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Levi Smith looks through a microscope

Levi Smith was unstuck in time.

He’d been in the Yale University lab for who knows how long—sans sunlight, the 18-hour days were starting to bleed together. With some straining, he remembered: He was on his third day of four in this cycle.

A rustling startled him: It was the janitor, in for his 4:30 PM round. Another eight hours had elapsed.

It’s all going to be worth it soon, he thought.

He was exhausted—tired didn’t even begin to cover it. He was shellacked by numbers and formulas. His mind was a maze of molecules, the lab in front of him and the one in his mind swimming in a brain-fog limbo.

“He described to me that when he’s doing an experiment, he imagines in his mind how the molecules interact within the space of the tube or inside the cell,” Alex Erkine, a professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Butler University whose lab Smith worked in while investigating anti-cancer therapy, says. “As if his mind is a hugely magnifying microscope.”

That vision, Erkine, says, is the gold standard in molecular biology. It’s like perfect pitch in music.

“This quality to see the world of molecules and participate in it experimentally is the superb golden quality of a talented molecular biologist,” Erkine says.

Smith was immersed in a world of unbroken concentration, his body screaming for sleep, his brain eager to forge on.

And he couldn’t wait to do it again the next day. And the next.

This was the type of work, he realized, he wanted to spend the rest of his life doing.

 

The ‘Miracle of Tylenol’

Smith graduated from Yale in March with a doctorate in cell biology, one six years in the making. And he spent six years at Butler University before that, earning a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences and a doctorate of pharmacy, the first student in a dual-degree pilot program.

Now he’s a senior research scientist at Halda Therapeutics, a start-up biotech company based in New Haven, Connecticut.

But first, he had to get there.

Smith didn’t grow up in Silicon Valley, or on one of the coasts. He’s from Camden, Indiana, a town just under 90 minutes north of Indianapolis that has fewer residents than many high-school graduating classes (just over 600, according to the 2010 census).

Camden was a place where a “nerdy” kid who was dumbstruck by “the wonder of Tylenol” in middle school could stand out.

“I remember thinking how extraordinary it is that my back could hurt, and I could take Tylenol to fix it,” Smith says. “Or if my hand hurt, I could take Tylenol to feel better. It was that naiveté of ‘Wow, how does it know what to fix?’”

But there was one big obstacle to his scientific ambitions: Neither of his parents had graduated from college. His dad had been out of his life since he was 10, and his mother was taking classes online at Indiana State University while raising him and his year-younger brother solo.

Smith was never ashamed of his family’s financial situation, but he was aware they weren’t exactly well off. 

“I remember bringing groceries home from Dollar General once,” he says. “My mom sat down at the table with her checkbook, and we had to take some back because the check would’ve balanced if we’d have kept all of them.”

That moment that would later inspire him as a low he never wanted to return to.

“I didn’t want my mom to ever be in that situation again,” he says. “She was doing the most she could, not having a college degree.”

His mom worked as a teacher’s aide at his Camden elementary school, picking up cleaning jobs on the side. Smith delivered copies of the Logansport Pharos-Tribune newspaper on his bike for extra cash.

“Everyone in Camden knew me,” he says.

But it wasn’t enough to be known. He wanted to be liked.

Shannon Sterrett, a Camden classmate of Smith’s who’s known him since he was 2, says Smith always had a snarky comment at the ready.

“Which often times made his fellow students laugh, but his teacher, not always so much,” she says. “I can remember a time or two in middle school when he got sent out into the hall.”

Smith wasn’t, in other words, your stereotypical brownnoser. But neither was he popular with his classmates.

So he turned to drugs—the study of them, that is.

“I never got into [using] drugs because I feared losing my 21st Century scholarship,” he says. “That scared the hell out of me.”

But as for the chemistry and biology behind them? Now that he could digest.

He wanted to know how to make new medicine. And how to treat diseases. And just how, exactly, did Tylenol know what part of his body hurt, again?

And then he went all in.

 

Landing at Butler

Though neither of Smith’s parents graduated from college, it was always the assumed next step for him and his younger brother, he says. 

Smith’s mom was taking online classes through Indiana State when he was in middle and high school. She’d do homework in the bleachers at his soccer matches and track meets. 

“She was a single mom going to school online while raising two teenage boys,” Smith says. “How do you even do that?”

When she earned her bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from Indiana State in 2006, she was the first in Smith’s family to do so.

Now, it was Smith’s turn.

To understand how improbable Smith’s ascent from Camden to Butler to Yale is, you need to understand his mentality toward standardized testing. Yes, he took a few AP classes, but he didn’t realize studying for a test was something people did.

“In my naiveté, I thought you just showed up and demonstrated your intelligence,” he says. “It was only later that I realized, ‘Wait, people study for those?’”

When the navy-and-white envelope from Butler University arrived in his mailbox, it was good news.

He was headed to Indianapolis to study pre-pharmacy.

 

“Failure Was Not an Option”

This is the fanciest place I’ve ever been, Smith remembers thinking when he visited the Butler campus for the first time in 2007. The brick-and-glass buildings, the fieldhouse that could fit nearly 15 Camdens inside it, the meticulously manicured lawns…

He says Butler’s assistant director of financial aid, Jacque Mickel, was crucial to his success as a first-generation student—even when he felt like a fish out of water.

“My mom and I showed up to this nice-looking building for our first financial aid meeting, and I felt very out of place,” he says. “I was trying to walk so [Mickel] wouldn’t see the holes in the seat of my jeans when I left her office.”

What Mickel remembers about that meeting is that Smith took the lead.

“He is the one that led the discussion, not his mother,” she says. “The majority of the time students sit in financial aid meetings and don’t say a word…with Levi, this wasn’t the case. He took an active role in knowing about financial aid and the impact of loans, as he knew he was going to have to take them out.”

Smith says Mickel was the blessing he didn’t know he needed.

“I’d get emails from her like, ‘You’d be a perfect fit for this scholarship!’ or ‘Can you go to this breakfast on this day?’” he says.

At every opportunity, he took advantage. By the time he graduated from Butler in 2013 in the top 10% of his class, he’d received six scholarships, including the A.J.W. LeBien Scholarship from the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, the Thomas Stein Scholarship for fourth-year pharmacy students, and the Indiana 21st Century Scholars Scholarship.

And then came even better news.

“When we found out I got a stipend for grad school [at Butler], and I wasn’t going to have to take out any more loans, [Mickel] cried,” Smith says. “She really, really cared.”

