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#ButlerBound: Where are They Now?

BY Jeff Stanich '16

PUBLISHED ON Nov 16 2018

For five years, the #ButlerBound program has delivered good news to prospective students around the country. With a personal touch and a lot of drool, Trip - Butler’s live mascot - surprises future Bulldogs with their acceptance letters or scholarship announcements.

We followed up with three current students who once received the furry herald to hear about their #ButlerBound experience and to find out what they are doing now.

 

Allan Schneider

One room. Dozens of applicants. Only a few full-ride scholarships on the line.

This is the stressful scene Allan Schneider sets while recounting the final leg of a marathon he’d been on his entire life to get to Butler University. As an Indianapolis native, Allan couldn’t help but view Butler as the cream of the crop when it came to colleges. But the reality of actually attending was a little more sobering.

“It was always my number one choice, but by the time I was applying it fell because of the cost,” Schneider says, now a psychology major in the Class of 2022. “I only felt that the scholarship interview went fine, which didn’t boost my confidence. But the worst part was hearing it would be three more weeks before I found out if I got it.”

But it would only take three days.

After being instructed to stay in his study hall to show prospective parents and students around, Allan heard one of his teachers, a Butler alumna herself, shriek in delight down the hall.

“Then in walks Trip with his handler and he asks: ‘Are you Allan Schneider?’ I knew right away what was happening. All I could think was: don’t look like an idiot,” Schneider says. “That was the start of the best day of my life. For sure.”

Trip and his handler, Michael Kaltenmark, didn’t have to travel far that day. Allan’s study hall room at Bishop Chatard High School is only three miles east from Butler’s campus. They arrived by van, but had it been Allan on the other end of Trip’s leash, they would’ve arrived on foot.

Allan had been running cross country for most of his life, an extracurricular that sent him on a path through Butler’s campus almost every day for practice. As a kid, every student and professor with whom he interacted was friendly and treated him like an equal. That warmth stuck with Allan, setting the expectations high for his Butler experience even after accepting the scholarship.

But time and time again, Butler continues to exceed those expectations. After underperforming on an exam, one of his professors offered to walk him through all the questions he had, which was when Allan recognized the professor sincerely cared about how he was doing.

“Not just in the class, but in my everyday life, which kind of shocked me,” Schneider says. “This really made me realize how incredible everyone at Butler is, and how the people here truly care about you and want you to succeed in every aspect of your life.”

For the younger Allan Schneider who once ran through Holcomb Gardens as a child, he is living a dream come true.

The bell tower is still ringing with every passing hour. The campus remains home to friendly faces. And he is still running, growing every step of the way.

 

Keelen Barlow

It’s only ever taken one question to find Keelen Barlow in a game of Guess Who: “Does your character wear a Butler t-shirt?”

“I’ve been wearing one for as long as I can remember, probably since I was two. That’s when my grandpa and grandma started taking me to all the basketball games at Hinkle,” Barlow says. “This place has always been a second home for me ever since.”

Which is why it was all the more special when, in the middle of an otherwise average week, Keelen’s mom made sure he didn’t have any plans made for the following Wednesday after school. Surprises like this weren’t the norm in the Barlow household, so Keelen started working on some theories.

He knew he was waiting to hear if he had been accepted into Butler. He knew his mom wouldn’t set aside time for bad news. He also knew that another Indianapolis native, Allan Schneider, got a personal visit from Butler’s live mascot, Trip, with the news that he was Butler Bound after reading about it in the IndyStar.

Days later, while watching a soccer game with his buddy Jared, Keelen voiced his suspicions for the very first time: “What if Trip is coming to my house on Wednesday?”

He was spot on.

Many members of his extended family gathered around on that Wednesday, including the grandma he’s continued going to every basketball game with after his grandpa passed when he was five. Then, right on cue, Trip and Kaltenmark knocked on the door with a special delivery.

“I don’t necessarily want to say that every moment of my life had been leading up to that, but…” Barlow says, “that’s kind of exactly how it felt.”

Now, as a journalism major in his first year, Keelen is still going wherever the next hunch takes him. But no matter where every uncertain lead goes, whether it's covering a local beat for class or on assignment for the Butler Collegian, Keelen knows he is exactly where he needs to be.

“Back when I made my first official visit, my current advisor Scott Bridge told me: ‘We’d love to have you. And whether you come here or not, know that I’m here for you,’” Barlow says. “He spoke to me like I was a real person, not another applicant. I didn’t feel that anywhere else.”

Unlike other first-year students, Keelen has a deeper appreciation for the way campus has evolved without losing its essence since he first arrived as a child. Because, in a way, the same can be said of him.

“Of course I still wear Butler t-shirts,” Barlow said. “There’s just a whole lot more around me now.”

 

Brooke Blevins

You probably can’t describe a seahawk as well as you can count off teams and schools that use the bird as its mascot. South River High School in Edgewater, MD, is one of those schools.

So you can imagine the confusion South River’s players and fans felt as a bulldog panted his way into the locker room before a women’s basketball game.

But that night, Brooke Blevins felt clarity. She was going to be a bulldog, too.

“My younger brother and I hadn’t put Butler on our list of schools to visit initially, but it ended up being on the way between other options,” says Blevins, now a sophomore studying with the College of Communications. “I knew right away once I got to campus that Butler was a place I could definitely call home.”

That feeling ended up being the key ingredient to her success. Because being 600 miles away from home for the first time not only brought the occasional wave of isolation, it also left Brooke without plans for her first fall break. With her new peers making plans for quick visits home to reconnect with family and friends, Brooke’s options dwindled as the days passed.

“But then someone recommended that I apply for the Fall Alternative Break, and honestly everything I’ve really loved about Butler since started with that trip,” Blevins says. “Doors for more and more opportunities just keep opening up.”

After spending a long weekend in Kentucky by helping with affordable housing projects, Brooke put herself up to be on the committee for the following year’s trip. She turned those connections into a job with the volunteer center on campus. Then into a six-month internship in Singapore working in her dream field of event management, all while juggling the demands of a double-major in Human Communication & Organizational Leadership and Strategic Communication.

That’s a full plate for any student, but one that Brooke never takes for granted.

“I’ve discovered new passions and ways to follow them to their highest potential,” she says. “Even though I feel like I’ve already been able to do so much with my time at Butler, I know there is still so much more to look forward to.”

Brooke traces all the excitement in her voice back to that night in her high school gymnasium, when the desire to attend Butler was fulfilled in the form of bulldog waiting just for her.

“I see Trip every once in a while on campus, but I can’t be sure if he recognizes me since he’s always surrounded by a crowd of students.”

