—Butler University today unveiled its new strategic direction and largest ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. Butler Beyond: The Campaign for Butler University seeks to raise $250 million by May 2022 to deliver transformative change to the University, region, and the world.

To date, the campaign has raised more than $171 million from more than 27,000 donors.

“Our strategy for Butler Beyond acknowledges the reality that the higher education landscape is changing, and we must change with it,” President James Danko says. “We intend to hold firmly to the traditions and values that have always defined a Butler education, while evolving to meet the changing needs and expectations of learners, employers, and society in the 21st century. Philanthropic support will be absolutely essential to achieving this vision.”

Combining tradition with innovation, the new strategic direction will build 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 affordable and flexible.

These new opportunities include growth in customized corporate education programs, non-degree certificates and credentials, and community-focused talent development programs. Butler’s founding mission that everyone deserves access to a high-quality education regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status will be the guiding light for Butler Beyond as the University aims to reimagine a Butler education that is accessible to all learners.

The Butler Beyond campaign is organized around three pillars aimed to fuel this new strategic direction: student access and success, innovations in teaching and learning, and community partnerships.

“These Butler Beyond campaign pillars represent areas for philanthropic investment that will fuel our vision for the future,” Vice President for University Advancement Jonathan Purvis says. “These priorities were developed with input from donors, alumni, faculty, staff, and community partners who helped to identify the areas where Butler University is uniquely positioned to ignite positive change. Support for these strategic initiatives will propel our vision of transforming lives through education at Butler and beyond.”

Campaign funds will empower students by expanding donor funded scholarship support and other resources needed to ensure student success, elevate learning by further investing in high-impact practices and faculty development, and engage communities through innovative partnerships and collaborative programs.

 

Student Access and Success

As Butler works to solve the problem of higher education affordability, growing the University’s financial aid program through donor funded scholarships will be essential. And, welcoming students of all ages, life stages, and backgrounds will require robust student support services.

In 2018-2019, the University provided more than $78 million in scholarships to students. Of that total, only $3.2 million was funded through scholarship endowment or other philanthropic support. Closing this nearly $75 million gap in annual scholarship costs is essential to removing financial barriers for all students.

To address the challenge of affordability, growing the scholarship endowment and the annual Butler Fund for Student Scholarship will be key funding priorities during the campaign.

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

Recruiting, developing, and retaining the nation’s top educators and scholars is another chief goal of the campaign. State-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research, as well as funding to support ongoing training and development, are crucial for recruiting and keeping top talent.

Among the key funding priorities in the category of innovations in teaching and learning are the growth of Faculty Opportunity Funds, the Sciences Expansion and Renovation Project, and the new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business.

“The work our faculty do with students on a daily basis—teaching, mentoring, and student-faculty collaborative research—makes up the very foundation of a Butler education,” Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kate Morris says. “One of the most effective ways to support Butler students is to invest in the ongoing development of our faculty.”

 

Community Partnerships

Strengthening community partnerships is a particular point of emphasis in the new strategic direction. Increasing Butler’s engagement with businesses, community organizations, educational providers, and government entities will lead to new academic programs, ventures, and experiences for Butler students. These mutually beneficial partnerships will enable faculty, students, and community partners to work together in tackling complex issues facing the region.

These collaborations will also provide experiential learning opportunities for Butler students, while responding to the educational needs of our communities and corporations through the co-creation of new education and talent solutions.

To this end, a key funding priority for community partnerships is the newly established Transformation Fund, which is aimed at fueling the development of new educational models and advancing projects that contribute to the long-term vision of the University. The Transformation Fund will also provide a means to invest in new ventures supporting Butler’s desire to think differently about the future of higher education.

“Great universities have great responsibility for positively impacting the communities in which they reside,” Vice President of Strategy and Innovation Melissa Beckwith says. “Butler is committed to developing talent that meets workforce needs, offering programs and experiences that contribute to the city’s vibrant culture, and encouraging creativity in solving some of our community’s most pressing challenges.”

 

Unprecedented Philanthropic Support

Butler has been the recipient of unprecedented levels of philanthropic support during the campaign’s quiet phase, which started June 1, 2015.

“Investing in Butler’s future at this pivotal moment will result in lives changed in our community and around the world through expanded access to a Butler education and through the meaningful work Butler graduates will go on to do with their lives,” says campaign co-chair Tina Burks.

“We are convinced that every gift to this campaign will have ripple effects beyond our imagination for years to come,” added Campaign Co-Chair Keith Burks MBA ’90. “We are thankful for the many generous donors who have already made a lasting impact through support of Butler Beyond.”

Many noteworthy gifts have been previously announced during the campaign quiet phase, including the following:

 

  • In 2016, Butler received its largest gift ever from an individual or family—the $25 million commitment from Andre B. Lacy and his wife, Julia, resulted in the College of Business becoming the Andre B. Lacy School of Business. The Lacy gift inspired 11 additional families to give $1 million or more toward construction of a new building for the School, which opened in August.

 

  • With lead gifts of $13 million from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, $5 million from alumnus Frank Levinson ’75, $2 million from emeritus trustee chair Craig Fenneman ’71, and $9.5 million collectively from other alumni and friends, the Butler Board of Trustees approved a $100 million investment in the renovation and expansion of the University’s sciences facilities. To date, more than $29.5 million has been raised toward a total philanthropic goal of $42 million for the project.

 

  • Restoration of Hinkle Fieldhouse was another key infrastructure project of the past decade at Butler, costing a total of $46.5 million over two phases. With help from the Efroymson family’s leadership contributions totaling $2 million, more than $32 million in philanthropic support has been raised to date for the effort, which has enhanced the student-athlete and fan experience.

 

  • The Hershel B. ’52 and Ethel L. Whitney Chair in Biochemistry was established through a $2 million gift from the estate of Hershel B. ’52 and Ethel L. Whitney, making it the first new endowed chair established during the Butler Beyond era. Associate Professor of Chemistry Dr. R. Jeremy Johnson was selected as the first to hold the endowed position, which provides support for critical research he is conducting alongside undergraduate students into halting the spread of tuberculosis.

 

  • In 2017, Butler announced a $5 million commitment from Old National Bank to create the Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business, which provides privately owned businesses throughout Indiana with training, education, mentoring, and networking opportunities to help them succeed. The Center, located in Butler’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business, places special emphasis on serving the unique needs of this core segment of the Indiana economy, which employs more than 2.5 million people.

 

Butler Beyond: The Campaign for Butler University is the University’s largest-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign with a goal of $250 million. The campaign will conclude May 31, 2022.

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Butler Beyond
Butler BeyondCommunityGiving

Butler Announces New Strategic Direction, Historic $250 Million Campaign

Butler Beyond seeks to raise $250 million by May 2022 to deliver transformative change.

Oct 05 2019 Read more
Sciences Groundbreaking
Butler BeyondCampusCommunity

Butler Holds Official Groundbreaking for Historic $100 Million Sciences Renovation and Expansion

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 05 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Butler University is set to hold the official groundbreaking for a new, state-of-the-art science complex.

The $100 million renovation and expansion is the largest capital project in the University’s history. Consistent with the University’s new strategic direction, which is set to be unveiled at a historic celebration at Clowes Memorial Hall Oct. 5, the new complex will promote learning by doing through new high-tech classrooms, will feature labs that mimic top research companies, and will encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration through work spaces. The facility will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of science, and eliminate labs designed for a single purpose. Classroom spaces will allow faculty to step away from a podium, and move among students in a more hands-on approach to instruction.

Phases I and II of the project are underway, with a predicted 18-month timeline. To date, $29.5 million has been raised for the project. The goal is to raise $42 million of the $100 million total cost through philanthropic support.

Butler Chair of the Board of Trustees Jay Sandhu will preside over an official groundbreaking ceremony on the Gallahue Hall Academic Quad. Here are the details:

Who: President James Danko; Chair of the Board of Trustees Jay Sandhu; Provost Kate Morris; President & CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation Claire Fiddian-Green; College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean Jay Howard; Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Sean Berthrong; Sophomore Biochemistry Major Madison Unger

What: Official groundbreaking for the $100 million sciences renovation and expansion project

When: Thursday, October 3 at 4:45 PM

Where: Butler University campus on the Gallahue Hall Academic Quad (please call Rachel Stern at 914-815-5656 if you have any trouble finding the location)

Why: Though work has already started on this project, Butler is holding an official groundbreaking to celebrate this historic renovation and expansion

The project starts with the creation of a connector building—linking Gallahue Hall and the Holcomb Building—that will house classrooms, study areas, and research labs dedicated to Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, and Psychology. Phase I will add nearly 44,000 square feet, as well as a nearly 13,200 square-foot atrium. This additional space will create a science corridor to house all of Butler’s undergraduate science programs in a central complex.

Phase II of the project will include renovating and repurposing the Holcomb Building. Phase III will involve a complete renovation of Gallahue Hall, which currently houses several science departments and has not been renovated since its construction in 1973.

Sean Berthrong, Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences, says the new sciences complex will change the way he teaches. He will be able to do more innovative projects with his students in the classroom because there will no longer be physical barriers separating classrooms and lab spaces. That will enable him to literally bring his research into his classes.

“We will quite literally and metaphorically break down the walls between disciplines, between classwork and research, and between discovery and teaching,” Berthrong says. “It will be amazing to have a building that is as ambitious and as interdisciplinary as our students and faculty.”

Madison Unger, a sophomore Biochemistry major, says everyone at the University will benefit from this project, not just science majors like herself.

“This building will be a place where everyone will come to study, collaborate, hang out, and work together,” says Unger, who plans to go to medical school after graduation. “There is so much excitement around this project because everyone knows it will give students the best chance to flourish.”

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Using Science to Save the Arts

Rachel Stern

from Fall 2019

Michael Samide doesn’t have a background in art. Well, if you want to get technical—and the Butler University Professor of Chemistry likes to get technical—there was that one art history class. A British guy taught the class. It was after lunch, the room was dark, a slide projector was involved, and a fan would go on. Then, like clockwork, Samide would take a nap.

He ended up working in chemistry, which he figured meant he could steer clear of those sleepy afternoons. But after about 12 years of conducting one type of research at Butler, a visit from the new Senior Conservation Scientist at the Conservation Science Lab of the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields piqued Samide’s interest. Greg Smith had come to talk to Butler Chemistry faculty and students and explained that Newfields’ lab combines art history, science, analytical techniques, and research.

Samide was intrigued.

“I realized how lucky we were at Butler to have this lab 400 yards away,” Samide says. “My mind was blown after the presentation. I realized this unique, exciting realm takes all the techniques I have learned and applies them to solve real-world problems. It was time to learn something new.”

What has followed has been a seven-year partnership between the Conservation Science Lab at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields and Butler’s Chemistry Department. From student internships, to research collaborations, to published papers, to lectures across the globe, the partnership has flourished since Smith walked into the chemistry classroom back in 2012.

The museum’s Conservation Science Lab started in 2012 and uses scientific tools to study the materials of art. The lab works in tandem with the conservation staff to make sure the materials and methods that are being used are effective as well as safe for the artwork. The team also collaborates with the curatorial department to analyze the different materials comprising a work of art.

“Locked up in the chemistry of objects are often the answers to who made this, how old is it, has it changed appearance, is it even real or is it fake,” Smith says.

Partially funded by a $2.6 million grant from the Lilly Endowment, the facility operates out of a spacious, 3,000-square-foot analytical and research lab on the first floor of Newfields. As one of only about 10 museum conservation labs like this in the country, the work performed at Newfields can have a significant impact beyond the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Smith, the museum’s sole full-time lab employee, relies on interns and partnerships to assist in his efforts.

The Butler team was a natural fit, he says. They immediately added their chemistry expertise, working on research projects with faculty and students on varied topics such as pollutants, curricular development, and dye synthesis.

Samide and Smith have focused a great deal of their research on how materials used in museums impact art. There is a plastic that museums use for gallery casings that, after a great deal of research, they found was tarnishing silver. To date, they have published two papers, and are working on a third on the potentially harmful effects.

The partnership provides numerous benefits to the museum, but it also provides important experiential learning opportunities for Butler students. Heidi Kastenholz ’19 started at Butler as a Chemistry major certain she wanted to be an optometrist. She heard about the Chemistry of Art course that had a short study abroad component, so she signed up.

