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Every other year Butler University students, primarily those in the biological sciences, apply to take a two-week course in Panama allowing them the opportunity to work with world renowned researchers and scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI).

Students in PanamaSTRI, founded in 1923, is dedicated to understanding tropical biodiversity and is home to 38 staff scientists and supports 900 visiting scientists annually. Collectively, the work of STRI scientists and the location and quality of STRI’s facilities, has resulted in STRI becoming one of the premier research institutions in the world.

“The staff scientists who work at STRI, essentially the faculty, are top-notch, world renowned researchers and we thought giving our students access to them would be pretty phenomenal,” Travis Ryan, Professor and Chair of Biological Sciences, and one of the two faculty members who lead the trips, said.

The partnership with STRI formed about 10 years ago when Frank Levison ’75, Ph. D. established the Sciences Opportunity Endowed Fund. The income from the fund provides for equipment replacement and repair, faculty and student travel, undergraduate research, and scholarships to recruit high-quality science students.

“We run the class in the summer and use funds from the endowment to defray the costs of the trip for students,” Ryan said. “If you were to take a summer course on campus, it would be about $2100 for a 4-credit hour class. Last summer when we took the students there we charged them $2300. So for an additional $200 dollars, students got air fare, accommodations, and 85% of their meals covered for two weeks in Panama.”

Prior to leaving, students meet once a week for a semester covering the basics so when they arrive in Panama they are able to focus on experiential learning.

“We don’t see a lot of value in traveling a quarter of the way around the world to sit in a classroom. So if we do hear a lecture, it’s from a guest speaker,” Ryan said.

While abroad, students spend time meeting with staff researchers, graduate students, field technicians, visiting field sites, and tagging along on research trips. Oftentimes the students’ days begin at 6:00 AM and usually go to 10:00 PM.

“It’s a pretty intense couple of weeks, but the endowment makes it possible,” Ryan said.

Since the program’s beginnings in 2008, Butler has sent around 70 students to Panama.

 

In addition to the course, Butler students have the opportunity to complete a 3-month long internship in Panama working with STRI scientists. There have been around 15 students who have completed internships at STRI site in Panama and Butler continues sending about two students a year. 

“Interns become part of a research lab,” Ryan said. “In addition to contributing to a bigger overarching project, they normally have a project they’re in charge of—one of the first students we sent there was dissecting the brains of ants.”

Students in Panama

Other research projects students have worked on include studying frog mating behavior both in the field and in acoustic chambers. Ryan explained over the last several years, a number of students have been sent to work in Rachel Page’s bat lab to work on various aspects of bat communication and ecology.

Carmen Salsbury, Professor of Biological Science and one of the people in charge of overseeing Butler’s STRI student internships added, “The STRI experience has proven to be quite transformative for our students. Several of our past STRI interns have leveraged their experiences to land positions in some of the top graduate programs in the country.”

It’s been made clear to both Ryan and Salsbury that the relationship with STRI is not only beneficial for Butler and its students, but for STRI as well. Ryan explained a commonality between the two programs at Butler is that students often leave a lasting impression on the researchers at STRI.

“Our interns have a great reputation among STRI researchers,” Ryan said. “The fact that we keep sending people to Rachel Page’s lab is because she’s always impressed with what she gets out of our students when they’re down there.”

Ryan concluded by saying, “The partnership with STRI is really a great program. It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students and one that you’d be hard pressed to find at other institutions.”

Academics

Student Research–Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute Provides Students with Opportunities to Work with World Renowned Researchers

by Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

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The Science of Movement

Kailey Eaton ’17

from Spring 2017

How do dancers move the way they do? There’s actually a science behind every spin!

Emily Elwell ’17 is a Dance Performance major who has learned this science of movement through the Jordan College of the Arts.  

It’s called Laban Movement Analysis, or LMA, and it is a system created for observing, describing, and executing movement.  It is used not only by dancers, but also actors, musicians, athletes and health and wellness professionals.

LMA was created by Rudolf Laban, a movement analyst, choreographer, and dancer, as a way to classify and interpret human movement.

Elwell said she had minimal exposure to LMA before coming to Butler.

“My second semester of sophomore year at Butler was when I took Laban Movement Analysis and began to understand its principles and how they can be applied across the board in my dance classes,” she said. 

