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To Be Greek Or Not To Be Greek

by Kyle Giebel ’20 and Rebecca VanVliet ’19

On Being Greek

By Kyle Giebel ’20

Greek Students Participating in Butler's Dance MarathonFor over one-third of Butler University students, building lasting relationships, developing skills as leaders, and organizing all-campus fundraisers through Greek Life is college at its best. With the potential to explore new experiences and activities, our chapters (five fraternities and nine sororities) plan formals and social events, perform service projects, and stay connected with alumni mentors while maintaining at least an average of 3.4 GPA. Additionally, in any given year, members of Butler’s Greek organizations contribute more than 20,000 hours in service to over 200 Indianapolis area nonprofits.

In my first year at Butler, I was dead set on being independent. I had seen movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House, and with those in mind I was certain that Greek life was not for me. Going through first semester I also struggled with my identity. In high school, I was on the swim team. Without sounding cliché, that team was truly a family, and when I came to Butler, that family was stretched too thin to be reliable anymore. I was put in a position to become whoever I wanted to be and with whomever I wanted. That freedom of choice was too much for me to handle in that moment. I resorted to the few things I knew, swimming and working out. That is where I started to develop a relationship with Adam Bantz, who was a junior at the time. This man, as I grew to know him, was everything I wanted in a friend and in a role model. I eventually learned that he was a very active member of the Greek community. This then exposed me the true nature of Butler’s Greek life. The more people I met, in fraternities and sororities, the more I realized that the Greek population on campus was a true community of families and neighbors. After meeting the right people, I was hooked.

As a Junior, I am currently the president of one of the chapters on campus. My time as a member has been such a unique and rewarding experience. It is true that most of my stresses and time commitments stem from being a part of the Greek community, but my friends and support system were developed by the same community. Under further reflection, I would rather struggle with true friends than coast with a few acquaintances.

In the end, any group or organization will give you what you put into it. I see the Greek Community as my family. Yes, I am willing to sacrifice my time, energy, and effort daily to support my family members, make a positive impact, and build those relationships that I want and sometimes need. Greek life is not for everyone, but for me it was the perfect start for my future.

 

To learn more about Greek life on campus, visit our website.


On Being Independent

Rebecca VanVliet ’19

Students Studying on the MallI might be a senior now, but I still can remember posting on the Class of 2019 Facebook page for the first time: I’m Rebecca, I’m from Ohio, and I don’t plan on rushing.

Even then, before we were technically students, we all identified by our decision on whether or not to go Greek. Now, as an Independent student by choice, I know that I am much more than my decision not to rush.

Students who don’t join Greek life are often called “unaffiliated” – but in my experience, Independent students affiliate themselves with tons of organizations on Butler’s campus. With over 130 student organizations to choose from, religion to politics, professional to social, student government to special interests and beyond, we have so, so many opportunities to get involved on campus.

Just over the past three years, I’ve tried out many of the groups that Butler has to offer, including founding a new club, restarting another, and currently serving as president in a third. I don’t feel like my decision not to rush limited my involvement in these organizations – if anything, it allowed me to dedicate myself fully to other groups that were important to me. These groups have given me leadership opportunities, social activities, and the chance to meet some of my best friends – who are both Greek and Independent.

Greek houses host regular events on campus, and most students who join Greek life are proud of their houses and their involvement, and this can sometimes lead to so much Greek presence that it can feel overwhelming to Independent students.

As a student that has been overwhelmed by this, I think it’s important to remember that the majority of Butler’s students aren’t considered Greek; whether they are commuters, athletes, dropped out of or didn’t receive a bid from a Greek house, or students like me that simply chose not to go Greek. Only about 35% of Butler’s campus chooses to join a Greek organization, which means that most Butler students are a part of the Independent community.

This community is growing, with more Independent students coming together for campus events that were typically Greek-dominated, like BUDM and Spring Sports. The past year also brought the Independent Student Council back to campus, a group of Independent students that hope to bridge the gap between the Greek and Independent communities and offer ways for Independent students to get involved. Butler has also encouraged panels and conversations about the decision to go Greek, as well as offering programming during the winter Rush Week.

Independent students are welcome at all events, and belong on Butler’s campus. Though they might not find their homes in the Greek houses along Hampton Drive, Independent students can find their home in other organizations, their residence halls, within their friend groups, or wherever else they want to belong.

 

To learn more about campus life, visit our website.

To Be Greek Or Not To Be Greek

by Kyle Giebel ’20 and Rebecca VanVliet ’19

Homecoming at Butler

By Brittany Bluthardt '20

The energy of Butler University’s campus during homecoming week is unlike any other. As the leaves finally begin to turn and crisp breezes begin to blow, a certain electricity slips into the air. Decked out in blue and white, students will celebrate their pride at events throughout the week, and alumni and families will dawn their Bulldog gear on Saturday to cheer on their favorite team in the Sellick Bowl. Homecoming celebrations and events are some of the most exciting, most memorable moments of the year. From extravagant lawn decorations to the parade down Hampton Drive, members of the Butler community share their school pride with the entire campus.

“On homecoming, everyone feels that energy at Butler,” Jennie Jones, Director of Volunteer Engagement for Alumni and Family Programs said. “I think there really is something for everyone at homecoming.”

With this year’s celebration, close to 1,000 alumni will travel from near and far to celebrate their Butler experience. Nostalgia intersects with pride as graduates, young and old, reminisce about their time at Butler with their former professors and friends. Conversations about the way things were naturally evolve into discussions about the way things are and what will be.