A crowd of students who, just like Brooke, see that bulldog and know they’re home.

Academics

#ButlerBound: Where are They Now?

Hear from three current students who once received #ButlerBound visits to find out what they are doing now.

Nov 16 2018 Read more
AcademicsPeople

Brooke Barnett Named New Dean of CCOM

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 15 2018

Brooke Barnett, a Professor and Associate Provost at Elon University who earned her master's and doctorate from Indiana University, will be the new Dean of Butler University's College of Communication (CCOM), Provost Kate Morris announced today.

Barnett will join Butler on June 1, 2019. She replaces Jay Howard, who has been serving as Acting Dean of CCOM and Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences since July 2017.

"Dr. Barnett will bring with her to Butler a wealth of experience as a teacher, scholar, and administrator," Morris said. "During her time as a faculty member at Elon University, she has been part of a strategic effort to grow a relatively small academic program into a signature school of communication. As an academic administrator, she developed and grew various academic programs, with a special emphasis on building a diverse and inclusive community.

"I believe that the combination of the excellent faculty and staff in CCOM and the experienced and engaged leadership Dr. Barnett will bring as Dean, our College of Communication is poised for a successful and exciting future."

Barnett, a Kentucky native, has taught in Elon's School of Communications since 2001 in subject areas that include Broadcast Journalism, Communication Research, Documentary Film, Freedom of Expression, Global Studies, Intellectual Property Law, Journalism and the Law (at Elon School of Law), Literary Journalism, Media and Culture, and Media Law and Ethics.

During her time at Elon, Barnett was awarded the School of Communications Distinguished Scholar award, was founding director of the Elon Program for Documentary Production, served as Faculty-in-Residence for the Elon London Centre, and served as chair of Elon’s faculty governing body.

She has been a member of the president’s senior staff since 2010 and has provided leadership for academics (five university-wide scholar programs, and national and international fellowships office) and inclusive excellence (diversity, and inclusion efforts, civic, global, and community engagement, education access programs, a lifelong learning program for community members). She has secured major and planned gifts, co-created two university centers and worked collaboratively to create two alumni groups.

Barnett said she is looking forward to joining Butler and leading CCOM.

"I'm excited about the different disciplines that are in CCOM," she said. "I think there are great opportunities for synergy across the areas and also continued honing of distinction within specific disciplines. CCOM faculty and staff are stellar and clearly focused on student learning and providing a meaningful student experience. The students I met on campus and the alumni featured in the Butler Magazine are testimonies to the strength of the College. I love the idea of Indianapolis as a backdrop for experiential learning and all the potential leverage points in CCOM within the College, across campus, and with alumni."

Barnett earned her Bachelor of Arts at Georgetown (Kentucky) College, where she majored in English and Communication Studies. She went on to get her Master of Arts in Journalism and doctorate in Mass Communication with concentration in Law and Visual Communication at IU-Bloomington. She earned a Diversity Management Certificate from the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Barnett is a 2011 alumna of the HERS program for women in higher education leadership and a 2016 alumna from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Institute for Educational Management program. This year she was elected to the board of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, a leading national higher education group with 1,400 member institutions.  

Barnett started her teaching career in the IU-Bloomington School of Journalism. She also has been a News Director, Reporter, and Host on WTIU, the public television station in Bloomington.

Because of the strong leadership Howard has provided the CCOM, Morris said, she is confident the College is ready for a strong transition.

"I am extremely grateful for the leadership Acting Dean Jay Howard has provided to CCOM," Morris said. "In addition to all the regular College operations, Dr. Howard led the CCOM through a structural reorganization and through review of both college level curriculum and college level policies. His leadership and the good work of the CCOM faculty and staff have positioned the college to move forward effectively and efficiently after Dean Brooke Barnett arrives next summer.”

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822  

AcademicsPeople

Brooke Barnett Named New Dean of CCOM

Brooke Barnett, Professor and Associate Provost at Elon University, will be the new Dean of CCOM.

Nov 15 2018 Read more
AcademicsPeople

Grand Finales

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2018

It's been more than 11 years since the landmark TV series The Sopranos cut abruptly to black, but people still talk about the final episode and its significance in television history.

Butler University Professor of Communication Gary Edgerton certainly does. In fact, he's written about that episode, "Made in America," in the new book Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls. The book features more than 70 essays by television scholars and critics.

Edgerton, who wrote a 2013 book about the series called The Sopranos, says the final episode in the saga of New Jersey mobster Tony Soprano and his family was "much like the series itself: unconventional, audacious, often incisive, occasionally enigmatic."

"In the final analysis," he writes, "(series creator) David Chase refused to let either Tony Soprano or the audience off the hook. He defied generic convention by delivering an open-ended conclusion that closed with a whimper not a bang, dooming Tony to nervously live out whatever time he has left looking over his shoulder for either the FBI (which is closing in on him fast) or one of the many underworld enemies he has made over the years. Right up to the last shot, Chase preserved the rigorous fidelity of the fictional world he had created."

In an interview, Edgerton talked about The Sopranos and its memorable conclusion.

Q: The final episode of The Sopranos is probably the most controversial of all finales because of its lack of closure. What do you think?

A: If you take the series as a whole, there's actually lots of closure. It's just that the closure people are conditioned for—what happens to the gangster going out in a blaze of glory—was upended. David Chase was very influenced by European films, art films from the '60s and into the '70s, and it was a very Truffaut kind of move at the end.

There were all kinds of trigger shots in that last scene, like something was going to happen. The 180-degree rule, where you have continuity editing, you don't break that. You keep the audience comfortable. And he jumped the line multiple times.

If you remember Meadow trying to parallel park in that final scene, it just builds tension. And if you know the guy in the Members Only jacket is like Michael Corleone going to the bathroom (to get a gun in The Godfather), there's lots of triggers. Then all of a sudden, it's smash cut to black—like something Fellini would do or some of Chase's favorite inspirations.

Q: I assume that to write this essay, you watched the finale of The Sopranos again. Did it stand up?

A: I think the whole series still stands up. In my class Television Authorship: The Showrunner I showed it to the students. I showed them four episodes of The Sopranos to show them how television has changed since then. Students this age really don't know The Sopranos.

Q: When you watched the finale for the first time and the screen went black, what was your reaction?

A: As the episode unfolded, I thought—and this was in the recesses of my mind—God, I hope he doesn't get killed. There was nothing redeeming about Tony in the second half of the last season, but I thought about how invested we become in this narrative and in these characters. And when it did end, I had a sense of relief. I'm much more invested in character than I am in plot. The fact that it ended the way it did, I wasn't disappointed. I wasn't looking for a Sonny Corleone ending where he would get machine-gunned down.

