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Butler Ranked No.1 in Midwest for Second Straight Year by U.S. News & World Report

BY

PUBLISHED ON Sep 08 2019

For the second consecutive year, Butler University has been named the No. 1 Regional University in the Midwest, according to the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings released today

Butler also ranked as the No. 1 Most Innovative School for the fifth straight year, the No.1 Best College for Veterans, and within the top-10 schools for Undergraduate Teaching among Midwest Regional Universities.

“I am pleased that our ranking reflects the high quality of education we provide at Butler University,” President James Danko says. “In addition to a highly-engaged educational experience, thanks to our outstanding faculty, we continue to underscore the importance of innovation, which creates an environment that both supports our students and challenges them to succeed.”

In addition to its strong position in the Midwest, Butler ranked within the top-20 among nationally-ranked schools (such as Harvard, Duke, and Stanford Universities) in three key areas identified by U.S. News as critical in providing students with the best possible undergraduate experience: first-year experience (No. 13), senior capstone experience (No. 18), and study abroad opportunities (No. 19).

“We are especially honored that this year’s rankings distinguish Butler University as among some of the most prestigious in the country,” Danko says. “I am so proud of our students, faculty, and staff, whose dedication to excellence has led us to earn this great recognition.”

The U.S. News first-year experience category recognizes schools that help new students feel connected well beyond orientation week. Butler’s First Year Seminar is required for all new students and is taken in a two-semester sequence. There are no exceptions, as all new students reflect on questions about self, community, and the world. 

Senior capstone experiences give students nearing the end of their time at college the chance to create a culminating project drawing on what they’ve learned over several years, such as collaborative research between Butler students and faculty, or recitals put on by graduating art students. 

And the study abroad category highlights universities that allow students to complete a substantial amount of credit hours outside the U.S., while also immersing themselves in new cultures. At Butler, about 40 percent of students travel abroad by the time they graduate, making the University ninth in the nation for undergraduate participation.

Butler also ranked just outside the top-20 on a national level for its focus on co-ops and internships (No. 21) and service learning (No. 23). Schools in the internship category either require or encourage students to apply what they’ve learned in class to a real-world setting, like the more than 90 percent of Butler students who complete at least one internship before graduation.

Universities in the service learning category require students to volunteer in the community as part of their coursework. Through Butler's Indianapolis Community Requirement (ICR), all students take at least one course that involves active engagement with the Indianapolis area.

For undergraduate research and creative projects, Butler ranked No. 59 in the nation for the opportunities it provides students to complete self-directed, formal research, often under the mentorship of a faculty member.

For each of these national categories, U.S. News surveyed higher education leaders from across the country, asking college presidents, chief academic officers, and deans of admissions to nominate up to 15 schools they felt best embraced each type of program. The final rankings include the 20 universities that received the most nominations in each category. 

“It is quite gratifying that our peer academic leaders recognize the quality of a Butler education which is distinguished by the teaching and learning that occurs inside our classrooms, and is further enhanced by the rich experiences offered outside,” Provost Kate Morris says. “I am proud of the high-quality education and experience our students receive thanks to our outstanding faculty and staff.”

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

AcademicsCampus

Butler Ranked No.1 in Midwest for Second Straight Year by U.S. News & World Report

The University also ranks within the nation’s Top-20 schools for programs in three key areas.

Sep 08 2019 Read more
DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10 2019

Many life-threatening diseases come from slight variations in our genetic codes. A problem with the BRCA1 gene makes a person more prone to certain cancers, for example, and mutations of the hemoglobin-Beta gene can lead to sickle cell anemia.

Not everyone with genetic mutations will develop the associated conditions, but just having a variation can change a person’s life—they’ll need to get tests, take pills, go through surgeries, and constantly worry that doing all of these things still won’t be enough.

So, what if we could fix the problem at its root?

Using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for more than $711,000, that’s what Butler University Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor Alex Erkine is trying to work toward. The project falls into NSF’s fairly new Rules of Life category, which aims to promote discoveries related to fundamental questions about how living things work.

Erkine says genes can have a wide range of functionality levels. Scientists already understand that the level of functionality depends both on certain aspects of the gene itself, as well as on the quality of the proteins that bind with the gene. These proteins work as activators, helping determine the gene’s level of functionality by dimming it up or down—imagine a light dimmer controlling the brightness in a room.

The problem is, biochemists have never completely understood how that gene-regulating dimmer works. If we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how to control or replicate it, and we can’t effectively edit a person’s DNA. Erkine’s project combines biochemistry with informatics, or machine learning, to try and change that.

In the physical lab, researchers will transfer strands of unique DNA sequences into cells. Then they’ll rate each cell based on how functional the DNA sequence is. In the past, similar tests have only been able to analyze a few DNA samples at a time, but using bioinformatics and machine learning will allow Erkine and his collaborators to compare more than 10,000 cells at once.

The ability to work with such a large group of DNA sequences is game-changing, Erkine says, because researchers can find patterns that never would have shown up when only comparing a few samples. Using bioinformatics tools makes this possible.

While scientists have been trying to understand the gene activator mechanism for decades, Erkine says both the DNA sequences and the ways they interact are highly variable and almost random—but not completely. Patterns do emerge within large enough data sets, which is why massive amounts of data are key. Erkine says computer-based tools are necessary in trying to understand these near-chaotic processes because finding those patterns will help us predict how genetic structures might interact after the activators are edited.

By identifying common features between strands with similar functionality scores, the informatics tools should help answer the question of what makes one gene functional and another gene cause disease.

The finished project is expected to shed some light on how genes are regulated and exactly how specific parts of a gene would need to be altered to prevent certain diseases. Scientists already know which part of the gene needs to be changed—as they can recognize mutations in DNA—and they now have the power to make those specific changes with the recent discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing system. But Erkine’s project is trying to answer the question of how to change sequences in ways that achieve the desired outcome of curing disease. So, we can already recognize and remove a genetic mutation, but what DNA sequences can we use to effectively replace it?

