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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.

 

Media Contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

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.
AcademicsUnleashed

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.

 

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

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

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
AcademicsButler BeyondCampus

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
AcademicsButler BeyondCampus

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
Research Lab Participants

Exploring the Unanswered

Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

 

 

In the depths of Gallahue Hall, 14 Butler University undergrads work to make the vaccines for a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide actually effective. But first, with the Backstreet Boys harmonizing about wanting it that way in the background, they need some really good ice.

The students are studying strains of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, for which there is no vaccine. There certainly are people looking for one, Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Stobart, also known as ‘Doc’ in this lab, explains. Lots of people. Major research universities and pharmaceutical companies alike are working to bring the first RSV vaccine to market. For them, Stobart says, the keys are to make sure their vaccine candidate is safe and effective. But these researchers are overlooking a major issue. Enter— Butler University.

RSV breaks down even at refrigeration temperature. That matters because the vaccines needed for infants require a live virus. Those chasing an RSV vaccine, Stobart explains, are so caught up with being first, they aren’t so focused on making sure it will actually last once it leaves the factory.

“Everyone has their eyes on the prize—the vaccine,” Stobart says. “But the key question that underlies how vaccines work is being ignored. They have to be stable, safe, and immunogenic. You need all three things to make a vaccine work. Without the answers coming from our lab, you only have two elements.”

So, here we are, back to the ice, back to the basement in Gallahue, and back to the Backstreet Boys. The thing everyone is overlooking is this whole temperature thing.

And Stobart would know. He was one of the overlookers. ‘Doc’ used to be in the business of finding vaccines. That’s how he realized such an important question was being ignored. As a postdoctoral research fellow at Emory University, he was on the hunt for an RSV vaccine. While doing that research, he realized that no one was worrying about whether or not that vaccine would actually last more than a day. So, he started going against the grain and decided to use a different strain of RSV for his vaccine. He got lucky, he says, and the strain he chose ended up being more stable than the strain that everyone else is using. His vaccine, which should enter clinical trials next year, would last longer than the vaccines being developed by most other research labs.

Now, he and his army of Butler undergrads are digging deeper into the very questions Stobart stumbled upon: What makes some RSV strains more resistant than others, and what strain of RSV would make it least susceptible to temperature variations?

This is the work of the Stobart Lab. But it is hardly just a place where major scientific questions are being answered. MCAT prep happens here. Trivia nights happen here. Ideas for other research projects happen here—five experiments are taking place right now. And, on occasion, naps take place here, thanks to a new couch on loan from a student’s family. First-year students through seniors mill in and out of the lab in the basement of Gallahue Hall on any given day or night. Just ask Jenna Nosek ’20, who storms in on a recent Tuesday afternoon.

“I have spent 19 hours in here the past few days: don’t test me, Sean [a fellow lab mate],” she jokes, and with that, she is out, the two lab mates laughing, as she makes her way out the door.

“I have told her to back off on the hours,” Stobart says. “But she is the expert in the lab right now on HPMV, another human respiratory virus we are researching. On her own, she brought this virus to Butler to study. She is essentially teaching us all, myself included, how this virus works and behaves.”

But at its core, this is research at Butler. Undergrads and faculty members teaming up to come up with, and then explore, the unanswered, overlooked questions that are vital to their field of study, but go ignored at larger, more research-focused institutions—where there is constant pressure to publish on hot topics, but not necessarily on the more nuanced, just as vital, questions.

“The primary goal of our research at Butler is to provide an environment for our undergrads to understand what science is, how it’s performed, and how it’s used in our world. We use science and research as a teaching tool,” Stobart says. “But the second goal, which is no less important, is to provide answers to the scientific community that still move the community forward. They don’t have to all be big answers, but they have to be answers nonetheless.”


