While new and updated residence halls and greek housing abound on the Butler campus, life insude those buildings has evolved as well. 

While most of us headed off to college armed with a laundry basket full of good wishes, a couple of posters, and hope for the best, the Class of 2020 entered Butler University with a more solid approach to making lasting friendships and soaking in the post-secondary experience.

That solid approach—Themed Living Communities (TLC)—came as a natural extension of the University’s existing residence hall programming combined with the prospect of new residence halls (Fairview House) entering the picture. 

“We had previously used a ‘wellness model’ for residence hall programs,” said Karla Cunningham, Director of Residence Life. “We wanted to explore new and interesting concepts for Butler students.” A group representing Butler subsequently attended the Association of College and University Housing Officers–International (ACUHO-I) conference where the concept of Butler’s TLC began to gel. 

The process took about 18 months of study and development, according to Anne Flaherty, Dean of Student Life. “We made the decision to move in this direction with our new residence halls which are larger than our previous living communities. We were concerned about students really finding ‘community’ within these residence halls.”

A survey of high school junior and incoming students, Residence Assistants (RAs) and current students helped develop themes, said Flaherty, and guided them away from the “Living Learning Communities” model based on academic interests and majors. “Our students wanted a more holistic approach,” she explained, “and because of our research, the size of schools, and design of buildings,
we wanted it to be ‘all in’ and make it mandatory for all first-year students
to participate.”     

The Class of 2020—the largest first-year class ever to arrive at Butler at 1,255 strong—chose from 16 living communities, ranging from Faith and Spirituality to Creativity and Leadership based themes. Ideally, each theme would occupy a floor of a residence hall and activities were planned and facilitated by RAs with support of a Faculty-in-Residence (FIR), fulltime Butler faculty members who live in an apartment within the Residential College, Ross Hall, and Fairview House. Each theme was branded with its own shield, and students were encouraged to show their TLC pride around campus with stickers, t-shirts, etc.

“My overall take-away is that it was a success,” said Flaherty. “We’ve received positive feedback from both RAs and students. Not everything worked, we learned some lessons and are looking forward to next year.” Among those tweaks, the theme offerings have narrowed from 16 to the 12 most popular and the TLC must fill an entire floor. 

CJ Koch ’19 is a Chemistry and Mathematics major from Newburg, Oregon. His interest in being a RA intensified once he learned about the TLC concept. He interviewed for the New to Indy TLC and was awarded the position at the Residential College (ResCo). He arrived on campus two weeks prior to classes starting to train for his responsibilities and work on a plan of activities.

For Koch, the experience was nothing less than amazing and made him seem a bit wiser than one would associate with a 20-year old. “It gave me the opportunity to help people through issues, the logistics of  ‘where do I go’ that most of us go through when we first get to campus. Seeing them grow throughout the year has been really rewarding.”

His challenges with his New to Indy TLC had little to do with his charges and more to do with logistics of getting a group of college students around Indianapolis. He credits his Faculty-in-Residence, Erin Garriott, with getting bus passes, Blue Indy cars, etc., to move students around the Circle City from duck pin bowling in Fountain Square to team building at the Escape Room.

Colton Junod ’18 is a Pre-Med Biology major and a perfect RA for the Future Healthcare Professionals TLC. “My first-year experience was shaped by friendships and mentoring and I wanted to be able to provide that to others,” he said.
“I can empathize with them going through the Anatomy and Chemistry classes and help them if they ask.” Much of his group’s programming has focused on health, whether that be financial health, mental health, etc. 

“It’s been a unique position and increased my creativity,” said Junod. “Being able to identify what others like and work through those logistics is something I know I’ll use the rest of my life.”

Katie Keller ’20 was familiar with the Butler campus when she arrived last fall. Her grandparents had regularly brought her to attend The Nutcracker ballet during the holidays and she found the small campus close to her home in Greenfield a perfect fit. While she didn’t fully understand the concept of the TLC when she prioritized her choices, she has found it to be a positive experience. 

“I chose the Future Healthcare Professionals for my TLC because I’m a Health Sciences major,” she said. “It’s been great to have this group to work through adapting studying style from high school to college. It’s helped us get past that barrier that can be very difficult. Probably most important, it’s realizing that everyone you meet can contribute to you, and you can contribute to them.” 

After the First Year…What’s Next?

After completing their first year at Butler, students have other living options to consider, said Cunningham. “We offer special programming—Year Two at BU—that really targets their academic and post-college aspirations,” she explained. “Are they looking to study abroad? Changing majors? There’s lots of programming around those topics during the second year.”

Housing contracts are usually returned by early March. Those who will be sophomores will select or be assigned to Fairview House or select apartment options (unless they are living in their approved Greek house). Those who will be juniors, and any seniors who contract to stay on campus, will select or be assigned to apartments. Greek houses have their own contracts and assignment practices with each house handling their own contracts and assignments.

Since the early 1990s, Butler students interested in living in fraternities and sororities have participated in deferred recruitment (formerly known as rush). This process takes place the second semester of the student’s first year so that they may move into Greek housing their sophomore year. And that may be the only year they will live in the house, according to Becky Druetzler, Director of Greek Life.

“The biggest change we have seen is the increase in recruitment,” said Druetzler. “There is a substantial increase in chapter size while most of the houses have remained the same size. With the exception of those in leadership positions, the fraternity and sorority houses are mostly occupied by sophomores and some juniors.” There are currently seven sorority houses and 5 fraternity houses; around 35 percent of undergraduates participate in the Greek system.

That puts a little bit of a challenge on those trying to build bonds with their Greek brothers and sisters. “It’s a different dynamic when everyone isn’t under the same roof,” said Druetzler. “It starts with the chapter. They’re planning activities so those who aren’t in the house physically feel included. But it also calls on a lot of ‘adulting’ skills like negotiating and coordinating with a large group of people.” 

Like much of the population and a majority of their generation, Butler’s Greek population can stay in constant communication via social media. “Our students rely on social media and its ability to communicate well with everyone, regardless if members are across campus or across the world on an internship or study abroad opportunity.”

So, What’s a TLC?

Butler University’s Themed Living Community (TLC) consists of students who share similar interests or hobbies. Incoming first-year students choose and rank six themes from a dozen offerings, including:

Eight Before You Graduate–Artistic and cultural opportunities while completing the Butler Cultural Requirement (BCR).

Balanced Bulldogs–Students take advantage of all that Butler and the Indianapolis community offer. 

BU Be Well–Students embrace the ability to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

BU Leads–Students explore the many facets of leadership and meet movers and shakers within Butler and in the Indianapolis community. 

BU Scholars–Designed for first-year students interested in honors or those students eager to dig into their classes.

Butler Advance–Students connect with inspiring community partners in fun and serious settings on and off campus, developing a stronger sense of self and building a bridge from Butler to fulfilling careers and lives.

Creativity Reimagined–Students experience hands-on creativity by exploring local art museums and centers while learning new skills.

Exploratory Studies–Students navigate the
pathway of choosing a major with other students going through the same process.

Future Healthcare Professionals–Students discover opportunities to help them succeed at becoming a healthcare professional.

Go Global!–For students wanting to study abroad while at Butler, an opportunity to explore cultures around the world through food and arts.

New to Indy–Specifically designed for students not from Central Indiana, an opportunity to discover all Indianapolis offers through the eyes of those who live here and love it! 

The Bulldog Way–Students have the opportunity to show their school spirit by participating in Butler traditions and cultural and athletic events.

For those who can’t decide, a “No TLC Preference” is offered, though incoming students still need to rank a total of five TLCs to process their housing contract.