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President Danko
CampusPeople

Butler University Board of Trustees Extends Contract of President James M. Danko

BY

PUBLISHED ON Oct 11 2019

The Butler University Board of Trustees unanimously voted to extend the contract of President James M. Danko through August 2024. The extension was announced to the University community today by Board Chair Jatinder-Bir “Jay” Sandhu ’87.

“Jim Danko exemplifies the kind of leadership that makes our University so special, with a style we have all become familiar with: extremely high expectations of himself and others, nonstop forward momentum, and the empowerment of others to develop new ideas and run with them,” Sandhu says. “It has been rewarding for the entire community to be part of the progress that Butler has made with Jim at the helm.”

Since his inauguration in 2011, Danko has strengthened the University’s academic and administrative leadership team, created incentives to encourage a culture of innovation, advanced diversity, equity, and inclusivity on Butler’s campus, improved and expanded the campus and its learning, residential, athletic, and performance spaces, and significantly increased the level of financial aid Butler provides to students and their families.

Under Danko’s leadership, Butler has seen the most robust fundraising years in its history, established new degree programs, majors, and minors, joined the BIG EAST Athletic Conference, and consistently climbed in national rankings—including being recognized as the No. 1 Regional University in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report for the past two years.

On October 5, Danko announced the launch of Butler Beyond, the University’s new strategic direction and $250 million comprehensive fundraising campaign. Combining tradition with innovation, the new strategic direction will build upon Butler’s strengths in delivering an exceptional undergraduate education, while offering opportunities for lifelong learning and new educational pathways that are more flexible and affordable.

Butler Beyond also focuses on the ways in which the University will more actively strengthen the Hoosier State. For example, the University broke ground on its new Sciences Complex on October 3.

“This resource will not only directly benefit Butler students and community members,” Danko says. “It will play a key role in supporting ‘brain gain’ in our region.”

Danko, who earned his degree in Religious Studies from John Carroll University and an MBA from the University of Michigan, applied his entrepreneurial approach to academic leadership roles at institutions including Dartmouth College and Villanova University before his appointment as Butler’s President.

“I am honored to continue to lead this exceptional University at such a pivotal moment in our history, and I look forward to the work ahead as we pursue our bold vision for Butler’s future.”

President Danko and his wife, Bethanie, along with their dog, Daisy, live on Butler’s campus and welcome all members of the University community to their home. He also hosts office hours for students and attends campus events across academic disciplines, the arts, athletics, student life, and service.

“Jim Danko continues to be the right leader at the right time for Butler University,” Sandhu says. “I feel great optimism for the future and all that the Butler community is capable of achieving with the benefit of Jim’s guidance and expertise.”

 

Media contact:

Rachel Stern

Director of Strategic Communications

914-815-5656

rstern@butler.edu

President Danko
CampusPeople

Butler University Board of Trustees Extends Contract of President James M. Danko

President James M. Danko's contract has been extended through August 2024.

Oct 11 2019 Read more
Brent Rockwood
CampusPeople

Butler names new Vice President, Chief of Staff

BY

PUBLISHED ON Oct 02 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Brent Rockwood ‘00 has been named Vice President, Chief of Staff at Butler University, the University announced today. He will begin his duties November 4.

Serving as a member of the President’s Cabinet, Rockwood will be responsible for leading a range of initiatives intended to advance the University with internal and external stakeholders. He will represent Butler in the community, serve as a liaison across campus, and work with the Board of Trustees, President’s Office, and leadership team on a variety of significant University projects.

“I am extremely pleased to welcome Brent back to Butler as a key member of our leadership team,” Butler President James M. Danko says. “Brent’s passion for Butler and his wealth of leadership experience will serve as a great benefit to our institution. I look forward to his continued leadership and contributions as our University embarks on a momentous time and works to build even further on our successes.”

Rockwood will also oversee the University’s Marketing and Communications Division. Vice President for Strategy and Innovation Melissa Beckwith, who currently oversees Marketing and Communications, will now shift her full attention to the implementation of the University’s new strategic direction, as well as new initiatives and advances in innovation.

In his current role as Senior Vice President of Corporate, Community and Public Relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, Rockwood is responsible for strategies involving communications and external relationships for the Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Pacers Gaming, Pacers Foundation, and operations of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse arena and its more than 500 annual events.

“I am ecstatic about and thankful for the opportunity to serve my alma mater in this new role,” Rockwood says. “I look forward to working with many talented colleagues, faculty, students, and partners to advance the University’s mission. Butler has a strong foundation with a bright future and I’m excited to help share it with the world.”

A graduate of Butler, Rockwood played on the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame basketball team in 1996-1997. He worked for Eli Lilly and Company in a variety of sales, brand, and marketing roles after graduation. In 2007, Rockwood earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and proceeded to serve as a director in the areas of communications, community partnerships, government affairs, and investor and media relations for Fortune 500 companies.

Rockwood serves on the Board of Directors for the Indianapolis Urban League, Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, and the Pacers Foundation.

 

Media Contact:

Rachel Stern

Director of Strategic Communications

rstern@butler.edu

914-815-5656 (cell)

Brent Rockwood
CampusPeople

Butler names new Vice President, Chief of Staff

Brent Rockwood to serve as a key liaison across campus and in the community

Oct 02 2019 Read more
Two Butler professors explain what's going on in the trade relationship between the United States and China.
PeopleCommunity

Understanding the Trade War

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Aug 09 2019

When China weakens its currency, lowering the yuan’s value in comparison with the U.S. dollar, what exactly does that mean for America? It seems like the move would only damage the Chinese economy, right?

Even if the yuan’s sliding value does hurt China in some ways, says Butler University Professor of Economics Bill Rieber, it could be a strategic play in the ongoing trade war between China and the United States.

“And in the concept of a war,” Rieber says, “no one is really gaining.”

Rieber, an expert in international economics whose research focuses mostly on Asian economies, explains that a weaker Chinese currency means cheaper Chinese products. This seems appealing on the surface—American companies who trade with China can buy more for less money. And the savings trickle all the way down to consumers, who pay less for the final product.

But for businesses selling American-made goods, that competition can be hard to beat. Rieber says products might need to be priced cheaper than they would be otherwise, which essentially ends up lowering the wages of some American workers.

In response, President Donald Trump has placed tariffs on Chinese imports, trying to make these otherwise cheap goods less appealing. But China is playing the same game, Rieber explains. The nation’s recent decision to stop buying U.S. agricultural products threatens a vulnerable part of the American economy, which Rieber says could put a new kind of tension on Trump.

“It may be that [China is] trying to retaliate in those states that were big supporters of President Trump during the election,” he says. “They are trying to hurt agriculture in the Midwest.”

But Su-Mei Ooi, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Butler and an expert in U.S.-China relations, says we should be careful not to make assumptions about China’s adversarial intentions toward the U.S. Within her studies about the ways China is depicted within American political rhetoric, she’s found U.S. politicians and media outlets often villainize China in a way that exacerbates conflict between the two countries.

For example, Ooi’s research has analyzed whether China intentionally devalues its currency to give Chinese exports an unfair advantage and make it impossible for the U.S. to close the trade deficit it has with China. She says American leaders often frame it that way, painting China as “a cheat” in order to justify their own actions in the trade war. In the past, China has devalued the yuan to give Chinese goods a competitive advantage, but Ooi says this no longer holds true.

“There was a time when China was manipulating its currency,” she says, “but that has been long gone. In fact, more recently, economists have claimed that China’s currency is overvalued compared to similar economies.”

That’s because China’s government has been intervening in currency markets, buying and selling currencies in ways that have made the yuan’s value artificially high. This is the very opposite of what they are being accused of now, Ooi says. She explains that the yuan’s recent drop in value was actually an appropriate market response to the new round of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods.

Villainized ideas about China within “popular imagination” have fueled a lot of unfounded anti-Chinese sentiment among Americans, Ooi says. And that’s what has helped U.S. leaders justify their actions in the trade war.

