When Courtney (Campbell) Rousseau ’03, Butler University Internship and Career Services Career Advisor, meets with students in her office she is intent on providing tools to help them travel down paths that they may never have dreamed of.
“I have to find what they are passionate about. I know it when I see it. When their faces light up … I know we are talking about something important to them,” Rousseau said.
The next four pages share incredible stories of students with vision and passion who are fulfilling their own dreams and doing it their own way. Rousseau knows exactly what it is like to follow your dreams—hers brought her right back to Butler.
Letting Passions Pave the Way
Career Advisor Courtney Rousseau ’03 is accustomed to students who are following a formula about what they should do with their careers. But those formulas can impede their innovation and dampen their passions. She and her Internship and Career Services (ICS) colleagues provide students traditional career services and the resources necessary to search for and secure internships, but they increasingly support students wandering beyond standard plans.
More students are venturing out by obtaining unique internships or starting their own organizations. Rousseau pointed to trends such as social media connections, the popularity of “side hustles,” and professionals changing jobs more often as reasons why students are drawn to make their own way.
She provides support to step away from a comfortable plan and helps validate students’ choices. “Butler students are very driven, very ambitious,” Rousseau said, which means many are looking to do something bold. Rousseau references the impressive but intimidating 97 percent placement rate after graduation and acknowledges the pressure: “Who doesn’t get freaked out? They wonder, ‘What if I am the three percent?’”
Rousseau strategically supports students to take risks in their career planning by ensuring a favorable environment. “When you are planting flowers, to make them grow you have to plant them in space where they work. Sometimes we create a greenhouse to trick the plants to grow,” Rousseau said. The greenhouse she builds is made of students’ own strengths—strategic thinking, relationships, planning. From there, Rousseau guides students toward the best risks for them to take. “I never see anything as impossible. I think I probably prepare them, see the competition, and know the value of making connections and experiences,” Rousseau said.
When students take the risk and it turns into a learning experience instead of the opportunity envisioned, Rousseau is quick to tell her own story.
From graduating from Butler with a degree in French to teaching English in France, Rousseau found herself waiting tables and returning to Butler for career advice of her own. After a graduate program and a move to Oregon for a job that turned out to be a less than a perfect fit, Rousseau came back to Butler for her current role. She recognizes the non-linear path and ultimate success of her own risk tasking, as well as how students connect to the story.
Rousseau hopes all students find their own way with their own passions. “I want students to know we are here. I don’t want people to be perfect. I prefer you come in with questions and fears. I want to take impossible situations and make it work, and make it something beautiful.”
Weaving Old Threads into a New Company
While in high school at Culver Military Academy, Aaron Marshall ’18 embraced self-expression beyond his uniform. He recorded hip-hop music in his dorm room with friends and wore thrifted clothing. His love for the music scene culture influenced his vintage style and would eventually influence his career path.
Marshall came to Butler University for Recording Industry Studies. No other college offered the opportunity to turn his dorm room hobby into a major. Yet, Marshall’s studies were not contained to a library and the classroom. His interests spilled over into his life. His friends noticed, too. They came over to record music with Marshall, but after asking “Where’d you get that?” they might leave with a borrowed, one-of-a-kind, vintage sweater straight from Marshall’s closet.
As he collected unique pieces in his thrifting trips with his family, he saw the market for selling finds to others and realized that maybe thrifting, not music, would be the passion to turn into a career. His business, Naptown Thrift, was born and grew by word of mouth. Marshall started an Instagram account that drew worldwide attention. With more stock and buyers, he moved the business to a large storage unit. But “storage unit” is an inaccurate description of what is ostensibly a store—racks of clothing for customers to browse on an appointment basis.
“It doesn’t feel like work, so it is definitely something I can see myself doing in the long run. It’s become a passion of mine I didn’t know existed before coming to Butler,” Marshall said. With his family’s support, Marshall is looking ahead to opening a brick and mortar store after graduation.
“My professors have been extremely supportive of me taking on my own endeavors,” Marshall said. His Recording Industry Studies Advisor Cutler Armstrong encourages him, even though he knows he won’t be going into music.
The support comes from students as well. “People have genuinely wanted to see me succeed,” Marshall said. For example, in his Audio Capstone course, the class is helping record a commercial for Naptown Thrift, recognizing how they could complete their assignment and help Marshall at the same time.