 

Student working in the labFor Kate Morris, it’s really simple. Higher education boils down to two things: teaching, and the production of new knowledge. The way to produce new knowledge, according to Morris, Butler’s Provost since 2012, is through research. And not just the traditional type of research that most people envision when they hear the word. It goes beyond beakers, test tubes, and chemicals. Research might be in a lab, of course, but it also takes the form of writing, literary analysis, anything that produces new information.

“The way I think about it is if we aren’t doing research, we aren’t doing our jobs as teachers,” Morris says. “Research is the production of new information that will be taught in tomorrow’s classrooms. We are always looking for faculty who are active scholars, furthering their disciplines, and who are furthering their disciplines while also teaching their undergrad students how to do that.”

But what makes Butler unique, she says, is the way it tackles each of these goals. At larger institutions, faculty tend to prioritize knowledge production, and teaching lags behind. Research is done with grad students, and it’s not a form of teaching, but rather a way to get recognition in major journals and move up within the institution and, subsequently, the field. Undergrads rarely get the opportunity to put their stamp on the project, she says.

At smaller institutions, Morris says, undergrads act like grad students. They have the chance to develop their own projects. But it’s much more than just a small school versus large school thing. Butler is unique in its offerings, she says.

While Stobart’s lab might be one of the largest on campus, it’s hardly the only research cooking.

Tara Lineweaver, Professor of Psychology, started a project in 2014 that looks at music’s impact on dementia patients. Since its inception, 156 students across all disciplines have been involved.

Assistant Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Ryan Rogers started a Sports Media Research Group in fall 2018, along with Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism Lee Farquhar.

The point, Rogers says, was to look deeper into different facets of sports media. The group published a paper on the impact of sponsors on esports, and recently presented their findings in Las Vegas at the annual Broadcast Education Association convention.

And sometimes the researchers extend beyond the Butler campus. Butler senior Political Science and Criminology major Julio Trujillo ’19 is working on a research project with Political Science Professor Siobhan McEvoy-Levy and three high school students from the Butler-Tarkington community. The crew got together as part of Butler’s Desmond Tutu Peace Lab, which McEvoy-Levy directs, and the Lab’s dedication to undergrad research and dialogue. They’re studying perceptions of career barriers according to minority youth.

Then there’s the telescope. Since 2008, Professor of Physics and Astronomy Brian Murphy has teamed up with Professor of Physics and Astronomy Xianming Han to produce 65 journal publications. And 29 of those have student co-authors. Topics of study range from the short- and long-term behavior of astronomical phenomena, to the rotation periods of asteroids, to the pulsating variables of stars, to the eclipsing variables of stars. All of the scholarship was made possible by a gift in 2008 from Frank Levinson ’75 which enabled Butler to join the Southeastern Association for Research in Astronomy. Since then, Murphy says, research involvement in astronomy has ballooned.

“In today’s world, coursework may give you the knowledge you need for a career, but coursework alone will only get you so far,” Murphy says. “Research gives those intangibles. It can be described as flying by the seat of your pants, not knowing what is around the next corner. And for that matter, trying to figure out how to get around the next corner. The problem-solving skills learned from doing original research can be transferred to any field.”

Look no further than Murphy’s former student, Katie Hannigan ’08. The former Theatre major got involved at the Holcomb Observatory on some projects and, Murphy says, gleaned different skills, like speaking in front of crowds, and presenting complex information, like research.

Hannigan is now a standup comedian, and recently performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (Read Hannigan’s story on Page 6.)


 

Stobart supervises students in the labMarisa Miller ’19 understands firsthand why research matters.

She has no memory of the details—she was just three months old—but her mom reminds her often. It started as a cough in the middle of the night. But, quickly escalated, and soon she was struggling to breathe.

Miller ended up in a hospital for a week, diagnosed with RSV. She was quarantined to a tent within the hospital for three days. After those first few days, her parents were allowed to hold her, but they had to put on the same gear a surgeon wears. They were terrified, Miller says, that she wouldn’t make it to her first birthday.

