Last fall, Butler University was awarded a $2.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to fund its new Butler Beyond Transformation Lab. The creation of the Transformation Lab is a significant step in advancing the University’s new strategic direction, Butler Beyond, which seeks to build upon Butler’s strengths in delivering an exceptional undergraduate residential education while expanding opportunities for lifelong learning and new educational pathways that are more accessible and affordable. The Transformation Lab will serve as a hub of resources, expertise, and activity to accelerate the development of future-oriented models of education and related ventures that contribute to the long-term success of the University and the learners it serves.

The Transformation Lab will work with faculty, staff, and the external community to identify, design, and pilot future-oriented education initiatives that align with both the University’s strategy and the needs of learners across the state. This will include exploring emerging concepts designed to create greater access to education, adapting the educational experience to those who want to continually upskill and reskill, and pivoting higher education to an increasingly digital experience. Co-creation of innovative solutions will be a primary tenet of the Transformation Lab’s work, achieved through collaboration with a robust local and national network of education experts, corporate leaders, workforce and economic development organizations, non-traditional education providers, and other forward-looking universities.

For instance, one early focus area for the Transformation Lab is a unique new program combining the strengths of a public and private university through a collaborative fellowship program between Purdue University and Butler University called the Learning Innovation Fellows Program. Each University will name as many as three fellows with joint appointments at each university during their terms, for the purposes of advancing undergraduate teaching and learning in the digital age. Jointly, the fellows will identify the best opportunities to pilot the creation of transdisciplinary programs at each university and create related programs, courses, and experiences. Together, Butler and Purdue aspire to share their learnings from the fellowship program with other colleges and universities in the state.

Along with establishing a $500,000 seed fund to support select pilot projects and ventures, funding from Lilly Endowment will be used to enhance a physical space on campus for the Transformation Lab, convene higher education experts and university faculty and staff for discussion and collaboration, and add additional personnel to support the University in moving ideas to viable solutions.

The $2.5 million grant from Lilly Endowment to establish the Transformation Lab is a meaningful step toward the University’s goal to raise a total of $25 million for initiatives that drive transformation throughout the University and within the broader landscape of higher education as part of its $250 million Butler Beyond comprehensive fundraising campaign.