Q: What is it about characters like Tony Soprano that fascinate us?

A: It's the gangster narrative. But it's not that it's Italians—or Irish or Jewish or African-Americans or Chinese. It's that it's outside the WASP establishment. For some of those cohorts, the American dream was just as compelling, but their only path to realizing the American Dream was outside the law.

Q: Where does The Sopranos rank among the best shows of all time?

A: There's so much good television. I would say the Mount Rushmore of television is The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, and Mad Men. Those shows set a template that freed up television in a way that had never been done before.

AcademicsPeople

Grand Finales

Edgerton talks The Sopranos in the new book Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls.

Nov 14 2018 Read more
Academics

Lacy School of Business Named Outstanding On-Campus MBA Program by Princeton Review

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Nov 07 2018

Butler University's Lacy School of Business has been named one of the 252 outstanding on-campus MBA programs in the Princeton Review's “Best Business Schools for 2019.” The school profiles and rankings can be found at https://www.princetonreview.com/best-business-schools.

The best on-campus MBA list is based on a combination of institutional and student survey data, including career outcomes, admissions selectivity, and academic rigor, among others. The on-campus MBA programs are listed 1 to 252, rather than ranked hierarchically.

“We’re honored to be recognized, and we are incredibly proud of the graduates who come out of our program to make an immediate impact in their organizations and community,” said Lacy School of Business Dean Steve Standifird.

The Butler entry in the Princeton Review says that the MBA program's focus on applying real world experiences to the classroom "provides an MBA experience that makes it very popular for residents of the region." Flexibility was noted, with one student saying, “If you want a concentration that is not offered, professors will work with you to tailor your education needs/wishes.”

The program also was praised for having a “good balance of difficult and moderately easy classes” and a helpful, responsive administration that works with students on every aspect of their education. The school's leadership “is very willing to make integrating the learning experience with busy careers and family lives” a priority, and it shows in the number of students who juggle active careers and busy class schedules.

The Princeton Review writes that "students who want to be surrounded by those with real life experience will find Butler to be a welcoming environment." It noted that "a consistent trait is that students here are 'committed, smart and friendly,' and described students as "more supportive than competitive; people are down to earth and have a good sense of humor.”

"For students in the Midwest in particular, Butler provides good inroads to a career," the Review says, adding that when Forbes recently ranked the 200 largest metropolitan areas in the United States to determine which were the best places for business and careers, Indianapolis ranked in the top ten.

"All those traits—the real-world focus, flexibility, support, and work-life balance—are what we strive to deliver, along with the experiences and credentials that lead to long-term career progression and success," Standifird said. "We believe in the power of hands-on, student-focused, experiential learning, and saturate our program with opportunities to apply classroom concepts to real-world situations."

Butler's MBA program offers concentrations in finance, international business, leadership, entrepreneurship and innovation, and marketing. Graduates have gone on to work for companies such as Eli Lilly and Company, Roche, M&I Bank, Regions Bank, Firestone, and the NCAA.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822  

Academics

Lacy School of Business Named Outstanding On-Campus MBA Program by Princeton Review

The Lacy School of Business has been named an outstanding on-campus MBA program by the Princeton Review.

Nov 07 2018 Read more
Donkey, Blue, Elephant
AcademicsStudent LifePeople

(Bull)Dog Days on the Campaign Trail

BY Sarah Bahr

PUBLISHED ON Oct 31 2018

What awaited Butler University sophomore Jon Gray-Smith inside the small, ramshackle house on a Saturday in Grant County in northeast Indiana this summer was less than inviting.

Maybe I should just skip this one, the Indiana Republican Party field intern mused before walking up the front porch steps.

But Gray-Smith knocked on the door, took a step back (no one wants to be accosted by a stranger, he says), and was greeted by. . .

A nearly nude older white man. Toting a shotgun. And wearing only a pair of white underpants.

While that’s his horror story, Gray-Smith says it’s not out of the ordinary for canvassers to work in less-than-ideal conditions.

Jon and Luke Messer
Jon Gray-Smith with Luke Messer

“People don’t always have a lot of clothes on when they answer the door,” he says. “And, in my experience, a ‘Beware of Dog’ sign is typically correct.”

The life of a political intern is hardly glamorous.They get chased by dogs. Confronted by half-dressed old men packing heat. Screamed at like they’re the second coming of Cruella de Vil. And most of the time, they do it for free.

But Butler students also intern with political campaigns in increasingly large numbers. At a time when the political stakes are at an all-time high, Butler students are dotting the state, serving in a variety of  roles with political parties. From answering phones, to crafting press releases, to knocking on doors, Butler students say it is not just the skills garnered in their political science classes that have helped, but also the skills from their journalism, business, and history classes, for example, that have prepared them for when they are thrown into the real-world political fire. Or even faced with a semi-clothed man at the door.

 

“A Dream Come True”

Knocking on 527 doors for 12 hours in Indiana’s blistering July heat isn’t most people’s idea of a good time.

But Gray-Smith, the Vice President of the Butler University College Republicans, says each interaction motivates him to seek out the next one.

“I’m talking to voters who sometimes have never talked to someone about an election in their whole life,” he says.

Gray-Smith says people are often surprised by his age.

“I had a lot of people tell me, ‘It’s so good to see a young person out here doing this,’” he says. ‘That keeps me going.’”

And, unlike at many political events, he enjoyed bipartisan support.

“I had so many people offer me bottles of water, Gatorade, Powerade, anything to help me stay cool,” he says. “They told me ‘Please keep doing this; there are lots of voters out there.’”

He won a $30 Visa gift card for contacting the most voters from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM — an average of 48 per hour, with an hour for lunch.

But his margin of victory?

Just 13 people.

Passion fuels political interns from both major parties, who perform thankless tasks such as calling voters, knocking on strangers’ doors, editing video, and uploading press releases to campaign websites — most of the time for free.

Gray-Smith contacted just under 7,000 voters this summer soliciting support for Republican congressional candidates such as U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, U.S. Rep. Susan Brooks, and Mike Braun. From mid-February to May during his internship with U.S. Rep. Luke Messer’s U.S. Senate campaign, he called 17,000 voters.

Cecil with Susan Brooks
James Cecil with Susan Brooks

Door-knocking and phonebanking are hardly sexy selling points for students seeking political internships, but Butler Assistant Professor of Political Science Greg Shufeldt says Butler has “countless” students volunteering and interning for campaigns and political parties this semester.

Junior Rachel Spodek has been a field intern for Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly’s re-election campaign since May.

“I’m running phone banks and trying to get as many voters registered as possible,” she says.

