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Innovation

Butler Technology Joins Global Effort to Fight Coronavirus

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 30 2020

Butler University has donated remote use of some of its powerful technology to a global effort to combat COVID-19.

A supercomputer and Butler Esports computers are now part of Folding@home, a project focused on disease research that utilizes help from computer owners around the world. Based out of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, the work has shifted from researching numerous infectious diseases to investigating the structure of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Using molecular protein folding computer simulations, the Folding@home project aims to discover drug pathways that can cause a dysfunction in the folding of one or more proteins in the COVID-19 virus, therefore killing it. Extra computer power from around the world is needed for faster, more precise simulations. 

“It takes huge amounts of computing power to try them,” Butler Computer Science Professor Jonathon Sorenson says. “The more they try, the better the chances of finding one that works.”

Protein folding is the process that determines a protein’s structure, and therefore its functionality. The shapes protein subunits form fit together like LEGOs to create new cells. Sometimes, when you are trying to build something specific, only one particular shape of LEGO will work. If the body’s proteins aren’t folding into the necessary shapes, this can have detrimental health effects. For example, in the case of sickle-cell anemia, the protein inside red blood cells—hemoglobin—is not capable of transporting oxygen due to a single amino acid change in the hemoglobin protein structure. Now, Folding@home is seeking similar weaknesses within the coronavirus’ proteins—looking for structures that could be altered to inhibit the virus’s ability to infect the body.

Computer owners who want to help with the project can download software that allows Folding@home to use the computers to run simulations. The simulations are usually timed for when the user sleeps, but with universities relying on distance learning during the pandemic, on-campus machines are left on and idle all day. More than 700 universities worldwide have lent their computer power to help run simulations around the clock.

Sorenson learned of the ongoing research project’s new focus on the coronavirus from an Association for Computing Machinery article and alerted IT of the potential of joining the project. A day later, IT Senior Systems Analyst and Computer Science Adjunct Professor Nate Partenheimer got the University’s newest supercomputer online to run Folding@home simulations.

“By lending our computing power to this huge project,” Sorenson says, “it’s a small way of helping that overall effort.”

Supercomputer specs

While Butler’s first supercomputer, The Big Dawg, is being utilized for current Butler research projects, a new system was to be used for artificial intelligence courses and other research. Those projects have been postponed, which opened up use for Folding@home. 

Thanks to Partenheimer, Folding@home is now benefiting from:

  • Four NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti graphics processing units, each of which is capable of about 13 Tera-FLOPS. FLOPS, or floating point operations per second, is a unit of computer performance measurement in scientific computations. Just one of these graphics processing units can execute 13 trillion operations per second.
  • One NVIDIA GP100, which is capable of more than 10 Tera-FLOPS.

Now online, Butler has helped boost the project to 1.5 quintillion operations per second worldwide.

Esports scores an assist

Butler Esports donated its own NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 graphics processing unit and an Intel i7 central processing unit to the Folding@home cause. Machines meant for powering spirited games of League of Legends and Rocket League are now dedicated to saving lives.

Student Activities Coordinator Doug Benedict had known about Folding@home since before the COVID-19 pandemic, but after a meeting with Butler IT, he decided to download the software and link the Esports machines to the cause. Benedict says the Butler Esports and Gaming Center’s mission is to be a source for community engagement, outreach, and philanthropy between esports events.

“We want to show the benefits of having this kind of space and this kind of technology to society as a whole,” he adds. “Technology has changed our lives time and time again, and clearly it’s going to continue to do that.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

COVID-19
Innovation

Butler Technology Joins Global Effort to Fight Coronavirus

A supercomputer and Butler Esports machines are linked to a COVID-19 research initiative focusing on proteins in the virus

Mar 30 2020 Read more
Guy holding rolls of toilet paper
Innovation

COVID-19 to Affect Global Supply Chains for Years to Come

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 26 2020

The image of shoppers desperately filling their carts with toilet paper has become a go-to representation of the COVID-19 outbreak. In grocery stores across the nation, panic buying has also emptied shelves of other necessities and staples, such as bread, eggs, dairy products, and meat.

But the supply chains that put food and home products in your grocery aisles are still strong—for now.

Matt Caito
Operations Instructor Matthew Caito

Matthew Caito, Butler University Operations Management Instructor and expert in the field of global supply chains, does recommend stocking up for your family in order to limit trips to the store. Still, he says you shouldn’t buy more than you actually need, as hoarding can have a negative impact not only on your community, but on the efficiency of industries worldwide. Hoarding leads to inefficient distribution of scarce products, making scarcity more of a problem, like with toilet paper being a rare sight in stores. If we want to avoid long-term consequences, consumers must be rational in the months ahead.

“I’m confident that we will have enough toilet paper,” Caito says. “We’ll have enough toothpaste. We’ll have enough food.”

Consumers should still be vigilant, Caito adds, as the COVID-19 pandemic is making new headlines every day. The strength of supply chains can be altered at any time with policy changes or civil unrest.

Before his tenure at Butler, Caito helped manage food production and distribution for businesses and was used to dealing with “snow scares” in the Midwest and “hurricane scares” in Florida—temporary spikes in buying to ensure consumers’ families had plenty of food to weather out storms. But the COVID-19 pandemic is “uncharted territory.”

Caito says aisles will refill, but the crisis will affect global supply chains for years to come.

Question: What has been the biggest operational challenge during the pandemic so far?

Matthew Caito: If you look at the problem from an operational perspective, what we’re really fighting for is capacity. Do we have enough capacity in our healthcare system? If we don’t have enough capacity in our healthcare system, what can we do about it? We can increase our national capacity, which is going to be really hard to do as soon as we would like.

This is what we hear the politicians talking about now—that we don’t have enough respirators, don’t have enough masks, don’t have enough hospital beds. Alternatively, we can work to decrease the demand, which is exactly what we can do if we come together as a country and practice social distancing by working remotely and sheltering in place.

I’m a little bit surprised the government hasn't pulled the trigger faster on trying to increase the production of essential medical devices, but I think it’s just a matter of time before that comes along, and industries will find ways to meet the challenge.

Q: What are some best practices for Indiana consumers right now?

MC: At some point, people will have bought enough toilet paper. That demand will stop. What I watch as a consumer, and because I have a large family, is what’s happening in places like New York and Washington state. If there’s a shortage of products in those areas, Indiana is just a couple days behind it. So we need to really pay attention to what's going on around the world to help us anticipate what our needs are.