All dance majors in the Jordan College of the Arts are required to take a course in Laban Movement Analysis. This one-semester course gives the dancers exposure to the fundamental principles of LMA.

Elwell says that as a dancer, LMA has challenged her to explore different efforts in movement and has pushed her to find a voice within her own movement. She also says that it is a useful tool for professors to help the dancers understand the reasoning behind movement and execute the efforts properly. 

“There are instances when Professor Pratt will use LMA concepts in her Jazz class if we are struggling to use the right effort to perform a particular movement,” Elwell said.

Cynthia Pratt is a dance professor in the JCA who teaches a class on LMA. She says she uses the system as a tool for performance and choreography.

“Rather than having a vocabulary that is based on steps and gestures, LMA uses spatial pulls, dynamics and body organizations to express the various ways a human body can move,” Pratt said. 

She also uses terminology and concepts learned in LMA to help the dancers understand what she is looking for in particular choreography.

Pratt says one of the primary concepts in LMA is that human movement takes place within a “Kinesphere”—the space around your body that you move in—and by imagining the Kinesphere in different three-dimensional geometric forms, one can accurately describe or execute a movement.

LMA divides this space around the body into 27 different points where one might move, which contributes to a dancer’s heightened awareness of his or her body.

The dynamics of the movement are described by weight, space, time, and flow. This works for all kinds of movement, not just dance.  For example, if you are swinging a baseball bat, you might be using Strong Weight, Free Flow and Direct Space.

Elwell believes that understanding the science behind her movement has made her a better dancer.

“The concepts and principals I learned in the class have been exceedingly valuable to me as a dancer, and have broadened my understanding of dance.”

AcademicsArts & Culture

The Science of Movement

How do dancers move the way they do? There’s actually a science behind every spin!

by Kailey Eaton ’17

from Spring 2017

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The Linklater Voice

Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

Theatre is an art where the human being is the medium the art is created with, and the art form is about bringing a human being to life. In order to achieve a great play, actors must learn and train in the actor’s quartet: voice, body, mind, and heart.

At Butler University, theatre students train in all these areas, but it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the University had a well-structured and effective voice class.

“I knew we weren’t offering training that was good enough in this department, and I wanted something better,” Jordan College of the Arts Theatre Chair Diane Timmerman said. “We just had one random, inconsequential Voice for the Actor class, and now we have three that are very structured, specific, and effective.”

Timmerman spent four years obtaining a Linklater Voice certification to help create and teach Butler’s new Voice for the Actor classes. The Linklater Voice methodology uses a combination of imagery, art, and science to teach students to liberate their natural voices; the hallmark of the Linklater work being maximum effect with minimal effort.

“I like to look at the work with two main purposes,” Timmerman said. “One is called vocal hygiene—developing the breathing and speaking mechanism and restoring it to the way it was originally meant to be utilized. The other side of the work, which is of utmost importance to actors, is expressivity.”

Throughout the semester, Timmerman’s students complete a variety of physiological exercises and study the anatomy of the human body to gain a better understanding and awareness of how their bodies and their breath affect one another. Timmerman even utilizes a parachute, like the ones used in elementary and middle school gym classes, to help students better visualize how the diaphragm actually works.

“Ninety percent of people’s voice issues have to do with breathing issues. So we begin with skeletal awareness, breath awareness, and exactly how the breathing process works,” Timmerman said.

Timmerman explained the outcome of these exercises and the studying of anatomy is that students develop a picture of the skeleton which means they can better release extraneous tensions that impede the breathing and speaking process.

“Breath is the foundation for everything with your voice,” Timmerman said. “Your voice can be much more when you want it to be. Certainly an actor on stage wants the voice to be more effective. They’re playing a role and they want the feelings, the thoughts, and the essence of that character manifested in their sounds.”

Timmerman further explained that the Linklater methodology is holistic work that takes time to learn and master, but that it works, which is why Timmerman pushed to earn her certification to teach it.

“Once a student goes through even one semester of Voice for the Actor class, they have developed so much awareness of their breathing and speaking mechanisms that they do far superior work on stage,” Timmerman said.

Timmerman is one of fewer than a 140 individuals worldwide certified in Linklater Voice. This means Butler students, who learned the Linklater methodology through Timmerman’s class, are a rare group of students who hold a better understanding of how their voice works and how they can use it in various situations to excel both personally and professionally.