One of the project’s goals is to create a computational algorithm that will predict how certain changes to the gene activator mechanism (or the dimmer) will affect the genes it is working on.

“It sounds easy—just create an algorithm,” Erkine says. “But in reality, the problem is not trivial, because we do not fully understand how activators work. Our project, first of all, addresses the question about the mechanism of activator function. Then, as a byproduct, we hope to create a machine learning model (or algorithm) that can be used with CRISPR DNA editing for medical purposes.”

Some of this analytics process will take place at Butler, with help from PharmD students Brad Broyles and Andrew Gutierrez.

Broyles, who is in his third professional year of Butler’s Doctor of Pharmacy program, says working on this research has been the most valuable part of his time at Butler. He’s excited for the chance to learn about complicated aspects of biology while sharpening his computer skills, and he hopes the results will help make the field of biochemistry more receptive to new ideas.

Researchers at Purdue University also received close to $250,000 from the NSF to collaborate with Butler on this project. Purdue will handle most of the computer-based process Erkine calls the dry lab.

Back in 2015, Erkine had the chance to spend his sabbatical in Cambridge, England, with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. He has continued collaborating with the institution ever since, publishing an article in 2018 that helped lay the foundation for his current project.

Erkine says our current lack of understanding about how some molecular mechanisms work has a lot to do with long-held beliefs in the field of biochemistry—beliefs about what is and what isn’t worth studying.

“In short, biochemistry is about specificity,” he explains. “It looks at specific structures interacting with other specific structures in specific ways—key-and-lock sorts of interactions. But this is simply because that’s easy to study. Everything that does not necessarily interact specifically or strongly is ignored by biochemistry. It is considered noise: noise that is nonessential, non-functional, detrimental—that essentially stands in the way of new biochemistry developments.”

Erkine wants researchers to think about things differently. The human cell is full of interactions that occur randomly, but that doesn’t make them any less important to understand. Because if his research works, he says, we’ll find a way to get to the root of diseases we’ve been trying to cure for decades.

DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

Alex Erkine receives more than $711,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study gene regulation.

Sep 10 2019 Read more
New Data Analytics Boot Camp
AcademicsCommunity

Butler University Launches Data Analytics Boot Camp in Partnership with Trilogy Education

BY

PUBLISHED ON Aug 07 2019

Indianapolis, IN (August 6, 2019) – Today, Butler University Executive Education announced the launch of a data analytics boot camp, in partnership with leading workforce accelerator Trilogy Education. Geared toward adult learners and working professionals, the Butler Executive Education Data Analytics Boot Camp teaches the analytical, technical, and teamwork skills necessary to become a proficient data professional.

The 24-week, part-time program begins November 19, 2019 and includes two, three-hour evening classes during the week (6:30 to 9:30 PM) and a four-hour class on Saturdays (10:00 AM to 2:00 PM). Enrollment is now open at bootcamp.butler.edu.

“Butler University Executive Education has partnered with Trilogy Education to help meet the ever-growing demand for data professionals in Indianapolis,” said William Gulley, Executive Director of Butler Executive Education. “Collectively, Butler University and Trilogy will aid students with rigorous, hands-on coursework, and an excellent support structure that will feed the city’s increasingly data-driven economy.”

The ability to create actionable insights from complex data sets has become a universal need across businesses in every industry. According to data from Burning Glass, Indianapolis employers struggled to fill more than 23,000 open roles in the last year alone requiring some level of data proficiency. Nationally, roles like data scientist, business analyst, and research analyst rank among the fastest-growing professions.

“The number of job openings in Indianapolis requiring data analytics skills was 53 percent higher in 2018 than the year before,” said Dan Sommer, CEO and Founder of Trilogy Education. “Butler University recognizes that this growth in demand is creating a gap between the skills companies need and the ability of Indianapolis’ workforce to supply those skills at scale. We’re excited to partner with Butler to help increase the city’s pipeline of data-savvy talent.”

Pairing Butler’s strengths with Trilogy’s market-driven data analytics curriculum offers students of the new program both the competence and confidence to succeed as data professionals. The program’s curriculum covers everything from data programming to data storytelling and helps students build proficiency in technologies like Excel, Tableau, Python, Pandas, SQL, MongoDB, JavaScript, basic machine learning, and more.

In addition to classroom instruction, students will spend a minimum of 20 hours a week on outside projects, homework, and experiential learning activities, ranging from visualizing bike sharing data in Indianapolis to mapping worldwide earthquakes in real-time. They’ll build a professional project portfolio to showcase their abilities and hone their competitive edge in the employment market. Students will also receive a range of career-planning services, portfolio reviews, recruiting assistance, and extensive staff support.

Boot Camp students will gain the knowledge and skills to conduct robust analytics on real-world problems and receive a Certificate in Data Analytics from Butler Executive Education.

 

Apply Now

To learn more about the Butler Executive Education Data Analytics Boot Camp, visit bootcamp.butler.edu. You can apply online or by calling (317) 210-2385.

 

About Butler University Executive Education

Butler University Executive Education offers custom in-person development, and online certificate programs, to both individuals and businesses seeking to expand their knowledge to meet the rapidly changing needs of today’s business environment. Executive Education’s programs are built around what organizations want their employees to learn, and what skill-sets individuals need to advance their careers. For more information, visit https://www.butler.edu/executive-education.

