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Alumni Success

Accounting Alum Works to Improve Diversity Within Firms Across the Nation

By Katie Grieze

Less than 9 percent of accounting professionals in the United States are Black, according to the National Association of Black Accountants, despite the fact that Black individuals make up nearly 14 percent of the population.

Since graduating from Butler University in 1996, Herschel Frierson has been working to change that.

When Frierson first joined Crowe LLP as a staff accountant right after graduation, he didn’t see anyone else at the Indianapolis office who looked like him. He struggled to find and build relationships with other people of color—until a colleague told him about the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA).

“Through NABA, I was able to connect with other people who look like me from other firms,” he says. “Once I met these individuals, I found out they were going through the same things I was going through. Some of them were at firms where there were only two or three people of color. It helped me feel like I wasn’t on an island by myself going through this.”

Throughout his career, Frierson has continued growing within NABA, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for Black professionals in fields such as accounting and finance. By 2020, he was named NABA’s Chairman of the board of directors. A few months later, Accounting Today included Frierson in its 2020 listing of the Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting. And to wrap up the year, he was elected a Partner (effective April 1, 2021) at Crowe—achieving a dream he’d held since choosing the profession.

“You hate to have joy when there is so much pain going on,” he says about the wave of accomplishments. “But it has really been a year.”

Even so, Frierson can’t help but focus on all the work that still needs to be done.

“People have told me to just enjoy the moment,” he says. “I need to take that advice, and I’m trying to do it. But I also have a higher responsibility. What can I do better? What can I do more of?”

Throughout his nearly 25 years with NABA, Frierson has worked with companies in Indianapolis and across the nation to host speaker series, organize volunteer activities, and coordinate programming to help Black high school and college students learn more about accounting. At student conferences and professional conventions, he helps connect current and aspiring accountants with resources and opportunities.

“It’s my unpaid full-time job,” Frierson says. “It’s just important for me to be a voice for why representation matters, and to make sure NABA’s strategic vision is moving forward. I want to help more people get into the profession, and to make sure they succeed.”

That goal isn’t limited to Frierson’s role within NABA. At Crowe, he sits on the Inclusion Excellence Council, in addition to overseeing five business resource groups that support underrepresented communities within the firm. Now, as a Partner-elect, he looks forward to the chance to support and mentor even more people of color.

“I wanted a seat at the table. And now I’m at the table,” he says. “So I need to be a bigger voice. I need to represent well, and I need to give back to the community. So now it’s, ‘What am I going to do to get more people who look like me around the table?’ I can’t be quiet—I have to be louder.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

Herschel Frierson '96
Alumni Success

Accounting Alum Works to Improve Diversity Within Firms Across the Nation

As a Partner-elect at Crowe and Chairman of the National Association of Black Accountants, Herschel Frierson ’96 is helping more people of color join the profession

Catching up with Jimmy Lafakis ’19

By Maddy Kline ’21

Jimmy Lafakis is in eighth grade.

He is on his way back to Northwest Indiana from New Orleans, where he and his mother Kathy had just watched Butler defeat Wisconsin in the 2011 NCAA tournament. Spirits were high, even though Jimmy couldn’t stay to watch the Bulldogs take on Florida—he had to be back at school on Monday.

The two decided on the next best thing: stopping at Butler to catch the game. Jimmy and his mother stood in the Reilly Room and stared, transfixed, as Butler defeated Florida 74-71, propelling them to the Final Four.

“Oh my gosh, they won,” Kathy says. “All the kids on campus went outside to celebrate, and I took a picture of Jimmy celebrating as a middle schooler with all these college kids. He was so elated. He just had a love for Butler from back then.”

That moment was the first time Butler felt like home to Jimmy.

 

***

 

Jimmy is a first-year student at Butler.

It is fall of 2015, and he is finally enrolled at the university he had been cheering on since middle school.

“My parents did not go to Butler,” Jimmy says. “I wanted to go somewhere and write my own story and, you know, do my own thing. And I'm glad I did.”

It didn’t take long for Jimmy to write that story on campus.

Scott Bridge, College of Communication Lecturer and Internship Director, recalls his first impressions of Jimmy, who was his student and advisee.

“He’s one of the kindest, most sincere people I have ever met,” Bridge says. “And he continued that way through all four years. His attitude was one that I learned from because I thought, ‘Gosh, so many of us need to probably be a little bit more like Jimmy Lafakis’.”

Jimmy truly found his footing when he joined the sports section of The Collegian, which he describes as the foundation of his entire Butler experience. Jimmy was assigned to cover women’s volleyball, but it was nearly impossible to miss him on the sidelines of any sporting event—his eyes staring through his camera lens to capture a fleeting moment in the game.

“One of the things you notice about Jimmy after you get to know him for a little while is that you will rarely see Jimmy without his camera,” Bridge said. “And I know he was very valued over in the Athletics department…because he was a fixture over there at Hinkle for all four years, and he took so many photos in so many different sports. Everybody—from the coaches, to the staff, to the athletes—everyone knew Jimmy.”

The estimated hundreds of thousands of photos that Jimmy took during his four years at Butler never felt like work to him. He had a voracious appetite for sports—football, basketball, soccer—Jimmy wasn’t picky. He just loved what he did.

“I was just happy to be out there covering, writing, taking photos, whatever the case may have been,” Jimmy says. “That’s one thing I've taken with me into my jobs. There are a lot of things, especially right now, in the world that we can't really control. The one thing I can control is my attitude. I can control my effort. And I can control my work ethic.”

