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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
 

 

AcademicsResearch

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
AcademicsPeopleResearch

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
AcademicsPeopleResearch

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
AcademicsCommunity

Popularity, Success Spark Second IPS/Butler Lab School

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 10 2018

It was never supposed to happen this way.

The goal was one, if that, and that alone seemed daunting, even impossible at times. Starting a school, and not just any school, was the dream for Ena Shelley, Dean of Butler University’s College of Education. But in reality, she couldn’t imagine the pieces coming together.

It was after a sabbatical in Italy in 1998. Between all the pizza, Shelley managed to fall in love with something else. A new style of teaching, the Reggio model, and she vowed to figure out a way to bring it back with her.

The idea of a Lab School was born, but it was very much just an idea, she says.

“I knew I had to change my curriculum, but I didn’t have any schools where my students could actually see what I wanted to do,” Shelley says. “My dream was to have a Lab School in Indianapolis that we could share with the community, but also use to teach Butler students. The dream was never to have two.”

About 20 years after her initial trip to Italy, Shelley’s seeing double. A second Lab School, born out of demand, success, and lots of work, is up and running at 54th Street.

And even though it was never part of the plan, well, it sure seems like it was.

Lab School 55’s campus happens to occupy the school building that is named after Eliza A. Blaker. Named after the founder of Butler’s College of Education. This was a complete coincidence and just happened to be a building that the Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent said was available and was in close proximity to Butler.

“The community has responded in ways I never anticipated,” Shelley says. “Being asked to open a second one is really an honor. The dream has gone way further than I ever thought it could.”

What is the Lab School?

It’s a couple weeks before school starts and Nicole Kent is talking on the phone, cradling it between her ear and shoulder, while she furiously types an email on her cell phone.

She’s at School 60, the original Lab School. But really, she is itching to get to School 55, the new Lab School. Furniture is about to be delivered and from the sounds of the conversation, there are a few hiccups with the delivery.

Kent, who graduated from Butler’s College of Education, will be the principal at the new Lab School. She used to teach at the original Lab School and was the assistant principal for two years.

That’s not uncommon. Butler graduates tend to flock to the Lab Schools. In fact, at Lab School 60, or the original, 69 percent of teachers graduated from Butler with either a Bachelor’s or a Master’s Degree. At Lab School 55, or the second Lab School, 61 percent of the teachers are Butler grads.

Teachers receive continued professional development from Butler, and the Lab Schools also serve as a classroom to current Butler education students. Some also student teach at the Lab Schools.

But, says Ron Smith, the Lab Schools don’t hire just Butler grads. Smith is the principal at the original Lab School. He says they hire from wherever, but, because the Lab School program is different than a traditional learning environment, they need teachers who are able to teach that style, and, Butler grads are familiar with the Reggio model.

Learning at the Lab Schools is project based. There aren’t a lot of worksheets where students are mindlessly copying things down. The curriculum is teacher created. Art is infused into most classrooms. Inquiry, research, and exploration are the cornerstones of the Lab School curriculum, where there is a bigger picture behind each lesson. It is not about memorizing facts, but rather about communicating and collaborating and acquiring life skills.

“Of course, we want our students to do well on the standards you would find in the state curriculum, but beyond that we want our kids to become life-long learners,” Smith says. “We want them to find joy in learning, we want them to ask questions of their own and to find answers to those questions and projects help us get at that. That helps us get beyond the state curriculum.”

The Lab Schools are magnet schools. Students are chosen by random lottery from all who apply, with preference given to applicants who live nearby, have siblings in the school, and then children of either Butler or IPS employees. 

Lab School 60 has consistently been one of the two most requested elementary schools in Indianapolis since 2012. Students come from Broad Ripple, Butler-Tarkington, Meridian Kessler, to name a few, and the hope is that with a second school, even more of the city will be served.

“As a University, we value being a really good community member,” Shelley says. “We not only want to serve the community, but also learn from the community. We are not separate, but we are better together, and I think we are always striving to fulfill that mission.”