The course focused on how pigments are made chemically. When she returned from traveling, Kastenholz did a Butler Summer Institute research project on one specific pigment. After she graduated, she was offered an internship with the Library of Congress in their conservation science department, and her goal now is to become a conservation scientist in a museum lab.

“I learned how applicable science was,” she says. “I never thought about science and art as things that were related.”

That is exactly what drew Samide to this area of chemistry, despite his shaky memories of art history class. His research used to have very little application. Now, it has a real impact on what is placed into gallery spaces, what materials should be used inside a museum, and how museums think about preserving historic pieces of art.

“You would be surprised how every area of chemistry has something to do with art,” Samide says. “The best artists are using science and the best scientists are very artistic people. It is about the coming together of the two disciplines, rather than telling people they are two separate things.”

Academics

Using Science to Save the Arts

The Chemistry Department and the Indianapolis Museum of Art have forged an exciting partnership. 

by Rachel Stern

from Fall 2019

Read more
Students walking on campus

Butler Beyond2020

from Fall 2019

Last spring, Butler University President James Danko shared a personal story with a group of alumni and friends about a visit to Rochester, New York, he had made on a bitterly cold day in January 1993. He had just begun his very first higher education job, which entailed arranging 60 action learning projects per year for MBA students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Two of the most successful companies in the world—Eastman Kodak and Xerox—were headquartered in Rochester (in 1993, Kodak was No. 19 on the Fortune 500 list, and Xerox No. 21). By the end of his visit, Danko had secured learning opportunities for students at both. While it was an exciting trip for that accomplishment, a much deeper impression was made on Danko by the preventable downfall of each company in the ensuing years.

Each company clung too tightly to tradition and ignored revolutionary inventions by their own people. Kodak failed to embrace the invention of the digital camera by one of its young engineers in 1975—insisting that print photos were the future. Thirty-seven years later, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.

Xerox, meanwhile, failed to embrace the potential of the personal computers developed by its own researchers in 1970. Nine years later, Steve Jobs struck a deal with Xerox to bring those innovators aboard his fledgling company—Apple. Today, Xerox is No. 318 on the Fortune 500 list, while Apple is No. 3.

These served as powerful cautionary tales for Danko as he advanced in his own academic leadership career. He believes that saying yes to smart new ideas and embracing innovation—even though it may present some risk—is fundamental to organizational success. Complacency is dangerous. And consistently defaulting to “what’s always worked before” is a recipe for disaster.

Continuing to study organizational leadership over the years, Danko has been equally inspired by stories of success. For instance, when National Geographic, long known for its iconic yellow-bound magazines featuring stunning color photographs, noticed a decline in subscriptions in the 1990s as cable television and the internet grew in popularity, the organization quickly reimagined itself for a new era. In 2001, it launched the National Geographic channel and found new online platforms for sharing the time-honored art of nature photography with a new generation.

Butler aims to forge a similar path—respecting the time-honored traditions and the particular strengths that have always defined a Butler education, while imagining new ways to deliver that education in a rapidly-changing landscape.

To help spur new ideas, Butler sought the guidance of experts, including Blair Sheppard, Dean Emeritus of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and current Global Strategy Lead with PwC, and Matthew Pellish, Managing Director of Strategic Research and Education for the Education Advisory Board.

Both were blunt about how college has grown too expensive, takes too long to finish, and hasn’t kept pace with cutting-edge workplace needs. These hard realities have forced several schools nationwide to close their doors.

“There will be winners and losers,” Pellish says. “No one is going to win by saying, ‘We’ve always done it this way so let’s continue.’”

Universities that survive will be inventive, flexible, responsive, and thoughtful, Pellish asserts, adding that Butler is all of those things. “Butler was founded on innovation,” he says. “Unleash these smart, dedicated, innovative people on these challenges, and they will find solutions.”

Butler is doing just that. The Butler Beyond strategic vision is comprised of multiple paths that, together, respect tradition yet embrace innovation. Butler aims to preserve and build upon the quality and strength of its long-time success in traditional, residential undergraduate programs, while innovating for the new realities of the world. At the core of each path is the question: What must Butler do to prepare the next generation of learners for what lies beyond today? The graphic below illustrates the paths of our strategic vision.

Pursuing these paths will not be easy, but Butler is up for the challenge. The University is engaging the brightest in the field, learning from others in the midst of transformation, and seeking those “radically different” ideas from its own creative faculty, staff, students, alumni, and partners—who will together move Butler beyond its current model.

We have no plans to abandon Butler’s character or the things we do best,” Danko says. “But future expectations of academic institutions will be very different. We have to incorporate new approaches to education that add value—not only for our students, but for our society.”

Students walking on campus
Butler Beyond

Butler Beyond2020

Butler will forge a new path—respecting traditions while innovating a new path.  

from Fall 2019

Read more
Jim Danko, Brad Stevens, and Adam Grant

Three successful leaders who are well known to the Butler community recently gathered with Butler’s Vice President for Strategy and Innovation, Melissa Beckwith ’00, to discuss innovation, leadership, and staying nimble in a constantly changing world. They explored what it means to be innovative, how to foster a culture that fuels creativity, and why Butler is uniquely positioned to navigate the higher education challenges ahead. The questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.

James Danko, Butler University President, 2011–Present

Brad Stevens, Boston Celtics Head Coach, 2013–Present (Butler Men’s Basketball Head Coach, 2007–2013)

Adam Grant, Organizational Psychologist, Wharton Professor, New York Times Bestselling Author, “WorkLife” Podcaster, and fan of The Butler Way (Butler Guest Speaker in 2017)

 

Q: We live in a time when many industries, including higher education, and organizations are experiencing significant change. We often hear there is a need to innovate or transform in order to survive. What do the words innovation and transformation mean to you?

Brad Stevens: Innovation and transformation mean that you are always a bit uncomfortable, in a good way. You recognize that if things aren’t going well there are changes that need to be made to get moving in the right direction, and if things are going well, the dip is right around the corner. You have to stay not only at pace with your competitors, but stay ahead in a lot of ways and be malleable, adjust on the fly, and have a foundation that you can lean on.

Adam Grant: Innovation is implementing ideas that are new and improved from the status quo. Transformation is making innovation routine, making it the norm, making it widespread, and preventing it from just happening in one pocket of your organization.

James Danko: Innovation is a way to move beyond the complacency inherent in many organizations. In higher education—where tradition is so highly valued and respected—there’s an inclination to depend upon the way things have always been done. Innovation allows people to consider possibilities, beyond past and current practices, and adapt to a shifting landscape while positioning their school for future success. Transformation is the outcome of innovation.

Q: Innovation is easy to talk about but can be difficult to achieve. How do you innovate?

Brad: I am more of a thief than an innovator. I try to keep up with best practices in the game around me. I work and study not only what is going on in the NBA and college game, but also internationally, and then try to fit those best practices to the strengths of the individuals on our team. There may be bits and pieces that I take from across the globe. To me that is not necessarily innovation as much as just studying and piecing a puzzle together, but I think that is the way I would view what I try to do. I don’t see it as rewriting a chapter or changing the narrative of things; itis applying small tweaks to what I’ve seen as best practices and putting it to best use for my team.

Adam: Brad is the most honest thief out there.

Jim: When we think of innovation, we often think there is a “eureka” moment that occurs and a new idea results. But innovation is often underpinned by hard work—research, assessment, perhaps benchmarking against different types of entities. While some people may get concerned that they are not creative or innovative enough, from my experience, I don’t see creativity as necessarily inherent. I believe you can nurture and encourage innovation through focused effort and perseverance.

Adam: My favorite way of capturing what it means to be creative is how Karl Weick describes it. Karl always said creativity is putting old things in new combinations, and new things in old combinations. In a way, that is what Brad just described. You go and borrow ideas from lots of different worlds, but it is all about the tailoring of those ideas. I think those re-combinations are fundamentally innovative acts. It is very much like being a chef. It takes ingenuity to use all the same ingredients that other people have access to, but maybe you apply them in a different way to create a different dish, and that sequencing, or repackaging, to me is what the innovation process might look like.

Q: An innovation process is important but having the right culture is crucial. What type of environment nurtures innovation?

Jim: The leadership team at Butler is very deliberate about fostering an environment that encourages innovation. From the Board of Trustees down, there is an atmosphere of open-mindedness and creativity about the way Butler moves ahead. We recognize that changes to higher education are occurring rapidly and will continue to do so—from student demographics, to learning styles, to wellness needs. Across all areas of campus, we have to embrace innovation if we’re going to make Butler stronger for future generations.

Brad: You are only going to be innovative if you are encouraged to be innovative. If you are working in a place that is stuck doing things the way things have always been done, it’s going to be hard to feel comfortable thinking outside of the box. It is important to be able to appropriately challenge the status quo on occasion, and say “How can we make this a lot better?”

Adam: I like to look at the exceptions. If you are not in an environment or culture that makes that easy, what can you do? There is a paper that I really love in my field on creative deviance, or looking at how sometimes people directly violate norms in order to get their ideas advanced. For example, the Pontiac Fiero was designed after a designer violated three separate orders from management to stop working on a prototype. Even The Godfather involved a filmmaker who basically violated every directive from Paramount Pictures about what the plot was supposed to be, who should be cast in it, what the budget should be, and where it should be filmed. So I think there is something to be learned from those examples. If you don’t create the psychological safety for people to take risks on new ideas, and if you don’t give them the freedom and resources to actually test them out and learn from them, you’re usually not going to get very far.

Q: Innovation requires change. Each of you have played a role in leading teams through change. What are the keys to successfully doing so?

Adam: A lot of the keys to success are about avoiding the systematic mistakes that a lot of us have made. The first mistake that I see too many leaders make is that they fail to create a sense of urgency for change. That happens because when you are leading a transformation or when you have an innovative idea, it is abundantly clear to you why that makes sense, and it is hard for you to imagine somebody not getting it. You tend to forget that most people are excited about the status quo, or at least they are attached to the status quo, because it is familiar and comfortable. To be effective, you can’t just convey all the good things that will happen with change; you have to make clear all the bad things that will happen without change. Then the status quo becomes a bit destabilized and people are more open to trying something new and different. The other big mistake that drives me crazy is when people run in with solutions before they have really carefully diagnosed the problem.

Brad: You are never as good as you think you are, you are never as bad as you think you are, and you are never far from either. At the end of the day, it is about knowing foundationally what works, the things that are critical to your team’s performance and to your organizational health, and prioritizing those things. The magic is in the work. Put your head down and work.

Jim: It’s important to both make a case for change, which often requires presenting the harsh reality of a situation, while also presenting the opportunities inherent within a challenging situation. In the case of higher education, there are clear signs of a difficult future, whether it’s seeing universities close at an accelerated pace or the national student debt exceeding 1.5 trillion dollars—situations that should worry everyone. But those challenges also present an opportunity to adapt and take the lead on new educational approaches. I am confident that at Butler, if we’re innovative and open ourselves to new opportunities, we will continue to benefit our students well into the future.

Q: Adam mentioned the need to carefully diagnose the problem before developing ideas. President Danko shared the staggering amount of national student debt and the recent closure of several universities. In light of this, what is the problem higher education needs to solve?

Adam: Higher education is the most important force for learning and teaching in the world. No one gets better at anything without being a dedicated learner and also without having and being a great teacher. The first threat is that there are more vehicles for both teaching and learning that now exist outside of higher education that didn’t exist in the past. It’s easier to learn online now, it’s easier to take non-degree courses, and in many ways, it’s like we have gone back half a millennium and it’s easier to apprentice yourself in your craft and to learn things on YouTube.

I think there is also a growing case to be made that the kinds of jobs that previously needed a college degree are no longer going to require an advanced education. So I think it is possible that a small subset of schools will gain more of a monopoly on higher education, and all the other schools will be struggling to recruit students. The last threat is the feasibility of distance learning. I think so much of the value added by a university is getting people together so they can have experiential learning, they can have extended debate, they can really challenge each other’s thinking. As it gets easier and easier for people to learn from a distance, it gets harder to draw them into a campus, and that makes the unique value of an institution of higher education harder to convey and harder to deliver.

Jim: In the past, many of our students had to physically go to a library to find information. Now information that was well beyond the capacity of a library is immediately available to students on their phones. A key role of universities is to transfer knowledge. In our technologically advancing world, it’s imperative that we make the case for the Butler approach to education, and the value inherent when people gather in person and learn from faculty and one another. I expect that approach to continue to be core.

But to be successful moving forward, we’ll need to be multidimensional in the way we transfer knowledge.