 

***

 

Jimmy is a senior at Butler.

It is the spring of 2019, he is graduating with a major in journalism and a minor in strategic communication, and he has to make a decision.

One thing to understand about Jimmy is that he loves Indiana. He grew up in Indiana, he went to school in Indiana, and his circle of family and friends reside in Indiana.

Now he is receiving a job offer to be a sports reporter at the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota—a city that is only about an hour south of the Canadian border. But Jimmy always likes to write his own story, so he took the position. His first day landed on July 15, 2019—his birthday.

“Just try something new and see what that has to offer,” Jimmy says. “Yes, it gets really cold, but the place is beautiful. They call it the Peace Garden State for a reason. I learned so much about myself, about the work I could do. It was my first experience in, you know, in the real world.”

The “real world” of North Dakota yielded some drastically different stories than Jimmy was used to covering. In just his second week on the job, he was covering the rodeo, working out how to report on bull riding and horse races when he was used to collegiate basketball. 

Jimmy’s retelling of his time in North Dakota is interspersed with chuckles and awe, as he recounts his coverage of a high school wrestling tournament in Fargo—a familiar enough sport, but something he had not written about in the past four years at Butler.

“It was one of the most challenging experiences of my life because it was three days of non-stop action,” Jimmy says. “You're literally being thrown in the fire. And I look back on those couple days fondly, because you know what? I got through it. I'm just like, man, if I got through that wrestling tournament, I could get through a lot of things.”

Jimmy continued covering high school and Class B sports in Minot until this past September, when Indiana called him home.

In the hopes of being closer to family and friends, Jimmy parted ways with the student athletes, athletic directors, editors, and community that had welcomed him for 14 months. He traveled 18 hours to Jasper, Indiana, where he now works as a sports reporter for the Dubois County Herald.

Jimmy is certainly in his happy place, covering whatever high school sports are currently in season.

 

 

***

 

Jimmy is in his “Kobe year,” as he and his parents like to say.

He is 24 years old—the number sported by the late NBA star Kobe Bryant—and he is still learning.

“Just in what's basically been a year and a half, I have grown so much it's unbelievable,” Jimmy says. “I've learned a lot about myself…And I know I'm young and I still have a lot to learn. But I'm figuring it out.”

Jimmy’s attitude toward learning is an apt indicator of his personality. His mother describes him as a “student of life,” but also a teacher.

“I've learned a lot from him,” Kathy says. “He teaches me every day. And, you know, that's all a parent wants to do is to see their child succeed and do what they love to do. So, as a parent, I'm just thrilled for him.”

For now, Jimmy plans to keep his ever-present watch at the sidelines of any game he can attend, camera poised, mind racing with stats and adrenaline pumping at the institution that is Indiana high school sports.

If one thing is certain, his mind always returns to Butler.

“I hope I've inspired somebody,” Jimmy says. “I hope somebody out there at Butler looks to me and says, ‘You know what? Jimmy is setting a good example,’ because there are so many people who set an example when I got there…I mean, it's been fun, man. I just have gratitude in my entire life.”

Keep up with Jimmy and his work on Twitter.

Jimmy Lafakis
Alumni Success

Catching up with Jimmy Lafakis ’19

The 2019 grad discovered a love for sports photography during his time at Butler. Now, after a year covering rodeo, wrestling, and more in North Dakota, he's back home in Indiana. 

Steps to Success with Josh Turner ’15

By Grace Gordon ’23

On the evening of October 19, 2019, Josh Turner ’15 was preparing to step onto the stage of Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London to perform a tribute show to Paul Simon’s album Graceland. He, along with a six-piece band and a full South African Cultural Choir, would join the guestbook of major artists who had performed on the stage before, from Charlie Chaplin to David Bowie.

Waiting to hear the show was a nearly packed house and the London theatre press. The pressure was high, and in Turner’s words, “it was so scary.” Despite the nerves, Turner now identifies the show as a highlight of his career because halfway through the second set, the audience stood up and started dancing. For the rest of the night, the concert was a party.

For the Butler University graduate, that moment was the culmination of years of dedication and exciting opportunities—from performing on Good Morning America to touring with a tribute show called the Simon and Garfunkel Story. Music was always important in Turner’s life, especially on the internet. Starting in middle school, Turner had a YouTube channel dedicated to his musical journey, with a focus on singing and guitar. Since then, his channel has significantly expanded. In addition to an ongoing solo career, he is now in the musical group The Other Favorites, which may be best known for their performances on YouTube. Along with millions of video views, The Other Favorites have successfully created a virtual touring experience, which gives fans the opportunity to tune in to monthly live-streamed performances.

However, Turners’ journey to finding his way through the professional musical world was not without uncertainty. He outlines his success with three pieces of advice.

 

“Following what you are passionate about is step one to being successful.”

Like many students at Butler, Turner’s educational journey was not a straight line. Though music was always his passion—he started singing when he was 9 years old—he wasn't ready to officially pursue music as a first-year student. He worried that if he decided to study music, he might lose some of his passion for the art, so he initially chose a major in Digital Media (now called Creative Media and Entertainment). Turner also wondered if he was good enough to make a career out of music. But through taking classes outside of his major, he was always able to keep music in his life and class schedule.

Eventually, taking classes such as Music History and Aural Skills proved that Turner’s relationship to music wouldn't change just because he was graded on it.