Yet Mickel doesn’t get all the credit keeping Smith afloat financially. The frugal mindset from his Camden years never left him.

Before starting college, Smith remembers a heart-to-heart with his mom.

Some of the people you meet are going to be talking about vacations, or where they’re going on Christmas break, she told him. You know the fact we can’t do that doesn’t change—just know you’re going to have a different experience.

Yet Smith says he never remembers feeling “without.” He kept himself so busy he didn’t have time to spend money. And he had a pharmacist’s preference for generics over brand names.

“I was buying Great Value everything,” he says.

His lunch was a jar of Great Value peanut butter, spread on Great Value bread with Great Value chips.

But there was one exception to his Great Value mindset: Ritz crackers.

They were his holy grail. His grandma would bring the last few sleeves from a box every time she saw him. He was unwilling to splurge on a full box himself. 

“I was cognizant of my financial situation, and I wasn’t foolish enough to think it was any different than what it really was,” he says. “I’d cook food at home—it’s not hard to boil pasta. I had family in Crawfordsville about an hour away, and my grandma would bring me some food from her cupboard.”

HIs number one priority, bar none, was doing well in school. He knew he had one shot at college, and he wasn’t about to waste it.

His goal, he says, was to ensure future Levi would never be frustrated with past Levi.

“I worked very hard to never put myself in a position to disappoint myself,” he says. “There was no safety net if I didn’t do well.” 

And he was willing to work—whenever and wherever he could.

He was working in the lab at Butler. But he was also holding down a job as a weekend intern at a Wal-Mart pharmacy from 2009 to 2013 so he could pay his rent. He’d work Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 in the lab at Butler, then spend Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday working at the pharmacy.

“It was a way to get extra hours when I couldn’t get paid for all of my lab work,” he says.

When he started his clinical rotations working in a community pharmacy setting during his final year at Butler—only 10-hour days five days per week, he says—it actually felt like a break.

And he was curious about everything, so much so that he initially irritated a few of his professors, who mistook his intensity for arrogance.

“Just a bit too many questions,” is how Erkine, Smith’s research mentor at Butler, characterizes his first impression of Smith, who would later become his star student.

Medhane Cumbay, a former assistant professor of Pharmacology at Butler, met Smith in 2008, during the first semester of his freshman year. Cumbay helped develop a dual-degree program at Butler in 2011 that combines a doctorate in pharmacy with a master’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences, which Smith piloted.

The dual-degree program “was designed to attract students like Levi,” Cumbay says. Smith’s hybrid program combined the clinical knowledge of the PharmD program with the M.S. program’s training in science research skills.

Yes, it was a lot of additional work and late nights in the lab. But it was perfect for Smith.

Erkine, who worked with Smith to pilot the program, remembers Smith’s unparalleled work ethic. Smith injured his thumb while working in his home’s basement one day — and was exasperated, Erkine says, not because of the physical pain, but because he couldn’t hold a pipet.

“When he starts a lab procedure, he dives into it and can stay very late or come during the weekend to push it through,” Erkine says.

And when the opportunities he craved didn’t exist, Smith made his own.

“Levi doesn’t seem to see barriers,” Cumbay says.

And though he didn’t know it at the time, his extensive research experience coupled with his doctorate in pharmacy made him competitive for one of the top research programs in the country:

Yale.

 

The Pipe Dream Becomes Reality

The results blinked back at him from atop the Google search: “Top 10 PhD programs in the U.S. for Cell Biology.”

Dream big or go home, Smith thought.

He applied to all of them.

Smith was in his last year of the dual-degree pharmacy program at Butler, ready to take the next step to doctoral research, one he says was necessary if he wanted to work in drug development. He knew Yale was a long shot because of his unconventional background — completing the dual degree program meant he had extensive research experience, but not the typical applicant’s bachelor’s degree in biology or prestige of having worked for a famous research university.

What, Yale committee members might wonder, did a pharmacist know about research?

Erkine believed in him—but Smith’s mentor also a realist.

“That’s a very good program,” he said when Smith told him he was applying to the doctoral program in Cell Biology at Yale.

A beat passed.

“No, I mean that’s a really good program,” Erkine said. “Maybe you should consider applying for a backup, just to be on the safe side.”

He needn’t have worried: Smith had that covered.

Each of the dozen-plus schools Smith applied to required three or four letters of recommendation. Cumbay and Erkine were up to the task.

Cumbay said his letter of recommendation for Smith for the Cell Biology program at Yale was “one of the most enjoyable” he’s ever written.

“It was a ringing endorsement,” he says.

Yale flew him out for an interview, one he worked extra hours in the Butler lab to make up for attending. He spent the intervening weeks trying to come to terms with what a rejection might mean. He read the rejection letter online. Once. Twice. Ten times.

He can still quote from it.

“You can tell I’ve read that a few times,” he says.

Rejection letters are infamously thin, compared to the thick packets Yale’s admitted students receive.

Finally, one afternoon, the mail arrived. Smith braced himself.

It was a thick packet.

 

Six Years, One Disease

It was the one puzzle he couldn’t solve.

“With most diseases, we have drugs that can correct something that’s going wrong,” Smith says. “We have disease-modifying drugs that, if your cholesterol is too high, will eat the rest of it. Or we can prescribe a statin, which inhibits the body’s production of cholesterol.”

But such a drug for Alzheimer’s sufferers has proved elusive.

“It’s the only one of the top 10 deadliest diseases [in America] that can’t be prevented or cured or even slowed,” Smith says.

He spent six years of his life trying.

He worked in Yale Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience Stephen Strittmatter’s lab as a doctoral candidate, parsing the mysteries of Alzheimer’s and drug discovery.

He developed a drug that would prevent two proteins from binding to one another to treat memory impairments in mice—the same mutations that cause Alzheimer’s disease in humans. He tested his drug on more than 100 mice using an experimental design known as the Morris water maze.

In the Morris water maze experiment, a mouse must swim through a pool of opaque water to a hidden escape platform. The platform is located in the same spot during each trial, but the mouse is released into the pool from different entry points, testing its ability to learn and recall spatial cues—that is, memory.

Smith performed the experiment both forward and in reverse, which means that after three days of the mouse learning the location of the hidden platform in one position, Smith moved the platform to the opposite side of the pool. So, now the mouse had to not only learn that the platform was no longer in the first location, it also had to learn and recall the new location.