Is it working?

Amy Goldsmith vividly remembers the first time she met Ena Shelley.

Goldsmith was serving on the Indianapolis Public Schools’ Strategic Planning Committee and Shelley was presenting on the concept of the first Lab School. Goldsmith, whose daughter was about to enter kindergarten, was planning on sending her to School 57, but after hearing Shelley speak, everything changed.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘wow, there really are people who think the same things as me about education,’” says Goldsmith, who lives in Irvington. “I was so excited that Indianapolis was going to have something like that for our community.”

Quickly, Goldsmith changed course and enrolled her daughter in the inaugural year of the first Lab School. And her family hasn’t looked back. She has a seven-year-old, 10-year-old, and 12-year-old who are all in the Lab School.

Prior to Shelley’s presentation, Goldsmith had never heard of Reggio Emilia. After doing some research, and listening to Shelley, she was sold. And now, three kids later, she is the one constantly pitching the Lab School to friends, and really, anyone who will listen.

“It’s hard when you find something you love, you can’t stop talking about it,” Goldsmith says. “I find myself making the sales pitch all the time, maybe too often. People are probably sick of hearing it from me. But I really do mean everything I say.”

And it is not just Goldsmith’s words. The statistics support her pitch.

By the end of second grade each year, about 75 percent of Lab School students are above grade level on the text reading and comprehension assessment. In language arts, the achievement gap between white and black students has been reduced by more than 25 percent.  

There are delegation days at the Lab School where groups from around Indiana, and outside of the state, come to visit and see what’s going on.

“It has been great to get a lot of interest and have the program be so popular,” Kent says. “But at our core we always want to be a place that is representative of our whole city. The second school gives us a chance to enroll more students and serve more students. The goal is to always serve our community as best we can.”

What’s next?

The original Lab School has grown to pre-K through 8th grade. It opened as pre-K through 1st grade and added a grade every year. This is the first year the original is at capacity, which is about 570 students.

The second Lab School opened with pre-K through 6th grade and each year they will add a grade until they have 8th grade. In its inaugural year, School 55 has around 300 students. Last year, about 180 attended the school.

Most families who had children attending School 55 prior to it becoming the Lab School this year decided to keep their kids at the school, Kent says. Of the 180 students that attended the school last year, about 150 are staying.

“I was asked early on, in year two or three, if I thought this was scalable and if we could replicate it and at the time I really didn’t think we could,” Shelley says. “But when I see the community response and the potential we have, I find myself wondering if a third is possible. But that is just me wondering. Right now there is much work to be done and we are just happy to be part of our community.”

 

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

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Popularity, Success Spark Second IPS/Butler Lab School

Starting a school, and not just any school, was the dream for Ena Shelley.

Aug 10 2018 Read more
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Butler Makes Princeton Review's 'The Best 384 Colleges' For First Time

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Aug 08 2018

Butler University is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review, which has included Butler in its 2019 annual "best colleges" guidebook for the first time.

“The Butler community takes great pride in being recognized by the highly-respected Princeton Review for the exceptional education we provide our students,” said President Jim Danko. “It is particularly rewarding to have an independent, external endorsement of the effectiveness of Butler’s collaborative, student-centered educational approach, one that is supported by outstanding and caring faculty.”

Butler is one of five schools that the New York-based education services company added to the roster of colleges it profiles in the 2019 The Best 384 Colleges (Penguin Random House/Princeton Review Books). The guide is now available.

Robert Franek, Editor-in-Chief of The Princeton Review, said, “We are truly pleased to add Butler to our widely used college guide, now in its 27th year. Only about 15 percent of the four-year colleges in the nation are in this book. In our opinion, these are ‘the crème of the crop’ institutions for undergraduates in America."

Franek said Butler was chosen for 2019 based on three areas: a high regard for its academic programs and other offerings, institutional data, and visits to the University as well as feedback from students, educators, and parents.