“The more classes I took,” he says, “the more I realized that wasn't the case. Everyone is best served if I am doing something that I am really engaged in and I am motivated to work hard toward.”

With that mindset, Turner fully dove into the world of music, declaring a major in Music during his sophomore year. He graduated in 2015 to pursue a professional career in performing, writing, and producing music in nearly every genre. His music ranges from folk, to jazz, to R&B, to bluegrass-infused renditions of popular Backstreet Boys songs.

Now, living in New York, creating music every day, and performing around the world (or, during the pandemic, via livestream), Turner says he still feels the moments of self-doubt he felt in school. He still wonders if he has “made it.” But he combats these feelings by reminding himself that “comparing yourself to other people is, at the end of the day, not helpful.” He stresses how important it has been for him to learn his worth and walk the line between being confident without getting arrogant, and feeling motivated without getting down on himself.

 

Be “constantly in the process of ‘making it.’”

While enjoying every exciting opportunity, Turner says he has kept the mindset that he is “constantly in the process of making it.” He has never relied on one big break to be successful. Turner has continued to invest in himself, stay flexible in the mediums he uses to provide content to his fans, and know that he is “as prepared as he can be” for every performance. Right now, being flexible as a performer looks like providing online content through live streams.

 

“Be a good person.”

For Turner, the final step to achieving success has been to just be a good person. He says that in a competitive job market, you can really be set apart from all the other talented people by “being the person who isn't judgmental, who returns calls, and who does the little things.”

Turner has found the most satisfaction in his music by trying to create joy. He recognizes that the internet can be a platform that creates division, but he says his favorite part of his job is the feeling that he is contributing to “the part of the internet that actually brings people together.”

Turner certainly follows his words with action, and the evidence lies in the example he sets for those around him. Most recently, he demonstrated his commitment to making the world a better place by speaking at Butler’s virtual School of Music Convocation in September 2020. During the Zoom call, he talked about investing in yourself as a musician and a professional, harnessing social media to build an audience, and expanding interests outside of your major. The more time you can spend away from music, he told the students, the more you’ll love it when you come back.

 

Grace Gordon is a sophomore at Butler University, where she majors in Strategic Communication and minors in Creative Writing and Creative Media and Entertainment.

Josh Turner
Alumni Success

Steps to Success with Josh Turner ’15

The Butler graduate shares what it took for him to become a professional musician

Butler Alum Turns Lifelong Hobby into Vintage Indy Staple

By Maddy Kline ’21

Two years ago, on September 15, 2018, Aaron Marshall ’18 opened the doors to his nostalgic paradise—Naptown Thrift.

Retro hats and sports flags hang from the ceiling like streamers. The walls are plastered with an eclectic mix of movie posters, photographs, and album art from decades past—yes, Space Jam is on display. One clothing rack holds a vintage Chicago Bulls jersey, while another holds a Bugs Bunny crewneck. The entire shop is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored.

The collection has been years in the making. When Marshall was young, his parents encouraged him to explore his interest in ’80s and ’90s style at second hand stores in the area.

“That kind of got the bug in me initially to be interested in the hunt,” Marshall says, “you know, finding cool stuff and never knowing what's going to be there and checking in on things daily.”

By the time Marshall arrived as a first-year student on Butler University’s campus, he had filled a small storage unit to the brim with vintage finds. That’s when he began to consider starting a business.

“Initially, it was just me meeting up with friends from Butler, letting them dig through our finds, and kind of just throwing in prices on the fly,” Marshall says. “I think those were honestly some of my favorite Butler memories—taking my friends to that storage unit and just seeing their eyes light up.”

In 2015, Marshall created an Instagram account for the “store,” and business started booming.

Marshall and his parents grew out of their storage unit into another. And then another. Vintage aficionados from near and far contacted Marshall to see the collection and purchase products. Naptown Thrift quickly became a staple in the Indianapolis vintage scene, featured in Indianapolis Business Journal and highlighted in Visit Indy.

Naptown Thrift was not Marshall’s only endeavor to gain a significant following during his years at Butler. As a Recording Industry Studies major, he also attracted fans through his music. Under the stage name Double A, Marshall has made strides in the Indianapolis hip-hop community, with three albums and a performance at the Chreece music festival under his belt.

In 2018, Marshall graduated from Butler and was faced with the question of his future. In the end, the success of Naptown Thrift provided the answer Marshall was looking for.

“I was wondering what I wanted to do after school,” Marshall says. “But at the same time, I already knew what I wanted to do after school. It was this.”

After three years of running Naptown Thrift from social media and storage units, Marshall opened a brick and mortar store. But about a year later, disaster struck.

In October 2019, the restaurant next door to Marshall’s shop caught on fire, causing extensive smoke damage to Naptown Thrift and all its products. The shop underwent a massive deep cleaning and was temporarily closed for nearly four months.

Naptown Thrift announced its grand reopening for February 29, 2020, and loyal shoppers—many of them Butler students—waited in massive lines to sift through the racks.

Two weeks later, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Luckily, Marshall was prepared for this disaster.

“Everything shifted to online,” Marshall says. “Actually, we already had our website in place, thanks to Butler: Part of my capstone was building our website senior year. So that was a pretty easy transition. But it was still adversity.”

Despite the ups and downs of Naptown Thrift’s young existence, Marshall celebrated the shop’s two-year anniversary on Tuesday, September 15.