“There needs to be some kind of justification, right?” she says. “Some kind of rally around the flag effect to motivate people to suck up the costs of this trade war. And I think it’s the use of these kinds of tropes that perpetuate misunderstanding and allow the current administration to do that.”

Ooi explains that this political technique of “othering”—capitalizing on fear of difference to unite supporters—is nothing new. But she says within Trump’s presidency, it’s been a little more blatant, fueling long-held stereotypes about China.

“These are powerful assumptions that we hold that we don’t question,” she says. “‘Oh, of course China is a rival power and must want to dislodge us from our pedestal.’ But this may or may not be true—we are inferring China’s intentions from a deep-seated fear of our own decline.”

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

Two Butler professors explain what's going on in the trade relationship between the United States and China.
PeopleCommunity

Understanding the Trade War

Two Butler professors explain what's going on in the trade relationship between the United States and China.

Aug 09 2019 Read more
Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet.
PeopleCommunity

Global Warming? Climate Change? How do we talk about what’s happening? Butler prof looks to set the rhetoric record straight

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet. All of them want to tell the world how bad things will get if we don’t take better care of our Earth. The thing is, not all of them have the right words to make people listen.

An English Professor at Butler University, Reeves studies how climate scientists communicate with one another, with policy makers, and with the public about their research findings. While not a climate scientist herself, she teaches courses about the rhetoric and language of science. Through working with students on how to talk about climate change, as well as through interviewing climate scientists over the past several years, Reeves has learned about the nuanced challenges scientists often face in discussing their research.

“In science, you don’t talk about absolute facts: You talk about evidence,” Reeves says. “But normal people listen to dramatic claims. They have trouble getting that we have loads of evidence from research to support that we are heading into a really terrible time if we don’t do anything about it. We are going to have more extremes, more heat waves and draughts, more heavy rains, more wildfires, and stronger hurricanes.”

Reeves says we might view this summer’s heat waves as a sort of “test run” for what climate scientists are warning about the future, and how that heat will continue to affect us.

“Extreme and prolonged high temperatures place an enormous burden on communities and citizens, especially the most vulnerable,” she says. “If you’re wealthy enough to be sitting in your cooled home, you may dismiss this very clear sign of climate change. But if you’re poor, or if you have to work outdoors, you probably wish someone would get to work on the problem.”

Starting in 2008, Reeves decided to start conducting interviews with climate scientists to gain more background for the unit of her class that discusses climate change. She focused on those scientists involved in writing climate assessment reports for the United Nations—reports that analyze where the climate is now, and what will probably happen in the future. These scientists also look at how climate change is already affecting the Earth, and they build recommendations for what humans can do to help.

Researchers see a stark future in the data, but they struggle to spread the word. Reeves says policy makers and members of the public often misunderstand the concept of climate change, especially the way scientists talk about it. This has caused climatologists to sometimes disagree among themselves about what kind of language to use when sharing their research.

“You have a set of data,” she says, “but you have to write about that data, and you have to decide how strong your language is going to be.”

Reeves explains that scientists need to balance the ethical responsibility to stay within their data with their desire to help the public understand.

“It is a tenuous balance between explaining the science in a simple and clear way without simplifying and over-stating,” she says.

But it doesn’t matter what the studies show if people don’t want to think about the future. Scientists want to convince the population that, even though we are facing so many other problems, we need to put climate change at the top of the list. They just aren’t sure how.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu 

260-307-3403 (cell)

PeopleCampus

New Faces, New Mission: Diversity Center Gets a Makeover

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

The Efroymson Diversity Center is undergoing some cosmetic changes. 

The Center is getting a fresh paint job. Old books—like ones on how to update a resume using Word Perfect—are being removed and replaced with new ones. Dry erase boards, comfortable furniture, and communal spaces are in the works, along with an expanded prayer and meditation room.

But the physical transformation happening in Butler University’s Atherton Union is far from the only shift the Diversity Center has been experiencing over the last few months. With three new staff members and a brand new mission, the Center, known around campus as the DC, is ready for a makeover of different sorts. Instead of being largely viewed as just a physical space with a fixed location, the Center has set out to make its presence felt all around campus and the wider Indianapolis community. 

“We are mobile,” emphasizes Tiffany Reed, the new Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.

In the spring, Student Affairs conducted a study of the DC and its programs, including an outside consultant, feedback from more than 600 students, and stakeholders from more than 20 departments across campus. Three main themes emerged: They needed to address the physical space, increase outreach, and staff hired must be up to date on best practices when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The physical transformation is underway. Three new hires have been made. And outreach is just one item on the Center’s long list of goals.

“Butler’s founding mission was focused on diversity and inclusivity,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross, who led the DC study. “Given Ovid Butler and his role as an abolitionist who propagated the need for education for all, and access to education, it is imperative that we continue to work and strive to create conditions where all students can be successful and all students can thrive. The Diversity Center is critical to that mission. It is a hub for learning outside the classroom. It helps as we work to create and sustain an intentionally inclusive campus environment.”

The first key to bringing the mission to life was hiring three new faces of the DC. In addition to Reed, Gina Forrest, who served as interim Director of the Center since February after longtime Director Valerie Davidson retired, has been named Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Thalia Anguiano has been named Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.

Forrest will primarily focus on partnering with others across campus to enhance the student experience through diversity, equity, and inclusion. She will work closely with students, staff, and faculty, facilitating new workshops and trainings on how to have crucial conversations. Forrest will also look beyond campus, working to create meaningful partnerships throughout the wider Indianapolis area. She will consider the resources Butler provides to its students, as well as how the University responds to bias incidents, for example, to ensure appropriate support.

“This work is so much more encompassing than the actual Center,” Forrest says. “We want diversity, equity, and inclusion to be part of the University’s identity. By having all these different initiatives happening in tandem, it becomes proactive work, not just a reactive thing we say we are doing.” 

Reed will work collaboratively with faculty, and the Office of Admission to hone in on student success and retention. Reed will focus on being intentional about supporting students. 

For example, this year’s Dawg Days 2.0, which strives to create a welcoming environment and provide connections, resources, and programs for students who are underrepresented at Butler, will include a wider range of students, such as first-generation students, 21st century scholars, multicultural students, students of color, and LGBTQ students. 

“It is important to create intentional spaces for students of color, or for the LBGTQ community, but it is also important for spaces to intersect because many of our students are also first generation or biracial. They want to know how they fit in at a predominantly white institution,” says Reed, who as a student at IUPUI often studied and hung out at Butler’s Diversity Center because IUPUI didn’t have one.

Because of her experiences at IUPUI—fighting to get a Diversity Center of their own as an undergraduate and seeing firsthand how helpful it was to have a space on Butler’s campus—she also hopes to create partnerships with other universities. 

Reed has also been busy revamping the mentorship program, now dubbed the DC Squad. It will be much more robust, encouraging ongoing relationships instead of having mentors meet with their mentees just once or twice a semester. 

Anguiano will focus on programming and working with the student organizations that are housed in the DC. 

“I plan on challenging our student orgs within the Center to work much more collaboratively with one another to enhance dialogue and bring different perspectives from different lenses,” she says. “If it is Hispanic Heritage month, we might look at what it means to be Latinx and part of the LGBTQ community. We want to encompass different identities and bring more collaboration.”

As much as their roles differ, they will all work as one unit, striving to bring the mission of the DC to all parts of Butler’s campus, and beyond.

The Center’s physical space might be getting a new makeover, but in reality, if everything is working, the DC will be traveling to a building near you soon, collaborating with faculty across campus, visiting classrooms, partnering in many different ways.

“The goal is for you to feel connected to the DC as a collective unit,” Reed says. “It is about utilizing all of our different powers to move the space beyond this space. For us, the Center could be in Jordan Hall, a residence hall, a sorority house. We want it to travel wherever it is needed. That’s the ultimate goal around diversity, equity, and inclusion. That way we are reaching everyone.”