Of course, the challenges extend beyond the approach to education. Over the past 20 years, the average net tuition, room, and fees at private universities have risen by 23 percent while median household incomes have grown by only 3 percent. Between 2017 and 2029, experts predict there will be an 11 percent decline in demand for a regional private education due, in part, to the significant contraction in the number of 18-year-olds in the United States. Universities must face the reality that there will be fewer students attending college, and even fewer still that can afford the traditional, residential undergraduate model.

Q: What makes you feel confident Butler will successfully navigate the challenges ahead?

Brad: The same thing that has allowed Butler to navigate the challenges of the past and continue to progress and move forward and keep adding, is the people—leadership, faculty, staff, and students. My 13 years at Butler were some of the most influential years to help me learn, grow, and get better at what I ultimately wanted to pursue. It was such an empowering environment. I feel very confident that if a challenge presents itself, the people at Butler will figure it out.

Adam: It is hard to top that. But for my part, you have a couple of things going for you. You have a president who is an entrepreneur at heart and a doer. A lot of universities have great thinkers at the top who don’t get anything done. I also think that there is an advantage to your small size. You are a lot more nimble; it’s easier to make changes, as opposed to being stuck in a giant bureaucracy. Then there is the culture. When I think of The Butler Way, I think of the humility. There is a norm at Butler that gets set on the basketball court, but pervades the University. Everyone is excited to figure out what they don’t know and keep learning. I think that is kind of the wellspring of innovation. And then also, the generosity. Butler is a school of givers. You have a group of people who are drawn to the school because they are excited to try and figure out how they can help others and contribute to a meaningful mission. I have some data suggesting that when people are focused on solving problems, not just for themselves, but for others, they end up generating more innovative ideas because they do a lot more perspective-taking, they think about what different kinds of solutions might look like for different kinds of people, and that is all good for generating ideas that turn out to be novel and useful.

Jim Danko, Brad Stevens, and Adam Grant
Butler Beyond

A Conversation—Innovation and Leadership in Changing Times

James M. Danko, Brad Stevens, and Adam Grant discuss innovation.

from Fall 2019

Read more
Understanding Esports
AcademicsArts & Culture

Butler Prof Explores Rise of Esports in New Book

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 01 2019

When Ryan Rogers was writing the syllabus for a new esports class at Butler University, the required reading section glared back at him. He needed to find books that covered the rapidly growing competitive video game industry, but there weren’t many to choose from. 

So Rogers, Assistant Professor of Creative Media and Entertainment, decided to create his own.

Understanding Esports: An Introduction to the Global Phenomenon hit the shelves in late September. Containing chapters written by 30 contributors from a variety of backgrounds, the book explores the rise of the esports industry and its significance within media, culture, education, and the economy.

But, what exactly are esports?

You’ll probably get a different answer from everyone you ask, says Rogers, whose research has explored the ways different forms of media—especially video games—influence their audiences. That’s why he wanted to build a conversation through an edited book with multiple authors. But he says a professional, competitive element generally sets esports apart from other video games.

Almost any time you play a video game, it can be competitive. But with esports, there’s something deeper than just trying to beat your friend’s score in the latest version of Super Mario Bros. Esports have an organized structure, with leagues, tournaments, and governing bodies setting standards and overseeing competition.

“I felt like there was really a need to understand this phenomenon and build a body of knowledge around it,” Rogers says. “Ultimately, I think it provides a broad view of the esports industry so that academics and industry professionals alike can wrap their minds around it.”

While Rogers solicited and edited all of the book’s chapters, he credits the other authors for making it possible—including Butler Journalism and Sports Media Associate Professor Lee Farquar, who wrote a chapter about the fighting genre of video games.

Rogers says the general lack of research on esports has to do with how quickly the industry has grown.

“As gaming culture evolved, esports became a thing that couldn’t be ignored,” he says. “It’s truly an international phenomenon with tons of money flowing in and more attention being paid to it each day.”

The role of esports within culture isn’t all that different from traditional sports, Rogers says. And esports are also similar to things like football or soccer when it comes to why so many people want to play—and watch—them. Whether on a field or on a screen, humans desire competition. People want to belong to something. They want to bond over common interests, and they want to have something to root for.

“People are arranging their media landscapes in order to gratify those needs,” Rogers says. “Video games and esports—whether you’re playing them or watching them—are serving those needs for a large population.”

And even beyond the people playing or watching the games, esports provide economic opportunities for the people creating, promoting, and reporting on them. 

“To me, esports represents another whole industry that our students can find jobs in,” Rogers says. “Traditional sports media is a competitive industry, but it is fairly stagnant in terms of growth. Meanwhile, the esports industry is growing exponentially. I see that and say ‘wow, that’s an opportunity for our students.’”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Understanding Esports
AcademicsArts & Culture

Butler Prof Explores Rise of Esports in New Book

Edited by Ryan Rogers, the book collects chapters from 30 contributors to provide big-picture view of esports.

Oct 01 2019 Read more
Venue Management students get a tour.
Arts & CultureExperiential Learning

The Show Must, And Will, go on Thanks to Butler Venue Management Students

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Sep 19 2019

Despite graduating in just three months, Drew Soukup’s final bow at Butler University won’t take place until fall 2020.

The Arts Administration major and his six classmates in Assistant Professor of Arts Administration Brenda Lee Johnston’s Venue Management course are already working on their final group project — select a show that will be presented as part of next season’s Jordan College of the Arts Signature Series in Schrott Center for the Arts.

Patrons will purchase tickets just like any show at the Butler Arts Center. The only difference is the show will be discovered, booked, and marketed by Johnston’s class of juniors and seniors.

“It’s going to be wild to come back and see it,” Soukup says. “I’ll be able to say ‘This is something I was able to start from the ground-up.’”

Students in the fall 2020 edition of the Venue Management class will market the event that this year’s class selects, and then work front- and back-of-house duties at the show. The experience will roll on each following fall.

Students explore the Schrott Center catwalk.
Venue Management students explore the catwalk above Schrott Center.

To fund the endeavor, JCA Dean Lisa Brooks gave the class a $10,000 budget to bring the act to the 476-seat theater. But the students must also make sure the money covers marketing and hospitality expenses. 

On a recent Wednesday morning class, students pitched their initial ideas for what artists to present. Most already contacted talent agencies to gather initial specs: cost, routing, travel, visa issues, hotel rooms, technological requirements, average attendance, and typical ticket costs.

The students’ ideas ranged from 2015 Butler alumnus Josh Turner’s folk music group to accordion and clarinet entertainers Double Double Duo, hip-hop flamenco dancers Titanium to a cappella singers Voctave. Eventually, the students will have to unite to bring in the act that’s the best fit. The show selection will be presented to JCA Department Heads in late October.

Johnston says a crucial part of booking the right show is thinking beyond your personal tastes. Arts administrators must take a step outside of themselves to consider what their audiences want to see most. Broad appeal is factored into the formula of show booking. The students must consider if the show is a good fit for the series, the venue, and Butler.

“You have to know how to sell it and build an audience around it,” Johnston says. “You put your tastes aside and you think about who would enjoy this.”

Johnston, who directed the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center and other Milwaukee arts venues for years before joining Butler, explains to the class that having a passion for live performance is crucial, but effective venue management is all about the details. So many different factors can cause bravos or boos.

“You get to know your audience so well,” Johnston says. “My vision as a presenter is to represent the artistic conscience of my community, while also expanding their artistic vision. That means presenting things they’re interested in, but also expanding their horizons. You have to build that trust so that they will come to new things and try it out.

“The greatest compliments I ever get are when you have your regulars who tell you ‘That really wasn’t my cup of tea, but I really appreciated and enjoyed it.’ They come to everything because of that, even if they think they may not like it.”

After just a few class meetings, Johnston and her students mingled with professional booking agents and artists at the 2019 Arts Midwest Conference in Minneapolis. Kelsey Dunn, Programming Coordinator for the Butler Arts Center, introduced the students to talent agencies, which present bands, comedians, dance ensembles, and even eSports stars and YouTube influencers. The students waded through the more than 300 presenters for acts that would be a good fit for their booking. 

“The agents were really great about answering their questions,” Johnston says. “They were able to ask questions to presenters. And, now we are ready to go. We are at the stage of  trying to figure out a show.”

Aaron Hurt, Executive Director for the Butler Arts Center, is a 2008 graduate of Butler’s Arts Administration program. Most of his career experience has come within the walls of Clowes Memorial Hall.

“We have these venues on this campus,” says Hurt, who co-taught the class with Johnston in 2016. “Why aren’t we pumping out people in theater management all the time because we have this access?”

When Hurt was officially named Executive Director in January, one of his goals was to hire more students as interns, ushers, box office personnel, and backstage crew. Most of the students in the Venue Management classes have been Butler Arts Center employees.

Soukup is one of those employees. Starting as a first-year usher, he has worked in the Schrott Center throughout his time at Butler. He will soon be able to add show presenter to his resume.

“I think having Clowes, Schrott, and the whole Butler Arts Center here on campus has been one of the most rewarding parts about coming to Butler,” Soukup says. “It’s been constant involvement. I’m graduating a semester early, but part of me would like to stay a little longer.”

Butler Arts Center Executive Director Aaron Hurt leads a tour.
Butler Arts Center Executive Director Aaron Hurt, right, shows Venue Management students the Schrott Center stage.
Venue Management students get a tour.
Arts & CultureExperiential Learning

The Show Must, And Will, go on Thanks to Butler Venue Management Students

For the class’ final project, undergrads will book a real concert for Fall 2020 at the Schrott Center for the Arts.

Sep 19 2019 Read more
DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10 2019

Many life-threatening diseases come from slight variations in our genetic codes. A problem with the BRCA1 gene makes a person more prone to certain cancers, for example, and mutations of the hemoglobin-Beta gene can lead to sickle cell anemia.

Not everyone with genetic mutations will develop the associated conditions, but just having a variation can change a person’s life—they’ll need to get tests, take pills, go through surgeries, and constantly worry that doing all of these things still won’t be enough.

So, what if we could fix the problem at its root?

Using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for more than $711,000, that’s what Butler University Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor Alex Erkine is trying to work toward. The project falls into NSF’s fairly new Rules of Life category, which aims to promote discoveries related to fundamental questions about how living things work.

Erkine says genes can have a wide range of functionality levels. Scientists already understand that the level of functionality depends both on certain aspects of the gene itself, as well as on the quality of the proteins that bind with the gene. These proteins work as activators, helping determine the gene’s level of functionality by dimming it up or down—imagine a light dimmer controlling the brightness in a room.

The problem is, biochemists have never completely understood how that gene-regulating dimmer works. If we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how to control or replicate it, and we can’t effectively edit a person’s DNA. Erkine’s project combines biochemistry with informatics, or machine learning, to try and change that.

In the physical lab, researchers will transfer strands of unique DNA sequences into cells. Then they’ll rate each cell based on how functional the DNA sequence is. In the past, similar tests have only been able to analyze a few DNA samples at a time, but using bioinformatics and machine learning will allow Erkine and his collaborators to compare more than 10,000 cells at once.

The ability to work with such a large group of DNA sequences is game-changing, Erkine says, because researchers can find patterns that never would have shown up when only comparing a few samples. Using bioinformatics tools makes this possible.

While scientists have been trying to understand the gene activator mechanism for decades, Erkine says both the DNA sequences and the ways they interact are highly variable and almost random—but not completely. Patterns do emerge within large enough data sets, which is why massive amounts of data are key. Erkine says computer-based tools are necessary in trying to understand these near-chaotic processes because finding those patterns will help us predict how genetic structures might interact after the activators are edited.

By identifying common features between strands with similar functionality scores, the informatics tools should help answer the question of what makes one gene functional and another gene cause disease.

The finished project is expected to shed some light on how genes are regulated and exactly how specific parts of a gene would need to be altered to prevent certain diseases. Scientists already know which part of the gene needs to be changed—as they can recognize mutations in DNA—and they now have the power to make those specific changes with the recent discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing system. But Erkine’s project is trying to answer the question of how to change sequences in ways that achieve the desired outcome of curing disease. So, we can already recognize and remove a genetic mutation, but what DNA sequences can we use to effectively replace it?

One of the project’s goals is to create a computational algorithm that will predict how certain changes to the gene activator mechanism (or the dimmer) will affect the genes it is working on.