You can keep up with Marshall and Naptown Thrift on the store’s Instagram page.

 

Some of Marshall’s favorite Butler memories:

  • Opening for T-Pain in the Reilly Room: “My sophomore year, T-Pain came to Butler and sold out, and me and another classmate of mine were the openers. That was my first time performing in front of 400-plus people. And, I mean, it was just cool. You can't replicate that.”
  • Hinkle Magic: “I was actually on the women's basketball team practice squad, so they got a group of guys together to scrimmage against the women's team at Butler. Getting to play on the floor of Hinkle is just something not many people can say they’ve done. I wasn’t playing in a real game, but you look up and you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m playing in Hinkle right now.’”
  • Community of Care: “Butler is a special place, and I get a lot of support still with the store from classmates at Butler, and then with music stuff. They're still sharing everything that I release. The people that I met at Butler still definitely are showing support, whether they are in Indy or somewhere else.”
Naptown Thrift
Alumni Success

Butler Alum Turns Lifelong Hobby into Vintage Indy Staple

Despite enduring a fire and a pandemic, Aaron Marshall ’18 just celebrated two years since opening Naptown Thrift

Brooke Moreland
Alumni Success

Butler Alum Receives Indiana’s Achievement in Education Award

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Aug 26 2020

Brooke Moreland ’11 first came to Butler University from a low-income household in 2007. Now, she’s being celebrated for her years of supporting students in similar situations, as the 2020 recipient of Indiana’s Achievement in Education award.

“It’s really a full-circle experience,” she says.

The award, which recognizes educators who have used innovative strategies to increase achievement for their students, was announced August 26 as part of the Governor’s Celebration of Community Service Awards. During the virtual ceremony, the State of Indiana honored six Black Hoosiers for their exceptional efforts across a variety of fields. Moreland received six nominations for the education category.

“I feel very appreciative of this award,” says Moreland, who is currently Assistant Director for the  21st Century Scholars Success Program at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). “When you are a leader in higher education, and especially when you are a leader of color at a predominantly white institution, it can sometimes be really hard to gauge if your work is appreciated or if you are truly making a difference. I’m so appreciative that people took the time to acknowledge my work and my passion for helping students.”

During her time at Butler, Moreland spent three years serving as a Resident Assistant. She loved the role so much—from managing programs to building relationships—she wondered if she could do something similar full time.

Mentors at Butler—including former President Bobby Fong—introduced Moreland to the world of student affairs. She hasn’t looked back. After graduating from Butler’s Psychology program, she went on to earn her master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs from Indiana University (IU).

Moreland spent two years on IU’s student conduct team before starting as a Scholarship Coordinator at IUPUI, where she has worked mostly with high-risk and first-generation students participating in Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars program. After two years guiding students through the program requirements, providing individualized support, and helping families understand financial aid logistics, Moreland was promoted to her current role as the program’s Assistant Director.

Her work now focuses on developing strategies for enhancing the retention and success of more than 4,500 21st Century Scholarship recipients at IUPUI. She highlights the need to rely on concrete data in creating these programs, often basing her decisions on institutional research.

“I’m not just guessing—the success of the students is too important,” she says. “If I was that student, I would want someone to do their research and make sure the guidance they’re giving me is solid and accurate. And I think the students I work with recognize that I do put in that level of effort every day.”

In addition to overseeing a robust peer mentoring initiative, Moreland has implemented regular check-ins with the students she works with. Six times each academic year, she and her team hold one-on-one meetings with all of IUPUI’s 21st Century Scholars. This proactive approach establishes supportive relationships and allows staff members to identify and resolve issues before students reach the point of asking for help.

“This year, choosing the recipient for the Achievement in Education award was fairly easy,” said a Civil Rights Commission spokesperson during the Wednesday ceremony. “When an abundance of past and present students—including colleagues—nominate someone, it’s pretty clear to see that that person has put forth the initiative, the work, and the compassion. Brooke Moreland has not only counseled her students, but has supported, mentored, and inspired thousands of students throughout her career.”

The 2020 Governor’s Celebration of Community Service Awards were hosted by the Indiana Civil Rights Commission in partnership with Indiana Black Expo, the Indiana Division of Supplier Diversity, and the Family & Social Services Administration. The celebration acknowledges the outstanding achievement of Black leaders throughout the state of Indiana.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

Brooke Moreland
Alumni Success

Butler Alum Receives Indiana’s Achievement in Education Award

Brooke Moreland ’11 has dedicated her career to helping college students succeed

Aug 26 2020 Read more

Butler Alum Serves Community as Clothing Brand CEO—Among Other Roles

By Grace Gordon ’23

Nick Fox ’17 was riding a hoverboard around the Butler University campus when he first met Zach Finn, a Clinical Professor of Risk Management & Insurance. Finn sparked a conversation about the logistics and legal implications of hoverboards, and that discussion launched a relationship between Fox and Finn that would become a fundamental part of Fox’s career path.

Fox was a student in Butler’s Exploratory Business program, and as a first-semester junior, he had yet to choose a major. He thought he might want to study law after graduation—an interest sparked through years of watching Law and Order and discussing mock cases with his dad—but Finn encouraged Fox to consider a major in Risk Management & Insurance. Finn said the field involved all the things Fox found most interesting about law, including the need to think analytically. After learning more about the field during his Real Business Experience class, Fox has completed a degree in Risk Management, discovered his passion, and even started his own business.