Senior James Cecil, who is named after President James Madison, landed a congressional internship on the Hill this summer in Washington, D.C., with Indiana congresswoman Susan Brooks.

The president of the Butler University College Republicans researched bills, attended hearings, answered phone calls, and gave tours of the U.S. Capitol building. She’d previously completed an internship with the Indiana GOP and is currently interning with the Mike Braun campaign for U.S. Senate.

“I’m a huge history buff, so being able to walk the halls of the Capitol was a dream come true,” she says.

 

Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunities

While most of their days are spent canvassing counties and calling constituents, some interns do enjoy the occasional once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Earlier this month, Cecil snapped a photo with George W. Bush, whom she got to meet at a fundraiser for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike Braun.

“He’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever listened to,” she says.

Gray-Smith was left speechless after he had the chance to meet Vice President Mike Pence as part of his Indiana GOP internship last summer.

“I was able to meet the second most powerful person in America,” he says. “I could’ve never imagined that would happen when I came to Butler.”

 

A Butler Assist

A common thread runs through Cecil, Gray-Smith, and Spodek’s experiences — Butler’s Political Science department helped them land their first internship.

“I always knew I wanted to pursue politics, but I was more laid back my freshman and sophomore years,” Cecil says. “Then [Shufeldt] urged me to get involved in the Todd Young Senate campaign during the 2016 election cycle, which sparked my interest and led to my internship with the Republican Party.”

Shufeldt emphasizes campaign internships because they lead to future political internships and career opportunities.

“Interning on a campaign is a great opportunity to open professional doors,” he says. “It  is one of the most impactful ways we, as citizens, can shape the direction of our government.”

Shufeldt regularly invites Democratic and Republican Party and campaign representatives to speak to his students.

“Studying politics in a major metropolitan area and a state capital is a huge advantage for our students,” Shufeldt says. “I encourage them to take advantage of this as much as possible.”

And Gray-Smith says Butler’s Political Science students are well prepared when opportunities arise.

“The two journalism classes I took forced me to reach out to people and made me more comfortable interviewing strangers,” he says. “They really opened my eyes that I can’t turn to my friends for help every time.”

“The U.S. Politics class I took helped inform my basic knowledge of voting,” Spodek says.

Cecil says being a conservative among more liberal classmates has made her more comfortable defending her beliefs.

“I’m an outspoken conservative in a liberal environment,” she says. “But my beliefs are challenged, not changed.”

 

A Political Future

Cecil wants to pursue a career in political fundraising. Gray-Smith wants to one day run for state or national office. Spodek wants to go into public policy and is looking at law school.

They know that, whatever path they end up pursuing, their internships will have helped them get there.

“The connections I’ve made will propel me to the career I want,” Cecil says. “I definitely look forward to getting up in the morning and doing something I’m really passionate about.”

But, in the meantime, all three stress that one vote can turn the tide.

“This election is going to be really tight, not just for Donnelly, but for a lot of candidates,” Spodek says. “I know every bit of effort I put in will make a difference.”

Donkey, Blue, Elephant
AcademicsStudent LifePeople

(Bull)Dog Days on the Campaign Trail

Butler students also intern with political campaigns in increasingly large numbers.

Oct 31 2018 Read more
Academics

New Study by Butler Professor Shows Why Electoral Integrity Matters

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 30 2018

INDIANAPOLIS—As the 2018 midterm elections near, there is an increasing focus on how difficult it is for some people to actually cast a vote in certain states.

For example, voters in North Dakota, Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, and New Hampshire, among others, are facing restrictive voter ID laws and purges of voter names from the rolls. In Georgia, allegations of voter suppression against black voters have reached a boiling point. According to a recent report from the Associated Press, about 53,000 voter registration applications are in limbo because information on applications doesn’t exactly match up with names on drivers licenses or Social Security cards.

These challenges to electoral integrity have an impact on citizen confidence in elections, according to new research from Butler University Assistant Professor of Political Science Greg Shufeldt. His research found that the higher a state ranks when it comes to electoral integrity, or how states run elections, the more likely individuals are to feel like their vote is being counted fairly.

Essentially, those states that ranked higher in electoral integrity had citizens who felt more confident in the democratic system, according to Shufeldt’s research.

“Citizens that live in states with lower electoral integrity are going to be less likely to have confidence in the election process and are less likely to think that their vote is counted fairly and that has consequences,” says Shufeldt, who studies political parties, political inequality, and American politics. “If you don’t think your vote is counted fairly, are you going to keep voting? Probably not.”

Shufeldt’s research, published with Patrick Flavin from Baylor University in State Politics & Policy Quarterly, looked at two different measures of electoral integrity (one led by researchers at MIT and one led by researchers at Harvard). They tested which components of each electoral integrity measurement had a relationship with voter confidence through statistical analyses.

The aspects that impacted citizens’ confidence in the electoral system the most? Personal experience. Examples include problems with the voter registration process, polling site accessibility, availability of ballots, simplicity of the voting process, voter ID laws, violent threats against voters, and simply the presence of qualified candidates on the ballot.

“Broadly, what citizens directly experience impacts their perceptions about whether or not their vote is being counted fairly the most,” Shufeldt says. “The things that a voter would experience going to the polling place are the types of things that are much more likely to have an impact on their confidence, as opposed to the things that happen in a government office that they don’t see.”

All of this matters, Shufeldt says, because if a person doesn’t feel like the process in their state is legitimate, and therefore, that their vote is going to be counted fairly, then there’s a good chance they will stay home on election day, he says.

“This impacts voter turnout,” he says. “My research showed that there is a direct correlation between having confidence in the electoral integrity of your state, and whether or not your vote is being counted fairly. In turn, where you live can determine your desire to show up and your confidence in the system. That is hugely problematic for our democratic system. Where you live is determining the experience you have at the polls.”

This isn’t all just some accident, says Shufeldt. 

States chose their election laws and, he says, states are choosing to go in very different directions in terms of how they conduct their elections. So, who controls state government matters a whole lot for the quality of democracy in one’s state, he says.

According to past research from Shufeldt, Republican-controlled states are increasingly pursuing measures that are damaging electoral integrity, whereas majority Democrat-controlled states are more likely to pursue policies that would lead to higher electoral integrity rankings.

“Because states are increasingly under one party control, some states are able to implement tougher voter ID laws, purging their voter rolls, and are adding additional restrictions or checks to the election process, while other states are choosing to go in a different direction and pursue reforms like making voter registration automatic,” he says. “If you assume that elections play a key and central role in a democratic government, states are choosing wildly different ways to conduct those elections.”