“It sounds easy—just create an algorithm,” Erkine says. “But in reality, the problem is not trivial, because we do not fully understand how activators work. Our project, first of all, addresses the question about the mechanism of activator function. Then, as a byproduct, we hope to create a machine learning model (or algorithm) that can be used with CRISPR DNA editing for medical purposes.”

Some of this analytics process will take place at Butler, with help from PharmD students Brad Broyles and Andrew Gutierrez.

Broyles, who is in his third professional year of Butler’s Doctor of Pharmacy program, says working on this research has been the most valuable part of his time at Butler. He’s excited for the chance to learn about complicated aspects of biology while sharpening his computer skills, and he hopes the results will help make the field of biochemistry more receptive to new ideas.

Researchers at Purdue University also received close to $250,000 from the NSF to collaborate with Butler on this project. Purdue will handle most of the computer-based process Erkine calls the dry lab.

Back in 2015, Erkine had the chance to spend his sabbatical in Cambridge, England, with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. He has continued collaborating with the institution ever since, publishing an article in 2018 that helped lay the foundation for his current project.

Erkine says our current lack of understanding about how some molecular mechanisms work has a lot to do with long-held beliefs in the field of biochemistry—beliefs about what is and what isn’t worth studying.

“In short, biochemistry is about specificity,” he explains. “It looks at specific structures interacting with other specific structures in specific ways—key-and-lock sorts of interactions. But this is simply because that’s easy to study. Everything that does not necessarily interact specifically or strongly is ignored by biochemistry. It is considered noise: noise that is nonessential, non-functional, detrimental—that essentially stands in the way of new biochemistry developments.”

Erkine wants researchers to think about things differently. The human cell is full of interactions that occur randomly, but that doesn’t make them any less important to understand. Because if his research works, he says, we’ll find a way to get to the root of diseases we’ve been trying to cure for decades.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

Alex Erkine receives more than $711,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study gene regulation.

Sep 10 2019 Read more
The space designed to inspire collaboration between LSB and the business community is now open.
Butler BeyondCampusCommunity

New Building for Lacy School of Business Ready to Serve Butler and Indy Community

BY

PUBLISHED ON Aug 14 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—The new building for Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business (LSB) is officially open.

After nearly two years of construction, the 110,000-square-foot building is now ready to serve a student population on the rise, along with the local, regional, and national business community.

The building is central to Butler’s 2020 strategic vision to make the University a leader in business, innovation, technology, and student-centered experiences that prepare graduates to pursue fulfilling careers and make a positive impact.

“It is a physical manifestation of a culture in which faculty and staff work in true partnerships with business leaders for the benefit of our students,” says LSB Dean Steve Standifird.

 

 

With a curriculum steeped in hands-on experience, adaptability, and student-faculty engagement, LSB has grown its enrollment by 60 percent in the last five years. As a result, the new building is about six times larger than the business school’s previous home in the Holcomb Building. LSB will serve 1,150 undergraduate business students this year.

The building will also be home to Butler’s Career and Professional Success office, which serves the entire Butler student body and includes the FirstPerson Interview Suite, featuring private interview rooms, work space, and a lounge for recruiters.

The $50 million building is complete, but fundraising efforts are ongoing as the University seeks to name the building. Support for the project has come from both the Butler community and beyond. Four of the top donors to date are not Butler graduates, but they invested due to their belief that LSB is making a strong impact on the Indianapolis business community. 

The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business, for example, connects local businesses with resources and advisors. And the Butler Business Consulting Group works directly with companies to solve business challenges.

The building will allow such partnerships to expand and will foster new program offerings, new centers, and new relationships with employers and business leaders. The Innovation Commons space, for example, was modeled after The Speak Easy spaces in Indianapolis and designed to facilitate collaborations between LSB and business community members. The new building’s cafe was added to encourage visitors to stay.

“Our goal was to create a space where there is no line between where the classroom ends and the business community begins,” Standifird says.

“Andre and Julia Lacy had an incredible philanthropic vision,” said Butler President James Danko. “They wanted to enrich learning experiences for young people; support experiential curricula that emphasize family-run businesses, innovation, and leading with integrity; and to invest in our city and state. We are honored to carry out the legacy they intended. I only wish they were here to see their vision come to fruition and to see how excited Butler students are about learning in this extraordinary new building.”

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

 

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

The space designed to inspire collaboration between LSB and the business community is now open.
Butler BeyondCampusCommunity

New Building for Lacy School of Business Ready to Serve Butler and Indy Community

The space designed to inspire collaboration between LSB and the business community is now open.

Aug 14 2019 Read more
Rendering of New Sciences Building
AcademicsButler BeyondCampus

Butler Board of Trustees Approves $100 Million Sciences Upgrade, Largest Investment in Butler’s Future

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jun 13 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS—A new sciences complex is set to take shape on Butler University’s campus, as the Board of Trustees approved the project during their June meeting.

The $100 million renovation and expansion is the largest investment ever by the Trustees in Butler’s future. The project includes new high-tech classrooms designed to promote learning by doing, labs that mimic the set-up at top research companies, and work spaces meant to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration. The facility will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of science, and eliminate labs designed for a single purpose. Classroom spaces will enable faculty to step away from the podium and move among students in a more hands-on approach to instruction.

“We have outstanding faculty, we have outstanding students, we have outstanding programs, and this project will allow us to take all of that to another level,” says Jay Howard, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who was also part of the project’s original planning committee in 2011. “Science is an ever-changing discipline, and now we will have the flexible facilities to lead the field into the future.”

Phases I and II of the project are expected to start very soon, with a predicted 18-month timeline. To date, $27.5 million has been raised for the project. The goal is to raise $42 million of the $100 million total cost through philanthropic support.

Thus far, major donations have come from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Frank Levinson ’75, Craig Fenneman ’71 and Mary Stover-Fenneman, Lynne Zydowsky ’81, Josh Smiley, Katie and Len Betley, Lou and Laura Glazer, Jane and Robert Wildman, and Dick and Billie Lou Wood.

The project will start with the creation of a connector building--linking Gallahue Hall and the Holcomb Building--that will house classrooms, study areas, and research labs dedicated to Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, and Psychology. The Phase I expansion will add nearly 44,000 square feet, as well as a nearly 13,200 square-foot atrium. This additional space will create a sciences corridor to house all of Butler’s undergraduate sciences programs in a central complex.

“This is a significant and historic step forward as Butler continues to transform education for the needs of students and employers in the 21st century,” President Jim Danko says.

“Our investment in the sciences, coupled with our new business school facility, provides our campus with the world-class infrastructure necessary to support critical skill development integrating business, science, innovation, and technology. These investments are also part of Butler’s commitment to the Central Indiana region as we strive to attract, retain, and develop the talent necessary for our community’s collective success.”

 

A net importer

The vast majority of Butler science graduates choose to stay in Indiana after graduation. In 2016, for example, 63 percent of science graduates remained in Indiana.

“Butler is a net importer of scientific talent,” Howard says. “Rather than be a part of the brain drain problem, we are actually importing talent to Indiana.”

Butler has also long been a leader in preparing women for STEM careers. For many years, the majority of Butler’s science majors have been women. Butler also has more Lilly Scholars than most institutions of a similar size, which speaks to the quality of its programs.

With new facilities, Butler’s ability to prepare homegrown talent for STEM careers in the region will only grow.

“We are honored to support the continued growth of the sciences program at Butler, which is a legacy grantee of our foundation and an institution that our founder, Richard M. Fairbanks, strongly supported,” says Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “Among our foundation’s focus areas is supporting Indianapolis’ thriving life sciences sector and the STEM workforce to support it. Fueling a robust pipeline of science students at Butler helps to advance those goals.”

To prepare students for careers in a discipline that is evolving all the time, the new sciences complex needed a design that could change with new discoveries and new educational approaches.

Lab spaces will be flexible, students and faculty will work side-by-side, and areas of research will be grouped together to maximize collaboration. In addition to visiting other universities’ facilities for ideas, the planning team visited Eli Lilly, Roche, and Corteva to get an idea of what labs at cutting-edge research companies look like.

“Scientific inquiry demands collaboration,” Provost Kate Morris says. “Exciting work is happening at the intersection of multiple disciplines.  The design of the new facility encourages this work by creating space that breaks down the traditional barriers between areas of study.”

 

Endless possibilities

Phase II of the project will include renovating and repurposing the Holcomb Building, which will be vacated by the Lacy School of Business as it moves into its new building opening this fall. Phase III will involve a complete renovation of Gallahue Hall, which currently houses several science departments and has not been renovated since its construction in 1973.

Over the last 10 years, enrollment in the sciences at Butler has flourished, growing more than 70 percent. In addition, every student at Butler takes a science course because of the core curriculum.

With new facilities will come a plethora of new opportunities. New programs are being explored, such as Neuroscience and Data Science. Butler is already home of the country’s largest Undergraduate Research Conference, and now, the cross-disciplinary lab spaces will inevitably lead to new research projects. 

“I think it is hard to overstate the importance of this project, as it will prepare Butler students for the future and position us as a premiere undergraduate institution for the sciences,” says Morris.

 

Media Contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656 (cell)

Rendering of New Sciences Building
AcademicsButler BeyondCampus

Butler Board of Trustees Approves $100 Million Sciences Upgrade, Largest Investment in Butler’s Future

Phases I and II of the project are expected to start very soon, with a predicted 18-month timeline.

Jun 13 2019 Read more
Research Lab Participants

Exploring the Unanswered

Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

 

 

In the depths of Gallahue Hall, 14 Butler University undergrads work to make the vaccines for a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide actually effective. But first, with the Backstreet Boys harmonizing about wanting it that way in the background, they need some really good ice.

The students are studying strains of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, for which there is no vaccine. There certainly are people looking for one, Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Stobart, also known as ‘Doc’ in this lab, explains. Lots of people. Major research universities and pharmaceutical companies alike are working to bring the first RSV vaccine to market. For them, Stobart says, the keys are to make sure their vaccine candidate is safe and effective. But these researchers are overlooking a major issue. Enter— Butler University.

RSV breaks down even at refrigeration temperature. That matters because the vaccines needed for infants require a live virus. Those chasing an RSV vaccine, Stobart explains, are so caught up with being first, they aren’t so focused on making sure it will actually last once it leaves the factory.

“Everyone has their eyes on the prize—the vaccine,” Stobart says. “But the key question that underlies how vaccines work is being ignored. They have to be stable, safe, and immunogenic. You need all three things to make a vaccine work. Without the answers coming from our lab, you only have two elements.”

So, here we are, back to the ice, back to the basement in Gallahue, and back to the Backstreet Boys. The thing everyone is overlooking is this whole temperature thing.

And Stobart would know. He was one of the overlookers. ‘Doc’ used to be in the business of finding vaccines. That’s how he realized such an important question was being ignored. As a postdoctoral research fellow at Emory University, he was on the hunt for an RSV vaccine. While doing that research, he realized that no one was worrying about whether or not that vaccine would actually last more than a day. So, he started going against the grain and decided to use a different strain of RSV for his vaccine. He got lucky, he says, and the strain he chose ended up being more stable than the strain that everyone else is using. His vaccine, which should enter clinical trials next year, would last longer than the vaccines being developed by most other research labs.

Now, he and his army of Butler undergrads are digging deeper into the very questions Stobart stumbled upon: What makes some RSV strains more resistant than others, and what strain of RSV would make it least susceptible to temperature variations?

This is the work of the Stobart Lab. But it is hardly just a place where major scientific questions are being answered. MCAT prep happens here. Trivia nights happen here. Ideas for other research projects happen here—five experiments are taking place right now. And, on occasion, naps take place here, thanks to a new couch on loan from a student’s family. First-year students through seniors mill in and out of the lab in the basement of Gallahue Hall on any given day or night. Just ask Jenna Nosek ’20, who storms in on a recent Tuesday afternoon.

“I have spent 19 hours in here the past few days: don’t test me, Sean [a fellow lab mate],” she jokes, and with that, she is out, the two lab mates laughing, as she makes her way out the door.

“I have told her to back off on the hours,” Stobart says. “But she is the expert in the lab right now on HPMV, another human respiratory virus we are researching. On her own, she brought this virus to Butler to study. She is essentially teaching us all, myself included, how this virus works and behaves.”

But at its core, this is research at Butler. Undergrads and faculty members teaming up to come up with, and then explore, the unanswered, overlooked questions that are vital to their field of study, but go ignored at larger, more research-focused institutions—where there is constant pressure to publish on hot topics, but not necessarily on the more nuanced, just as vital, questions.