After graduating from Butler in 2017, Fox moved back home to Chicago and ended up using the analytical and business skills he learned at Butler to become a financial advisor on social media. He created a “MoneyTalkMonday” series, which he uses to help others with their financial questions. He also started working as a risk analyst at Marsh & McLennan, where he has now moved on to serve as a consultant on the Emerging Risks team. All of these roles have allowed him to apply his expertise in ways that empower members of his community.

By the summer of 2019, he had started looking for other ways to build connections with the people of Chicago. He saw opportunities for bringing people together through one of his other passions outside the worlds of finance and risk management: shoes and streetwear.

So, alongside his brother and a friend, Fox launched the clothing brand Gratitude Chicago. The business aims to do more than sell clothes—Fox wants to help change his community’s mindset, encouraging audiences to focus on the things they are grateful for.

“No matter where you come from, where you are going, or where you have been, everyone is grateful for something, and that feeling connects us,” Nick says.

Through a variety of campaigns, Gratitude Chicago encourages people to recognize those in their lives who have helped them get where they are today. Some recent campaigns included the Juneteenth-inspired “Last Generation” project, which raised $5,000 for nonprofit groups Bridging the Gap Globally and Color of Change. Another campaign, “Gift of Gratitude,” focused on helping people discover what gratitude means to them.

For Fox, gratitude means cherishing his family, who instilled in him the desire to have a strong work ethic and to make a difference in any way he can—even if that means pursuing all his passions and holding simultaneous jobs in unrelated fields. (This year, he added on the role of co-leading the Entrepreneurship pillar of ThinkTank, a non-profit organization that works to accelerate economic growth for Black communities in the U.S.) He also appreciates the opportunities that have put him where he is today, many of which he found at Butler. And he’s especially grateful for the mentors, including Professor Finn, who have helped him on his winding path from aspiring lawyer, to financial advisor, to risk analyst, to community-focused CEO.

Nick Fox '17
Alumni Success

Butler Alum Serves Community as Clothing Brand CEO—Among Other Roles

After graduating from the Lacy School of Business, Nick Fox ’17 has applied his skills toward empowering others in any way he can

This Butler Alum Helps Professional Athletes Do Their Taxes

By Megan Collins ’22

We patiently anticipate the feeling every year: Your heart racing as you inch closer and closer to the edge of your seat. There are less than ten seconds left on the shot clock. You hear that distinct sound of sneakers squeaking on polished hardwood floors, and the uproar of the Dawg Pound when the referee makes an unpopular call. Nothing beats it.

Nothing beats the adrenaline rush of basketball in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

These are the moments that led John Karaffa ’91 to the idea of combining his two passions, basketball and accounting.

Karaffa describes his career path as the “best of both worlds.” As a self-proclaimed numbers guy, he knew from the start that he wanted to be part of the business world. But he couldn’t fathom the idea of giving up the euphoric feeling of dribbling up and down the court—as he did for four years as part of the Men’s Basketball team at Butler University, then for 12 more seasons on professional teams after graduation. So, he thought, what if he combined the two interests?

That’s exactly what he did.

Two seemingly unrelated career paths collided, and after Karaffa spent more than a decade working as an accountant at U.S. multinational firms by day and playing basketball by night, ProSport CPA was born.

Since launching the sports-focused accounting firm in 2009, Karaffa has been able to develop his craft into something he says no other accounting firm in the country is able to do. ProSport CPA works with more than 1,000 professional athletes, helping clients tackle complicated taxes and other financial obstacles that are unique to the world of athletics—the same obstacles Karaffa faced during his years on the court.

“Professional athletes can earn a lot of money, but at an age when they know very little about money,” he says. “In addition to starting ProSport CPA, I wrote Touchdown Finance using the lessons I’ve learned to try to help athletes and other young people learn more about keeping more of what they earn.”

Karaffa enjoys taking the extra time to really get to know the players he works with.

“It’s really neat to get to speak with athletes and entertainers who are the best at what they do,” he says. “It’s humbling to think that they have the same respect for me.”

And Karaffa attributes the stepping stones of his own success to the foundations he built at Butler. He took advantage of every opportunity that came his way, building life-long relationships while studying Accounting, all while sparking the fire for his professional basketball career.

“I am very grateful to Butler for the opportunities I had to play college basketball, to earn a degree from a prestigious school, and to get to know some great, motivated people,” he says.

John Karaffa, ProSport CPA, Butler University Alumni
Alumni Success

This Butler Alum Helps Professional Athletes Do Their Taxes

While playing pro basketball for 12 seasons, John Karaffa ’91 learned how complex athletes’ finances can be. So he started ProSport CPA.

Brittany Smith, Yelp Indy, Butler University Alumni, Internships
Alumni Success

At Yelp, Butler Alum Connects People With Their City

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 17 2020

At 23 years old, Brittany Smith ’11 received an offer to work remotely as a community manager for Yelp.

Well, I guess this means I’ll need to get a smartphone, she thought.

It was the spring of 2012, and Smith had just wrapped up the first year of her post-grad career on the communications team at Downtown Indy, Inc., where she helped promote Indianapolis as a leisure destination. It was a dream role she had worked toward even as a student at Butler University, where she completed an internship with the organization that opened doors for a full-time position.

And she loved it. But the chance to serve Indy in a new way, and to help pave the way for the emerging field of community management, was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.

