Butler alumnus and current MBA faculty member Mike Simmons MBA ’02 recalls three pivotal moments in his life that helped shape who he is as a person and had a direct impact on his professional success:

  1. His time as an undergraduate student at Wabash College
  2. His 30-year career at Eli Lilly with 11 years spent as part of the company’s corporate affairs team
  3. Pursuing graduate studies through Butler’s MBA program

Butler University has had a huge impact on me,” Simmons says. “It’s one of the reasons I wanted to come back as a faculty member and why I wanted to headquarter my company on its campus.”

After retiring from Eli Lilly, Simmons knew he wasn’t ready to give up the 9-to-5 altogether. He wanted to continue partnering alongside non-profit organizations to help extend their impact, similar to the work he did with Lilly. His company, Bridge Builder Strategies, was born.

Bridge Builder Strategies—founded in 2018 and headquartered in Dugan Hall, home to the Lacy School of Business—focuses on helping nonprofits and government agencies accelerate and amplify their impact.

“Ultimately, my hope is that they are able to make a greater impact and expand their mission-driven work, and as a result, receive a greater investment from funders and the community,” Simmons says.

Bridge Builder Strategies focuses on three main sectors: aging, disability, and health; economic mobility; and education and workforce development.

The company works with clients such as the Alzheimer’s Association, CICOA, US Aging, Easter Seals, Shepherd Community Center, and the Governor’s Workforce Cabinet. They have also partnered alongside Butler’s own Center for Faith and Vocation to explore its potential growth and pivots.

“While I was at Lilly, I saw a lot of instances where organizations had tons of potential, but weren’t making as big of an impact as they could have. Or, the same kinds of projects were being repeated over and over without learning from mistakes,” Simmons says. “Our goal has been and always will be to come alongside these organizations and help determine areas of growth and where they can excel.”

It’s not just non-profit organizations and government agencies that Bridge Builder Strategies is helping. A location on a college campus also allows the organization to mentor current undergraduate and graduate students through meaningful internship opportunities. And while the organization’s hub is on Butler’s campus, it also has two secondary sites—or accelerators—on the campuses of Wabash College and DePauw University.

“Employing interns has always been important to us and has always been an integral part of our workforce,” Simmons says. “Our interns aren’t just doing busy work. We have learning objectives for each internship, and as a part of these objectives, they work on true projects that make an impact on our organization.”

Students can intern at Bridge Builder Strategies for a semester, an academic year, or even a full calendar year—and the best part? All internships are paid.

Jack Dougher ’24, a current Bridge Builder Strategies Project Management intern and Butler student majoring in International Business, says his internship has been a great professional opportunity.

“During my internship, I have gained so many professional skills such as responsibility, time management, accountability, and strategy,” Dougher says. “Not only that, but Mike and the rest of the Bridge Builder Strategies team has mentored me and shown me so much support. My time as an intern has been invaluable.”

Looking ahead, Simmons hopes to deepen his partnership with Butler University further. That could include hiring more Butler students as interns or even future employees, collaborating with faculty on their research, or playing a larger role in Butler’s MBA program.