PeopleCampus

New Faces, New Mission: Diversity Center Gets a Makeover

Butler's Diversity Center has three new staff members, and a brand new mission. 

Jul 22 2019 Read more
Bob Jones
People

Old National Bank’s Bob Jones Joins Butler’s Lacy School of Business

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18 2019

Bob Jones, Chairman of Old National Bank, will join Butler University’s Lacy School of Business as a Senior Advisor of Ethical Leadership, the University announced.

In this role, Jones will be a part of the school's leadership team, as well as a mentor to students, faculty, and staff. He will hold office hours, present in classes, and advise the Dean. The only previous Senior Advisor in the school was Andre B. Lacy.

“We expect that by having Bob as part of our team, he will, in the most positive way, force us to be a better version of ourselves,” Dean Steve Standifird said. “He will force us to think deeply about who we are and what we want to accomplish.”

Jones joined Old National Bank in 2004, and continues as Chairman of the Board. Under Jones' leadership, Old National Bank was recognized as a leader in ethics, equality and impact by the Ethisphere Institute, Bloomberg, and VolunteerMatch. In 2016, Old National was recognized as one of the Best Banks to Work for. Jones has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business News, CNBC, and Bloomberg Television, as a spokesperson for Old National and community banking.  

Jones serves on the boards of the University of Evansville, Riley Children’s Foundation, ABA’s American Bankers Council Chair, and International City/County Management Association-Retirement Corporation (ICMA-RC). He served on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Board of Directors, where he was a member of its Executive Committee and Chaired the Audit Committee.  

“I am honored to become part of the Lacy School of Business team,” Jones said. “I have long admired the work of Dean Standifird. I deeply appreciate his vision for the school and aligning it with a focus on ethical leadership.”

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels presented Jones with the Sagamore of the Wabash award and the Distinguished Hoosier Award. Jones was inducted into the Evansville Regional Business Hall of Fame and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Hall of Fame. Jones was also appointed by Governor Eric Holcomb to serve on the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission. He also serves on the Second Curve Capital Advisory Board.

Jones brings to Butler a depth of knowledge and experience about how to create an ethical organization, Standifird says.

“This is an approach to leadership that is highly consistent with the Butler Way and will add significant value to our students, faculty, and business partners,” he says.  

Bob Jones
People

Old National Bank’s Bob Jones Joins Butler’s Lacy School of Business

Bob Jones, Chairman of Old National Bank, joins the Lacy School of Business as Senior Advisor of Ethical Leadership.

Jul 18 2019 Read more
Tom Pieciak performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.
Arts & CulturePeople

In The Moment: Butler Summer Institute Student Explores Spirituality Through Jazz

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18 2019

Tom Pieciak ‘21 can’t explain why he loves jazz. He just knows it makes him feel good.

To him, the genre is more than music. It’s a raw, organic expression of humanity, but perhaps it’s even more than that. For Pieciak, jazz is spirituality.

After watching Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary during his sophomore year at Butler University, Pieciak discovered this wasn’t uncommon.

“I saw how deeply spiritual his music was,” Pieciak says about the jazz saxophonist.

At the time, he was trying to decide which project to pursue during the 2019 Butler Summer Institute (BSI). The Jazz Studies major knew he wanted to research something relating to music, and he had been long fascinated with existential questions and philosophical topics, already starting to connect the two interests.

“It makes music an even more emotional experience for me,” he says of how philosophy affects his trumpet playing. “I really feel like what I’m doing is beyond me: I’m simply a vessel for this kind of creativity.”

After a meeting with Matthew Pivec, an Associate Professor of Music at Butler and Pieciak’s BSI faculty mentor, the two agreed there was something in the intersection between jazz and spirituality. For his project over the last two months, Pieciak interviewed musicians and listened to recordings to study why and how the genre can inspire such a spiritual experience. He also asked what it even means to be spiritual—how people express spirituality in different ways, and whether you can be spiritual without being religious.

Pieciak first started playing jazz in high school, when he fell in love with the freedom the style offers. So far in his research, he’s found it’s that space for creativity that might help set jazz apart when it comes to spiritual expression. He says the improvisatory nature of jazz—the room it grants for living in the moment—is similar to how humans handle spirituality.

“Within jazz,” Pieciak says, “I like to think that when I’m really in the element, I’m connecting myself to this bigger purpose.”

 

During the 2019 Butler Summer Institute, from May 19 - July 19, rising junior Tom Pieciak studied the power of jazz music to be a vehicle for spiritual expression. Pieciak feels this connection in his own music. Here, he performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.

 

Now, he and the rest of his quartet have the chance to perform every month at Monon Coffee Co. in Broad Ripple. While playing in a group, Pieciak often feels a different kind of spiritual connection in the community that emerges when the bass, drums, guitar, and trumpet all come together.

“You’re listening to each other,” he says. “You’re trusting each other.”

Based on this direct experience of how spirituality can show itself in different ways through jazz, Pieciak has broken the concept into three categories for his project: divine (anything relating to religion or a higher power), community (the spirituality involved in relationships between people), and individual (or, everything else). He assigned jazz songs to each of these categories, providing examples of their musical expressions.

At the beginning of the summer, Pieciak wasn’t sure he’d be able to find enough people to speak about his topic. But with a bit of digging and some help from Pivec’s network, he found five artists to study and had the chance to interview four of them. Some of these musicians are directly involved with church communities, with “one foot in jazz and one foot in religion,” like Indianapolis-based Rev. Marvin Chandler, and Ike Sturn, the music director for jazz ministry at a church in New York City. Pieciak also studied the history of spiritual expression in jazz, as well as identified recordings that reflect that relationship.

Pivec says with so many elements to consider and perspectives to balance, “it gets a little bit messy in the organization process.” And it isn’t the sort of project that will lead to any momentous discoveries. But that’s okay, Pivec says, because the project is giving Pieciak the chance to explore something meaningful.

“Really the biggest thing for the talented young people at the Butler Summer Institute is, in many ways, the transformative experience,” Pivec says.

During the regular school year, students take courses meant to fill certain requirements, often offering less freedom. But for this project, Pivec says “there’s nothing students are not capable of.” For Pieciak, he’s already felt the project’s influence.

“It has been affecting, already, the way I approach practicing and the way I approach writing,” he says. “It’s coming from a much more organic place.”

Scheduling constraints limited the number of interviews Pieciak could conduct this summer, but he plans for the BSI project to be just a stepping stone to a longer-term pursuit down the road. He will share his results at conferences, but rather than presenting any finite conclusions, he hopes he might encourage jazz musicians to embrace the spiritual nature of their music and change their crafts accordingly. He also hopes his research will prompt people to reflect on their own expressions of spirituality, even beyond the realm of jazz.

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Tom Pieciak performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.
Arts & CulturePeople

In The Moment: Butler Summer Institute Student Explores Spirituality Through Jazz

Through the Butler Summer Institute, Tom Pieciak had the chance to research something deeply meaningful to him.

Jul 18 2019 Read more
Butler University Trustee Bryan Brenner ’95 and his wife Elaine ’94
Butler BeyondGivingPeople

FirstPerson Interview Suite Enhances Butler Career Services

BY Jennifer Gunnels

PUBLISHED ON Jun 05 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – Butler University Trustee Bryan Brenner ’95 and his wife Elaine ’94 have donated $250,000 toward construction of the new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business, which will officially open in August. In recognition of the gift, the Career Development Interview Suite in the new building will be named the FirstPerson Interview Suite in honor of FirstPerson, Inc., the Indianapolis-based benefits and compensation consulting company founded and run by Brenner.  

FirstPerson, Inc. has a long history of hiring Butler students as interns, many of whom have gone on to full-time careers at FirstPerson after graduation. The company is committed to people development, including philanthropic work in the community through the PEEP Project—Personally Enriching and Embracing People. Recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in Indiana in 2019, FirstPerson’s passion for personal and professional development made the gift to name the career interview suite a perfect fit for Brenner.