“The primary goal of our research at Butler is to provide an environment for our undergrads to understand what science is, how it’s performed, and how it’s used in our world. We use science and research as a teaching tool,” Stobart says. “But the second goal, which is no less important, is to provide answers to the scientific community that still move the community forward. They don’t have to all be big answers, but they have to be answers nonetheless.”


 

Student working in the labFor Kate Morris, it’s really simple. Higher education boils down to two things: teaching, and the production of new knowledge. The way to produce new knowledge, according to Morris, Butler’s Provost since 2012, is through research. And not just the traditional type of research that most people envision when they hear the word. It goes beyond beakers, test tubes, and chemicals. Research might be in a lab, of course, but it also takes the form of writing, literary analysis, anything that produces new information.

“The way I think about it is if we aren’t doing research, we aren’t doing our jobs as teachers,” Morris says. “Research is the production of new information that will be taught in tomorrow’s classrooms. We are always looking for faculty who are active scholars, furthering their disciplines, and who are furthering their disciplines while also teaching their undergrad students how to do that.”

But what makes Butler unique, she says, is the way it tackles each of these goals. At larger institutions, faculty tend to prioritize knowledge production, and teaching lags behind. Research is done with grad students, and it’s not a form of teaching, but rather a way to get recognition in major journals and move up within the institution and, subsequently, the field. Undergrads rarely get the opportunity to put their stamp on the project, she says.

At smaller institutions, Morris says, undergrads act like grad students. They have the chance to develop their own projects. But it’s much more than just a small school versus large school thing. Butler is unique in its offerings, she says.

While Stobart’s lab might be one of the largest on campus, it’s hardly the only research cooking.

Tara Lineweaver, Professor of Psychology, started a project in 2014 that looks at music’s impact on dementia patients. Since its inception, 156 students across all disciplines have been involved.

Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Ryan Rogers started a Sports Media Research Group in fall 2018, along with Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Lee Farquhar.

The point, Rogers says, was to look deeper into different facets of sports media. The group published a paper on the impact of sponsors on esports, and recently presented their findings in Las Vegas at the annual Broadcast Education Association convention.

And sometimes the researchers extend beyond the Butler campus. Butler senior Political Science and Criminology major Julio Trujillo ’19 is working on a research project with Political Science Professor Siobhan McEvoy-Levy and three high school students from the Butler-Tarkington community. The crew got together as part of Butler’s Desmond Tutu Peace Lab, which McEvoy-Levy directs, and the Lab’s dedication to undergrad research and dialogue. They’re studying perceptions of career barriers according to minority youth.

Then there’s the telescope. Since 2008, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Brian Murphy has teamed up with Professor of Physics and Astronomy Xianming Han to produce 65 journal publications. And 29 of those have student co-authors. Topics of study range from the short- and long-term behavior of astronomical phenomena, to the rotation periods of asteroids, to the pulsating variables of stars, to the eclipsing variables of stars. All of the scholarship was made possible by a gift in 2008 from Frank Levinson ’75 which enabled Butler to join the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy. Since then, Murphy says, research involvement in astronomy has ballooned.

“In today’s world, coursework may give you the knowledge you need for a career, but coursework alone will only get you so far,” Murphy says. “Research gives those intangibles. It can be described as flying by the seat of your pants, not knowing what is around the next corner. And for that matter, trying to figure out how to get around the next corner. The problem-solving skills learned from doing original research can be transferred to any field.”

Look no further than Murphy’s former student, Katie Hannigan ’08. The former Theatre major got involved at the Holcomb Observatory on some projects and, Murphy says, gleaned different skills, like speaking in front of crowds, and presenting complex information, like research.

Hannigan is now a standup comedian, and recently performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (Read Hannigan’s story on Page 6.)


 

Stobart supervises students in the labMarisa Miller ’19 understands firsthand why research matters.

She has no memory of the details—she was just three months old—but her mom reminds her often. It started as a cough in the middle of the night. But, quickly escalated, and soon she was struggling to breathe.

Miller ended up in a hospital for a week, diagnosed with RSV. She was quarantined to a tent within the hospital for three days. After those first few days, her parents were allowed to hold her, but they had to put on the same gear a surgeon wears. They were terrified, Miller says, that she wouldn’t make it to her first birthday.

“When I was growing up, it was just something that happened to me that I knew was very bad. But I don’t think I understood how bad it is, and how many people it impacts,” Miller says.

Now, she does. Her Butler roommate is Darby DeFord, one of the students in the Stobart Lab working on the RSV research, and a co-lead author on the paper the group has submitted to the Journal of General Virology.

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for children under age 1 in the United States. As Miller explains, it presents itself like the flu, or other common colds, but can be deadly for the elderly or the young. In the United States, RSV leads to more than 2 million outpatient visits, and about 60,000 hospitalizations every year for children under age 5, according to the CDC.

That explains the race for a vaccine. But it doesn’t explain the problems inherent in that race, Stobart says.

As teams all over the world work to be the first to bring a vaccine to market, he explains, to solve a very real clinical need, most are using the same strain of RSV in these vaccine preparations. There are 1,000s of different strains of RSV circulating in nature, and each strain differs subtly. But the focus is just on creating a vaccine, not on all the different strains, how they behave, what makes them different, and which might make the best vaccine candidate, he says.

Enter the Stobart Lab.

They are the first group to thoroughly focus their research on how different strains behave, Stobart says. The group of 10 undergrads who will all be co-authors on the journal paper found that the warmer it gets, the more quickly RSV breaks down. But, they also found that certain strains are more resilient to temperature than others. And the strain that is being used in many vaccine candidates currently is not the best candidate.

The popular strain, A2, used in many vaccine candidates, has a half-life of 17 hours. So after 17 hours, half the virus will be ineffective. The Butler students found that a different strain, A2-line19F, is much more resilient to temperature, and has a half-life of 135 hours.

“We’re talking about something that’s much more effective. And what it suggests is there may be promise for finding an even better platform to use.” Stobart says.


 

Student working in the labRusty Jones cannot decide where to begin. There are so many different options.

Jones is the Faculty Director of the Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement (CHASE) at Butler. His office oversees many of the different options for undergrads to get involved in research at Butler. And Jones cannot decide where to begin.

There’s the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). It’s one of the largest and longest running undergraduate research conferences in the country, and Butler has played host for 31 years. Faculty serve as moderators, but it’s undergrad-focused, as well as interdisciplinary. Students from across the country flock to Indianapolis to present, Jones says.

Then there’s the Butler Summer Institute.

Students get a $4,500 stipend to work on a research project for nine weeks during the summer. The projects are guided by a faculty member, but the ideas are student-driven. It’s a competitive process, as a committee of faculty members select up to 30 participants from all the student applicants.

New this year, Jones explains, is the CHASE Scholars program. It is, essentially, the Butler Summer Institute, but the research occurs during the academic year. The program funds four participants across campus.

It’s nearly impossible to say how many students participate in research at Butler, Jones says, because not all do it through one of these programs. There are plenty of students who get involved in a more informal manner with one of their professors. But, he says, it’s safe to say the majority of students across all disciplines participate at some point during their college experience.

“The biggest thing about our programs is everyone has a faculty member working closely with them, as students dive into topics they are passionate about,” Jones says. “The strength of Butler comes from the opportunities students get to forge one-on-one working relationships with faculty, and that faculty are willing to take this on because they know how valuable it is to the educational experience.”


 

Coming into Butler as a first-year student, Darby DeFord ’19 had no idea what research even was. Now, as a senior, she is the first co-author on the RSV paper.

The senior Biology and Chemistry major has worked in the Stobart Lab since she was a sophomore. Since then, she has presented on the team’s findings at several conferences, including the Butler URC, and in Maryland at the American Society for Virology Annual Meeting.

Next year, she will work in a lab at Washington University in St. Louis studying RSV. Looking at stability. And after that? She plans to pursue her MD/PhD.

“Dr. Stobart connected me with the person I will be working for at Wash U. I was starting to look for jobs and I texted him for some help, and by the next day he’d sent my name to a bunch of his contacts. Within a few days, I was connected with Wash U,” DeFord says. “That’s Dr. Stobart. He’s so much more than just a professor. He’s a mentor, he’s someone who’s willing to help us with anything we need.”

Juniors Sean Callahan and Ben Nick have the MCAT in five weeks. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, as they run an experiment under the watchful eye of ‘Doc,’ they ask him for help with the reading comprehension section. Callahan is not too keen on that section.

The lab consists of a mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and first-year students. Some want to go to med school, some want to be dentists, some optometrists, some PhD tracks. But there is one common thread: most had no plans of getting involved in research before coming to Butler.

“I always thought I wanted to be a doctor,” explains Jenna Nosek, a junior Biology and Classical Studies major with a Chemistry minor. “Everyone comes to college with the same jobs in mind. But then, research opened my eyes to all the different opportunities available to me, and all the different things you can learn about. I realized you can study the most random things and that can be your life’s work. It can be your job to study something that you are really interested in, that is really impactful, and you can enjoy it more than a job. Research has been eye-opening.”

Nosek first met Stobart when she had him as a professor in her first semester genetics course. He told her to interview for his lab. So she went home for fall break, thought about it, and talked it over with some cousins.

They told her she would never get into a research lab. She was just an undergrad. Those spots were reserved for grad students, they told her.

Nosek interviewed anyway.

She was shocked when she got in, she says. Now she is an author on two papers, is regularly in the lab at 3:00 AM, has presented the findings at conferences in Maryland and Minnesota, and worked in a research lab last summer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She was just accepted to a biomedical summer research program at Harvard University.

Oh, and she no longer wants to be a doctor.

“I realized you can be a professor and do research,” Nosek says. “There are so many different things you can study that aren’t explained to you until you get to school, get into the lab, and see these things firsthand, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Now I realize I can do what I enjoy every single day as a profession.”

Which sounds eerily similar to what got everyone in this basement in the first place. You know, the place with the ice, and, yes, those Backstreet Boys.

You see, ‘Doc’ was all set to be a, well, doctor. He was on the pre-med path, but then decided he wanted to teach and research. That is why he left his RSV vaccine candidate, and instead decided to answer those unanswered, overlooked questions he realized were being ignored. So now he is surrounded by undergrads who call him ‘Doc,’ and ask him mid-experiment what is more filling, McDonalds or Taco Bell.

“When I left Emory, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved both teaching and research,” Stobart says. “I always intended to be pre-med, but then I decided teaching was important to me. Butler fits the mold of a school I wanted because it has a research system that is amenable to undergrad research. I can’t do the stuff that is high-end, detailed research, because undergrads come in and don’t have the skills yet. They are new. They don’t have the science background yet. But I knew I wanted a system that would involve simple experimental assays, but still would have the impact and make meaningful contributions to the scientific community while teaching important lessons. I think we are doing that here.”

Research Lab Participants
AcademicsResearch

Exploring the Unanswered

In the depths of Gallahue Hall, 14 Butler University undergrads work to make the vaccines for a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide actually effective.

by Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

Read more
Community

The CUE Gets a Makeover; Adds an ‘S’ to Promote Sustainability, Put Work Into Action

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 18 2019

INDIANAPOLIS--The Center for Urban Ecology at Butler University started 15 years ago. It was the brainchild of three biology faculty members who were all engaged in urban ecology research. They wanted to get undergrads involved in research, too, so decided to start a center as a way to get students more engaged.

But, as time marched on, the center grew. A farm was established. Last year, 10,000 pounds of produce were grown. And the center is now involved in six research projects across campus.

A major question remained, though—how could the center make even more of an impact?

CUES statsTo address exactly that, the CUE has added a letter—S. Now, 15 years later, the center will be called the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, or CUES. The goals are twofold: use the work the center is already doing—studying urban ecosystems—to solve sustainability challenges, while also serving as the central hub to bring all the sustainability-centered projects happening around campus together.

“There is so much important work already taking place around Butler, from rain gardens, to infrastructure improvements, to LEED gold buildings. We want to leverage all of that work to educate students,” says Julia Angstmann, Director of CUES. “At the same time, we want to use our research findings to inform how to solve sustainability challenges the entire world is facing.”

For example, Angstmann explains, the center is involved in the Indy Wildlife Watch research project. The project monitors wildlife around the city in an effort to study how increased populations in cities impact these organisms.

Instead of just doing the research for science’s sake, Angstmann explains, the goal now is to use the findings to solve existing sustainability challenges.

