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Lee-gacy

by Sarah Bahr

“I’m already late for work, Dana!”

“It’ll take like five seconds, I promise!”

Butler University Collegian reporter Dana Lee pauses from reading her column-in-progress over the phone to her mother — a palliative care nurse in a northern suburb of Chicago who is, indeed, late for work.

Yes, the Collegian’s now-editor-in-chief and former ESPN and Indianapolis Star intern really does read (almost) every story she writes to her mom — who’s often cooking dinner in her kitchen 200 miles away.

Talking through her ideas helps her conquer writer’s block, Lee says.

The 21-year-old senior journalism major calls her parents at least once a week — but usually many times more. She called her dad before the first interview she did for the Indianapolis Star. During her freshman year when she was overwhelmed by Carmel, IN’s roundabouts. After she asked a security guard at Madison Square Garden to film her while covering the 2018 Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament in New York City for the Collegian. Her dad’s reaction? “I can’t believe you did that!”

Lee has written for ESPN, hobnobbed with celebrities (Bill Nye!), and embedded herself in former Butler basketball player Kelan Martin’s kitchen, but just try and tell her story without bringing up her parents (“They’ve read every story I’ve ever written”) and her two younger siblings, Jessica and Michael, who also attend Butler.

You can’t.

A Butler Family Lee-gacy

When Jessica Lee was weighing the pros and cons of attending Butler, her sister, Dana, landed squarely on the cons side.

“Which I didn’t know until halfway through my freshman year,” says Dana.

But Jessica, a junior Political Science and Strategic Communication double major, says that, without Dana, Butler likely wouldn’t have been on her radar. And, in the end, Butler’s internship opportunities, proximity to a big city, and beautiful campus proved too difficult to ignore.

Despite her older sister’s presence.

“I certainly had reservations about attending the same school as Dana,” Jessica, who’s a year younger than Dana, says. “Not because we aren’t close, but because I wanted my college experience to be my own.”

But Jessica says attending the same school as her siblings does come with perks; namely, Butler-themed inside jokes.

“It’s like speaking our own language. Like, ‘Have you seen Holcomb Gardens yet?’” Jessica says. “‘The leaves are turning and it looks BU-tiful.’”

While the siblings aren’t roommates, they live close enough together to walk to one another’s residences. Jessica and Dana lived in the same residence hall Jessica’s freshman year.

“It was nice having her closet nearby!” says Jessica.

Dana says she, Jessica, and Michael have always gotten along because they “didn’t have any other option.”

“Growing up, my parents would sit us on the staircase until someone gave someone else a hug,” Dana says. “We genuinely enjoy each other’s company.”

Michael, a freshman Digital Media Production major, says the siblings haven’t yet been on campus during the same semester.

Jessica is the culprit. She’s interning with the Democratic National Committee in Washington D.C. this semester, completed an internship with the European Union in Belgium last summer, and studied abroad in Germany last spring.

But even nearly 600 miles apart, the Lees are on the same wavelength.

Now the trio write for the Butler Collegian, Butler’s student newspaper. Dana is the editor-in-chief, Jessica is a co-news editor, and Michael is on the multimedia team. While Jessica says there’s no sibling rivalry, in the same breath, she contradicts herself.

“When Dana was the sports editor and I was the co-news editor, we would compete to see which section got the most clicks online,” Jessica says. “I most definitely won.”

But the siblings don’t share everything. When Michael committed to Butler last December, Dana and Jessica found out when he posted his decision on Instagram.

“So basically almost 500 people knew before I did,” Dana says. “Classic.”

A Sports Journalist in the Making

Though all the Lees played sports, it was Dana who was the family fanatic.

Mike Lee was a high school varsity baseball coach, so his daughter rode alongside him as he dragged baseball fields on a tractor, and wore his team’s uniform in the dugout during games.

Dana’s thirst for all things news — not just sports — was insatiable. In eighth grade, she wrote a persuasive essay petitioning her parents for an iPhone so she could read the The New York Times online before school (spoiler alert: she got it).

“My parents thought I was crazy,” she says, but it was this fanaticism that has made Dana successful as a student and a budding journalist

It’s a love she’s carried with her to college. Case in point: if inflating 500 basketballs in four hours would get her to ESPN, Dana Lee was going to do it.