Q: Just how well are grocery stores doing?

MC: The grocery markets are doing an outstanding job. The food supply chain is doing an outstanding job. But what you need to keep in mind with food is that roughly 45-55 percent of all meals are typically eaten outside the home—at restaurants, schools, offices, convenience stores, and on the road. When you shut down all of the restaurant channels, where are people going to get their food?

There’s going to be an instant and dramatic increase in consumer demand at retail grocery stores for months to come. People have got to eat. I think the grocery chains have been understandably caught a little by surprise, but to their credit, nobody could have predicted this.

As retailers try to get back on balance with their inventories in the midst of higher demand over the next several months, we’re going to have to ask the question, “Where’s that food going to come from?” The capacity of the retail grocery industry is going to be strained. But frankly, this is going to make grocery stores a lot of profit because they’re going to see nearly twice the amount of sales for almost the same fixed cost. Fortunately, I don’t believe retailers are gouging consumers, and I don’t think they will.

Q: Are there concerns over the movement of goods in the supply chain?

MC: From a transportation perspective, we’re going to run into problems because, even though companies want to move things, even though trucks don’t know if there’s a pandemic, drivers at some point are just not going to take the risk. They don’t want to be away from their families, and there’s just no guarantee that they can remain healthy on the road. At some point, the distribution chain is going to get really strained. When that happens, you’ll see freight rates skyrocket.

Q: How long will it take for operations to get back to full-strength after this pandemic dies down?

MC: If I were a betting person, I’d say years. You’re going to have a lot of companies that just don’t have the cash on-hand to sustain business. There’s going to be massive unemployment, unfortunately. There’s going to be a massive realignment of the economy. There isn’t going to be enough cash to save every business.

But once the dust settles after months of rational hindsight, I think you’ll see a much more robust supply chain. There’s going to be a strategic rethinking about how much medicine we want to import. Strategically, how many vital electronics do we want to import? Strategically, how many auto parts do we want to import? It’s going to make a significant difference for large companies as they work to protect their supply chains from future disruptions. 

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

Guy holding rolls of toilet paper
Innovation

COVID-19 to Affect Global Supply Chains for Years to Come

Toilet paper will return to aisles, but the pandemic will cause industries to rethink operations, says LSB’s Matthew Caito

Mar 26 2020 Read more
$100 with medical mask
Innovation

Butler Professor: U.S. Economy Shifting to Help Businesses, Citizens

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 25 2020

As COVID-19 presents a public health crisis, the U.S. economy has reacted in kind.

Economics Professor Bill Rieber says the nation’s economy is enduring hardships it last experienced during the 2008–2009 recession. But instead of the recession starting in the economy and real estate sector, this downturn is the side effect of a global health pandemic.

“This is so different,” he says. “In 2009, we wanted people to go out and spend, spurred by government fiscal and monetary measures. Here, we don’t want people to go out. We want them to stay at home and be safe.” 

In times when there is no health crisis or recession, Rieber says the nation relies on a market economy that combines cooperation—industries producing products—and competition—consideration of price, product, place, and promotion—along with some aspects of a sharing economy, such as welfare, Medicaid, and social programs.

Now, borders are closing, businesses are on hold, and some workers are laid off. The longer the COVID-19 crisis extends, the longer it will take for the economy to return to normal. Until then, Rieber says, the United States will strive to ensure its citizens are taken care of.

Question: What steps are being made to keep the economy afloat?

Bill Rieber: Banks will be sensitive to businesses, allowing them to miss some payments. There are also many people and organizations sharing their wealth with those hurt most by the pandemic. We can do that, in my view, because of the mix of a free enterprise economy, democracy, and cooperation and competition that has led to some Americans having high incomes that they can now share.

Q: What about smaller businesses? What will happen to them during the COVID-19 crisis?

BR: The central bank—the Federal Reserve—can inject reserves within the commercial banking system. Most of our businesses were quite healthy. The economy was strong, but businesses don’t have the funds in a liquid sense—the revenues and the cash to keep going in some cases. That’s where the central bank could put more reserves with local commercial banks, who then will have more reserves and funds to help local business. 

Q: How is the federal government helping?

BR: At the federal level, we can deficit spend, which means spending in excess of revenue. That is fine. There’s nothing wrong with deficit spending during emergencies. That’s always been the case during economic downturns. But how do we do that here, and how do we get the funds to the people who need them the most?

Since the Great Depression, Americans have agreed that deficit spending during recessions is warranted, but exactly what that looks like is more open for debate. That’s always difficult. That’s what Congress and the president are negotiating now. 

Q: When will we rise out of this sharing economy status?

BR: Fundamentally, it’s our health that’s most important. That’s what we have to be concerned about first. So, if it’s not healthy to go out and spend, we should stay at home and stay healthy. When the public’s health improves, things like the economy will improve, too. That’s the real connection here.

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

$100 with medical mask
Innovation

Butler Professor: U.S. Economy Shifting to Help Businesses, Citizens

COVID-19 pandemic has government making steps it hasn’t made since the 2008 recession, Economics Professor Bill Rieber says

Mar 25 2020 Read more
working from home
Innovation

Butler Management Researcher Offers Advice for Productive Telecommuting

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 20 2020

As millions transition from the office to working from home, certain practices can boost productivity, reduce distractions, and establish a separation of work and home life under the same roof.

Craig Caldwell, Associate Professor of Management and Associate Dean of Graduate and Professional Programs for the Lacy School of Business, says working from home effectively takes dedication to not only the physical space, but also to the worker’s mental space—especially during a time of uncertainty as the world shifts to telecommuting and social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Craig Caldwell
Associate Professor Craig Caldwell

As people scramble to keep up with the pace of new information about COVID-19, practicing mindfulness in the home is a good first step. Practitioners of mindfulness concentrate on the present moment while acknowledging their feelings, thoughts, and surroundings.

“Mindfulness can help you self-identify the main issues you are struggling with,” Caldwell says. “This entire field of mindfulness is something I find increasingly helpful for working at home. For example, folks inclined to procrastinate will tend to procrastinate even more without a boss or peer pressure. Mindfulness can help you explore why you procrastinate and offer solutions to overcome it.”

Many industries have been disrupted, but limiting the disruption from affecting job performance at home can be achieved with thoughtful efforts to understand the nature of the work, the emotions of the employee, and the work space requirements.

