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Butler University Libraries, Center for Academic Technology, PALNI grant, Digital 3D objects from photogrammetry

Butler Team Preserves, Improves Access to Artifacts through 3D Digital Replicas

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 24 2020

Butler University is home to more than 100 artifacts and fine art pieces, including several three-dimensional works such as sculptures, jewelry, and clothing. Scattered across campus, some of these items fill display cases while others are stowed away for safekeeping. Many of the artifacts have been studied for educational purposes, providing visual examples for courses in art history or anthropology.

But the need to preserve objects that are hundreds of years old means most physical artifacts need to stay put in one place. Even if a piece is out on display, studying it closely means trekking a class of students across campus and crowding together to peer through the glass. And that’s just if you’re already on campus—a luxury not available to all who want to see the art up close, especially in a socially distanced world.

Over the last year, Butler Libraries and the Center for Academic Technology have teamed up to find a way to simultaneously protect these artifacts while making them more accessible to the community. The work was part of a project funded by a grant of more than $5,000 from the Private Academic Library Network of Indiana (PALNI), which supports collaboration between member schools.

The project was led by Olivia MacIsaac, Digital Scholarship Library Associate, and Kristen Allen, Academic Technology Specialist, who started by researching options for digitizing the art collections. They learned about a process called photogrammetry.



By stitching together a series of high-quality photos taken from all sides of each object, photogrammetry creates detailed digital replicas. The end products—which can now be accessed online in Butler’s Digital Collections—are like three-dimensional panorama images that can be rotated and viewed from any angle.

It’s not a new process, but it’s one that often carries a big price tag, requiring expensive camera equipment and computer software. So, as part of its goal to minimize financial pressures for small universities, PALNI charged the Butler team with finding a lower-cost workflow that can be applied at libraries across Indiana.

Thanks in large part to hours of work from Tatum Turner, a rising senior majoring in History and Anthropology, Butler has now created 3D digital objects of nearly 20 art pieces from its collections (though only the first 10 were part of the PALNI-funded project). The team succeeded in developing a low-cost scanning process, swapping pricey gadgets for free apps like Focos, which allowed them to capture detailed images using an iPad camera. Even with some larger purchases, including a high-powered graphics card, the team found a way to replicate their process for just over $2,000.

“This project has shown me that digital humanities is insanely experimental right now,” says Turner, who was responsible for taking photos and trying out new technologies. “The marriage of humanities and technology is something that is incredibly necessary for archival purposes and future generations, as more things can’t withstand the test of time. It also makes things more accessible.”

Now, this low-cost, sustainable solution can be shared with other private universities throughout the state. After streamlining their own workflow, the Butler team created a Canvas training course that others can use to replicate the process.

“Creating 3D objects often seems daunting to librarians with physical collections,” MacIsaac says. “I’m hoping once they learn about the benefits of photogrammetry and the details you can capture with it, this will be a method they can use regularly instead of some of the other methods that cost a lot more money or require more expertise. I hope this empowers other schools to do this kind of work.”



The free online course, which anyone can request access to use, starts by walking students through the equipment and techniques they’ll need to create their own 3D digital objects. Users then learn how to edit the photos of their artifact, adjusting the lighting and removing the background before using 3D imaging software to build the digital replica. To wrap things up, the course shows users how to finalize their 3D models and record all necessary data, choosing the best online platform where the digitized artifacts can be stored and accessed.

“I’ve been really excited to already see the impact of the educational component we created, and that we will be able to partner with faculty and make this available to Butler students,” Allen says.

“This technology and this method has been used for years,” MacIsaac adds, “but it’s just now becoming a standard skill that’s needed in fields like archaeology. This is more important than ever as artifacts are destroyed or lost. We need to capture this information while we can, so developing these skills is really important.”


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager

Butler University Libraries, Center for Academic Technology, PALNI grant, Digital 3D objects from photogrammetry

Butler Team Preserves, Improves Access to Artifacts through 3D Digital Replicas

The grant-funded project found low-cost ways to scan and share physical artworks through a method called photogrammetry

Jul 24 2020 Read more
Blueprint 2020

Grad Students from Butler's College of Education Create Guide to Help Schools Reopen


PUBLISHED ON Jun 30 2020

INDIANAPOLIS—Cohort members from Butler University's educational leadership graduate program, the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals (EPPSP), have announced the release of Blueprint 2020: A Guidebook for School Leaders Moving Forward

The resource guide is designed to support education leaders as they envision the reopening of schools for the 2020-21 academic year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduate students conducted research and met with locally and nationally recognized experts in the field of education, as well as prominent community members, researchers, and policy makers. Experts included:

  • Katie Jenner, Senior Education Advisor to Governor Eric Holcomb
  • David Marcotte, Executive Director of the Indiana Urban Schools Association 
  • Christopher Lagoni, Executive Director of the Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association
  • Patrick McAlister, Director of the Office of Education Innovation, Indianapolis Mayor's Office 
  • Lori Desautels, Butler University Assistant Professor, Educational Neuroscience
  • Brandon Brown, CEO, The Mind Trust
  • Phil Downs, Superintendent, Southwest Allen County Schools; IAPSS Indiana Superintendent of the Year


The graduate students formed teams to focus on different educational areas impacted by reopening, such as remediation, testing, equity, technology, athletics, community, instruction, and others. Based on the research and conversations, students proposed several key findings that school leaders can keep in mind as they move forward with their reopening plans. A few key recommendations include:

  • Operations: Have a decision-making framework that suits the individual district.
  • Finance: Utilize CARES Act funding to address pressing needs, and have a vision for how to budget when this resource is no longer available.
  • International: Use case studies from other countries that have had successful responses in school environments. 
  • Diagnostics/Assessment: Develop an assessment plan addressing student well-being, priority standards, and student growth.
  • Technology: Urge state legislatures to make broadband internet a necessary utility to ensure access for all. 
  • Remediation: Use a multi-tier system of supports (MTSS) in planning remediation, which all students will need at varying levels this year. 
  • Parent Communication: Emphasize providing support and facilitating engagement with parents, rather than merely communicating with them, as parents are now partners more than ever.
  • Equity: Do not create the students' narratives for them. Take into account different experiences during shutdown, and account for culture, race, and financial background.


You can find the full EPPSP Blueprint here.