“The first day was a 22-hour day of just doing the experiment nonstop,” Smith says. “Then the next was a 20-hour day, then day 3 was 18…I spent a total of 135 hours in the lab over eight days, doing the experiment both forward and in reverse. You’ve got to love it.”

Smith was encouraged by the result: His drug restored the memory of the mice with plaques in their brains.

“My drug goes in after neurological connections are lost and prevents a beta (what plaques are made from) from binding to neurons, so neurons can heal and make connections again, fixing memory” he says. “This test showed that my drug did that.”

Not only that, but the mice “completely recovered from their mental impairment and regained all their connections.”

If his drug could produce the same effect in humans, it would be a game changer.

Smith’s classmates would be impressed, but not necessarily surprised.

Santiago Salazar, a former classmate of Smith’s at Yale who is now a scientist at Alector, a San Francisco biotechnology firm, recalls a time he legitimately thought Smith was superhuman.

Salazar and Smith were racing the clock to beat a grant deadline. Their lab advisor asked Smith if he could perform the necessary experiment at the last minute—because Smith was the only one in the lab who knew how.

“Normally this experiment can take weeks, even months, to optimize, with hundreds of milligrams of material to burn through,” Salazar says. “Levi optimized and performed the experiment all in one week, with less than 5 mg of drug.”

But Smith’s success never went to his head, another friend, Nathan Williams, who attended graduate school with Smith at Yale, says.

“Levi stood out compared to the rest of our class because he didn’t come from money, or have Ph.D parents,” Williams says. “It’s extremely common for Yalies to look down on people who were not raised on the coasts. Levi was one of the few who didn’t implicitly or explicitly treat me differently because I was raised in Texas.”

Williams says that lack of pretension also spilled over into their conversations.

“Levi was the one person in our class with the courage to say what everyone was thinking,” Williams says, “which earned him respect from professors and me, and ire from some of our classmates.”

 

A Future in Biotech

Twelve years of higher education later, this spring, it was time to look for a job. Finally done with school at age 30, Smith found one right away.

He defended his doctoral thesis at Yale at the end of February—and started as a senior research scientist at the startup biotech company Halda Therapeutics in Connecticut at the end of March, less than five weeks later.

His Yale mentor founded the company, which Smith says is currently in the “very early stages,” but has grown from six to 14 employees over the past four months. Smith can’t disclose exactly what he’s working on at the moment (“We’re kind of in stealth mode,” he says), but rest assured he loves it.

“I always want to be involved in creating new medicines for diseases,” he says. “My thought is, ‘There’s no reason I don’t have a chance to be able to do something about this.’”

Smith will tell you he’s lucky. But the truth? He works hard. He goes long. He’d almost rather die than disappoint someone he cares about.

Sterrett, Smith’s former Camden classmate, remembers a day in their eighth grade Family and Consumer Sciences class when Smith told everyone he was going to get a doctoral degree and do pharmaceutical research.

“We all laughed at him when he told us it was going to be 12 to 14 years of post-high school education,” she says. “But he did everything he said he was going to do, and I couldn’t be prouder!” 

Alum Works to Create ‘Next Big Thing in Solar Power’

By Larry Clow

When Dan Kroupa ’12 walked into Professor Todd Hopkins’ chemistry research lab 11 years ago, he realized for the first time that his passion for science and chemistry could lead to a career. But he didn’t know that such a career would prompt him to tackle one of the most pressing issues in history—or that it would earn him accolades from Forbes Magazine.

Kroupa, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, was recently named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” list for his work on next-generation solar energy technology.

“We’re developing entirely new semiconductor materials that enhance, and could one day replace, current solar absorbers,” he says.

The technology that Kroupa is working on will make today’s solar cells more efficient and easier to produce. The sun is a tremendous source of energy: According to Kroupa, the solar energy that hits the earth in less than two hours contains more power than all the energy humans consume in a year.

The problem is that solar energy is diffuse. Current commercial solar technology doesn’t capture as much of the solar spectrum as it could, and producing solar panels is capital-intensive. While the cost to produce solar panels is declining, Kroupa says panels will need to become even cheaper and more efficient before they’ll be widely adopted.

“Silicon absorbers make up 90 percent of the market. These things are extremely expensive to make and fabricate, and kind of big and rigid. We need to have a very vast amount of solar cells deployed to capture a sufficient amount of that solar radiation,” Kroupa explains. But the results would be worth it. “If we could harvest just a small fraction of solar radiation, we’d be set for a long time.”

Kroupa’s research has found an answer to both challenges through something called quantum cutting. As part of the process, a layer of perovskite (a compound made from common elements) is applied to a silicon solar cell. That coating, applied via a special ink, manipulates the sunlight so that the solar cell can more easily absorb it and convert it into electricity.

“We’re taking high-energy solar photons and converting them into multiple lower-energy photons,” Kroupa says. “It’s a fancy way of saying that we’re getting two-for-one. And if we apply that coating on the surface of the solar cell, we can see improved performance.”

It was Butler that helped guide Kroupa to cutting-edge solar technology research.

“Butler was where I saw that I could apply this unique skill set to solving specific big problems, and one of the areas that I saw could use help was solar energy conversion,” he says. The University is also where he met his wife, Madalyn (Menor) Kroupa ’12, and developed the leadership skills he now uses to guide researchers in the laboratory.

After graduating from Butler, Kroupa earned his PhD at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he worked on next-generation solar technology as a researcher at the federal National Renewable Energy Lab.

The scope of renewable energy projects can be large, and the stakes are high. With so many pressing problems, it can be challenging to remain optimistic while plugging away in the lab. The key, Kroupa says, is to keep things in perspective—and to make a list of what you can accomplish each day.

“The idea is to look at the big picture, but develop a plan for the things you can do to start chipping away at the problem,” he says. “You need to focus on the important things to accomplish for your specific problem while keeping an eye on what you’re working toward. Everything we do in the lab is driven by that.”

Being named to the Forbes list was “exciting,” Kroupa says. “It was the first validation that what we’re trying to do as a company might be a good idea. Getting on the list definitely raised our company profile a little bit. As a startup, you’re always looking for credibility, so any way you can demonstrate that external validation is good.”

Kroupa’s research is being spun off into a private company, BlueDot Photonics, where he is the Chief Technology Officer. There are plenty of challenges ahead, as Kroupa and his team work on refining the technology, finding investors, and determining the best way to bring their product to market. But, he’s optimistic. “It’s going to be the next big thing in solar power,” he says. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to scale it up and prove it out.”

