Academics | Butler Stories
Back

Latest In

Academics

Gateway to Success

 

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has a problem. With each passing year memberships— family, two-person household, and single—are declining. For an organization that relies on these fees to operate, reversing this nearly decade-long slide is critical.

So, when Gregg Hiland, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of the YMCA, set out to address the issue, he was excited to have 27 helpers. Enter, the newest batch of Butler University MBA students.

This is MBA 505, the Gateway Experience—the first on-campus course in the program after they finish their online prerequisites—and it is a trial by fire. Meet new people, learn to work together, examine a problem, come up with recommendations, and deliver those recommendations directly to the leaders of the organization.

All in one day.

Over 800 students have gone through the class since 2006, helping more than 20 different businesses tackle a specific problem. The future MBAs are put through the wringer for a specific reason.

"Having only 24 hours helps students realize that time can't be the excuse for coming up with great solutions," says Marie Mackintosh '06, who is both the Chief Operating Officer of EmployIndy, which delivers workforce services and training to Marion County residents, and the professor who has taught the course for the past four years. "It simulates the pressures of the real world where you have to juggle many different priorities, and the trial by fire forces teams to gel quickly and leverage each other’s strengths. Or learn from their failures.”

They get a little preparation beforehand, in the form of a two-page background briefing on their issue and a session with Butler Business Librarian Teresa Williams to learn about conducting background research. Each team is assigned a facilitator who provides advice and feedback on what they did well and what they need to work on.

Then the rush begins.

The Butler University MBA promises that students get ample opportunities to apply classroom concepts to real-world situations—and that explains why 27 new participants in the program are spending their first day of class fanned out across Indianapolis.

For the next 24, breathless hours, they've been grouped in teams of five or six students—strangers to each other previously—and asked to help the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis reverse a nearly decade-long slide in family memberships.

*

The class starts at 5:30 PM on Thursday with a big dinner and introduction to the organization. Hiland, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, lays out the problem: Since 2014, the number of two-adult member households has dropped from 12,746 to 10,281. The number of one-adult households is down from 3,784 to 3,353.

This is a trend nationwide, not just in Indianapolis, he says.

"We want recommendations from you that will be actionable, something that will help us," Hiland tells the group.

For the next 45 minutes or so, the MBA students pepper him with questions: Are outside vendors allowed in? How are you marketing? Do you survey the people who quit? And so on.

"I'm enjoying the idea of getting to make a presentation to people who can really make a difference," says Taylor Cagle, a Financial Analyst with Roche Diagnostics. "It feels like you're putting in work and getting value out of that work. This isn't an academic exercise."

*

The teams are given more time that night and some the next morning to confer before they get into vans and head to one of five YMCAs in the city (there are 12 YMCAs in greater Indianapolis.)

They arrive at their locations around 10:00 AM, and then it's up to them how to use the next two hours. For Team Holcomb (each group is named for a Butler building), the six students spend that time touring the Arthur Jordan YMCA on the north side of Indianapolis. They interview staff and talk to members about their experience at the Y.

Team member Alyssa Rudner, a Client Success Manager for a software company, talks to a member-services representative and finds that one of their biggest challenges is that there isn’t a method in place to schedule exercise classes in advance.

"If I'm paying $80 a month, I want to know that if I show up to the Y, I'm going to be able to take the class that I want to take," says Rudner.

There's one recommendation for her team to share: explore a scheduling system that goes beyond physical passes.

Cagle, another member of Team Holcomb, finds it surprising that the Jordan Y sometimes turns away parents looking for preschool programs due to lack of space. He looks around the facility and sees plenty of places to add new preschool programs.

That becomes another recommendation for the team: expand preschool offerings.

"If you can do that here," he said. "You're really separating yourself from the Lifetime Fitnesses, the LA Fitnesses. I think it would be really beneficial."

Andy Starling agrees. He's the Senior Membership Director at the Y, and he thinks the perspective of these business-minded outsiders is going to help.

"I've worked at the Y for more than six years, and you get tunnel vision a little bit," he says. "We always try to be innovative, but they brought up some things I hadn't thought about.

*

The teams return to Butler around 1:00 PM. They adjourn to their respective "war rooms" and, over boxed lunches, get to work. They have about three hours to hash out their ideas and prepare both a sheet of brainstormed recommendations and a PowerPoint they'll use as part of a rigidly-timed 10-minute presentation.

They also need to prepare what they're going to say and how they're going to say it, and the deadline comes quickly.

"We were five individuals who didn't know each other 24 hours before presenting," Chancellor Collins, a Product Manager in Marketing at Roche Diagnostics and member of Team Lilly, says. "It's funny, because you quickly figure out roles and responsibilities, and strengths, and different ways to play off each other, and I think we did a great job of that in that 24-hour period."

At 4:30 PM, the teams assemble in Gallahue Hall 108, a lecture hall, where seven representatives of the Y—including retiring CEO Eric Ellsworth—are ready to listen. There's a notable buzz among the students.

"I love the energy in this room," says Mackintosh.

For the next 90 minutes, the teams take their turn presenting their findings and watching their counterparts.

If the students are nervous, they don't show it. The presentations go off remarkably well across the board. The Y comes away with a long list of useful ideas.

"I want to hire all of these people," says Ellsworth.

Hiland praises the group for their fantastic work and innovative ideas. He was impressed with how deeply the students dove into the issue in only 24 hours. In the future, he wants to put the students’ concepts into practice at local Ys.

“We're committed to implementing and trying some of these ideas—either in pilots at certain centers or potentially across the organization,” he says.

*

In the end, Team Lilly—Chancellor Collins, Danny Lawton, Davina Isaacs, James Pokryfky, and Swetha Vaddi—won Butler goodie bags and, more importantly, bragging rights. They made suggestions that included installing a kiosk, at a cost of $1,000, to allow members to give instant feedback, offering incentives for positive reviews on Google, and instituting a holistic approach to wellness.

"The judges appreciated Team Lilly’s focus on retention and their financial implications," Mackintosh says. "They thought they did the best job of telling the story of their problem-solving process and had good ideas of how to increase retention of family memberships in particular."

Collins says the team owed credit to its facilitator, Marcelle Gress, an Executive Coach at Butler. She advised them to make time to practice their presentation a couple of times. They listened, and rehearsed twice.

"If she had not held our feet to the fire to carve out 30 minutes before we had to turn in our presentation, I don't think it would have gone so smoothly," says Collins.

In the end, Team Lilly celebrated with high-fives, fist bumps, and some wine.

"This really was a good experience and exposure to what we'll be going through in the Butler MBA program in terms of looking at complex cases and having to think through ways to solve problems," Collins said. "I think that's what the Butler MBA is going to prepare us for the most—how to think differently about ways to solve real-world problems."

