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Recording in Studio

Good things happen when there's a Butler Bulldog in the room. 

 

Thoughts turn into action. Ideas are elevated. And the potential of others is reached. 

 

Because we aren't just dreamers. We're doers. And when you UNLEASH a Butler Bulldog, good things happen. 

 

 

JUUL research
ResearchUnleashed

New Study: Students Report Harmful Effects from Vaping, Don’t Use JUUL to Quit Smoking

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 07 2019

When e-cigarettes first hit the market, manufacturers sold them as a cleaner, safer alternative to combustible cigarettes. They targeted current smokers, touting vape as a good way to quit.

“But that is clearly not how they are being used,” says Amy Peak, Butler University’s Director of Undergraduate Health Science Programs. Her recent research about the harmful effects of vaping included a survey of nearly 1,000 college students.

research results Peak recently completed this large-scale study in collaboration with Sarah Knight, a senior Health Science major, and they presented their findings at the 2019 Indiana Life Sciences Summit on September 26.

They discovered that, while vaping was originally promoted as a safer alternative for existing smokers, most young vape users are brand new to nicotine. And it probably isn’t any safer, either, with most users experiencing a variety of harmful effects.

In data gathered throughout the past year, Peak found that almost 60 percent of college students had used a JUUL—the most popular e-cigarette in the United States. Of the students who vaped, 90 percent had never smoked a traditional cigarette. Only 3 percent of respondents said they used JUUL in an effort to quit smoking.

“Vaping is clearly an entry-level thing,” Peak explains. “It is not something that the college population is using as a smoking cessation product.”

And for pretty much everyone who vapes, even occasionally, there are consequences.

The most common adverse reaction found in Peak’s study was coughing, a symptom reported in about a third of all users. Other common harmful effects included nose or throat irritation (20 percent of users), headaches (18 percent), shortness of breath (16 percent), and difficulty sleeping (6 percent). For most of these effects, Peak found that the more often someone vaped, the more likely they were to experience these side effects.

Nicotine withdrawal was also common, affecting 72 percent of heavy users, 54 percent of moderate users, and 8 percent of occasional users. Reported withdrawal symptoms included cravings, headaches, mood changes, and the inability to think clearly. Peak explains that the form of nicotine used in JUUL pods provides a faster, harder hit than combustible cigarettes, which makes vaping more addictive per use than smoking.

“There is no doubt that this is an addictive substance,” she says. “It is something that people are going to have substantial trouble coming off of if they are using it regularly.”research results

The study also found that almost all college students who vaped had done so in a social setting, sharing e-cigarettes with others, which could contribute to the spread of infectious disease. Of the respondents who used vaping products, 95 percent had put a JUUL in their mouths immediately after it was in someone else’s mouth. Peak says this could spread any form of bacteria or virus that is transmitted via saliva, including some forms of herpes, mononucleosis, influenza, norovirus, or strep throat—just to name a few. This risk of spreading infectious disease is not typically seen with combustible cigarettes.

“That, in and of itself, I think is a public health hazard no one is talking about,” Peak says.

Going forward, Peak plans to partner with Butler Biological Sciences Lecturer Mike Trombley to look deeper into that infectious disease potential.

Before collaborating with Peak on this research, student Sarah Knight had noticed many of her college-aged peers starting to use JUUL without knowing much about it. She wanted to help fill gaps in existing research about the risks of vaping, and she enjoyed the chance to be part of something that has such an immediate impact on public health.

“There is a misconception that vaping is a safer alternative to combustible cigarettes,” Peak says. “My hope is that, as this data comes out, we have mounting evidence that changes this idea.”

She explains that most people assume that just because you don’t see smoke or smell tar when using JUUL, it must be safer than a combustible cigarette. This has created an environment where vaping is a lot more socially acceptable than smoking.

“But this is just a different delivery device for an incredibly addictive substance—and a substance that is mixed with flavorings and colorings that have no business being inhaled,” Peak says.

Those candy-like flavors—now facing a potential ban—have made JUUL especially appealing to young people. And as new lung illnesses have brought vaping products under more nationwide scrutiny in recent weeks, Peak hopes this study will join the conversation in a way that helps teens and college students understand that adding an “e” doesn’t make cigarettes any safer.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

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

JUUL research
ResearchUnleashed

New Study: Students Report Harmful Effects from Vaping, Don’t Use JUUL to Quit Smoking

Professor Amy Peak and student Sarah Knight surveyed nearly 1,000 college students about experiences with JUUL use.

Oct 07 2019 Read more
Understanding Esports
AcademicsArts & Culture

Butler Prof Explores Rise of Esports in New Book

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 01 2019

When Ryan Rogers was writing the syllabus for a new esports class at Butler University, the required reading section glared back at him. He needed to find books that covered the rapidly growing competitive video game industry, but there weren’t many to choose from. 

So Rogers, Assistant Professor of Creative Media and Entertainment, decided to create his own.

Understanding Esports: An Introduction to the Global Phenomenon hit the shelves in late September. Containing chapters written by 30 contributors from a variety of backgrounds, the book explores the rise of the esports industry and its significance within media, culture, education, and the economy.

But, what exactly are esports?

You’ll probably get a different answer from everyone you ask, says Rogers, whose research has explored the ways different forms of media—especially video games—influence their audiences. That’s why he wanted to build a conversation through an edited book with multiple authors. But he says a professional, competitive element generally sets esports apart from other video games.

Almost any time you play a video game, it can be competitive. But with esports, there’s something deeper than just trying to beat your friend’s score in the latest version of Super Mario Bros. Esports have an organized structure, with leagues, tournaments, and governing bodies setting standards and overseeing competition.

“I felt like there was really a need to understand this phenomenon and build a body of knowledge around it,” Rogers says. “Ultimately, I think it provides a broad view of the esports industry so that academics and industry professionals alike can wrap their minds around it.”

While Rogers solicited and edited all of the book’s chapters, he credits the other authors for making it possible—including Butler Journalism and Sports Media Associate Professor Lee Farquar, who wrote a chapter about the fighting genre of video games.

Rogers says the general lack of research on esports has to do with how quickly the industry has grown.

“As gaming culture evolved, esports became a thing that couldn’t be ignored,” he says. “It’s truly an international phenomenon with tons of money flowing in and more attention being paid to it each day.”

The role of esports within culture isn’t all that different from traditional sports, Rogers says. And esports are also similar to things like football or soccer when it comes to why so many people want to play—and watch—them. Whether on a field or on a screen, humans desire competition. People want to belong to something. They want to bond over common interests, and they want to have something to root for.

“People are arranging their media landscapes in order to gratify those needs,” Rogers says. “Video games and esports—whether you’re playing them or watching them—are serving those needs for a large population.”