According to Jones, for many graduates, their four years at Butler were some of the most special times in their life. “It’s important for our alumni to see how campus is evolving and growing, so they’re proud of their Butler experience and can pay that forward to other students,” she said. Whether through monetary gifts, volunteering their time, or simply by visiting campus, alumni share their experience and make connections with current students. From the Bulldog Boulevard tailgate to classroom visits in the Jordan College of the Arts, students have the chance to meet with alumni in and out of the classroom throughout the week of homecoming.

For Chris Sanders ‘19, a current student and SGA’s VP of Programming, this time of year is extremely special for all parts of the Butler community. His passion for homecoming and Butler traditions is evident in his determination to connect all students, past and present.

“The pride that I feel when I am experiencing homecoming week is something that I appreciate so much,” he said. “Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to be going to such a great university, but it's weeks like this that put everything back into perspective. I hope that every student, alumni, faculty, and staff also feels the same amount of pride.”

As students prepare for an exciting weekend, they’re reminded of what it means to be a Bulldog. Some of Butler’s most recent graduates pay it forward on the Young Alumni Board. They dedicate their time to enhance every alumni’s experience post-graduation. For board member, Caleb Schmicker ‘15, homecoming is a time for him to relive many of his favorite Butler memories. He stays connected with his Alma Mater to further develop every current student’s experience. Alumni often volunteer in the community and on-campus to educate students about professional life off campus. Caleb said this is what makes Butler University so special.

“Support comes from alumni who are willing to give back because they want future students to have the same or better experience that they had,” he said. “When you feel as if you are a part of the Butler community, you have more of a vested interest in the welfare of the school.”

 

Homecoming Highlights


 

Snack Attack and Lawn Decorations

Before the start of homecoming week, Butler Greek organizations are teamed up with a residence hall to compete in a series of competitions, games, and events that showcase their school spirit. Homecoming board aims to make this year’s homecoming as inclusive as possible - ensuring all first-years feel connected and a part of something larger than themselves.

Late into Thursday night of the week, the entire campus comes to life as teams decorate their Greek house lawns according to the year’s theme. Every hour on the hour, SGA delivers a new snack food for the teams to replenish and re-energize before decorating into early Friday morning.

 

Yell Like Hell

After weeks of practice, the homecoming teams strut their stuff in front of hundreds of students at Yell Like Hell, an annual tradition celebrated by Butler students in Hinkle Fieldhouse. The team with the best Bulldog spirit and representation of the year’s theme takes home a thrilling victory. Some alumni still reminisce on their greatest wins, funniest losses, and unforgettable moments when they return to campus for the homecoming game.

Students also participate in the King and Queen competition leading up to the performance. Nominated by their peers, these students campaign throughout the week - sharing their Butler experiences and passion for the Dawgs with the entire campus.

 

Bulldog Beauty Contest

Bright and early on the day of homecoming, members of the community and their furry friends stop by Butler’s campus for the annual Bulldog Beauty Contest. Located in the heart of homecoming festivities, the contest kicks off the day with excitement and a contagious energy.  The bulldogs dress up in their finest outfits and costumes to impress the crowd and win one of the nine categories, from Best Dressed to Best Mean Mug. Every year, the competition grows in creativity as bulldog pups from near and far compete for the title of the Most Beautiful Bulldog - may the best dog win!

 

Bulldog Boulevard Tailgate

After a quick parade around campus, students head to Hinkle Fieldhouse to celebrate before the football game. Many Greek organizations, colleges, and clubs have a booth set up with food and games for current students and alumni to celebrate before kickoff. Starting in 2010, Bulldog Boulevard transformed the traditional tailgate experience into a Butler reunion and celebration for all.

 

FULL HOMECOMING 2018 SCHEDULE

Cheerleaders at Homecoming
Student-Centered

Homecoming at Butler

This exciting intersection of past and present has a little something for everyone.

Cheerleaders at Homecoming

Homecoming at Butler

By Brittany Bluthardt '20
Hardesty with Dean Shelley
Student-Centered

College of Education receives $1.25 Million Gift for Scholarships

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Sep 24 2018

Myrtle Hardesty '54 left Butler University before graduating, but the two years she spent as a Bulldog always meant something to her and her family.

So when she died in 2017, at age 95, she left the University a gift of $1.25 million to go toward scholarships in the College of Education.

The Myrtle Browning and James E. Hardesty Endowed Scholarships will be awarded to undergraduate students who have financial need, are majors in the College of Education, and have a GPA of 3.0 or better.

"She was one of those people who realized that she had been given a lot in life, and when you're given so much, you should turn around and give back," said Ena Shelley, Dean of the College of Education.
"That was very much what she was about—giving back. We will make sure we do a good job with the gift she has given to us."

Mrs. Hardesty told Dean Shelley she wanted the College of Education at Butler University to have the gift because her mother and father had been so proud of her for getting to Butler and for later becoming a teacher.

Myrtle Browning spent two years at Butler. She married an engineer named James Hardesty—they were together more than 40 years—and moved to New Jersey. She earned her bachelor's and master's in teaching and counseling from Montclair State University, and spent her career as a guidance counselor at the Hubbard Middle School in Plainfield, New Jersey.

In her retirement, she liked to spend time in the art studio in her home. In addition to her monetary gift, she also left one of her paintings to the College of Education.

Dean Shelley visited Mrs. Hardesty at her home in New Jersey in early 2017 and described her as "absolutely darling. I'm so glad I got to meet her. She was such a sweet, sweet woman."

The Dean said the Hardesty gift is going to make it possible for Butler to educate more teachers.