 

AcademicsCampusCommunity

Gateway to Success

This is MBA 505, the Gateway Experience—the first on-campus course in the program—and it is a trial by fire.

Confidence to Succeed: Leadership Coaches and the Butler MBA Program

By Jeff Stanich ’16

Just a few months in to the Butler MBA program, Natalie Johnson found herself in a pivotal professional moment. Newly assigned as a Product Data Manager at Delta Faucet, Johnson was asked to lead a team of colleagues for the first time in her career. Rather than panic or shy away from what could have been a daunting challenge, she found herself already prepared for the role, and she credits her leadership coach for giving her the skills and confidence to succeed.  

A critical element of Butler’s MBA program, leadership coaches like Brown are assigned to each student early on in their experience to help them navigate through the program and to provide invaluable guidance as they develop as managers and leaders. As experts in their own fields, coaches bring a rich combination of experience and wisdom in order to provide counsel for students who may find themselves in positions similar to what Johnson encountered.

“I had no manual on leading, no how-to-manage training, or prior experience to guide me in my new position,” Johnson says. “With a lack of experience, I also lacked confidence in my abilities as a leader. My coaching experience has alleviated the fears and given me the confidence to lead.”

According to Marietta Stalcup, Director of Graduate Programs for Butler’s Lacy School of Business, that’s exactly the kind of success story that Butler students enjoy time and time again.

“We aim to meet our students wherever they are in their career,” Stalcup says. “The key to our students’ leadership development lies in the distinction between a mentor and a leadership coach. A mentor typically has answers to all of your questions. A leadership coach has questions for all your answers.”

Butler MBA leadership coaches prep students for the inevitable moments in one’s career where there will not be anyone to turn to but themselves.

“I was never told what to do, but instead was asked questions. And I was encouraged to ask questions. More than anything, I realized that was how I (also) needed to lead,” Johnson says. “Not by commanding, but by influencing my team so that they feel confident in their own ability to head in the right direction.”

___

 

It all begins in the 510-course, which MBA students take early on in the program. A cohort of coaches, all experts in their fields and most certified through the six-month International Coaching Federation training program, enter the classroom and walk the students through what to expect. From there, each coach will take five or six students under their wing and begin to meet on a monthly or quarterly basis, with the frequency and depth of these meetings up to the student’s discretion. Once the 510-course concludes, some students choose to part ways or even switch coaches, but most continue the relationship with regular conversations over the phone or while getting coffee.

According to leadership coach Randy Brown, what separates Butler from other MBA programs that offer coaches is the confidentiality that is maintained between the students and the coach.

“We are asking these students to be quite introspective and often times vulnerable because that is the only way that we will be able to identify the true areas where a student needs the most attention,” Brown says. “By keeping the conversations between student and coach confidential, students won’t have to worry about any sort of blowback from their teachers or fellow students.”

Put simply, coaches are there to provide guidance, not grades.

Brown, like most of Butler’s leadership coaches, wanted to become a coach because he recognized the value of individual attention during his corporate career. “I knew the impact others had on my career when they helped me find the confidence in my own abilities,” says Brown.  “A little nudge in the right direction can truly make a huge difference.”

And as Director Stalcup has seen in her time at the University thus far, the students who realize the most growth and success from Butler’s MBA program are the ones who utilize their coaches the most.

“Students who really engage their coaches leave Butler more transformed than ones that don’t. That’s what we aim to do at Butler: transform our students into the best, most effective versions of themselves,” Stalcup says.

That’s exactly why career-minded individuals seek a graduate program like Butler’s in the first place. Not to be told what to do, but to learn how to follow one’s own instincts above all else.

 

Academics

Confidence to Succeed: Leadership Coaches and the Butler MBA Program

A critical element of the Butler MBA program, coaches counsel students and instill confidence.

Academics

The MBA Class that Saved a Town

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 19 2019

The story of how a Butler University Lacy School of Business instructor and his MBA students helped revive the small town of Atlanta, Indiana, begins in 2016, inside an 8,000-square-foot flour mill-turned-grocery store that had been vacant for 10 years.

Wall of model trainsThe instructor, Steve Nelson, needed a place to display his collection of 6,000 model trains. He bought the empty building on Atlanta’s Main Street, even though the floor had caved in and the furnace didn’t work, because he liked the location, and the price was right.

He fixed up the building and spread the word that his trains, which had been on display for several years in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, had moved about 35 miles north of Indianapolis. Soon, model railroad enthusiasts and families with kids started coming to Atlanta on Saturdays to see Mr. Muffin’s Trains, as the layout is called.

But once visitors had seen Nelson’s collection and watched his train wind its way around miniature cities, their visit to Atlanta was essentially over. Downtown was almost entirely vacant otherwise, with no place to eat or shop. Not only that, but Atlanta had gained nothing—admission to see the trains is free.

“We started talking,” Nelson says, “and we wondered: Is there a way to bring Atlanta back, to turn Atlanta into some kind of destination?”

***

Nelson and his wife, Liz, didn’t have an answer. But as a professor in Butler’s MBA program, he knew how to find one. He posed the question as a semester-long project for his Integrated Capstone Experience class—an assignment that would give his students valuable experience as they worked to figure out a real-world problem.

Jenn Truitt MBA '16 was one of the students who took on the challenge.

"I like the concept of taking a small town and trying to build a community around a business that would attract both families with children and train enthusiasts," she says. "That was my draw to the project."

On April 25, 2016, a group of students took a day trip to Atlanta to scout the location.

They found a small town in great decline—there was no one on the streets and nearly every storefront was empty—but they also recognized opportunity. Through subsequent research, the students found examples of at least four other small towns that reversed their declines by making themselves tourist destinations. One—Hamilton, Missouri—had turned itself into “the Disneyland of quilting.”

The students suggested using a train theme as a centerpiece for the town’s turnaround.

***

The Nelsons put the report into action. They bought a second building, where Liz opened the Choo Choo Café, and a third, where Steve’s son Jeff operates a workshop that buys, sells, and repairs trains.

Steve bought a light manufacturing business called Korber Models and moved it to Atlanta, upstairs from the train layout. Korber makes easy-to-build structures like power plants and grain silos that augment model railroad displays.

Atlanta Post OfficeBetween the train sales, Korber, and the seed company Beck’s Hybrids, which is also in Atlanta, they generated enough business to keep the post office open.

Meanwhile, others joined in Atlanta’s rebuilding. The Roads Hotel began offering ghost-hunting expeditions. The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad took riders on train trips from Atlanta south. More than 10,000 people made the trip during fall 2018, and rides resume on Valentine’s Day 2019. The Monon Historical Society moved its historic Monon caboose to Atlanta.