AcademicsArts & Culture

The Linklater Voice

Theatre is an art where the human being is the medium the art is created with, and the art form is about bringing a human being to life.

by Krisy Force

from Spring 2017

Read more

Butler's Healthcare and Business Major

Amy Peak ’97

from Spring 2017

Here we grow again! Innovative programs continue to be developed and implemented all over campus.  The novel undergraduate Healthcare and Business (HCB) major, a unique partnership between the Lacy School of Business and the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, is a perfect example. This program, which began in August 2016, consists of a nucleus of liberal arts, science, healthcare, and business experiences surrounded by a plethora of elective options. This adaptable new bachelor’s degree program will prepare students for direct entry into the workforce in areas which include, but are not limited to, healthcare marketing, health insurance and risk management, healthcare finance, healthcare information technology, healthcare data analytics, healthcare policy, and much more. HCB is also excellent preparation for graduate programs such as Master of Health Administration, Master of Public Health, Master of Business Administration, and multiple clinical graduate programs.

Two fundamental themes within the HCB program are collaboration and flexibility. Throughout the four- year curriculum, HCB majors have more than a dozen courses in common with health science majors. In these courses, future healthcare providers, administrators, insurers, and business leaders all work and learn together. By purposefully combining these cohorts of students throughout their undergraduate experience, we believe tomorrow’s generation of healthcare leaders will be better equipped to solve complex problems in a modern healthcare environment.    

Flexibility is also essential. Over half of today’s college-students change their major at least once, and over 20 percent change majors three times or more. The HCB program is designed to provide students with the flexibility to explore and pursue different career options without necessitating a major change.  Over 50 elective course options are available, allowing students to customize their educational experience to optimally prepare for their individual career goals.   

As this new program grows, we are actively seeking support from our alumni, friends, and community members. If you are an individual whose career is in the business of healthcare, and you are willing to allow a HCB student to shadow you for a half day or more, please provide your contact information here.  (add link-need a tiny url here if you can or ask Nancy)  If your organization currently offers, or is interested in developing internships for which HCB students may apply, please contact Amy Peak at apeak@butler.edu.

Academics

Butler's Healthcare and Business Major

Here we grow again!

by Amy Peak ’97

from Spring 2017

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Butler's Researchers Tackle TB

Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

Most of us get a TB test some time in our lives, and we go on our merry way, assuming it will be negative.

We don’t know how lucky we are.

Butler University Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeremy Johnson is searching for a way to spread that luck to the parts of the world where tuberculosis still kills more people than any other infectious disease: 1.5 million annually.

Worse yet, the bacterium causing the disease (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) is becoming increasingly resistant to the antibiotics doctors use to treat the infection.

“The incidence of TB has remained fairly steady over time. It now annually causes more deaths worldwide than HIV, the other major fatal bacterial infection,” said Johnson, the recent recipient of a National Institutes of Health grant to study the disease.

Researchers rightly made a massive push toward arresting HIV growth in the 1980s, with tremendous success. Today, Johnson is part of a growing body of researchers determined to achieve the same success with TB.

“The bacterium that causes TB has a complex life cycle that’s very difficult to treat with current methods: four drugs and six months to treat a full-blown case,” he said. “In the U.S., we have a healthcare system that makes sure patients take their drugs all the way through their treatment schedule. In other countries, people start feeling better and stop taking their medicine, leading to drug-resistant TB infections.”

When TB is in its active form, it’s contagious and transmitted through the air. When it’s dormant – where Johnson is focusing his research – the bacterium exists inside the lungs, kept inactive by a healthy immune system.

Most treatments today don’t target inactive versions of TB. Johnson believes stopping the bacterium at the dormant stage – long before it’s a contagious infection – holds the most promise for eradicating the disease.

Here’s where Johnson gets technical.

“We’re looking at a particular class of enzymes within TB known as serine hydrolases. When researchers looked at the toxic proteins TB produces, they saw that serine hydrolases accounted for twice as many as other toxic bacteria produced – in fact, a higher relative amount of serine hydrolases are made in TB than we make as humans.

“In the change between dormant and active states, the body secretes a large number of these serine hydrolases into a person’s lungs, where they break down the host’s cellular components. TB bacterium then feed on nutrients from those components to survive.

“Our proposal is that if we can inhibit these serine hydrolases from being active during dormancy, then we could stop the entire process. In the dormant state, there is only a very small number of bacterium.”