“We plan on engaging in conversations with city planners, for example, and explaining to them that our research from the Indy Wildlife Watch project showed we should manage green spaces in a certain way, so both humans and wildlife can benefit,” Angstmann says. “We now want to use our research to solve sustainability challenges.”

In addition to research projects, the center will continue to focus on the farm and sustainability projects. The main shift, though, will be incorporating sustainability into all three areas. To help with that effort, CUES has hired a new Assistant Director of Sustainability, Jamie Valentine.

Valentine says she plans on continuing with existing sustainability projects, such as recycle-mania, permeable pavement on campus, and growing native plants. She wants to bring action steps to Butler’s commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050.

She is also excited to get the wider campus community more involved with sustainability.

“When we talk about sustainability, we are talking about the interaction of people, the planet, and profit,” Valentine says. “We are looking at the system in which we all live, and the way real world problems are all interconnected. We cannot just look at one side of a problem or issue, fix one thing, put it back into the system in which we all live, and expect it to be solved. To have a truly sustainable system that will work for everyone for the long term, we need to look at all connections and relationships, and work on fixing them all.”

To do that, Valentine hopes to get the wider campus more involved. One idea she plans on implementing is a Sustainability Green Office Program for staff and faculty to help incorporate new sustainability initiatives into offices and classrooms around Butler’s campus.

Sustainability will also be incorporated into more internships and research projects—staying true to the original reason the center was started 15 years ago.

Jake Gerard ‘20 is one of those students. The biology major has been involved in CUES for two years. After an internship over the summer at a wildlife center in Ohio, Gerard became increasingly fascinated by that type of work. He returned to Butler wanting to get more involved in wildlife research.

“I knew I wanted to do research, but I didn’t want to be in a lab all day,” he says. “I wanted to be outside, in the field.”

So, Gerard got involved in the Butler Wildlife Watch project. He sets up cameras around campus, then goes through the footage to determine what types of wildlife are here, and what effects those species will have on campus.

At first, Gerard wanted to get involved in research to boost his resume in hopes of getting into vet school. But now, especially with the sustainability focus, he sees how important the work is to making actual change. The results of the research he is doing, he says, could lead to conversations with administrators about green space on campus.

“Working with the center changed my entire point of view on vet care,” he says. “I realized it is not just private practice with dogs and cats, but there are research aspects to it. Yes, what we do in a clinic is important, but a lot of that is reactionary. Research is so important in a preventative way to make the job easier in the long run because it can lead to actual change beforehand, so you won’t have to deal with those real time issues in the end.”

Community

The CUE Gets a Makeover; Adds an ‘S’ to Promote Sustainability, Put Work Into Action

The center will be called the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, or CUES.

Apr 18 2019 Read more
AcademicsResearch

Combating Counterfeit Meds: Butler Prof Navigates the dotcom World of Prescriptions

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 17 2019

Before you buy medication from an online pharmacy, you may want to think twice.

And after listening to Butler University Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice John Hertig, who studies the impact of counterfeit online drug distribution worldwide, rattle off the numbers, you may want to avoid medication sold on the world wide web all together.

62% of medicines purchased online are fake or substandard."At any one time, there are between 35,000 and 45,000 illegal online pharmacies operating worldwide," he says. "The issue with those illegal online pharmacies, in addition to not operating under the laws and regulations of the United States, is that about 50 percent of them sell counterfeit medications. So in addition to just being the criminals who now have your credit card data and home address, about half the time they're going to ship you counterfeit product."

Hertig is a board member of the Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacies (ASOP), whose mission is to protect patient safety. His research looks at why patients are going online ("No surprise, it's because of cost, but it's also because it's an ecommerce world, and people are not aware of the risks"), and whether pharmacists, nurses, and physicians adequately educate their patients about the risks.

The dangers, Hertig says, are the possibility of getting either a substandard or falsified drug. Substandard could be counterfeit, meaning it might not have any of the active ingredient in it—it could be sugar pills—or there might not be enough, or too much, of the active ingredient. Sometimes, counterfeiters might cut 100 real pills into 1,000 pills by diluting them with sugar, brick dust, antifreeze, or chalk.

Falsified drugs are real, but they haven't been labelled, stored, or handled appropriately.

Hertig says there are ways to tell if an online pharmacy is legitimate. The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) owns the ".pharmacy" top-level domain, and there's no way to obtain a dot-pharmacy web address without going through the association.

"If you go to cvs.pharmacy, you're good," he says. "If you go to walgreens.pharmacy, you're good. If you go to bestdrugsever.com, even though the website might look legitimate, you need to second-guess that."

The ASOP and NABP are both heavily involved in consumer education (more information is available at BuySafeRx.pharmacy), as is Hertig in conjunction with the Indiana Coalition for Patient Safety, and a network of hospitals. They've developed toolkits and are working to determine how much doctors, nurses, and pharmacists know about online pharmacies.

This summer, Hertig will be working on a Butler Summer Institute project with Kyla Maloney '22, a Pharmacy student whose research will summarize the possible link between illegal online pharmacies and patient harm worldwide. She plans to do a comprehensive review of the available literature regarding this kind of patient harm and unearth data that can be used for patients and providers to make better-informed healthcare decisions.

Maloney says that during an introductory pharmacy class, she was exposed to the world of online pharmacies and the massive issue surrounding adulterated drugs from these sites.

"The impact these pharmacies have on the economy, health system, and patient well-being were quite intriguing to me," she says. "Pharmacists have a professional responsibility to deliver exceptional care for our patients; in many cases, the ease and convenience of online pharmaceuticals may aid in that mission ... I am hoping this literature review will allow me to help make the world of pharmacy just a bit safer for my future patients."

AcademicsResearch

Combating Counterfeit Meds: Butler Prof Navigates the dotcom World of Prescriptions

Before you buy medication from an online pharmacy, you may want to think twice.  

Apr 17 2019 Read more
Community

Caring for Our Community at the Community Outreach Pharmacy

BY Marc Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Mar 13 2019

The man’s blood pressure is 160/88, which is one reason Butler University Pharmacy student Michael Grim is sitting beside him on a folding chair, explaining why it’s important for the man to take his medicine and an 81-milligram aspirin as prescribed.

Grim sits with the man for a few minutes to make sure he understands. When he’s sure the man does, Grim hands over a bag containing his prescription.

It’s a scene that will play itself out a few dozen times on this particular Saturday, when Grim and five of his Pharmacy classmates are volunteering at the Butler University Community Outreach Pharmacy (BUCOP) on the eastside of Indianapolis.

From 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Saturdays, BUCOP volunteers are an integral part of the IU Student Outreach Clinic, which provides care for underserved people who live in the area near the Neighborhood Fellowship Church, 3102 East 10th Street.

Here, inside the church, Butler Pharmacy students join University of Indianapolis students studying Physical Therapy, and IU students training in medicine, dentistry, occupational therapy, social work, ophthalmology, law, and other areas, to get practical experiences in the field.

In 2018, 217 Butler Pharmacy volunteers filled 3,275 prescriptions for 1,047 patients—some were repeat visitors to the Community Outreach Pharmacy. Mostly it's preventative medicine—for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and acute sicknesses like strep throat.

BUCOP spent over $9,500 on medications and medical supplies. It also works with partners like CVS, which donated vials, and Walgreens, which donated flu shots.

"We’ve had some patients who are so happy with the students that they cried in gratitude," says Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Kacey Carroll '12, who serves as BUCOP faculty advisor. "I think that’s meaningful for the students to see their impact. Some come just to  say 'hi' and 'thank you.' One patient didn’t understand what high blood pressure meant. Our student spent an hour with her to explain. No one had done anything like that with the patient before. Though it took a long time, it was time well worth it."

*

On this particular Saturday, there are no tears—just grateful patients. Grim and Kate Gordon, another P2 Pharmacy student, are the managers today. Their job is overseeing the operation and working with patients to explain their medicines.

"It's really cool being with all these other areas of practice," Grim says. "We communicate with the medical team all the time."

To their left is Alyssa Mason. She's training to be a manager, so she's watching what Gordon is doing. At the tables behind them, Tyler Kennedy is reading the prescriptions, instructions, and dosages written by the doctor so she can make the label. Rachel Robb is recording prescriptions in the database and printing their labels to pass on to fillers so they can fill them. And Lauren Schmidt is filling prescriptions and giving them to the pharmacist to check.

The pharmacist today is Bradley Carqueville Pharm.D. '17, who's in his second year of residency with Community Health Network, specializing in ambulatory care. Carqueville had volunteered at the clinic when he was a student; now he's the licensing professional, double-checking what the students are doing.

"I let the students run the show," he says. "They're supposed to do all the counseling, they do all the filling, and the documenting. I'm just here making sure everything is right, but I'm supposed to be in the background."

If the students have questions, they can ask Carqueville or the two Medication Therapy Consultants in the next room. Today, that's Chandler Howell and Nichole Barnard, both of whom are set to graduate in May.

"It's rewarding to be here, knowing that it's a great thing for the community," Howell says. "It's also rewarding to work with the medical team. You have so many opportunities to work with so many professions so closely. It gives you more experience working with the entire team, and I think it helps seeing what the other professions are doing, their thought processes."

"Rewarding" is a word that comes up often in conversations with the student volunteers. Grim tells the story of a patient on oxygen who was out of the inhalers he needed to breathe. He helped him fill out the paperwork to get the man what he needed.

"For me, what's most rewarding are the educational aspects—being able to talk to the patients after we fill the medications and counsel them on specific things," Gordon says. "For example, one time a lady picked up a medication for her cholesterol. I started asking her questions about it and she was like, 'I don't know why I have to have a cholesterol medication. Everybody has cholesterol.' I was able to explain that there's bad and good cholesterol, and this medication helps lower her bad cholesterol. It's rewarding to build connections with the patients."

*

The IU Student Outreach Clinic, which celebrated its 10th anniversary on February 14, was founded by Indiana University Dr. Javier Sevilla M.D., who wanted to create a free, student-led clinic in a neighborhood that desperately needed doctors. According to the clinic's website, among the 15,000 homes in the area, half live at or below the poverty level and report unmet health needs due to cost, lack of transportation, lack of a primary care provider, or unemployment.

At first, the clinic provided only medical care. The student-doctors would write prescriptions and church leaders would reach into their pockets and do the best they could to help the patients. Within a couple of months, Sevilla invited Butler's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to participate.

"Once that happened," says Sevilla, "there was a cascade of other partners who were waiting. Butler has been key to making this clinic the largest, most vibrant student-run clinic in the nation."

Jim Strietelmeier, the church elder who oversees the clinic, says Butler "has gone far and above what anyone would have expected."

"When I speak to the pharmacists," Strietelmeier says, "I tell them what Martin Luther King Jr. said: 'Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.' Pharmacists are by far the servants of the crowd. They take instruction and then give what's necessary."

*

Kacey Carroll was a Butler Pharmacy student when BUCOP started and has been the advisor since joining the Butler faculty in August 2017.

She remembers realizing as a student that there are so many barriers to healthcare — "unintended barriers," she says, "but it doesn’t mean that any person is any less deserving of receiving healthcare."

"If there’s anything I can do with the knowledge that I’ve gained to help people improve their life and improve their health, I want to do that. So it helped instill in me a need and a want to reach out to the community and use this skill that I have to give back."

What she often hears from students who volunteer through BUCOP is about how much they appreciate experiencing the practical application of what they learned in class. The common refrain is: "We talked about this in class, but once I did it, I see that it matters and it made a difference."

As Javier Sevilla says: "It is a beautiful, beautiful service learning opportunity for all of us."

Community

Caring for Our Community at the Community Outreach Pharmacy

Here, Butler Pharmacy students get practical experiences in the field.  

Mar 13 2019 Read more
AcademicsResearch

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 01 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS—People flock to Facebook to see the latest wedding news, vacation photos, new baby arrival, or home purchase. Most people, research indicates, head to their newsfeeds to passively watch and compare, much more often than post their own news or updates.

But, it turns out, some of us prefer to look at and compare ourselves to certain types of individuals: those who make us feel better about ourselves. And that, in turn, can lead to an increase in happiness and life satisfaction.

That’s according to new research from Lee Farquhar, Butler University Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism in the College of Communication. Humans continually observe those around them to see how they fit in, a process called social comparison theory. This innate concept holds true in the world of social media, according to Farquhar’s research. It not only holds true, but the more individuals engage in that type of behavior on Facebook—comparing themselves to others in various ways—the happier and more satisfied they were with their life.