Her first internship with the WNBA’s Chicago Sky the summer before her sophomore year was decidedly non-glamorous: As an unpaid community relations intern, she did the grunt work for the franchise. Including inflating all those basketballs.

“That was the lowest point of my internship,” she says.

Of the nearly 20 internships she applied for, Lee says the Sky position was the best offer she got.

Fast forward a year, and Lee had the opposite problem: too many opportunities.

Her offers: an Indianapolis Colts Media Operations internship, an Indianapolis Star reporting fellowship, a promotion to Butler Collegian sports editor . . .

So which one did she pick?

All of them.

Oh, and she also took 20 credit hours of classes that fall.

“Junior year was a nightmare,” Lee says. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”

She put in 16 hours per week at The Star as an “Our Children” fellow, examining opioid addiction and spotlighting nonprofit success stories in her quest to find and tell the overlooked stories of Indianapolis kids. She spent Sundays at Lucas Oil Stadium, helping set up the press box before Colts home games and transcribing coach and player interviews. She coordinated the Collegian’s sports coverage whenever she had a free moment. She slept very little.

“It was a terrible idea to intern two different places,” Lee says. “I’d never, ever do it again, but it was a great time.”

Don’t Look Over Her Shoulder in Class

You may be wondering, at this point, about Dana’s social life.

Two of her friends, Butler Collegian Digital Managing Editor Zach Horrall and Managing Editor Marisa Miller, both seniors, shed some light.

The last time they hung out?

Last Saturday night, when the evening’s agenda included Lee creating a class schedule for next semester.

“When we hang out, it’s basically low-key work,” says Horrall.

Lee’s been involved with the Collegian every semester, first as a sports reporter her freshman and sophomore years, then as a sports editor last year, and now as editor-in-chief, which means she’s grown to love staying up until 2:00 AM  on weeknights before tests. Not because she’s cramming — because she’s designing and editing stories at the Collegian office.

The print edition of the weekly Collegian publishes on Wednesdays, and Lee must read every story that ends up in print and online before the page designers can go to work.

And, of course, reporters being reporters, much of the copy comes in just before the deadline.

“I try to start reading between classes on Tuesday,” Lee says. “I probably read more stories in class than I’d like to admit. I try to have all the stories read by 10:30 PM, but if I finish by 9:30 PM, we’re in really good shape.”

After arriving at the office around 7:00 PM, the rest of her night is spent helping the designers and dealing with any snafus. Typically around 2:00 AM — but sometimes as late (or early?) as 5:00 AM — she’ll head home to catch a few hours of sleep before her Wednesday morning classes.

“My dad asks me all the time ‘Why are you doing this?’” Lee says. “I went from thinking my sister was crazy when she’d stay late working on our high school paper to being that person.”

But she says editing the Collegian doesn’t feel like work.

“It’s so nice to be immersed in something I want to do after graduation,” she says.

A “Hail Mary” Internship

You’d never know it if you came across Lee in the newsroom, but she’s an introvert. Her parents are still in disbelief that she wants to talk to people for a living, she says.

But she says her Collegian experiences have forced her out of her shell, from interviewing Butler men’s basketball’s second all-time leading scorer, Kelan Martin, as he fried up a dozen slices of turkey bacon in his kitchen, to enlisting a Madison Square Garden security guard as her cameraman during the 2018 Big East tournament in New York City.

“Freshman me never would’ve done that; not in a million years,” she says.

At the end of her junior year, she decided it was time for a hail mary — and applied for a summer internship at ESPN.

She got it.

She and 50 other interns spent 10 weeks in Bristol, Connecticut (where ESPN is headquartered), New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. this summer with the country’s foremost sports network.

She filmed Bill Nye demonstrating the physics behind a line drive. She covered the 2018 MLB All-Star Game in Washington, D.C. She shadowed SportsCenter newscasters Keith Olbermann and Chris Berman. She got a shout-out from ESPN sportswriter Seth Wickersham on Twitter.

But, true to form, Miller says the newly minted Collegian editor-in-chief still worked on the paper from Bristol.

“Even during her 40 hour-a-week internship, she was still updating our spreadsheets and planning guest speakers for the semester,” says Miller.

“She’s Very Talented, But She Doesn’t Always See It”

Every one of her friends, editors, and professors will tell you: Detail is to Lee what a lightsaber is to a Jedi.