"This is a great step forward in meeting the teacher shortage demands and for us to have some resources to offer students," she said. "This helps our ability to bring more students in to teacher education."

This gift supports the Butler 2020 Strategic Plan which was approved by the Board of Trustees in the fall of 2013. Butler 2020 charts a bold course for Butler’s future through which it will preserve the University’s unique character, distinguish Butler as a school of choice for exceptional students, and increase its national prominence. In support of Butler 2020, the University has 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 and two undergraduate residential communities, Fairview House and Irvington House. In the fall of 2019, the Andre B. Lacy School of Business will open a new 110,000 square foot building. Additionally, Butler is actively fundraising to complete a $93 million Science Complex expansion and renovation. To learn more, visit butler.edu.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan MFA '18
News Manager
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Hardesty with Dean Shelley
Student-Centered

College of Education receives $1.25 Million Gift for Scholarships

The Myrtle Browning & James E. Hardesty Endowed Scholarships will be awarded to students with financial need.

Sep 24 2018 Read more

Five Questions With A Butler RA

They’re one of the first people you meet on move-in day, and some of the last smiles you’ll see before you leave Butler University. Murjanatu Mutuwa is a senior RA in Irvington, the new, state-of-the-art residence hall on campus. Along with pursuing a double major in Strategic Communications and International Studies, Murjanatu spends countless hours with her residents on a daily basis. Butler RA’s are full-time students who dedicate their time to helping students find their home away from home on campus. Murjanatu gives a bit of insight into her leadership experience.


Why did you decide to become an RA?

“I thought it made sense. I loved being able to care for people and I like planning things. I also make a mean door dec, so I thought, ‘Hey, maybe this job was made for me!’”


What's your favorite memory as an RA?

“I threw my resident's a formal. It was so fun to see them all get dressed up and dance together. Afterwards, they sent me a card with a photo of all of us smiling together.”


How do you think being an RA has impacted your Butler experience?

“This isn't just a job, these are the people you live with and the people you end up caring the most for.”


What are some of the challenges you've had to overcome as an RA?

“It's a huge time commitment, and it's hard to be a student with all the academic and social expectations. Along with the school work, you are also a support system, advisor, and rule-enforcer for 40 individuals. It is hard to juggle all of that and to feel as though you are doing it well.”


What is your advice to future students interested in becoming an RA?

“It is the most rewarding role one can have on campus. If you take it seriously, you'll play a major role in your residents' lives, and they will a play key role in your Butler journey.”

 

Murjanatu
Student-Centered

Five Questions With A Butler RA

Murjanatu Mutuwa explains her experience as one of the most influential people on campus, an RA.

Meet the Class of 2022: Max Cordoba

When incoming first-year Theatre and Math major Max Cordoba flew to Los Angeles in February to attend the National Unified Auditions—a one-stop shop for high school seniors to audition for multiple universities—he had never even heard of Butler University. The Neward, California native’s intention was to audition for mainly private schools that had a special musical theatre degree, explore those options, and then pick whichever school felt right, offered the best financial aid, and allowed him to learn more about not only the fine arts, but math as well.

He spotted Butler’s name and decided it was in his best interest to at least do one more session—it was additional practice, after all.

In most auditions, Cordoba was asked to perform two monologues and two songs. In the audition with Butler, Professor of Theatre William Fisher asked Cordoba to do one of each to start. Cordoba chose to sing Beautiful City from the Broadway production Godspell. For his monologue, he chose to read an excerpt as Hank from Marvin’s Room—a piece he believed would put him “over the top for the audition.”

After his monologue, Fisher and Cordoba made an instant connection over Marvin’s Room.

"I almost thought my audition with Butler was going to be a practice session, but after my talk with Professor William Fisher, I thought this could be the right school,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba explained to Fisher that he is a big theatre lover, but he wanted to also major in something a little more practical.

“I didn’t want to put all my eggs in one basket, and I wanted to ensure I had math as a back-up since a major in theatre isn’t foolproof,” Cordoba said. “I really needed a school that understood that about me.”

Most schools Cordoba had talked to previously in the day had told him that pursuing math with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) was not a possibility. Fisher explained that at Butler it’s not a BFA, but rather a Bachelor of Arts, which offers more flexibility, as well as the option to incorporate his passion for math.

“He really convinced me to at least explore more,” Cordoba said, “Even though it’s really far away, Butler seemed open to my diverse interests.”

In April, Cordoba—joined by his grandfather—started the on-campus college visit journey,  exploring the various schools he was interested in—including Butler. While on campus, Cordoba had the opportunity to speak with professors, including Chair of the Theatre Department, Diane Timmerman. He also sat in on an improv class.

“The students were making me laugh. Just from that show alone, I saw what I loved about theatre,” he said. “The students were super friendly and amiable, and they love to act and perform.” When he left for his trip, he was excited about all the schools he was about to explore. After the trip, though, he realized that when he was making his rounds, he always found at least one thing he didn’t like—except for when he was at Butler.

“What really set it in stone for me for Butler was that it was a smaller school than most I was looking at, but it had a big school feel,” Cordoba said.

Cordoba arrived on campus August 12, and feels just as excited as nervous—as most students are their first year. Cordoba’s distance from his friends and family definitely makes it harder, especially when he was so involved with various theatre and chorus groups for the past eight years.

Despite the nervousness of new surroundings and being so far from home, Cordoba said he feels honored, “to go to a school that is super accepting and diverse.”