“When I was growing up, it was just something that happened to me that I knew was very bad. But I don’t think I understood how bad it is, and how many people it impacts,” Miller says.

Now, she does. Her Butler roommate is Darby DeFord, one of the students in the Stobart Lab working on the RSV research, and a co-lead author on the paper the group has submitted to the Journal of General Virology.

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for children under age 1 in the United States. As Miller explains, it presents itself like the flu, or other common colds, but can be deadly for the elderly or the young. In the United States, RSV leads to more than 2 million outpatient visits, and about 60,000 hospitalizations every year for children under age 5, according to the CDC.

That explains the race for a vaccine. But it doesn’t explain the problems inherent in that race, Stobart says.

As teams all over the world work to be the first to bring a vaccine to market, he explains, to solve a very real clinical need, most are using the same strain of RSV in these vaccine preparations. There are 1,000s of different strains of RSV circulating in nature, and each strain differs subtly. But the focus is just on creating a vaccine, not on all the different strains, how they behave, what makes them different, and which might make the best vaccine candidate, he says.

Enter the Stobart Lab.

They are the first group to thoroughly focus their research on how different strains behave, Stobart says. The group of 10 undergrads who will all be co-authors on the journal paper found that the warmer it gets, the more quickly RSV breaks down. But, they also found that certain strains are more resilient to temperature than others. And the strain that is being used in many vaccine candidates currently is not the best candidate.

The popular strain, A2, used in many vaccine candidates, has a half-life of 17 hours. So after 17 hours, half the virus will be ineffective. The Butler students found that a different strain, A2-line19F, is much more resilient to temperature, and has a half-life of 135 hours.

“We’re talking about something that’s much more effective. And what it suggests is there may be promise for finding an even better platform to use.” Stobart says.


 

Student working in the labRusty Jones cannot decide where to begin. There are so many different options.

Jones is the Faculty Director of the Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement (CHASE) at Butler. His office oversees many of the different options for undergrads to get involved in research at Butler. And Jones cannot decide where to begin.

There’s the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC). It’s one of the largest and longest running undergraduate research conferences in the country, and Butler has played host for 31 years. Faculty serve as moderators, but it’s undergrad-focused, as well as interdisciplinary. Students from across the country flock to Indianapolis to present, Jones says.

Then there’s the Butler Summer Institute.

Students get a $4,500 stipend to work on a research project for nine weeks during the summer. The projects are guided by a faculty member, but the ideas are student-driven. It’s a competitive process, as a committee of faculty members select up to 30 participants from all the student applicants.

New this year, Jones explains, is the CHASE Scholars program. It is, essentially, the Butler Summer Institute, but the research occurs during the academic year. The program funds four participants across campus.

It’s nearly impossible to say how many students participate in research at Butler, Jones says, because not all do it through one of these programs. There are plenty of students who get involved in a more informal manner with one of their professors. But, he says, it’s safe to say the majority of students across all disciplines participate at some point during their college experience.

“The biggest thing about our programs is everyone has a faculty member working closely with them, as students dive into topics they are passionate about,” Jones says. “The strength of Butler comes from the opportunities students get to forge one-on-one working relationships with faculty, and that faculty are willing to take this on because they know how valuable it is to the educational experience.”


 

Coming into Butler as a first-year student, Darby DeFord ’19 had no idea what research even was. Now, as a senior, she is the first co-author on the RSV paper.

The senior Biology and Chemistry major has worked in the Stobart Lab since she was a sophomore. Since then, she has presented on the team’s findings at several conferences, including the Butler URC, and in Maryland at the American Society for Virology Annual Meeting.

Next year, she will work in a lab at Washington University in St. Louis studying RSV. Looking at stability. And after that? She plans to pursue her MD/PhD.

“Dr. Stobart connected me with the person I will be working for at Wash U. I was starting to look for jobs and I texted him for some help, and by the next day he’d sent my name to a bunch of his contacts. Within a few days, I was connected with Wash U,” DeFord says. “That’s Dr. Stobart. He’s so much more than just a professor. He’s a mentor, he’s someone who’s willing to help us with anything we need.”