Media contact:
Chasadee Minton
Butler University College of Education
Program Coordinator, Marketing

Blueprint 2020

Grad Students from Butler's College of Education Create Guide to Help Schools Reopen

Cohort members from the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals (EPPSP) have released Blueprint 2020: A Guidebook for School Leaders Moving Forward

Jun 30 2020 Read more

Esports Provide Connection and Competition for Students During COVID-19

BY John Dedman

PUBLISHED ON May 06 2020

Playing pick-up games at the Health and Recreation Complex (HRC). Tossing a Frisbee or football on the quad outside Jordan Hall. Donning a jersey and lining up on the intramural fields.

As the month of March arrived on the Butler University campus and students planned to return from spring break, images like these filled hopes for the second half of the semester. But then the COVID-19 pandemic adjusted daily life in almost every corner of the world, and these moments never came to be. Instead, students transitioned to virtual instruction with the closing of classrooms and campus housing facilities.

Lost amid the pandemic were not only many of those opportunities to relieve stress through competition, but also those opportunities to connect with classmates through recreation.

But one way that some members of the Butler community have been able to remain connected is through esports, a growing activity on Butler’s campus.

Junior Luke Renchik is president of Butler’s esports club, and he’s also a member of Butler’s varsity esports team, which competes against other BIG EAST universities.

“It’s been really nice to feel a part of Butler while I’m physically away from campus,” says Renchik, who returned home to Michigan during the pandemic. “It’s been a good social outlet while I’m isolated.”

When Renchik notices that one of the club’s 90 members is online, he often joins them for a game. It allows him to chat with friends even when they can’t be together in person.

Butler’s varsity team began competing against BIG EAST universities in the spring of 2018. Butler’s team helped organize similar groups on other BIG EAST campuses to launch formal championships in several titles, including League of Legends and Rocket League.

The second half of the BIG EAST League of Legends season was adjusted due to the pandemic, but it was still played, and the spring BIG EAST Rocket League season continued without a hitch.

Normally, Butler’s 12 varsity players would gather to compete in the new Esports and Gaming Center in Atherton Union. Instead, Butler’s team members each play from their respective homes, but they are still connected.

“It was definitely different,” says Renchik. “We missed the energy, not all being in the same room, but we were able to exist as a team when so many other sports and teams didn’t have an opportunity to finish their season.”

Bailey Finocchio is Butler’s Assistant Director of Recreation & Wellness, Club Sports. Many of her responsibilities revolve around providing intramural sports opportunities for Butler students. During the fall semester, nearly 600 students participated in intramural sports. With students scheduled to return from spring break, another season of competition was about to begin full-throttle.

Basketball pool play had concluded, and the tournament bracket was set. Soccer, softball, badminton, lawn games, and more were set to begin. And then… students didn’t return to campus.

Finocchio had previously discussed the implementation of esports championships into intramurals with Eric Kammeyer, Butler’s Director of Esports and Gaming Technology. With the pandemic taking away so many other opportunities, it seemed like the right time.

“We knew that traditional programming wasn’t going to work, so we turned to esports,” said Finocchio. “We were already looking at options for esports to be included in intramurals, maybe a tournament over a weekend. But the pandemic allowed us to launch something more.”

Thirty-two participants signed up to play in three separate leagues: Rocket League, FIFA 20, and NBA2K 20. Three-week leagues were run simultaneously, with top performers feeding into playoffs.

“Most of the participants had previously participated in our traditional programming,” said Finocchio. “We were able to provide them with an outlet to still compete and interact with their classmates. It is something that we will look to continue as part of our intramural offerings.”

Senior Zach Sterrett was one of the students who made the transition from the traditional field to the e-field. Sterrett is a member of Butler’s club soccer team, which plays against club teams from other universities. While their season predominantly takes place in the fall, the portion of the calendar after spring break is normally filled with weekly practices and several matches against regional opponents. When his season was unexpectedly canceled, Sterrett took advantage of the opportunity provided by intramural esports.

“The intramural esports league gave me a chance to stay in touch with soccer and a way to show my competitive spirit,” says Sterrett. “When our games and practices were taken away, this was still a way to play soccer. It was a different outlet, and a lot of fun.”


Esports Provide Connection and Competition for Students During COVID-19

While spring intramural sports and other on-campus activities disappeared, some Bulldogs turned to online gaming

May 06 2020 Read more
Wendy Meaden with SWAG gowns

Butler Theatre Gives Health Professionals SWAG

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Apr 22 2020

Butler Theatre faculty and staff are utilizing their skills and passion to keep healthcare professionals safe worldwide.

The Indianapolis-born Safer With A Gown (SWAG) project is helping remedy isolation gown shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic by urging home-crafters to download their medical isolation gown patterns. Butler Costume Shop Manager Megan Wiegand, Theatre Professor Wendy Meaden, and Deborah Jo Barrett, Production and Stage Manager for the Jordan College of Arts, joined the collective in mid-March. Meaden drafted the gown pattern, which is to be printed out and pieced together as a blueprint similar to purchased patterns from a fabric store. When finished, the isolation gowns would be donated to a community healthcare facility.

Wendy Meaden at home
Theatre Professor Wendy Meaden prepares to creat another SWAG gown at home.

The SWAG website states “that these gowns are critical to the safety of doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and home health care workers to keep them safe when they are in close contact with patients.

So far, SWAG has received more than 2,500 downloads. The organizers received word that some expert-level sewers have crafted several gowns. So much stitching adds up.

"I have made only a handful of gowns for SWAG," Meaden says, "but if each of the 2,000 people who downloaded the pattern made only one gown, or two, it would make a huge difference."

Wiegand digitized the work, making it downloadable as a PDF. 

Meaden says the gown’s design would take a novice sewer about an hour to prepare the pattern and two hours to sew together. More experienced crafters can get it done in half that time. Of course, the more gowns you make, the quicker the process becomes.

“I’ve noticed as I’ve been sharing this pattern around,” Meaden says, “so many people really want to help in any way they can. I think we all feel good about creating something that is very satisfying. That’s one of the reasons I got into design.”

Most SWAG stitchers have used bolts of fabric or lightly used or new bed sheets as gown material. Meaden recommends tightly-woven cotton or a cotton polyester blend for best protection.