In addition, the town received grants to build a public restroom, and another to renovate its park, including spaces for people to sit while waiting for the train, and build a fire pit.

The report the MBA students put together noted that turnarounds for small towns can take years, and that's true—downtown Atlanta is still mostly open only on weekends for visitors.

Still, the Nelsons’ businesses and the railroad have generated at least 30 full-time and part-time jobs.

“A lot of small towns think they need to bring businesses where the town is the customer, but that doesn't work,” Nelson says. “The town isn't big enough. In today's world, you can bring in ecommerce business to a small town. The real estate is very cost-effective. All three of these buildings we own cost us less than my rent in Carmel. Then there are people who will work for you there, and they're affordable, and you can organize synergy around it.”

***

The Nelsons plan to continue what the MBA students suggested. Steve has plans to add a speakeasy and an indoor train that kids can ride. He’s hoping Atlanta can attract another restaurant, too.

They’re not doing this to make a living. Steve, a former tech executive, has been teaching at Butler since the 1990s; Liz sells real estate.

Steve Nelson in Mr. Muffin's Trains“When we started doing this, success for us was knowing that we've entertained a family and when they go home, they're talking about what fun they had at Mr. Muffin’s,” he says. “I feel really, really good about it. It's meant a lot to people in Atlanta. The local people are very excited about it.”

Robyn Cook, the town’s former clerk-treasurer and a 26-year resident of Atlanta, confirms that. She says the Nelsons have been “a godsend” for the town.

“They were a perfect fit for what our community needed,” she says. “What's going on, whatever is needed, we call Liz and Steve and they just jump in, roll up their sleeves, and help in any way they can.”

Jenn Truitt, who was part of the MBA team that spurred the Nelsons’ plans, says she feels good about having a helping hand in Atlanta’s revitalization. She’s brought her 4-year-old daughter to Atlanta to see Mr. Muffin’s Trains, and she plans to go back again to see what else is happening in Atlanta.

“I felt like we did a really good job (on the MBA project), but I didn’t know how much it benefited them,” she says. “It’s awesome to see that it created this vision for him. He’s built upon it since then, but I feel like it helped validate their thinking. And it was a great experience for us, as students. I'm excited that our team had a small influence in the success that's coming, and will continue to come, to Atlanta.”

Academics

The MBA Class that Saved a Town

The students found at least four other small towns that reversed their declines by becoming tourist destinations.

Feb 19 2019 Read more

Discovering Myself while Discovering the World

by Jackson Borman ’20

I was weaving through cars on Calle de la Princesa in a taxi driven by a middle aged man to whom I was terrified to try to speak Spanish, especially over the noise of traffic and the shuffle of latin pop and AC/DC on the radio. Thirty minutes earlier, armed with only my suitcase and my limited knowledge of the Spanish language, I had arrived in Madrid - the city that I would call home for the next four months.

Jackson Borman abroadOnce inside the taxi, I was greeted by the driver with, what I would later learn to be the blunt, but typical Spanish command, “Dime chico.” (“Tell me, kid.”) I scrambled for the piece of paper in my pocket that had my host family’s address and gave it to him. For the next 20 minutes we sat in what would have been silence if it were not for the radio, him driving and me looking out the window so as to avoid eye contact. The lyrics of “Back in Black” pouring through the speakers were unexpected, but somehow comforting. We pulled up to my apartment and he helped me unload my bags onto the street. I handed him the 30 euros for the flat rate airport taxi fare, and he was on his way. I had successfully arrived without ever muttering a word of Spanish.

My journey to Spain actually started after attending a Butler Center for Global Education introductory meeting. I signed up to study abroad with an open mind. I knew that I wanted to go to Madrid. I saw it not only as one of the world’s leading cities, but also as a gateway to exploring the rest of Europe. I was excited to travel, to experience different cultures, languages and ways of living, and I hoped that I would come out of the semester as a more worldly version of myself.

While abroad I had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, the most diverse and unique cultures I have ever witnessed, as well as world renowned art, architecture, festivals, and legendary landforms. But, perhaps the aspect of studying abroad that I am most thankful for is the personal growth I experienced during my time in Europe.

Madrid

When I first arrived in Madrid I had no idea how to get from one place to another. Having always lived in suburban areas, I was reliant on cars to move around. Living in the city was a big change for me, and learning how to navigate the metro and exploring the city was an interesting and worthwhile challenge.

My campus in Madrid was made up of students from across the globe. In the classroom we learned about art, communication theory, history, and language in classes taught by professors from Madrid, London, Boston, and Valencia. Students from the United States, Mexico, Egypt, Montenegro, and a variety of other countries helped me learn concepts for myself, but with a global point of view that I would not have achieved here in the United States.

I lived with a host mom who only spoke Spanish. My roommate was from San Diego and only spoke English. At times it was challenging to communicate with my host mom, and it was even more difficult to translate between her and my roomate. Despite these difficulties, I survived, and because of these difficulties, my communication and Spanish skills increased tenfold.

Travel

While abroad I was able to check many cities off of my bucket list. I took weekend trips to Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, and multiple cities in different parts of Spain. Planning these travels forced me to be organized, to plan ahead, to take care of my schoolwork during the week, and to think logistically about timing and cost.

In countries outside of Spain it was often more challenging to communicate. I went to multiple places where I did not have any background knowledge of the national language. At some point my problem-solving skills kicked in, and luckily, I still was able to navigate and enjoy my experience.

On a trip to Portugal, some new friends from Madrid and I stepped into a taxi expecting to be able to speak to the driver in either English or Spanish, or some combination, but he spoke only Portuguese. Thanks to some quick thinking and the power of google maps, we were able to show him exactly where we wanted to be dropped off.

In an elevator in Paris, I accidentally bumped into the emergency call button with my backpack and tried to assure the dispatcher over the intercom that everything was alright by saying “accident” which is the same in French as it is in English. However, they stayed on the line, as I realized that accident can also be translated as “problem,” or “trouble.” After some back and forth in heavily accented English, we were on the same page and continued on our way.

Jackson in ParisIt was moments like these when I learned to think on my feet and roll with whatever unexpected events took place. Canceled flights and trains needed to be rescheduled so that I could be back in Madrid on time for class; sudden weather changes meant some trips needed to be rescheduled or altered.

When you hear stories of students studying abroad, you may think they sound fun, often times they are filled with blow-off classes, endless happiness, and a seemingly perfect life. In my experience, these were just stereotypes and exaggerations.