More than 30 million people have died since the World Health Organization declared TB to be a global emergency in 1993. In 2016, the WHO declared the world is not doing enough to meet its TB goals.

Not if Johnson and his research students at Butler University can help it.

Learn more about the hands-on research happening at Butler here.

Academics

Butler's Researchers Tackle TB

We don’t know how lucky we are.

by Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

Read more

Butler Summer Institute–Celebrating 25 Years

Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

No classes, no employment, no interruptions—only research. That’s just the way they want it, the 30 students who are chosen to immerse themselves in the Butler Summer Institute (BSI), celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

These are dedicated, self-directed Butler student researchers with a methodological background and a passion to pursue a significant question, every day for nine weeks. Students who apply need a recommendation from a faculty member, and an explanation of their project. BSI participants each get a $2,500 stipend and live and work on campus. Each student has his or her own faculty mentor and close bonds are formed, with the added support and encouragement of fellow student researchers.

“No topic is off limits,” said Dr. Dacia Charlesworth, Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships at Butler. “It could be that a student found something interesting in the humanities, and they’re excited to take it to another level. One student analyzed Tweets about the violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and then the Orlando nightclub shootings happened and her project shifted focus. We had a history major who wants to be a dentist, study the effects of mercury tooth fillings. She uncovered an actual melodrama musical of mercury’s side effects.” Said Charlesworth, “These are great students who want to learn, and that makes our job easy.”

The BSI students have to show how they are advancing research in their field, and make a definite contribution to their discipline. There are “research recaps” at the end of each week, aided by presentation training so students can more confidently explain their work in basic terms to their audiences. In the end, students are required to produce work worthy of acceptance in a professional conference or publication, and they present their project at Butler’s Undergraduate Research Conference the following April. 

AcademicsStudent Life

Butler Summer Institute–Celebrating 25 Years

No classes, no employment, no interruptions—only research.

by Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

Read more

No Literary Grandma Moses

Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

In May 2018, I will have completed all the requirements for an MFA in Creative Writing from Butler University and be preparing to graduate. And like so many students, I’ve been asked countless times: What are you going to do with that degree?

My usual answer is that I’m going to have an interesting last quarter of my life. I’ll be 59 by the time 2018 commencement rolls around, so I’m not looking for a career. I have no expectations of becoming a literary Grandma Moses.

I went through the MFA program (30 classroom credits, plus thesis) because I wanted—and got—a great education. I enjoy writing stories about reprobates and other morally ambiguous people—a woman who fled her marriage after 9/11; a meth addict who thinks he’s on a reality show; a recent graduate who takes a job writing scam emails. So that’s what I did.

Over two years as an MFA student, I wrote a play, a movie script, at least a half-dozen short stories (three of which have been published), and a handful of prose poems and flash fiction stories. I learned alternative forms of storytelling and how to write a non-fiction book proposal, read brilliant authors I never would have known about otherwise, and gained insights about writing and storytelling from exceptional faculty and visiting writers.

When I was a kid, I wrote a lot of fiction. Then I stopped. I don’t remember why. The MFA program motivated me to write again, and it enabled me to have my work critiqued by highly accomplished professors and classmates who make up for in talent and insight what they lack in age.

If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience. And if you’re ever in a bookstore or browsing Amazon.com and see a novel about a racist obstetrician who microchips babies so he can track their movements as adults, I hope you’ll buy it.

Academics

No Literary Grandma Moses

"If you’ve ever thought about going back to school—whatever your age—I highly recommend the experience."

by Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

from Spring 2017

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Suits or Sails?

Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

Wet or dry shoes? Shorts or a sport coat? Sunshine or fluorescent lights? Mosquitos or … well, fewer mosquitos? 

You may not think of these things when considering an internship, yet they do become part of your reality. Just ask Butler interns Tyler Hudgens and Keiffer Williams. 

Tyler Hudgens ’17 

Manufacturing and Quality Science Intern, Eli Lilly and Company Tyler Hudgens

Tyler Hudgens chose dry shoes and fluorescent lights when he took an internship with Eli Lilly and Company, a global pharmaceutical company headquartered in Indianapolis. He’s happy with his decision—so happy, in fact, that when the company offered him a job upon graduation, he accepted with alacrity. 