She has a spreadsheet to keep track of every Chicago restaurant she’s eaten at, and those she wants to visit, with detailed notes about each, says Horrall. She interviewed Indianapolis Indians President and 1954 Butler graduate Max Schumacher for four hours just because she was curious. She filmed a standup shot at Hinkle Fieldhouse after the first Butler basketball game she covered 16 times to get it exactly right (Miller stood there until 11:00 PM holding the camera).

“I wish I had even 10 percent of her attention to detail,” Horrall says. “She homes in on things I’d never notice.”

She’ll Google restaurant names in Collegian stories to make sure ‘Bazbeaux’ doesn’t have an ‘s’ on the end of it, Horrall says, or check to make sure a movie theater really is in Carmel and not Indianapolis.

Nancy Whitmore, who’s taught journalism at Butler for 18 years, says Lee’s observational skills often surpass those of professional journalists.

“The insight and interpretation she brings to her reporting far exceeds her age,” says Whitmore.

Jessica Lee says her sister’s articles are an extension of her personality.

“Dana’s able to write these stories because she sits down with her yellow legal pad and blue pen and computer and she steps into [her interviewee’s] shoes,” she says.

Yet Lee doesn’t realize what she does is in any way out of the ordinary, says Horrall.

“She is very talented, but she doesn’t always see it,” he says. “Sometimes she thinks she’s gotten lucky, but she’s just really good at what she does.”

Her Parents Might Want to Look Into a Long-Distance Phone Plan

Her sister’s been to Belgium; her brother Cambodia. But outside of a two-week trip to Spain in high school, Dana Lee hasn’t left the country.

She wanted to spend a semester abroad last year, but as the Collegian’s sports editor, she couldn’t afford to leave Butler in the middle of basketball season.

But after graduation, she says, all bets are off.

“I’m looking at journalism fellowships abroad, particularly South Africa,” she says. “It’d be really interesting to look at the country post-apartheid.”

But one thing won’t change anytime soon.

“Jessica and Michael will always be my best friends,” she says.

FamilyStudent LifePeople

Lee-gacy

  When Jessica was weighing the pros and cons of attending Butler, her sister landed on the cons side.

Lee-gacy

by Sarah Bahr

Families in Residence

For most of us, the idea of raising a family in a residence hall on a college campus sounds, to put it mildly, challenging. But for many of Butler’s Faculty In Residence (known as FIRs), this challenge is well worth it. Celebrating nearly three decades, the FIR program places faculty members in residence halls with “learning communities” of approximately 80-120 students. Officially, FIRs host a minimum of two activities a month for their learning communities, to introduce students to campus and the city of Indianapolis. Activities might be shared meals, game nights, volunteer work, or attending lectures or sports events with students.

Unofficially and by choice, FIRs do much more. They lead lots of informal conversations in their living quarters, ranging from politics and entertainment to picking careers and Final Four teams. FIRs dispense cookies and encouragement to students cramming for exams, model the fun and challenge of family life, and offer a concerned adult ear to the homesick, the lovelorn, the questioning—even to parents emotionally overwhelmed at leaving their child on campus.

While not all FIRs have children in residence, many do. Sharing a family home with approximately 100 undergrads under your roof may seem daunting, but these communities become extensions of the FIR’s family. The unique living quarters provide extraordinarily unique opportunities for children of FIRs to see college life up close and for college students to see family life.

We asked Four Faculty in Residence to speak about what it’s like to raise children in this unique arrangement.

 


Meet the Families in Residence

Name: Catherine Pangan
Position at University: Associate Professor, College of Education
Names of Family members who live in residence: Roland, Hudson (13), Violet (7)
Residence Hall (current and past): Fairview, Resco, Schwitzer

What are the benefits of raising a family in this unique environment?
They are so fortunate to be around an enormous amount of role models doing extraordinary things every day. On a daily basis, they see students studying, working, enjoying friendships, struggling and succeeding.  They get to see what it is like for college students to grow, as they grow themselves! We also feel like we are in a mini-neighborhood within Butler. Ms. Janine Frainier and the bookstore staff, BUPD, and of course, Miss Denise, and the Starbucks staff have been extraordinarily supportive and kind throughout the entire experience. They feel like family as well.