 

About Trilogy Education

Trilogy Education, a 2U, Inc. brand (NASDAQ: TWOU), is a workforce accelerator that empowers the world’s leading universities to prepare professionals for high-growth careers in the digital economy. Trilogy’s intensive, skills-based training programs bridge regional talent gaps in coding, data analytics, UX/UI, and cybersecurity in more than 50 markets around the globe. Thousands of working adults have successfully completed Trilogy-powered programs, and more than 2,500 companies—ranging from startups to the Fortune 500—employ them.

New Data Analytics Boot Camp
AcademicsCommunity

Butler University Launches Data Analytics Boot Camp in Partnership with Trilogy Education

Offers part-time professional data analytics program in Indianapolis beginning November 19  

Aug 07 2019 Read more
For the second year in a row, Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.
AcademicsCampus

Butler Makes Princeton Review’s ‘The Best 385 Colleges’ For Second Straight Time

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 06 2019

For the second year in a row, Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.

Butler is again included in the 2020 annual The Best 385 Colleges guidebook, which showcases the schools Princeton Review recommends to college applicants. Only about 13 percent of the country’s 3,000 four-year colleges and universities are profiled in The Best 385 Colleges, which is one of the company’s most popular guides.

“We chose the 385 colleges for this edition as our ‘best’ overall, academically based on data we gathered in 2018-19 from more than 1,000 school administrators about their schools’ academic programs and offerings,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s Editor-in-Chief and lead author of the book.

In Butler’s two-page profile in the book, students highlighted the impressive student-to-faculty ratio, the willingness of professors to collaborate with students on research, and the vast study abroad offerings.

Students said innovative technology is continually being introduced into the classroom, professors are willing to support student ideas and modify lectures to support student interests, and most coursework and internships provide real-life experiences.

“Different majors have inventive requirements and classes: some science classes have semester-long research projects; one class participated in a simulated village while studying modern China; while the business school has a Real Business Experience course,” the guidebook says.

Students highlighted the welcoming and accepting student body, along with the inclusive Butler culture.

The best 385 colleges are not ranked hierarchically. Published annually since 1992, the book features detailed descriptions of each college, including admission and graduation rates, as well as excerpts from surveys of students and graduates.

For the second year in a row, Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review.
AcademicsCampus

Butler Makes Princeton Review’s ‘The Best 385 Colleges’ For Second Straight Time

Students highlight experiential learning, study abroad offerings, innovation, and inclusive culture.

Aug 06 2019 Read more
Academics

Make That ‘Dr.’ Physician Assistant, Please

BY Cindy Dashnaw

PUBLISHED ON Aug 01 2019

U.S. News & World Report ranks Butler University’s current master’s degree program for physician assistants (MPAS) as 37th in the nation, up 60 spots in just six years. Now, starting in January 2020, the University will add to this success and expand its PA offerings with the launch of a post-professional PA doctorate degree where every credit is earned online—one of only five in the nation. Butler’s new Doctor of Medical Science (DMS) degree program is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

DMS Director Dr. Jennifer Snyder ’97 knows better than most how much PAs need this opportunity, especially via the convenience of online access.

Snyder graduated from Butler’s bachelor’s PA program and has worked in both family and emergency medicine. She said PAs have the full confidence of the patients they treat—but not necessarily of the practice managers and hiring professionals responsible for filling higher positions.

“When we investigated offering this degree, we discovered through focus groups that PAs are missing out on promotions and leadership positions because decision-makers assume that those holding doctorates are more qualified,” Snyder says.

Butler’s DMS program will give PAs the doctoral degree they need, along with business acumen to advance in leadership within their institutions or clinics. Additionally, it will give PAs an opportunity to critically evaluate medical literature and benefit those still in clinical practice who simply want to extend their medical knowledge to better serve their patients.

The module-based curriculum allows students to enter into the program at any one of six starting points in the academic calendar. And the online structure of the program, with no required campus residency, means that students can take classes in a way that best suits their schedule.

 

Same Butler rigor, easier access

Butler’s DMS program is a natural evolution of its MPAS degree, developed with the same rigor and quality. Both she and Erin Vincent, Director of Academic Program Development, say living up to Butler’s reputation of educational excellence is paramount.

Vincent points to the structure and success of Butler’s latest online degree program, Master of Science in Risk and Insurance (butler.edu/msri), launched last year.

“Butler faculty is and has been brainstorming ways to creatively address the future of higher education across campus,” Vincent says. “We’re hoping to launch several more graduate programs very soon. The MSRI and the DMS are the start of a great, strong portfolio of advanced degrees at Butler University.”

Individuals are eligible to apply for the DMS program if they have earned an entry-level PA degree from an accredited program and have either a license to practice medicine or hold a national certification from the NCCPA.

Academics

Make That ‘Dr.’ Physician Assistant, Please

Online advanced degree for physician assistants to launch January 2020.

Aug 01 2019 Read more
Hopkins is studying which aspects of music education curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field.
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Are Music Education Grads Ready for Reality?

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 15 2019

During her last two years at a small high school in Villa Grove, Illinois, Abigail Hopkins rarely went to class.

But that was okay. Her teachers knew where she was.

Hopkins had stepped in to help when the music program at her school faced budget cuts. The general music teacher there, who had to take over band, choir, and other music classes at all levels of the K-12 school, didn’t know how to play any band instruments. Hopkins was a star in the band room and had been playing violin for years, so the teacher asked her to help out as a Teaching Assistant during the hour she was scheduled for band class each day.

One hour snowballed into five. Hopkins got caught up sautering sousaphones and meeting with music shops, and she eventually became known as the school’s unpaid band director. She had an office and everything.

“If I didn’t have to be in the classroom, I was in the band room,” she says.

Beyond repairing instruments, Hopkins sometimes conducted rehearsals for the junior high ensembles or helped coordinate concerts. She loved helping, but she worried what might happen when she graduated. Through researching for a paper in her high school English class, she learned the situation wasn’t unique.