Dan Kroupa ’12 named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” for research on more efficient solar cell
UnleashedAlumni Outcomes

Alum Works to Create ‘Next Big Thing in Solar Power’

Dan Kroupa ’12 named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” for research on more efficient solar cell

Community and Compassion: Loor Alshawa `14

By Monica Holb ‘09

Compassion may not have been a course that Loor Alshawa ’14, a two-time Top 100 student of the year, took at Butler University. But it was a lesson she learned along the way, and is now taking it with her into her medical career. Alshawa graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine in May 2018, ready to take on a residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Kentucky.

Alshawa’s first brush with compassion at Butler may have come from her older sister, also a Butler graduate. Alshawa was on a college visit with her sister, in the midst of the Bulldogs’ 2010 Final Four run, when she spotted Gordon Hayward. Alshawa was compelled to ask for a photo as Hayward made his way to class, and her sister, embarrassed as she was, compassionately didn’t bar Alshawa from ever stepping foot on campus again.

Compassion, however, is expected of siblings; not always of professors and other students. Yet, Alshawa got the sense, right away, that Butler was a tight-knit community.

At Butler, Alshawa learned the importance of compassion, as well as connecting with community. “It is so easy to lose sight of that, but having it ingrained in me at Butler, I hope it will stay with me in my career,” Alshawa said.

A large part of her lesson in compassion came from the myriad of volunteer opportunities Alshawa took part in as a student. For example, through the Diversity Center, she did a tour of volunteering in New Orleans. She also served as the President of the Muslim Student Association for three years. “We went out into the community to help people in need,” Alshawa said of these experiences. One of Alshawa’s favorite things about Butler is that sense of community.

“I went to Butler knowing that I wanted to go to medical school, and Butler helped me get there,” Alshawa said. “A career in medicine can be difficult, but now I am used to having a support system from the Butler community. Staying connected with Butler is my plan.”

Community and compassion mixed with high-level academics were the perfect combination at Butler for Alshawa.

“The academic rigor for medical school is just another level of difficulty,” Alshawa explained. But she was not daunted by the sheer amount of knowledge one must gain in a short amount of time. “I truly believe that Butler set me up for success; the difficulty of Butler courses gave me a leg up,” Alshawa said.

Butler’s academic rigor also put Alshawa in a position to deliver compassionate care. Alshawa had studied French since the seventh grade, but wasn’t planning on adding it to her Biology major. But she admired her French professors and felt she should pursue the language and make it as strong as possible, and decided to double major. With a summer semester in Paris and an independent study her senior year, Alshawa was fluent enough to interview French-speaking people in Indianapolis. The conversations were research about their culture, but also improved her skills. Little did she know that speaking French could help her future patients.

During Alshawa’s OB GYN rotation in medical school, her team had a patient come in by ambulance. The patient had given birth to her baby, but not the placenta, and they were still connected by umbilical cord. The woman was French-speaking only, and the emergency team was not able to even ask for her name. No one could talk to their patient.

Alshawa stepped up and shared her knowledge. “I ended up speaking to her and walking her through what was going on and what we were doing in an emergent situation,” Alshawa said.

These experiences lend Alshawa a vision of who she wants to become as a physician: someone who can interact with patients, visit after visit—without losing her compassion. Butler University’s commitment to academics, and its support of students and the community, will help her achieve just that.

Prepared for the Long Term: Alex Anglin '10

In early June, Alex Anglin ’10—Butler University Trustee, Lacy School of Business graduate, and walk-on for the men's basketball team that went to the 2010 National Championship Game—shared the news that he's going back to school this fall for his MBA.

At Duke University.

“Don’t hold that against me,” he said with a smile.

Anglin was on the bench when Gordon Hayward's last-second shot bounced off the rim and Duke beat Butler, 61-59, in the 2010 national championship game. He remembers watching from the bench and thinking that the ball “was tracking well, so I thought it had a shot to go in. But it is what it is.”

In the years since, Anglin has spent far more time building his career than agonizing over the loss. Since graduating, he’s gone from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to Eli Lilly & Co., and now Lilly is financially sponsoring his MBA and holding a position for him after he's finished.

He remembers what Coach Brad Stevens used to tell his Butler teams: Enjoy the moment, but don't let college be the best four years of your life. Anglin already knew that going into Butler. By the time he finished, he’d done three internships, met his future wife, Lindsey (Corbitt, now a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney within the Marion County prosecutor’s office), and landed a job.

“Basketball’s not forever,” he said. “I went to school to prepare academically and professionally for the long term.”

*

Anglin came to Butler from Kokomo, Indiana, two years after his sister Kym. In high school, he‘d been active in Future Business Leaders of America, and he also played basketball.

“I think I had a natural draw to what Butler had to offer—small class sizes, a big city with access to a diverse set of organizations for internships and community involvement.” he said.

The First-year Business Experience course gave him a “dunking” into potential business disciplines, and he was hooked. Then he took the accounting and finance modules, and those also clicked. Professor Pamela Rouse, an accounting lecturer, suggested he pursue Accounting. She told him that Accounting is the language of business, a critical component of how organizations analyze their business and communicate information for decision-making purposes. Anglin didn’t know what industry he wanted to go into, but he figured he could apply Accounting to a variety of businesses, including financial services, healthcare, and manufacturing. He knew he wanted something flexible so he could eventually find the right path. He decided to major in Accounting, with a minor in Management Information Systems.

As a sophomore, he did the first of his internships, with Allison Transmission, a “great and valuable experience” that gave him his first real taste of the business world.

Also that year, he decided to try to walk on to Butler’s basketball team.

“I thought I would be OK coming to school as a ‘normal student,’” he said. “But I soon realized that I missed playing basketball in a competitive team setting which was a big part of my childhood.”

Stevens, who‘d seen Anglin play in high school, welcomed him, as did the team.

“The family culture is a big part of the Butler system,” Anglin said, “you’re expected to be fully vested in the team and contribute whether you’re a starter and leading scorer or the last man off the bench. That mindset helped me adjust and say I’m here to be the best I can be and help the team get better.”

At the same time, he knew the primary reason he was in school: “To be in the best position to be successful after graduation.”