Juniors Sean Callahan and Ben Nick have the MCAT in five weeks. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, as they run an experiment under the watchful eye of ‘Doc,’ they ask him for help with the reading comprehension section. Callahan is not too keen on that section.

The lab consists of a mix of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and first-year students. Some want to go to med school, some want to be dentists, some optometrists, some PhD tracks. But there is one common thread: most had no plans of getting involved in research before coming to Butler.

“I always thought I wanted to be a doctor,” explains Jenna Nosek, a junior Biology and Classical Studies major with a Chemistry minor. “Everyone comes to college with the same jobs in mind. But then, research opened my eyes to all the different opportunities available to me, and all the different things you can learn about. I realized you can study the most random things and that can be your life’s work. It can be your job to study something that you are really interested in, that is really impactful, and you can enjoy it more than a job. Research has been eye-opening.”

Nosek first met Stobart when she had him as a professor in her first semester genetics course. He told her to interview for his lab. So she went home for fall break, thought about it, and talked it over with some cousins.

They told her she would never get into a research lab. She was just an undergrad. Those spots were reserved for grad students, they told her.

Nosek interviewed anyway.

She was shocked when she got in, she says. Now she is an author on two papers, is regularly in the lab at 3:00 AM, has presented the findings at conferences in Maryland and Minnesota, and worked in a research lab last summer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. She was just accepted to a biomedical summer research program at Harvard University.

Oh, and she no longer wants to be a doctor.

“I realized you can be a professor and do research,” Nosek says. “There are so many different things you can study that aren’t explained to you until you get to school, get into the lab, and see these things firsthand, and that’s exactly what happened to me. Now I realize I can do what I enjoy every single day as a profession.”

Which sounds eerily similar to what got everyone in this basement in the first place. You know, the place with the ice, and, yes, those Backstreet Boys.

You see, ‘Doc’ was all set to be a, well, doctor. He was on the pre-med path, but then decided he wanted to teach and research. That is why he left his RSV vaccine candidate, and instead decided to answer those unanswered, overlooked questions he realized were being ignored. So now he is surrounded by undergrads who call him ‘Doc,’ and ask him mid-experiment what is more filling, McDonalds or Taco Bell.

“When I left Emory, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that involved both teaching and research,” Stobart says. “I always intended to be pre-med, but then I decided teaching was important to me. Butler fits the mold of a school I wanted because it has a research system that is amenable to undergrad research. I can’t do the stuff that is high-end, detailed research, because undergrads come in and don’t have the skills yet. They are new. They don’t have the science background yet. But I knew I wanted a system that would involve simple experimental assays, but still would have the impact and make meaningful contributions to the scientific community while teaching important lessons. I think we are doing that here.”

Research Lab Participants
AcademicsResearch

Exploring the Unanswered

In the depths of Gallahue Hall, 14 Butler University undergrads work to make the vaccines for a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide actually effective.

by Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

Read more
Jordan Thomas ’14

Mastering Risk Management and Insurance

Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2019

“I’m nearing the five-year mark in my industry, and the opportunities I’ve been given at such a young age have been extraordinary.”

That’s how Jordan Thomas ’14 sums up the value of his Butler Risk Management and Insurance (RMI) undergraduate degree— and why he joined the first-ever cohort in the University’s new Master of Science in Risk and Insurance (MSRI) degree program.

“This industry will see a big need for talent very soon,” Thomas says. “People like me could be in management in just a few years if we have the training. Butler’s master’s program is the answer to that need.”

 

A ‘First-Class’ First Cohort

This two-year learning opportunity prepares individuals for advanced roles in corporate risk management and for new roles within the growing insurance field. Other than two In Residence Experiences, all classes are online with no set schedule, accessible at each student’s convenience. The degree is administered by the Lacy School of Business through its Davey Risk Management and Insurance Program (RMI).