“Cotton is the most comfortable for the wearer,” Meaden says. “The poly blend will make a little better of a barrier.”

Butler Theatre joined SWAG in mid March thanks to Barrett, who is friends with the Indianapolis family that came up with the idea. As soon as she heard of the need to draft a gown pattern for the project, Barrett immediately thought of Wiegand and Meaden.

“There wasn’t a moment of hesitation from Wendy and Megan,” Barrett says. “Our first line medical professions need all the help they can get and I just think it’s wonderful that there’s this opportunity that the public can help.”

Dr. Deanna Willis, an Indianapolis family physician and primary care doctor, is the aunt and mother of some of the young SWAG starters. She says most factory-made gowns are going to large hospitals nationwide. The shortages are being felt most in smaller healthcare facilities like urgent care clinics and homecare programs.

“Microdroplets can stay suspended in the air quite a while,” Willis says. “These gowns provide a really important source of protection for those folks.”

Meaden consulted with Willis in the gown’s design, and Willis says she was impressed with their approach. They asked questions about medical professionals’ activities during shifts.

“It’s designed to be simple, not a lot of ties for taking on and off,” says Willis, also a Professor of Family Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "They really understand that the garments must be functional. The choice of materials, how they are constructed, and how they are worn are all part of that."


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager

Wendy Meaden with SWAG gowns

Butler Theatre Gives Health Professionals SWAG

Members of the program lent their skills for Indianapolis’ Safer With A Gown project for healthcare workers during COVID-19

Apr 22 2020 Read more
Katelyn Penry will graduate in three years.

Several Butler Programs to Launch Three-Year Frameworks This Fall

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Apr 08 2020

Finishing college a year early usually requires a lot of hard work, a little bit of luck in scheduling classes, and—perhaps most of all—a drive to succeed.

Katelyn Penry, an Actuarial Science junior set to graduate in 2021 after three years of study, says all the work has been worth it.

Before ever starting her first year at Butler, Penry completed more than 30 college credits through high school dual credit classes and community college courses. Those incoming credits were key to Penry’s decision to graduate early, letting her build a three-year schedule that still includes a minor in Risk Management and Insurance, along with a summer internship at State Farm.

While Penry’s three-year plan was built specifically for her needs, several Butler programs will soon offer official, three-year alternatives with clearer routes to an early finish. Six majors in the College of Communication and 26 programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will offer three-year frameworks as an option from the start for incoming students. The structures should make the pathway feel more valid and achievable for students who hadn’t already planned to graduate early.

“By letting people know that this kind of approach exists,” says Provost Kathryn Morris, “it may be helpful to recruit on the front end but it also helps support students with options while they are here.”

Why finish early?

For Penry, graduating early means the opportunity to start her career as soon as possible.

“I’m excited to get out into the workplace,” she says. “It has given me something to look forward to.”

Saving a year’s worth of tuition expenses can also be a major appeal of official three-year pathways to commencement.

“We’re trying to respond to concerns about the cost of higher education in general, and of a Butler education in particular,” says Jay Howard, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “We want to make a Butler education available to everybody. One way to make it more affordable is to help students get through in three years.”

Graduating early doesn’t take away from the Butler experience, Howard says. All plans allow for internships, and three-year plans will have room for study abroad options once travel restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic are lifted.

“Students who are enterprising, organized, and on top of it have been able to graduate in three years for a long time,” Howard says. “We felt it was important to support those students—provide greater guidance, a little more structure, and better advice along the way to help them achieve this goal.”

Melinda Peterson
English senior Melinda Peterson is set to graduate in the fall after three years.

When English senior Melinda Peterson graduates this fall after three years at Butler, she will have spent two weeks studying in Ireland and Scotland, and she will have completed three internships. Peterson has also found time to work for Tanglewood Publishing in downtown Indianapolis. 

“For the most part, my schedule has been fairly manageable,” says Peterson, who is the editor-in-chief of Butler’s undergraduate literary magazine, Manuscripts. “After just a little bit of planning, I could see where I wanted to go. After that, it was just ‘sit down, work hard, and keep sight of what you want to do.’”

Blueprints for success

Butler’s Spanish program was one of the first to put its three-year option into print. Alex Quintanilla, Chair of the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, has developed similar options for the French and German majors, as well. These programs give incoming students the chance to skip introductory classes by passing placement exams.

“The more you already know about the language, the shorter your college program will be,” Quintanilla says. “We want students to know that if they want to graduate sooner, they can do it.”

Quintanilla’s plan allows plenty of time for study abroad opportunities, and it offers upper-level classes online during the summer.

In the College of Communication, programs for Journalism, Music Industry Studies, Web Design and Development, Critical Communication and Media Studies, Human Communication and Organizational Leadership, and Strategic Communication: Public Relations and Advertising will all have official three-year plans by this fall. Dean Brooke Barnett expects the option of finishing in three years to be very appealing for incoming students.

“Some students are just ready to enter their careers sooner,” Barnett says.

Still a full experience

About halfway to her graduation goal, Penry says she is receiving a full Butler experience, despite her busy schedule. She was able to work in the Gamma Iota Sigma office, attend Bible study, and cheer on Butler’s basketball teams at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Plus, she doesn’t feel any less prepared to succeed in her career.

“Through my major and all of the experiences Butler provides, I’m taking classes that are really preparing me for the industry,” Penry says. “I still feel like I’m getting the best out of my college experience.”


Three-year programs for fall 2020

Starting in fall 2020, the colleges of Communication and Liberal Arts and Sciences will offer official three-year pathways as options for incoming students. Here are the programs that are participating in the three-year option:

  • Communication—Journalism, Music Industry Studies, Web Design and Development, Critical Communication and Media Studies, Human Communication and Organizational Leadership, and Strategic Communication: Public Relations and Advertising
  • Liberal Arts and Sciences—Actuarial Science, Anthropology, Astronomy and Astrophysics, Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Criminology, Classics, Computer Science, English (Literature track), Environmental Studies, French, German, History, International Studies, Mathematics, Peace and Conflict Studies, Physics, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, Sociology, Software Engineering, Spanish, Statistics, and Science, Technology, and Society


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager

Katelyn Penry will graduate in three years.