While ICS didn’t need to help Marshall figure out what to do with his life, Career Advisor Courtney Rousseau has assisted him in finding his way through the Career Planning Strategies course. “A lot of students are looking for jobs and internships. I love what I do already. The valuable thing in that course is Courtney helping me be more goal oriented. You have to have some sort of plan of what the next steps will be.”
As Marshall graduates, he might be more likely to apply for building permits than jobs, but following his passion will be a solid step toward reaching his goals.
A Runway from the Midwest to High Fashion
Growing up in Tipp City, Ohio, the closest Meredith Coughlin ’18 got to the fashion world was glossy magazines. Reading the periodicals helped her learn about fashion, the editors, and what it would take to make it in the industry.
But while Coughlin didn’t end up in fashion school, the Butler Human Communication and Organizational Leadership major used Internship and Career Services (ICS) to go after exactly what she wanted: A career in fashion.
After a summer spent managing a boutique in Northern Michigan, Coughlin had experience with creating visual displays, directing photo shoots, executing a fashion show, buying products, and running social media. When she returned to campus in the fall, she was determined to reach her goal of working in fashion in New York City.
She worked with ICS to improve her cover letter, but Career Advisor Courtney Rousseau, and Internship Advisor Scott Bridge, both knew Coughlin was venturing into uncharted territory for most Butler students. Coughlin was set on finding her internship on her own. “I knew what I desired was different,” she said. And sure enough, Coughlin, with ICS’s support and a great cover letter, earned an internship with Oprah Magazine in New York City.
After that experience, Coughlin doubled down. In the fall semester of her junior year, she spent time studying fashion merchandising at The Westminster School of Fashion in London, a prestigious fashion program, through the Institute for Study Abroad-Butler. Then she completed another fashion internship on the East Coast with Vineyard Vines the next summer, all before her senior year.
“I’ve always wanted real-life experiences,” Coughlin said. “Whenever I’m interning, I feel like I can see this is helping the store, this is helping the magazine, this is helping the company. I love to see the end result and accomplish my goals.” Coughlin’s story shows students they don’t have to wait until senior year to have hands-on learning experiences.
The risks she took—moving to a place where she knew no one, building a career without a network in a new city—were tempered by the passion for the work. “I don’t follow the path. I seek out what I know I am passionate about. You don’t want to invest your time into something you aren’t passionate about,” Coughlin said. As she looks forward to graduation, Coughlin will certainly be able to design her own career to fit her passions.
Making His Own Way
If you saw a resume for Anthony Murdock II ’17, it would show evidence of how he met with Career Advisor Courtney Rousseau at ICS about opportunities before he was even enrolled in classes. It would list internships with the Sagamore Institute and the City of Indianapolis. After graduation, the Political Science and Religion major is looking ahead to law school. A very traditional career path.
And yet, Murdock is using creativity and innovation to create movements that didn’t exist before he stepped foot on campus, which has changed the way he sees his future.
As an African American man and as a commuter, Murdock sometimes found himself in uncomfortable, outsider situations. He credits the challenge with giving him the opportunity to help advocate for other students. Butler ended up to be the perfect place for him to hone his leadership skills.
“It put me in a place to say, ‘Are you going to let people you don’t know define who you are by the color of your skin and where you come from, or are you going to use this platform and opportunity of being marginalized to help yourself help other people?’ And that is what I decided I was going to do,” Murdock said.
Murdock took that experience to heart and made a power move. With his fraternity brothers from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., they developed a new brand on campus. #PowerMovesOnly is a wave, a movement, and a shift in culture. The brand, fueled by hashtags and positive interactions with others, promotes success-oriented lifestyles and actions. “We were men who understood that it is one thing to do something for a moment and it is another to create sustainable change,” Murdock said of the beginning of the brand. “It was purely something we loved to do—see people benefit with great social meaning,” Murdock said.
Murdock also founded Bust The B.U.B.B.L.E., a student movement that promotes the perspectives of students of color at predominantly white institutions through diversity education, cultural awareness, and action-oriented activism.
Before his experience at Butler, Murdock thought he would take the traditional path: Practice law, run for office, become a political analyst. Yet his untraditional experience on campus, and skills in starting brands and organizations creating change, has brought him to another path. It still includes law school, but will veer in a different direction: Murdock will pursue sustainable social justice change in Indianapolis.
His empowering messages and actions toward change isn’t only shaping students’ experiences at Butler, but allowing Murdock to define his own career path as well.