There were hard times, times when it was difficult to communicate, times when classes were challenging, times when I missed home. However, through those experiences, I was able to grow as an individual, become more confident in myself, and learn more in a semester than I ever have before. On that first day in Madrid, I was anxious, uncertain, and questioning my decision, but by the end of my study and travels, I had transformed. That anxious chico sitting quietly in the taxi was nowhere to be found.

AcademicsStudent Life

Discovering Myself while Discovering the World

Jackson Borman's semester in Spain taught him to be more self-suficient.

Study Abroad: International Lessons of a Lifetime

by Jackson Borman ’20

Upon graduation from Butler University, students are given a survey with questions like, “What was the best thing you did at Butler?” and “What do you regret not doing at Butler?” One of the most popular answers to both questions is the same—study abroad.

Around 40 percent of Butler students study abroad during their four years, but why is study abroad such a popular experience?

Calie Florek is the study abroad advisor in the Center for Global Education, and is used to explaining that question. Aside from learning languages and seeing new places, she sees study abroad as an invaluable opportunity for students’ personal growth and seeing new perspectives.

“Students are talking to people from other locations, or from their host country, and having conversations about hot topic issues, where maybe they hadn’t previously seen things from the perspective that one of their international friends does,” Florek says. “Being able to communicate with others, even internationally, is something that the world needs today.”

Alice Moore in PragueAdditionally, she says that many students return to Butler as more mature, worldly versions of themselves just by learning from their everyday experiences while abroad.

“If they are going on a weekend trip, and their flight gets delayed, they are learning flexibility and resilience just by going through that,” Florek says. “In something that they don’t think is teaching them skills, they are constantly learning things.”

While the majority of students choose study abroad locations in Europe or Australia, there are options for programs all over the world. Currently, Butler students are enrolled in programs in Iceland and Greenland studying climate change, on the island of Samoa studying Pacific Islander communities, and in Tanzania participating in service learning.

Senior Ari Gerstein is a Finance and Management Information Systems double major who studied abroad in Hong Kong last semester on an exchange program.

Gerstein says he picked Hong Kong because he wanted to experience a place where he may not be able to travel to after graduation. Gerstein says that his decision paid off, and that traveling around Asia to places like China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand was an amazing experience.

“I think I gained cultural awareness and a better understanding of Asian culture. It is so foreign to us, especially with the expansion of China today and how big a role they play in the world economy, it was interesting to be there and experience it first hand,” Gerstein says. “It was also amazing traveling and appreciating the beauty of the world; there are so many amazing places and it has really enhanced my admiration for traveling”

Gerstein was uncertain if he would be able to study abroad during the semester because he needed to take major-specific courses, and because he is on the tennis team and was unsure if he could remain on the team if he went abroad.

His exchange program allowed him to take finance and MIS classes, and he was even able to practice tennis with local players in Hong Kong and play in tournaments like the Hong Kong National Tournament.

“I would say you should 100 percent study abroad,” Gerstein says. “You have eight semesters in college, so to give up one of them to go do something incredible, I think everyone should go.”

And Butler has been working to make sure that it is a possibility. The Center for Global Education, as well as individual colleges, have been planning and networking to make sure that students will have opportunities to study abroad, no matter their area of study.

Students in the GALA program in Siena, Italy.Bill Templeton is a Professor and the Associate Dean of the Lacy School of Business. He says that when he was in school, study abroad opportunities were more limited to students studying the arts or studying language. During his time at Butler, Templeton has been responsible for the international efforts of the Lacy School of Business and has made connections with accredited business schools around the world so that business students will have opportunities to study abroad, something that he highly encourages.

“I think it is really important for business students, because nearly all business these days is global in nature,” Templeton says. “Students nearly always find that such an experience changes their perspective dramatically, and that they come to appreciate different cultures and different ways of looking at the world.”

Where previously it may have been difficult for students to stay on track with their major if they studied abroad later in their college career, now students can take high-level business classes at partner schools across the globe.

Thanks to open international doors, the Lacy School of Business alone sends over 60 students every year on study abroad programs. Templeton says he is excited for students who partake in study abroad, not only for the worthwhile addition to their college experience, but also for how it can help them after graduation.

“In the Lacy School, we have a rate of study abroad that is astronomical compared to national averages,” Templeton says. “When the interviewer has studied or worked abroad then the value of that in the student’s resume just skyrockets because they know what they got out of the experience and they know how important it is to their perspective of business and the world.”

Other schools within Butler also have programs for students eager to study abroad and learn within their discipline.

Jane Gervasio, Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Nutrition in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences,  leads a trip for a group of students studying nutrition to Florence, Italy, where they learn and observe first-hand the Mediterranean diet and the history, culture, and health benefits that are associated with it. Taking the classroom on-site to teach students is something that Gervasio always enjoys.

“We know that active learning is part of the experience,” Gervasio says. “[We have the] opportunity to introduce them to this world and to really focus on an area, because the experience is based on us studying it in a classroom, but now they have the opportunity to interact with it hands on.”

Siena Amodeo is a senior Development Management major who studied abroad during the summer after her first year through the Fulbright United States-United Kingdom exchange program at the University of London.

Amodeo says one of the most interesting parts of the program was the diversity that she experienced while in London.

“I was in a classroom with students from all around the world,” Amodeo says. “It wasn’t just English people, there were people from all over Europe as well as China and Latin America.”

Coming into college, Amodeo says that she knew she was interested in studying abroad, but that her summer program in London confirmed that interest. Now she has been accepted into the London School of Economics and will be moving back to London after graduation.

“I had that experience and it had such a big impact on me,” Amodeo says. “This is the best experience I have ever had.”

Amodeo is not alone in that excitement. Ask one of the 400 students each year who study abroad, and you’ll probably hear the exact same answer.


Read Jackson's personal account of studying abroad.

Academics

Study Abroad: International Lessons of a Lifetime

Around 40 percent of Butler students study abroad during their four years.

Academics

College of Education Named AACTE Global Award Recipient

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 15 2019

Two Reggio Emelia-inspired Lab Schools in the Indianapolis Public Schools system, a Lab School created within Shortridge International Baccalaureate World School, partnerships with schools in Sweden and Australia, to name a few, and study abroad and faculty development opportunities outside the United States.

Those are just a few of the reasons that the Butler University College of Education was awarded the national 2019 Best Practice Award in Support of Global and International Perspectives. The award, presented by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), recognizes exemplary practice in the intercultural, global, cross-cultural, and international arenas.

“We believe that our students have to be globally informed,” says Kelli Esteves, College of Education Associate Professor and Global Coordinator. “Our students need to bring knowledge of diverse perspectives from around the world into their teaching. Intercultural knowledge and an expanded worldview enable them to meet the needs of their future students.”

