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New Study by Butler Professor Shows Why Electoral Integrity Matters

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 30 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Academics

New Study by Butler Professor Shows Why Electoral Integrity Matters

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

Research Reveals Why Long-Suffering Fans Continue to Watch

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 29 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NY Giants Vs. Cleveland Browns
Academics

Research Reveals Why Long-Suffering Fans Continue to Watch

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

Oct 29 2018 Read more
Academics

Searching for Cpl. James B. Gresham

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON Oct 29 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 1940s saw Evansville focused on the war effort.

And daily life went on.

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

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

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

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

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

Academics

Searching for Cpl. James B. Gresham

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

Oct 29 2018 Read more

Good for Business

By Marc Allan, MFA '18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food has been the focus ever since.

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academics

Good for Business

Butler MBA students hit the road to solve business challenges.

Good for Business

By Marc Allan, MFA '18
Academics

Bracketology and the Collective Brain

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 22 2018

 

  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Academics

Bracketology and the Collective Brain

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

Oct 22 2018 Read more

Going Places: Studying Abroad in the Sciences

By Marc Allan, MFA '18

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

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

That was in 2015.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Study Abroad Group in Germany
AcademicsStudent Life

Going Places: Studying Abroad in the Sciences

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

Student Focused: The Butler MBA Experience of David Watkins

By Cindy Dashnaw

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

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

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

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

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

For example?

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

He was amazed at the caliber of the professors.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Butler Campus in the Fall
AcademicsCampus

Butler Ranked No. 1 in the Midwest For the First Time by U.S. News & World Report

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10 2018

For the first time in its history, Butler University has moved into a tie for the No. 1 Regional University in the Midwest, according to the 2019 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings released today.

After eight years of being ranked second in the Midwest Regional Universities category, Butler tied for first place with Creighton University, thanks to its high percentage of small classes (52 percent of classes have fewer than 20 students), first-year students who were in the Top 25 percent of their high school class (76 percent), and alumni giving rates (22 percent—higher than any of the 165 schools in the Midwest region).

“Butler is an innovative leader in education,” President James Danko says. “This prestigious ranking affirms that Butler is creating learning experiences for students that support their success and well-being—both during their undergraduate experience and throughout their lives.”

Butler was also ranked the No. 1 Most Innovative School among Midwest Regional Universities for the fourth straight year, as well as the top school for its commitment to undergraduate teaching.

“Butler’s recognition for exceptional teaching is particularly rewarding, since this is determined by leaders at our peer institutions,” Danko says. “To have our faculty highlighted in this manner is a testament to their outstanding work.”

Butler was also listed among the best schools in six out of eight academic programs that U.S. News ranks. The lists for first-year experiences, internships/co-ops, senior capstone, service learning, study abroad, and undergraduate research, all categories that education experts, including staff members of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, believe lead to student success, all included Butler.

Here’s some more information on these categories:

  • First-year experiences are seminars or other programs that bring small groups of students together with faculty or staff on a regular basis.
  • More than 90 percent of Butler students have at least one internship before they graduate.
  • Senior capstone are culminating experiences that ask students nearing the end of their college years to create a project of some sort that integrates what they’ve learned.
  • In service-learning programs, volunteering in the community is an instructional strategy and relates to what happens in class.
  • Study abroad programs involve substantial academic work and considerable interaction between the student and the culture.
  • Undergraduate research gives students the opportunity to do intensive and self-directed research or creative work that results in an original scholarly paper or other product that can be presented on or off campus.

Administrators at regional universities and colleges were surveyed about peer institutions within their regions. The colleges and universities named on the list were cited most often by college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans who were asked to identify up to 15 schools.

Regional universities offer a full range of undergraduate programs and some master's programs, but few doctoral programs. These rankings are split into four regions: North, South, Midwest, and West. U.S. News also ranks National Universities, National Liberal Arts Colleges, and Regional Colleges in the North, South, Midwest, and West.

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

AcademicsCommunity

Planet Parade: Venus, Jupiter, Moon, Saturn, Mars to All Line Up this Weekend

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Aug 16 2018

For the first time in more than a decade, Venus, Jupiter, the Moon, Saturn, and Mars will be lined up across the sky.

The best time for viewing will be on the evenings of August 17 and 18, according to Butler University Professor of Physics and Astronomy Brian Murphy—weather permitting, of course. Mars will be near its closest approach to Earth since 2003, and through a telescope, one should be able to see cloud-covered Venus in a quarter phase, the rings of Saturn, the belts and satellites of Jupiter, and Mars’ polar caps (if the dust storm has cleared).

Murphy, who is also the Director of Butler’s Holcomb Observatory, says the planets all orbit the sun in different periods, which means they are typically scattered along the zodiac. Some may be seen only before sunrise, only after sunrise, or not at all if they appear in the direction of the Sun.

"Being able to observe the Sun, Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn in a two- to three-hour time span is quite nice," he said.