The annual "best colleges" book has two-page profiles on each school. Butler's pages note:

  • Butler’s student-to-faculty ratio, teachers collaborating with students on research and professional endeavors, and a core curriculum that pushes students out of their comfort zones, and allows students to explore interests outside of their major, creating “an atmosphere of driven students.”
  • Professors who support student ideas and make modifications to lectures to support student interests.
  • Student life "is completely sustainable on-campus,” which means that students typically stay there for studying, food, and for socializing. On days with good weather, students can be found out and about on campus.

In addition, the book contains 62 ranking lists of "top 20 schools" in individual categories.

The Princeton Review tallied the rankings for the 2019 edition based on its surveys of 138,000 students (average 359 per campus) attending the 384 colleges in the book in 2017-2018 and/or the previous two school years.

The survey asks students 84 questions about their school's academics, administration, student body, and themselves. The format uses a five-point Likert scale to convert qualitative student assessments into quantitative data for school-to-school comparisons. More information on the ranking methodology is at www.princetonreview.com/college-rankings/how-it-works.

The Princeton Review does not rank the colleges in the book hierarchically, 1 to 384, either on academics (the Company believes all 384 schools are academically outstanding) or on any other subject.

The school profiles in the book also feature rating scores (from 60 to 99) in several categories including Financial Aid, Fire Safety, and Green: a rating based on the colleges' environmental commitments. The Princeton Review tallies these scores primarily based on analyses of institutional data the Company obtains from the schools.

 

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

Campus in Spring
AcademicsCampus

Butler Makes Princeton Review's 'The Best 384 Colleges' For First Time

Butler is one of nation’s best institutions for education, according to The Princeton Review.

Aug 08 2018 Read more
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AcademicsResearch

Outsmarting the Test: Concussions & ImPACT

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jul 31 2018

INDIANAPOLIS – Before the start of most seasons, chances are high that athletes have gone through a computerized exam called ImPACT, or Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing. It is a process that has become almost synonymous with preseason conditioning tests and two-a-days.

The ImPACT Test, one of the most widely used of several similar concussion management tools, is a computer-based test that measures shape recall, reaction time, attention, working memory, and other mental abilities. Individuals are given the test to establish a baseline score at the start of a season, then those who suffer a head injury are tested again before being allowed to return to play.

But, baseline results may not be as accurate as ImPACT claims.

According to new research from Butler University Director of Undergraduate Health Science Programs, Dr. Amy Peak, and former Butler health science student Courtney Raab, individuals are outsmarting the test. Previous studies, including one cited by ImPACT’s “Administration and Interpretation Manual,” say 89 percent of ‘sandbaggers,’ or individuals purposefully doing poorly on the test, are flagged. But, according to Peak and Raab’s research, only half are caught.

“If baseline scores aren’t accurate, that could likely lead to individuals returning to play before they are healed, or individuals returning to normal activity prior to their brain being ready,” Peak says. “This is a very dangerous situation because it is clear that individuals who have had one concussion are at greater risk of having subsequent concussions.”

So why cheat the system?

Many athletes don’t want to miss playing time. In fact, a study found in 2017 that nearly a third of athletes didn’t give their best effort on computerized neurocognitive tests, such as ImPACT.

The ImPACT Test is key when it comes to making return to play decisions. Though not the only determining factor, comparing test scores is routinely something trainers or doctors do to see if the individual can return to action or regular activities.

“Athletes get smart about how to take this test and they admit to wanting to return to action as soon as possible,” Peak says. “Some athletes ignore the risks, and just want to play, so if this test can be cheated, they will do it.”

Their research shows that those who attempted to sandbag were successful, as long as they didn’t try to do too poorly on the test.

There were 77 volunteers who participated in the study, 40 of whom were told to sandbag the test and 37 of whom were told to try their best. Of the 37 volunteers in the control group, none were flagged for invalid results. But of the 40 sandbaggers, 20 successfully tricked the test.

The key to not getting flagged by the test was to get questions wrong, but not too many questions.