Several Butler Programs to Launch Three-Year Frameworks This Fall

The options will provide clearer pathways to early graduation for incoming students

Apr 08 2020 Read more
illustration of businessmen being protected

Butler’s Risk Management and Insurance Program Authors Pandemic Act to Bolster Economy

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Apr 02 2020

A case study on PayPal, completed by Butler University undergraduates in 2017, could help save the U.S. economy in 2020.

Zach Finn, Clinical Professor and Director of the Davey Risk Management and Insurance program at Butler, and some of his former students have developed the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act (PRIA). If passed, the legislation would provide a reinsurance backstop to cover losses in the insurance sector due to future pandemic outbreaks, such as the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. The act has already been adopted by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, which is calling for its passing in Washington, DC.

zach finn
Zach Finn

The policy combines the students’ 2017 case study work on mitigation and monetization of global cyber risk—essentially, steps to reduce the negative effects of threats and disasters on business continuity—with a framework similar to the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. The students studied the possibility of a black swan—a rare, unpredictable event with severe consequences that would lead to a cyber shutdown in America. Their solution was the development of a hypothetical Cyber Risk Insurance Act, which would protect the United States against the financial impacts of a widespread cyber-attack. The idea and research were meant to urge a federal backstop for uninsured losses resulting from the shutdown of large portions of the economy. 

Now, the PRIA draws on that concept. It would create a federal backstop—or last-resort financial support—for future, and possibly even current, losses that companies would face from a pandemic event. Finn sent the act to Indiana and federal governments in mid-March, and it has already landed on desks in the White House and Congress.

“We will never have a March Madness again unless the government backstops it,” Finn says. “The PRIA would allow businesses to have a fair shot of getting coverage in the case of a pandemic. No insurance companies would take this on now, so that kind of protection would require an act like this. Without a backstop, what happens if we have to shut down every 10 years like this? What if we have to shut down every three years like this?”

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chair of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee, explains her support of the PRIA, “By requiring higher capital and liquidity buffers, banks are well-positioned to continue lending and play an important countercyclical role. However, America’s consumers, small businesses, and vulnerable populations are suffering. It is time for a policy and fiscal response to address their needs.”

Finn says the act would protect venues from losing revenue due to the cancellation of large events like the NCAA basketball tournament. It would also lessen the ripple effect that major event losses can have on area businesses.

“If you’re running a major convention center or something like Lucas Oil Stadium,” Finn says, “it would be a completely common professional standard that they would offer pandemic insurance.”

The PRIA could also provide an alternative to federal government bailouts, Finn continues. Businesses do take advantage of business interruption insurance, but that only covers events like fire, lightning, or wind. Business loss due to pandemics are not in the mix, yet.

Real life application

2017 Risk Management team
Butler's 2017 Spencer-RIMS Risk Management Challenge team could save 2020.

Nick Fox ’17 was part of the four-student team representing Butler at the spring 2017 Spencer Education Foundation’s Risk Management Challenge case competition, which explored options for insuring PayPal. His teammates included Erin Bundy ’17, Jessica Parada ’17, and Matt Pauszek ’17.

While placing third in the competition, the students’ analysis of what PayPal could do in the event of a cyber blackout turned heads. The PayPal risk manager congratulated the Butler students and took their Cyber Risk Insurance Act into serious consideration.

“She said our solution could truly be implemented in real life,” Fox recalls. “Three years removed, it could still be a focal point in the industry. It adds even more validity to the work we did.”

The students’ proposition was meant to protect businesses from a dire circumstance like the internet crashing or a global pandemic. It’s debatable which event would be more catastrophic, but Finn says the students' ideas from three years ago could help the U.S. today.

Climbing the insurance ranks

Today, Fox and his former teammates are all advancing within their respective insurance companies. Fox finished his studies at Butler a semester early and was quickly hired as a cyber risk analyst for middle market corporations and businesses at Marsh & McLennan Companies, based out of Chicago, Illinois. He is currently transitioning to a consultant position, working with risk managers and chief financial officers of Fortune 500 companies.

“The past few months, I’ve been focusing on emerging risks, one of which is COVID-19,” Fox says. “I’ve been consulting with different clients on things like violent threat modeling and cyber stress tests.”

Pauszek is a Risk Management Analyst for the University of Notre Dame. He has leaned on his Butler experience, especially since COVID-19 grew to pandemic levels in March.

“Faced with situations of uncertainty and crisis, the lessons I learned have equipped me with both the technical industry knowledge and the overall confidence to identify and execute creative business solutions,” Pauszek says. “I believe the Davey Program has built a culture that emphasizes and encourages students to approach their careers with an innovative outlook and careful consideration for others that makes them extremely valuable in their surrounding communities.”

Fox considers his training at Butler key to his early career success, too. The enactment of PRIA would be another boost to his career.

“It’ll put Butler University itself in its rightful place on the map in terms of Risk Management and Insurance,” Fox says. “This is going to create an opportunity for us to put our ideas in the forefront of the country.”

The PRIA is also fast-ascending. The piece of potential policy could be a boost to the U.S. economy in years to come.

“It’s not really a question of if another pandemic is going to happen,” Fox says, “it’s more so when and how serious.”


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager

illustration of businessmen being protected

Butler’s Risk Management and Insurance Program Authors Pandemic Act to Bolster Economy

Clinical Professor Zach Finn and his former students’ work is being lobbied by the U.S. House Financial Services Committee

Apr 02 2020 Read more

Butler Technology Joins Global Effort to Fight Coronavirus

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 30 2020

Butler University has donated remote use of some of its powerful technology to a global effort to combat COVID-19.

A supercomputer and Butler Esports computers are now part of Folding@home, a project focused on disease research that utilizes help from computer owners around the world. Based out of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the work has shifted from researching numerous infectious diseases to investigating the structure of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Using molecular protein folding computer simulations, the Folding@home project aims to discover drug pathways that can cause a dysfunction in the folding of one or more proteins in the COVID-19 virus, therefore killing it. Extra computer power from around the world is needed for faster, more precise simulations. 

“It takes huge amounts of computing power to try them,” Butler Computer Science Professor Jonathon Sorenson says. “The more they try, the better the chances of finding one that works.”