Murphy encourages people to get out and see this "planet parade"—either by looking through the telescope at the Holcomb Observatory, which is the ninth largest telescope East of the Mississippi River, or simply by going outside and viewing the night sky.

"It's an ideal time to get out and see the planets," he said. "Usually, we don't have four planets visible at once in good viewing location, along with a quarter moon, which is the ideal time to view the moon. And they're all evenly spaced. If you ignore the sun, these are the four brightest objects in the sky we're talking about."

It’s hard to calculate when this lineup will occur again, Murphy says, but something similar will likely occur in two years. But after that, it will not happen for a long time.

In addition to telescope viewing at the Observatory, Planetarium shows will take place each evening.

 

Media contact:

Marc Allan
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

AcademicsCommunity

Planet Parade: Venus, Jupiter, Moon, Saturn, Mars to All Line Up this Weekend

  

Butler astronomer says phenomenon likely won’t occur again for a long time

Aug 16 2018 Read more
AcademicsCampus

Butler Continues Trend, Welcomes Record First-Year Class

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 16 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – It happened again.

For the second time in three years, Butler University is set to welcome its largest class ever, as 1,336 first-year students prepare to begin classes on August 22.

For the second time in three years, Butler University is set to welcome its largest class ever, as 1,336 first-year students prepare to begin classes on August 22.

The class highlights a nearly 10-year trend of application growth, represents a continued increase in out-of-state enrollment, and is more diverse. While the Class of 2020 was previously the largest class, with 1,255 incoming students, Butler has been experiencing an upward trajectory in applicants since 2009. 

“Butler’s enrollment goals have aligned with the University’s strategic plan, known as Butler 2020,” says Lori Greene, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “One of the strategic growth objectives is to increase full-time, undergraduate student enrollment. This is strategic growth complemented by an investment in the student experience. We see growth also reflected in new facilities, including two new state-of-the-art residence halls, and the new Lacy School of Business building, set to open in August 2019.”

This year’s growth is hardly a one-year anomaly.

Interest in Butler has been on the rise throughout the last decade. Since 2009, applications to the University have increased by 163 percent. For example, in 2015, Butler received 9,942 applications, compared to 16,431 this year. In the last year alone, first-year applications increased more than 12 percent.

This continued demand is due to a number of strategic initiatives, says Greene.

 

 

 

 

“Over the last few years, we’ve continued to refine and target our communications, and connect with prospects earlier in a student’s high school career. We’ve also focused on building a relationship with our prospective parents throughout the process,” Greene says. “We aim to support prospective students with the type of campus events and visit programs delivered, along with providing multiple options for a student to experience campus life, talk with current students, and hear from a professor in an area of interest.”

The increase in recruitment travel and targeted marketing efforts have paid off, Greene says, as the University continues to grow its out-of-state enrollment. Sixty percent of this year’s class comes from out-of-state, with nearly 20 percent of those coming from the Chicagoland area. Since 2015, applications to Butler from out-of-state students have increased by 68 percent.

And it’s not just applications. Since 2015, the number of students choosing to enroll at Butler from out-of-state has increased by 40 percent, compared to 17 percent growth in-state. Specifically, enrollment from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic has more than doubled since 2015.

While this year’s class hails largely from other Midwest states, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Texas are quickly on the rise. Over the last few years, Greene says, Butler has embedded counselors in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast in an effort to increase the University’s visibility.

This year’s incoming class is also the most diverse, as nearly 17 percent of the class are multicultural students. This represents a 3 percentage point jump from last year. While this is a percentage that Butler would like to see increase more, Greene says, partnerships with multiple Indianapolis-based organizations, as well as other community-based organizations throughout the Midwest, have helped multicultural recruitment efforts. The goal is to keep increasing this percentage, she says. 

Despite its size, Butler’s Class of 2022 is as academically inclined as previous classes. The average GPA is 3.86, up slightly from last year. This year’s incoming class features 44 valedictorians, 20 Lilly Scholars, and about 20 percent were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.

The most popular majors this year are Pre-Pharmacy (136), Exploratory Studies (103), Exploratory Business (88), and Biology (72).

The University will also welcome 86 transfer students this fall.

 

Media contact:

Rachel Stern
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

AcademicsCampus

Butler Continues Trend, Welcomes Record First-Year Class

For the second time in three years, Butler University is set to welcome its largest class ever,

Aug 16 2018 Read more
AcademicsPeople

Outstanding Butler Faculty Honored

BY Marc Alan

PUBLISHED ON Aug 16 2018

 Outstanding achievement inside and outside the classroom has propelled five Butler faculty members to be awarded Distinguished Faculty and Outstanding Professor designation.

These awards recognize inspiring presence in the classroom, achievement in research, community service, and exemplary achievements.