Thomas serves on the Davey board, working closely with faculty to bring professionals into the classroom. He’s been impressed not just with the accredited curriculum, but with how eager faculty were to teach it.

One of those faculty is Davey Chair Dr. Victor Puleo, one of the people most instrumental in creating the MSRI program. He says the breadth of talent within this first cohort is “exhilarating and a little intimidating,” with over 200 years of combined experience in the group.

“We have a Fortune 500 company’s risk manager, a vice president of a multinational insurance company, and leaders from some of the largest insurance carriers in the country,” Puleo says. “With all that knowledge, we’ll be able to have collaborative learning at very high levels. This is a first-class group.”

 

Deep Curriculum Fills Knowledge Gaps

Butler’s Student-Run Captive Insurance Company will further deepen students’ learning by exploring alternative risk financing and a side of the industry few graduates elsewhere study: dealing with a foreign country’s regulatory requirements.

Moreover, the curriculum includes courses from the Butler MBA program, strengthened with content specific to this industry.

“Butler is filling the vacuum between nitty-gritty insurance classes and what we need to be the next generation of managers,” Thomas says. “For example, beyond being able to do a firm’s accounting, I’ll learn how to increase profitability using its vast warehouses of data. That kind of knowledge will boost my ability to be recognized for higher positions within the company.”

Because the program has “phenomenal flexibility,” Thomas says, he will take classes while keeping his full-time job as Associate Manager with Everest Insurance in Chicago.

“I am absolutely excited about Butler’s MSRI program. The industry is growing every day, and Butler is doing something truly special,” he says. “The program has the industry buzzing with excitement, too, and we’re making headlines across the nation. Personally, I’m proud to be an alumnus and proud to be part of the first cohort. This degree will do nothing but help my career move forward.”

 

For more information on the MSRI program, visit butler.edu/msri.

Jordan Thomas ’14
Academics

Mastering Risk Management and Insurance

Alumnus sees new master’s degree as path to promotability.

by Cindy Dashnaw

from Spring 2019

Read more
Students with Professor Panos Linos

Developing for the Community

Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

The Christian Healthcare Providers Organization needed an app to compile medical records from its mission trips to the Dominican Republic. Sycamore Services wanted a video game to help children with autism become more social. WFYI asked for a cataloging system that allowed the station to track videos it shot.

They all turned to EPICS, the Butler University Computer Science and Software Engineering class in which students work with local non-profit organizations to solve their computer software and information technology needs.

“I’m a strong believer that the value of software engineering education comes from relating it to real life,” says Computer Science and Software Engineering Professor Panos Linos, who was recruited to Butler in 2000 to help create the first software-engineering undergraduate degree program in Indiana. “If you want to get a degree in software engineering, you have to be exposed to real-life scenarios. EPICS is a great platform to give our students the opportunity to take all the skills they learned in our software engineering courses and use them in a real project with a real customer that is actively interested and has a concrete issue to deal with.”

In a typical EPICS class—the acronym stands for Engineering Projects in Community Service—upwards of 20 students gain experience and expertise not only in developing software but in working as a team, dealing directly with clients, and doing projects that make a difference. The students, who come to the class from all majors, typically work in groups of three to five, with Linos serving as coach/advisor. (More information is at epics.butler.edu.)

At the end of each semester, the students present their work to their peers and clients, explaining what they were asked to do and what they had been able to achieve. Some projects go on for years as different groups of EPICS students create and refine the work.

The Christian Health Providers Organization (CHPO) app has been an EPICS project for more than three years. The group, which works out of Butler’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, goes on an annual mission trip each May to offer medical services in the Dominican Republic. It needed a better way to compile and keep medical records as patients go through the clinic from check-in to examination to the pharmacy, and through community outreach.

“It’s very easy for anything that’s paper to get lost or confused,” says Butler senior Emily Lawson, president of CHPO. “There’s so many things that can go wrong with paper. And we don’t have the advantage of storing patient data over the course of years.”

