Generations of Butler students have come to know and embrace the University’s dedication to serving the Indianapolis community. Through neighborhood cleaning initiatives, fundraising events, and more, Butler and its students have always been committed to making an impact.
The Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR), which integrates community involvement into Butler’s Core Curriculum, has been a key part of this mission. Since its establishment as a requirement for all students in 2010, ICR courses have been the source of many formative moments for students and Indy community members, alike.
The initial idea behind the ICR was to implement service-learning for Butler students. In the early 2000s, the Center for Citizenship and Community encouraged the University to embrace an interactive experience in which students and community partners learn from one another, through projects like creating marketing campaigns for nonprofits or caring for residents of assisted living facilities. During a revamp of the Core Curriculum in 2004, this course concept was approved and added as a Butler requirement.
Regardless of discipline, the learning objectives for all ICR courses are the same: Each student is encouraged to integrate academic knowledge with community service, explore their relationship with the Indianapolis community, and further their commitment to service. Though students provide valuable service to Indianapolis communities through ICR classes, what students learn about themselves in relation to community is what Dr. Donald Braid, Director of Butler’s Center for Citizenship and Community, wants students to keep in mind.
“These courses are really more about reciprocal learning,” Braid says. “Students are doing something of value requested by the community and interacting with community members while learning a great deal at the same time.” This concept of a mutual exchange is one of the most important takeaways for students to reflect on.
Braid says ICR students often tell him they’re getting more than they’re giving. But this is where the idea of reciprocity comes in: Students may know and understand what they feel when serving, but it can be hard to comprehend just what they’re giving to other individuals. Braid explains that service can simultaneously have a profound impact on the recipients of that service, while also helping students learn more about others and broaden their worldview.
Currently, ICRs are offered in nearly all fields of study. Some popular ICR courses include Service-Learning in Spanish, in which students mentor and learn with underserved, Spanish-speaking students in IPS classrooms, and Health Disparities, where students work to better understand how socioeconomic and environmental factors affect individuals in the healthcare system.
Braid hopes these courses provide meaningful learning opportunities and lessons students will carry into the rest of their lives. “Students in ICRs learn that the more they give, the more they learn,” he says. “There’s an exchange that happens, and it’s part of what it means to be human—it’s part of caring about other human beings. It can change the way you think and live your life.”