Protein folding is the process that determines a protein’s structure, and therefore its functionality. The shapes protein subunits form fit together like LEGOs to create new cells. Sometimes, when you are trying to build something specific, only one particular shape of LEGO will work. If the body’s proteins aren’t folding into the necessary shapes, this can have detrimental health effects. For example, in the case of sickle-cell anemia, the protein inside red blood cells—hemoglobin—is not capable of transporting oxygen due to a single amino acid change in the hemoglobin protein structure. Now, Folding@home is seeking similar weaknesses within the coronavirus’ proteins—looking for structures that could be altered to inhibit the virus’s ability to infect the body.

Computer owners who want to help with the project can download software that allows Folding@home to use the computers to run simulations. The simulations are usually timed for when the user sleeps, but with universities relying on distance learning during the pandemic, on-campus machines are left on and idle all day. More than 700 universities worldwide have lent their computer power to help run simulations around the clock.

Sorenson learned of the ongoing research project’s new focus on the coronavirus from an Association for Computing Machinery article and alerted IT of the potential of joining the project. A day later, IT Senior Systems Analyst and Computer Science Adjunct Professor Nate Partenheimer got the University’s newest supercomputer online to run Folding@home simulations.

“By lending our computing power to this huge project,” Sorenson says, “it’s a small way of helping that overall effort.”

Supercomputer specs

While Butler’s first supercomputer, The Big Dawg, is being utilized for current Butler research projects, a new system was to be used for artificial intelligence courses and other research. Those projects have been postponed, which opened up use for Folding@home. 

Thanks to Partenheimer, Folding@home is now benefiting from:

  • Four NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics processing units, each of which is capable of about 13 Tera-FLOPS. FLOPS, or floating point operations per second, is a unit of computer performance measurement in scientific computations. Just one of these graphics processing units can execute 13 trillion operations per second.
  • One NVIDIA GP100, which is capable of more than 10 Tera-FLOPS.

Now online, Butler has helped boost the project to 1.5 quintillion operations per second worldwide.

Esports scores an assist

Butler Esports donated its own NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics processing unit and an Intel i7 central processing unit to the Folding@home cause. Machines meant for powering spirited games of League of Legends and Rocket League are now dedicated to saving lives.

Student Activities Coordinator Doug Benedict had known about Folding@home since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but after a meeting with Butler IT, he decided to download the software and link the Esports machines to the cause. Benedict says the Butler Esports and Gaming Center’s mission is to be a source for community engagement, outreach, and philanthropy between esports events.

“We want to show the benefits of having this kind of space and this kind of technology to society as a whole,” he adds. “Technology has changed our lives time and time again, and clearly it’s going to continue to do that.”


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager


Butler Technology Joins Global Effort to Fight Coronavirus

A supercomputer and Butler Esports machines are linked to a COVID-19 research initiative focusing on proteins in the virus

Mar 30 2020 Read more
Terri Jett

Butler Professor Lends Expertise to Indy PBS ‘Simple Civics’ Series

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16 2020

Terri Jett’s pledge to PBS is lending her expertise on politics and American history to WFYI’s video series Simple Civics.

An Associate Professor of Political Science and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity, Jett hosts the videos that have tackled topics such as Freedom of Speech During Times of War, How Does the Draft Work?, and Can You Run for President from Prison?. Usually about three or four minutes in length, Simple Civics debuted in October on WFYI’s YouTube and Facebook channels.

With 2020 being a presidential election year, WFYI producers developed the series for viewers to better understand U.S. policy and history. Looking for a host with a political science background, producer Kyle Travers discovered Jett through Butler University's College of Communication produced videos as well as Jett’s work for Founder’s Week. The collaboration has been successful as Simple Civics season two tapings are underway.

On an afternoon in early March, Jett took her place in front of a gigantic green screen, under the bright studio lights, to record about a dozen new episodes. With Travers and fellow WFYI producers Scott McAlister nearby, she completed upcoming videos including Women as President, How Primaries Work, and 19th Amendment.

Jett has the commanding voice of an educator, the confidence to speak in front of large groups, and decades of research and writing experience. Still, she says hosting a web video series is a new challenge she wholly welcomes.

“I have a new, profound admiration for people who do this on a daily basis—speaking in front of a camera. It’s exhausting. But I really do enjoy that it’s actually difficult for me to do,” says Jett during a short break between episodes. “It’s like something you're struggling with, and you finally achieve it. You have a sense of pride about it. I’m really honored to be a part of it.”

The full-length Simple Civics videos will be posted online, but one-minute versions—and 30-second versions produced for children—are expected to air on WFYI this summer.

The scripts are first written by McAlister and Travers, but Jett contributes her thoughts and edits. The collaboration makes for a mix of content based on history and political issues that hit home today. Recorded before Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, the Women for President episode discussed female candidates who have pursued the nomination throughout history, from Victoria Woodhull in 1872, to Shirley Chisholm in 1968, to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“It shows how things we are talking about today have been talked about historically—how they evolve and change,” Jett says.

Originally from Oakland, California, Jett arrived at Butler from Auburn University in 1999. She adopted Indianapolis as her own, quickly establishing a presence on campus and in the city. Jett serves on the board of directors for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Public Library, and Indianapolis-Marion County Land Improvement Bond Bank. Now, she is building even stronger bonds to the city through Simple Civics.

Simple Civics goes to school

After releasing the first three Simple Civics episodes in the fall, Jett and WFYI received the feedback they needed to know the series was heading in the right direction.

Jett gets ready for another take
Political Science Professor Terri Jett, right, prepares for another Simple Civics take.

“We received some notes from teachers, saying they could see themselves using this series in the classroom as a supplement to what they’re talking about in their civics lessons,” McAlister says. “That’s really encouraging. One of the goals of this series was for it to be a resource for teachers.”

The WFYI producer and social media manager says the timing of Simple Civics is important.

“With it being an election year,” he says, “people have so many questions about how primaries work, how the election works, how the electoral college works, why we even still have the electoral college—all of which we are hoping to address in this season of episodes.”

And Jett is happy to help. She wants Simple Civics to educate and create discussion.

“I think it’s important to do this kind of work,” Jett says. “I’m really hopeful for children of all different backgrounds to see me talking about politics and history in this way. It’s accessible, and hopefully they will see it as kind of fun, and they will develop some curiosity.