‘Latitude’ adjustment

Caldwell says current circumstances require patience from supervisors and workers alike. Deadlines may be more difficult to meet. Suppliers may be unavailable. Productivity could wane, at least at first. Supervisors must give latitude to their workers, and the workers must give themselves the same as they get used to a new work routine.

Workers may not have the same administrative, IT, or peer support that they had at the office, but the work will get done if people utilize more patience and commitment on projects. Now is not the time to eliminate workers who are struggling with productivity. Developing existing employees is cheaper and faster than hiring new ones, Caldwell says.

Save the home environment

For many, working from home isn’t foreign. Caldwell says Fortune 500 companies and small start-ups have effectively worked outside of the traditional office for years. Small companies with fewer than 10 full-time employees often utilize coworking spaces for their rare, face-to-face meetings, but working from home is most common.

But even these workers must make adjustments as family members that used to go to an office or school are now working from home. The house is getting crowded with telecommuters and online students. Caldwell says setting parameters early on is key.

“You may need to have substantive conversations with your family,” he adds. “‘Here is what is happening: When I’m at this particular desk, when my headphones are on, when the pink Post-it Note is on the door, it means I’m not available.’ What was once a person working from home, now it’s four people all working at home on their projects and school work.”

And working from home doesn’t mean sweatpants 24/7. Grooming and dressing as if you were heading into a professional setting helps with home productivity and mood, Caldwell says.

Extended hours

The 9-to-5 concept didn’t apply to many workers before COVID-19, but working from home now should come with the mindset of being available and online for a wider range of times, according to Caldwell. Factoring in breaks to prepare kids’ lunches, walking the dog, or being online late to handle that teleconference with Japan will spread out the work day more.

Caldwell recommends relying heavily on keeping that Outlook calendar full with work-related tasks and projects. Don’t just log your meetings: Log the independent tasks, too. A busy calendar will maximize productivity and reduce distraction.

“Any device, tool, and app that keeps track of what you're doing as opposed to allowing a black hole of a day is good,” Caldwell says. “Literally schedule your day so you have a full day of work at the office. The mentality of being productive in that particular space is really important. Set hours for when you are going to to be ‘in the office.’”

New tools, new skills

Working from home should still include the development of new skills, as well as the exploration of new programs and applications.

“Maximize downtime,” Caldwell says. “Self-development can be highly motivating. Skill up with a new certification of some kind. Pursue continuing education online for that skill you always wanted to acquire. Why not dig into it now?”

Caldwell recommends working in Trello, an online management tool, to keep track of projects with your remote team. Slack is an app that allows for smoother communication between colleagues, particularly for more casual interactions.

The norm, for now

Already, “crisis management” should be added to resumes worldwide. Work has continued for many industries, and workers being nimble in this transition are keeping businesses afloat. The dramatic shift to work life at home will continue for months.

“If there’s a silver lining at all, it’s this: You’re developing a new skill in how to effectively work remotely with a high level of productivity,” Caldwell says. “Since we can’t control it, get comfortable. Be in tune to how you are feeling and how others may be reading you. There’s still a lot of connecting taking place, and that should continue.

“We need to be extraordinarily charitable right now, and I think we’re going to get through this and be a stronger society for it. This will be one of those things that pulls us together and unifies us.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

working from home
Innovation

Butler Management Researcher Offers Advice for Productive Telecommuting

Efficient work from home starts with the right mindset and physical space, Associate Professor Craig Caldwell says

Mar 20 2020 Read more
Terri Jett
Innovation

Butler Professor Lends Expertise to Indy PBS ‘Simple Civics’ Series

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Mar 16 2020

Terri Jett’s pledge to PBS is lending her expertise on politics and American history to WFYI’s video series Simple Civics.

An Associate Professor of Political Science and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity, Jett hosts the videos that have tackled topics such as Freedom of Speech During Times of War, How Does the Draft Work?, and Can You Run for President from Prison?. Usually about three or four minutes in length, Simple Civics debuted in October on WFYI’s YouTube and Facebook channels.

With 2020 being a presidential election year, WFYI producers developed the series for viewers to better understand U.S. policy and history. Looking for a host with a political science background, producer Kyle Travers discovered Jett through Butler University's College of Communication produced videos as well as Jett’s work for Founder’s Week. The collaboration has been successful as Simple Civics season two tapings are underway.

On an afternoon in early March, Jett took her place in front of a gigantic green screen, under the bright studio lights, to record about a dozen new episodes. With Travers and fellow WFYI producers Scott McAlister nearby, she completed upcoming videos including Women as President, How Primaries Work, and 19th Amendment.

Jett has the commanding voice of an educator, the confidence to speak in front of large groups, and decades of research and writing experience. Still, she says hosting a web video series is a new challenge she wholly welcomes.

“I have a new, profound admiration for people who do this on a daily basis—speaking in front of a camera. It’s exhausting. But I really do enjoy that it’s actually difficult for me to do,” says Jett during a short break between episodes. “It’s like something you're struggling with, and you finally achieve it. You have a sense of pride about it. I’m really honored to be a part of it.”

The full-length Simple Civics videos will be posted online, but one-minute versions—and 30-second versions produced for children—are expected to air on WFYI this summer.

The scripts are first written by McAlister and Travers, but Jett contributes her thoughts and edits. The collaboration makes for a mix of content based on history and political issues that hit home today. Recorded before Senator Elizabeth Warren dropped out of the 2020 presidential race, the Women for President episode discussed female candidates who have pursued the nomination throughout history, from Victoria Woodhull in 1872, to Shirley Chisholm in 1968, to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

“It shows how things we are talking about today have been talked about historically—how they evolve and change,” Jett says.

Originally from Oakland, California, Jett arrived at Butler from Auburn University in 1999. She adopted Indianapolis as her own, quickly establishing a presence on campus and in the city. Jett serves on the board of directors for the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Public Library, and Indianapolis-Marion County Land Improvement Bond Bank. Now, she is building even stronger bonds to the city through Simple Civics.

Simple Civics goes to school

After releasing the first three Simple Civics episodes in the fall, Jett and WFYI received the feedback they needed to know the series was heading in the right direction.

Jett gets ready for another take
Political Science Professor Terri Jett, right, prepares for another Simple Civics take.