“There is no secret that Facebook intensity has been associated with negative social consequences, such as anxiety, narcissism, and loneliness,” says Farquhar, whose own previous research has revealed those very things. “But this looked at something new. When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness. These findings nuance previous scholarship that largely indicated heavy Facebook use has a detrimental effect on one’s psychological well-being. It is not the amount of Facebook use that matters, but rather, how one feels they measure up in comparison with those around them.”

Farquhar’s research, published in the Journal of New Media & Culture, surveyed 406 college students and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Workers. The average age was 32, and 46 percent were male.

The participants went through a series of questions about their social media use, such as time spent on Facebook, how they would feel if the social media outlet was taken away from them, and how often they look at others on Facebook, for example. They also measured life satisfaction and happiness.

The average life satisfaction and happiness scores were about a five out of seven. And, the more frequently one engaged in Facebook activities, the happier one was, Farquhar says. This, he says, can most likely be explained by downward social comparisons.

When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness and life satisfaction. So, he says, it is likely that individuals were seeking out others who made them feel better about themselves.

“For example, if the user wanted to feel better about his or her career, they might compare to an individual who is unemployed, or had a less appealing job. That same type of comparison could be done for virtually every other aspect of one’s life, like intelligence, family life, the list goes on,” he says. “It is not simply the amount of social comparing one does that matters, but the type of comparison that predicts happiness and life satisfaction.”

This targeted, downward social comparison, was the predictor of happiness and overall life satisfaction, Farquhar says. Facebook is the ideal medium for this, he says, because it allows users to select particular people or elements to hone in on for comparison, while blocking out those elements, or people, that are unwanted.

What this study didn’t account for, Farquhar explains, is the long-term impact of this behavior.

“I wouldn’t encourage people to spend more time on Facebook looking for people to look down on,” he says. “Looking for peers to look down on to make oneself feel better is not the prescription here. We believe the more time spent on there, the less satisfied with life one will eventually be, as one is bound to run into unfavorable social comparisons.”

But, he says, the findings are important for adding a more nuanced understanding to the social media behemoth. For so long the conversation has focused on doom and gloom when it comes to Facebook. While that may still be true, it is important to understand the medium in a more detailed way.

Facebook lends itself to downward social comparison, and therefore, makes the user feel better. So, he explains, for some, social media can have a positive impact, even if it is fleeting. This study also helps us understand how users interact with the medium on a more intimate level.

“We assumed the results would fall in line with the body of literature that says social media interactions make you feel worse and were surprised to see any sort of uptick,” Farquhar says. “We assumed, you go online, look at others, and feel worse. We believe downward comparison is going on and this adds another dimension to the complex conversation about Facebook.”

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

AcademicsResearch

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

  Turns out social media can make you happy.

Feb 01 2019 Read more
Jeremy Johnson
AcademicsPeopleResearch

Butler Professor Receives NSF Grant to Study Class of Enzymes Linked with Cancer Growth

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 14 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – It happened by accident.

Jeremy Johnson, Butler University Associate Professor of Chemistry, was looking at images of acyl protein thioesterases, or APTs. Because proteins are smaller than the wavelength of light, they cannot be seen by eye, or even with a microscope. So, proteins are crystalized, and then static images are taken, revealing what they look like at one point in time.

But, when Johnson looked at the APT images closely, he saw something he had never seen before, and something, he says, that is quite rare – the protein in multiple states.

“Our image showed the APT in open and closed states or active and inactive,” Johnson says. “Normally, we think of proteins as static, or as staying in one position, and only recently have we started to appreciate the idea of natural movements of proteins.”

With an $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Johnson will be researching why we should appreciate that very idea. Seeing the image of the APT in a dynamic state enabled Johnson to hypothesize a whole new set of ideas about what this protein could potentially impact – cancer progression, neural deterioration, and immune functions, he says.

“Once we had this image and saw it was dynamic, we were able to start to hypothesize how this protein could be important within a cell,” he says. “All of a sudden new possibilities emerged that we knew we wanted to research more. Once we knew the structure, new alleys for research questions opened.”

APTs are a class of enzymes that are linked with cancer growth, neural degeneration, and bacterial infections. But, this photo revealed they are also dynamic – something that was not previously known.

Now, Johnson says, he is set to dive into what this dynamic function actually means, and how it could impact those important links. Some questions his lab will focus on include looking at how the dynamic nature of this protein could impact APTs as a future drug target, and how it might relate to cancer and immune functions.

After seeing the image, Johnson says his team will start to look into how that movement is related to the regulation of the protein and how that can impact the biological functions of APTs.

“You always hope there is relation to the big picture,” Johnson says. “We are going to be looking at the dynamic movement and if that movement is essential to biological function. You hope that movement is related to the big picture things that we know this protein is already involved in.”

Also, as part of the NSF grant, research occurring in Johnson’s lab will be integrated into undergraduate classroom laboratories, giving a wide range of students the chance to participate in the research. There will also be a new molecular biophysics laboratory added to the biochemistry major at Butler.

All of this, Johnson says, because of an accident.

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Jeremy Johnson
AcademicsPeopleResearch

Butler Professor Receives NSF Grant to Study Class of Enzymes Linked with Cancer Growth

Butler Chemistry Professor Jeremy Johnson discovered something in his research that no one had seen before.

Aug 14 2018 Read more
Brain
AcademicsResearch

Outsmarting the Test: Concussions & ImPACT

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jul 31 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – Before the start of most seasons, chances are high that athletes have gone through a computerized exam called ImPACT, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. It is a process that has become almost synonymous with preseason conditioning tests and two-a-days.

The ImPACT Test, one of the most widely used of several similar concussion management tools, is a computer-based test that measures shape recall, reaction time, attention, working memory, and other mental abilities. Individuals are given the test to establish a baseline score at the start of a season, then those who suffer a head injury are tested again before being allowed to return to play.

But, baseline results may not be as accurate as ImPACT claims.

According to new research from Butler University Director of Undergraduate Health Science Programs, Dr. Amy Peak, and former Butler health science student Courtney Raab, individuals are outsmarting the test. Previous studies, including one cited by ImPACT’s “Administration and Interpretation Manual,” say 89 percent of ‘sandbaggers,’ or individuals purposefully doing poorly on the test, are flagged. But, according to Peak and Raab’s research, only half are caught.

“If baseline scores aren’t accurate, that could likely lead to individuals returning to play before they are healed, or individuals returning to normal activity prior to their brain being ready,” Peak says. “This is a very dangerous situation because it is clear that individuals who have had one concussion are at greater risk of having subsequent concussions.”

So why cheat the system?

Many athletes don’t want to miss playing time. In fact, a study found in 2017 that nearly a third of athletes didn’t give their best effort on computerized neurocognitive tests, such as ImPACT.

The ImPACT Test is key when it comes to making return to play decisions. Though not the only determining factor, comparing test scores is routinely something trainers or doctors do to see if the individual can return to action or regular activities.

“Athletes get smart about how to take this test and they admit to wanting to return to action as soon as possible,” Peak says. “Some athletes ignore the risks, and just want to play, so if this test can be cheated, they will do it.”

Their research shows that those who attempted to sandbag were successful, as long as they didn’t try to do too poorly on the test.

There were 77 volunteers who participated in the study, 40 of whom were told to sandbag the test and 37 of whom were told to try their best. Of the 37 volunteers in the control group, none were flagged for invalid results. But of the 40 sandbaggers, 20 successfully tricked the test.

The key to not getting flagged by the test was to get questions wrong, but not too many questions.

“The group that scored much lower than our control got flagged, but the group that did bad, but not too bad were not caught,” Peak says. “Our research revealed that you can get away with doing poorly, sneak through with a low score, if your score isn’t outrageously low.”

Instead of the 89 percent rate of catching sandbaggers that previous research suggests, Peak and Raab’s research revealed just a 50 percent rate. However, Peak says, the takeaway is not to scrap the entire ImPACT Test. Peak says their research points to the fact that key aspects of the widely used test should be reevaluated.

The ImPACT Test’s five built-in invalidity indicators, which are designed to flag results which suggest underperformance, are not working well, she says. Peak and Raab’s research found that only two of those indicators detected more than 15 percent of test takers who tried to trick the test.

“There are some invalidity indicators that are really ineffective. Our research showed us that these indicators are not sensitive enough,” Peak says. “There are many things to consider. Are the indicators even right? Maybe the cutoffs should be higher? These are all important questions. But one thing we do know is that a much greater percentage of individuals can purposefully underperform without detection and we need to delve deeper into how to improve the test.”

 

Brain
AcademicsResearch

Outsmarting the Test: Concussions & ImPACT

 Butler University researchers show individuals outsmart popular concussion test 50% of time.

Jul 31 2018 Read more
CampusExperiential Learning

A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Nov 25 2019

This story is part of a mini-series exploring The Farm at Butler, its methods, and its mission. Part three of six.

 

The Farm at Butler probably looks different from any you’ve seen before. It’s not a wall of corn or wheat, the same crop filling miles of fields along the highway. Instead, the one-acre space—nestled on a floodplain between the White River and the Central Canal—looks more like a backyard garden. Plenty of space separates each of the long, narrow plant beds growing more than 70 kinds of plants, and woody shrubs crawl up the sides of a wood-plank fence. You won’t see a tractor here, or even a plough—all the work is done by hand. And with just one full-time farmer and a handful of student interns, there aren’t that many hands to do the work.

Still, The Farm produces about 10,000 pounds of food each year.

That’s because Farm Manager Tim Dorsey and other leaders in Butler’s Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability (CUES) have decided to let nature do the heavy lifting. Below, learn more about how nearly every aspect of The Farm at Butler draws from other ecosystems for guidance on how to make the most of organic growing.

 

Agroecology:

The Farm is built on the idea of agroecology, a way of farming that looks to natural ecosystems for inspiration. Dorsey uses the forests and prairies surrounding The Farm as a guide, mimicking what he sees to create a diverse environment. For example, he tries to plant in a variety of layers, and he grows a mix of perennial and annual plants.

Dorsey has recently focused on adding more perennial permaculture elements, such as sturdy trees and shrubs, which live for years instead of requiring replanting each season. In addition to layering the canopy and providing shade as they grow, these more stable, low-maintenance plants minimize soil disturbance. Dorsey says this sort of farming is even healthier for the ecosystem than basic organic growing.

 

Caring for the soil:

A key element of sustainable, organic farming is protecting soil health. The more stable the soil, the less erosion and run-off will occur, the less pollution will take place, and the healthier the plants will be. At The Farm, Dorsey protects the soil in a variety of ways. For example, The Farm is on a nine-year crop rotation plan, which means a plot of soil grows a different plant each year for nine years. This gives the soil time to replenish itself with specific nutrients that were drained by previous plants. Some deep-rooted plants also serve the purpose of capturing the nutrients that have sunk to the lowest layers of the soil, then redistributing them to the upper layers, which helps make sure every nutrient gets used. And between plantings of different crops, they don’t use chemicals to kill remaining plants—they just lay down straw to smother out sunlight and conserve moisture.

During the winter, or when there is any gap in the regular rotation, Dorsey plants cover crops to keep the soil in shape. For example, as soon as they finished harvesting the onions this summer, they put in oats. Oats will grow a lot before winter, and they also have an extensive root system. Onions get the most fertilizer (from compost), and oat roots scavenge what’s left so that nothing is wasted. Then when the oats die in the winter, they easily become automatic mulch, making it easy to handle in the spring.

 

Making the most of bugs:

Most people understand the importance of pollinators such as bees and butterflies when it comes to growing a garden, and The Farm is always looking for ways to put nature’s workers to the task. Two bee hives on The Farm are home to many of its buzzing friends, and a plot of flowers—which are later sold at the market—attract several graceful butterflies at a time. When deciding which new crops to try, Dorsey often focuses on choosing ones that serve a secondary purpose of bringing in more good bugs. “If we can get things to perform more than one function,” he says, “that’s ideal.”

But some critters making their way onto the acre aren’t so friendly—some pests gnaw at the leaves and plant their eggs on the stems. So Dorsey also makes sure to use “companion planting,” incorporating flowering plants that attract the right predatory insects to kill the pests. You might think of a wasp as a nuisance—or just plain evil—but on the farm, it serves a useful purpose.

 

 

What grows on the farm?