“Elaine and I have a deep connection with Butler and consider our alma mater a foundational part of our larger life in Indianapolis,” Brenner says. “The University’s community focus and forward thinking has been a platform for growing FirstPerson and stepping into initiatives Elaine and I have launched to invest in the health and vitality of central Indiana.”

Annually, Brenner hosts a Dinner With 10 Bulldogs, a Butler program designed to give students a chance to meet successful graduates and explore opportunities that may be available to them after Butler.  Each year, Brenner and other Butler graduates from FirstPerson welcome 10 Butler students to the FirstPerson headquarters to socialize, network, and build relationships. Brenner has hired a number of students he has met through the dinner parties as FirstPerson interns.

“FirstPerson is genuinely committed to the personal and professional development of their employees and our students," says Steve Standifird, Dean of the Lacy School of Business. "Bryan and Elaine have been generous and thoughtful partners in seeking innovative ways to provide opportunities for our students to learn and grow, both through their own personal contributions and through FirstPerson.”

Among the many enhanced opportunities made possible by the new Lacy School of Business building is the ability to bring all of the University’s career development services into the same space on campus. Previously, career services for students studying in the Lacy School of Business was housed separately from the University’s central Internship and Career Services team.

The new comprehensive career development suite will provide a more streamlined experience both for companies looking to recruit Butler students and for Butler students seeking career opportunities to match their diverse skill sets. Located on the first floor of the new building near the entrance of Butler’s campus, the FirstPerson Interview Suite includes seven interview rooms, a recruiting lounge, and a conference room.

“The Brenners have been incredibly generous to Butler through their gifts of time and resources,” says Butler President James Danko. “We are pleased to recognize FirstPerson’s significant partnership in preparing our students for meaningful careers through the FirstPerson Interview Suite.”

In addition to Butler, the Brenners support Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indy Chamber, The Oaks Academy, University High School, and agencies of the United Way, in addition to establishing the MBA Board Fellow program for nonprofit management at Lacy School of Business.            


About Butler University

An influx of philanthropic support has aided Butler University’s dramatic growth in recent years. Pursuant to the Butler 2020 Strategic Plan, the University and donor partners have invested in new campus facilities, academic programs, and co-curricular offerings. In the past five years, Butler has built the Howard L. Schrott Center for the Arts, the Sunset Avenue parking garage including a streetscape beautification project and renovated Hinkle Fieldhouse. In addition, the University partnered with American Campus Communities to build the Fairview House and Irvington House residential communities. The Andre B. Lacy School of Business will open the doors to its new 110,000 square foot home in the fall of 2019, and fundraising is underway to complete a $93 million Science Complex expansion and renovation.

Butler University is a nationally recognized comprehensive university encompassing six colleges: Arts, Business, Communication, Education, Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Pharmacy & Health Sciences. Approximately 4,500 undergraduate and 541 graduate students are enrolled at Butler, representing 46 states and 39 countries. Ninety-five percent of Butler students will participate in some form of internship, student teaching, clinical rotation, research, or service learning by the time they graduate. Butler students have had significant success after graduation as demonstrated by the University’s 97% placement rate within six months of graduation. The University was recently listed as the No. 1 regional university in the Midwest, according to U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges Rankings, in addition to being included in The Princeton Review’s annual “best colleges” guidebook.

Butler University Trustee Bryan Brenner ’95 and his wife Elaine ’94
Butler BeyondGivingPeople

FirstPerson Interview Suite Enhances Butler Career Services

Trustee Bryan Brenner ’95 and wife Elaine ’94 give $250,000 for the Lacy School of Business building.

Jun 05 2019 Read more
Ena Shelley at Commencement
People

‘Meant to Be’: Ena Shelley’s 37-Year Career at Butler

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON May 30 2019

Ena Shelley doesn’t have to watch the news to know the weather. Headache, oh, that means a cold front is coming through.

So, on January 9, as she ate her usual toast with peanut butter and honey, showered, put on her earrings—like always—she noticed a headache, but thought nothing more than Indianapolis must be experiencing a temperature shift. It was just her body’s way of giving her a quick weather report before she headed to work.

Like most days, Shelley got in her car, drove 14 minutes to Butler University listening to the TODAY Show, parked in the South Campus lot, and walked into her office in Room 163. She quickly headed downstairs to room 001M for a meeting with her leadership team.

A few minutes into the meeting, she was mid-sentence, when she realized something was very wrong.

“I had this pain like I have never felt before in my entire life. It was shooting down the right side of my head and felt like someone put a knife right through my eye. I knew something was wrong,” Shelley says. “The last thing I remember was wondering why the EMT team was carrying the stretcher down the stairs, as opposed to using the elevator. I remember thinking it would have been much simpler for them to use the elevator.”

Three brain surgeries later, Ena Shelley, Dean of Butler’s College of Education, hasn’t missed a beat. About four months removed from the hospital, she is sitting in her office, surrounded by children’s art work, walls of books, a cardboard cutout of a colleague based in Sweden, and Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With. It’s a rainy May morning, and Shelley has already had two meetings. She has a full schedule of them ahead of her, and the energy to match.

Shelley will complete a 37-year career at Butler at the end of May, but much like the physical wounds she has amassed since January, it is tough to tell. Those who know her best aren’t surprised.

“Ena is a person with great determination,” says Ron Smith, who is now principal at the IPS/Butler University Laboratory School 60 and was a student of Shelley’s. “I am sure this isn’t the way she would have mapped out her final semester, but if anyone would be back in the office, it would be her. She doesn’t let anything slow her down. She is someone who can endure anything.”

She is still undergoing tests to find out why she had a spontaneous brain bleed that January morning. But, she says, there may never be a definitive answer. She lived in fear for awhile, wondering if headaches were the sign of a weather pattern, or, something that only 3 percent of patients survive, as her doctors warned her husband and children as she was rushed into her first emergency surgery. But now she focuses on living in the moment, not looking back. Instead of getting up each morning thinking about all the tasks she should accomplish, she thinks about how lucky she is to have another day.

With retirement around the corner, though, it turns out everyone else is looking back, and thinking about all the things Shelley has done over her decades of work not only at Butler, but in the Indiana education arena.

She oversaw the infusion of the Reggio Emilia philosophy throughout the COE and the city, and then created two Indianapolis Public School/Butler Lab Schools. She shifted the model of the COE to one centered around student teaching and site-based instruction, established partnerships with several area schools, has been involved in state and national legislation and policy around the education of young children, and established a new physical space for the College on South Campus.

But more than all of that, when Shelley arrived at the COE, there was no clear collective mission or vision, colleagues say. She is, largely, behind a major shift, hiring and looking for collaborative, forward-thinking colleagues who now engage in joint decision making and responsibility, and who now rattle off the College’s mission on demand, they say.

Not bad for someone who never wanted to be a dean.

 

Always a teacher

Born to a funeral home owner and a stenographer, Ena Shelley always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

She loved playing school. She would teach anything to anyone. But, to be specific, it all started with baton twirling. Shelley is a baton twirler, so she would gather anyone who was interested in learning the craft and give baton lessons.

Her older brother and older sister are teachers, too. Her mom was secretary of the school board. Her sister is now president of the same school board back in Shelley’s hometown of Cloverdale, Indiana.

When Shelley reached high school she signed up for a Cadet Teaching program and became hooked on elementary education.

“I was instantly drawn to how children think,” she says.

She looked at Butler when it was time for college. But, ultimately, chose Indiana State University. There was one main difference between the two schools, she says.

“They had a Lab School, Butler did not,” she says. “That was what I was looking for—that hands-on experience where we would watch teachers working with kids and learn directly in a classroom.”