“We received some notes from teachers, saying they could see themselves using this series in the classroom as a supplement to what they’re talking about in their civics lessons,” McAlister says. “That’s really encouraging. One of the goals of this series was for it to be a resource for teachers.”

The WFYI producer and social media manager says the timing of Simple Civics is important.

“With it being an election year,” he says, “people have so many questions about how primaries work, how the election works, how the electoral college works, why we even still have the electoral college—all of which we are hoping to address in this season of episodes.”

And Jett is happy to help. She wants Simple Civics to educate and create discussion.

“I think it’s important to do this kind of work,” Jett says. “I’m really hopeful for children of all different backgrounds to see me talking about politics and history in this way. It’s accessible, and hopefully they will see it as kind of fun, and they will develop some curiosity.

“For me, if there is one child out there who says ‘Wow, I want to pick up a book and read about that. That’s interesting,’ I’m good. That’s it for me.”

 

Photos by Tim Brouk; videos by WFYI and Tim Brouk

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

Terri Jett
Innovation

Butler Professor Lends Expertise to Indy PBS ‘Simple Civics’ Series

Terri Jett’s political science background makes her an ideal host for the WFYI videos, with new episodes to drop this summer

Mar 16 2020 Read more

Butler Talks Episode 1: The State of Higher Ed

The State of Higher Ed with Matthew Pellish and James M. Danko

The current state of higher education is undoubtedly changing. From the development of new badges, microcredentials, and stackable credentials, to the announcements of school closings, we’re feeling seismic shifts in the industry every day. 

On this episode of Butler Talks, we’ll take a closer look at some of those changes in the national higher ed landscape with Matthew Pellish, managing director of strategic research and education at the Education Advisory Board (EAB), and a well-known authority on the trends shaping the future of higher education

Then we’ll catch up with Butler University President, James M. Danko, to hear about how Butler is adapting, while also preserving our core operation as a selective, private liberal arts institution that’s known for its traditional, full-time undergraduate residential model. 

 

James M. Danko, President
James Danko became Butler’s 21st President in 2011. During his tenure, he has led a strategy to establish the University as a higher-education innovator through the pursuit of creative new programs and approaches; to advance Butler’s core mission as one that integrates a liberal-arts foundation with professional preparation; and to strengthen Butler’s founding principles of inclusivity, community engagement, and academic excellence.

A key part of Butler’s growing momentum is President Danko’s commitment to enriching the student experience through the transformation of campus—including academic, research, residential, performance, and athletic spaces. In summer 2019, the Lacy School of Business moved into its new 110,000 square-foot home. In fall 2019, the University will break ground on a $100 million renovation and expansion for a new sciences complex. Additionally, Danko has led the University through its most successful fundraising years ever, highlighted by a $25 million gift from Andre and Julia Lacy to name the Lacy School.

In 2013, Danko successfully advocated for Butler’s membership in the BIG EAST Athletic Conference, positioning the University in the company of outstanding peers in both the classroom and athletic competition. He now serves as Chair of the BIG EAST Board of Directors.

In 2016, he signed a historic campus-sharing agreement between Butler and its neighbor, Christian Theological Seminary (CTS), through which Butler acquired nearly 30 acres of land and buildings. This partnership has enabled Butler to expand, to establish a new home for its College of Education, and to bring renewed vibrancy to CTS and the surrounding community.

Interest in Butler is at an all-time high, with the number of applications increasing nearly 140 percent since 2009. In the 2020 U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings, Butler achieved the No. 1 spot among Midwest Regional Universities for the second consecutive year and was named the Most Innovative School among Midwest Regional Universities for the fifth consecutive year.

Butler’s placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, and in the highly respected Gallup Alumni Survey, Butler outperformed its peers across most items in graduates’ assessment of their student experience—including faculty support and experiential learning, affinity for their alma mater, and overall well-being.

Prior to Butler, Danko served as Dean of the Villanova School of Business and as Associate Dean at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. During his Villanova tenure, financial gifts to the school increased nearly five-fold, enabling it to implement efforts including a new curriculum, a comprehensive student-services wing, and research centers focused on real estate, innovation, and analytics. In addition, the school moved from regional recognition to being ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek as No. 7 in the nation. He also served in leadership roles and taught entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Babson College, and the University of Michigan.

An innovator at heart and in experience, Danko was a successful entrepreneur in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, for nearly two decades before beginning his academic career. At age 19, he founded a medical equipment company, which he later expanded into a multi-location healthcare and fitness equipment provider.

Danko is an alumnus of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland and John Carroll University, where he earned a degree in Religious Studies. He earned his MBA with highest honors from the University of Michigan. He holds a deep commitment to the Jesuit ideals of intellectual growth, social justice, and servant leadership.

Danko is the father of two grown daughters, both of whom reside and work in the Indianapolis area. He and his wife, Bethanie, live on campus and frequently host Butler students and community members at their home. Danko is a loyal Cleveland sports fan and an avid reader of American political history. He and Bethanie are active supporters of the United Way and other nonprofits that work to improve lives in Central Indiana.

 

Matthew Pellish, Director of Strategic Research and Member Education, Education Advisory Board

Matthew R. Pellish is the director of strategic research and member education on the Education Advisory Board. Previously, Pellish served in the Education Advisory Board’s member services division, establishing foundational relationships with the executive administration of new member institutions and responding to member priorities through frontline service planning.

Prior to joining the Education Advisory Board, Pellish served as director of continuing education at Wheelock College in Boston, founding this new division with new models for curriculum delivery and business and revenue generation, as well as marketing and student recruitment.

Early in his career as an undergrad Pellish developed a passion for education which expanded early in his career in roles as Director of Continuing Education, Special Assistant to the President, and head of New Program Development at several universities and colleges in the northeast including Harvard University, Cambridge College, Wheelock College, and Saint Joseph’s. His current emphasis on Executive Communications strategy brings his expertise of industry trends, opportunities, and threats to the forefront of institutional and system operations and policy.

Innovation

Butler Talks Episode 1: The State of Higher Ed

With Matthew Pellish and President James Danko

Iowa caucus action
Innovation

Iowa Caucus Debacle Could Affect Voter Turnout Come November, Says Butler Political Scientist

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Feb 06 2020

In a presidential election year, the Iowa Caucus is usually the first momentum push for a candidate, but what if there is no clear winner until days after the event?