“For me, if there is one child out there who says ‘Wow, I want to pick up a book and read about that. That’s interesting,’ I’m good. That’s it for me.”


Photos by Tim Brouk; videos by WFYI and Tim Brouk


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager

Terri Jett

Butler Professor Lends Expertise to Indy PBS ‘Simple Civics’ Series

Terri Jett’s political science background makes her an ideal host for the WFYI videos, with new episodes to drop this summer

Mar 16 2020 Read more

Butler Talks Episode 1: The State of Higher Ed

The State of Higher Ed with Matthew Pellish and James M. Danko

The current state of higher education is undoubtedly changing. From the development of new badges, microcredentials, and stackable credentials, to the announcements of school closings, we’re feeling seismic shifts in the industry every day. 

On this episode of Butler Talks, we’ll take a closer look at some of those changes in the national higher ed landscape with Matthew Pellish, managing director of strategic research and education at the Education Advisory Board (EAB), and a well-known authority on the trends shaping the future of higher education

Then we’ll catch up with Butler University President, James M. Danko, to hear about how Butler is adapting, while also preserving our core operation as a selective, private liberal arts institution that’s known for its traditional, full-time undergraduate residential model. 


James M. Danko, President
James Danko became Butler’s 21st President in 2011. During his tenure, he has led a strategy to establish the University as a higher-education innovator through the pursuit of creative new programs and approaches; to advance Butler’s core mission as one that integrates a liberal-arts foundation with professional preparation; and to strengthen Butler’s founding principles of inclusivity, community engagement, and academic excellence.

A key part of Butler’s growing momentum is President Danko’s commitment to enriching the student experience through the transformation of campus—including academic, research, residential, performance, and athletic spaces. In summer 2019, the Lacy School of Business moved into its new 110,000 square-foot home. In fall 2019, the University will break ground on a $100 million renovation and expansion for a new sciences complex. Additionally, Danko has led the University through its most successful fundraising years ever, highlighted by a $25 million gift from Andre and Julia Lacy to name the Lacy School.

In 2013, Danko successfully advocated for Butler’s membership in the BIG EAST Athletic Conference, positioning the University in the company of outstanding peers in both the classroom and athletic competition. He now serves as Chair of the BIG EAST Board of Directors.

In 2016, he signed a historic campus-sharing agreement between Butler and its neighbor, Christian Theological Seminary (CTS), through which Butler acquired nearly 30 acres of land and buildings. This partnership has enabled Butler to expand, to establish a new home for its College of Education, and to bring renewed vibrancy to CTS and the surrounding community.

Interest in Butler is at an all-time high, with the number of applications increasing nearly 140 percent since 2009. In the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, Butler achieved the No. 1 spot among Midwest Regional Universities for the second consecutive year and was named the Most Innovative School among Midwest Regional Universities for the fifth consecutive year.

Butler’s placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, and in the highly respected Gallup Alumni Survey, Butler outperformed its peers across most items in graduates’ assessment of their student experience—including faculty support and experiential learning, affinity for their alma mater, and overall well-being.

Prior to Butler, Danko served as Dean of the Villanova School of Business and as Associate Dean at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. During his Villanova tenure, financial gifts to the school increased nearly five-fold, enabling it to implement efforts including a new curriculum, a comprehensive student-services wing, and research centers focused on real estate, innovation, and analytics. In addition, the school moved from regional recognition to being ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek as No. 7 in the nation. He also served in leadership roles and taught entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Babson College, and the University of Michigan.

An innovator at heart and in experience, Danko was a successful entrepreneur in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for nearly two decades before beginning his academic career. At age 19, he founded a medical equipment company, which he later expanded into a multi-location healthcare and fitness equipment provider.

Danko is an alumnus of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and John Carroll University, where he earned a degree in Religious Studies. He earned his MBA with highest honors from the University of Michigan. He holds a deep commitment to the Jesuit ideals of intellectual growth, social justice, and servant leadership.

Danko is the father of two grown daughters, both of whom reside and work in the Indianapolis area. He and his wife, Bethanie, live on campus and frequently host Butler students and community members at their home. Danko is a loyal Cleveland sports fan and an avid reader of American political history. He and Bethanie are active supporters of the United Way and other nonprofits that work to improve lives in Central Indiana.


Matthew Pellish, Director of Strategic Research and Member Education, Education Advisory Board

Matthew R. Pellish is the director of strategic research and member education on the Education Advisory Board. Previously, Pellish served in the Education Advisory Board’s member services division, establishing foundational relationships with the executive administration of new member institutions and responding to member priorities through frontline service planning.

Prior to joining the Education Advisory Board, Pellish served as director of continuing education at Wheelock College in Boston, founding this new division with new models for curriculum delivery and business and revenue generation, as well as marketing and student recruitment.

Early in his career as an undergrad Pellish developed a passion for education which expanded early in his career in roles as Director of Continuing Education, Special Assistant to the President, and head of New Program Development at several universities and colleges in the northeast including Harvard University, Cambridge College, Wheelock College, and Saint Joseph’s. His current emphasis on Executive Communications strategy brings his expertise of industry trends, opportunities, and threats to the forefront of institutional and system operations and policy.


Butler Talks Episode 1: The State of Higher Ed

With Matthew Pellish and President James Danko

neville and wakefield

New Butler-Produced Podcast to Capture Best-Selling Stories, Memories

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Jan 15 2020

For the past several months, Butler University English Professor Susan Neville has become a fixture in the Irwin Library for her latest literary project.

Neville is not poring over books, however. She is not researching her next novel. The Creative Writing professor is adjusting microphone volume levels in a cozy soundproof booth in the library’s lower level. To her right is best-selling author Dan Wakefield, who penned Going All the Way and Starting Over, covered historic events like the first foreign press interview with former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, wrote about the Emmett Till trial for magazines like The Atlantic and The Nation, and is considered Kurt Vonnegut’s oldest living friend.

Neville and Wakefield
Professor Susan Neville, left, prepares to interview best-selling author Dan Wakefield.

Neville and Wakefield are about halfway through recording Naptown Season One: A Memoir of the 20th Century. The podcast will consist of 20 episodes featuring different chapters of Wakefield’s life, which started in Broad Ripple, Indiana, continued to New York City as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter, then to academia in Florida, and now back to Indianapolis. All 20 episodes will be released at once on iTunes, Wakefield’s website, Irwin Library’s website, and Butler’s Digital Commons in May for maximum binge listening, and to celebrate Wakefield’s 88th birthday.