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

 

Photo by Erik (HASH) Hersman via: freeforcommercialuse.org

Academics

New Study by Butler Professor Shows Why Electoral Integrity Matters

Pol. Science Professor Greg Shufeldt's study shows that electoral integrity has impact on citizen confidence in elections.
Oct 30 2018 Read more
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Academics

Research Reveals Why Long-Suffering Fans Continue to Watch

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 29 2018

There are films like The Notebook that make viewers reach for the tissue box, but they will watch the movie again and again despite all the tears. Why do people want to put themselves through the repeated misery?  Researchers have found that there is a reason for this.

There are two different ways people are entertained when it comes to media, says Ryan Rogers, Butler University Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism. There’s enjoyable entertainment and meaningful entertainment and tear jerkers fall under the meaningful category, he says.

“You might say The Hangover was fun and enjoyable, but The Notebook was meaningful,” he says. “You enjoyed both, but they gave you different processes of being entertained.”

So, Rogers took the idea of these different types of entertainment, and found that they could be applied to that long-suffering Buffalo Bills fan, for example. He found that the same dichotomy that exists with movies, exists with sports, too.

“Fans watch for enjoyment and for victory and cheering with friends when things are going well—that excitement and sense of craziness when their team is winning. But, I found that there are also other reasons fans watch that are more akin to meaningful experiences,” Rogers says. “Even if the Bills lose, their fans keep watching every single year because of a deeper, meaningful experience they are deriving from watching.”

Rogers surveyed 277 people, half male and half female, with an average age of 39. His findings, which were published in Media Watch Journal, revealed that even when a fan’s team isn’t winning, even when there is absolutely no hope, those fans continue to tune in because they are gaining meaningful experiences.

Yes, when a team is winning, fans experience enjoyment. But watching teams with no hope might still provide a deeper, more meaningful form of entertainment for people, says Rogers.

“This explains why Browns fans, for example, are Browns fans when intuition tells us otherwise,” Rogers says. “Even when there is no hope, even when a team is eliminated mathematically from contention, fans keep watching and we found that is because they are deriving other, more meaningful appreciation from it.”

Rogers says his research revealed that watching a team struggle is meaningful because of who one is watching with. Often times individuals watch with family, or grew up watching with parents, and so when they watch now, they are reminded of those times, he says.

There’s also that sense of suffering and struggling as a group. Camaraderie is built around a collective struggle, says Rogers. Also, struggling through something can be enlightening and can provide insights that the thrill of victory does not, says Rogers.

“We know why fun and funny movies entertain us, but sad movies also captivate us because of the deeper emotions they tug at and the deeper introspection and deeper feelings they cause us to have,” Rogers says. “The same thing can be said for sports fans, and particularly for fans of struggling teams. People enjoy watching sports because it gives them a feeling of positive emotions and decreased negative emotions. This perfectly explains why people watch teams that absolutely stink.”

So, take solace Browns fans, and remember there is reason why you turn on your television every Sunday.

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

NY Giants Vs. Cleveland Browns
Academics

Research Reveals Why Long-Suffering Fans Continue to Watch

The same reasons people enjoy tear jerkers can be applied to watching sports says Butler Professor Ryan Rogers.

Oct 29 2018 Read more
Academics

Searching for Cpl. James B. Gresham

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON Oct 29 2018

Cpl. James B. Gresham deserves a memorial. Of that, Butler University senior History and Political Science major Nathan Hall is sure.

Why Gresham doesn't have a memorial has become Hall's fascination. This slight against the first Indiana soldier to die in World War I was the subject of Hall's presentation at the 2018 Butler Undergraduate Research Conference, and it served as the topic for a talk at TEDxEvansville on October 26.

"I would love if he got a monument or some kind of memorial in Evansville," says Hall, who, like Gresham, is from Evansville. "I think it'd be very fitting. I think he's a piece of our culture that's incredibly important."

Hall became aware of Gresham during his junior year at Reitz Memorial High School. Larry Mattingly, Hall's history teacher, offered extra credit to students who could find Gresham's grave. Hall and his friends scoured Locust Hill Cemetery and found what they were looking for: a government-issued headstone in the middle of rows of similar headstones.

At Butler, Hall researched Gresham to find out why he'd never been given a proper memorial after his body had been returned to Evansville in 1921. He wrote up his findings as part of his junior research project in Professor Vivian Deno's History 302 class.

Deno says Hall’s project "is testament to his determination and a historian’s intuition that there is a larger, more important story about an event or person that needs to be told."

"He spent many long hours reaching out to various archives, and searching for missing records," she says. "That effort paid off in a really smart and nuanced paper that makes us rethink the importance of local history. Working with students like Nathan and so many others is one of the real joys of being a historian at an institution like Butler. Undergraduate research has important contributions to make to the field."

In his research, Hall discovered that a combination of distraction and neglect were the reasons Gresham never got his due.

First, in 1922, the city's powerful mayor, Benjamin Bosse, died, which shifted Evansville's focus away from Gresham. Then the Depression hit. In 1936, the city again took up Gresham's cause. But in 1937, as plans developed to build a plaza dedicated to Gresham on the Ohio River, the river flooded. A third of the city's homes were destroyed.

The 1940s saw Evansville focused on the war effort.

And daily life went on.

"It seemed several times to be a surefire thing," Hall says. "But there was no end result. I wanted to unpack that mystery as best I could. I don't think I totally have, but even to get to the point where I am now where I can pretty confidently say that there were all these other things that happened that buried his memory – that's where I've gotten."

The more Hall found, the more interested he became in the issue of how and why we as a society choose to remember—or forget—different parts of our history

And when Hall's sister suggested he apply to speak at the TEDxEvansville event, he did and was excited to be selected. (TED—Technology, Entertainment, and Design—is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. (Independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.)

Hall, who graduates in December and plans to go to law school next fall, says the call to action in his talk isn't so much about the fact that there should be a monument for Gresham.

"It's that we need to understand that if something important like this gets lost or swept under the rug, we can get it back or remember it," he says.

Academics

Searching for Cpl. James B. Gresham

Nathan Hall `18 discovered the untold story of World War I's first Hoosier fatality, Cpl. James B. Gresham.

Oct 29 2018 Read more

Good for Business

By Marc Allan, MFA '18

On a mid-October Thursday morning, 27 Butler University MBA students direct all of their attention to Nick Carter, owner of Market Wagon—an Indianapolis-based online farmer's market he created to connect local farmers and artisans with customers who want their products. The students are eager to learn about Carter's scrappy startup, and for the next hour and change, they pepper him with questions.