And even beyond the people playing or watching the games, esports provide economic opportunities for the people creating, promoting, and reporting on them. 

“To me, esports represents another whole industry that our students can find jobs in,” Rogers says. “Traditional sports media is a competitive industry, but it is fairly stagnant in terms of growth. Meanwhile, the esports industry is growing exponentially. I see that and say ‘wow, that’s an opportunity for our students.’”

 

Media Contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

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

Understanding Esports
AcademicsArts & Culture

Butler Prof Explores Rise of Esports in New Book

Edited by Ryan Rogers, the book collects chapters from 30 contributors to provide big-picture view of esports.

Oct 01 2019 Read more
DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 10 2019

Many life-threatening diseases come from slight variations in our genetic codes. A problem with the BRCA1 gene makes a person more prone to certain cancers, for example, and mutations of the hemoglobin-Beta gene can lead to sickle cell anemia.

Not everyone with genetic mutations will develop the associated conditions, but just having a variation can change a person’s life—they’ll need to get tests, take pills, go through surgeries, and constantly worry that doing all of these things still won’t be enough.

So, what if we could fix the problem at its root?

Using a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for more than $711,000, that’s what Butler University Pharmaceutical Sciences Professor Alex Erkine is trying to work toward. The project falls into NSF’s fairly new Rules of Life category, which aims to promote discoveries related to fundamental questions about how living things work.

Erkine says genes can have a wide range of functionality levels. Scientists already understand that the level of functionality depends both on certain aspects of the gene itself, as well as on the quality of the proteins that bind with the gene. These proteins work as activators, helping determine the gene’s level of functionality by dimming it up or down—imagine a light dimmer controlling the brightness in a room.

The problem is, biochemists have never completely understood how that gene-regulating dimmer works. If we don’t know how it works, we don’t know how to control or replicate it, and we can’t effectively edit a person’s DNA. Erkine’s project combines biochemistry with informatics, or machine learning, to try and change that.

In the physical lab, researchers will transfer strands of unique DNA sequences into cells. Then they’ll rate each cell based on how functional the DNA sequence is. In the past, similar tests have only been able to analyze a few DNA samples at a time, but using bioinformatics and machine learning will allow Erkine and his collaborators to compare more than 10,000 cells at once.

The ability to work with such a large group of DNA sequences is game-changing, Erkine says, because researchers can find patterns that never would have shown up when only comparing a few samples. Using bioinformatics tools makes this possible.

While scientists have been trying to understand the gene activator mechanism for decades, Erkine says both the DNA sequences and the ways they interact are highly variable and almost random—but not completely. Patterns do emerge within large enough data sets, which is why massive amounts of data are key. Erkine says computer-based tools are necessary in trying to understand these near-chaotic processes because finding those patterns will help us predict how genetic structures might interact after the activators are edited.

By identifying common features between strands with similar functionality scores, the informatics tools should help answer the question of what makes one gene functional and another gene cause disease.

The finished project is expected to shed some light on how genes are regulated and exactly how specific parts of a gene would need to be altered to prevent certain diseases. Scientists already know which part of the gene needs to be changed—as they can recognize mutations in DNA—and they now have the power to make those specific changes with the recent discovery of the CRISPR-Cas9 DNA editing system. But Erkine’s project is trying to answer the question of how to change sequences in ways that achieve the desired outcome of curing disease. So, we can already recognize and remove a genetic mutation, but what DNA sequences can we use to effectively replace it?

One of the project’s goals is to create a computational algorithm that will predict how certain changes to the gene activator mechanism (or the dimmer) will affect the genes it is working on.

“It sounds easy—just create an algorithm,” Erkine says. “But in reality, the problem is not trivial, because we do not fully understand how activators work. Our project, first of all, addresses the question about the mechanism of activator function. Then, as a byproduct, we hope to create a machine learning model (or algorithm) that can be used with CRISPR DNA editing for medical purposes.”

Some of this analytics process will take place at Butler, with help from PharmD students Brad Broyles and Andrew Gutierrez.

Broyles, who is in his third professional year of Butler’s Doctor of Pharmacy program, says working on this research has been the most valuable part of his time at Butler. He’s excited for the chance to learn about complicated aspects of biology while sharpening his computer skills, and he hopes the results will help make the field of biochemistry more receptive to new ideas.

Researchers at Purdue University also received close to $250,000 from the NSF to collaborate with Butler on this project. Purdue will handle most of the computer-based process Erkine calls the dry lab.

Back in 2015, Erkine had the chance to spend his sabbatical in Cambridge, England, with the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology. He has continued collaborating with the institution ever since, publishing an article in 2018 that helped lay the foundation for his current project.

Erkine says our current lack of understanding about how some molecular mechanisms work has a lot to do with long-held beliefs in the field of biochemistry—beliefs about what is and what isn’t worth studying.

“In short, biochemistry is about specificity,” he explains. “It looks at specific structures interacting with other specific structures in specific ways—key-and-lock sorts of interactions. But this is simply because that’s easy to study. Everything that does not necessarily interact specifically or strongly is ignored by biochemistry. It is considered noise: noise that is nonessential, non-functional, detrimental—that essentially stands in the way of new biochemistry developments.”

Erkine wants researchers to think about things differently. The human cell is full of interactions that occur randomly, but that doesn’t make them any less important to understand. Because if his research works, he says, we’ll find a way to get to the root of diseases we’ve been trying to cure for decades.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

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

DNA research
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Professor’s DNA Research Could Help Cure Genetic Diseases

Alex Erkine receives more than $711,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study gene regulation.

Sep 10 2019 Read more

Students’ Summer Experiences Embolden Them for Future

By Tim Brouk

For Butler University students, summer is a time to learn, discover, inspire, and create. From analyzing viruses, to traveling for Fulbright programs, to interning in China, the Butler community didn’t let summer break go to waste.

Courtney Rousseau, a Career Advisor on campus, says the summer months provide great opportunities for students to explore new things and figure out what they want to pursue professionally. Whether through research or internships, students can work on building a network of connections while gaining hands-on experience.

Molly Roe in Glasgow, Scotland
Sophomore Molly Roe poses in Glasgow, Scotland.

Over summer 2019, Butler students spread out from downtown Indianapolis to Beijing. Some presented research for the first time, some boarded their first airplane flights, and others used the summer to focus on projects that turned into passions.

“I was very lucky,” says sophomore Molly Roe, who traveled to Scotland with the Fulbright UK Summer Institutes program to study the nation’s innovative technological advances at the University of Strathclyde. “It made me have a broader understanding of what’s going on in the world. After being in the same place my entire life, I was seeing things from different perspectives.”

Studying viruses

Senior Jenna Nosek spent more than two months with the Harvard University Summer Honors Undergraduate Research Program, where she worked on analyzing viruses. Her summer research focused on the trichomonas vaginalis virus, which infects protozoa in sexually transmitted diseases. 