“He’s a great storyteller and I wanted to capture those stories,” says Neville, who received a $2,000 grant from the Indiana Humanities Council to assist with the production. “These episodes will be kind of his memoir, only done through interviews.”

The soundbooth only fits two people, but the results are as high-level as anything on Podcast One. Neville and Wakefield mapped out every episode, about an hour in length each. So far, they’ve completed episodes focusing on Vonnegut, novelist James Baldwin, and a trio of Wakefield’s mentors from his undergraduate days at Columbia College: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren, literary critic Lionel Trilling, and famed sociologist C. Wright Mills, who Wakefield served as a research assistant.

Neville enlisted the help of Academic Technology Specialist Megan Grady-Rutledge to help edit each episode, which starts with music and short introductions and outros from Neville. The rest is all Wakefield answering Neville’s questions, recalling major career milestones, and reading from his published works.

“Once he gets on a roll, he gets on a roll,” says Neville with a laugh. “I was a journalism major as an undergrad and have written a lot of freelance feature articles, so I’m used to doing interviews. Recording a podcast is a combination of radio and the print journalism I’m used to.”

Neville reveals that Season Two will consist of Vonnegut interviews she conducted in 1989 and 1990. Those conversations currently live on microcassettes, but will be transferred to a digital format after Season One launches.

“Talking with Susan, I’m remembering a lot of things,” Wakefield says. “I feel like there’s a big hole in our history and in Indianapolis, like the great jazz scene we had here. A lot of if isn’t mentioned in a lot of places so I’m glad to be able to talk about that.” 

Part of the author’s comfort in the recording booth stems from Wakefield’s connection with Neville. They first met when Wakefield was still a graduate writing professor at Florida International University and Neville was a guest speaker at the Seaside Writers Conference. Wakefield has paid close attention to Neville’s career, which includes creative nonfiction works Sailing the Inland Sea, Iconography, and Indiana Winter.

“Susan Neville is the best author today in this city and state,” says Wakefield, noting her 2019 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction award for her collection of short stories The Town of Whispering Dolls. “I feel very lucky to be doing this with her. I feel very comfortable. We have sort of the same literary outlook and framework. We share the same prejudices about writers we like and admire. I know whatever I talk about, she will understand what I’m talking about.”

Naptown is recorded with Audacity and just a few clicks. The writers test their speaking levels for a few minutes, listen to the playback, and then start to record the episode.

For a December 10 session, Wakefield was prepared to speak on his former influential professors. Among his notes, Wakefield brought the March 1968 copy of The Atlantic, which consisted solely of Wakefield’s long-form article on the Vietnam War. The piece, Supernation at Peace and War, mentions some of his former Columbia University professors.

Before the session, Wakefield was a guest at Neville’s first-year seminar on Vonnegut. The students had been reading Slaughterhouse-Five, Mother Night, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and they poured over Wakefield’s essay on his old friend titled Kurt Vonnegut, Christ-Loving Atheist.

“They were in awe of him,” Neville says. “He told stories about Kurt and his family, and he brought fresh insights to the books they’d been reading all semester. They were amazed.”

And the students will get to know much more about Wakefield, Vonnegut, and 20th century American literature in a fresh format thanks to Neville and Naptown.


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager


Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at

neville and wakefield

New Butler-Produced Podcast to Capture Best-Selling Stories, Memories

Creative Writing Professor Susan Neville hosts Naptown series featuring author and Indianapolis native Dan Wakefield

Jan 15 2020 Read more
Hala Fadda in her lab

COPHS Researcher Leads New Treatment of Recurring C. Diff

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Dec 12 2019

Close to half-a-million people a year suffer from Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff, and more than 29,000 of them died from the bacteria, according to the Center for Disease Control. C. diff results from disruption of healthy, normal bacteria in the colon, often from antibiotics, and causes diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever. In the most severe cases, C. diff can damage the colon and be fatal.

Most cases can be treated with antibiotics. But for patients who suffer recurring cases of C. diff, the path to recovery is a bit more complex. New guidelines for this group, introduced in 2011, recommend fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), or a procedure in which fecal matter is collected from a healthy donor and placed into the gastrointestinal tract of a patient. These transplants can help replenish the bacterial balance in the gut through colonoscopy or capsules.

Most C. diff patients are elderly and had spent time in healthcare settings under the treatment of antibiotics. While the antibiotics wipe out bad bacteria in the patient, good bacteria resilient to C. diff are also destroyed during the process. Results have been favorable in treating recurrent C. diff with FMT, but Butler University Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Hala Fadda is part of a team that has improved cure rates with oral FMT products, while significantly reducing the amount of capsules a C. diff patient must take.

hala fadda
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Hala Fadda.

Published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Fadda and collaborators designed a capsule coating that dissolves in the colon instead of the stomach. This allows for site-specific delivery to the colon and was found to better restore the gut microbial diversity. These new capsules had faster and more successful cure rates compared to standard capsules that dissolve in the stomach in five minutes.

Published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Fadda and collaborators designed a capsule coating that dissolves in the colon instead of the stomach. This allows for site-specific delivery to the colon, which has been found to better restore the gut microbial diversity. These new capsules had faster and more successful cure rates compared to standard capsules that dissolve in the stomach in five minutes.

“The coating is essentially a high fiber starch polymer,” says Fadda, who’s gained expertise through researching how patients consume medicine. “The enzymes produced by colonic bacteria start to chomp away and digest that starch, even with C. diff patients’ lowered bacteria diversity. These enzymes, which break up the starch, are abundant in the colon.”

FMT has been adopted by many hospitals, but Fadda says access to the treatment can be improved. Her new capsules are less invasive and more affordable than a colonoscopy, and they can be shipped from specialist centers around the world.

Healthy donors only

Fadda says there is only a 2.5 percent acceptance rate for fecal donors because the criteria is so strict for FMT. Stool banks like OpenBiome in Boston, Massachusetts, don’t accept potential donors who have traveled to places with communicable diseases in the past six months. They also don’t accept donors who have suffered from digestive diseases, metabolic syndromes, and other conditions.