Max Cordoba
Student-Centered

Meet the Class of 2022: Max Cordoba

What brought Max from California to Indiana was Butler Theatre's faculty and flexibility. 

Meet the Class of 2022: Maria De Leon

Maria De Leon
Major: Peace and Conflict Studies
Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana
High School: Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet High School


“I’m really looking forward to growing my professional network in my Butler experience.”

 


 

Incoming first-year student Maria De Leon is leading her family in a number of firsts.

She’s the first of her family members to graduate high school.

She’ll be the first to attend college. This fall, Maria will be one of 1,357 first-year students in Butler University’s Class of 2022, the University’s largest class ever.

Maria is also the first in her family to travel to Washington DC to participate in a sit-in to persuade senators to vote “yes” for a clean Dream Act.

And—as a result of participating in that protest—she’s definitely the first to text her Butler admission counselor to ask how getting arrested might affect her admission.

Luckily, Maria didn’t need to worry about the answer to her text. She was not arrested for her participation, although some of her travel companions were. But the protest was still an emotional experience for her.  While she isn’t directly impacted by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legislation, her family and many of her friends are.

“My parents are immigrants, so they are affected by the immigration laws that the current administration is trying to put into place. Whatever happens with DACA will have a direct impact on my parents and my peers who want to attend college but might not be able to,” she explained.

Maria’s civic involvement began long before her DC trip. The Crispus Attucks High School salutatorian participated in last year’s nationwide “A Day Without Immigrants” rally.

“It was after this experience that I started asking more questions,” Maria said. “I asked, ‘How can I be more involved?,’ and ‘What can I do to help?’”

It was questions like these that landed her in contact with the Central Indiana Community Foundation, where she had the opportunity to be a Community Ambassador. In this role, Maria conducted in-depth research on a community of her choosing. As the daughter of two Guatemalan immigrants, Maria chose to research the Hispanic and Latino communities in Indianapolis.

“I wanted to know what my community was facing. Just because I’m Latina and have immigrant parents doesn’t mean I know everything,” she said.

Beyond rallies, Maria was also heavily involved in advocacy and raising awareness about various social issues at her high school. She founded the International Club at Crispus Attucks and was also a leader in her school’s NO MORE Club, designed to raise awareness about domestic violence. She’s interned with the Domestic Violence Youth Network and the Center for Victim and Human Rights (CVHR), and a teen dating violence policy she worked on will be implemented at Indianapolis Public Schools this fall.

These leadership efforts helped her earn the competitive Lilly Endowment Scholarship, which offers four-year, full-tuition scholarships to select Indiana students in all 92 counties. Candidates for the prestigious award must display “notable abilities, leadership skills, and civic potential through community service, exemplary school citizenship, and outstanding academic performance.” Maria is one of 20 Lilly Scholars in Butler’s incoming class this year.

Maria will continue her advocacy efforts at Butler, where she plans to double major in Peace and Conflict Studies and Political Science. She’s already lined up a gig on campus as an assistant in the Office of Health Education and Outreach Programs.

Butler’s Associate Director of Health Education and Outreach Programs Sarah Diaz believes Maria will be an excellent fit for their office.

 “She is coming in with this very solid foundation of knowledge around sexual violence, also some knowledge of the resources within our community because she done work with them, and she has had the experience of being a peer educator,” Diaz said. “She’s  the whole package of what our office does.”

Whole package, indeed.

Maria De Leon
Student-Centered

Meet the Class of 2022: Maria De Leon

Incoming first-year student Maria De Leon is leading her family in a number of firsts.  

Meet the Class of 2022: Jack Kane

Jack Kane
Major: Accounting
Hometown: Arlington Heights, Illinois
High School: Rolling Meadows High School

 

"I'm looking forward to meeting new people and the new experiences, and all of the fun that comes with college and everything." 
 


 

Racing remote-controlled model airplanes has been part of Jack Kane's life for longer than he can remember. He was 2 months old the first time he attended a competition, and the hobby has taken him around the country (California, Colorado, Arizona, Florida) and the world (Australia, the Netherlands, England, Switzerland).

And now, it’s a hobby he hopes to continue in Indianapolis. Jack will be one of 1,357 first-year students in Butler’s Class of 2022, the University’s largest class ever.

"My dad's dad started doing this in the '60s and '70s," Jack said. "My grandpa was obsessed with it. Then my dad followed in his footsteps to be closer to his dad, and I followed to be closer to my dad too."

Jack and his dad fly Formula 1 and Quickee planes that are about 3 or 4 feet long and have a wingspan of roughly 6 feet. In competitions, they race against three other flyers at a time on a mile-long course. The first one to navigate around three pylons and get back quickest wins.

Winners take home trophies—there's no prize money—and in the past five years, since Jack's been an active participant with his dad, they've won about 20.

Jack said competitions are meant "to just enjoy yourself and have fun with your friends."

"But it's an adrenaline rush," he said. "These planes are going about 200 miles an hour around a mile course. It gets your heart pumping a little bit."

Jack said the biggest competition is held annually in Muncie, Indiana—and that, in part, is how he ended up applying to  Butler University. He would see Butler billboards on I-465 heading toward I-69 to Muncie, and that piqued his interest enough to investigate further. He liked what he found.

Like Jack, more than 25 percent  of this year’s class hails from Illinois. As an incoming Accounting major, he’ll be among the first Lacy School of Business students to enjoy the college’s new building. Set to open in August 2019, the new business facilities will feature a trading room, food service, and a rooftop deck.

When he's at Butler, Jack plans to try to continue racing planes.

"But," he said, "I'm putting school first."