She also attended the Leadership Alliance National Symposium and presented a research poster on her findings after networking with faculty, graduate students, and fellow undergrads.

“It was, overall, an amazing experience for both an internship in research and understanding what it is like to do research at an R1 doctoral institute,” Nosek says. “This program also focused a lot on personal and professional development in regards to personal statements and application process for multiple programs.”

At Butler, Nosek is an undergraduate researcher in Assistant Professor of Biology Chris Stobart’s lab. Stobart loves giving students opportunities to expand their field experience.

In July, Stobart took seven young researchers to Minneapolis for the American Society of Virology annual meeting, where they presented talks and posters on recent lab findings on the respiratory syncytial and mouse hepatitus viruses. The students discussed the multi-faceted work, exploring the understanding and treatment of the viruses.

“This meeting is normally attended by graduate or postdoctoral students,” Stobart says. “So this was a great opportunity for them to both present and see how science is conducted and discussed in a real scientific meeting.”

Fulbright experiences

Roe wasn’t the only Butler student involved in a Fulbright summer program. Sophomores Josiah Lax and Emma Beavins explored the intersection of arts, activism, and social justice at the University of Bristol Summer Institute. This marked the fourth year in a row Butler had multiple undergraduates in Fulbright UK Summer Institutes.

Josiah Lax in Bristol, Enland
Dance Pedagogy sophomore Josiah Lax in Bristol, England

Dacia Charlesworth, Butler’s Director of Undergraduate Research and Prestigious Scholarships, says there are only 60 spots for the Fulbright UK Summer Institutes. And thousands of people apply.

Lax described his Fulbright experience at the University of Bristol as one he will cherish forever.

During his June stay, the broad curriculum ensured no day was the same. He worked with a Bristol activist to create sustainable fashion one day, then attended a Pan-African conference about decolonization the next.

“The biggest takeaway from my time in Bristol is that everybody has the power to make an impact and create change,” Lax says. “What makes us individual, and consequently, the unique paths we each choose, allows us to tackle various issues from new and effective angles.”

Now that Lax is back on Indiana time and entrenched in a new schedule of dance classes, the Fulbright experience is still close to his heart. The fact that only about 1 percent of applicants receive such an opportunity was not lost on him.

“Earning this opportunity was one of the most exciting moments in my life,” Lax says. “I think I may have even cried. I felt as though it was one of the first times I had individually been recognized with such an honor. I rarely feel proud of myself, but I can’t help it with this.” 

A summer of firsts

It was a summer of firsts for Gwen Valles, a junior majoring in International Studies and Spanish. To get to her first internship as part of the Mingdun Law Firm in Beijing, she had to board an airplane for the first time.

“It was intense,” says Valles, who represented Butler thanks to the Asia Summer Internship Program. “When we landed, it was just incredible.”

After a 15-hour plane ride, Valles got to work conducting research on intellectual property laws, collecting data, and learning about intellectual property laws in China. Her favorite part was policing knock-off products that mimicked items from Huda Beauty, a cosmetics line by YouTube star Huda Kattan. Valles found these bootlegged items in Mexico, Brazil, and India.

“People were taking Huda’s logo and making their own mock products,” she says. “They were even impersonating her online and were registering for trademarks. But we found the names filing were not her.”

Valles enjoyed the chance to use her multilingual skills with international cases. A student of Mandarin since eighth grade, Valles was able to practice the language in a professional office setting. And she was one of the few people in the office who could navigate websites written in Spanish.

From learning Excel to maintaining the brand of a YouTube giant, Valles will treasure her Chinese internship experience as an early, but major, stop on her career journey.

“I’m very interested in working for the U.S. government,” says Valles, adding that law school or a master’s degree in Public Policy are on the horizon. “The dream is to one day become a Supreme Court justice.”

‘It really inspired me’

A Political Science and International Studies major, Ashely Altman broadened her worldview without leaving Marion County. From May to August, the sophomore interned for attorney Fatima Skimin in downtown Indianapolis.

Altman worked with Skimin and about a dozen other lawyers in the office and online. She focused on immigration cases—something very personal to her. When she was a child, Altman witnessed the complicated process of attempts made by her mother and other relatives to immigrate from Mexico to the United States.

“That’s why I decided to go into this field,” Altman says. “At every law firm I go to, it’s something different. It’s something that further emphasizes my want and my need to do something about this topic and these issues.”

Altman’s cases worked with citizens from India, Africa, and the Middle East. She noticed that Skimin could speak four languages in order to better communicate with her clients, which inspired Altman to take an Arabic class to add to her Spanish and English.

“I got to see the entire immigration process from beginning to end,” Altman says. “It’s a big deal and very rewarding in the end.”

And that wasn’t the only thing that kept Altman busy this summer.

She managed to collaborate with online news outlet BuzzFeed for a piece on immigration and asylum-seekers in the U.S., which will be published soon. BuzzFeed interviewed Spanish-speakers around Indianapolis, and Altman served as an interpreter for the two-week project. She was on-hand for every interview, and she later transcribed every quote.

“I was there to facilitate anything they were trying to communicate with the reporter,” Altman says about the June assignment. “It really inspired me to become part of the change.”

Gwen Valles visits the Great Wall.
Student LifeUnleashed

Students’ Summer Experiences Embolden Them for Future

From study abroad to internships, Bulldog undergrads made their mark on the world this summer.

Researchers in woods
CommunityUnleashed

Fighting Indy’s Honeysuckle Invasion

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Sep 11 2019

Just because something’s green doesn’t mean it’s good, says Rebecca Dolan, former Director of the Friesner Herbarium at Butler University. Some plants invade areas in harmful ways, driving out native species that are essential to healthy, diverse ecosystems. In Indianapolis, one major culprit hides behind a guise of sweet-smelling innocence: Amur honeysuckle.

Back in the 1950s, the flower-and-berry-covered shrub was introduced throughout Midwestern urban areas, promoted by the USDA Soil Conservation Service (now known as the Natural Resources Conservation Service) as a beneficial plant that would grow quickly, help stabilize soil, and reduce erosion.

“But it turns out that it spreads too quickly,” Dolan explains. “It got out of control. And it creates a monoculture of one species that blocks out native plants that are more valuable in the landscape from an ecological perspective.”

When city leaders recognized the invasive nature of the honeysuckle, several organizations started removing the shrubs on a large scale. Dolan retired from Butler last year, but she has continued her decades-long study of this species and the ongoing efforts to eliminate it from areas around the city. Most recently, she received a $7,500 grant from the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park at Newfields to assess the progress of ecological restoration that began there in the early 2000s.