Now a rising sophomore at Butler University, Hopkins hasn’t let it go. The Violin Performance major would love to be a full-time performer, but she says she knows she’ll probably end up teaching. She wants to be ready.

That’s why she took on a project through this year’s Butler Summer Institute (BSI), a program allowing students to stay on campus for two months in pursuit of significant research questions. Through interviews with recent graduates of music education programs at several Indiana universities, Hopkins is studying which aspects of the curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field, along with which areas might have been neglected.

“My overall goal is to prolong the life of music education,” she says. “Because, sadly, it’s the first thing to be cut when there’s some sort of budget crisis.”

The project’s interviewees all have between one and five years of professional teaching experience, and they all come from undergraduate music education programs at Butler, Indiana University, Ball State University, or Indiana State University.

Hopkins hopes her findings will inform recommendations for schools to incorporate a wider variety of classes into each music concentration, better preparing graduates to take on what might be expected of them when funding gets cut.

So far, Hopkins has confirmed conversations with 10 recent graduates. Beyond questions about their college programs, she’s asking if the things they’re doing in their jobs today align with what they expected when they pursued careers in music education. She hopes she can make their feedback available for incoming students, who still have time to adapt their studies accordingly.

After completing the interviews, Hopkins and faculty mentor Dr. Becky Marsh will code the answers to find common themes. When the nine-week program ends on July 19, Hopkins will present her findings as a poster. She says the results can apply beyond Indiana, however, and she hopes to share the conclusions at music education conferences across the country.

Hopkins is studying which aspects of music education curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field.
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Are Music Education Grads Ready for Reality?

Butler student interviews recent Indiana grads for Butler Summer Institute project.

Jul 15 2019 Read more
The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.
UnleashedAcademics

Butler’s Oldest Study Abroad Trip Watches Climate Change Through Coral

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jun 27 2019

Back in 1969, they met at Butler University, loaded up five cars with camping gear, and were off to the Florida Keys for the inaugural Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef study abroad trip. Nearly everyone took a turn at the wheel—including students and the chairs of the Chemistry and Zoology Departments at the time—and they made it to Cordele, Georgia, the first night. Then, on to the Keys.

Before hitting the road, the students learned how to snorkel in the old Hinkle Fieldhouse pool, where Professor Emeritus of Biology James Berry transformed from Biology Professor to underwater guru. The week-long trip cost students about $45 that first year. They cooked their own meals. They shared one shower. They pitched their own tents.

Berry says he was inspired to start the trip when a student revealed he had never been south of Bloomington, Indiana.

“We wanted to show these students what the rest of the world looked like,” says Berry.

Fifty years later, the Tropical Field Biology trip is Butler’s longest-running study abroad program. Though the backdrop has changed—the class has gone to the Florida Keys, then Pigeon Key, then Jamaica, now Belize—the original reason for packing up those cars has not. The trip gives students a chance to see everything they learn about in a classroom up close.

Oh, that fish we read about in the textbook back in Indianapolis, it is swimming right next to me, and now I have to identify it and explain that it is important to this ecosystem because...

The study abroad trip has also morphed into a 50-year study, of sorts, on the effects of climate change.

“Back in the 1970s, we weren’t thinking much about global warming,” says Dave Daniell, who was part of the original trip in 1969 and is now Professor Emeritus of Biology. “We certainly heard about the possibility back then, but it was a relatively new concept. We were starting to chart out areas of the world that it might effect. As the years went on, it became clear that you could really see the effects on corals, as they were sensitive to a few degrees in temperature change. This trip, then, became a way to observe how corals were changing over time, year after year.”

Students are no longer paying $45 to go to Belize. They are not driving themselves. They are not cooking their own meals, pitching their own tents, or sharing a single shower. But the impact of the trip has not changed a bit since 1969.

In fact, because the effects of climate change have become increasingly apparent and detrimental with each passing year, the impact of the trip has only become more immediate and intense, says senior Matt Warren, who went on the trip this spring.

“The fragility of the ecosystem becomes so clear when it is right in front of you,” Warren says. “Let’s say we are only seeing 20 percent of it, because the other 80 percent has been damaged. What will the next generation see 10, 15, 20 years down the line? Will we even have this ecosystem anymore? And if so, what will it look like? When you are in Belize learning about everything this ecosystem does and impacts, it becomes impossible to not start wondering about all the things we are doing to ruin it, but then start thinking, how can we make positive change?

 

Underwater tests

Since 1997, the class has been visiting Ambergris Caye, Belize, home to the world’s second-longest barrier reef. The Butler group stays at the Belize Marine Tropical Research and Education Center, where the staff serve as hosts, providing the boats and leading the group to different reefs.

A typical day starts around 9:00 AM with breakfast, then a boat ride to the day’s snorkeling location. The class usually snorkels for about two hours before a lunch break. Then, it’s on to the next snorkeling spot. The goal is to snorkel in as many different ecosystems as possible. After a few more hours under the water, it’s back to the house for dinner and lectures until around 8:30 PM.

Shelley Etnier, Associate Professor of Biology, has been leading the trip since 2003. A lot of the learning happens before, during, and after the trip, she explains.

“We ask our students to learn more than 200 organisms before we even arrive in Belize,” Etnier says. “We have exams at Butler before we leave, lectures on the boat once we are there, exams underwater on slates with a mask and snorkel on while swimming, an exam at the airport. We write up every organism we see when we get back from snorkeling. If you go and snorkel for five hours and don’t know anything, you just think you saw a bunch of cool fish. But we know all of the fish, the algae, the coral, and invertebrates, and as a result, we become much more invested.”

Beyond biology, the course discusses what has shaped Belize, the ecotourism industry, the challenges the country is facing, the government, and what life in Belize is like.