Jack Kane
Student-Centered

Meet the Class of 2022: Jack Kane

An native of Illinois, Jack has traveled the world racing remote-controlled airplanes.

Meet the Class of 2022: Kate Callihan

Kate Callihan
Major: Sports Media
Hometown: Austin, Texas
High School: Westlake High School

 

"I am most excited about the growing Sports Media program. It offers so many opportunities here and around Indy, and the professors show so much interest in the students already and classes haven't even started yet. Working with people who are likeminded and driven is going to be just incredible."
 


 

Like many high schoolers, Kate Callihan and her classmates studied the Vietnam war during their junior year.They read The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, heard from veterans who visited their class, and, as a final assignment, researched an American soldier who died in, or as a result of, the war.

Unlike many high schoolers, though, Kate took this assignment to the next level–and discovered a passion for storytelling in the process.

The name Kate was assigned was Michael Meyhoff. Rather than do some cursory research, she tracked down his family in North Dakota and made a 20-minute documentary using home movies, photos, and recollections of family and friends.

"I absolutely loved every second of it," she said.

Kate said she'd always loved writing, but it wasn’t until this project that she realized how much she loved storytelling. She narrated the video, "and at the beginning you can hear how timid I was and by the end of it I really found my voice and confidence."

"I realized that by telling this story I was not only impacting my grade and my own agenda, but there was a whole community that benefited from it and it was an absolutely incredible experience," she said.

Kate's English teacher, Dr. James Moore, wrote this about her effort: "The work you put in with calls, interviews, and emails eclipsed that of your classmates tenfold at least. I can tell that you really delved into the material, too, mining it for any little detail that would help fill out your story. "

Kate will continue honing her storytelling craft as a Sports Media major at Butler this fall. She will be one of 1,357 first-year students in Butler’s Class of 2022, the University’s largest class ever.

Butler’s Sports Media program drew her to Indianapolis–and it’s drawn others, too. Since 2017, the number of first-year students enrolling in Sports Media has more than doubled. The program, an integration of Sports Journalism and Digital Sports Production, is the only degreed program of its kind in Indiana, and one of only a handful of degreed programs in the Midwest.

In addition to studying Sports Media at Butler, Kate plans to double minor in Marketing and Theology, with a focus on Monotheism and Biblical Studies. She hopes one day to combine her interests in sports media and theology to bring teams to third-world countries to teach the children there how to play sports.

But that's the future. For now, she said, "I feel blessed to be part of the young Sports Media program and blessed to be part of Butler."

Kate Callihan
Student-Centered

Meet the Class of 2022: Kate Callihan

Butler's Sports Media program drew Kate to Indiana from Texas.

Meet the Class of 2022: Ben Varner

Ben Varner
Major: Engineering Dual Degree Program
Hometown: Metamora, Michigan
High School: Oxford High School

"What I'm looking forward to the most in my time at Butler is meeting new people and getting the opportunity to live and hopefuly, work in Indianapolis."

 


 

Ben Varner's dad took him to a local go-kart track when he was 7. That started his competitive fires.

And he’s counting on Butler University to keep them going.

For the past 11 years, Ben has been competing in go-kart racing—and winning. He has more than 60 career wins and a list of achievements that include: 2011 Great Lakes Sprint Series Season Champion; 2016 East Lansing Kart Track Season Champion; 5th Place US Pro Kart Series Season Championship; and WKA Manufacturers cup win.

In 2017, after 10 years of go-kart racing, Ben got enough funding to take a step up into Formula cars. The next step, he hopes, will be IndyCar. His dream is to win the Indianapolis 500.

Achieving that dream, though, requires finding financing, he said. In the complicated and expensive world of auto racing, it can take mid-six-figure investments just to get started.

"You could be the best driver in the country and not have any financial backing and you wouldn't be able to get anywhere," he said.

So while he works toward that, Ben also has a backup plan: He wants to be an IndyCar engineer. To achieve that goal, he chose Butler's Engineering Dual Degree Program (EDDP), figuring that attending school within seven miles of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a smart strategy.

“We were at the Indy 500 a few years ago, and my dad told me about Butler,” he said. “We went and visited during the 500 weekend. I really liked the campus, and we talked to Jessica McCormick (Academic Program Coordinator) about the engineering program. I knew it would be a really good fit.”

Butler’s 5-year Engineering Dual Degree Program integrates curriculum from Butler University and Purdue University. Students enroll at both universities, and courses are taught on Butler’s campus during the first three years. In the final two years, courses are held at Butler and at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

Ben will be one of 1,357 first-year students in Butler’s Class of 2022, the University’s largest class ever. As a Michigander, he’ll be in good company on campus–76 other new Bulldogs are also from the state. Since 2015, applications for admission by Michigan high schoolers have increased by more than 80 percent.

Last May, Varner shadowed the engineers at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and he hopes to work with them again.

While he's looking forward to starting his college career, he also appreciates what he's achieved so far.

"It's been a ride, that's for sure," he said.

Ben Varner
Student-Centered

Meet the Class of 2022: Ben Varner

 Originally from Michigan, Ben is a competitive Forumal car racer who is majoring in Engineering.

Abiodun
Student-Centered

From Nigeria to Butler, First Year Up to the Challenge

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 20 2018

INDIANAPOLIS— It started as a friendly wager.

Teacher to pupil. Apply to as many colleges as possible, with the goal of earning at least $1 million in scholarship offers. But the accounts differ, a bit. According to teacher, it was a way for pupil to ‘explore his options.’ According to pupil, it was a way to get ‘$200 to take his girlfriend on a date to Buffalo Wild Wings.’ That’s a lot of wings.