Dolan first started research at the Art & Nature Park in 2002, when she was hired by Indy Greenways to inventory vegetation near what is now the Central Canal Towpath. Then in 2004, as the Indianapolis Museum of Art was taking over the Art & Nature Park, Dolan worked with Butler Biological Science Professor Travis Ryan, Herbarium Assistant Marcia Moore, and Biological Science Professor Carmen Salsbury to conduct additional vegetation and wildlife surveys in the area. Now, Dolan and Moore are going back to see what’s changed.

To do this, the researchers will tally and analyze the plant species along five transects—or linear sections of land—that were examined in the original study. Dolan will compare the findings with data gathered in 2004, assessing what has changed in the quality of the habitat as a result of restoration efforts.

She hopes to determine whether the honeysuckle removal has been successful: Is the plant gone, or are there still traces that could grow back? And if it has been eliminated, what’s replacing it? Are desirable native species coming in strong, or has it just been replaced by another kind of invader?

When invasive plant species take over an area, Dolan says it affects everything living there. For example, the honeysuckle makes nesting more difficult for Indy’s native birds, and its berries aren’t healthy to eat.

“It’s like fruit candy for the birds,” she explains, “whereas our native shrubs, like spicebush, produce berries that are high in oils—a better energy source for birds that are going to migrate back south in the winter.”

The honeysuckle also drives away pollinator insects that specialize in native plants.

“When the native plants go—the spring wildflowers and the native shrubs—then those specialist insects lose their hosts,” Dolan says. “It cascades down, and then the birds that would eat the insects don’t come to the area. And it continues on.”

Invasive plants disrupt habitats in ways that threaten ecological resilience. This can lead to problems such as flooding or erosion. Contrary to what people thought when Amur honeysuckle was first introduced, the plants don’t stabilize the soil at all. Their roots are too shallow, and their leaves block a lot of sunlight from getting to the soil. This, combined with chemicals released from the honeysuckle’s leaves and roots, prevents many native plants from growing.

So, are efforts to remove the honeysuckle working?

Dolan has yet to analyze data from Newfields—that report will be finished by the end of 2019. But she has been conducting similar research over the last five years in areas along Indy’s Fall Creek, where the nonprofit group Keep Indianapolis Beautiful had organized a community project to remove the honeysuckle invading there.

According to Dolan’s findings, the richness of the area’s plant life has more than doubled since 2012, mostly with native species. While overall habitat quality has shown some improvement, seeds brought in by wind and animals introduced eight new invasive plants.  Early detection of these invasives will make controlling them easier, and she will continue monitoring the area.

At Newfields, junior Butler Biology major Torey Kazeck had the chance to help collect data over three weeks at the end of the summer. As she plans to pursue a PhD after graduating, she was excited to gain more hands-on experience in the field.

“I hope this work helps the community see what invasive species do, and why we should remove them,” Kazeck says.

Few similar studies existed before Dolan’s surveillance of honeysuckle removal, especially near urban waterways, despite evidence of the harmful impacts invasive shrubs can have in these environments. Because soil health along rivers and streams can impact water quality, Dolan—who was on the Ecology Committee for Reconnecting to Our Waterways—saw the importance of documenting the restoration process. 

During much of her time at Butler, Dolan focused on traveling to rural areas to study rare plants. But when she started seeing the value of looking at what was in her own backyard, she got more involved with urban flora research.

She says more urban communities are starting to see how protecting local ecosystems can help defend against climate change effects. While Indianapolis doesn’t deal with more obvious problems like sea level rise, the city does have issues with flooding, erosion, and heat. Establishing more green spaces in urban areas can reduce these threats, Dolan says, but that will only work if the plants filling those spaces can get along with one another.

 

Media contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403

 

Community Partnerships

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

Researchers in woods
CommunityUnleashed

Fighting Indy’s Honeysuckle Invasion

Rebecca Dolan’s research follows progress of removing invasive plants from local ecosystems.

Sep 11 2019 Read more

Changing Hearts with a Rainbow Sticker

By Katie Grieze

Dominic Conover didn’t see himself as an activist until 10:00 PM on a Saturday night in August 2018. 

He was at work, hosting guests at a Mexican restaurant, when his phone started ringing. The screen showed the name of a classmate he barely knew. 

Hanging up from the call, Conover stepped outside to take a breath and think about what he’d just heard. Shelly Fitzgerald, a counselor at Roncalli High School—the Catholic school Conover attended in Indianapolis—had been placed on administrative leave for being married to a woman. 

Conover decided he wasn’t going to deal with it.

He told his boss he needed to leave early, then rushed home and started a group chat with about 40 students he knew to be allies. Right away, they got to planning. 

In just more than 24 hours, they organized a Monday-morning rally at Roncalli High School. Conover went to church on Sunday, then spent the rest of the day calling every student in his contacts: Will you go buy some flowers and meet me by my car at 7:00 AM tomorrow? We’re going to protest.

The next morning, more than 200 rainbow-clad students flooded the parking lot, grabbed one of the Long’s Bakery donuts Conover had ordered, and lined up single-file as he blasted Pride music from his car speakers. Carrying bouquets for Fitzgerald, they marched to her office. 

Fitzgerald wasn’t there—she’d already been suspended. Still, standing in the flower-filled room, Conover led a prayer for inclusivity. 

God, we ask that you end this division in our Church.

Conover, who is now starting his first year at Butler University, was one of six Roncalli students who launched the LGBTQ advocacy group Shelly’s Voice. While rooted in the original protest against Fitzgerald losing her job, the organization didn’t stop fighting when things died down. Instead, they’ve been expanding ever since to support other members of the Catholic Church who experience discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

Before Fitzgerald was suspended, Conover says he was “so blind to discrimination.” He knew it existed, but he had never witnessed it so directly within the LGBTQ community. Since then, he’s worked toward making sure all students at Roncalli and other Catholic schools feel loved and have access to the support systems they need. 

“It flipped everything,” Fitzgerald says about the work of Conover and his classmates. “It turned the most hurtful situation you can imagine into the most beautiful thing.”

Shelly’s Voice didn’t celebrate an official launch until December 4, but Conover says it started way before that. Between organizing protests and writing letters to Church leaders, the members began the school year by passing out rainbow-colored stickers to students and teachers all around Roncalli. The stickers became marks of encouragement for the school’s LGBTQ community, as students wore them to class and teachers placed them on their doors to show support. Conover, who is now the Chair of Event Coordination for Shelly’s Voice, collected the names of student allies he saw wearing the stickers over the next few days.

“Those were the students who were ready to start fighting, like we were,” he says.

Not long after the news broke about Fitzgerald, Conover and his friends spread the word to get about 300 students to wear rainbow colors to a home football game. He says school administrators had banned the word “Pride” from the event, but this only pushed the students to pass out even more stickers and Pride-themed bracelets up and down the bleachers. One of the football players, who is now a chair member for Shelly’s Voice, carried a rainbow flag onto the field when the team ran out. 