All of this helps the students understand the social, cultural, political, and economic forces that influence the health of marine ecosystems. And it helps paint a full picture of how what they are seeing in the water every day has an impact on the entire country.

 

Drastic changes over the years

Etnier used to send out the same packing list to her students year after year. Historically, the weather in Belize was very predictable: Always leave the raincoat at home. Now, Etnier says, she makes sure students are ready for the elements.

“We never used to see cool, rainy weather before,” Etnier says. “But now, things aren’t as predictable as they were before. That is all associated with climate change.”

The trip’s location hopping wasn’t without reason, either. The effects of climate change had left them with less to study while snorkeling. In some places, hurricanes damaged the reefs, but the most common occurrence has been coral bleaching.

When temperatures get too hot, corals get stressed, causing them to spit out algae inside of them, which makes them lose their color and turn white. Corals can recover from a temporary stressor. But if the stressor is consistent, corals become weak and will not recover.

“Belize definitely doesn’t look like what it did in 2003,” Etnier says. “It is not as pristine. The country has done a great job protecting their reefs, but we still see major differences.”

Since 2013, the group has also seen an increase in floating algae. With a very rough, almost sandpapery texture, floating algae used to pop up here and there—maybe a piece or two. Now, Etnier says, it is everywhere. Giant tennis-court-size pieces of it, about six inches deep. The people of Belize need bulldozers to scrape it off the beaches.

Sam Ross, a senior at Butler, has always loved animals. He grew up watching The Crocodile Hunter and knew he wanted to get involved in biology and study animals in college.

But after taking Tropical Field Biology and going to Belize this past spring, everything changed for him.

“It made me really sad to come face to face with the reality that we continue to do things every day, even with the knowledge that what we are doing is incredibly damaging,” says Ross, a Biology major. “One might think a couple-degree change in temperature isn’t a big deal. But when we see the impact on the life in the ocean, it is a huge deal. And when we learn about everything that impacts an entire country’s way of life, you start to look at things differently.”

Ross still wants to study animals, but he now wants his research to be more impactful. Instead of just looking at snakes, for example, he wants to go to graduate school, get his doctorate in ecology, and teach at the college level. He wants to look at entire ecosystems, not just one species, and study how humans affect their lives and their existence.

“This course and experience made me really take a step back and look at the broader picture,” he says. “I might have known I always loved animals, but I never thought about the bigger picture and how everything is connected. Everything impacts everything else, and we need to take ownership and make change because no one else will.”

The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.
UnleashedAcademics

Butler’s Oldest Study Abroad Trip Watches Climate Change Through Coral

The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.

Jun 27 2019 Read more
Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
UnleashedAcademics

From the Top of a Glacier: Grace Hart Feels Climate Change Up Close

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 26 2019

Grace Hart stared out at the white ice. She couldn’t see where it ended, but she noticed a blue tinge marking the Icelandic glacier’s age. It had lived a long life.

According to the guide who’d just led Hart’s hike to the top of the slope, that would probably change within the next 200 years.

I want you all to spend a minute taking in your surroundings, the guide said before leading the group back down the trail. Think about where you are right now. Because this glacier changes every single day, and some day, it’s going to be gone.

Living in the Midwest, Hart had only ever heard news stories of the ice caps melting. Now, as part of her study abroad trip in spring 2019, she was seeing it happen live.

The guide broke the silence.

Remember this feeling, he said. When you’re trying to explain to someone why it’s important to slow down climate change, remember this.

Hart knows she will.

During the semester-long program through the School for International Training (SIT), the rising Butler University senior traveled around Greenland and Iceland to study topics related to climate change: what’s happening, how it affects people, and what we can do to help. She’d first read about the trip as a freshman Environmental Studies major. She had always wanted to go to Iceland, and the topic was right in line with her interests.

Hart says her choice to study climate change started with “a love of nature and a sadness that people were trying to destroy it.” Butler taught her about the real consequences climate change has already caused, even in Indianapolis.

“Seeing that in my own community cemented my goals of advocating for the environment and those who have been negatively affected by the irresponsible actions of people who are careless with the earth's resources,” Hart says.

Through almost-daily discussions about climate change in her environmental studies classes, Hart sometimes loses hope that things will get better. She believed visiting Iceland and Greenland would break that cycle and give her the skills to do something.

“I thought it would be really cool to learn about climate change from a place that is typically seen as very sustainable and environmentally friendly,” Hart says. “It’s a different conversation than happens in the U.S., where we have a long way to go.”

Calie Florek, Study Abroad Advisor at Butler, says SIT offers some of her favorite study abroad opportunities. Hart was the first Butler student to go to Iceland with SIT, but all the organization’s programs emphasize engaging with local communities. Through experiences such as internships, research projects, and home stays, SIT students really dive into a culture and learn about its people in ways not all study abroad programs offer.

When Hart first came to see Florek, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She’d had a challenging fall semester during junior year, and she decided to apply to the Iceland program in hopes of shaking things up. Commiting to a three-and-a-half-month trip with a group of strangers scared her, but she looked forward to feeling independent. 

The trip began in February, just missing the time of year when the sun never rises. They started in Reykjavík, Iceland, studying climate modeling and glaciology before heading to Nuuk, Greenland. For two weeks, the group learned about the country’s culture. Hart studied how climate research often excludes native people, and she loved learning the value of including diverse voices in those conversations. She says you shouldn’t make decisions about the land without asking the people who’ve been working with it for centuries.

There was also time for some fun. During a brief stay in Akureyri, Iceland (where Hart would return for the final part of her program), she traveled far enough north to see the arctic circle. She loved Akureyri for its beautiful location, deep in a fjord with mountains all around. Actual trees grow there, too, which can be hard to find in Iceland.

But Hart’s favorite thing was the endless light. At sunset, the sky turned orange and pink, then it just stayed that way for hours.