The confusion and technology glitches following the February 3 Iowa Caucus will likely result in a lot more than just delayed final results, Dr. Gregory Shufeldt, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Butler University says. The failure to announce a winner during the caucus could impact the November 3 presidential election.

Greg Shufeldt
Dr. Gregory Shufeldt

“People need to have confidence in the election to participate. If you don't trust the process, you might not participate,” says Shufeldt, who has published research on voter confidence and electoral integrity. “The things that happened in Iowa aren’t good. Even if it was from honest mistakes, it could affect the efficacy and enthusiasm in voting, and when a winner is announced, some might question the legitimacy of the results.”

After about five days of delay, Pete Buttigieg was announced as the Iowa Caucus winner on February 9, narrowly defeating Bernie Sanders. The candidates were in a virtual tie for the week as the final votes were tallied.

Following the 2016 Iowa caucus, which saw Hillary Clinton narrowly win over Bernie Sanders, candidates wanted more transparency in the process. The Iowa Democratic Party decided it would now announce three sets of results: initial head count, final viability headcount, and delegates allocated. What was supposed to be the clearest route to a winner slowed the process down as the data did not line up, says Shufeldt, who is teaching a U.S. Presidential Nominations course this semester.

In each of the precincts, caucus leaders collect “preference cards” from attendees, showing which candidate each participant favored. These exist in case a recount is requested, but they also provide a backstop for any technical reporting issues.

“Every four years, everyone updates their process on what they learned last time,” Shufeldt says. “In 2016 and before, they normally only released the final delegate results, which is all that matters for winning the nomination.”

Shufeldt says the media attention could be squandered for the winner as the focus will be on the flawed process, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address February 4, and pending impeachment vote on February 5. It could also bring the end to the early caucuses and change how we nominate presidential candidates in the future.

“Iowa’s role as first in nation for caucuses will be revisited,” Shufeldt says. “That’s bad news for Iowa and then New Hampshire might lose some of their privileged status. There’s a whole host of concerns—how representative and inclusive they are—and that will affect the process of future elections.” 

An issue after the muddied process in the 2020 Iowa caucus is that it will cause voters to stay home on November 3. The combination of a flawed process and the lack of the voter’s preferred candidate could affect voter turnout. Shufeldt says a streamlined, accurate voting process is crucial, especially with political pundits debating the accuracy of the Electoral College versus the popular vote.

“The concern is if you feel your side lost the primary due to mistakes, will you support another candidate or stay home?” Shufeldt asks. “The Democratic candidate needs every vote, especially in states that have history of going back and forth between Republican and Democrat, like Iowa.”

 

Media Contact:

Tim Brouk

Senior News Content Manager

tbrouk@butler.edu

765-977-3931 (cell)

Iowa caucus action
Innovation

Iowa Caucus Debacle Could Affect Voter Turnout Come November, Says Butler Political Scientist

Delayed results will make some voters distrust the election process, says Assistant Professor Gregory Shufeldt 

Feb 06 2020 Read more
Wallabies in burned landscape
Innovation

Butler Biologist: Australia’s Ecology to Suffer for Years

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Jan 17 2020

“Catastrophic” was the first word Butler University Biological Sciences Professor Carmen Salsbury could attach to the ongoing Australian bushfire devastation.

More than 1 billion animals have perished, along with 29 humans in the estimated 100 blazes that have ignited since September, burning 46 million acres as of mid-January. The ecology of Australia will never be the same, at least not for a very long time, says Salsbury, who has researched forest mammals and urban wildlife for decades.

Professor Carmen Salsbury talks in her office.
Professor Carmen Salsbury says the Australian landscape will be forever changed.

“The unfortunate thing is that the catastrophe has just started. Once the fires are out, it’s not over,” Salsbury says. “There is some evidence that we may lose some species altogether to extinction because of this tragedy.”

The researcher says climate change is the biggest culprit behind the historic loss of environment. The combination of extreme heat, wind, and drought has been ramping up for years in Australia, and the conditions have allowed for continent-wide blazes.

While the plants will grow back and animals will return in time, the ecology in some areas will take many years to fully recover. Animals like the endangered glossy black cockatoo and the dunnart, a mouse-sized marsupial, are now thought to be extinct, according to Salsbury. New predators, such as feral cats, may move in to rattle the food chain as shelter and food becomes scarce for surviving prey animals. The “connectivity” of the ecology has been severed.

“Species rely on one-another in lots of different ways—for food, shelter, etc.,” Salsbury says. “You pull one of those things out, and it ripples through the ecosystem and has major impacts on other species.”

The lack of vegetation will enhance erosion and the chance of mudslides. The sediment could invade watersheds, affecting drinking water as well as aquatic life.

“Even after things start to green up,” Salsbury says, “we’re still going to see some serious impact on many of the plants and animals, all of those things at the base of a functioning ecosystem.”

The different roles of wildfires

Western parts of the United States have experienced similar wildfires. In October, 10 wildfires engulfed 113,931 acres of California forest in flames, killing three, and destroying 517 homes and other buildings.

The 2019 events and Australia are tragic byproducts of climate change, but smaller wildfires have their place in ecology, Salsbury says.

“There are a lot of plant communities that have actually evolved to be fire tolerant. In fact, there are some plants that require fire for their seeds to germinate,” she adds. “A lot of plants are meant to burn and some of them have terpene compounds in their wood to promote fire.”

The fires happen naturally from lightning strikes and manmade controlled fires, and serve to replenish small ecosystems. Controlled burns eliminate fuel that would cause larger, widespread burns.

“The point is that intermediate levels of disturbance are actually good things for biodiversity in ecosystems,” Salsbury says. “The problem is when you get really wide-scale, broad, and frequent types of disturbances. And that's what we're seeing now in our part of the world (California) but especially in Australia.”

Biology Associate Professor Andrew Stoehr and Biological Science Professor Travis Ryan will lead a March controlled burn of the Butler Prairie near campus. It will be the first burn of the three-acre natural prairie space in seven years. Weather conditions will play a factor when the burn takes place but Stoehr concurs that control burns are advantageous in rejuvenating some ecosystems.

“Ideally, it would be every spring,” Stoehr says. “One of the main effects is that it cuts down on the gradual invasion of trees. Gradually, prairies convert from grassy species and wildflowers over to wooded area. Burns also kill other kinds of invasive or undesirable species. By gleaning off all of that vegetation, it exposes the soil to more sunlight in springtime. The soil will warm up earlier, which tends to benefit the desired prairie plants more than the undesirable species. The seeds are already in the soil and will start to germinate after the clearing.”