Hudgens is in this spot because he availed himself of a Butler opportunity and attended a Woods lecture. He walked in as a pre-med student who was questioning his career choice. He walked out realizing bioengineering was what he’d been looking for. 

“I’d volunteered in hospitals and found it wasn’t for me. I was more interested in the science behind healthcare,” Hudgens said. “So when I heard a heart tissue bioengineer speak and learned what they did, I switched.” 

His internship at Lilly has confirmed his decision.

“I’ve gained strong problem-solving and strategic-thinking skills,” Hudgens said. “I was able to incorporate engineering and scientific concepts to solve real-world issues in pharmaceuticals while I was gaining knowledge about manufacturing processes within the medical industry.” 

Keiffer Williams ’16 Keiffer Williams

(Former) Intern, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Oceans Research and Butler Summer Institute 

Applying to grad schools 

Keiffer Williams, on the other hand, opted for shorts and wet shoes. As an intern in the fish biology lab of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and at Oceans Research in South Africa, Williams indulged his passion for ocean ecology and conservation. 

“I’ve enjoyed the ocean since an early age, especially sharks, and I nurtured that interest all through high school,” Williams said. “I was searching for ways to have a more limited experience to decide if marine science was something I wanted to do when I found Oceans Research.” 

He dove with dolphins and sharks (focusing on Great Whites) in the six-week program, coming to understand the significant effect humans can have on a species—even in the name of conservation. 

In Panama at STRI, working under the direction of visiting scientist Dr. Michele Pierotti, he explored the evolution of visual ecology among marine fish sister species native to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Smithsonian experience instilled in him a keen understanding of the opportunities that come with a higher-level degree. 

Williams also participated in the Butler Summer Institute on plant hormones research. Now, he’ll spend the next two years applying to graduate school. 

The former Boy Scout is also keen to be a better conservation advocate. 

“In today’s world, there’s a large disconnect between scientists in the trenches of data and the lay person. It’s essential for people to be able to understand what we’re doing and what it means to the environment,” he said. 

AcademicsStudent Life

Suits or Sails?

Wet or dry shoes? Shorts or a sport coat? Sunshine or fluorescent lights? Mosquitos or … well, fewer mosquitos? 

by Cindy Conover Dashnaw

from Spring 2017

Read more

One Butler: The Brain Project

Catherine Pangan MS ’99

from Spring 2017

What do you get when you combine leaders in the neuroscience field from around Indianapolis, an engaged community, and a spirit of integrated learning? You guessed it—One Butler: The Brain Project. 

One Butler: The Brain Project is a yearlong, campus-wide initiative focusing on brain health, with the goal of developing appreciation of how neuroscience is woven into the tapestry of our lives. 

The Brain Project transcends academic disciplines and is led by a dynamic steering committee that includes representatives from the community, each of Butler’s six colleges, students, trustees, the library, performing arts venues, Student Affairs, the Health and Recreation Complex, and several faculty members who are already using neuroscientific research in their curriculum. (Read more on Butler faculty neuroscience study in this issue’s faculty profile of Professor Tara Lineweaver.) 

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor kicked off the initiative in September 2016 to a packed house in Clowes Memorial Hall. The Brain Project includes a yearlong speaker series, integrated coursework opportunities for students, faculty art exhibits, and connections in our Themed Living Communities in the residence halls. 

A central highlight of One Butler: The Brain Project is the installation of the “Big Brains!” This exhibit of 10 enormous fiberglass brain sculptures (5’x6’), commissioned by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, depicts neuroscience themes (mental health, concussion, food, etc.) and will be displayed on campus this April. 

Efforts have been coordinated with community partners, including the Eskenazi Center for Brain Care, Community Health Network, and others. 

Some of the topics explored this year include: 

  • Mental health’s cutting-edge research in schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s 
  • Creativity: music, art, and innovation 
  • Addictions, Brain Food, and Sleep 
  • Sports Wellness: prevention of traumas and concussions 
  • How we learn: education and neuroscience with an Educational Neuroscience Conference offering April 29

The Butler Brain Project seeks to distinguish Butler as an environment where academics, student life, interpersonal relationships, and physical and mental health are informed by knowledge of the human brain and how it works. It also aims to create a model for comprehensive, collaborative, and transdisciplinary exploration of a relevant topic that can be replicated and scaled to other campus environments.