Either way, pupil won the bet. Or, teacher won the bet. Well, those accounts differ, too, depending on who you ask.

Abiodun Akinseye applied to 32 colleges. He finished 28 applications. He was accepted into 30 colleges. Wait, what? Yes, two schools accepted him without a complete application. He has a heaping pile of acceptance letters to prove it, along with the multiple days it took to clean out the 2,000-plus emails he accumulated from different schools. There was Union College, Samford, Wittenberg, Central State, it’s hard for him to remember them all, but most states in the U.S. were covered. At the end of it all, Abiodun had more than $1 million in scholarship offers. And $200 from his teacher.

Genevieve McLeish-Petty wanted Abiodun to push himself. To explore his options. In her 17 years of teaching, she never came across a student quite like Abiodun. She knew the Northwest High School valedictorian was capable of getting into several colleges, but she wanted him to know it, too. So, she threw in a $200 motivator – earn the most scholarship money in the school and get $200. Next thing she knew, it seemed like Abiodun was coming up to her every day with another acceptance letter. And more scholarship money.

In the end, Abiodun chose Butler University. A campus he first stepped foot onto as a 10th grader, he was drawn to Butler’s location, size, Honors Program, and liberal arts education. But most of all, he was drawn to Butler because he knew it would challenge him. And though he made the college application process look easy, his road from Nigeria to Indianapolis was anything but.

“There’s definitely a reason I keep all of those acceptance letters at home in a big box,” says Abiodun, as he scrolls through pictures on his phone until he gets to the one he is looking for – a picture of all the acceptance letters and envelopes piled high. “I want to keep them to show how far I have come and how hard I have worked to get to where I am. I went from Nigeria, and tough, tough times, to graduating at the top of my class, and now really a dream at Butler. So, it has been good, but challenging, and now I want another challenge.”

I went from Nigeria, and tough, tough times, to graduating at the top of my class, and now really a dream at Butler.

From Nigeria to the U.S.

Abiodun grew up in Nigeria until he was five. He remembers it well. But he also vividly remembers why his family fled for America.

There was family tragedy. His aunt tried to kill him and his two brothers, so his mother and father moved the family to America. Abiodun still has nightmares about the pain he felt from being poisoned. He felt like he was on fire. About his mom crying next to him when he was laying in the hospital bed.

He also felt guilty for a long time. He was in charge of watching his younger brother when the hitman came and hit his brother with a motorcycle. He blamed himself.

They settled in Indianapolis in 2005. Abiodun remembers the cereal Corn Flakes and wondering what it was. He remembers the music. He definitely didn’t understand the music. The first song he heard was Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” and he wasn’t a fan of all the heavy bass. He taught himself English by watching "Sesame Street" daily. His favorite character was Cookie Monster, he could relate to his appetite. Then there was the snow. His family had no idea what the white stuff falling from the sky was. His mom warned him not to touch it. He still prefers summer to winter.

“What’s crazy is I never expected life to be harder in America than in Nigeria,” Abiodun says. “When I came here, things got worse.”

Abiodun was bullied in school. Classmates called him an “African booty scratcher.” They threw paper balls at him, made him feel ashamed of being Nigerian, and made fun of his accent. They asked him if he was related to monkeys, if turning the lights off would make his skin disappear, and if he knew what deodorant was.

He told his mom about the bullying, so he changed schools. But the bullying continued.

“The bullying caused me to be depressed and for years I really didn’t know how to deal with my emotions or my feelings,” he says. “It’s still hard, because the depression turned into anxiety,  and it was all tough.”

The adjustment has been difficult, he says. His family lives in Speedway. His mom and dad are both nurses. He has an older brother and three younger brothers. And quickly, Abiodun realized, academics and art were his refuge.

 

His Escape

Abiodun’s mother told him when he was young that education would be his escape. He says that always stuck with him.

So, when the bullying persisted, and he was down, he would focus on his studies, he says. Education runs in his family. His mom got her Master’s Degree a few years after they moved to the U.S. His dad has his Bachelor’s Degree from Nigeria. His grandmother’s sister has a doctorate in education. His favorite aunt got her Bachelor’s Degree a few years ago in the U.S.

His best friends growing up?

“The characters in books,” Abiodun says. “I spent all my time reading and studying. I would read the dictionary to grow my vocabulary. I love fiction with elements of reality because those books give me the ability to jump from the real world, but not take the full leap to the stars.”

He loves “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and the Percy Jackson series. Usually, if he’s into a book, he will finish it in a few hours.

Drawing runs in his family, too. And it is something that has always helped him with his depression, he says. He started drawing when he was four. His dad taught him how when they lived in Nigeria.

Now, he fills up sketchpad after sketchpad. He makes sure to draw in pen, as opposed to pencil, to avoid overthinking. Pencil, he says, gives him the option to erase.

“Drawing helps me control my emotions,” he says. “It helps me take what is in my head, what is bothering me or what I am thinking about, and get it out and put it on paper in a creative form.”

 

The Last Valedictorian

McLeish-Petty knew about Abiodun before he ever enrolled in her sophomore honors English class at Northwest High School.

She ran the honors program at the school, so she had a whole lot of practice typing out his name. He broke test-score records, was known for his creativity, and of course, for how bright he was. At first, Abiodun was quiet, but as he became more comfortable, he started to challenge the class.