 

 

“We went into that football game and just started spreading our message,” Conover says. 

At the time, Conover thought that message was so positive no one would really challenge it. 

“I was mistaken,” he says.

After appearing on The Ellen Show in September and receiving a $25,000 donation from Shutterfly to help support the cause, the students of Shelly’s Voice were on a roll. They held a launch party in December, when Indiana Youth Group became their official fiduciary agent. Conover was at the height of his activism in the start of second semester, gathering letters to the Church and speaking with the media about the organization’s mission. Leaders at Roncalli had warned him to stop, but he didn’t want to keep quiet.

“To the administration,” he says, “I was being a little too loud.” 

In February 2019, Conover was called into a meeting for what he understood would be his last warning: Stop with the public statements, or don’t graduate. 

“They basically hung my diploma over my head for my silence,” he says.

And it worked. For the next three months, Conover didn’t want to jeopardize his chance to graduate and come to Butler in the fall. So he backed off, but he says staying silent was harder than being a voice for the LGBTQ community. 

“Your mental health can get so much worse when you aren’t able to advocate anymore,” Conover says. 

But through it all, Conover and Fitzgerald have been there for each other, reminding each other to always respond with kindness. 

“We’re not changing minds,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re changing hearts. And you can only change hearts by building relationships with people.” 

Almost a year after Fitzgerald lost her job, Indy’s Cathedral High School fired a gay teacher. To Fitzgerald, it was like ripping off a scab, and she started sharing some posts online that reflected her anger. 

One day that week when she was scheduled to meet with Conover and hadn’t replied to his emails, he sent her a text. 

Hey, are you mad? 

I’m okay. I just haven’t had time to respond to your message, she texted back.

No, Conover texted, I don’t mean mad at me. Just in general.

He went on to say that he’d noticed how her posts over those days had been different from normal, and he just wanted to remind her—like she had always reminded him—that they could only win with kindness.

As Conover starts at Butler with a major in Political Science, he’s looking forward to studying at a school that’s not only excited about his activism, but has recognized his work in Shelly’s Voice with a Morton-Finney Leadership Award. The scholarship, which Butler has been awarding for more than 20 years, honors students who have shown leadership in promoting diversity throughout their schools or communities. Receiving the award confirmed the commitment Conover first made to Butler when he saw the Efroymson Diversity Center during a campus visit at the beginning of his senior year. Looking into the room, he saw a sign with a message about Butler’s mission of inclusivity. 

He showed the sign to his mom and said, I think this is the place I want to be.

“I looked in that room, and at that moment I noticed that this University was somewhere I could be me,” he says. “It was a university that would be proud of what I was doing.” grad caps

During the 2019 graduation ceremony at Roncalli, Conover and a friend snuck in large stickers of the phrase “Jesus Loves All,” with the last word printed in rainbow. After taking their seats in the front row, they pulled out the decals and stuck them to their mortar boards—an act that reignited the advocacy Conover had let go for most of the semester. 

And he picked up right where he left off. Over the last year, Shelly’s Voice established PRISM, a gender and sexuality alliance for high school students on Indy’s south side. They’ve hosted trainings to teach people how to be supportive and accepting allies of the LGBTQ community. They’ve held a rally at the building for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. And just a few weeks ago, Conover had the chance to tell his own story—his full story—as the keynote speaker at a Los Angeles event for the Ariadne Getty Foundation, which had provided some legal and publicity guidance to Shelly’s Voice members earlier in the year. 

After describing his months of both speaking out and being silenced, he said he would never forget that late July day in L.A., when he was able to open up about the difficulties he faced while trying to spread a message of equality. 

“It is on this day,” he said to the crowd, “that I can finally say I feel both proud and safe to be doing what I’m doing.”

Fitzgerald says that even though she would love to share Conover with the world, she’s proud he decided to stay in Indianapolis. 

“Our community needs people like him,” she says. “And I really anticipate that Butler is going to be a place for him to thrive. He can be here and feel accepted. But even more than that, he can belong. He’s going to make a difference here—I promise.”

 

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.

Shelly's Voice Advocacy Group
Unleashed

Changing Hearts with a Rainbow Sticker

When Shelly Fitzgerald lost her job for being married to a woman, Dominic Conover helped create 'Shelly's Voice.'

Class of 2023
Unleashed

Butler continues upward trend, set to welcome third-largest class ever

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Aug 26 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS—Butler University will welcome its third-largest class ever this fall when approximately 1,125 first-year students begin classes on August 28.

The Class of 2023 is hardly an anomaly—Butler has been experiencing a surge in interest and enrollment during the last decade. The Class of 2022, with 1,336 first-year students, is the largest class in the University’s history. The second-largest is the Class of 2020. 

Since 2009, the number of applications to the University has increased by about 140 percent. This year, Butler received 14,896 first-year applications—the second-highest number ever received in an admission cycle. In 2018, the University received the most applications ever (16,431). Comparatively, in 2009, Butler received 6,243 first-year applications.

“Our growth aligns with the overall Butler 2020 strategic plan,” Vice President for Enrollment Management Lori Greene says. “We were asked to enroll 4,700 full-time undergraduate students by 2020. We are ahead of schedule. We hit 4,726 in fall 2018. Now, it is really more about sustainability and trying to determine what our ideal size is as an institution in terms of meeting the expectations of the student experience.”

So, how has Butler been able to achieve a prolonged increase in interest and enrollment when, across the nation, the benefit of a college degree is in question, college is more expensive than ever before, and private institutions face increased competition from several directions?

Greene credits Butler’s awareness of the changing landscape, as well as the University’s ability to increase its potential applicant pool.

“We have to be very mindful of all of the different choices a student has,” Greene says. “It is important that we try to engage students in deeper conversations about where they are, what they are looking to do and achieve, and how we can play a role in that on a much deeper level than ever before. Then, it comes down to expanding our markets and growing our pool to new areas.”

Expansion beyond the Midwest—where Butler has historically pulled most of its students from, Greene says—is reflected in out-of-state versus in-state application and enrollment numbers. 

The recruitment team has grown its efforts in Colorado and the Mid-Atlantic, for example, building on increased student interest, and utilizing other resources such as graduate connections. There are a select number of institutions that can truly say they have a full national reach, Greene says. There are pockets where Butler can grow when it comes to awareness, and that is what the focus is on now.

There is also the fact that high school graduates in the Midwest are declining, and students have many more choices when it comes to career paths, Greene says.

“Our out-of-state number will have to grow,” Greene says. 

For the Class of 2023, 55 percent come from out-of-state, and 45 percent of the class is from in-state. The majority of this year’s class is from Indiana and Illinois, but New York, Minnesota, California, and Colorado round out the top 10.