"As an educational institution, Butler strives to provide transformative educational opportunities to our students," said Provost Kate Morris, who handed out the awards on August 15 at the Fall Academic Workshop. "And faculty are on the front lines of that transformation. Simply put, without great faculty, our students would not have the success they have." 

"As an educational institution, Butler strives to provide transformative educational opportunities to our students," said Provost Kate Morris, who handed out the awards on August 15 at the Fall Academic Workshop. "And faculty are on the front lines of that transformation. Simply put, without great faculty, our students would not have the success they have." 

"It is critical to find ways to recognize faculty who have had outstanding years and outstanding careers to highlight the fact that their work truly makes a difference to students and to our academic community. I am delighted to be able to honor the five individuals honored this year, and believe they are excellent representatives of the impact faculty have on our students."

The Outstanding Professor awards recognize faculty members who excelled in all areas of their professional responsibilities and demonstrated outstanding achievement in teaching, scholarship, and/or service and were given to Associate Professor of English Ania Spyra and Professor of Music Kate Boyd.

The Distinguished Faculty awards recognize exemplary achievement, accomplishments, and contributions across the length and breadth of the winner’s career at Butler and were given to Associate Professor and Chair of Arts Administration Susan Zurbuchen, Professor of Philosophy Stuart Glennan, and Professor of Religion Paul Valliere.

Spyra, who joined the Butler faculty in 2008, studies the influence of migration on the language of literature. She was recognized for high student evaluation scores and her ability to reach all of her students in core, departmental, and interdisciplinary settings.

Boyd, a Butler professor since 2005, played nine solo recitals and nine chamber music performances during the 2016-2017 academic year. In addition, her CD recording of the work of composer John Cage garnered much national and international attention.

Zurbuchen was commended for creating one of the most successful degree programs of its kind in the country. She joined the Butler faculty in 1989.

Glennan, whose area of specialization is in the philosophy of science, with particular attention to biology and psychology, came to Butler in 1992. He is a scholar of international repute and a widely acknowledged founder of an important emerging field in philosophy.

Valliere, who retired at the end of the 2017-2018 after 35 years at Butler, was called a great professor, an outstanding scholar and researcher and a remarkable contributor to the university mission.

 

Media contact:

Marc Allan
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

AcademicsPeople

Outstanding Butler Faculty Honored

Five faculty members have been recognized for outstanding achievement inside and outside the classroom. 

Aug 16 2018 Read more
Jeremy Johnson
AcademicsThanksPeople

Butler Professor Receives NSF Grant to Study Class of Enzymes Linked with Cancer Growth

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 14 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – It happened by accident.

Jeremy Johnson, Butler University Associate Professor of Chemistry, was looking at images of acyl protein thioesterases, or APTs. Because proteins are smaller than the wavelength of light, they cannot be seen by eye, or even with a microscope. So, proteins are crystalized, and then static images are taken, revealing what they look like at one point in time.

But, when Johnson looked at the APT images closely, he saw something he had never seen before, and something, he says, that is quite rare – the protein in multiple states.

“Our image showed the APT in open and closed states or active and inactive,” Johnson says. “Normally, we think of proteins as static, or as staying in one position, and only recently have we started to appreciate the idea of natural movements of proteins.”

With an $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Johnson will be researching why we should appreciate that very idea. Seeing the image of the APT in a dynamic state enabled Johnson to hypothesize a whole new set of ideas about what this protein could potentially impact – cancer progression, neural deterioration, and immune functions, he says.

“Once we had this image and saw it was dynamic, we were able to start to hypothesize how this protein could be important within a cell,” he says. “All of a sudden new possibilities emerged that we knew we wanted to research more. Once we knew the structure, new alleys for research questions opened.”

APTs are a class of enzymes that are linked with cancer growth, neural degeneration, and bacterial infections. But, this photo revealed they are also dynamic – something that was not previously known.

Now, Johnson says, he is set to dive into what this dynamic function actually means, and how it could impact those important links. Some questions his lab will focus on include looking at how the dynamic nature of this protein could impact APTs as a future drug target, and how it might relate to cancer and immune functions.

After seeing the image, Johnson says his team will start to look into how that movement is related to the regulation of the protein and how that can impact the biological functions of APTs.

“You always hope there is relation to the big picture,” Johnson says. “We are going to be looking at the dynamic movement and if that movement is essential to biological function. You hope that movement is related to the big picture things that we know this protein is already involved in.”

Also, as part of the NSF grant, research occurring in Johnson’s lab will be integrated into undergraduate classroom laboratories, giving a wide range of students the chance to participate in the research. There will also be a new molecular biophysics laboratory added to the biochemistry major at Butler.

All of this, Johnson says, because of an accident.

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Jeremy Johnson
AcademicsThanksPeople

Butler Professor Receives NSF Grant to Study Class of Enzymes Linked with Cancer Growth

Butler Chemistry Professor Jeremy Johnson discovered something in his research that no one had seen before.

Aug 14 2018 Read more

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