Another draw was a professor she met during her first visit, Jan McCarthy. McCarthy would later become Shelley’s academic advisor, and during one of their first advising appointments, Shelley told McCarthy that she was interested in teaching young children, but was really fascinated by what professors do.

Dr Ena Shelley's name plateMcCarthy never dismissed that, Shelley says.

After graduating, Shelley started teaching kindergarten in Perry Township, while getting her master’s degree at Indiana State. Then, one day, a call came from McCarthy.

“She’s on the other line saying, ‘Do you still think you want to do what I do?’ and I couldn’t believe she even remembered because I mentioned that so many years ago,” Shelley says.

McCarthy offered Shelley a doctoral fellowship. It started in three weeks.

 

Ideals are formed

The house had caught on fire, and the family could not afford to rebuild it. The floors were now dirt. The back walls were made of stapled-up cardboard refrigerator boxes. Taped to the cardboard boxes were the children’s art work, spelling lists, and graded tests.

This, more or less, was the scene that played out every other Saturday when McCarthy, Shelley, and the rest of the doctoral students traversed the state of Indiana as part of the doctoral program. From downtown Indianapolis, to Gary, to Terre Haute, they hit all corners of the state as part of the Head Start Program—a federal program that promotes school readiness for low-income families.

“When you see that kind of poverty it has a huge impact,” Shelley says. “I learned from the teachers in those towns that that is why you never say a parent doesn’t care. You don’t know what is going on. In spite of all that is in that parent’s life, she cares, and she is doing the best she can do. People are so quick to group people. And I say you don’t know those people. By the grace of God you aren’t in their shoes. Don’t make assumptions about that. Every time, no matter where I was, it was parents wanting better for their children, and wanting to do right by their children. That lesson has stayed with me.”

Shelley says she was 26 when she first walked into an IPS classroom. All the teachers were African American, old enough to be her mother, and wise beyond her years. After her first day she called McCarthy.

On the phone, Shelley expressed doubt about what she could possibly bring to the table as a teacher. The other teachers had experiences Shelley didn’t.

“Jan stopped me mid-sentence and explained that was the entire point, I had already learned the lesson. I was there to learn from them,” Shelley says. “And boy, they taught me. Those women really, really shaped what I thought about what we have to do to help all children, and how to understand adversity in a deep, profound way when it comes through the school door. What what can we, as teachers, do, and how do we prepare teachers to be able to work with that? How do you lift a community up, especially when I saw what I saw?”

Shelley also traveled the country with McCarthy during her doctoral program, watching her mentor testify at the state level and national level.

At the time, Indiana had next to no regulations regarding people who work with young children, and McCarthy was the president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Essentially, anyone could teach young children.

So, McCarthy traveled the state, at first, talking to legislators about the importance of supporting improved quality of programs for young people. And Shelley would tag along. Then they took their gospel to Washington DC. Summer after summer after summer.

“A lot of people have the ability to teach,” says McCarthy, who is 90-years-old, has been in the education field for more than 30 years, and keeps in touch with Shelley via group text. “But often, they don’t have that extra dimension. That vision side. Ena has that. She sees needs in our field and wants to find ways to meet those needs. She is an idea person and a person who solves problems. She has that extra dimension that allows her to make real impact.”

When it was time to graduate from her doctoral program at ISU, Shelley wondered about applying for a job at Butler—the school she turned down as an undergraduate—because she heard good things about it from teachers at Perry Township.

She applied, and got a call back. But, the news wasn’t so positive. It was the outgoing dean. He called to tell her a new dean was coming in, there were no openings, and they haven’t hired anyone in seven years.

 

‘It was meant to be’

Ena Shelley teaching 2005.After a 37-year career at Butler that included two stints as Interim Dean, that then led to Shelley becoming Dean in 2005, she says it was all ‘really crazy and meant to be.’

That’s because, after applying and being told there were no openings and no new hires in seven years, Shelley crossed Butler off the list. She started looking at IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis.

Then, a month later, her phone rang. It was the new Dean of the College, and there was an opening. Shelley interviewed, and started at Butler as an Assistant Professor in June 1982.

But, things weren’t exactly as she thought they would be, or should be.

“When I first came to Butler, and I don’t mean to sound critical, but I was taken aback,” Shelley says. “Most of our students were placed in very white privileged schools when it came to student teaching. They came from white privilege, and they student taught in white privilege, then they went back to white privilege. I thought to myself, there is this whole other world out there that we need to be placing our students in. there are students who need our great teachers. It was eye opening for me. There simply wasn’t enough rigor in our program. It was very traditional of teacher education and it wasn’t what I had experienced and I wondered why.”

So, Shelley did what she was wired to do: worked to make change.

She felt like Butler students weren’t seeing the bigger picture. From her experiences, she knew partnerships with public schools, and a Lab School, were essential pieces of the bigger picture. But, Shelley was also the lone voice.

Until Arthur Hochman came to interview.

“I was really thinking, I don’t know if I see Butler as the place I see staying,” Shelley says. “I just didn’t know if I saw myself there for the long haul because philosophically, it wasn’t working. Thank heavens, six years after I started, Arthur interviewed, and everything changed.”

Hochman came to Butler from New York City. He had never been to Indianapolis before his interview. But, he vividly remembers interviewing in the basement of Jordan Hall. Shelley was there, and after his interview, he called his wife immediately.

“I told her I met someone who is really, really smart, really funny, and has a wonderful heart,” says Hochman, who has been at Butler now for 31 years. “I asked my wife how she would feel about moving from New York City to Indianapolis. There was dead air.”

Hochman eventually convinced his wife. They moved to Indianapolis because of Shelley, he says. Shelley calls Hochman her ‘kindred spirit,’ the reason her career flourished at Butler. Hochman’s daughter often asked him, ‘can we go see the laughing lady,’ referring to Shelley.

The two of them got to work. They added a couple other ‘kindred spirits’ to the elementary education team who were philosophically aligned.

One of the first things they did was establish a full year of student teaching. Butler became one of the first programs in the country to have that. They also built partnerships with IPS, Lawrence, Washington, and Pike Townships, placing Butler student teachers all over.

Then, there was the master practitioner program, which still exists today. A master teacher would come to Butler and be part of the College for a year, and the College would pay a first-year teacher salary as a replacement. The master teacher would look at the College’s curriculum, teach, and share relevant information with students.

Butler professors also started teaching their classes in schools.

“This was a game changer,” Shelley says. “The partnerships were key because I would be in a classroom with my students on the floor working with kids and students would be by my side, and I would say, see, did you catch what that child just did? That is Vygotsky Proximal Development right there. That is what we just read about. It brought everything to life.”

In the back of their minds, from the beginning, there was always the need for a Lab School.

 

Lab School comes to life

Shelley had read about Reggio Emilia for quite some time. And in 1998, she was ready to go see it in practice, first hand.

So, she took a sabbatical to Italy, and realized everything needed to change.

“It was unbelievable,” she says. “When I was there I knew we had to change our entire curriculum. We had no schools on this pathway, and because of that, it would be impossible to teach undergrads this type of teaching.”

Ena Shelley speaks to children at opening of IPS Lab School 55Reggio Emilia follows the interests of the child, and builds on what children know. It starts with the belief that children are all capable, confident, competent learners, and as teachers, it is your job to not just teach, but also learn. There is no thought that a child can’t do something.

When Shelley returned from Italy, she started implementing this method of teaching at the Lawrence Township Learning Community in the early childhood program. Then, with Shortridge, Warren Early Childhood Center, and St. Mary’s Childhood Center. Eventually, Butler students got involved, too, learning along with the teachers at these schools.

But, that elusive Lab School was always on Shelley’s mind. And she continued to make her pitch.

She eventually got a meeting with Gene White, IPS Superintendent at the time, and Bobby Fong, Butler’s President at the time. They told her to bring a list of everything she needed to make a Lab School happen.