Following his junior year, Rouse helped him land an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers, the auditing/tax consulting firm. He did well and he liked the work enough that Aaron Schamp, a Butler Trustee and Partner/ITPA Midwest Regional Leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, offered him a full-time position after graduation.

He accepted. But there was still a year of school to go.

*

Anglin played sparingly during his four years with the basketball team, scoring 14 points in 42 games. But being a walk-on still meant practicing at 6:00 AM, being there for every game and team meeting, and training. Balancing academics and basketball “was pretty intense,” especially around NCAA tournament time.

He credits his professor and classmates with helping him keep up with the work in one class in particular, Taxation for Partnerships and Corporations, which met for three hours on a Wednesday in the spring of his senior year. The coursework, he said, was “meaty material that you need to be in front of the professor to understand.”

He got through, and finished his Butler career with a summer internship at the Butler Business Consulting Group (BBCG), which works with businesses to solve their challenges.

“After interning with large public companies, the BBCG was a perfect segue for me to understand the small business mindset as well as to hone skills that are required to lead a finance organization,” he said. “The BBCG provided me an intimate view into the daily roles and responsibilities of a CFO, a role that I aspire to assume.”

Anglin impressed Chris Stump, Project Manage–CFO Services with the consulting group.

“Alex provided excellent contributions to a variety of client projects with the highest level of professionalism and teamwork,” he said. “His demeanor was always pleasant and borderline shy as his nature was very reserved at that time. He led more by action than words. BBCG team members and clients all enjoyed working with Alex.”

Can I Help You?: Natalie van Dongen '18

By Cindy Dashnaw

When Natalie van Dongen ’18 describes her passion for the environment, she’s not referring to climate change, clean air, or protecting forests. She’s concerned with how one’s environment can influence how other people treat them.

“Certain socioeconomic groups are treated differently based on their environment or place in the community,” she said. “For example, wealthy and white people, frankly, have access to better food systems and more organic food than lower-income and minority groups.”

Van Dongen credits her childhood for her ability to recognize these disparities. She was born in Indianapolis but grew up in the small farming town of Towanda, Illinois, with a population of just 480 at the 2010 census. Though her family never wanted for anything, it wasn’t the case for everyone in Towanda, where the median household income is under $45,000—and big stores with healthy food options are unknown.

“I was incredibly privileged growing up. I still am. And I knew if I wasn’t using that privilege to help others, I’d feel guilty,” she said. “My childhood is one that not a lot have lived. My experience is my own, and there’s a lot that can be done with it.”

But what?

In thinking about a college degree and a career, Van Dongen found herself considering the employability of her passions.

“I’m quite outspoken and really care about a lot of issues. When I was looking at what to study, I didn’t know which basket to put my eggs in,” she said. “In today’s world, you can be someone who is outspoken yet not very productive. I wanted to make sure I was putting my time and resources where my mouth is, but more than that, I wanted to do it for others.”

At first, mostly because both parents are Butler Bulldogs, she was adamantly opposed to attending Butler. But like many students, the moment she stepped on campus, she made her choice.

“There’s such a sense of community that’s unlike anything else. It’s like a neighborhood but more than that. I’ve never experienced it anywhere else. It’s a sense of solidarity and camaraderie that’s amazing.”

With the help of her professors, Van Dongen centered her academics on critical communications: The importance of messaging and rhetoric, how they can affect our understanding of the world, and how we can change the ways the world works.

Without them, Van Dongen said, she would never have been able to see a career path from combining her studies and her passions. “My professors identified strengths in me that I didn’t see in myself, and encouraged me to do academic and personal work that would help me explore them. In fact, they made me feel more comfortable in all facets of my life,” she said.

She’s now working for the City of Indianapolis, where she began as a Communications Intern. She helps callers to the Mayor’s Action Center figure out which department handles their questions and requests, giving everyone an equal voice.

Van Dongen’s Instagram profile features a quote from Paul Farmer, international health and social justice activist. “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”

Now that she’s a Butler graduate, Van Dongen is out to correct the imbalance.

Dedicated to Change the Art of Healthcare: Shandeep Singh ’18

By Krisy Force

Recent Butler University graduate Shandeep Singh’s ’18 Linkedin opening says a lot about who he is as a person and who he hopes to be as a medical professional. He writes, “I am a firm believer that medicine is an art that combines compassion and knowledge in order to provide effective healthcare.”

When his Career Planning Strategies Professor Courtney Rousseau read that statement in fall 2017, she remembers being struck not only by its verbiage but by its simplicity.

“The typical response I get from students pursuing fields in the medical profession is that they want to help people or they like science,” Rousseau said. “But it’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone describe the medical field as an art. Statements like that are going to help develop the empathy that is sometimes lacking in healthcare.”

So if Singh’s passion is to become a doctor, what led him to pursue an internship through Butler’s Washington, DC Learning Semester? He figured out, like most Butler students, that at Butler he was able to combine his other passion—politics—with his love for science to pursue a hands-on learning experience.

When searching for an internship in Washington, Singh made sure to choose one that covered topics in the medical field while also allowing him an inside look into the career of a politician. Singh ended up interning for Representative Jackie Walorski in the capital for four months in spring 2018.

“My internship focused on the backside of healthcare, which allowed me to learn how I can really make a change and possibly make the system more efficient,” Singh said. “This is how it all starts. You develop a medical product, you go to Congress and lobby, and you hope to get funding.”

Singh explained there are a lot of great products that could potentially save someone’s life or ease the process of getting treatment, but the general public doesn’t even know about them because the lobbying and funding process is inefficient.

As a doctor, he hopes to use what he learned in his internship to help lobby for the products and devices that could positively impact patients’ lives.

Rousseau said students like Singh illustrate that careers shouldn’t be the only thing that defines who we are.

“Singh knew he was passionate about a lot of things and he knew he could explore them without them necessarily aligning,” Rousseau said. “It’s finding the right spaces for the things you’re passionate about.”

Keeping Teachers Teaching: Amanda Huffman ’12, METL ’16

By Marc Allan, MFA '18

Amanda Huffman ’12, METL ’16 wrote her master’s thesis on how to mentor math educators to keep them in the profession. Then she put her plan into action.

Working in collaboration with several Butler University professors and in partnership with Pike High School in Indianapolis, Huffman established a mentoring program at Pike, where she has taught Math since 2012. The program helps Butler’s future teachers bridge the gap between what they theoretically know about math and teaching and the reality of classroom life.