The Electronic Medical Records (EMR) app the EPICS students built enables the mission students and doctors to avoid having to keep track of paper. With a few taps on an iPad, they can track the patients’ history as well as their medications and doses.

“The fill-in-the-blanks makes it so much easier,” Lawson says. “And it’s all standardized.”

A three-member EPICS team worked to refine the app during the fall 2018 semester. Ryan Perkins ’20, Ugo Udeogu ’18, and Cisco Scaramuzza ’18 said they spent the first six to eight weeks of the course learning the technology they needed.

“It’s a fairly hefty piece of software,” Perkins says, “and yet we’re coming into it with rudimentary knowledge of app development. That was one of the struggles we ran into, but it was a good challenge to help us in the industry.”

“Having a project that’s been worked on for three and a half years, it’s like having experience in the real world,” Udeogu says. “In the real world, a lot of things are already written. So, on the job you have to learn the application, learn the language, and then implement the new functionalities.”

EPICS alumni say the course has been invaluable. Chris Hoffman ’04, who was in one of the earliest EPICS classes and is now an engineer with Raytheon, says what he learned in EPICS helped in his career. Hoffman worked on a project that helped Butler’s annual Undergraduate Research Conference create a database to help register participants and track the submission of information connected with their projects.

He says EPICS replicates a working environment more accurately than any classroom project.

“We learned pretty quickly that dealing with a customer is not necessarily straightforward,” he says. “Even though our customer was a group of college professors, they were treating it like a project that they were invested in and not like a classroom project. Dealing with the customer was very realistic. “

Sean Gibbens ’15, now a software engineer for Emplify, a startup in Fishers, Indiana, was part of a team that worked on an accessibility app to help students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired navigate the campus. During his senior year, he led an EPICS team that worked to revamp the website of The Social of Greenwood, a provider of programs and activities for those in the community who are over 50.

“When I got into the professional working world, I was really thankful for being exposed to that early on in EPICS,” Gibbens says.

Now he helps EPICS by being among a group of 15–20 alumni who serve as consultants to the program.

Panos Linos talks with studentsGibbens says Linos recognized that many of the EPICS projects were something a professional software developer would take on—and that could be daunting for students. So having consultants— people actually in the field—was a good idea.

“It’s a good opportunity for me to teach what I’m actually using every day at work, and it’s definitely good for the students to get a taste of a professional project while being guided by someone who is working full-time on similar technologies,” he says.

In creating EPICS, Linos was ahead of the curve not only in giving students professional experience but in community service. EPICS predates the Indianapolis Community Requirement, which mandates that all Butler students take one course in any part of the University that involves active engagement with the Indianapolis community.

“We did what we felt was a win-win scenario for everybody,” says Linos, whose innovative program was rewarded with a $35,000 endowment gift from the Sallie Mae Fund in 2003 for its potential to attract female and other minority students to Butler.

Chris Bowman, the Internet Projects Manager for WFYI public radio and television in Indianapolis, would agree with that. In 2009, Richard Miles ’91, then WFYI’s Vice President of Audio Services and TV Programming, told him about EPICS and wondered if they could work with the students to develop a cataloging system to track what videos were being shot on tapes, on what days, and where they could be found at the station.

That was a four-plus semester project for EPICS.

In 2013, Bowman again worked with an EPICS team, this time to improve the search algorithm for WFYI.org, their main website.

“It’s been an excellent learning experience to be able to interact with people developing managerial skills and communication skills, and it’s been rewarding to offer mentorship opportunities at times,” Bowman says. “And being a non-profit, WFYI appreciates that schools offer these kinds of programs. A lot of times, we don’t have the monetary resources that a commercial entity would either to hire staff or pay outside vendors. So having this kind of resource is just invaluable.”

Students with Professor Panos Linos
Academics

Developing for the Community

  

by Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

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