It was a role that, even today, a lot of people probably don’t know exists. Yelp does a lot more than provide a platform for restaurant reviews. Smith spent her days elevating the city she loved by providing free partnerships with local businesses, hosting and promoting events, and being an advocate for Indy. She was the one to spread the word if a bakery added a new kind of croissant, and she told the stories of local parks and other greenspaces. She loved connecting people with their city.

Eight years later, she’s now Yelp’s Regional Director of Marketing and Community for the Midwest. While her current responsibilities expand beyond the city—and even beyond the state—her heart is still in Indy.

It was that love for Indianapolis that first brought Smith to Butler, where she majored in English and Communications. She knew she wanted to pursue something related to tourism or community building, and she knew Butler would give her the chance to engage with the city and gain hands-on experience through internships. She followed through with that goal, completing internships not only with Downtown Indy, but also with Indiana Humanities and Indianapolis Monthly.

“The beauty of Butler is that it’s so well-connected to Indianapolis, which made it an ideal location for me,” she says. “I feel like half my education was in the classroom, but the other half was through boots-on-the-ground, first-hand experiences.”

As a student, Smith was also involved with the Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, helping launch The Farm at Butler. Through Yelp, she’s now built partnerships with some of the same local businesses that had purchased the farm-grown food she helped raise.

During her time with Yelp, Smith has discovered a passion for activating public spaces—turning Monument Circle into a pop-up dinner party for 1,000 guests, or organizing an inner tube float down the Central Canal.

“I like to help people see their city through a new perspective,” she says.

Of course, in the world of COVID-19, that sort of thing isn’t always possible. Her team has shifted to organizing a slew of virtual events, ranging from a Cinco de Mayo celebration with Sun King Brewery, to a lunchtime barre class with The Dailey Method, to an online chocolate tasting with Xchocol'Art. Over the last few weeks, they’ve also been using their platform to highlight the stories of Black-owned businesses. That adaptability has been one of her favorite parts about working at a place like Yelp. And, it’s a quality she attributes to her city as a whole.

“I love the way the Indianapolis community comes together when there’s an idea,” she says. “We find ways to cut down red tape and move quickly to action, working from a collaborative mindset.”

Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Indy is full of Dawgs.

“It’s cool to think about how many Butler alumni really dig into the city and make a difference,” Smith says. “They are very present and active in the community. It’s not a huge school, but it’s not hard to find a Bulldog in Indy.”

 

A few of Brittany Smith’s favorite Indy spots:

  • Locally Grown Gardens (especially the sugar cream pie): “That’s where I met my husband, and where I held my first Yelp event. I have so many special memories there.”
  • Calvin Fletcher's Coffee Company: “There’s so much heart there. Everyone feels very welcomed and invited. It’s just as much about the community as it is about the coffee.”
  • Eagle Creek Park: “I love to explore different parks. Our city has so many green spaces, and I love to take advantage of those.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

Brittany Smith, Yelp Indy, Butler University Alumni, Internships
Alumni Success

At Yelp, Butler Alum Connects People With Their City

Brittany Smith ’11 chose Butler University for its ties to Indianapolis, leading to a career of advocating for the city

Jun 17 2020 Read more
Center for Academic Technology
Alumni Success

This Team of Alumni Helped Butler Go Remote

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 04 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced Butler University to move classes online in mid-March, the Center for Academic Technology (CAT) has been busy supporting faculty, staff, and students through the transition. While the demand for their services tripled, the CAT’s four Academic Technology Specialists put in the extra hours to make sure the heart of a Butler experience wasn’t lost in a virtual setting.

As a team made up of Butler grads, they know firsthand what makes the University special. Kristen Allen ’12 and Nick Wilson ’08 both completed undergraduate degrees at Butler, and Megan Grady, MA ’10 earned her master’s. Heather Hazelwood ’05, MS ’14 did both.

“Our whole team loves Butler,” Allen says. “We’re always excited to come alongside faculty to assist with classroom success.”

In recent months, that has meant working closely with instructors to mimic planned activities in an online setting. Faculty who felt most comfortable using overhead projectors switched to portable versions. Others used Zoom breakout rooms to provide spaces where students could continue collaborating in small groups to work on projects or practice foreign language skills. In some classes, interactive presentations were moved to online discussion boards, allowing students to still engage in meaningful conversations. 

“I’ve seen faculty get really creative with their solutions,” Allen says. “Many of them have come to us and explained what they value most in their classrooms, and it’s a lot of what you think about when it comes to Butler in general: deep relationships with students. They didn’t want to lose that in moving to this remote online learning environment.”

When the CAT team saw the virus begin the spread across the nation in mid-February, they knew they needed to come up with a plan. By the time the University quickly switched to remote learning a month later, they had developed a resource to help guide faculty through the transition: Keep Calm and Teach On. Grady, who oversees a team of student-employees in the Information Commons program, also led the creation of the student-focused companion site Keep Calm and Study On.

The CAT specialists say they’ve watched faculty from across the University grow more comfortable with a variety of technologies throughout the semester, discovering the power of these new tools while becoming more confident in their ability to continue using them even after students are back in the classroom.

 

Meet the Dawgs of the CAT:

 

Kristen Allen ’12
Major: Math Education

“I absolutely loved my time at Butler. My professors were awesome mentors, and they helped me figure out what I wanted to do. Now, working here, I have the chance to revisit so many of the great memories I have from being on campus as a student.