But not every ecosystem benefits from controlled burns and many of those have been affected in Australia, like tropical forest. The fires are too widespread to cause anything but negative impact on the continent.

How to help

As of mid-January, more than $200 million has been raised to help fight the fires and to aid injured wildlife. Salsbury says donating to the causes are a positive step, but so is reducing your carbon footprint.

“These fires,” Salsbury says, “are a textbook example of what happens when you have a lot of factors that come together and make the perfect storm and the No. 1 factor, of course, that’s really compounding the problem is climate change.”

Minimizing carbon emissions and other greenhouse gasses and other practices in fighting climate change can reduce the risk of such widespread fires occurring again, Salsbury says.

“If there is anything good that can come from this, it is that it could motivate people into action,” Salsbury adds. “Unfortunately these type of events may help us direct our focus a little bit. Maybe it will highlight the desperate need. It’s past due.”

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Community Partnerships

Through collaboration and strong partnerships, Butler Beyond will unleash the potential of our brilliant faculty and students on the complex issues facing our community. Support for this pillar will expand Butler’s reach and roots in the Indianapolis community and beyond by cultivating deeper integration with local organizations and businesses, increasing experiential learning opportunities for students, nurturing new ventures, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Wallabies in burned landscape
Innovation

Butler Biologist: Australia’s Ecology to Suffer for Years

Professor Carmen Salsbury says the loss of ‘connectivity’ will devastate ecosystems after bushfires are extinguished

Jan 17 2020 Read more
neville and wakefield
Innovation

New Butler-Produced Podcast to Capture Best-Selling Stories, Memories

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Jan 15 2020

For the past several months, Butler University English Professor Susan Neville has become a fixture in the Irwin Library for her latest literary project.

Neville is not poring over books, however. She is not researching her next novel. The Creative Writing professor is adjusting microphone volume levels in a cozy soundproof booth in the library’s lower level. To her right is best-selling author Dan Wakefield, who penned Going All the Way and Starting Over, covered historic events like the first foreign press interview with former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, wrote about the Emmett Till trial for magazines like The Atlantic and The Nation, and is considered Kurt Vonnegut’s oldest living friend.

Neville and Wakefield
Professor Susan Neville, left, prepares to interview best-selling author Dan Wakefield.

Neville and Wakefield are about halfway through recording Naptown Season One: A Memoir of the 20th Century. The podcast will consist of 20 episodes featuring different chapters of Wakefield’s life, which started in Broad Ripple, Indiana, continued to New York City as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter, then to academia in Florida, and now back to Indianapolis. All 20 episodes will be released at once on iTunes, Wakefield’s website, Irwin Library’s website, and Butler’s Digital Commons in May for maximum binge listening, and to celebrate Wakefield’s 88th birthday.

“He’s a great storyteller and I wanted to capture those stories,” says Neville, who received a $2,000 grant from the Indiana Humanities Council to assist with the production. “These episodes will be kind of his memoir, only done through interviews.”

The soundbooth only fits two people, but the results are as high-level as anything on Podcast One. Neville and Wakefield mapped out every episode, about an hour in length each. So far, they’ve completed episodes focusing on Vonnegut, novelist James Baldwin, and a trio of Wakefield’s mentors from his undergraduate days at Columbia College: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren, literary critic Lionel Trilling, and famed sociologist C. Wright Mills, who Wakefield served as a research assistant.

Neville enlisted the help of Academic Technology Specialist Megan Grady-Rutledge to help edit each episode, which starts with music and short introductions and outros from Neville. The rest is all Wakefield answering Neville’s questions, recalling major career milestones, and reading from his published works.

“Once he gets on a roll, he gets on a roll,” says Neville with a laugh. “I was a journalism major as an undergrad and have written a lot of freelance feature articles, so I’m used to doing interviews. Recording a podcast is a combination of radio and the print journalism I’m used to.”

Neville reveals that Season Two will consist of Vonnegut interviews she conducted in 1989 and 1990. Those conversations currently live on microcassettes, but will be transferred to a digital format after Season One launches.

“Talking with Susan, I’m remembering a lot of things,” Wakefield says. “I feel like there’s a big hole in our history and in Indianapolis, like the great jazz scene we had here. A lot of if isn’t mentioned in a lot of places so I’m glad to be able to talk about that.” 

Part of the author’s comfort in the recording booth stems from Wakefield’s connection with Neville. They first met when Wakefield was still a graduate writing professor at Florida International University and Neville was a guest speaker at the Seaside Writers Conference. Wakefield has paid close attention to Neville’s career, which includes creative nonfiction works Sailing the Inland Sea, Iconography, and Indiana Winter.

“Susan Neville is the best author today in this city and state,” says Wakefield, noting her 2019 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction award for her collection of short stories The Town of Whispering Dolls. “I feel very lucky to be doing this with her. I feel very comfortable. We have sort of the same literary outlook and framework. We share the same prejudices about writers we like and admire. I know whatever I talk about, she will understand what I’m talking about.”

Naptown is recorded with Audacity and just a few clicks. The writers test their speaking levels for a few minutes, listen to the playback, and then start to record the episode.

For a December 10 session, Wakefield was prepared to speak on his former influential professors. Among his notes, Wakefield brought the March 1968 copy of The Atlantic, which consisted solely of Wakefield’s long-form article on the Vietnam War. The piece, Supernation at Peace and War, mentions some of his former Columbia University professors.

Before the session, Wakefield was a guest at Neville’s first-year seminar on Vonnegut. The students had been reading Slaughterhouse-Five, Mother Night, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and they poured over Wakefield’s essay on his old friend titled Kurt Vonnegut, Christ-Loving Atheist.

“They were in awe of him,” Neville says. “He told stories about Kurt and his family, and he brought fresh insights to the books they’d been reading all semester. They were amazed.”

And the students will get to know much more about Wakefield, Vonnegut, and 20th century American literature in a fresh format thanks to Neville and Naptown.