“We read some difficult literature and Abiodun was able to facilitate conversations when I couldn’t get the rest of the class on board,” she says. “He would stir up conversations by playing devil’s advocate, he would make everyone think in different ways. His fascination with certain topics were lightyears ahead of what a high school kid typically thinks about.”

Most students, McLeish-Petty says, just want an answer so they can put it down. Abiodun wanted to know why; he wanted to know what was the point. He was very refreshing, she says.

Then there was the time she tricked Abiodun into joining the drama club when he was a sophomore. It started as him working behind the scenes. She convinced him to design the sets for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

“Because he is so smart, after a couple days, he knew everyone’s lines and where everyone should be,” McLeish-Petty says. “By the time the show opened, we had some people quit and Abiodun filled in as Grandma Josephine and doubled as an oompa loompa.”

By the time he was a senior, he was the lead in the school play.

Abiodun would end up with a 4.1 GPA. He would deliver the school’s final valedictorian address – the building will shift to a middle school in the fall. He would discuss religion and politics with McLeish-Petty for hours. He won $12,000 when he wrote a two-page essay about his life for a Kiwanis Club scholarship that honors local high schoolers for their resilience.

It wasn’t just teacher helping pupil. Abiodun forever changed McLeish-Petty.

A high school teacher for 17 years, Abiodun got her thinking. If she had been in his life earlier, around the time he started being bullied, she could have tried to make it better much sooner. How many young people are there out there who just need someone to talk to, she started to wonder.

For the first time in 17 years, McLeish-Petty won’t be teaching high school this school year. She will be teaching at Coldspring Elementary School. Something Abiodun inspired.

“Every once in awhile you have a student come through who you know will be in your life way past graduation,” she says. “Abiodun is one of those people. He’s not just smart. He’s self-aware, he wants to have an impact, he will befriend the kid that is sitting alone. I am positive I will still be talking to Abiodun in 15 years.”

 

Change-Maker

It’s a few days before the start of his first year, and Abiodun is walking around Butler’s campus.

He says he feels excited about the start of classes, but definitely a bit anxious. He’ll be taking Spanish – his fourth language (he already speaks English, French, and Yoruba), Calculus, Honors First Year Seminar, and Introduction to Art.

Abiodun plans on majoring in Psychology and minoring in Art and English. He hopes to write a book, and also help others who are going through depression. He’s interested in child psychology, and also art therapy.

“Maybe I will be able to make a change and help,” he says. “I definitely want to write my own book when I’m done with college.”

But that is down the line. For now, he wonders if he will play intramural soccer, maybe join student government, maybe get involved in a video game club. He’s excited for the food on campus. He hopes to make some friends.

He remembers back when he was in 10th grade and came to Butler’s campus for the first time on a school trip.

“I wasn’t that impressed,” he says. “But that’s because I was a judgmental teenager. As I saw more and more schools, I realized how big they were, and crowded, and confusing, and I realized how much I liked Butler. It was a perfect size.”

Here he is, 30 acceptances later. There may be differing accounts about why Abiodun applied to so many schools. But, one thing is clear: he’s up to whatever challenges are ahead.

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Abiodun
Student-Centered

From Nigeria to Butler, First Year Up to the Challenge

30 acceptances later, Abiodun plans a psych major to help others.

Aug 20 2018 Read more

A Career That's Off to the Races

By Elizabeth Duis '20

Name: Zach Horrall
Hometown: Vincennes, IN
Major(s): Journalism, Spanish minor
Anticipated Grad Date: Spring 2019
Career Goals: Become a NASCAR reporter; travel and cover motor sports

 

Maybe it’s the sound. Maybe it’s the crowd. Maybe it’s the speed. Maybe it’s all of the above. Zach Horrall loves racing and hopes to make a career of it. But his route to victory in the sport isn’t exactly what you’d expect.

Growing up only two hours south of Indianapolis, Zach Horrall watched countless NASCAR, stock, and Indy car races. Frequent trips to the city fueled Zach’s desire to become a part of the racing community. This passion quickly merged with his talent for writing, and he began to aspire towards sports journalism. When the time came to make a college decision, Zach knew exactly where he wanted to be.

“There are two major racing hubs: Charlotte, North Carolina and Indianapolis,” Zach explained. “From there, I felt like Butler was the best school in Indy.”

Zach describes Butler’s caring community as plainly evident from his first visit. Small details like someone going out of their way to hold a door or an advisor’s genuine interest in him contributed to Zach’s overall view of Butler as a place where he could succeed.

During Zach’s first and second years, Butler’s sports media program owned and operated a website. After convincing the director to let him write for the website, Zach handled all the racing coverage. Covering one race in particular would change the course of his career.

While covering the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2016, Zach ran into his sports journalism idol Marty Smith. Smith was a general assignment reporter for ESPN who was also covering the race. Zach promptly introduced himself and explained his passion for sports journalism. It was then that Smith pointed to IndyStar’s table of employees and prompted Zach to reach out.

Believing he had plenty of time, Zach continued his coverage of the race in the hopes of approaching IndyStar later in the day. At the conclusion of the race, Zach looked back to see the table packed up and the employees about to leave. Practically running so as not to miss the chance, Zach approached the group, introduced himself, and inquired about a writing position.

Two years later, Zach Horrall is about to celebrate his second anniversary at The Indianapolis Star. This same interest in racing has transformed into a sports writing internship at one of the largest news sources in the state. His involvement with IndyStar began in a sports clerk role covering high school sports and has grown into the coverage of major motor sporting events such as the 2017 U.S. Nationals and this past spring’s Indy 500. A few of his stories have also been picked up by USA Today.