That program has proved to be so effective that it has expanded to other subjects at Pike, a 3,500-student school on the city’s northwest side. During the 2017–2018 school year, Jenny DiVincenzo ’16 mentored eight future English teachers and Ali Ranallo ’16 supported a group of eight would-be Social Studies teachers.

During the weekly sessions, which took place after school on Wednesdays, the mentors shared career advice, classroom tips, lesson-planning ideas—anything to help make the future teachers more comfortable and prepared.

“It’s a powerful thing to sit down with somebody," Meredith Varner ’18 said. “In college, it’s really easy to think of the most beautiful picture of a classroom, where every lesson runs really smoothly and times are perfect and you integrate those strategies and its incredible execution. We were able to get into the nitty-gritty of what it looks like to apply teaching concepts to the actual content and what it looks like to bring that into the classroom.”

Varner did her student-teaching at Pike in Indianapolis from January to March. By the time she had finished, she had verbally agreed to a full-time offer from Pike to teach math there beginning in 2018–2019. Varner then went to Westlane Middle School, which feeds into Pike High School, from March to May and, when she finished there, returned to Pike and ended the year by filling in for a teacher who went on maternity leave.

She said she benefited from what she learned in Butler’s College of Education, but also from what she learned from Huffman, her mentor.

New Pike High School teachers are assigned what’s called a “cooperating teacher” to help them through early growing pains in the classroom, but those are usually highly experienced teachers. 

DiVincenzo, who in June finished her second year of teaching English at Pike, said there’s something reassuring about having a mentor who’s close to your own age sharing her experiences. That’s why she wanted to be a mentor.

“I am more of a neutral person they can go to,” she said, sitting in her classroom, one corner of which was decorated with Butler pennants and pictures. “And I’m closer in age to them, so they feel more comfortable.”

She said her mentees wanted to know about topics ranging from lesson-planning to how to navigate relationships with coworkers and maintain professionalism even if you have different philosophies. Each session would focus on something different.

DiVincenzo studied Education and English at Butler and is licensed to teach English as a New Language. She teaches three sections of that and three of regular English 10. She said her faculty coworkers at Pike have been incredibly helpful, “but I would have had less stress and less anxiety going into my first year if I’d had a mentor. It does feel nice to be supported and feel like I have a Butler community here.”

Ranallo, who finished her second year of teaching Social Studies at Pike in the spring, said she was delighted to be a mentor. “Butler was such a great part of my life, and I wanted to keep going with that and helping out as much as I can,” she said.

She spent her Wednesdays with her mentees discussing topics like: How to talk about current events and help students process the information; how to explain and use primary sources; how teachers figure out if their students learned what they were trying to teach them. Classroom management, observing state standards, and how to make sure you’re applying them—those subjects also came up frequently.

Ranallo said she advised the future teachers to keep trying new things. There are going to be lessons and strategies you’ve learned that are going to be fantastic and you’re going to want to do them again, and there are going to be some that need some major readjustments or tweaks, she said. But your students deserve new ideas, so keep trying them and don’t be afraid to go for it.

The mentoring program began to take shape in 2012, the summer after Huffman graduated, when she participated in a Pike/Butler Partnership for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math teachers. There, Butler professors Ryan Flessner (College of Education) and Mary Kron (Department of Mathematics and Actuarial Sciences) gave a presentation about combining math and new methods of teaching.

Huffman approached her advisor, Associate Professor of Education Shelly Furuness, and together they figured out how best to translate that idea into action.

“She believed us in the College of Education when we said we continue to support our students even after graduation,” said Furuness, Huffman’s thesis advisor.

Huffman, who’s now six years into her teaching career, said she’s proud to have established the mentoring program, particularly because it fits with the Butler College of Education’s mission: To make schools what they should be—not what they are.

Huffman teaches five sections of pre-calculus/trigonometry and one International Baccalaureate senior level section of calculus. One of the lessons she shared with her mentees was a classroom session where she broke up her class into groups and gave each group a calculus problem to solve at the board.

Once the group finished and had the correct answer, the members were dispersed to other groups until, finally, there was one group of 20.

“Some teachers would think that there’s nothing happening there,” she said. “It’s going to turn into chaos. I would say three-fourths of the students were still engaged in that last group, trying to figure out that last problem.”

Furuness said Huffman’s work—which earned national recognition from the federal Department of Education in 2016—demonstrates how Butler’s College of Education integrates theory and practice.

“So often, the narrative out in the world is that what you learn in teacher preparation isn’t real,” Furuness said. “We’re showing them people who are doing these things. Amanda, Jenny, and Ali help bridge that theory-to-practice gap. Our students tell us over and over again how thankful they are. They like seeing the graduates doing the work.”

Enjoying the Journey: Smita Conjeevaram '85

By Cindy Dashnaw

Smita Conjeevaram ’85 was born in Mumbai at a time when a college degree for Indian daughters was generally a means to one end: A marriage arranged by her family. But Conjeevaram, describing herself as “intense and serious” from her earliest days, had a family that helped her focus on her own goals, rather than on others’ expectations.

For instance, she joined India’s National Cadet Corps at age 18 and became South India’s first female glider pilot.

“My mother was very progressive in how she raised me and my siblings,” she said. “She wanted us to be able to rely on ourselves when we grew up.”

Conjeevaram has relied on herself all her life. As an adult, holding senior positions at prominent investment management firms for over 25 years, hundreds of other people learned to rely on her, too. Now retired, she continues to keep her finger on the pulse of business and the financial industry by serving on corporate boards, including a public financial tech company, SS&C. And a new endeavor has another audience counting on her: young artisans hoping she can revive global interest in handloom textiles.

 

A Midwestern Butler Welcome

Her father’s electronics and plastics manufacturing company inspired Conjeevaram to pursue a business career. In India, she had earned a bachelor’s degree in Economics and was working toward a master’s degree when she met her future husband. He accepted a job with Allison Gas Turbine in Indianapolis to design military aircraft engines, and Conjeevaram packed up and moved with him.

She had no intention of altering plans for her life, however.

“Ideologically, I was very much about building a career and making the most of opportunities that came my way,” she said. Conjeevaram enrolled at Butler University to pursue Accounting and Business Administration. She remembers how welcome she felt.

“Butler had a very comfortable and approachable ambience, and the professors were fantastic,” she said. “People were curious about my background … but never did I feel like I was different. Everyone had an equal interest in my success and gave a lot of care to making me feel like I belonged.”