Since 2015, out-of-state applications to Butler have increased by 47 percent. There has been an increase in applications from Connecticut, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Texas, for example.

Incoming first-year students represent 35 states and eight countries (Mexico, Sweden, Brazil, Germany, Spain, South Korea, South Africa, and China).

Despite the increases in class size, quality has not shifted, Greene says.

This year’s incoming class has 39 valedictorians, 24 Lilly Scholars, and 41 21st Century Scholars. About 20 percent graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes. The average GPA is 3.86.

“When you see schools go through a growth pattern, you might see quality drop,” she says. “But if anything, we are getting stronger each year. The typical Butler student is involved and is someone who is interested in raising their hand and being part of the conversation. That hasn’t changed at all.”

This year’s incoming class is also diverse, with 19 percent of the total class identifying as multicultural. This is a proportional increase from last year’s class, of which 17 percent identified as multicultural.

“That is very intentional,” Greene says. “We hope this continues to grow and we can attract students who are interested and willing in being part of a dialogue and conversation around diversity, equity, and inclusion. This doesn’t just stop with admission: This is very much about retention, as well.”

 

A group of activists 

The Class of 2023 has also stuck out for another reason: They take an active role in the community around them and strive to shape the world they are living in.

Butler Admission Counselor Tim See visits about 100 high schools each fall. Most are on the West Coast, covering California, Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Alaska, Nevada, and Idaho. 

This class in particular, he says, had a common theme of activism and awareness of what was going on around them. 

“They had a much larger view of their role in a community and were ready to hit the ground running in terms of doing something to enact change instead of searching for their voice or their role,” See said. “This was seen over and over again in essays and letters of recommendation.”

Students were leading marches, protests, and walkouts. They were starting social advocacy groups and nonprofits. Many students talked about leading or taking part in The Women’s March, as well as organizing protests in response to school shootings. 

One Butler incoming first-year student, for example, volunteered at an orphanage in China, where she had been born and adopted from as a young child. One has helped bring healthy food and clean water to people in need, and another has been an advocate against racism and sexual misconduct. Right here in Indianapolis, one incoming student helped build an organization to defend his high school guidance counselor when she was fired for being married to a woman. 

In so many ways, the Class of 2023 has already made an impact across the country and the world.

“Students are much more globally minded and aware,” See says. “With social media and access to knowledge and news, they understand what is going on and want to be a generation that plays a major role in making change.”

Greene says a major difference she has seen is the idea of being very involved, but not just for the sake of involvement. Students are no longer just filling up their resumes with a laundry list of activities.

“I have seen much more meaningful involvement with this generation,” Greene says. “It is typically around issues that are core and central to them as individuals.”

Class of 2023
Unleashed

Butler continues upward trend, set to welcome third-largest class ever

About 1,125 students make up the Class of 2023, part of a surge in enrollment over the last decade.

Aug 26 2019 Read more

Melísenda Dixon's Fight to Improve Inclusive Curriculum

By Katie Grieze

When Melísenda Dixon wants something to change, she doesn’t keep quiet. She speaks up, starts a movement, and helps give others a voice—just like her mom taught her. 

Dixon spent her early childhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She grew up in a neighborhood where she witnessed violence and discrimination against racial minorities on a regular basis. Her parents taught her how to live in the world as a person of color—Dixon is Black and Mexican-American. They taught her how to speak up for herself, and when to let things go. 

But she says the lesson that stood out most was the importance of her voice. 

From a young age, she saw her mom advocate for a variety of causes, from teacher pay to gun violence prevention. Dixon would go along to the rallies, watching her mother protest injustices without ever getting too distracted by anger. She decided she wanted to be like that. 

So when Dixon was sexually assaulted during her first year of high school, she did something about it. 

Her family had moved to the small town of Pullman, Washington, the year before. There was only one public high school, which meant she couldn’t escape her two assaulters. After reporting the attack and filing a civil lawsuit, Dixon says all she got was a temporary protection order. That didn’t do much to help her feel safe.

The following year, Dixon wrote a research paper about sexual assault. Part of her paper involved a survey among classmates, which revealed that there was much more sexual misconduct at her school than she ever imagined. She asked some of the other survivors why they hadn’t reported their cases. Many said they had already seen how Dixon’s case was handled, and they didn’t have much hope of getting a different response from the school. Data in hand, Dixon went back to the school’s leaders. 

Look, she said, this isn’t just my voice that’s not being heard. It’s all of ours. You need to do something.

Nothing changed. She went to the school board next. There, she says she just got questions about what the survivors were wearing at the time of their assaults. 

So she applied to the Youth Advisory Council for College Board, which helps students from across the U.S. work toward improving education. When she got accepted, she felt like she could finally use the voice her parents had always taught her to have. 

“I’m going to try to be a voice for people if they feel like they don’t have a voice,” she says. “I had already gone through a lot of abuse in Wisconsin, so when I was assaulted in Pullman, I couldn’t let it just destroy me. I needed to get myself up and continue to push through.”

With the national organization behind her, Dixon started making progress. She helped implement new sexual misconduct prevention curriculum at her school and at more than 500 other schools across the country. She organized for speakers from Alternatives to Violence to meet with students and discuss topics of consent. She advocated for teaching every child and teen, starting in elementary school, how to stay safe and speak up. 

The main message she wants to spread?

“It’s not your fault. I feel like that’s something people think is just so easy to know. People say, ‘Obviously it’s not your fault.’ But so many people blame you. So many people ask what you were wearing.”

And being a survivor of sexual assault doesn’t need to define who you are, Dixon says. 

“Just because I’m a survivor doesn’t mean my personality is made up solely of what has happened to me,” she says. “It’s what I’ve made of my situation. I’ve done so much more than be sexually assaulted. I’ve tried to impact others’ lives, and I’ve done that in multiple different ways.”

Yes, Dixon has made her voice heard in a variety of ways, including with issues beyond sexual misconduct. For example, after classmates told her to go back to Mexico—and that Mexicans were only good for picking fields and cleaning toilets—she realized how many other people in her town were facing racism every day.

Again, she wasn’t going to let it go. Working alongside a few friends, she established a Black Student Union at her school. The members often collaborated with similar student organizations at nearby Washington State University. They organized walk outs. They held discussions and forums. But they mostly just wanted to create a safe space for students to talk. 

“One of the most rewarding things was to see that we can come together if we are organized and we are really trying,” she says. “We can come together, and we can help each other.” 

When it came time to start applying for college, Butler was the only school Dixon applied to. Her brother, Nathaniel Dixon, graduated from the University in 2017, and she had already fallen in love with the campus and its diverse student body during her visits to Indianapolis. Still, her parents told her not to make up her mind so fast. 