“At a certain point, I think I kind of got used to the fact that it was so pretty,” Hart says. “I had to think about it again and realize how cool it was that I got to be there.”

In her free time, she swam in geothermal pools, visited art museums, tried out new restaurants, and learned how to knit a sweater. She saw waterfalls and volcanoes. She snowshoed up a mountain. She even tried her hand at some Greenlandic dishes.

For most of the semester, Hart followed a set program, but the last five weeks were up to her.

 

 

Comparing Iceland to Indy

Hart first learned about food security through her classes and internships at Butler, where she spent a semester working on the campus farm.

“I really became passionate about it because the faculty at Butler are passionate about it,” she says.

During the last five weeks of her study abroad trip, which were dedicated to independent study, she wanted to see how an issue so prominent in Indianapolis might play out in a different climate.

Mostly through secondary research, Hart found that food security in Iceland isn’t really an economic issue: It’s a land issue. People there have started demanding foods that just can’t grow in the frigid climate, forcing residents to import most of what they eat. Beyond harming the environment, Hart says, importing can make the country especially vulnerable whenever trade gets disrupted.

Her study offered some solutions. She focused mainly on changes that might shift tastes back to what the land can support, such as subsidizing and labeling local foods. She also suggests more Icelanders rent garden pots to grow their own produce. Ultimately, she says, the country should try to become self-sufficient.

For now, Hart’s research is more of a personal exploration. She wasn’t able to share it with anyone outside of the study abroad group, but she believes her study could inspire change.

Hart would like to return to Iceland and build a community outreach program, which she hopes would get Icelanders talking about their food in ways they might not have before.

 

 

Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
UnleashedAcademics

From the Top of a Glacier: Grace Hart Feels Climate Change Up Close

Butler student travels to Iceland and Greenland for program with the School for International Training.

Jun 26 2019 Read more
Rendering of New Sciences Building
AcademicsCampus

Butler Board of Trustees Approves $100 Million Sciences Upgrade, Largest Investment in Butler’s Future

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jun 13 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS-- A new sciences complex is set to take shape on Butler University’s campus, as the Board of Trustees approved the project during their June meeting.

The $100 million renovation and expansion is the largest investment ever by the Trustees in Butler’s future. The project includes new high-tech classrooms designed to promote learning by doing, labs that mimic the set-up at top research companies, and work spaces meant to encourage cross-disciplinary collaboration. The facility will reflect the interdisciplinary nature of science, and eliminate labs designed for a single purpose. Classroom spaces will enable faculty to step away from the podium and move among students in a more hands-on approach to instruction.

“We have outstanding faculty, we have outstanding students, we have outstanding programs, and this project will allow us to take all of that to another level,” says Jay Howard, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who was also part of the project’s original planning committee in 2011. “Science is an ever-changing discipline, and now we will have the flexible facilities to lead the field into the future.”

Phases I and II of the project are expected to start very soon, with a predicted 18-month timeline. To date, $27.5 million has been raised for the project. The goal is to raise $42 million of the $100 million total cost through philanthropic support.

Thus far, major donations have come from the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Frank Levinson ’75, Craig Fenneman ’71 and Mary Stover-Fenneman, Lynne Zydowsky ’81, Josh Smiley, Katie and Len Betley, Lou and Laura Glazer, Jane and Robert Wildman, and Dick and Billie Lou Wood.

The project will start with the creation of a connector building--linking Gallahue Hall and the Holcomb Building--that will house classrooms, study areas, and research labs dedicated to Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, and Psychology. The Phase I expansion will add nearly 44,000 square feet, as well as a nearly 13,200 square-foot atrium. This additional space will create a sciences corridor to house all of Butler’s undergraduate sciences programs in a central complex.

“This is a significant and historic step forward as Butler continues to transform education for the needs of students and employers in the 21st century,” President Jim Danko says.

“Our investment in the sciences, coupled with our new business school facility, provides our campus with the world-class infrastructure necessary to support critical skill development integrating business, science, innovation, and technology. These investments are also part of Butler’s commitment to the Central Indiana region as we strive to attract, retain, and develop the talent necessary for our community’s collective success.”

 

A net importer

The vast majority of Butler science graduates choose to stay in Indiana after graduation. In 2016, for example, 63 percent of science graduates remained in Indiana.

“Butler is a net importer of scientific talent,” Howard says. “Rather than be a part of the brain drain problem, we are actually importing talent to Indiana.”

Butler has also long been a leader in preparing women for STEM careers. For many years, the majority of Butler’s science majors have been women. Butler also has more Lilly Scholars than most institutions of a similar size, which speaks to the quality of its programs.

With new facilities, Butler’s ability to prepare homegrown talent for STEM careers in the region will only grow.

“We are honored to support the continued growth of the sciences program at Butler, which is a legacy grantee of our foundation and an institution that our founder, Richard M. Fairbanks, strongly supported,” says Claire Fiddian-Green, president and CEO of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation. “Among our foundation’s focus areas is supporting Indianapolis’ thriving life sciences sector and the STEM workforce to support it. Fueling a robust pipeline of science students at Butler helps to advance those goals.”

To prepare students for careers in a discipline that is evolving all the time, the new sciences complex needed a design that could change with new discoveries and new educational approaches.

Lab spaces will be flexible, students and faculty will work side-by-side, and areas of research will be grouped together to maximize collaboration. In addition to visiting other universities’ facilities for ideas, the planning team visited Eli Lilly, Roche, and Corteva to get an idea of what labs at cutting-edge research companies look like.

“Scientific inquiry demands collaboration,” Provost Kate Morris says. “Exciting work is happening at the intersection of multiple disciplines.  The design of the new facility encourages this work by creating space that breaks down the traditional barriers between areas of study.”