What's it like to live in a neighborhood of only college-age students?
You age, but your neighbors don't. It is kind of like the fountain of youth!

As your children grow and become adults, what do you hope they will take from this experience?
I hope they feel connected to a community the same way they feel living at Butler.

Is there a story that you think exemplifies your family in residence experience?
I've told this story so many times, but when Hudson was four years old and learning to ride his bike, he was trying to make it down the whole length of Hampton. As he rode, he had students shouting "Go Hudson!" from sorority and fraternity windows - students were clapping for him on the street as he rode by, and then they let out a huge cheer for him when he made it to the end. I will never forget his smile when he made it, or the Butler students that helped him get to the end! If that doesn't exemplify the Butler Way, I'm not sure what does!

What's your commute like in the morning?
Short!

***

Name: John Esteb
Position at University: Chemistry Professor
Names of Family members who live in residence: 4 total (including me)
Residence Hall: Resco C-Wing

What are the benefits of raising a family in this unique environment?
The kids learn how to interact with adults and also are exposed to so many wonderful cultural events, speakers, shows, etc. that almost no other kid gets to experience on a regular basis

What's it like to live in a neighborhood of only college-age students?
There is constantly a lot of energy around and there is ALWAYS something going on!  It is a unique experience that we get to interact with them both inside and outside the classroom and help not only with their academic development but get to know them as the fun and talented people they are in their day to day life as well.

As your children grow and become adults, what do you hope they will take from this experience?
I hope that they see the value of the college experience (with everything that it entails) and also learn that everyone has strengths that they can showcase in their own unique ways when put into an environment that provides the right opportunities and fosters the development of skills and talents.

Is there a story that you think exemplifies your family in residence experience?
We have had many! Ranging from my son jumping around and singing along with students at a Butlerpalooza concert, to cheering on the Colts and my kids going crazy in the stands at the game with students that were die-hard Colts fans, to the kids competing with the students to see who would be willing to eat the wildest sushi order, to just hanging out with the students over cheesecake, bbq, cookies, donuts, etc. at the apartment!

What's your commute like in the morning?
Normally great (since I just walk in)! Haha!

***

Name: Ryan Flessner
Position at University: Associate Professor of Teacher Education (COE)
Names of Family members who live in residence: Courtney (wife), Abel (11), Adelyn (10)
Residence Hall (current and past): Fairview House (2016-present), Ross Hall (2013-2016)

What are the benefits of raising a family in this unique environment?
Our kids are surrounded by young adults who are working toward their goals on a daily basis while also enjoying each other's company and the beautiful campus on which we live. The kids have the opportunity to see college students find their way, develop friendships, and contribute to our community. Abel and Adelyn learned to ride their bikes on the mall, and they can always find a pick-up game of kickball with ever-ready college students. Who wouldn't want to grow up on this campus?!

What's it like to live in a neighborhood of only college-age students?
It's inspiring to see students finding their way in the world, discovering their passions, and contributing to the community. I'm a better professor because I see more than just the academic side of college life. In addition to their commitments to their studies, I see the students' commitments to campus and community organizations, their commitments to their network of friends and mentors, and their commitments to their future careers.

As your children grow and become adults, what do you hope they will take from this experience?
I hope my kids understand the privileges they have in life and the ways in which their experiences are shaping their futures. I hope they use their privilege to benefit others as they make their way in the world.

Is there a story that you think exemplifies your family in residence experience?
There are too many magical moments to count. We've been to the wedding of one of our RAs, we've been references for residents as they seek employment, and we've even helped a student learn to wrap holiday gifts! My favorite memory, however, is probably from a faculty dinner we hosted on our patio last fall. After the event with her professors that evening, one of our residents said, "This is why I came to Butler - so I could interact with the faculty and we could get to know each other as people." Making that moment possible for her was incredibly rewarding, and her gratitude was worth all of the effort we put into this role.

What's your commute like in the morning?
I love the fact that I can walk my kids to the bus and then walk across campus to my office. That 15-minute stroll is a great way to organize my thoughts as I transition into my teaching or my research.