They ask about space (Market Wagon plans to move to a bigger location by the end of the year), company management (he’s building the team; he’s a self-taught developer), where marketing money is spent (80 percent to Facebook, 19 percent Google ad words; 1 percent local blog advertising), who the typical customer is (a 34- to 54-year-old female with kids), and more.

The students are here for their Business Practicum class, a 2½-day, hands-on course designed to immerse them in the local food movement—one of the economic hubs that drives business development in Indianapolis—and put what they've been learning in the classroom to practical use.

They've been divided into teams of four or five, and each group has been assigned to one of the six businesses they'll visit as part of what they jokingly call "a two-day fieldtrip." Their assignment: recommend solutions for an issue each company faces.

For Market Wagon, the question is whether to become more like a conventional grocery store or move into others cities and replicate the niche the business now has in four Indiana locations (Indianapolis, Evansville, La Porte, Fort Wayne) and one that serves Dayton/Cincinnati, Ohio.

After the group has an opportunity to question Carter, the team will come up with recommendations and present them to the class on the final day of the course. The businesses also will receive a paper outlining the students' suggestions. (For Market Wagon, the students recommended sticking with the niche market.)

"The class is a great way to apply some of the skills we've acquired through the curriculum so far at Butler and apply them to real-world business challenges," says student Stephen Lindley, 27, whose full-time job is with the commercial real estate development firm Strategic Capital Partners. "You feel connected to the Indianapolis community and local businesses, and you get hands-on experience you don't get in the classroom."

"It's definitely a different way of learning than I'm used to," agrees classmate Bryden Basaran, 27, a software engineer for Midcontinent Independent System Operator, a not-for-profit organization that ensures delivery of electricity across all or parts of 15 U.S. states and one Canadian province. "I've always been the kind of person who's like, 'Give me the book, I'll read it and learn it.' That's not something you can do for this course. I've had quite a lot of fun over the last two days."

Adjunct Professor Mike Simmons developed the Business Practicum course a few years ago. His initial idea was to focus on a specific industry. The first year was sports. The second, craft beer. But in the third year, he found the right focus with local food, which gives the students a look at producers, distributors, retailers, and other means of pushing the product out to the public.

Food has been the focus ever since.

"They're getting a macro and micro view," Simmons says. "They can see an individual company but then they can also see how it all fits together."

*

The fall version of the Business Practicum (it's also offered in spring) started on the evening of October 10 with a panel discussion featuring representatives from the individual companies. The next day, the students boarded a bus that took them to Market Wagon, Public Greens (a farm-market-inspired urban cafeteria and microfarm that donates all profits and crops to feeding kids), and Fitness Farm (which offers event space; education and exercise programs on nutrition, fitness, and agriculture; a fully sustainable market garden for farm-to-table sales; and a seasonal on-site produce stand).

Friday, they did it again, with visits to Mad Farmers Collective (a group of three farmers growing on two urban farms in downtown Indianapolis), Oca (a beer-friendly sausage and sandwich counter), and Tulip Tree Creamery (a cheesery).

At Oca, Corrie Cook Quinn, who calls herself the Narration and Libation Manager," tells them about the history of the business. That is, how Goose the Market, which opened in Indianapolis more than 10 years ago as a modern-day version of a neighborhood butcher shop, led to the Smoking Goose, which is now 7 years old and has smoked meats distributed in 46 states, which spun off Oca, an elevated version of pub food.

The issue Oca faces in its Carmel location is visibility amid all the construction going on around it. Quinn wanted to know how Oca can build its business there while also boosting the reputations of Oca and the Smoking Goose. (The students recommended improved signage, offering samples, educating consumers about the quality of the products, and other solutions.)

Tulip Tree Creamery was facing a more immediate quandary—whether to open a retail space inside the Bottleworks District, a redeveloped Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Indianapolis. Tulip Tree co-founders Fons Smits and Laura Davenport tell the students that they want to keep their operation as lean as possible, but they wonder if a retail space would help them expand their brand. (The team split on its recommendation and offered Tulip Tree some options to decrease its risks while boosting its sales.)

"There were some very well thought out answers," Simmons says.

Ashley Butler, 31, who is a nurse, is also studying osteopathic medicine at Marian University in Indianapolis while working on her MBA. Butler says classes like Business Practicum are the reason she decided on Butler for her MBA.

"The hands-on experience and the people—the caliber of the individuals I thought I was going to be in class with—are what sold the program for me," she says. "It wasn't just a bunch of case learning, where you talk about and hypothesize over what this would look like. We've gotten to go out into the community, meet with business leaders, and network within the community."

And that can be as useful for the businesses as it is for the students. Market Wagon's Carter says the time he spent with the students "was well worth my hour."

"Because I learn from them too," he says. "The questions that they ask, I shoot back an answer to them, but it may be an answer I just thought of because I hadn’t even thought of that question before. So it’s really good to hear MBA students. What they’re asking me is always teaching me what I should be concerned about in my business."

Academics

Good for Business

Butler MBA students hit the road to solve business challenges.

Good for Business

By Marc Allan, MFA '18
Academics

Bracketology and the Collective Brain

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 22 2018

 

  

 

INDIANAPOLIS—It is believed by most that many brains are more powerful than one. So, when it is time, for example, to guess how many gumballs are in a jar, the average of the group’s guesses is probably better than most of the individual guesses.

But, there isn’t much out there that really explains why that is, says Ryan Rogers, Butler University Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism.

Rogers looked into this concept using one of America’s favorite past times—filling out March Madness brackets. He wanted to find out what exactly makes collective intelligence effective.

“Yes, we know crowd sourcing is beneficial, but what are those traits, and tasks, that are going to make the group impactful in its decision-making process?” Rogers says. “What kind of group is most effective and what kinds of tasks lend itself to crowd sourcing?”

Individuals were divided up based on their backgrounds and expertise in college basketball. One group was made up of serious college basketball fans. The other group was made up of college basketball experts, for example, journalists, former players, coaches, or others with insights beyond just being an engaged fan.

Each group then filled out NCAA tournament brackets using collective intelligence software. The goal, Rogers says, was to see how group make-up would impact the effectiveness of collective intelligence, and therefore, the infamous activity of avoiding a busted bracket after, well, one round.

The results, published in the Journal of Creative Communications, showed that the experts and the fans performed similarly throughout the first few rounds of the tournament. However, the experts gained a real edge over the fans as the tournament progressed—as the task became more difficult. When it came to the later rounds—games that are typically more challenging and complicated to predict—the experts had more success in picking winners than the fans.

“There’s a passion and there’s an interest,” he says. “It is not just about having a buddy who knows basketball, but our study showed that it is about the group dynamic, and that specific traits impact how successful the group will be. In addition to the traits of a group, our study showed task matters, too. The more difficult the task, the more important the make-up of the group.”