Apples Cilantro Lemongrass Raspberries
Arugula Collard Lettuce Rhubarb
Asparagus Corn Melons Rosemary
Basil Cucumbers Mint Rutabaga
Beans Dill Mustard Sage
Beets Dwarf Korean pines Onions Scallions
Bok Choy Eggplant Oregano Spinach
Broccoli Fennel Parsley Squash
Brussels Sprouts Flowers Peas Strawberries
Cabbage Garlic Peaches Sunchokes
Carrots Gooseberries Peppers Sweet corn
Cauliflower Hazelnuts Peppermint Thyme
Celery Honeyberries Potatoes Tomatoes
Chard Kale Pumpkins Turnips
Chives Leeks Radishes Watermelon

 

READ MORE:

Part 1: Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

Part 2: Farming Full-Time: How Tim Dorsey Discovered the World Through Agriculture

Part 3: A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

Part 4: Sustainability on the Syllabus

Part 5: A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

Part 6: So, Where Does All The Food Go?

 

Explore the full Farm at Butler mini-series here

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

CampusExperiential Learning

A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

The Farm goes beyond just sticking to organic methods, taking cues from nature to create a diverse space.

Nov 25 2019 Read more
Tom Mould
ResearchUnleashed

Butler Professor’s Research Dispels Myths of the ‘Welfare Queen’

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 04 2019

Recipients of welfare and other government aid are unfairly scrutinized and even demonized as “welfare queens,” according to Professor of Anthropology and History Tom Mould and his several years of research on public assistance.

Mould dispels numerous myths while humanizing people that rely on welfare. He and his students recorded more than 150 interviews with not only welfare recipients but politicians, grocery store clerks, aid providers, and members of the general public in North Carolina. Mould says his findings go against the grain of what most Americans think of the welfare system.

“Official government documents are clear that the food stamp fraud rate has been between half a percent and one and a half percent over the past decade, way lower than most federal programs,” Mould says. “What we have with stories of so-called ‘welfare queens’ is an incredibly unfair narrative and an incredibly negative light that is unfair. This work is trying to rectify that.”

Mould’s book Overthrowing the Queen: Telling Stories of Welfare in America focuses on the broad picture of welfare in America while weaving in riveting narratives of aid recipients and the overwhelming lengths people go through to provide for their children and to keep a roof over their heads. The title will hit shelves this summer from Indiana University Press.

Mould says the stereotype of the “welfare queen,” someone who is believed to work the welfare system to gain wealth, was mostly fabricated in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It infuriated people, but, of course, the stories, by and large, were not true,” Mould says. “There doesn’t appear to be any more fraud in the welfare system than any government system. Why are we singling out the poor to demonize?”

While all of his research was in the Tarheel State, Overthrow the Queen appeals to readers nationwide, Mould says. The book documents how recipients came to need public assistance and the current challenges they are facing.

“The stories show people putting in a lot of hard work, a lot of ingenuity, a lot of commitment to their children,” he adds. “Parents were unwilling to give up on trying to make a better life for their kids.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Tom Mould
ResearchUnleashed

Butler Professor’s Research Dispels Myths of the ‘Welfare Queen’

Professor of Anthropology Tom Mould’s research shows food stamp fraud rate is lower than most federal programs

Nov 04 2019 Read more
A woman casts her ballot
ResearchUnleashed

Republican Delegates More Likely to Disagree, New Butler Research Shows

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 04 2019

Within any political party, there’s a multitude of views and approaches to campaigning. Some members want to advance specific policies, others just want to do whatever it takes to win.

Recent research co-authored by Greg Shufeldt, Butler University Assistant Professor of Political Science, found that at the 2012 conventions, Republican delegates were not only much more polarized within their party than Democratic delegates, but they were much more divided than in previous years.

While published results are from 2012, they shed important light on internal party processes that shaped the conflicts evident in the 2016 presidential primary contests.

Greg Shufeldt
Greg Shufeldt

“This was before President Trump,” Shufeldt says, “but this might inform some of the things that allowed President Trump to rise to power.” 

Shufeldt culled his data from surveys sent to every delegate that attended the Republican and Democratic conventions. The Butler researcher helped draft the questionnaires in 2012 and 2016, which the delegates filled out online.

“We’re looking at fault lines within the parties,” Shufeldt says. “Congress is more polarized than it's ever been. The parties are farther apart ideologically but also more homogenous. Delegates or party activists are what connects these polarized elites with the general public.” 

Shufeldt writes that delegates are classified as more pragmatist, or wanting the party to win elections at the expense of advancing specific policies, or classified as more purist, believing that advancing specific policies is the way for the party to win elections.

The research found not much variation between 2012 Democratic delegates, which offered more balanced pragmatic and purist tendencies. Shufeldt says the Democratic party is more used to navigating inner faction conflict because that is the nature of the Democratic party. Through group identities, they become Democrats. While Democrats internally balance these competing pragmatic and purist tendencies, Republican delegates are more divided into a clearer pragmatic wing and purist wings.

In fact, his research found that the 2012 Republican delegates were more internally divided than the infamous 1972 McGovern Democrats. Based on how delegates responded to questions about group membership, key policy areas, and attitudes toward key party groups, the study organized delegates into factions. On the Republican side, three factions were developed from the Republican delegate data—“contemporary conservatives,” “establishment Republicans,” and “Libertarians.” Among Democrats, the study identified factions of “cultural liberals,” “all-purpose liberals,” and “centrists.” 

Looking back on 2012, the rise of the Tea Party and support for Rep. Ron Paul, who campaigned for the Republican candidacy, were influencers to Republican delegates within the “Libertarian” faction. Shufeldt reveals that those factors were less crucial in 2016, but new groups formed four years later within both Republican and Democratic parties. 

“These studies inform our politics,” Shufeldt says. “We’re so evenly divided into red and blue states. It’s a really unique time to be talking to people that are at these conventions.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu

A woman casts her ballot
ResearchUnleashed

Republican Delegates More Likely to Disagree, New Butler Research Shows

Research sheds light on what led to internal conflicts during 2016 presidential primary contests

Nov 04 2019 Read more
Prof. Andrew Stoehr displays cabbage white butterflies.
ResearchUnleashed

Researcher Finds Environmental Clues on Butterfly Wings

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Oct 09 2019

The wings of a butterfly can give clues to the changes happening in their environments and, in turn, ours. At Butler University, Associate Professor of Biology Andrew Stoehr is using those clues to figure out if these wings can serve as early indicators to climate change. The wing patterns could serve as a warning flag for the overall health of the environment.

By measuring changes in the colors and patterns on the wings of the invasive cabbage white butterfly, Stoehr and his students are able to see how changes in temperature affect the butterflies’ health.

Prof. Andrew Stoehr analyzes butterfly wings.
Prof. Andrew Stoehr analyzes a photo of cabbage white butterfly wings in his lab.

The work measures the invasive butterfly’s phenotypic plasticity, which is when environmental factors influence how an organism looks or behaves. Changes in the butterflies’ wing coloration and patterns over time reveal how they are responding to temperature changes that took place while they were still caterpillars. The darker the wings, the colder the temperatures, Stoehr says, and the simple white wings with small flecks of black make the cabbage white butterfly an ideal test subject. Even just a short period of temperature change during development can have a noticeable effect on wing patterns: Just 48 hours of abnormally cool or warm weather, if it occurs at the right time for a caterpillar, can affect the wing pattern of the eventual adult.

Stoehr is an ongoing collaborator in the Pieris Project, a global effort to understand the spread of the cabbage white butterfly and, potentially, its reactions to increasing temperatures. Citizen scientists from as far as Russia, New Zealand, and Korea have shipped the butterflies to scientists involved in this project.

Much to the chagrin of farmers and gardeners of leafy greens, the caterpillars of cabbage white butterflies feast on kale, bok choy, and cabbage. But their prevalence is better for researchers than it is for farmers, and Stoehr has studied butterflies from as close as The CUE Farm on Butler’s campus to as far away as Australia.

“They’re widespread and easy to study,” Stoehr says. “The butterfly’s life is very dependent on temperature. Temperature affects what they look like, and temperature affects what they’re able to do as butterflies, essentially controlling their own temperatures. Can they warm up enough to fly? They’re good ecological models for understanding the role of temperature and changing temperature in basic animal biology.”

With 90-degree heat in October, these little butterflies and their white wings are early subjects for animal behavior in unseasonal heat. If the wing development of these fluttering insects doesn’t match the weather outside, resulting in unregulated body heat, how would other animals react?

An ideal subject

The cabbage white butterfly is not only well-traveled—it can also be found around your garden as early as March and as late as November. The insect’s lifespan is short—probably no more than a week or two as a butterfly. Throughout the summer, each generation of butterflies has lighter wings as the weather gets hotter. 

“The population’s wings will change over the course of the year,” Stoehr says. “It takes many days for their wings to develop so they are trying to predict the weather weeks in advance. During those caterpillar stages, they’re receiving information about the temperature.”

These predictions give the butterflies an easier three-week life. As ectotherms, they rely on sunlight and temperatures to function. As a caterpillar and chrysalis, the insect is monitoring the weather so it can develop the most comfortable pair of wings, which are designed to soak in the preferred amount of heat.

Stoehr seeks anomalies in wing patterns — the amount of tiny black wing scales on the white wing background — to reveal unusual weather in a region. What’s a caterpillar to do if it's 85 degrees one day but then plummets to 55 degrees a few days later?

“In Indiana, there are seasonal patterns of predictability, but they’re not perfectly predictable,” he says. “Do the caterpillars ignore the temperature change and come out mismatched?

This is important knowledge, Stoehr adds, because it tells us that weather fluctuations might be enough to cause a butterfly to emerge mismatched to the temperatures it is likely to encounter. It may be that a cold snap or warm snap is enough to make a butterfly emerge with wing patterns that are not optimally suited for its ability to use those wing patterns to regulate temperature to the conditions it will be facing, compared to what it would look like if it had not gone through that cold or warm snap.

Methodology

In Stoehr’s research, each insect is photographed before the wing markings are analyzed through software that has collected more than 10,000 data points from the total butterfly wings, which include variations in areas of the wings that change with temperature. Each area is circled and analyzed with the lab’s computer software. The project’s findings will be finalized in 2020.

Initially, the local specimens were studied separately from the samples sent from abroad. However, combining the data could give clues to how the species will endure climate change.

“Do butterflies from different parts of the world develop in the same way in response to temperature and day length variation?” Stoehr asks. “In other words, how do butterflies from northern climates — like Canada and Finland — where the days are longer but also cooler, compare to butterflies from more southern places — like Mexico — where summer days are hotter but not as long?

To add further dimension, Stoehr hopes to eventually explore the use of museum collections of preserved butterflies from decades ago. How do butterflies collected in May 2019 compared to butterflies collected in May 1969?

“Given the way temperature and day length together affect the wing patterns,” Stoehr says, “we might be able to make predictions about how the butterflies look in the future as those two factors become uncoupled from each other. In other words, the temperature is changing but day length does not.”

Out in the field

Hundreds of the butterflies have come from Stoehr’s nets. He hunts them around his Hamilton County, Indiana, home while students set out across the CUE Farm, Butler Prairie, and woods around campus. 

“The cabbage whites are pretty easy to catch, and they’re very plentiful, especially by the Prairie,” says Makenzie Kurtz, a junior Biology major who has worked in Stoehr’s lab since January. “There’s usually five or six around in one small area.”

Kurtz’s role includes catching butterflies, freezing them, and preparing them for photos before logging each insect. It’s a mix that fortifies her pursuit of a career in research.

“It’s been an overall great experience getting in the field and helping with data analysis,” says Kurtz, who plans on pursuing entomology in graduate school. “It’s interesting to see it all come together.”

Stoehr’s upcoming spring sabbatical will be spent analyzing data and writing his findings from the white cabbage butterfly work. Each wing tells a story about the state of our environment, but just how cautionary will the tales be?

“Since we know something about how their appearance affects their ability to thermoregulate,” Stoehr says, “we might be able to eventually make predictions about whether climate change will increase or decrease populations in different places. It could make them pests in more places than they are now, or it might have the opposite effect.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

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Prof. Andrew Stoehr displays cabbage white butterflies.
ResearchUnleashed

Researcher Finds Environmental Clues on Butterfly Wings

Biology Professor Andrew Stoehr analyzes the phenotypic plasticity of invasive cabbage white butterflies.

Oct 09 2019 Read more