Conjeevaram adjusted to the informality of an American campus, where it was OK to call professors by their first names and keep your seat when they entered the classroom, and she appreciated Butler’s approach to academics.

“While at Butler, I felt I was not only learning through courses directly related to business and finance, but also through a curriculum that included liberal arts classes that brought perspective and provided a well-rounded education, something I missed in India,” Conjeevaram said.

Since earning her Butler degree magna cum laude in 1985 and becoming a CPA in 1989, Conjeevaram has held senior positions in some of the most sophisticated Wall Street financial services companies: PwC, Long-Term Capital, Fortress Investment Group, and others. Among other things, she was actively involved in growing the business and designing and bringing about efficiency and controls in operational infrastructure.

 

Business of a Different Sort

Now that she’s retired, Conjeevaram has time to devote to her other passions: textiles and philanthropy. She visited every textile center in South Asia, spending three months with weavers and artisans and the nonprofit groups and governmental agencies that support them. She realized that the centuries-old craft of handloom was dying and, with it, the life and culture of the weavers. During a three-year weaving course in Florence, Italy, she also realized her textile books had little visual documentation of old weaving techniques.

She later captured her journey on film and turned the footage into a trailer, Threads of India, from which she plans to make a documentary.

Meanwhile, Conjeevaram launched online retailer Esse et Cie to create a marketplace for artisans she met and to continue visually documenting textile arts. She hopes that by educating consumers on how products are made, they will appreciate them more.

 

‘You’ll Never Regret Finance’

In addition to advising young textile artisans, Conjeevaram also has some advice for Butler students.

“Finance and Accounting are two courses which you’d never regret studying. They present career options in a wide variety of industries,” she said. “While it is great to plan out your career path and future early on, it’s important to be flexible and nimble to make the most of opportunities that arise. At most times, how you respond will dictate your career path. So go with the flow, take a few risks, and enjoy the journey.”

Always in Style: Andrew Gelwicks '15

By Marc Allan, MFA '18

Andrew Gelwicks ’15 is wearing ripped jeans, a white T-shirt, Converse sneakers, and a baseball hat, which seems antithetical to how a stylist to the up-and-coming stars ought to be dressed.

But no, he said. His personal style is to keep things simple.

“You see stylists on TV and they’re portrayed as ultra-glamourous, running around in heels and designer clothes,” he said. “While that is sometimes the case, the reality of it is that styling is more physically demanding than most people would think. You’re carrying garment bags, you’re bringing racks of clothes around to people’s hotel rooms, you’re standing on set for 12 hours. So I just dress for comfort. I love dressing my clients in very luxurious, high-end clothing, but my personal style is not that.”

He added: “At the end of the day, my objective is to make sure that as soon as my client steps in front of the cameras, they look and—more importantly—feel their best. It’s my job to take their style and bring it to the next level.”

And in just three years since graduating from Butler, he has a growing list of clients to prove his point. Celebrities such as Tommy Dorfman and Brandon Flynn (Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why), KJ Apa (Riverdale), Sistine Stallone (model, daughter of Sylvester Stallone), Serayah (Empire), Cordell Broadus (model, Snoop Dogg’s son), Larsen Thompson (dancer/model/actress), Chloe Lukasiak (Lifetime’s Dance Moms), Dascha Polanco (Orange Is the New Black), and Camren Bicondova (Gotham) are just some of who have all taken their fashion cues from him.

 

The Andrew Gelwicks Course

Gelwicks traces his desire to be part of the fashion industry to well before he arrived at Butler. Strategic Communication Professor Rose Campbell remembers looking at the website Gelwicks designed when he was in high school in Cincinnati, Ohio, and being impressed by the modeling, clothing, and design.

“It was a cool, well-done visual, and very clever,” she said. “We don’t see too many students who have that kind of interest early on.” She added: “We didn’t turn him into what he is; he came here laser-focused on what he wanted to do, and he found that our department was the way to get there.”

Gelwicks had looked at a number of schools, but when he visited his older sister’s friend, who was a Butler student, “there was a click between me, the students, and the campus.” He came in as a Strategic Communication major, with a minor in Digital Media Production.

After Gelwicks’ first year at Butler, he wanted to do an internship in New York City. Before the end of his first semester, he had six internship offers around the country, including at Hearst Magazines and Vogue. (He went with Hearst). At the time, the department didn’t have a mechanism to allow him to get credit—something all of the companies he was considering required—so they created a new course, STR199, Field Experience in Strategic Communication.

“That,” Campbell said, “is the Andrew Gelwicks course.”

He also was interested in the design aspects of Strategic Communication, but the department only had one required design course and no photography or videography courses. Strategic Communication Instructor Armando Pellerano worked with Gelwicks, supervising multiple independent studies where he was able to expand his knowledge on photography, video, and design.

“Having an Andrew Gelwicks teaches you about the holes in your curriculum,” Campbell said.

Beyond his coursework, Gelwicks made a splash nationally with articles he wrote for Out magazine and The Huffington Post about being gay in a fraternity. (He published a dozen more pieces for the Huffington site.) And he periodically flew to New York to assist stylists on photo shoots, help out at New York Fashion Week, and to interview for a job. He was adamant about keeping one foot in the city as best he could.

“In my senior year, I did a freelance project for Self magazine, helping them with an event they were doing with Drew Barrymore,” he said. “I would sit in the basement of my senior house helping arrange the guests for this 600-person event.”

Ultimately, he said, Butler “helped me figure out myself, what my priorities are, and my personal goals. If I had gone to school in New York, it would have been very, very different. The fact that I grew up in Ohio and went to school in Indiana really helped me as I’m now in this hyper-chaotic world with extreme personalities and egos. Coming from the Midwest, I was able to be with people who are really grounded and care about their friends and families. That has been so valuable.”

 

Building His Own Brand

After studying in Berlin, Germany, his junior year, Gelwicks came back for the fall 2015 semester and graduated in December. He waited a week or two and moved to New York the first week of January.

That first week, he had 20 interviews. By Friday, he had accepted a job at GQ, working in the fashion closet. Four months in, he met the entertainment editor at Vogue, “an Editor I had been fascinated with for years. I was so curious about her and her job and what she did every day—she books all the celebrities for Vogue, and is such a big force at the magazine.”

Then, by happenstance, Gelwicks ran into her again on the street. She hired him that day and two weeks later, he was handling the celebrity bookings for Teen Vogue.