***

Name: Erin Garriott
Position at University: Instructor in Special Education, College of Education
Names of Family members who live in residence: Scott Garriott (husband), Ella (15), Mae (9) and Weston (5)
Residence Hall (current and past): ResCo B-wing currently, Schweitzer for 2 years

What are the benefits of raising a family in this unique environment?
To have my kids surrounded by goal-centered, focused, kind, thoughtful BU students is priceless. We also think the access to sports, the arts, campus projects, and events are real benefits.

What's it like to live in a neighborhood of only college-age students?
It’s so much fun! There’s always something going on or conversations to join in on. We’ve been so lucky to live by wonderfully caring and kind students. We realize how much we rely on their energy to get through our days. When students aren’t here, we totally miss them!

As your children grow and become adults, what do you hope they will take from this experience?
I hope they will remember the time we got to spend together in our cozy living space. I hope they take with them the importance of working hard to reach a goal. We hardly ever go by a study lounge where there isn’t at least one student in there studying. Mostly, I really hope they take the amazing feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves. Butler is a really special place to be. I know my kids “know” that because of the conversations we’ve had about the people here and the experiences we’ve gotten to have with our residents.

Is there a story that you think exemplifies your family in residence experience?
There are sooooo many, from Ms. Denise getting Scott and I an anniversary cake to students leaving encouraging notes to our kids outside our door. The one that always sticks out though came from my husband Scott. As long as I’ve known him, I’ve always been an educator. He had often made comments about how I always had my students on my mind and he didn’t seem to understand how that happened. Fast forward 15 years...our first year as a FIR family was coming to an end. I mentioned one evening during dinner that classes were finishing up and students would be moving out soon. Scott said in a panic, “Do you think we’ll ever see Emma again?” And all evening, he would randomly ask things like, “I wonder if Allison got her summer job?” and “Do you think Helen will stop by to say good-bye?” My favorite one was, “I hope Rex (Hailey’s dad) knows he can stop by and see us anytime.” After just one year, he had experienced the relationships you build with young people and how it changes your life. He has a better sense of what it means to care deeply about a group of students; it was a lesson I could never teach but am so glad I got to see click.

What's your commute like in the morning?
Surprisingly, I drive to my office. I take my kids to their bus stop at 46th and Cornelius and then hustle to South Campus for class.

FamilyPeopleCommunity

Families in Residence

Sharing a family home with 100 undergrads under your roof may seem daunting, but they become family.

The Ultimate Mentor

by Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

Maybe the ultimate Scott Bridge story is how he arranged for Megan Yates '16 to finish her degree after the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation hired her full time at the beginning of her senior year.

Or perhaps the best story is the time he gave Teresa Mask '93 a copy of the book I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America with this inscription: "I fully expect to see your picture and an article about you in a similar book someday."

"To say that he had that much confidence that my life was going to amount to something worthy to be read about, it was like, 'Wow,'" says Mask, who spent two decades as a newspaper reporter and editor and is now Senior Public Relations Manager for AT&T in Michigan. "That was encouragement beyond belief."

But it could be that the greatest Scott Bridge story is the one about Ari Kasle '14.

"Couldn't stand him when he was a freshman," Bridge says, "but I saw some good things when he was a sophomore and we had some talks about his big, obnoxious mouth overshadowing his creativity, intelligence, and his good heart. When I think about what Ari was like when he started at Butler versus the Ari who graduated four years later, it reminds me why I love my job. Very, very proud of him."

Kasle, now an Associate Producer at Emmis Communication in Indianapolis, says: "He's gone to bat for me so many times. I developed a reputation early on at Butler and he could have thrown me to the scrap heap if he wanted to. But he took me under his wing and he said, 'I believe in you.' I'll be forever in debt to him for that."

Bridge, who started teaching in Broadcast/Electronic Journalism at Butler in 1988, has helped send hundreds of future broadcasters, teachers, publicists—and even a couple of current members of Butler's Board of Trustees—into the world. Probably every one of them can recall some example of his kindness and his guidance.

Stephanie (Hoop) Callihan '89, now a Vice President for Entercom and mother of Butler first-year student Kate Callihan: "He was a great mentor even then to all of us. He would say, 'Here’s what you have to do to find a job,' and was very realistic about how hard it was. He really helped and mentored you about what your next, best steps were and how you needed to go about doing it."

Hayley Ross '17, now a Production Assistant on MSNBC's Deadline: White House: "He pushed me to do everything that I did, and he's 100 percent the reason that I graduated with a journalism degree. I definitely would not be where I am if he had not pushed me to be my best."