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

neville and wakefield
Innovation

New Butler-Produced Podcast to Capture Best-Selling Stories, Memories

Creative Writing Professor Susan Neville hosts Naptown series featuring author and Indianapolis native Dan Wakefield

Jan 15 2020 Read more
Hala Fadda in her lab
Innovation

COPHS Researcher Leads New Treatment of Recurring C. Diff

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Dec 12 2019

Close to half-a-million people a year suffer from Clostridioides difficile, or C. diff, and more than 29,000 of them died from the bacteria, according to the Center for Disease Control. C. diff results from disruption of healthy, normal bacteria in the colon, often from antibiotics, and causes diarrhea, stomach pain, and fever. In the most severe cases, C. diff can damage the colon and be fatal.

Most cases can be treated with antibiotics. But for patients who suffer recurring cases of C. diff, the path to recovery is a bit more complex. New guidelines for this group, introduced in 2011, recommend fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), or a procedure in which fecal matter is collected from a healthy donor and placed into the gastrointestinal tract of a patient. These transplants can help replenish the bacterial balance in the gut through colonoscopy or capsules.

Most C. diff patients are elderly and had spent time in healthcare settings under the treatment of antibiotics. While the antibiotics wipe out bad bacteria in the patient, good bacteria resilient to C. diff are also destroyed during the process. Results have been favorable in treating recurrent C. diff with FMT, but Butler University Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Hala Fadda is part of a team that has improved cure rates with oral FMT products, while significantly reducing the amount of capsules a C. diff patient must take.

hala fadda
Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences Hala Fadda.

Published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Fadda and collaborators designed a capsule coating that dissolves in the colon instead of the stomach. This allows for site-specific delivery to the colon and was found to better restore the gut microbial diversity. These new capsules had faster and more successful cure rates compared to standard capsules that dissolve in the stomach in five minutes.

Published in Digestive Diseases and Sciences, Fadda and collaborators designed a capsule coating that dissolves in the colon instead of the stomach. This allows for site-specific delivery to the colon, which has been found to better restore the gut microbial diversity. These new capsules had faster and more successful cure rates compared to standard capsules that dissolve in the stomach in five minutes.

“The coating is essentially a high fiber starch polymer,” says Fadda, who’s gained expertise through researching how patients consume medicine. “The enzymes produced by colonic bacteria start to chomp away and digest that starch, even with C. diff patients’ lowered bacteria diversity. These enzymes, which break up the starch, are abundant in the colon.”

FMT has been adopted by many hospitals, but Fadda says access to the treatment can be improved. Her new capsules are less invasive and more affordable than a colonoscopy, and they can be shipped from specialist centers around the world.

Healthy donors only

Fadda says there is only a 2.5 percent acceptance rate for fecal donors because the criteria is so strict for FMT. Stool banks like OpenBiome in Boston, Massachusetts, don’t accept potential donors who have traveled to places with communicable diseases in the past six months. They also don’t accept donors who have suffered from digestive diseases, metabolic syndromes, and other conditions.

“You can’t have taken antibiotics in the past three months, and body mass index must be less than 30,” Fadda says. “Evidence suggests a correlation between weight and gut microbial communities.” 

As of 2018, 43,000 FMT treatments were issued by OpenBiome, Fada says. However, this number is not representative of total FMT treatments, as some hospitals prepare their own FMT products.

How C. diff spreads

The spores that cause C. diff are abundant in hospitals. They can be spread by visitors, or by healthcare professionals. After the resistant spores are transmitted to patients, they can germinate into vegetative bacterial cells in the colons of vulnerable individuals, and the bacteria produces toxins.

Fadda and her team’s breakthrough will help shorten return hospital stays for many patients suffering from recurrent C. diff. The capsule approach provides an alternative to a colonoscopy—an expensive and invasive procedure some patients might want to avoid—and it looks to be a quick and effective treatment to C. diff while restoring microbiome diversity in the gut.

“Fecal microbiota transplant has been adopted by lots of hospitals,” Fada says. “It’s common in the U.S. and Europe, but accessibility is still an issue. That’s why this capsule offers a significant advantage because it makes FMT more accessible.”

how the FMT works

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

Hala Fadda in her lab
Innovation

COPHS Researcher Leads New Treatment of Recurring C. Diff

Professor Hala Fadda has developed capsules that dissolve in the colon to better fight Clostridioides difficile

Dec 12 2019 Read more
Wendy Meaden holds masks.
Innovation

Theatre Professor Writing the Textbook on ‘Masks Inside Out’

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Dec 11 2019

Butler Theatre Professor Wendy Meaden was one of the almost 10 million viewers for the premier of reality competition show The Masked Singer. The program, which is now in its second season and was renewed for a third in 2020, pits disguised celebrities in elaborate costumes singing in front of a panel of judges and a live audience.

Being a costume designer and professor whose work has included mask design, creation, and research for more than 20 years, Meaden felt like she had to watch The Masked Singer. But she didn’t make it past the second episode. She enjoyed the show’s mask designs, which are created by artist  Marina Toybina, but Meaden was hoping for more emphasis on the masks themselves.

“I can understand the spectacle, and her designs are really good,” says Meaden, who has designed masks for Butler Theatre plays and leads the Masks class in the Department of Theatre, “but it seems to be design for design’s sake. When masks are designed, there is usually some reason or connection for the aesthetic choice.”

Meaden says creating theatrical masks banks on the audience meeting the performers halfway. It takes a lot of practice to be able to design masks that draw audiences to use their imagination and let themselves be transported into the story.

To help future mask makers understand that dynamic, Meaden is in the process of writing a textbook, Masks Inside Out. She knows there are lots of books about masks already, but she says they concentrate on individual aspects: history, cultural significance, design, and how to perform while wearing one. Meaden aims to create one book that combines it all.

Meaden wears a mask.
Theatre Professor Wendy Meaden wears one of her masks.

“There is so much to learn about masks, but there is no textbook on the market to address masks the way I want to,” Meaden says.

In collaboration with Michael Brown, a former Indianapolis artist now teaching at Columbia College Chicago, Meaden will submit the final manuscript next summer, and she expects to publish it by late 2020.

Masks in the Core Curriculum

Growing up, Meaden never wore masks for Halloween. She remembers noticing masks for the first time when she saw Adam West and Burt Ward’s wearing them in the old Batman TV show.

“I remember thinking ‘They’re not disguised at all. It’s clear who they are,’” Meaden says, laughing.

Meaden created her first masks while she worked as a costume designer for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, which needed billy goat masks for a performance called Three’s Please. She’d never made a mask before, but it seemed like a natural next step to the costume design she’d been doing since 1986.