She arrived at the meeting, sitting between the two men. She gave each a copy of her list. There was silence for a long time. Then, they both said the list looked good to them.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Shelley says. “Just like that, I thought, this was going to happen.”

Now, there are two Lab Schools. Ron Smith, who first met Shelley in 1984 when he showed up on Butler’s campus and Shelley was his advisor, is principal at the first Lab School. Shelley told Smith about Reggio Emilia after her sabbatical. She suggested he read a book about it, after he expressed some doubts about its effectiveness.

He finished the book on a plane ride. When he landed he called Shelley and told her he had to get involved in a school that taught this way.

But it is much more than just this philosophy that Smith owes to Shelley.

“I like to say that I am convinced I am Ena’s favorite student of all time, but I know that there are thousands of other Butler grads that also know they were Ena’s favorite student of all time,” he says. “Ena just has a way of making you feel as though you are the most important person in the world when you are interacting with her.”

When Smith walked into Shelley’s office as a freshman, he wasn’t into school all that much. It always came easy to him in high school. Grades weren’t important to him. He suspects he would have gone on to become a teacher regardless of the college he went to, but because of Shelley, and because of Butler, his career has become so much more.

“I often have reflected on what my path might have been and I just suspect that whatever success I have had in life is in large part due to the opportunity I got at Butler, and more importantly, is due to my opportunity to have interaction with, and to learn from, Ena,” Smith says. “The College of Education is a very personal college. It is a college where you feel that people know you and care about you. I just suspect that if I had gone to a larger university, I would have gotten my degree, would have become a teacher, but I don’t think my career would have been what it has been if I hadn’t had the chance to learn from Ena.”

 

‘Everything has worked out the way it was supposed to’

On New Year’s Eve 2018, Shelley wrote in her journal.

“Wow, what a year. Took students to France, took students to Italy, bought a house, decided to retire.”

Then, her journal went blank.

“Maybe next time, I shouldn’t write all that down, I should keep it in my head,” Shelley says. “Maybe I jinxed myself.”

On Jan. 9, everything changed. Doctors tell her now it was a spontaneous brain bleed. After ‘a gazillion’ MRIs, MRAs, and tests Shelley doesn’t even recall, the conclusions all point to just bad luck. A random occurrence that likely won’t happen again.

Her head is still tender. She cannot put headphones in, can only sleep on her back or her left side--she puts pillows up so she remembers not to roll over, and doctors say it will likely be another six months before she feels fully herself.

That day is still fresh in her mind. Angela Lupton called 911. She kept squeezing Katie Russo’s hands as she waited for the ambulance to arrive. There were cold paper towels on her. But she doesn’t remember anything after getting in the ambulance.

They rushed her into surgery. Her brain had been pushed beyond the midline. Three percent of people survive what Shelley ended up surviving. Doctors told her husband, as they rushed her into surgery, that they didn’t expect her to make it out alive. Her son was speeding on the highway, en route to the hospital from Louisville, Kentucky.

Shelley was in intensive care for six days. She doesn’t remember any of it. Then, on Jan. 11, her brain started bleeding again. They went back in for a second surgery. Her husband signed the papers as they rushed her down the hallway and into surgery. Again.

After the second surgery, Shelley was improving. Six days later, she was starting to make progress. She stood up for the first time in about three weeks. A speech therapist arrived and asked Shelley to name as many words as possible that start with the letter F. That was easy. The speech therapist switched to A. Shelley opted with ‘anthropomorphism.’ The speech therapist moved on to another test. Her wires were clearly connecting.

Shelley was making such positive progress that she met her goal—she was able to attend the national American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Conference in Louisville on Feb. 24. But, after the conference, she had a seizure.

She was rushed to the hospital for another surgery. She had an infection. Her left arm didn’t work for awhile, she answered emails with one finger, and her short term memory is still not where she would like it to be.

“But, honestly, I feel so blessed,” she says. “I don’t have cancer, I have another day. I think of things differently now. Everything has worked out for me the way it was supposed to, and I am just lucky to have another day.”

With retirement right around the corner, Shelley says she is most proud of the 16 people she has hired into the College, as well as the partnerships she has developed, and the Lab Schools.

But more than that, it is the vision and mission of the College that will outlast all of that, she says. It is the work she set out to do when she got to Butler—change the vision of the College—but the groundwork for which was laid as a student long before stepping on campus.

“I believe if you are a teacher, you should be able to be a teacher of all children, not just some children,” she says. “Every child in our society deserves a great teacher, and you may not know where you will be as a teacher, but I feel like the way we shape our country is through education and if we want a better life for everyone, we have to do our part as teachers to make that happen.”

Now, she will retire to Savannah, Georgia, but has family in Indianapolis and Louisville, so will be in town often. She will be as involved, or not involved, in the College as the new Dean would like. But, no matter how physically involved she is, her impact will be felt on campus and in the community.

“It is impossible to be in the education field and not feel Ena’s influence around the city, and quite frankly, the state,” Smith says. “So yes, while she is retiring, her impact will always be felt because of all the work she has done that will, honestly, likely outlast the majority of us. That is true impact and that is Ena.”

Ena Shelley at Commencement
People

‘Meant to Be’: Ena Shelley’s 37-Year Career at Butler

After 37 years of service to Butler, Dean of the College of Education, Ena Shelley retires.

May 30 2019 Read more
Haley Sumner and her dog Ezzie
People

Finding Alternative Ways to Succeed

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON May 10 2019

When Mary Gospel found out she was going to be teaching a student who is blind, she wondered how that was going to work in a major—Communication Sciences and Disorders—that requires so much visual learning.

Then Haley Sumner came to class, and she had her answer.

"I've had Haley in class four times," says Gospel, Butler University Senior Clinical Faculty in Communications. "The only time I really even was thinking about her being vision-impaired was the first class. After that, you just forget because she handles everything so well. Outside of having a dog in the classroom, which is unusual, you just forget. She is such an amazing, strong student, and knows how to advocate for the things she needs to make the material in the classroom work for her."

That's precisely how Sumner wanted it. She has spent her life finding alternative ways to succeed, and she continued that at Butler.

She finished school in four years with a double major in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and Spanish. Along the way, she was involved in Student Government Association for three years, and  the Butler University Student Foundation.

"I've been able to develop work connections with graduates, and gotten an idea of what life will look like after college," she says. "If it wasn't for those organizations, it would have been harder for me to make connections, and feel comfortable with the next chapter of my life.”

In summer 2018, Sumner did an internship in the Human Resources department at Eskenazi Health. That spurred her interest in working for a large organization, like Eli Lilly and Co. or Salesforce when she graduates. She's now in the interviewing process.

*

Haley Sumner came to Butler from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Sumner was born three months prematurely, weighing less than two pounds. She’s been blind since birth.

She started in Exploratory Studies, and chose CSD as a major because she had gone through speech therapy when she was young.

"I can't think of a day or even a moment in my life where I thought, 'I wish I could see this right now,'" she says. "I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had. I feel like we're all designed in a unique way."

She has navigated campus with help from her service dog, Ezzie. A text-to-speech machine turned her textbooks to audio. When she had classes that were heavily visual, she relied on tactile formats to feel what she couldn't see.

She says that in one class that dealt with topics such as anatomy and soundwaves, Butler's Student Disability Services office hired older students to draw diagrams she needed for exams and lectures. She has special paper that, when drawn on, makes raised lines, so she can feel what the picture is showing.

Sumner explains that for a drawing of a brain, for example, she can  feel where each lobe is located, and make a square or a circle in her mind, and then try  to put each part together to develop an understanding.

"Once I'm able to gauge where everything is mapped out on the page, then I'm able to make a mental image of it," she says.

*

Gospel says having Sumner in class made her a better teacher. She had to think more purposefully about how, and what, she taught. It forced her to prepare more thoroughly.

In one course, where students were expected to learn phonetic symbols instead of using alphabet letters, Gospel was flummoxed. She was unsure how to possibly make this accessible for Sumner.