The award will be presented to Esteves at the AACTE 71st annual conference February 22-24 in Louisville, Kentucky. It is sponsored by AACTE’s Committee on Global Diversity as part of its mission to assure that a global and international perspective is brought to policy and programs associated with the preparation of education professionals.

The College of Education was lauded for its programs in international student teaching, international partnerships, and teacher-preparation programs.

"We do a great job of preparing globally ready educators who go out into the world to educate students," Esteves said. "Our teachers understand the global dimensions of their discipline and are prepared to go into any classroom in any setting and succeed."

Academics

College of Education Named AACTE Global Award Recipient

The COE was lauded for international student teaching, international partnerships, and teacher-preparation.

Feb 15 2019 Read more

Find Your Passion

by Jackson Borman ’20

If you walk inside of Butler University’’s Learning Resource Center, you will likely run into Heather Lee, one of the academic advisors for students in the Exploratory Studies Program. Inside her office hangs a bulletin board covered in photographs of students: students she has helped pick an area of study through the program in the past year alone.

For some, deciding what to study in college can be one of the hardest decisions to make. Typically, Lee will meet with students to plan a schedule that includes classes that cover a wide range of the student’s interests before they even arrive on campus.

“What’s the number one question that people ask when you are coming into college? ‘What’s your major?’” Lee says. “Exploratory studies is a great place to fall if you have a couple of ideas or if you have 20 or 30.”

Lee teaches an exploratory studies class that is geared toward first-year students. The class isn’t like a typical seminar; students complete self assessments, shadow and observe classes, and do research on the types of careers that are available with each degree that they might be interested in.

Through the class, exploratory students can also job shadow and attend faculty panels where professors come and discuss every major and minor that Butler offers.

“This leaves them with a foundation where they get to learn about their strengths, what their interests are, and gives them an opportunity to see what [a certain major] is really like,” says Lee.

Lee feels that the program is extremely valuable to students because it can empower them and give them reassurance that they will find a major that they are interested in.

“Some students look around campus and feel that their peers have it all figured out,” Lee says. “You don’t have to have it all figured out. When [students] do come in as exploratory, I like for them to convey it to other people and say that they are an exploratory studies student; that it is a major, and that they are doing the research to make an informed decision on what their major is going to be.”

In recent years, exploratory studies has been one of the largest majors on Butler’s campus. Since the 2015-2016 school year, the program has grown by over 60 students. Currently, there are almost 200 students in the program.

Jen Mann is another academic advisor in the Learning Resource Center who also works as a student development specialist. She says that the exploratory studies major is essential because of the countless options that are available to Butler students.

“In high school, students are likely only exposed to around 10 areas of study,” Mann says. “Here at Butler, we have over 65 majors. There is no way that a first year student has any concept of what some of those areas are that they could potentially go into.”

Mann sees the exploratory studies program as a unique opportunity for Butler students.

“I think what this program has done is make [exploratory studies] a very real major,” Mann says. “It is a program that is intentional, planned,  and thoughtful, and is a space where you can come in and have some normalcy with the goal of students feeling confident in saying that they are an exploratory studies major.”

Corrin Godlevske is a junior marketing major who started her first year at Butler in the exploratory studies major. She said that coming into college, she was torn between studying business or going into the pre-PA program.

“I’m thankful that I fell into exploratory,” Godlevske says. “The amount of help that I’ve received, even after [declaring my major], with questions about prerequisites and classes and all of that, they are always so willing to help me out.”

During her first semester as an exploratory studies major, Godlevske felt a little nervous about choosing an area of study, but listening to professors talk about their majors during classes and taking a Real Business Experience class helped to guide her toward the marketing major. Now she is confident in her major and thankful for the program.

“I’m not behind and I don’t feel like I missed anything that any other first-year would have done,” Godlevske says. “If anything, it has added to my experience and now I have such a great support system in the [Learning Resource Center] because they are always there to reassure me.”

Godlevske thinks that the exploratory studies major is something that separates Butler from other schools because it can be comforting to a new student who is unsure about deciding a major.

“I don’t think that a lot of other universities offer the same experience,” Godlevske says. “You come in and get this reassurance that you are in the right place.”

Nina Bertino is a junior strategic communications major who started as an exploratory student. She said that originally she was thinking about studying psychology in college, but joined the exploratory studies program to hone in on her interests.

“I didn’t even know that [strategic communication] was an option,” Bertino says. “It has been such a great major for me and the exploratory class helped me narrow down what exactly I was interested in.”

Some may doubt that the exploratory studies major would work or that it is worth the time to go through. But for Bertino, it was well worth it.

“I had a lot of people tell me, ‘Oh, you are going to school and you don’t even know what your major is?’” Bertino says. “I am actually on track to graduate a semester early because I went into exploratory.”

Bertino said the biggest thing is to figure out what you are passionate about and to go from there.

“There are a lot of people who declare, but you shouldn’t let that scare you,” Bertino says. “A lot of people change their majors or go into a major that they don’t really like. Take the time and figure out what exactly you want to study.”

Academics

Find Your Passion

Discover your major through the Exploratory Studies Program.

Find Your Passion

by Jackson Borman ’20
Academics

Butler Professor Uses Past to Predict Sports Attendance

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 05 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Everybody knows when the Golden State Warriors are in town.

There’s a buzz around the arena earlier than usual, as fans make sure to arrive at least 90 minutes before tipoff to catch a glimpse of Stephen Curry’s famous pregame ritual, complete with two-ball dribbling drills and circus-like shots from the tunnel. All of a sudden, a random Wednesday night in name-that-NBA-city is not so mundane. And game No. 24 on the drawn-out NBA schedule is not so meaningless. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize when the winners of three of the last four NBA titles comes to town, attendance will be up.

But, what about all those other random games packed into an 82 game NBA season? When Curry isn’t there to get the crowd excited? When the weather is bad? Or when the average person cannot name a single player on the opposing team? Turns out there is a way to predict attendance on those nights, too.

King’s findings were certainly accurate. Published in the Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology, King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons, on average, within five percent. Enter Butler University Associate Professor of Operations Management Barry King. And enter his algorithm-based, machine learning approach to NBA attendance predictions.

“We were able to predict attendance by looking at home team popularity, Twitter followers, day of the week, home team winning percentage, home city’s total personal income, and other variables,” says King, who specializes in predictive analytics. “By taking those predictor variables, along with historical data, we were able to come up with an accurate forecast that can have many applications beyond just the NBA.”

King’s findings were certainly accurate. Published in the Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology, King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons, on average, within five percent.

To get an accurate prediction, King explains, he trained a type of algorithm (Random Forest) to predict an outcome using historical data. This, he says, is machine learning. Machine learning leverages historical data to inform future forecasts.