The results are important, Rogers says, because they can be applied to many fields and subject matters much more complicated than guessing gumballs in a jar or filling out a bracket.

The experts separated themselves in the later rounds of the tournament—when the task was more complicated and collective wisdom, therefore, mattered more, Rogers says. This distinction is a crucial finding.

When it comes to solving a complex engineering problem, for example, he says, it would be important to think about getting a group of experts together. Rogers compares that to asking a bunch of stargazers to solve a complex astrophysics problem. Collective intelligence, he says, wouldn’t help that group.

“Their love of the subject matter won’t matter because the topic is highly complex,” he says. “They simply don’t have enough technical knowledge to leverage the wisdom of the crowd. That is what, essentially, this study teaches us. It is not just that many brains are better than one, but who the group is made up of that impacts its effectiveness.”

 

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

 

Academics

Bracketology and the Collective Brain

Assistant Professor Ryan Rogers has new research that reveals when many brains are better than one. 

Oct 22 2018 Read more

Going Places: Studying Abroad in the Sciences

By Marc Allan, MFA '18

Chemistry Professor Stacy O’Reilly remembers looking at the other science disciplines and thinking, "They're going places. Why can't we?"

O’Reilly wanted Chemistry students to have the opportunity to see the world, learn from other cultures, and put their classroom education into practice—something they didn't typically get to do because they were so busy with coursework.

That was in 2015.

Soon after, she got a call from a tour company about putting together a study-abroad trip for Chemistry students. In less than 10 months, she and colleague Michael Samide developed a course centered on Chemistry and sustainable energy in Germany and Switzerland. They took 18 students to visit two hydroelectric power plants and, by the time they left, better understood how water is used to create electricity, the finances required to build such a facility, and the economic impact a plant can have on a community.

Fast-forward three years: 87 students have taken Chemistry's study-abroad course in various incarnations: Chemistry and Food, Chemistry and Art Conservation Science, and Chemistry and Fermentation. There are courses with embedded study tours planned out through 2021—including one for Butler alumni, employees, their families, and friends called Beer, Wine, Cheese, and Chocolate. (More at https://blue.butler.edu/~msamide/AlumniTour2020/)

"So often, our science students are so engaged in the work to finish their science degree," O'Reilly says. "They don't have a lot of flexibility in their schedules. One of the things we like about this program is that it's not a full semester abroad, it's not a full summer abroad, but it gives them a taste of international travel."

"The language of science bridges culture," Samide adds. “There's a common bond they feel between cultures. I think it makes the world a little smaller for them. They feel more globally connected."

Students who take CH418 spend the semester building their background in the subject area, the idea being that they have the scientific knowledge they need before they travel. Then, when they go overseas in early May, they can integrate the science with the culture and society they're visiting and have conversations with experts.

Ben Zercher '16 was among the students who went on that first study tour. When he first heard about the opportunity to study abroad, he was excited because "Chemistry can get lost in textbook learning and memorizing."Student Feeding Goat

"I wasn't sure how they'd work chemistry into a study abroad program, but we started looking at renewable energy systems that are used around the world and I was excited for the trip because it would give the class some cultural context to the curriculum we go over," said Zercher, now a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle. "We moved around a lot and saw a lot of different applications of what we had learned in the course."

Zercher said what he looks for in Chemistry are ways to better society. The study-abroad trip showed him that the United States is lagging the leading countries when it comes to renewable energy. "Maybe I can help change the cultural acceptance of science and how we apply it to renewable energy," he said.

Heidi Kastenholz '19, took the Chemistry and Art Conservation Science tour in 2017, which met during the spring semester to prepare the students for what they would see at conservation and research laboratories in Germany.

She said she chose to go because she's always been interested in art and she wanted "to be able to take what I'm learning in class and see it applied to something I have a great interest in and to be able to learn and to see it in a new way."

The experience so intrigued Kastenholz that she continued to look into conservation science. This summer, she presented a Butler Summer Institute project called "Case Studies of Reference Materials in Conservation Science."

Kastenholz came to Butler wanting to be an optometrist. Until last summer, that was her goal.

"Because of my awesome experience, I'm actually having a really tough time trying to figure out if I do want to do optometry or if I want to pursue a career in culture heritage Chemistry because I think it's a fascinating field that most people don't know about," she says.

As for the Chemistry study abroad class, "I think it's my favorite class I've ever taken at Butler, and this is my fourth year," Kastenholz says. "I think that speaks a lot about what the Chemistry Department has been putting into these short-term study abroad programs. Sometimes, when you're a Chemistry or Biology major, you feel like you can't take that whole semester. But they're making it so easy to be able to go abroad for a short time. I don't know how you can say no to it."

*

Although study abroad is relatively new to Chemistry, it's been part of Butler's sciences programs for at least 30 years, dating back to Biology's first trip to look at marine life in Belize. Physics and Astronomy also has been taking students to Japan, Spain, Chile and China for at least 10 years.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences believes so strongly in study abroad for science students that it offers financial assistance through Seitz Awards, which assist Natural Science students who desire to study science and conduct research abroad, outside the normal academic classroom setting. Sophomores and junior status majoring in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics are eligible to apply. (Psychology majors studying Physiological or Cognitive/Neuropsychology, or Anthropology majors studying Biological Anthropology, Primatology, or Archaeology also are eligible to apply.)

The Seitz funds have provided financing for students to study all over the world—China, Tanzania, South Africa—and propelled the careers of graduates who've gone on to research and travel the world fighting infectious diseases.

The Biology Department has been taking students on study-abroad trips to Belize every other year since the 1980s, thanks in part to the Seitz Awards. There, students get what often is their first exposure to the tropics and marine ecosystems in the second largest barrier reef in the world, said Biology Professor Carmen Salsbury, who has led the trip, which goes every other year, since joining the Butler faculty 17 years ago.

"It gives us the opportunity to dive in deeply—excuse the pun—to those particular habitats," she said.

Prior to trip, students spend the first part of the semester learning about marine ecology. In the laboratory, they learn to identify organisms. They come to know what the fish are, as well as the ecology of the invertebrates. When they travel to Belize during spring break—they stay on one of the largest island off the coast of Belize, Ambergris Caye, which has a small fishing village that is a popular tourist destination—they're on or in the water from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM daily.

In evenings, there's class to review everything they saw. The students make a list of species and where they're found so they can see the different patterns of diversity.

They also take one day for a side trip to visit the Mayan ruins and the rainforest.

Salsbury says study abroad trips are important for students to broaden their worldview.