“You can’t have taken antibiotics in the past three months, and body mass index must be less than 30,” Fadda says. “Evidence suggests a correlation between weight and gut microbial communities.” 

As of 2018, 43,000 FMT treatments were issued by OpenBiome, Fada says. However, this number is not representative of total FMT treatments, as some hospitals prepare their own FMT products.

How C. diff spreads

The spores that cause C. diff are abundant in hospitals. They can be spread by visitors, or by healthcare professionals. After the resistant spores are transmitted to patients, they can germinate into vegetative bacterial cells in the colons of vulnerable individuals, and the bacteria produces toxins.

Fadda and her team’s breakthrough will help shorten return hospital stays for many patients suffering from recurrent C. diff. The capsule approach provides an alternative to a colonoscopy—an expensive and invasive procedure some patients might want to avoid—and it looks to be a quick and effective treatment to C. diff while restoring microbiome diversity in the gut.

“Fecal microbiota transplant has been adopted by lots of hospitals,” Fada says. “It’s common in the U.S. and Europe, but accessibility is still an issue. That’s why this capsule offers a significant advantage because it makes FMT more accessible.”

how the FMT works

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at


Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager

Hala Fadda in her lab

COPHS Researcher Leads New Treatment of Recurring C. Diff

Professor Hala Fadda has developed capsules that dissolve in the colon to better fight Clostridioides difficile

Dec 12 2019 Read more
Wendy Meaden holds masks.

Theatre Professor Writing the Textbook on ‘Masks Inside Out’

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Dec 11 2019

Butler Theatre Professor Wendy Meaden was one of the almost 10 million viewers for the premier of reality competition show The Masked Singer. The program, which is now in its second season and was renewed for a third in 2020, pits disguised celebrities in elaborate costumes singing in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.

Being a costume designer and professor whose work has included mask design, creation, and research for more than 20 years, Meaden felt like she had to watch The Masked Singer. But she didn’t make it past the second episode. She enjoyed the show’s mask designs, which are created by artist  Marina Toybina, but Meaden was hoping for more emphasis on the masks themselves.

“I can understand the spectacle, and her designs are really good,” says Meaden, who has designed masks for Butler Theatre plays and leads the Masks class in the Department of Theatre, “but it seems to be design for design’s sake. When masks are designed, there is usually some reason or connection for the aesthetic choice.”

Meaden says creating theatrical masks banks on the audience meeting the performers halfway. It takes a lot of practice to be able to design masks that draw audiences to use their imagination and let themselves be transported into the story.

To help future mask makers understand that dynamic, Meaden is in the process of writing a textbook, Masks Inside Out. She knows there are lots of books about masks already, but she says they concentrate on individual aspects: history, cultural significance, design, and how to perform while wearing one. Meaden aims to create one book that combines it all.

Meaden wears a mask.
Theatre Professor Wendy Meaden wears one of her masks.

“There is so much to learn about masks, but there is no textbook on the market to address masks the way I want to,” Meaden says.

In collaboration with Michael Brown, a former Indianapolis artist now teaching at Columbia College Chicago, Meaden will submit the final manuscript next summer, and she expects to publish it by late 2020.

Masks in the Core Curriculum

Growing up, Meaden never wore masks for Halloween. She remembers noticing masks for the first time when she saw Adam West and Burt Ward’s wearing them in the old Batman TV show.

“I remember thinking ‘They’re not disguised at all. It’s clear who they are,’” Meaden says, laughing.

Meaden created her first masks while she worked as a costume designer for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which needed billy goat masks for a performance called Three’s Please. She’d never made a mask before, but it seemed like a natural next step to the costume design she’d been doing since 1986.

“As a costume designer,” Meaden says, “I’ve always been interested in presenting characters and transforming actors, and I love the process of creating costumes. Sculpting masks is an extension of that passion.”

Meaden’s masks made their Butler debut during the 2001 production of Hamlet. Made of plaster and cardboard, they portrayed the characters of the Duke of Vienna Gonzago, his wife Baptista, and their murderous nephew, Lucianus. They were then given a worn, weathered appearance of being buried in the dirt, just like poor old Yorick’s skull.

Theatre students that worked on plays with Meaden were enthusiastic to learn more about mask-making and the Masks class at Butler was established in 2003. It’s now part of the Perspectives in the Creative Arts Core Curriculum. Some Theatre majors still take the class as an elective, but many students outside of the Jordan College of Arts enroll, too.

On just the second day of class, students start by creating masks of their own. After protecting their hair with bandanas or plastic bags, they start gluing cardboard and paper over their faces.

“They sit and look in the mirror,” Meaden says. “The class is usually chatty to start, and then there’s a quiet. Everyone stops talking as they are totally focused on the mirror and putting things over their face. What’s fascinating is their sense of transformation—to understand that you can put something on that is your face, but it’s not your face. I am me but I am not me.”

How the brain reacts to masks

In the first chapter of Masks Inside Out, Meaden  explains why people are often either intrigued or repelled by someone wearing a mask. 

“How does your amygdala react?” Meaden asks. “Your brain’s initial reaction is usually fight or flight, but then your neocortex kicks in and tells you it’s a thing on a person. You’re going to be safe, you laugh, and you enjoy.”

Meaden’s research has found that masks are an extension of humans’ fascination for seeing faces—from selfies to picturing faces in inanimate objects. Faces are why we connect to other people, she says, and a mask on a human face usually brings about feelings of mystery, intrigue, or creepiness.

“Faces are how we judge our safety, how we pick potential partners, and identify family. Our aesthetics are wrapped up in how we perceive faces. And masks are a way we tell stories. They are potent ways to communicate. They are a way of connecting with nature, the spirits, ancestors, the gods, disguise, and protection. We use them in so many ways. They are universal.”

While The Masked Singer relies on glitz, glamour, and reality TV brassiness, millions of brains are reacting to the masks, no matter which celebrities are behind them.

Meaden with many masks
Meaden stands with masks she has made and collected.



Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager


Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at

Wendy Meaden holds masks.

Theatre Professor Writing the Textbook on ‘Masks Inside Out’

From early man to ‘Masked Singers,’ Wendy Meaden analyzes masks’ history, cultural significance, and theater roles.

Dec 11 2019 Read more