So, King trained the machine. He plugged in attendance data from the 2009-2013 NBA seasons into the algorithm, along with predictor variables like home team popularity, popularity of the opponent, day of the week the game occurred, home team winning percentage, home city’s total personal income, and capacity of home venue.

“We are among the first to use machine learning to predict attendance,” he says. “That is unique because it takes historical data into consideration. We believe that training the machine on historical data enabled us to get a much more accurate prediction of future attendance. Taking history into account, and teaching the machine that history, enables the machine to come up with future forecasts.”

King has applied this method of predictive analysis to the NHL and MLS. And the accuracy remained. While he now has the ability to accurately predict the attendance for these professional sport leagues, he believes the application goes beyond the wide world of sports.

“This has carry over to the business world and how companies can run their enterprises better,” he says. “As a manager of a basketball team, I would certainly like to know how many people are likely to show up for a random February game so that I can plan to have more staff on hand, if needed, or start to think about amping up the promotions, if attendance looks low. This could also help teams determine ticket price levels.”

Machine learning, King says, is an important area when it comes to forecasting. In the future, he says, he would like to build his prediction tool into an app that industry people can use to easily access this information, and then make decisions based off the results, on their own.

King says the information can also be applied to coming up with scheduling at a hospital, crews on airlines, and those are just some examples.

“Real world solutions often start with having a good idea of what the future might look like,” he says. “We now have a way to make accurate future predictions, based on historical data. I see this being useful in many industries.”

Academics

Butler Professor Uses Past to Predict Sports Attendance

King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons within five percent.

Feb 05 2019 Read more
AcademicsResearch

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 01 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS—People flock to Facebook to see the latest wedding news, vacation photos, new baby arrival, or home purchase. Most people, research indicates, head to their newsfeeds to passively watch and compare, much more often than post their own news or updates.

But, it turns out, some of us prefer to look at and compare ourselves to certain types of individuals: those who make us feel better about ourselves. And that, in turn, can lead to an increase in happiness and life satisfaction.

That’s according to new research from Lee Farquhar, Butler University Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism in the College of Communication. Humans continually observe those around them to see how they fit in, a process called social comparison theory. This innate concept holds true in the world of social media, according to Farquhar’s research. It not only holds true, but the more individuals engage in that type of behavior on Facebook—comparing themselves to others in various ways—the happier and more satisfied they were with their life.

“There is no secret that Facebook intensity has been associated with negative social consequences, such as anxiety, narcissism, and loneliness,” says Farquhar, whose own previous research has revealed those very things. “But this looked at something new. When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness. These findings nuance previous scholarship that largely indicated heavy Facebook use has a detrimental effect on one’s psychological well-being. It is not the amount of Facebook use that matters, but rather, how one feels they measure up in comparison with those around them.”

Farquhar’s research, published in the Journal of New Media & Culture, surveyed 406 college students and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Workers. The average age was 32, and 46 percent were male.

The participants went through a series of questions about their social media use, such as time spent on Facebook, how they would feel if the social media outlet was taken away from them, and how often they look at others on Facebook, for example. They also measured life satisfaction and happiness.

The average life satisfaction and happiness scores were about a five out of seven. And, the more frequently one engaged in Facebook activities, the happier one was, Farquhar says. This, he says, can most likely be explained by downward social comparisons.

When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness and life satisfaction. So, he says, it is likely that individuals were seeking out others who made them feel better about themselves.

“For example, if the user wanted to feel better about his or her career, they might compare to an individual who is unemployed, or had a less appealing job. That same type of comparison could be done for virtually every other aspect of one’s life, like intelligence, family life, the list goes on,” he says. “It is not simply the amount of social comparing one does that matters, but the type of comparison that predicts happiness and life satisfaction.”

This targeted, downward social comparison, was the predictor of happiness and overall life satisfaction, Farquhar says. Facebook is the ideal medium for this, he says, because it allows users to select particular people or elements to hone in on for comparison, while blocking out those elements, or people, that are unwanted.

What this study didn’t account for, Farquhar explains, is the long-term impact of this behavior.

“I wouldn’t encourage people to spend more time on Facebook looking for people to look down on,” he says. “Looking for peers to look down on to make oneself feel better is not the prescription here. We believe the more time spent on there, the less satisfied with life one will eventually be, as one is bound to run into unfavorable social comparisons.”

But, he says, the findings are important for adding a more nuanced understanding to the social media behemoth. For so long the conversation has focused on doom and gloom when it comes to Facebook. While that may still be true, it is important to understand the medium in a more detailed way.

Facebook lends itself to downward social comparison, and therefore, makes the user feel better. So, he explains, for some, social media can have a positive impact, even if it is fleeting. This study also helps us understand how users interact with the medium on a more intimate level.

“We assumed the results would fall in line with the body of literature that says social media interactions make you feel worse and were surprised to see any sort of uptick,” Farquhar says. “We assumed, you go online, look at others, and feel worse. We believe downward comparison is going on and this adds another dimension to the complex conversation about Facebook.”

 

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

AcademicsResearch

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

  Turns out social media can make you happy.

Feb 01 2019 Read more

Stephanie Fernhaber: A Butler Professor Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom

by Sarah Bahr

While visiting a friend 4,300 miles away in Morocco last fall, Butler University Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Stephanie Fernhaber came face-to-face with her first-world privilege.

She encountered a woman her age—43—who’d never attended a day of school in her life. The woman could neither read nor write.

“I’d read about the percent of women who are illiterate, but she wasn’t a number,” Fernhaber says. “She was an actual person.”

Fernhaber was inspired by the Moroccan mother’s determination to send her daughters to school, to break the cycle of illiteracy.

Back in Indianapolis, Fernhaber had a similar experience in 2017 when she discovered that the city she lives and works in was ranked last in the nation for food deserts, or areas where residents must travel a mile or more to reach a grocery store.

“I was shocked,” she says.

But, in both cases, she was also inspired. And she turned her shock into action.

All in the Family

Fernhaber grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin—Gresham, population 586 as of the 2010 census—as the daughter of community-minded parents.

“I was familiar with social justice before I ever learned the word,” she says.

She credits her father, who owned a construction company, for instilling her passion for community-conscious activism.

“I was always conscious of the balance between business, community, and social impact,” she says.

Fernhaber has now lived in Indiana for nine years—she moved after she took a teaching position at Butler in 2010—but her passion for social entrepreneurship, or using start-up companies to develop and implement solutions to community issues, transcends location.

A longtime dream came to fruition when she developed a social entrepreneurship course at Butler, which she inaugurated in spring 2014.

Nonprofits in Indianapolis were scrambling to address big-picture issues like food insecurity and refugee resettlement with limited resources.