 

Endless possibilities

Phase II of the project will include renovating and repurposing the Holcomb Building, which will be vacated by the Lacy School of Business as it moves into its new building opening this fall. Phase III will involve a complete renovation of Gallahue Hall, which currently houses several science departments and has not been renovated since its construction in 1973.

Over the last 10 years, enrollment in the sciences at Butler has flourished, growing more than 70 percent. In addition, every student at Butler takes a science course because of the core curriculum.

With new facilities will come a plethora of new opportunities. New programs are being explored, such as Neuroscience and Data Science. Butler is already home of the country’s largest Undergraduate Research Conference, and now, the cross-disciplinary lab spaces will inevitably lead to new research projects. 

“I think it is hard to overstate the importance of this project, as it will prepare Butler students for the future and position us as a premiere undergraduate institution for the sciences,” says Morris.

 

Media contact:

Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656 (cell)

  

Rendering of New Sciences Building
AcademicsCampus

Butler Board of Trustees Approves $100 Million Sciences Upgrade, Largest Investment in Butler’s Future

Phases I and II of the project are expected to start very soon, with a predicted 18-month timeline.

Jun 13 2019 Read more
Emily Nettesheim at the Capitol Building
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Why We Dance: Butler Student Researcher Refutes Her Generation’s Reputation

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON May 10 2019

Emily Nettesheim '19 has heard her generation called lazy, entitled, and selfish. Her research—which she presented in Washington, DC, in late April to an audience that included both of Indiana's Senators—suggests that those labels are misguided.

Since sophomore year, Nettesheim has been examining why so many students participate in Dance Marathon, the annual fundraiser benefiting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across North America. This year at Butler University alone, more than 500 participants raised over $365,000.

"Especially in light of how millennials have been portrayed negatively in the media, I knew the passion, drive, and sacrifice I was seeing in Dance Marathon was counter-cultural and special," says Nettesheim, a Health Sciences and Spanish double major from Lafayette, Indiana.

In a survey of Butler, Ball State, and IUPUI students, she found that an overwhelming majority participated in Dance Marathon because they were acting on their values—and because participants have the opportunity to meet families affected by the hospital, and visit the hospitals for tours to see first-hand where the money is going.

"Millennials tend to be motivated if they can see the impact of the cause," she says.

More than 85 percent also said they benefited from participating by developing maturity and specific skills, such as communication and empathy, that they can use later in life, according to Nettesheim’s research.

 

*

Nettesheim's story starts not with Dance Marathon—her high school didn't participate—but with her interest in Indianapolis-based Riley Hospital for Children, the beneficiary of Indiana Dance Marathon events. When her parents' friends asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said she wanted to be in the medical field and work with kids.

In 2015, when she arrived on campus, she heard about Dance Marathon almost immediately at an event about campus organizations.

"It sounded like a great opportunity to get my foot in the door somewhere I wanted to work," she says.

She joined the Riley Relations Committee as a first-year student—the committee works directly with Riley families—and fell in love with the people, and what Dance Marathon stood for. Sophomore and junior years, she served as the director of Riley Relations, and senior year became president.

In fall of her sophomore year, she started thinking about a subject for her honors thesis. She met with Pharmacy Professor Chad Knoderer.Knoderer had never taught Nettesheim, but after talking to her and hearing about her interest in Dance Marathon, he suggested that it could be her focus.

"As I researched more," Nettesheim says, "I realized that nonprofits across the country are experiencing issues trying to recruit donors and volunteers, and that the Dance Marathon movement is the No. 14 fastest growing peer-to-peer campaign in the nation. It became really evident that something different and unique is happening. So I wanted to see if I could figure out why—or at least quantify it a little bit."

She and Knoderer worked together on how to design the thesis, roll it out, and make it realistic to be completed. With help from Butler's Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement (CHASE), everything came into focus.

Normally, the final step in the work Nettesheim was doing would be to write and turn in her honors thesis. And she did that—a 35-page paper.

But she wanted to do more. So early this year, she submitted an abstract to present at Posters on the Hill, the Council on Undergraduate Research's annual undergraduate poster session on Capitol Hill.  Members of Congress and their staff gather at the presentations to learn about the importance of undergraduate research through talking directly with the student researchers themselves.

The selection process is extremely competitive, but Nettesheim beat the odds—becoming the first Butler student in memory to be invited to participate.

"I can’t say definitively that she’s the first," says Rusty Jones, the CHASE Faculty Director, "but she’s certainly the first that I know of. What’s especially great about the Posters on the Hill event is that they are highlighting the importance of undergraduate research to our lawmakers in DC."

 

*

Part of Nettesheim's goal was to detail her findings, but she was also in Washington to share the value of undergraduate research with members of the Senate and Congress, and their staffs.

Nettesheim's father worked at Purdue University, and being around research there got her interested in it from a young age. She chose Butler precisely because she wanted the opportunity to do her own projects.

"It's so cool that even at a small university, there have been so many opportunities for me to get involved in research," she says.

In addition to delving into students' motivations to participate in Dance Marathon, Nettesheim also has worked in the Neurobiology Lab at Butler with Associate Professor of Biology Jennifer Kowalski. She's studying microscopic roundworms known as C. elegans, which have nervous systems similar to humans.

"It’s exciting to share the impact of research in my life and be the face behind the cause of research," Nettesheim says. "I've had much more of an opportunity to get involved and have my research be my own here than I would have had the opportunity to do elsewhere."

And that, says Knoderer, is the takeaway: Butler encourages and supports undergraduate research.

"If you've got an idea, go for it," he says. "The sky's the limit. I knew what Dance Marathon was from working at Riley Hospital for a number of years, so I knew the organization and what it was, but I didn't necessarily know how to approach her question. But there are enough people to help support a student and see their project through."