Gospel teamed up with Kathleen Camire, Assistant Director of Student Disability Services, and Sumner. Not only were they able to come up with the necessary technology, but the three of them co-wrote a paper that Gospel presented at the American Speech and Hearing Association, about the technology and strategy needed to teach phonetics to a student with vision impairment.

Gospel says Sumner also made an enormous impact on the Butler Aphasia Community, a group of people who have had strokes who come to campus to work on their language skills with Butler students.

"They adored her," Gospel says. "She related to them so well, and they related to her. They saw how she was able to overcome obstacles with a positive attitude and sense of humor. They were inspired by her spirit.

Sumner says she comes at whatever she does with great empathy for others.

"Whenever I hear people complain or I hear them having a bad day, I try to get closer to them and help them find ways to make their situation positive or help them find a positive point in their day," she says.

Haley Sumner and her dog Ezzie
People

Finding Alternative Ways to Succeed

Sumner says she comes at whatever she does with great empathy for others.

May 10 2019 Read more
Maddy Smith and her daughter Arabelle
PeopleStudent LifeUnleashed

A Mother’s Promise: Against All Odds, Butler Senior is Ready to Graduate

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON May 09 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Madeline Smith was in third grade when she attended her first college class. It was math. Finite, to be exact. And she loved it.

Her mom, Sarah Taylor, didn’t really have a choice but to bring her young daughter with her. She was a 30-year-old college student at Indiana University. She had returned to college years after giving birth to Smith and realizing, if she wanted to stop working 16-hour shifts and provide a better life for her daughter, a college degree would help. So, Taylor packed up her whole house, put everything in storage except for two tents, and headed to Yellowstone Woods in Bloomington, Indiana with Smith. They camped out for two months—Taylor and her 10-year-old. Taylor bused tables, saving up for an apartment. She had a friend watch Smith during most classes, but when she had to, Taylor brought an extra set of hands with her to class. Turns out those hands shot up in the air on more than one occasion when questions were asked. Especially during Finite.

“I knew I had to make a change to make Madeline’s life better in the long-run, and I am very thankful she was a resilient individual, because she powered through some tough times,” says Taylor, who has worked in Human Resources since graduating from IU. “She was my study buddy who would hold up flashcards for me during dinner, while I was doing laundry, everything. She took notes in her own notebook during Economics. She always loved learning and saw firsthand from those days that knowledge is power, and education can transform your life.”

That love of learning was always on display. In elementary school, Smith preferred reading to riding bikes with her friends. And when she brought home her first B at Southport High School in Perry Township, Smith cried hysterically, studying all night, determined to bring her grade back up to an A.

When it came time to make a decision about college, Taylor was biased. She took her daughter back to Bloomington where the two had many fond memories. Smith earned a 21st Century Scholarship—up to four years of undergraduate tuition at participating universities in Indiana—so Taylor knew her daughter had options. They also visited Butler University.

“After being on campus, Butler became a no-brainer,” Smith says. “I loved the atmosphere here. I loved the fact that just six buildings make up the academic section. There was such a community feel right away. With larger institutions, it felt like you had to walk across an entire city to get to class. I didn’t want to be in a department where there are 25 professors and you never meet half of them, and they don’t know your name, and you are just another face. I wanted to be Maddy, and at Butler, it became instantly obvious to me the I would have that type of experience.”

Then, one day during Smith’s senior year of high school, she sat her mom down. She needed to talk to her. Smith was pregnant. They had a long talk—both cried and were scared—but, Smith made one thing clear: her goals would not shift, and she would go to Butler as planned. Taylor explained that she would understand if Smith needed to take a slightly different route, or adjust her timeline. But Smith was adamant. Nothing would change.

Four years later, Smith is on the cusp of graduation. She will join nearly 1,050 other students on Saturday for Butler’s 163rd Spring Commencement. She will fulfill the promise she not only made to her mom, but to herself, and to her daughter, Arabelle.

The Anthropology major and History minor will walk across the stage right on time, just as she planned four years ago. She is a bit more tired, but also incredibly grateful—for the scholarships, support from faculty and family—and proud—for trusting herself and sticking to her plan.

 

‘I’m exhausted’

The timing, actually, could not have been better for Smith. She was determined to not miss any significant class time, and her daughter was due in December, when Butler was closed for Winter Break.

So, Christmas 2015 arrived, she went to the hospital, and Arabelle arrived on December 27, 2015. Two weeks later, school started, and Smith was in class.

“It was really hard. To be honest, second semester of my first year is a blur,” Smith says, “It is recommended that you have six weeks of bonding time with your baby, and I had like two. But, I would have had to take medical leave if I missed school, and I wanted to graduate on time. It was really difficult, and exhausting, and things you don’t think about, like nursing, were messed up, but I knew I had to get through it.”

On top of having a newborn, Smith had to move to Kokomo during her second semester—about an hour from Butler’s campus—because her mom was relocated from Indianapolis to Tennessee for work. She moved in with her aunt and uncle, and then made the hour-each-way commute every day for classes.

Maddy's daughter, ArabelleShe learned traffic patterns very quickly, she says. She also learned time management.

Each day she woke up at about 5:00 AM, got ready for school, got her daughter ready for daycare, drove to campus for classes, and would return home to pick up her daughter from day care at around 5:00 PM. Then it was dinner time, bath time, bedtime for Arabelle, homework time for Smith, and, hopefully at a reasonable hour, bedtime for Smith.

“The way she has juggled everything has amazed me. But that is Madeline,” Taylor says. “I have seen her up until 2:00 AM working on a paper, or sometimes asleep in a book, trying to finish assignments. Her determination is what has gotten her to this point, and her love of learning.”

It wasn’t always clear to Smith that she made the right choice, though. There were times, she says, she missed out on things like parent-teacher conferences, or making snacks for her daughter’s daycare. Or other things, like homecoming, Greek Life, and just a typical social life on campus. Between classes and taking care of her daughter, Smith has juggled several jobs throughout her four years, such as working at a gas station, working at a fast food restaurant, the Butler IT Help Desk, pizza delivery driver, to name a few.

 

Tight-knit community

Elise Edwards has an adult son, and, after a day of teaching Anthropology as an Associate Professor at Butler, she is drained, she says. So, to see Smith, a first-year student who can juggle being a mom and keep up with her studies, amazed Edwards.

“Maddy is an incredibly smart student. She writes well, thinks well, and despite all of the outside pressures she faces, has remained incredibly focused,” Edwards says. “She is very intellectually curious and, miraculously, hasn’t allowed any additional challenges to get in her way.”

Edwards worked with Smith on an independent study project looking at the Anthropology of Africa. The two handpicked ethnographies on Africa and met weekly to discuss the readings. After graduation, Edwards says, she will really miss these conversations.

But it wasn’t just that Smith was able to keep up, Edwards says. She was often ahead of the class. On more than one occasion, Smith would raise her hand and remind the class that rough drafts were due in a week.

Instructor of German Michelle Stigter was the first person on campus Smith told about her pregnancy. Stigter was her First Year Seminar professor, and the two instantly connected.

“I am the child of teenage parents, and I know the odds are stacked against young women who get pregnant in terms of college completion,” Stigter says. “Being a mom and something else is hard enough, but being a mom and a college student is really difficult. Maddy has a tenacity to move forward and make life happen for her and her daughter that has been incredible to witness.”

Most who know Smith, Stigter says, aren’t even aware she has a daughter. She has been determined to be like every other student and not let her family situation influence her college experience.

It was Stigter who nominated Smith for the Betty Murnan-Smith Scholarship—given to single parents enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Stigter nominated Smith in 2017, and since then, Smith has received the scholarship for the last three years.

“Without scholarships I never would have been able to come to Butler and receive the education I have received,” Smith says. “To have people that don’t even know you set up scholarships that you’ll eventually benefit from is something I am so grateful for. But, to then have professors looking out for you, and really advocating for you—it is all just so amazing.”