In my four years at Butler, I was one of the first student-employees to participate in the Information Commons partnership between Butler Libraries and the Center for Academic Technology. After graduating, I worked for a wealth management company and did some nonprofit work, but I always loved Butler. I always loved teaching and technology. When there was an opening with the CAT, I applied right away, and I was really happy to be part of the team.

We really do function as a team. A lot of our success comes from good communication. For as small as our staff is, I’ve been amazed by how much knowledge the members of our team have.”

 

Megan Grady, MA ’10
MA Program: Master of Arts in English

“My liberal arts education taught me to love learning, which has been really useful when it comes to technology. I love finding ways that technology can enhance education.

Before coming to Butler, I spent several years working in other roles where I was teaching teachers how to teach. But I think my heart was always very much into liberal arts, and I wanted to find a position that would challenge me to go beyond my current skill set and learn new things.

I love working with faculty, listening to what they want to accomplish in their classrooms, and thinking through which resources are available to help them do that. I love solving problems, and I love the challenge of helping people feel more comfortable with technology—to make them feel like it’s something that’s within their control—something that can actually help them be efficient.”

 

Nick Wilson ’08
Major: Electronic Media

“After graduating from Butler, I found a position as a technician for a local K-12 school district. That’s where I discovered a passion for teaching people how to use technology. But I always wanted to come back to Butler, and I jumped at the chance to work with the CAT.

I love the lightbulb effect—when people start to understand a technology and see its full potential. For example, during the COVID-19 crisis, many faculty members have tried new things and realized they might want to use those tools in all their classes moving forward.

The biggest way my Butler education prepared me was by teaching me The Butler Way. I really feel that Butler is different from the average university because our faculty are so connected with the students. You really create a relationship with the faculty, and I think that makes a big difference.”

 

Heather Hazelwood ’05, MS ’14
Major: Recording Industry Studies
MS Program: Effective Teaching and Leadership

“After working at Butler for almost 10 years now, I don’t feel like I work with co-workers—I feel like I work with family. That’s something I treasure. I have built deep relationships with faculty, which helps me support them in meaningful ways.

My parents both went to Butler, then my mom worked at the University when I was in high school, so Butler just always seemed like the natural choice for me. I graduated from the first class of the Recording Industry Studies program in 2005. After about five years of experience in the hotel and conference center audiovisual industry, I found myself looking for a change. It seemed only natural to return to my alma mater, which I thankfully did in January 2011.

I strive to be a solution finder, and to find joy in helping others improve their teaching for the benefit of students. I also do my best to put others' needs before my own. While these qualities seem innate, I can’t deny that my experience as a student at Butler helped mold me into the person and the Academic Technology Specialist I am today.”

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

Center for Academic Technology
Alumni Success

This Team of Alumni Helped Butler Go Remote

Four grads in the Center for Academic Technology knew that strong relationships would be key to online learning

Jun 04 2020 Read more
COVID-19 CDC
Alumni Success

Keeping Up With the Data: Butler Grad Serves on CDC’s Global Pandemic Response

BY Kamy Mitchell ’21

PUBLISHED ON Jun 03 2020

“I have always known that I wanted to be active in a position where I could serve people,” says Kelsey Coy ’13.

Coy has dedicated her life to serving the public good. When starting her Butler University career as a Secondary Education major, she never dreamed of becoming a social epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—or of serving on an international task force during a global pandemic.

In her current role as an epidemiologist of Maternal Health with the CDC, Coy typically focuses on studying substance use and mental health before, during, and after pregnancy.  She recently published a paper on the prevalence of postpartum depression. She has also served on the emergency response for the lung injury epidemic associated with e-cigarette or vaping product use. That is, until she was deployed to the international task force for the CDC’s COVID-19 emergency response.

Now, Coy is studying the ways stay-at-home orders and other mitigation measures impact case counts. Using data from countries all over the world, she and her colleagues are able to provide insight into the unique ways this epidemic has impacted specific countries or general regions. Their work provides decision-makers with the information they need to fight the pandemic. Instead of working in the Emergency Operations Center at the CDC, Coy and her colleagues are working long hours at home, keeping up with the constantly changing data.

“The one thing I really want people to know is to check the CDC website and to trust that we are doing the best we can to keep the public safe,” she says. “There is no partisanship in the messaging. We work from the data, so the information we release is based on the data we have as we go. As data changes, and as our knowledge expands, our advice might change. But for now, it’s pretty simple: Wear your mask, wash your hands, and stay at home if you can. And be patient. Science points that this pandemic isn’t going to be the quickest thing.”

 

Drawn to The Butler Way

During her senior year of high school, Coy and her mother were driving home to Bloomington, Indiana, from a speech and debate competition. Even though she had applied to Butler, Coy had not yet visited the campus, so they decided to make a pit stop. It was the middle of winter break, and not many people were around as they roamed the sidewalks, but a student walked up and asked if Coy was thinking about coming to the University.

It turned out the student was a tour guide, and she offered to show Coy around. Coy remembers feeling a unique sense of kindness on Butler’s campus—what students refer to as The Butler Way—that was unlike any other campus she had visited. She also felt that Butler really cared about her and what she had to offer.

Coy discovered the field of epidemiology after reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, a biography about physician Paul Farmer’s work fighting tuberculosis, in her first-year seminar class.

“When I first learned what epidemiology was, it honestly felt like I had found my home,” Coy says. So, she changed her major to Biology and started finding opportunities to work on epidemiology research.