Serving as a convener for neuroscience educators and clinicians from Central Indiana, we expect 40,000–50,000 students, faculty, staff, and community members will experience the One Butler: The Brain Project. We hope you can join us for this brain-boosting experience! Please visit www.butler.edu/brainproject for the most up-to-date information. You can also find us on Facebook under One Butler: Brain Project.

AcademicsCommunity

One Butler: The Brain Project

by Catherine Pangan MS ’99

from Spring 2017

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Ideas That Take Flight

Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

Nearly 30 years in the making, Butler University’s Undergraduate Research Program is widely recognized as one of the nation’s best. “Longevity and a cohesive program make us stand out,” said Dacia Charlesworth, who oversees Butler’s program. “All facets of undergraduate research opportunities are merged at Butler year-round, which is rare to find. Other universities divide their research program into departments.” Each spring, Butler hosts an annual Undergraduate Research Conference (URC), one of the largest in the country, and Butler students compete for 30 spots in the immersive Butler Summer Institute (BSI), for focused research on projects in any discipline. 

With more societal influences affecting science, and an interdisciplinary approach, there are no barriers to research topics. There’s traditional lab work, and experiential learning that’s an extension of the classroom. Butler research students have studied the development of butterfly wings, how to prevent the fading of color in pieces at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the behaviors and attitudes of pre-pharmacists toward HIV and AIDS patients, and even confessional poetry. “It’s the integration of our mission statement,” said Charlesworth. “We put Liberal Arts and professional programs together and demonstrate to the community how they can help.” 

Students are encouraged to present and share their results with others, with Travel to Present and Honors Thesis Grants contributing to Butler’s national exposure. It’s not enough to conduct the research. Butler coaches presentation skills, with students learning to avoid jargon so their research is more relatable and significant to a general audience. End-of-year reports and an active Twitter feed (@ TheButlerURC) boost awareness of Butler’s program. The 2016 Undergraduate Research Conference drew more than 900 people, an increase of 200 participants from the previous year, despite a trimmed promotional budget and slight fee hike. This year for the first time, there will be a new presentation category with cash awards, to add a tier of competition to the URC. 

Charlesworth has held the title of Butler’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships for about a year and a half, and has an infectious enthusiasm about her job. She tells prospective students and their parents, “Look at other universities and see if they have a position like mine. Most universities don’t. It sets Butler apart, having an all-inclusive program, and someone who can identify top scholarships for student researchers.”

Academics

Ideas That Take Flight

by Sharon Alseth ’91

from Spring 2017

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Conversation Transformed

Hayley Ross ’17

from Spring 2017

Every Thursday night from 5:30-8:00 PM in the basement of Jordan Hall, the Butler Aphasia Community meets, giving voice to those who are struggling with language and speech and inspiring those striving for a career doing just that. 

The program has the Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) undergraduates work as a support group for those suffering from aphasia, which is most often caused by a stroke and affects communication abilities. The program is a CSD elective.

“A main identifier of people with aphasia is they can say the words but can’t make the sentences flow,” CSD major Betsy Russo ’17 said. “Or they can say the transitional words but can’t form the sentence.” 

Russo will be taking the class next semester after completing the prerequisites and observation hour requirements. She observed the group multiple times in preparation. “It is really awesome to see the individual growth,” she said. “There may be people who recently had a stroke and then people who have been there so long that they can have almost completely normal conversation. It is so inspiring to see the transformation.” 

During the first hour, the group meets as a whole. They have a big activity, such as yoga/painting/exercise class, and it is modified for those in wheelchairs from a stroke. Then they split into smaller groups to play games, talk, or do whatever else the group wants to do. 

“It is a lot of fun,” group member Madeline Koenig ’17 said. “One of the things we work on is the life participation approach to aphasia (LPAA). It focuses on conversation aspects and gets them back into everyday life and activities.” 

Koenig was in the program this semester. Although the program is technically a class, she is going to try to take it again next semester because it directly correlates to what she wants to focus on for the rest of her life. “I genuinely like working with adults,” she said. “It is my passion in our field and this has allowed me to utilize both my knowledge and passion. It really just gets me excited to practice hands-on as a student what I want to do professionally.” 

Mary Gospel, Chair of Communication Sciences and Disorders, started the group at Butler four years ago. Since then, there have been 54 clients that have come through the program—almost all of them for more than one semester. 