 

An education for everyone

Betty Murnan-Smith ’44 always loved to learn, too.

Born in Indianapolis in 1921, her father died of leukemia when she was 12. Suddenly left to raise Murnan-Smith alone, her mother moved them into the back room of a dried goods store to save money. The two shared a bed, her mother sewed their clothes, and a curtain enclosed their room.

Murnan-Smith rode her bike to school, always eager to get there, says her son, Timothy Smith. A high school English teacher of hers saw her talent as a writer and asked her if she planned to go to college. She said she couldn’t afford college, but her high school teacher told her she still could go, and introduced her to Butler.

“My mom worked her way through school. She had every kind of job you could imagine. She grinded magnesium for airplane parts, she was a soda jerk, an artist model, a Rosie the Riveter,” says Smith, who now lives in Los Angeles. “She was an uncommon woman of her time, one who was fiercely interested in women not following the well-traveled path but taking another option, and daring to do something great with their lives. She got that from her mother.”

Her favorite job, though, was on campus at Butler helping Professor of English Allegra Stewart grade papers. Stewart told Murnan-Smith that she had so much potential, and inspired her to become a professor, too. Murnan-Smith would go on to name her daughter Allegra, after Stewart.

“At a time when most women were becoming domesticated and looking for husbands, my mom went to Butler and had professors who showed her all the potential she had and all the options available to her—that she really could do anything,” Smith says.

Murnan-Smith would go on to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Later in her life she established the Betty Murnan-Smith Scholarship for single parents at Butler.

Her children didn’t even know about the scholarship until the end of their mother’s life, but it certainly doesn’t surprise them.

“It resonates with everything we understood about her. She would save pennies and dimes to help those who are trying to fulfill their dreams, despite challenges,” Smith says. “She taught us from a young age the importance of education. We were 12 and she was telling us the unexamined life is not worth living. She wanted to make sure she did her part to provide that for everyone. She actually sounds a lot like Maddy from the bit I have learned about her.”

 

‘A really special day’

Taylor will be at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, watching her daughter graduate. Arabelle will not. She would be bouncing off the walls during a long ceremony like that, Smith says.

But, the day will be an emotional one.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my daughter,” Taylor says. “I have seen first hand all she has juggled with school, but also raising my granddaughter and being a wonderful mother, and sticking to her original goals and not wavering. She has always been so driven, but to see everything come to the final stages, it will be such a special day.”

After graduation, Smith is hoping to go into event planning, but she is still exploring her options. Whatever she ends up doing, though, she hopes to one day help others like her—sort of like Murnan-Smith.

Maddy Smith and her daughter Arabelle
PeopleStudent LifeUnleashed

A Mother’s Promise: Against All Odds, Butler Senior is Ready to Graduate

Arabelle arrived on December 27, 2015. Two weeks later, school started, and Maddy Smith was in class.

May 09 2019 Read more
Brooke Kandel-Cisco
UnleashedPeople

Brooke Kandel-Cisco, Determined to Make An Impact, Will Now Lead the COE

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 26 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Brooke Kandel-Cisco was first drawn to the field of education as a 22-year-old immigration advocate, working on behalf of undocumented women who were abused by their husbands, but threatened by those same men with their status if they took action against the abuse.

Working alongside an immigration attorney, she didn’t get a lot of cases approved by the courts. She saw firsthand the complexities of the system and how things were far from fair. She wanted to help illuminate the glaring systemic issues, and then somehow work toward creating more just and equitable systems.

All of that sounded familiar to Kandel-Cisco—it sounded like the work of an educator. The Illinois native comes from a long line of teachers—both her grandmothers, aunts, uncles—but her 18-year-old self wanted to go against the family grain. So, she majored in Psychology and minored in Spanish at Goshen College. After she graduated, Kandel-Cisco joined AmeriCorps and headed to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where she battled the courts to try and help women who came to the United States and were abused by their husbands, but struggled to get justice.

“Advocating for women and seeing these huge systemic issues every day really piqued my interest in education and in working with immigrant and refugee students,” Kandel-Cisco says. “I was always told I should be a teacher, and I think my work after college showed me how important it is to try and work to address systemic issues. I saw education as one way of doing just that.”

Kandel-Cisco has been doing that ever since. She will start as the Interim Dean of Butler University’s College of Education on May 1 replacing Ena Shelley, who will retire after 15 years as Dean of the College, and 37 years at the University.

Kandel-Cisco started at Butler in 2009 as a faculty member, and throughout her decade on campus has served as Director of the Master of Science in Effective Teaching and Learning Program, Chair of the COE Graduate Programs, and Program Coordinator for COE Graduate Programs.

She teaches courses in English as a second language (ESL) within the COE, works closely with teachers in Washington Township schools’ ESL and Newcomer Programs, which works with students who have recently arrived in the country and are learning English, and is the President of the Indiana Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

When Shelley announced her retirement, Kandel-Cisco’s name was put forward by colleagues in the COE as a potential Interim Dean.

Her first reaction upon hearing that Shelley was retiring?

“Oh I pity the person who follows Ena,” Kandel-Cisco says. “But now that it’s me, I will do my best.”

Shelley, on the other hand, says this was a long time coming.

For years, Shelley says, she has been presenting Kandel-Cisco with “opportunities.” There was the time she called Kandel-Cisco in to tell her she had an “opportunity” for her to work on an International Baccalaureate certification process.

“Brooke’s reaction was ‘OK, my child goes to an IB school, but I don’t really know much about IB’,” Shelley says, laughing. “But, in typical Brooke fashion, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work like crazy to get this in place. She always gives it her best shot, and her best shot is always wonderful.”

Shelley would continue over the years to use that phrase on Kandel-Cisco. Finally, she explained that early on in her career she was offered “opportunities” constantly by her Dean at the time. It was clear these “opportunities” were just challenging projects. Her Dean explained she was giving them to Shelley to prepare her to be a Dean one day.

It turns out, that is exactly what Shelley was doing with Kandel-Cisco.

“I know a lot of people use these words a lot, but Brooke is really a visionary, and extremely wise,” Shelley says. “She is very inclusive of people and ideas, a keen listener, which is key as an educator and leader. Someone asked me if this is bittersweet, and I can honestly say no. My heart is happy knowing I am leaving the College in great shape with a strong leader and strong staff.”

It is that great staff that Kandel-Cisco says she will rely on to help move the College forward as Interim Dean. She is looking forward to thinking through how the College fits into Butler’s strategic plan, as well as focusing on a number of new initiatives: a new major, global opportunities for students and faculty, partnerships in the community.

“This is all about making yourself vulnerable and trying new things, which might not be comfortable,” she says. “It is much easier to do because I have amazing colleagues who are supportive and will help move our College forward.”

When Kandel-Cisco was back in Texas working as an immigrant advocate, she realized she wanted to be a teacher. After obtaining her ESL and bilingual education teaching license, she went on to teach ESL students in Houston. After several years of teaching, she applied to doctoral programs.

She transitioned to a full-time doctoral student at Texas A&M, and later became a senior research associate, studying state education data on things like teacher attrition and achievement scores. All of this highlighted more systemic issues in education. And, it became clear again, she wanted to be in a classroom.

On another whim, she applied to several faculty positions, including one at Butler. On campus, she interviewed with Ena Shelley.

“For me, it was about the people,” she says. “Ena, just the way she looks in your eyes, it just felt authentic, and the College was doing educator preparation in a high-quality way. That’s not to say there is one right way to do it, because I don’t believe there is, but the COE approach was in line with my values. And that’s what brought me to Butler.”

Brooke Kandel-Cisco
UnleashedPeople

Brooke Kandel-Cisco, Determined to Make An Impact, Will Now Lead the COE

Kandel-Cisco will start as the Interim Dean of the College of Education on May 1.

Apr 26 2019 Read more

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