Students Abroad"This goes well beyond science," she says. "The walk from where we stay to the dock is maybe five blocks. The students walk by houses where there are no windows, there are dirt floors, there are feral dogs everywhere. Chickens and roosters wake them up in the morning because they're wandering the streets. The streets aren't paved. It's a very different experience. I don't think you can give students a sense of what's that about until they see it for themselves."

In the years when Biology students aren't going to Belize, they're traveling to Panama for an immersive tropical biology course. There, they walk the Pipeline Road, where over 400 species of birds can be observed at one time or another. They witness researchers collecting bats, take a crane ride more than 130 feet in the air to see the tops of the forest and meet the researchers on Barro Colorado Island, the most intensively studied tropical forest.

That course is heavily subsidized through an endowment from Frank Levinson '75, part of a $5 million gift to the sciences in 2007 that also enabled the University to buy the Big Dawg supercomputer and make upgrades to the Holcomb Observatory telescope. Biology Department Chair Travis Ryan said Levinson's endowment covers more than half the course and also pays for two Butler interns to spend the summer interning at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

One of every three Butler interns who works there becomes an author on a paper they helped collect data on, and most have their own independent project they're working on while they're interning, Ryan said.

*

Physics Chair Gonzalo Ordonez said his department has used Seitz Awards for several years. Professor Xianming Han has taken students to China, while Ordonez has gone with others to Japan and Spain.

"That's been really helpful for our students, and it really improves their prospects for grad school," Ordonez said. "They get involved in more serious research and they might get interested in a field that they didn't know before."

Bradley Magnetta '15 went to Osaka on a Seitz Award in the summer of 2014. He was in Japan for a month, studying and collaborating with Ordonez's colleagues there.

Magnetta participated in all the research opportunities available to him at Butler and had a wealth of experience in research in general when he took the study trip.

"I already had a base foundation for my project and I was really ready to start collaborating with people in general," he says. "I knew I wanted to start collaborating. I heard about this program and I knew that Dr. Ordonez had colleagues working on similar things that I was interested in. So it was a natural fit to pick Japan and Osaka."

He describes the experience as "excellent," not just academically but on a personal level. It was his first opportunity to leave the country, he collaborated with a graduate research group—"which as an undergrad was a really cool experience"—and he got to be around different people from different backgrounds and discover that there's a universal language in sciences and mathematics.

Magnetta said he went in with questions on his project and, through collaboration, was able to answer them. He published the results a couple of years later.

Today, Magnetta is working on a doctorate in applied physics at Yale University and grateful to have had the chance to study abroad.

"I absolutely recommend it," Magnetta said. "A trip like this really adds clarity because once I get into grad school, I felt very comfortable. When I joined a research group, it was a very familiar feeling because I had already spent a month with a graduate level research group in Japan. So it prepared me for what the group dynamics were. That trip prepared me for my future in a number of ways and I would recommend it to anyone."

Study Abroad Group in Germany
AcademicsStudent Life

Going Places: Studying Abroad in the Sciences

Although study abroad is relatively new to Chemistry, it's been part of Butler's sciences programs for at least 30 years.

Student Focused: The Butler MBA Experience of David Watkins

By Cindy Dashnaw

You might think David Watkins had too many roadblocks to get an MBA.

He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He’d earned an undergraduate degree in International Affairs and Political Science, and was working for a nonprofit affiliated with Butler University. He traveled often with his job, and he was planning to get married in the next couple of years.

“Honestly, I wanted to get an MBA because that’s what was most available to me. I’d noticed in my job that MBA competencies would be helpful. And I was looking at grad programs at Butler because of the convenience and expense. I didn’t know much about the University,” he said somewhat apologetically.

While that’s less than a ringing endorsement for the part-time Butler MBA program, Watkins became an enthusiast pretty quickly.

“I had looked at degree programs elsewhere, but Butler offered the flexibility I needed. I was traveling internationally a lot for work, so being able to pick classes that worked for my schedule was a big deal. The level of personal service I got from the professors was beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.”

For example?

“In my first semester, I had to be gone for two weeks to the UAE (United Arab Emirates). I was a little worried about telling a professor. He asked me when I would get back, then invited me to his house—on a Sunday—to catch me up on what I’d missed. It was incredibly generous.”

He was amazed at the caliber of the professors.

“They came from business or were still practicing business, and they were very intentional about bringing business into the classroom setting. Across the whole program, the professors were bringing in local business people any time there was an opportunity to take a concept into its real-world application.”

Watkins maintained full-time employment during his studies, even switching employers. And yes, he got married during the program, too.

When he graduated with an MBA in May 2018, Watkins went to work for the Indiana Small Business Development Center. As Director of Network Operations, he oversees 10 offices across the state that deliver free services to Indiana residents interested in starting, growing, or succeeding in business endeavors. He also oversees export promotion programming and assistance throughout the state to help Hoosier businesses take their expansion to the next level in overseas markets. 

He uses the business skills he acquired through the MBA program every day, especially the greater understanding of how and why every action impacts a company’s bottom line. Yet, the Butler experience had another, somewhat surprising effect on him.

“Butler helped me quite a bit in my emotional intelligence,” he admitted. “One of the great attributes of the Butler program is that with every class, you’re working with a different group of people with a different set of backgrounds. I worked with scientists, bankers, engineers, ages 22 to 42 and everything in between, which helped me dramatically in my ability to present myself in a positive light no matter the situation.”

He sees a great benefit in the Butler approach of not imposing a cohort on students. 

“I got to know a wide array of people by working with them on a project or deliverable. Multiply that over the course of an entire degree, and you’re talking about a pretty big network I came out with. Being able to talk with people in different industries has been very beneficial to me. “

Watkins said the program does everything possible to help you succeed.

“It’s a high-caliber program that, if you let it, will be personalized to your experience and your need. You don’t have to fit to the program. The program fits to you. I came into it not quite knowing what I wanted, and the program helped me figure out what I enjoyed, was competent at and wanted to do. Others came from well-established careers, so their program was more about advancement and network building.”

And the ability to have a personal coach and build a network delighted Watkins.

“The ability to have a certified professional coach who walks hand in hand with you in a personalized way was invaluable in developing my own professional presence; and just having someone to bounce ideas off of and to challenge me with questions I hadn’t been thinking of before was beneficial inside and outside the classroom. They have enough coaches that no coach is too busy for their students—and the program is not so large that you miss out on that personal level of mentorship.” He laughed. “My coach Randy Brown was almost too available. And he’s still following up with me. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance and mentorship.”

He couldn’t be happier with his experience. “I expect great things as an alum.”

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