*

Bridge '82, MS '91 worked in radio and TV for six years after earning his bachelor's degree. Even then, the media was shrinking. In 1988, when the radio station he worked for cut most of its newsroom—though not his position—he started looking around.

At the time, Butler advertised a full-time staff position that entailed serving as sports and news director for WAJC-FM, the campus radio station, and teaching one class.

"It was a 10 percent pay cut," Bridge says, laughing, "and I was not their first choice."

He took the job and found his calling. "When I started teaching and working with the students, that was it," he says. "It was being able to help students and help them realize whatever their goals and dreams were. Just seeing that light bulb go on, being able to help them with their careers."

That first year in the classroom, Bridge was 27 but looked 22. He would often be mistaken for a student. He started wearing a jacket and tie to distinguish himself. But students called him Scott because "Mr. Bridge didn't feel right."

He stayed in that staff position for five years. In 1993, when Butler sold the radio station, Bridge was named sports and news director for the campus TV station. By then, he was teaching two classes.

He modeled his approach to teaching after B.J. Goodwin, one of his high school teachers in Lebanon, Indiana, who nurtured and encouraged him.

His philosophy: "Students just need somebody to affirm to them that they're doing good work. They already know when they're screwing up. Very few of them need somebody to tell them that they've screwed up. But they do need somebody to tell them, 'Yeah, you're doing something good.'"

*

Bridge's job at Butler lasted until spring 1995, and he taught one class a semester till spring 1997. Then he took time off to be Mr. Mom while his wife, Maryann, a Pathologist, worked. Still, Bridge served on the Alumni Board and kept his men's basketball tickets.

"Butler was still part of my life," he says. "But not as strong."

When his children got a little older, Bridge started thinking about returning to work. At a basketball game in 2006, he ran into a Butler faculty member who asked if he'd be interested in teaching again. He was.

Bridge wondered, though, if he would be relevant. Technology had changed, and "I didn't want to seem like some old fogey." To prepare, he took a computer literacy class at Franklin College. He also took classes in Microsoft programs at Indiana Business College in Columbus, where he lives.

He served as an Adjunct Professor for a couple of years until 2010, when the department, faced with a last-minute departure, hired him full time as an Instructor of Electronic Journalism. He still holds that title, and in 2014 he added the role of Internship Director for the College of Communication, which allows him to work with students in all Communication majors.

"Scott transformed the College of Communication internship program upon becoming its director in January 2014, raising its profile and scope while tripling the number of student interns benefiting from this program every year," says former College of Communication Dean Gary Edgerton, who calls Bridge "the epitome of a student-centered faculty member."

These days, Bridge still wears a jacket and tie every day. Students called him Professor Bridge, but his approach to working with students remains the same.

"Students wonder when Scott sleeps since they receive numerous emails from him about internship opportunities in the middle of the night," says Suzanne Reading, Associate Dean of the College of Communication. "When I talk with students at new-student registration, many of them know Scott already and have been in contact with him several times prior to coming to Butler."

At the end of the inscription, Bridge wrote in the book he gave Teresa Mask said, "Good luck and know that you can count on me if you ever need a helping hand."

Mask and multiple generations of Butler students know that he means it.

FamilyPeople

The Ultimate Mentor

Scott Bridge has built a family of hundreds of Butler students he’s helped send out into the world.

The Ultimate Mentor

by Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

Family Away From Home

By Brittany Bluthardt ’20

First-year student Alyssa Johnson wasn’t sure what to expect when she moved into Irvington House a few months ago. She was one of few students on campus as part of the Ambassadors of Change Pre-Welcome Week program. From one home to another, Alyssa was overwhelmed and nervous to begin her new journey at Butler University. She felt instantly more comfortable after she met her resident assistant, Murjanatu Mutuwa, for the first time.

“She was extremely energetic and helpful,” Alyssa says. “Now, she’s someone I can go to at any time for support.”

Resident assistants, RAs for short, are mentors for new students on Butler’s campus. RAs are fellow Butler students who help first and second year students while they are living in a residence hall. Murjanatu and other RAs plan programs and activities for their residents throughout the year. They also help to develop a respectful community while serving as a resource for students. RAs maintain an environment within residence halls for students to grow academically and socially while pursuing their first few years as a Bulldog.