She had a captive audience of 24 students for 16 weeks (and could have had even more, but she caps the class, which she says always fills, to ensure it remains meaningful for students).

What can we do to help?, she thought.

A Class of Dreams

Fernhaber calls the Social Entrepreneurship course her “dream class”—in more ways than one. Yes, it allows her to share her passion for utilizing entrepreneurship to create social justice solutions, but it also inspires students to exercise their creativity.

“I wanted them to have a chance to see what’s happening in the community and have the chance to dream, and this class allows me to do both,” she says.

This spring, her fifth semester teaching the course, her students will split into teams of three and partner with eight community organizations. Past partners have included the Indianapolis Canine Assistance Network, Exodus Refugee Immigration, and Indy Reads Books, but Fernhaber adds new ones each year.

Each team will assess their assigned organization’s business model based on the social enterprise concepts they’re learning in class, as well as provide recommendations for how the organization can better serve their target population.

They’ll also produce a short video that will highlight the impact the organization is having in the community. At the end of the semester, the videos will be shared on the Central Indiana Social Enterprise Alliance website.

Beyond the Classroom

Butler sophomore Jordan Stewart-Curet, 20, helped Boys & Girls Club Teen Council members develop youth empowerment initiatives as part of the communityINNOVATE project, an initiative Fernhaber developed in 2016 to inspire the community to co-create solutions for social issues.

“The best memories I have are from the group discussions that would take place with the teen groups,” Stewart-Curet says. “To see them transform from shy, reserved individuals to powerful, confident community leaders are experiences I will forever take with me.”

Stewart-Curet calls Fernhaber someone who “truly, truly cares” and “is full of passion and drive to better the community.”

“She is a phenomenal woman,” Stewart-Curet says. “She has a heart for not only the students she works with, but issues of justice and equality for the community around her.”

Case in point: Teaching a class on social entrepreneurship and empowering her students to better their community wasn’t enough.

Fernhaber does so in her free time as well.

She’s developed a myriad of social entrepreneurship initiatives in Indianapolis through her communityINNOVATE project, among them the 2018 Indy Youth Empowerment Challenge and the 2017 Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could bring some of these processes from the class into the community?’” says Fernhaber.

Through communityINNOVATE, Fernhaber brings together a group of change-makers from Indianapolis businesses, nonprofits, and citizens to devise solutions to one social issue per year.

In spring 2017, she launched the Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge to facilitate discussions among businesses, church groups, and neighborhood residents to answer the question: “How might Indianapolis residents better access healthy and affordable food?”

She followed up the effort with the Indy Youth Empowerment Challenge in spring 2018, a four-month process designed to pinpoint the obstacles preventing youth empowerment in Indy — and implode them.

She worked with the Kheprw Institute, an Indianapolis nonprofit that works to empower young people through mentorship, to host workshops to teach young people about social capital—for instance, putting participants in groups and asking them to plan a trip to Florida in 10 minutes, including how they’d get there, where they’d stay, and what they’d eat.

The catch? They couldn’t use money.

Attendees instead had to think about how to leverage their existing relationships to make the trip happen, relying on social rather than financial capital.

As for 2019? She’s taking a hiatus from hosting a challenge to map out the initiative’s future, but with plenty of social problems left to solve—Indy’s increasing gap among the haves and have-nots, the race divide, and economic problems among them—she’s sure to be busy for the foreseeable future.

No Day But Today

Fernhaber’s Social Entrepreneurship students will soon dive into this spring’s projects with partner organizations ranging from Nine Lives Cat Café in Fountain Square to RecycleForce, a recycling company that employs formerly incarcerated individuals.

And some students, such as Stewart-Curet, might even come away from the class with changed career goals.

“I want to become a creative director for a nonprofit or minority-owned business that focuses on intercommunity efforts and youth empowerment,” she says. “This project definitely influenced that.”

Fernhaber is clever like that: Students think their work is impacting the Indianapolis community, but the greater impact may actually be on them.

AcademicsPeople

Stephanie Fernhaber: A Butler Professor Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom

Fernhaber brings together a group of change-makers to devise solutions to  social issues.  

Keeping the #ButlerBound Secret

Jeff Stanich ’16

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

More often than not, such a big reveal is dependent upon the accepted students’ parents, who work behind the scenes with Butler to organize the surprise. We caught up with a few parents whose children had their acceptance letters paw-delivered by Trip to gain more insight on that moment and how their relationship with the university continued from there.

For Angela Buchman, she knows that getting the news directly from Trip could be one of the main factors in her son’s decision. Luke, now a high school senior, is still in the thick of his college-choosing process.

“If you saw Luke’s face, you saw how special that moment was, and how he’s continued to think about it,” she says. “In the last few years, he has really buckled down and worked hard at school, and Butler seemed to recognize that. It really vaulted Butler up his list.”

That’s right - Luke’s future as a bulldog is still up in the air. Some schools have his attention for the programs they offer, others because it’s where his friends will probably go. But no other school has pulled out the kind of stops that Butler has, which is exactly why the university does it.

As higher education becomes increasingly more competitive and the college decision becomes more pressure filled, Butler has a Trip up their sleeve.

Michael Kaltenmark, Butler's Director of Community and Government Relations and resident bulldog handler, makes anywhere from 40 to 100 admission visits with Trip each year. These visits demand lots of coordination and early mornings, but the payoff is worth it. Students who receive a personal visit from Kaltenmark and his loveable pooch are significantly more likely to attend Butler, and that’s what it’s all about.

And to be on the receiving end of such a visit is all the more memorable. Especially for Keelen Barlow.

“It was amazing - really, it was everything he could have hoped for,” says Keelen’s mother, Nicolette. “Given his backstory, and what Butler has always meant to him, it couldn’t have played out any more perfectly.”

Because even though no one in the Barlow family had ever attended Butler before Keelen started this fall, the university always held a special place in their lives.

After Keelen was born, Nicolette’s parents subscribed to season tickets for Butler basketball games and started to take him to every home game when he was only two. It’s how Keelen initially fell in love with Butler - and when his grandfather passed away, Nicolette believes going to the games became a way of keeping those memories alive.

“But even though he always wanted to be a student there, it wasn’t a sure thing given the costs,” she recalls. “That’s why Trip showing up at our door was so amazing. They didn't just come with an acceptance letter, it was also the first time we learned that Keelen had gotten the scholarship he needed to go.”

For Keelen, meeting Trip in a room full of his loved ones, including his grandma and fellow bulldog super-fan, all of his life seemed to be leading up to that moment. For Nicolette, it became one of many examples of how Butler often goes the extra mile to ensure its students feel a true sense of belonging on campus.