“So then I applied to 22 schools,” she said, laughing. “And I got into 20.”

But she knew from the start that she wanted to go to Butler. She’s excited to start this fall as a Management Information Systems major with a minor in Healthcare Management. She eventually wants to help run a children’s hospital, but in the meantime, she plans to make the most of every moment at Butler. 

“At college, I want to make an impact,” Dixon says. “I want to feel like I didn’t just do academics—that I actually made an impact on Butler’s campus and also within the Indianapolis community.”

 

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.

Melísenda Dixon
Unleashed

Melísenda Dixon's Fight to Improve Inclusive Curriculum

After surviving sexual assault and facing racism at her high school, she turned to advocating for others.

Bringing Water to the World

By Cindy Dashnaw

Nine-year-old Madeline Hoskins-Cumbey stood in shock at the local food pantry. She had never known that chicken came in cans or mashed potatoes in a box. Where were the apples and green beans?

How could so many people be in need?

“I just remember thinking that these were people my family might know,” says the Butler University first-year student. “It was a wake-up call: ‘Hey, people need your help. You can’t just sit back and not do anything.’”

So, during a museum trip in seventh grade, Hoskins-Cumbey found herself at a booth for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. She applied to join the organization, which works to make sure children have the resources they need to develop healthy habits, and she became the youngest member of the nonprofit Alliance’s youth advisory board. In this role, she has worked with schools, businesses, and communities to ensure that the places where children learn and play promote good health.

“The Alliance challenged us by asking, ‘What’s a problem in your community, and what can you do about it?’” Hoskins-Cumbey says. “I started with our elementary school and created a community garden. Then things really just grew from there.”

She recruited her brother for help, and they soon found themselves busy starting community gardens, volunteering at food pantries, and coordinating walks to bring water to remote villages. They even taught others how to help. Before Hoskins-Cumbey was even in eighth grade, a friend of her parents asked her to teach an eight-week summer class for younger kids.

“Of course, I said yes,” she laughed. “After a while, it just became easier to combine everything into one organization.”

That organization is SMART2bfit, formally launched by Madeline and Carter Hoskins-Cumbey at ages 9 and 6, respectively. The service-learning nonprofit is still going strong a decade later. SMART stands for Service, Multipurpose, Activity, Real hope, and Teaching.

Though they began with three main activities—camps, community gardens, and walks for water—they now focus on Walk4Water events, in which school, church, and community groups carry gallons of water on walks to raise funds for building wells in remote areas around the world.

Now in its 10th year, SMART2bfit has just completed its 10th well. In all, SMART2bfit has given 929 people access to water they never had before.

“It’s a very big milestone for me and my brother,” Hoskins-Cumbey says. “Our first project was for a tank extension in Kenya, and now we’re drilling actual wells. It’s so inspiring how water can completely change a community.”

She hasn’t been to visit any of the wells, but not for lack of desire.

“Because they’re in such remote locations,” she says, “we’d be able to drill three more wells for the cost of us to visit one, and we just can’t bring ourselves to spend the money like that.”

But if her educational and career plans work out, perhaps she’ll get closer to a well. Hoskins-Cumbey is starting this semester with a major in international business, and with a wish to enter the Peace Corps.

“I applied to 11 colleges,” she says. “Butler was the school I visited the most. The campus feels community-esque, the dorms are near each other so people can enjoy time with friends, and there are a lot of ways to get plugged in. I am looking forward to connecting with others who have similar interests, who know you can be business-minded and still be service-oriented.”

Hoskins-Cumbey believes that young people today are highly aware of social issues like climate change and the suffering of others, and they want to know how to help.

“It’s not so much that you do it because you need service hours,” she says. “I think people today are good at heart.”

And to make a difference, she says, you just need to start small.

“With time and effort and hard work—that’s how we got to where we are now,” she says.

Hoskins-Cumbey believes in a lifelong commitment to helping others.

“Sometimes as you get older,” she explains, “it becomes, ‘This isn’t my problem. I’ve done my part. The next generation will have to figure it out.’ But as a global community, we’re all in the same boat. One person’s impact cannot completely change patterns. A combined effort is where the most change will be seen.”

Madeline Hoskins-Cumbey
Unleashed

Bringing Water to the World

At 9 years old, Madeline Hoskins-Cumbey launched a movement to bring food and water to those in need.

A New Perspective on Service

By Larry Clow

In the summer of 2018, Hannah Kelly got an up-close look at the life she might have led. She and her sister, Grace, were adopted from China as young children. After growing up in Lexington, Kentucky, the siblings were back in their home country for a week of volunteering with OneSky for All Children, a children’s home in Beijing.

Each day, Kelly and her sister walked from their lodgings to the orphanage, where they spent hours playing with the kids. Despite the barriers that came with differences in languages and age, Kelly and her sister developed a rapport with the children in the home.

“We made a strong connection with them just by giving them attention and love,” Kelly says. “It definitely gave me a different perspective on myself, too. I could see what my life is like versus what it could’ve been. Seeing how the culture is in China, and what those children have to deal with versus my life here, it caused me to take a step back.”

Making connections with others and learning to see the world—and herself—from different perspectives are two of the many reasons Kelly loves volunteer work. 

“Volunteering is fun, especially when you do it with friends,” Kelly says. Throughout high school, she volunteered at local food pantries, the Lexington Humane Society, and other organizations. “Helping out in the community is a really important thing to do. I definitely want to keep up my volunteering while at Butler and help out the Indianapolis community.”

It’s something she will continue to pursue during her time at Butler as part of the 2019-2020 class of Morton-Finney Leadership Program Scholars.

“I’m honored to be part of the Morton-Finney Leadership Program,” she says. “I’m excited to promote diversity and inclusion on campus, just as I did in high school. Dr. John Morton-Finney had an amazing legacy that I hope to honor and respect through my time here at Butler.”

Kelly believes her outlook is a great fit for Butler. She visited campus for Butler Business Day and Butler Scholars Day, where she was able to meet other Bulldogs and fall in love with the community.

“Butler was everything I wanted.”

 

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.

Hannah Kelly
Unleashed

A New Perspective on Service

Volunteering at an orphanage in China helped Hannah Kelly see her own life in a different way.

Alum Works to Create ‘Next Big Thing in Solar Power’

By Larry Clow

When Dan Kroupa ’12 walked into Professor Todd Hopkins’ chemistry research lab 11 years ago, he realized for the first time that his passion for science and chemistry could lead to a career. But he didn’t know that such a career would prompt him to tackle one of the most pressing issues in history—or that it would earn him accolades from Forbes Magazine.

Kroupa, now a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute, was recently named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” list for his work on next-generation solar energy technology.

“We’re developing entirely new semiconductor materials that enhance, and could one day replace, current solar absorbers,” he says.