Zach attributes much of his academic and professional development to journalism classes and his time with the Butler Collegian. This experience provided real-world exposure that allowed Zach to learn in a hands-on setting. He will use these real-world lessons to serve as the Digital Managing Editor for the Collegian this upcoming academic year.

Moving forward, this successful senior aspires to continue working in racing, specifically as a NASCAR reporter. Zach maintains that as long as he can remain part of the racing community, he will be content and excited to go to work.

“I’m a very optimistic, happy-go-lucky person, and I want to maintain that attitude. I know the only way for me to do that is to do something I love,” Zach explained. “I want to be a person who says ‘I don’t have to go to work, I get to go to work.’”

This enthusiasm springs from a desire to share live sports with people. Not everyone has the ability to see a race, and Zach’s aim is to make these quick getaways accessible for everyone. He believes that everyone deserves the getaway from everyday stresses that sports can provide.

“Even if it’s only for a two or three hour race, everyone deserves that break from time to time,” Zach shared. “Racing isn’t the most popular thing in the world, but I want to show people why I love it and why it’s so interesting.”

To aspiring writers, Zach would like them to realize that it is possible to pursue a passion. Though covering a NASCAR race might not often be associated with journalism, it’s important to know yourself and explore the variety of positions available.

“The way that I’ve lived my life is to never take ‘no’ for an answer and never be afraid. If I was afraid to talk to my idol Marty Smith, I wouldn’t be where I am right now,” Zach explained. “You have to take chances because if you don’t, you will never meet your full potential.”

Student-Centered

A Career That's Off to the Races

Zach Horrall's route to victory in racing isn’t exactly what you’d expect.

A Career That's Off to the Races

By Elizabeth Duis '20

10 Things Every Bulldog Should Do Before They Graduate

By Shannon Rostin '18

Four years of being a Bulldog will go by quicker than you can imagine.  Your years will be full of unique experiences in Indy, here is a list of bucket list items every bulldog should cross off before leaving Butler to conquer the world. 

  1. Cheer on the Indiana Pacers or Fever 
    Butler Basketball will always have your heart, but spend a night with the professionals cheering on the Pacers or Fever at Bankers Life Fieldhouse
     
  2. Live concerts
    Indy has access to some of the coolest live music venues, such as Ruoff Home Mortgage Music Center (formerly known as  Klipsch), The Old National Centre, and the HiFi. See your favorite artists come through Indy in intimate and unique venues. Seeing Rihanna live wasn’t on my bucket list when I came to college, but after experiencing it, it should have been.
     
  3. Walk to Newfields (formerly the IMA)
    Free membership for Butler students includes access to a world of art, almost in your backyard. Take a relaxing walk down the canal, and you’ve arrived at 152 acres of gardens, grounds, and galleries. Be sure to explore The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres while
    Funky Bones
    Image courtesy of Newfields. 
    the weather is nice, including Funky Bones - a great spot for an afternoon picnic with friends.
     
  4. Intern in Indy
    Indy has access to cool, exciting intern opportunities. Indianapolis professionals have connections near and far that could help launch your career. Being an intern in Indianapolis lets you connect even more to the community and see why many young professionals call Indy home. Butler Students have had opportunities to work with The Indiana Pacers, Do317, Eli Lilly, Roche and more, bettering themselves and their city.
     
  5. Represent at a Colt’s Game
    Nothing makes you feel more a part of the Indy community more than being at a packed Colt’s game at Lucas Oil Stadium with fans clad in blue and white. Fun fact: you can also get a group together and tour the stadium.
     
  6. Festivals
    Fill up on the best Indy has to offer. Take a break from the grind of studying to check out popular festivals such as Heartland Film Fest, First Friday Food Trucks, The Taste of Broad Ripple, and the many art shows happening around Broad Ripple and Rocky Ripple areas.
     
  7. Volunteer with our non profits
    Working with Indianapolis nonprofits is fulfilling and there are many causes to get connected with. Bulldogs have had the chance to be inspired by organizations such as Girls Rock, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, People For Urban Progress, and The Damien Center, among many other local nonprofits. Butler encourages its students to be active leaders on campus and within their communities, demonstrated by sending ‘Dawgs out to better Indy.
     
    Fountain Square
    Image dourtesy of Visit Indy.
  8. Fountain Square
    An artistic and lively section of Downtown, Fountain Square offers some of the best in entertainment, food, and nightlife. Fountain Square is known for its lively art culture and entertainment, with highlights such as the Fountain Square Music Festival, the iconic  Duckpin Bowling, RadioRadio venue, and the artist studios in the Murphy Building.
     
  9. Shop local (Mass Ave)
    Indy has no shortage of small and local businesses to support. Mass Ave is home to many locally owned shops and restaurants to explore on a fun weekend. Mass Ave is located a short 15-minute drive from campus, and you will never be bored roaming downtown’s shops and restaurants. Some Bulldogs favorite memories have been made by going to Mass Ave without a plan and finding their new favorite local restaurant or shop.
     
  10. Take cliche “I love my city & I never want to leave” pictures by Soldier and Sailors Monument / Monument Circle
    A popular tourist attraction, anyone new to Indy should go see Monument Circle. It’s especially fun when it is lit up during the holiday season. As one of the most photogenic spots in Indy, it may be the quintessential Indianapolis selfie sight. It’s almost like being a tourist in a city you’ve lived in for four years.
Downtown Indy
Student-Centered

10 Things Every Bulldog Should Do Before They Graduate

A bucket list of items every bulldog should cross off before leaving Butler to conquer the world. 

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