“It’s such a tight-knit community in so many regards, and I love knowing he’s not sitting in a lecture hall surrounded by 200 other students being taught by a T.A.,” she says. “Especially as a freshman, because all the changes are easy to get lost in. But when he came home for the first time he was a changed man. Definitely for the better.”

Angela is aware of those same obstacles that her son will face next year on campus as a freshman, wherever that might be.

“With everyone that Luke talks to at Butler, he can really tell how much they care about him as an individual already,” she says, “and I think that’s important to him. It’d be important to anyone. Butler’s people really are eager to help every student find their place there.”

So eager, in fact, that the Butler Bound visits become one of the hardest secrets to keep in town. For Angela, she couldn’t help but let it slip to the receptionist during one of Luke’s orthodontist visits.

With Keelen’s family, they all knew how significant this moment would be for him. And the more and more people were invited by his mother to witness it, Keelen started to know something was up. But even though he is a journalism major now and learning to chase leads, his instincts were a little off when guessing what everyone was so excited about.

“He thought I was pregnant!” Nicolette says. “Once I started telling him to be home on a certain day and time he got really suspicious, but he still didn’t expect the bulldog to be there on the front door. He was so shocked that I had to remind him to let them in.”

Because there, in his living room surrounded by family, dreams were coming true between two bulldogs. Nicolette used to fear that her son would get teased for wearing a Butler t-shirt every day growing up. But all those worries went away knowing her son would soon be right at home.

“Once he got his letter and that scholarship there was no way in hell I wasn’t going to let Butler happen for him,” Nicolette says. “He still pretended to look at other places just because they were on the table before. But his heart was already at Butler, where it still is now.”

#ButlerBoundAcademicsStudent Life

Keeping the #ButlerBound Secret

A big reveal is dependent upon the accepted students’ parents, who work with Butler to organize the surprise.

AcademicsCommunity

You Are Not Alone

BY Marc D. Allan MFA '18

PUBLISHED ON Dec 17 2018

Kat Strube was “incredibly nervous” as she stood in front of 47 middle-schoolers at Christ the King Catholic School in Indianapolis. And that seemed fitting, really, for what was about to happen next.

For the next 30 minutes she and Butler University classmates Sid Garner, Alex Reinke, Maggie Nobbe, and Hannah Justice would deliver a presentation called "Understanding Anxiety," their final project in the course “Mental Illness: Biological, Psychological, and Sociological Perspectives.”

“I’m not somebody who feels super comfortable in this setting,” Strube, a biology major, says, “but it’s an interesting project.”

As the 11- and 12-year-olds listened attentively, the Butler students went through topics such as what anxiety is, what causes it, and what are the best ways to deal with it. They made paper fortune-tellers with the kids—"a fun, useful distraction for those facing anxiety or other mental illness," they explained—and answered the students’ questions. While one student wanted to know if any of the Butler group knew men’s basketball player Kamar Baldwin, all the other questions they asked dealt directly and seriously with the topic.

“I was super-surprised,” Strube said. “Everyone seemed receptive and to be listening. No one had their head down. Everyone participated and everyone had great questions. It’s not what you expect from middle school students. So that was pretty cool.”

Strube and her classmates were one of 12 teams from the Butler class who went out to Indianapolis-area middle schools in early December to discuss—and attempt to destigmatize—mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, and schizophrenia. The groups also delved deeper into areas including technology disorders and addictions, sleep disorders, and substance abuse.

The class, which was offered this fall for the third time, is team-taught by Professors Kate Novak (Sociology), Tara Lineweaver (Psychology), and Jennifer Kowalski (Biology). But this was the first time Butler students went into the community to share what they'd learned, including general information (6.8 million children suffer from General Anxiety Disorder), and specifics, such as breathing techniques to ease symptoms.

 “We wanted our students to help middle school kids recognize the stigmas associated with mental illnesses, how the stereotypes are not true, to combat fears and worries about mental illness and to encourage them to know how to get help if they have a problem or they know someone who has a problem,” said Lineweaver.

It was not just about what the Butler students said, but who was delivering the information, Novak said. And getting into the community gave Butler students the chance to understand the implications of what they are learning in the classroom in a new, more real way.

“It's good to have college students come and talk to middle-schoolers because they really look up to college students,” Novak said. “They're going to take it a little more seriously. And a lot of our students have incorporated examples from their own lives. They're saying, ‘I'm willing to talk about this.’ It's been really good for our students, too. It gets them out and thinking about this: What does this mean in terms of people lives? They're not just thinking about the academic component. What is a mental illness? What does the research say? How does this impact people's lives, and how can they have an impact?”

To get the Butler students into the community, the professors teamed with the Joseph Maley Foundation, whose HOPE Program (Health through Outreach, Personal Perspectives, and Engagement) was created to bring emotional, physical, social and mental health awareness and advocacy to students in preschool through 12th grade. HOPE is one of five programs that fulfills the Maley Foundation's mission to serve children of all abilities.

Allison Boyll, a manager with the foundation, helped arrange the Butler students’ visits to local schools, including Westfield Middle School, Indianapolis Public Schools 91, St. Richards, St. Lawrence, St. Monica, and Christ the King.

"I think anytime we can work with students in the area of mental health and help them realize that it’s a natural area of conversation and we can talk about all areas of mental health, it helps to reduce the stigma on mental health and getting the support that you need,” Boyll said. “It just makes it everyday language, so that when you do need some extra support, if you need extra support, you don’t have to be afraid to reach out to get that help.”

That was the reason Christ the King Principal Ed Seib wanted his students to see the presentation. He said mental illnesses get in the way of students being able to reach their potential. Since a social stigma exists, “we want to let them know early on that it’s something they can talk about, it’s something that can be dealt with, and we’re here for them. The presentation was a great way of opening those doors and seeing kids who aren’t that much older than they are talking to them on their terms.”

Frank Meyer, 12, a Christ the King seventh-grader who saw the presentation, said he thought it was extremely worthwhile. He learned that while talking to a friend might not always be the most helpful, it’s always good to have someone to talk to when you’re going through a tough time. He also was interested in hearing about the most common disorders among children—test anxiety and social anxiety—because he deals with those from time to time.

He said hearing from the college students let him know that he’s not alone.

And getting that message out, Professor Kowalski said, is just one of the many benefits of this course.

“It's been a good challenge for the students to have to take the more academic information that they learned and then figure out what's critical, what's going to resonate with the middle-school students,” she said. “And I think it fits with the goals of the course, which are integrating these ideas, communicating about mental illness, dispelling stereotypes, things like that.”

 

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

AcademicsCommunity

You Are Not Alone

Butler students explain mental illnesses to Indianapolis-area middle schoolers.

Dec 17 2018 Read more

Pages