Emily Nettesheim at the Capitol Building
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Why We Dance: Butler Student Researcher Refutes Her Generation’s Reputation

Millennials tend to be motivated if they can see the impact of the cause.

May 10 2019 Read more
Mother with children
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

The Precarious Position of Muslim Orphans to Be Focus of Butler Professor's Research

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON May 01 2019

Nermeen Mouftah, Butler University Assistant Professor of Religion, was in Egypt for her first project. She was studying the ways Islamic reformers have turned to literacy to improve conditions in their countries.

But, while doing that research, she noticed that nearly every nonprofit organization not only had some kind of literacy project, but they also did work with orphans. That got her thinking about Muslim orphans, their care, and their place in Islamic society. She wondered: How does Islam shape the legal, biological, and affective negotiations involved in the care and abandonment of vulnerable children?

This year, thanks to a $12,000 grant from the University of Notre Dame’s Global Religions Research Initiative, Mouftah will do four months of fieldwork to investigate what she calls the Muslim orphan paradox: the precarious condition faced by millions of Muslim orphans that makes them at once major recipients of charity, yet ostracized for their rootlessness.

The world has approximately 140 million orphans today, but military conflicts in countries from Burma to Yemen to Syria have left Muslim children disproportionately affected, Mouftah says. As a result, many Muslim-majority countries face high numbers of child abandonment. The level of care these orphans receive is largely contingent on how people view family, childhood, and community.

Giving to orphans is seen, by in large, as a laudable form of giving in these societies, she says. However, what the care of orphans should look like is highly contested, as a consensus among Islamic legal schools is that adoption is prohibited, Mouftah explains. As a result, there is much debate about whether, and how, to raise a non-biological child in Muslim society.

So, as part of her research, Mouftah will be going to Morocco and Lebanon over the summer, and Pakistan in December. Morocco and Pakistan because they’re Muslim-majority countries that have some of the largest numbers of orphans and strong ties to the inter-country adoption market. Lebanon, on the other hand, takes in a large number of Syrian refugees.

“One of the things I'm interested in is trying to question some kind of universal idea of what the ideal way to care for orphans is,” says Mouftah, who’s finishing her first year at Butler. “I’ll be doing that by looking at multiple forms of care across different countries and institutions who have distinct views on, and methods of, orphan care.”

Mouftah will be listening in on the debate and discussions people are having first hand about the best way to do things when it comes to caring for orphans, she says. She will be observing different practices, watching who people are influenced by when it comes to orphan care, and what they are aspiring toward, as well as what the problems people run into when trying to care for orphans.

One of the major issues she’ll be looking at is the Islamic taboo against fictive kinship—taking in a child and raising that child as if he or she were one’s biological child. Some of her research is looking at how some Muslim families are using the approach of non-fictive kinship, meaning the child knows that he or she is not the biological child of the parents.

That, Mouftah says, is parallel with trends of adoption in the United States, where people have moved toward open adoptions that let the child know who their biological parent is/was.

“Many times in the Koran, it says to help the widows, and the orphans, and the vulnerable,” she says. “So they're elevated figures to care for. But because of various laws, and the stigmatization of orphans, and especially abandoned children, adoption is widely looked at with skepticism.”

Rather than adoption, one of the ways some Muslim organizations care for orphans is through sponsorships similar to the child sponsorship commercials seen on American television.

“We clearly don't have this worked out,” she says. “When you look at the historical story, we're clearly feeling our way through the dark. We don't know what to do. It's not until the Victorian age that there is the institution of the orphanage. But institutions are not the best places for children to flourish. I won't be shy to lay out some practical plans based on the research.”  

Mother with children
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

The Precarious Position of Muslim Orphans to Be Focus of Butler Professor's Research

Nermeen Mouftah, Professor of Religion, will do fieldwork to investigate the Muslim orphan paradox.

May 01 2019 Read more
Graduates in Hinkle Fieldhouse at Commencement
Academics

Butler to Hold Historic 163rd Spring Commencement

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 26 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—History will be made when Butler University celebrates its 163rd Spring Commencement.

Nearly 1,050 graduates are expected to receive their diplomas—the largest graduating class in Butler’s history—on Saturday, May 11, at 10:00 AM at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The keynote Commencement speaker, selected by graduating students, will be Penny Dimmick, Professor of Music. An Honorary Doctor of Education will be given to Ena Shelley, longtime Dean of the College of Education, and an Honorary Doctor of Music will be given to the jazz musician Benny Golson.

Dimmick is the Associate Director of the School of Music, and Coordinator of Butler’s Music Education program. She joined the Butler community in 1991 and has served the University in several different capacities, including Head of the School of Music and Faculty in Residence. In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate students at Butler, Dimmick works with children in the Indianapolis Children’s Choir’s Preparatory Choirs, at summer camps at Sunnyside Road Baptist Church, and on mission trips to South America and Asia.

Shelley joined the Butler faculty as an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education in 1982. After serving as Interim Dean twice, she was appointed Dean in June 2005. She introduced the Reggio Emilia educational philosophy, created two IPS/Butler Lab Schools, and established a new home for the COE on South Campus.

Golson started his jazz career about 65 years ago and has traveled the world, playing with renowned performers including Benny Goodman, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Art Blakey, and Johnny Hodges. He has written well over 300 compositions and recorded more than 30 albums. He has composed and arranged music for legends such as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross, and Itzhak Perlman. Golson served as a guest artist on campus last spring and immediately connected with Butler students.  

 

 

MEDIA CONTACT

Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
317-940-9257 (mobile: 914-815-5656)

Graduates in Hinkle Fieldhouse at Commencement
Academics

Butler to Hold Historic 163rd Spring Commencement

History will be made when Butler University celebrates its 163rd Spring Commencement.

Apr 26 2019 Read more

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