“The group that scored much lower than our control got flagged, but the group that did bad, but not too bad were not caught,” Peak says. “Our research revealed that you can get away with doing poorly, sneak through with a low score, if your score isn’t outrageously low.”

Instead of the 89 percent rate of catching sandbaggers that previous research suggests, Peak and Raab’s research revealed just a 50 percent rate. However, Peak says, the takeaway is not to scrap the entire ImPACT Test. Peak says their research points to the fact that key aspects of the widely used test should be reevaluated.

The ImPACT Test’s five built-in invalidity indicators, which are designed to flag results which suggest underperformance, are not working well, she says. Peak and Raab’s research found that only two of those indicators detected more than 15 percent of test takers who tried to trick the test.

“There are some invalidity indicators that are really ineffective. Our research showed us that these indicators are not sensitive enough,” Peak says. “There are many things to consider. Are the indicators even right? Maybe the cutoffs should be higher? These are all important questions. But one thing we do know is that a much greater percentage of individuals can purposefully underperform without detection and we need to delve deeper into how to improve the test.”

 

Brain
AcademicsResearch

Outsmarting the Test: Concussions & ImPACT

 Butler University researchers show individuals outsmart popular concussion test 50% of time.

Jul 31 2018 Read more
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Butler Launches Online Master’s in Risk and Insurance

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 12 2018

Butler University's Lacy School of Business will introduce an online Master of Science in Risk and Insurance (MSRI) program—among the first of its kind in the nation—beginning in January 2019 to help address the gap between the risk and insurance industry’s personnel needs and the limited talent pool that exists in today’s job market. 

The degree is intended to serve students who aspire to advanced roles in corporate risk management. It will also serve students with a few years of finance or legal experience seeking employment in the insurance field, as well as early-phase professionals already working for insurance firms in both property and casualty, and life and health, and students who have an undergraduate degree in risk and insurance and want to pursue advanced study in the industry. 

More information about the program is available www.butler.edu/msri. Applications will be open beginning August 1.

“The need for risk management professionals in the professional services industry is well-documented," said Donald J. Ortegel, Resident Managing Director of Aon. "The good news is that the trend line is positive for professionals with a specific, applicable risk management four-year degree. Someone holding an advanced degree or additional education in this area would have an edge over other professionals competing for open and career-advancement opportunities.”

The part-time MSRI program will be conducted exclusively online, except for two required in-residence experiences—one on the Butler campus at the start of the program and one at the end of the program in the “world's risk capital,” Bermuda. Coursework will take approximately 24 months to complete.

Zach Finn, Clinical Professor and Director of Butler’s Davey Risk Management and Insurance program, said Butler's goal with the new MSRI program is to prepare students for an industry that anticipates needing 400,000 new employees by 2020.

"As one insurance executive said in our focus group: 'This degree is an automatic $10,000 raise for any employee who acquires it,'” said Victor Puleo, Butler Associate Professor of Risk Management and Insurance, who will run the MSRI program.

The MSRI curriculum will include content dealing with property and casualty, and health and life. It also will have unique and hard-to-find courses on insurance-linked securities and a hands-on opportunity to run a captive insurance entity.

Puleo said graduates of the program will have access to some of the best jobs available for corporate risk managers. Other candidates will be able to enter or accelerate their careers with insurance carriers and brokers. High-caliber graduates from this program will possess the capability to attain senior level positions in these firms.

Butler already boasts a robust undergraduate program for Risk Management and Insurance, including the MJ Student-Run Insurance Company, known in industry parlance as a “captive.”

The company, the first of its kind for a university, insures Butler programs and items including the live mascot Butler Blue III, rare books, artwork, and the telescope at the Holcomb Observatory. Students learn how to write the insurance policy and what the coverage terms will be, and they're figuring out how to finance the company. In doing so, they are able to apply their risk-management expertise in accounting, investments, and numerous other areas.

 

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

AcademicsCommunity

Butler Launches Online Master’s in Risk and Insurance

"This degree is an automatic $10,000 raise for any employee who acquires it."

Jul 12 2018 Read more

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