“As a costume designer,” Meaden says, “I’ve always been interested in presenting characters and transforming actors, and I love the process of creating costumes. Sculpting masks is an extension of that passion.”

Meaden’s masks made their Butler debut during the 2001 production of Hamlet. Made of plaster and cardboard, they portrayed the characters of the Duke of Vienna Gonzago, his wife Baptista, and their murderous nephew, Lucianus. They were then given a worn, weathered appearance of being buried in the dirt, just like poor old Yorick’s skull.

Theatre students that worked on plays with Meaden were enthusiastic to learn more about mask-making and the Masks class at Butler was established in 2003. It’s now part of the Perspectives in the Creative Arts Core Curriculum. Some Theatre majors still take the class as an elective, but many students outside of the Jordan College of Arts enroll, too.

On just the second day of class, students start by creating masks of their own. After protecting their hair with bandanas or plastic bags, they start gluing cardboard and paper over their faces.

“They sit and look in the mirror,” Meaden says. “The class is usually chatty to start, and then there’s a quiet. Everyone stops talking as they are totally focused on the mirror and putting things over their face. What’s fascinating is their sense of transformation—to understand that you can put something on that is your face, but it’s not your face. I am me but I am not me.”

How the brain reacts to masks

In the first chapter of Masks Inside Out, Meaden  explains why people are often either intrigued or repelled by someone wearing a mask. 

“How does your amygdala react?” Meaden asks. “Your brain’s initial reaction is usually fight or flight, but then your neocortex kicks in and tells you it’s a thing on a person. You’re going to be safe, you laugh, and you enjoy.”

Meaden’s research has found that masks are an extension of humans’ fascination for seeing faces—from selfies to picturing faces in inanimate objects. Faces are why we connect to other people, she says, and a mask on a human face usually brings about feelings of mystery, intrigue, or creepiness.

“Faces are how we judge our safety, how we pick potential partners, and identify family. Our aesthetics are wrapped up in how we perceive faces. And masks are a way we tell stories. They are potent ways to communicate. They are a way of connecting with nature, the spirits, ancestors, the gods, disguise, and protection. We use them in so many ways. They are universal.”

While The Masked Singer relies on glitz, glamour, and reality TV brassiness, millions of brains are reacting to the masks, no matter which celebrities are behind them.

Meaden with many masks
Meaden stands with masks she has made and collected.

 

 

Media Contact:
Tim Brouk
Senior News Content Manager
tbrouk@butler.edu
765-977-3931 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

One of the distinguishing features of a Butler education has always been the meaningful and enduring relationships between our faculty and students. Gifts to this pillar during Butler Beyond will accelerate our commitment to investing in faculty excellence by adding endowed positions, supporting faculty scholarship and research, renovating and expanding state-of-the-art teaching facilities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Wendy Meaden holds masks.
Innovation

Theatre Professor Writing the Textbook on ‘Masks Inside Out’

From early man to ‘Masked Singers,’ Wendy Meaden analyzes masks’ history, cultural significance, and theater roles.

Dec 11 2019 Read more
The Farm at Butler FFA tour
Innovation

A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Nov 25 2019

This story is part of a mini-series exploring The Farm at Butler, its methods, and its mission. Part five of six. 

 

On a frosty morning in early November, about 50 high school students from across the nation visited Butler University to learn about a different kind of farming—a kind that can meet the needs of humans and nature alike.

The students traveled from as far away as Maryland and California to spend the day in Indianapolis for the 2019 National FFA Convention & Expo, an annual celebration of student accomplishments within the organization for young people who are interested in agriculture and leadership. Throughout two hours of exploring The Farm at Butler and hearing from staff at the Center for Urban Ecology & Sustainability (CUES), they learned how the chemical-free, planet-friendly growing methods used on Butler's one-acre space could be applied at a larger scale.

These annual tours first started several years ago, when FFA was on the hunt for powerful examples of urban agriculture. As part of the yearly FFA convention in Indianapolis, the organization’s leaders wanted to help teach members about the variety of ways they could approach food production. With a focus on agroecology and sustainability, and a mission based on education, The Farm at Butler became a lasting match.

But the FFA tour is just one of about 30 educational sessions the CUES staff lead each year. Even as The Farm’s main focus shifts to serving Butler students through internships and classes, the urban agriculture project still holds down its role as a community model of all that can be grown on just one diversified acre.

Roughly half of The Farm’s tours each year are for elementary school students, teaching young people how farmers grow the ingredients for pizza and other favorite foods. Another 10 or so tours are for groups on Butler’s campus, who usually learn about the role of local agriculture in the food system or how everyday food choices can influence the environment. The CUES also leads a handful of farm tours with other Indianapolis organizations.

 

 

For a more in-depth experience, The Farm hosts workshops through a science education network called Purdue Extension, helping train the next generation of gardeners and farmers to grow food in ecologically sound ways. Butler is also working alongside three other local farms—Mother Love’s Garden, Fitness Farm, and Growing Places Indy—to explore urban mushroom production. The project, which was funded by a USDA-SARE partnership grant in 2017, has helped these groups understand and share their findings on the most effective ways to grow mushrooms in Indianapolis.

“Overall, we want to educate the public about healthy eating, how food is grown, and the implications of different food production methods,” says CUES Director Julia Angstmann. “We want to help people understand how they, as individuals, can make food choices that benefit themselves, the environment, and society.”

 

READ MORE:

Part 1: Getting To The Root of It: How Butler’s One-Acre Farm Has Evolved In a Decade

Part 2: Farming Full-Time: How Tim Dorsey Discovered the World Through Agriculture

Part 3: A Crash Course on Nature-Focused, Hands-In-The-Dirt Growing

Part 4: Sustainability on the Syllabus

Part 5: A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

Part 6: So, Where Does All The Food Go?

 

Explore the full Farm at Butler mini-series here

 

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

 

Community Partnerships

Through collaboration and strong partnerships, Butler Beyond will unleash the potential of our brilliant faculty and students on the complex issues facing our community. Support for this pillar will expand Butler’s reach and roots in the Indianapolis community and beyond by cultivating deeper integration with local organizations and businesses, increasing experiential learning opportunities for students, nurturing new ventures, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

The Farm at Butler FFA tour
Innovation

A Model for Urban Farming in Indianapolis

The Farm at Butler leads educational tours for local organizations, up-and-coming farmers, and students of all ages.

Nov 25 2019 Read more

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