Murjanatu knew she wanted to take on this role after her own experience as a resident in Schwitzer Hall. As a first-year student, Murjanatu quickly began helping others, from planning events to becoming the residence hall president. As she worked side by side with her own RA, she quickly determined she had the desire and the drive to be one too.

Three years later, Murjanatu is now a senior with a job lined up after graduation and many other responsibilities on her plate. Her biggest responsibility, perhaps, is caring for a group of fellow students as their RA.

She and her residents live in a small section of Irvington House, a place they proudly call “The Island.” The group is always together, whether they’re sitting in the hallway, chatting and doing homework together on school nights, or eating a family-style dinner at Atherton Union.

Murjanatu has created more than a community in her unit. She’s created a family.

*

Growing up in Cedar Lake, Indiana, Murjanatu was used to living with many people. When she was a teenager, her family adopted a little sister. Her parents also fostered many children in their home, some of them were even Murjanatu’s classmates at school. In her mind, everyone just became a new brother or sister.

“I’ve learned how to accept people who are very different from myself,” she says. “At the end of the day, a family is who you come home to - it’s where you feel yourself.”

With this early foundation of acceptance and caring, Murjantatu learned how to love people, even when it’s challenging. Because she’s just a few years older than her residents some things can be a bit difficult, but she’s learned how to support them and be an authority figure at the same time. Her residents reciprocate the same compassion. When Murjanatu had to go home after a sudden loss of a friend, her residents surprised her with a signed card and candy when she came back.

“When I go through things, people here are always there for me,” Murjanatu says. “People at Butler walk through challenging seasons with you.”

Although Murjanatu is in a new residence hall with new students, she doesn’t forget the friends she made in years past. She occasionally meets with her past residents to talk about their lives, grab a coffee, or unwind with a slumber party. Sophomore Julia Junker had Murjanatu as a resident assistant last year in Resco, and she remembers the support Murjanatu always gave her when she needed it the most.

“I don’t see her as often anymore, but when I do, she’s always excited to see me, and we’ll have long conversations together to catch up,” Julia says.

Another resident, Kennedy Broadwell, had Murjanatu as an RA last year in Resco. Kennedy said their hallway of residents took a while to get close with each other, but Murjanatu made sure to plan plenty of bonding events. If anything, their hall bonded over their love for Murjanatu and her funny personality.

“Murjana as an RA was a literal ray of sunshine walking down the hall,” Kennedy says. “She is probably one of the busiest people on campus, but she always made time to talk to her residents when we needed her.”

Now, Kennedy is a sophomore pursuing a major in sports media. Although she does not see Murjanatu as often as she wishes, when they do see each other, it is as if nothing has changed.

“Murj’ is just someone I know will always care about my well-being and will always be there to listen, whether she's my RA or not,” she says. “Now, somehow, we manage to pass each other every couple of days, and we always get so excited to see each other.”

*

On a late Sunday afternoon, Murjanatu opens boxes of pizza, sends a final reminder message to her friends, and anxiously waits for approximately 30 Butler University students to arrive at the Community Room in Fairview House. At this “family dinner,” as Murjanatu calls it, her Butler family, past and present, will get to meet each other.

Julia and Kennedy reunite with Murjanatu and meet Murjanatu’s new students from “The Island.” Other past residents FaceTime from off campus just to say “hi.”

“It was so fun to meet them and kind of compare stories from our first semester last year to their semester now,” Kennedy explains. “I could tell how much they already love Murjana and I wasn't surprised in the slightest. They are the luckiest kids on campus!”

With a semester and a half separating Murjanatu from graduation, she grows sadder when she thinks of leaving her residents. For four years she has worked to create a family at Butler. She has cared for students who in turn, have cared for her. While she’ll officially no longer be their RA come graduation, just like with a real family, the bonds will remain.

Cambria Khayat, a current resident of Murjanatu, aspires to be like her when she’s older.

“I look up to her so much,” Cambria says. “She’s where I want to be my senior year. I feel so blessed to have her as a friend and my RA.”

FamilyStudent Life

Family Away From Home

A resident assistant fosters community and creates a family for students on campus.

Family Away From Home

By Brittany Bluthardt ’20