After graduating in 2013, Coy joined the Peace Corps and served for three years in Swaziland, now called the Kingdom of Eswatini. She didn’t want to attend graduate school right away, but she knew she wanted public health experience, as well as the opportunity to live abroad.

Upon returning to the United States, Coy attended the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in hopes of eventually working for the CDC. Lucky for Coy, during her second year of graduate school, she landed a global health internship with the organization.

Coy says her liberal arts education from Butler has been extremely valuable to her current position, as she thinks critically about the health data she approaches each day. For instance, the CDC has recently discovered that people of color are more likely to die from COVID-19. Coy is studying the social factors that drive this trend, thinking about the impacts of structural racism to better understand why this is happening.

“Butler set me up very, very well to start to question some of the things in our world,” Coy says.

 

Note: The statements made in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

COVID-19 CDC
Alumni Success

Keeping Up With the Data: Butler Grad Serves on CDC’s Global Pandemic Response

Kelsey Coy’s role as an epidemiologist helps guide vital decision-making

Jun 03 2020 Read more

Creating Rewards that Matter

By Dana Lee ’19

After graduating from Butler in 2015, Phil Osolinski set out to solve a problem that impacts one in six American adults: student debt. 

Not only are students graduating with debt, Osolinski noticed, but they’re also likely furnishing a new apartment, buying a work wardrobe, and purchasing other items during the transition into adulthood. 

“How can we use those transactions to also help people pay for their student loans? That was the core idea,” Osolinski says. “People are spending this money anyway. Let's try to turn that everyday spending into something a little bit more rewarding and powerful.”

In summer 2018, the former Finance and Entrepreneurship double major quit his job and worked out of his parents’ den to create Ryze Rewards, an app that enables users to earn up to 17 percent cash back on purchases and direct it toward their student loans. 

"One of our missions is to make financial responsibility and living life no longer mutually exclusive,” Osolinski says. “We want people to live the life they want, buy the things they want, and earn rewards for financial good." 

So far, the app has partnered with more than 150 merchants ranging from Patagonia to Dell, with plans to include local businesses in the near future.

ryze
Alumni Success

Creating Rewards that Matter

Phil Osolinski '15 created the Ryze Rewards app to help users pay off student debt

The Power of a Story

By Katie Grieze

Norette Turimuci ’04 knows the power of a story.

In her work as Executive Director of Resonate, an organization that helps women in East Africa gain the confidence to take big steps in their careers, she sees every day how storytelling can make a difference in someone’s life. But that doesn’t always mean hearing an inspiring tale of all that another person has accomplished—within Resonate, it means learning how to tell your own story. 

“Women are very good at downplaying our achievements, or just not acknowledging them,” Turimuci says. “Storytelling helps women think not only about how much they’ve gone through, but how much they’ve achieved.” 

She knows that first-hand. 

Not long after Turimuci graduated from Butler with a degree in Finance, her mom got sick. Turimuci traveled back home to Burundi, East Africa.

“My mom was very ill for about seven months. She didn’t have access to the care she needed,” Turimuci says. “It was during that time I realized, at some point, I would want to come back to East Africa and help my community grow. My mom was calling me home, in a way.” 

But she wasn’t ready yet. Turimuci went back to the U.S. to build her career and develop her skills, working with The Cooke Financial Group, the same financial group she’d interned with during her time at Butler. That’s where she discovered a passion for helping people. 

“Even though I was in the financial sector, I really enjoyed working with clients,” she says. “I could know they felt better or more financially secure, thanks to my relationship with them.”

To focus even more on making an impact in people’s lives, Turimuci made the switch to a nonprofit role in 2010. She joined an organization in Toronto, Canada, where she worked to improve cancer care for Indigenous peoples. But seven years later, her mom’s sickness returned.

“She brought me back home again, and I decided to stay,” she says. 

Turimuci’s mom passed away in fall 2017. It had been the woman’s life mission to make sure Turimuci and her four siblings had access to a great education, and Turimuci decided it was time to bring that experience back to East Africa.

When she met Resonate at a networking event and heard about how they empower women through story-based leadership training, she saw it as exactly the kind of thing that would have made life better for her mom. 

“My mom was a very strong and intelligent woman who could have achieved so much more if she’d had the time and space to fulfill her potential, or even believed how much she could achieve,” Turimuci says. “Through telling their stories, women discover their strength and their resilience.”

Resonate’s core program, Storytelling for Leadership, brings groups of women together over two days to learn how to tell their stories. They start with a definition of leadership that isn’t about a title or a specific position, but about staying proactive in the face of challenges.  

“It’s a way of being,” Turimuci says. “It’s seeing something that’s not working, and finding a solution.”

Then, the women identify their values—many of them for the first time—and reflect on how those values have helped them make decisions in their lives. Going forward, they can be more intentional about making choices that are rooted in what they believe.

Through helping women talk about the challenges they’ve already overcome, Resonate aims to help them understand that they have control over their lives. 

So far, most of Resonate’s work has taken place within Rwanda, but Turimuci’s mission for the next several years is to expand the organization’s work across more of East Africa. She wants to make sure that other women like her mom, herself, and now her own daughter have the confidence they need to change the world.

 

Photos courtesy of Resonate

resonate
Alumni Success

The Power of a Story

In East Africa, a Butler grad helps women celebrate their achievements and take control of their futures

resonate

The Power of a Story

By Katie Grieze

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