All students at Butler University are required to complete at least one course focused on themes of diversity, equality, and inclusivity. Since 2018, a year-long faculty fellowship program has been working to help ensure that this experience is more than just a box to check.

Butler recently established the Social Justice and Diversity (SJD) requirement as part of its Core Curriculum. These courses reaffirm the University’s founding principles by exposing students to critical scholarship on the root causes of marginalization and inequity, as well as an understanding of how to counter it. To make these classes even more meaningful, Butler’s Center for Faith and Vocation (CFV) collaborated with Career and Professional Success (CaPS), the SJD Requirement Director and committee, and the Office of the Provost to create the SJD Vocation Fellowship—a program designed to help Butler faculty infuse vocational reflection into SJD courses.

“At Butler, we see vocation as discovering a life of meaning, purpose, and contribution,” says CFV Director Daniel Meyers. “It’s the idea that you might know what you want to do, but you don’t know where you want to do it, or with whom, or in what way. The SJD curriculum is a beautiful place to explore contexts of how you want to make a difference.” 

About five years ago, around the same time that Butler began developing SJD courses, the Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE) introduced a grant to support college and university recipients in expanding vocational exploration across campus. Meyers and other University leaders—including CaPS Director Gary Beaulieu and former SJD Director Dr. Robin Turner—saw an opportunity to support SJD’s growth while including vocational elements right from the start.

“We don’t need to force a connection between the NetVUE grant and the SJD,” says Courtney Mohler, Associate Theatre Professor and Faculty Director for the SJD Vocation Fellowship. “It’s a natural fit for students to be thinking critically about topics such as poverty, racism, homophobia, hunger, or social injustice, while also wondering how they fit into it all and how they can do something to help.”

“The SJD Vocation Fellowship creates a space for participants to gather across disciplines and learn from one another,” Meyers says. “It helps faculty think creatively about how to translate the content and ideas of a course in ways that help students see why they care. We now have a variety of SJD courses across Butler’s curriculum that challenge students to connect the subject matter to their own lives.”

“My hope is that students gain a sensitivity toward and awareness of issues of inequality, oppression, and power as they affect our everyday lives,” says Dr. Sarah Painitz, Associate Professor and German Program Director. “I think it is always important for students to make real-life connections with the material we cover in the classroom—perhaps more so with these issues than many others.”