He was there almost a year—booking celebrity talent for the print magazine and digital, and getting to meet up-and-coming actors, actresses, and musicians. But he missed the fashion element of the business, so on the weekends he started doing test shoots for modeling agencies. He would find photographers and models on Instagram and they would come together to create work for all of their portfolios.

For the next six months, Gelwicks did two or three shoots a weekend to put together as much content as possible. In summer 2016, Madonna’s publicist introduced him to an agent who represents Hollywood stylists and makeup artists. He’s been working in that end of the business ever since.

Connecting with clients happens in a variety of ways. He will sometimes see someone in a new show or movie that interests him and reaches out, or the talent finds him via word of mouth or social media. His agents bring in new work as well.

Right now, his aim is to build his business as much as possible. “I’m working with a lot of great clients who I have a connection with and I feel passionate about—where they’re going, what our vision is, where we want to take their careers.” In the days after this interview, he was scheduled to do two shoots with Cosmopolitan and another with Refinery29, a digital media and entertainment company focused on women.

“I’m really enjoying myself,” he said. “This is definitely a high-stress and 24/7 job, but I can’t imagine doing anything else. And going from being an employee to now operating my own business was definitely a learning curve. I didn’t study business, so figuring out how to operate the financial end of things was incredibly overwhelming at the beginning. All of that aside, though, I’m loving every second of what I’m doing.”

 

Photo courtesy of Ben Hider

Jauvon Gilliam ’01

Jauvon Gilliam ’01 came to Butler on a full piano scholarship. He left a timpanist—and a darn good one.

In the years since he graduated with a degree in arts administration, he went on to perform with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for seven years and, for the past five-plus years, as the principal timpanist for the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. He’s also performed with the symphony orchestras in Cleveland, San Francisco, Detroit, and Indianapolis, as well as the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

“I feel like I have the best job in the world—I get paid to beat stuff,” he said with a laugh. “I get paid to bang on drums.”

Gilliam had played a little bit of drums and percussion in youth orchestra while in high school, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year at Butler when he met Percussion Artist in Residence Jon Crabiel that he thought about timpani.

“We had a three-minute conversation,” Gilliam recalled, “and he said, ‘You know, you can make money playing drums.’ I said, ‘Really?’”

He talked it over with his piano teacher/academic advisor, Steve Roberson, who told Gilliam to follow his heart. Two days later, he changed his major to devote full time to timpani.

From his piano training, Gilliam already knew how to make music. What he needed was a proficient teacher who could instruct him in technique. He found that in Crabiel.

After a year of Crabiel’s tutelage, he was playing at a national percussion convention.

“I cannot give him enough praise,” Gilliam said. I’ve called him a hundred times and said, ‘Dude, I love you, thank you, because I couldn’t have done it without you.’”

Professors Crabiel, Roberson, and Dan Bolin, he said, “were like father figures to me. Even thinking of it now, I wish I could give all three of them a hug because I couldn’t have done it without them.”

Jauvon Gilliam
Alumni OutcomesArts & CulturePeople

Jauvon Gilliam ’01

  Jauvon Gilliam ’01 came to Butler on a full piano scholarship. He left a timpanist—and a darn good one.

Zach Hahn ’11

Zach Hahn ‘11 has always been a team player.

A four-year member of the Butler Men’s Basketball team, Hahn helped the Bulldogs reach the NCAA championship games in 2010 and 2011. He grew as a player (and a person) under the guidance and poise of Coach Brad Stevens.

A Physical and Health Education major in the College of Education at Butler, he formed close relationships with professors and classmates to reach his high academic goals—he made the Horizon League All-Academic team three times.

“In life, you are going to be on many teams,” Hahn said. “It’s not always going to be about you. It should be about the bigger picture. Whether it’s school or work or family, you have to work together to try and accomplish the goals you have.”

He recalls his professors setting up Skype in the classroom so he could keep up with lectures while on the road for basketball.

He spent the second semester of his senior year student teaching at Shortridge High School and Park Tudor School in Indianapolis, which allowed him to observe the day-to-day lives of the teaching professionals he aspired to follow.

He soaked up the advice of COE professors Mindy Welch and Lisa Farley, who Hahn said “served as a role model and an example of what all of us as educators hope to become someday.”

But more than anything, he said Butler taught him the importance of community and building relationships.

Hahn is now the Men’s Head Basketball Coach and Health and Physical Education Teacher at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana. He credits Butler with giving him the experiences that helped him reach his goals.

“As an educator, I’m a firm believer that people don’t care what you know until they first know that you care about them,” he said. “My professors did that for me.”

Zach Hahn
Alumni OutcomesAthleticsPeople

Zach Hahn ’11

Values gained on the team play out in the classroom.

Megan (Wesler) Larsen ’12

Megan (Wesler) Larsen ’12 MPAS ’13 said she is grateful for the well-rounded education she received a Butler. So, no doubt, are her patients.

At the time of this interview, Larsen worked as a Physician Assistant (PA) in the emergency rooms at Community North and Community East hospitals in Indianapolis. Now she works in Trauma/Emergency surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in downtown Chicago, where she sometimes has to deliver the worst news possible.

“The first conversation that I had like that takes the breath out of you,” she said. “You don’t know what to say and you don’t want to say it wrong. The first time I had to have that conversation, I brought my attending physician in with me and we had that conversation together. The next time, you do it on your own and you develop your own way to approach it.”

Larsen said that while nothing can truly prepare you for moments like that, her Butler education taught her “ways to cope and think on your feet and be resourceful and use others around you. That’s been very beneficial to me in my specific career path.”

Larsen came to Butler from New Paris, Ohio, a town of 1,500. By the time she arrived on campus, she’d made up her mind to be a PA. She wanted the flexibility to be able to change specialties and the opportunity to finish school faster than physicians do.

While she worked on her five-year degree, she also managed to fit in swimming for the Butler team, participating in Kappa Kappa Gamma, and working with the Timmy Foundation for Global Health.

“I’m truly grateful for the five years I got to spend here,” she said. “At Butler, it’s so much more than a degree. The way you’re taught at Butler—the way I was taught at Butler—it digs a little bit deeper. You learn so much about so much that when you go out into world, you’re not just prepared for your specific career but you also are worldly and you have a touch of humanitarianism.”

Megan Wesler Larsen
Alumni OutcomesPeople

Megan (Wesler) Larsen ’12

  Her ER patients will be glad she learned her profession at Butler.

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