“The opportunity for the students and clients to work together and get to know each other is such a win-win,” she said. “The students benefit and the clients benefit. Also, because clients’ insurance runs out so quickly, we knew there weren’t a lot of options and this was a big need in the community.” 

Gospel has volunteered with the Northside Aphasia Support Group since 2001, and it was a big inspiration when creating one at Butler. “In class you learn what aphasia is, but with this you learn what it is like to live with aphasia,” she said. 

Koenig said this group has been one of the highlights of her Butler career. 

“There aren’t a lot of support groups around, so it is really important that we have one,” she said. “They are such a fun group of people and it couldn’t be a better way to end my Thursdays—doing something fun, and something I want to do when I graduate.” 

Academics

Conversation Transformed

by Hayley Ross ’17

from Spring 2017

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Preparing Students for the Future

Kailey Eaton ’17

from Spring 2017

Audrey Bonn ’16, a graduate of Butler’s Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program, puts her degree to use to its fullest every day. 

Bonn is currently the Patient Communications Coordinator for Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis. Her job responsibilities include managing outpatient communications and performing an analysis on the productivity of the messages that she sends. 

“I try to find a correlation between appointment reminder messages and whether or not a patient will show up for their appointment,” Bonn said. “Being an STS major helped to prepare me for this job because I was taught to look at situations critically, think outside the box, and not just assume that what appears on the surface gives the whole story.” 

Bonn says her favorite part of the STS curriculum was the opportunity she had to consistently study thought-provoking topics, which helped her broaden her worldview. The program allowed her to use the skills from her major and become a problem-solver in her field—a true critical thinker. 

“The vast majority of our assignments required us to analyze topics and propose educated solutions for issues that we studied,” she said. “I use this in my job not only when I am trying to find correlations between two things, but also when I am trying to brainstorm new campaigns that would help solve some of the hospital’s problems.” 

Students in STS are equipped with an understanding of how our world is transformed and challenged by science and technology. The program examines the interaction between science and technology and our health, families, communities, and environment. The curriculum builds on students’ problem-solving and communication skills.

It also places an emphasis on the STEM Disciplines— Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These academic disciplines are being taught in middle schools and high schools and have increased in prominence over the last eight to 10 years both nationally and globally. 

Carmen Salsbury is the Director of the Science, Technology, and Environmental Studies program, which is the overarching program that the STS major falls under. Salsbury says the STS program has grown exponentially. The first 10 years of its existence saw only about 15 majors. The program now sees consistently around 50 majors. 

Now more than ever, Salsbury says that there is a need to understand science and society given the decline of our environment and the struggle to acquire resources globally, which could be why the STS major has become so popular. 

The major is also highly customizable to what students are interested in. Students are required to take 30 credit hours of coursework—12 hours of STS core courses and 18 hours of STS elective courses from across campus. This curriculum allows students to explore a wide variety of interests. 

Kellie Dominick ’17, an STS major, says she enjoys this aspect of the curriculum because she does not feel the pressure to commit to a single career path. “My current plan is to work in hospital administration, but the great thing about STS is that if I realize that it’s not for me, there are also different paths I can take,” she said. 

There is also an increasing demand for non-scientists who have some training with science and technology and who also have an understanding of the institutions of science and their place in modern society. This kind of background is at the core at the STS curriculum, which is why Butler students are finding success in careers and entrepreneurial opportunities outside of the traditional sciences employment tracts. 

Students in the program have gone on to pursue careers not only in science and technology, but also in health, education, law, public policy, and communications. 

Salsbury says that because the curriculum is interdisciplinary, it forces students to look at issues from many different directions, like Bonn does in her role at Eskenazi. She says it’s a skill that takes practice and experience, but is highly valued by employers. 

The major also stresses the importance of communication as an underlying skill needed for success across the board. “This major strongly emphasizes the ability to communicate, whether in writing or speaking, because to understand all of these issues is nothing if you can’t communicate effectively.” 

Salsbury is confident that this versatile set of tools acquired in the STS program will serve them well in postgraduate life. “In the end,” she said, “I think graduates of the STS program end up with a pretty powerful skill set.”

Academics

Preparing Students for the Future

There is a need to understand science and society given the decline of our environment and the struggle to acquire resources globally, which could be why the STS major has become so popular. 

by Kailey Eaton ’17

from Spring 2017

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