The technology that Kroupa is working on will make today’s solar cells more efficient and easier to produce. The sun is a tremendous source of energy: According to Kroupa, the solar energy that hits the earth in less than two hours contains more power than all the energy humans consume in a year.

The problem is that solar energy is diffuse. Current commercial solar technology doesn’t capture as much of the solar spectrum as it could, and producing solar panels is capital-intensive. While the cost to produce solar panels is declining, Kroupa says panels will need to become even cheaper and more efficient before they’ll be widely adopted.

“Silicon absorbers make up 90 percent of the market. These things are extremely expensive to make and fabricate, and kind of big and rigid. We need to have a very vast amount of solar cells deployed to capture a sufficient amount of that solar radiation,” Kroupa explains. But the results would be worth it. “If we could harvest just a small fraction of solar radiation, we’d be set for a long time.”

Kroupa’s research has found an answer to both challenges through something called quantum cutting. As part of the process, a layer of perovskite (a compound made from common elements) is applied to a silicon solar cell. That coating, applied via a special ink, manipulates the sunlight so that the solar cell can more easily absorb it and convert it into electricity.

“We’re taking high-energy solar photons and converting them into multiple lower-energy photons,” Kroupa says. “It’s a fancy way of saying that we’re getting two-for-one. And if we apply that coating on the surface of the solar cell, we can see improved performance.”

It was Butler that helped guide Kroupa to cutting-edge solar technology research.

“Butler was where I saw that I could apply this unique skill set to solving specific big problems, and one of the areas that I saw could use help was solar energy conversion,” he says. The University is also where he met his wife, Madalyn (Menor) Kroupa ’12, and developed the leadership skills he now uses to guide researchers in the laboratory.

After graduating from Butler, Kroupa earned his PhD at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he worked on next-generation solar technology as a researcher at the federal National Renewable Energy Lab.

The scope of renewable energy projects can be large, and the stakes are high. With so many pressing problems, it can be challenging to remain optimistic while plugging away in the lab. The key, Kroupa says, is to keep things in perspective—and to make a list of what you can accomplish each day.

“The idea is to look at the big picture, but develop a plan for the things you can do to start chipping away at the problem,” he says. “You need to focus on the important things to accomplish for your specific problem while keeping an eye on what you’re working toward. Everything we do in the lab is driven by that.”

Being named to the Forbes list was “exciting,” Kroupa says. “It was the first validation that what we’re trying to do as a company might be a good idea. Getting on the list definitely raised our company profile a little bit. As a startup, you’re always looking for credibility, so any way you can demonstrate that external validation is good.”

Kroupa’s research is being spun off into a private company, BlueDot Photonics, where he is the Chief Technology Officer. There are plenty of challenges ahead, as Kroupa and his team work on refining the technology, finding investors, and determining the best way to bring their product to market. But, he’s optimistic. “It’s going to be the next big thing in solar power,” he says. “It’s just a matter of figuring out how to scale it up and prove it out.”

Dan Kroupa ’12 named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” for research on more efficient solar cell
UnleashedAlumni Outcomes

Alum Works to Create ‘Next Big Thing in Solar Power’

Dan Kroupa ’12 named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30: Energy” for research on more efficient solar cell

Photo by Mike Dickbernd
UnleashedCommunity

Brain Club Fights Stigma of Mental Illness

BY Larry Clow

PUBLISHED ON Jul 19 2019

In her classroom at Riley Hospital for Children, Sara Midura ‘16, MS ‘20 sets aside Fridays for one of her students’ favorite activities: Brain Club.

The Educational Liaison for Riley’s Simon Skjodt Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit, Midura works with children and teens coming out of behavioral health crises. It’s often a scary, uncertain time for the kids. That’s where Brain Club comes in.

In the hour-long weekly sessions, psychologists help students develop dialectical and cognitive behavioral therapy-based skills to cope with depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

“It’s a lot easier to talk about your brain and how it functions rather than say, ‘I have anxiety,’” Midura says. Brain Club teaches students how to remove the stigma from their diagnoses. Issues such as eating disorders or suicidal thoughts aren’t personal failings—just different things a person’s brain can do. And with the right kind of coping skills, students can respond to life’s difficulties in healthier ways.

Midura can see the relief on students’ faces after Brain Club. “It makes things less vulnerable for them,” she says.

Midura’s path to teaching and working with youth at Riley was “like divine intervention,” she says—with a little help from Butler’s College of Education faculty. Midura always knew she wanted to be an educator, but she thought she’d be an elementary school teacher in a more traditional classroom setting. She says Lecturer Theresa Meyer pushed her to get a special education certification.

“She literally cornered me at an event and said, ‘I cannot believe you’re not getting your special education certification. You have to!’” Midura recalls. It was during one of Meyer’s classes that Midura first visited Riley Hospital, and from there, her career path took shape.

“Everything opened up,” she says. “It was really clear that was where I wanted to be. I was lucky to be able to student-teach there. I can remember all the classes and things I learned at Butler, but it was really the people who changed me, supported me, and made me think bigger.”

Any given day might find Midura working one-on-one with students, advising parents on how to help their children transition back to school, or providing teachers and schools with the tools to help students succeed once they’re back in the classroom. She also collaborates with physicians, psychologists, behaviorists, and social workers on treatment plans.

But like for many teachers, Midura’s most rewarding moments come from the students.

“The kids are obviously the best part of my job,” she says. “They teach me so much, and their resilience is really incredible. The biggest challenge is the time—I love forming those relationships with kids and their teachers, but it’s hard to support both in the way they truly need in the limited time I have with them.”

That support for students and teachers is crucial, and it has informed Midura’s approach to her work.

In the past, teachers in Midura’s role focused mainly on academics, helping students keep up with missed school work. But now, Midura concentrates on long-term solutions. Her work has attracted some positive attention, making her a top-25 finalist for Indiana Teacher of the Year 2019. She has also collaborated with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a hospital system in Portland, Oregon, to build a framework that helps teachers support students who are coming back to school following treatment in behavioral health units.

“One week of missing school is not going to be as detrimental as not setting students up with a long-term plan, or making sure the people in their lives understand what they need,” she says. “And if we’re expecting parents to follow a treatment plan, we have to give that same information to teachers because it’s the only way kids will be able to change their behavior and build up their resiliency.”

And that’s Midura’s ultimate goal. Among the many challenges that come with facing a mental health crisis, one of the most difficult is a feeling of powerlessness. It’s especially true for children and teens, Midura says, but the work she does at Riley “gives them their power back. And that’s huge.”

 

Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Photo by Mike Dickbernd
UnleashedCommunity

Brain Club Fights Stigma of Mental Illness

At Riley Hospital, Sara Midura works with students coming out of behavioral health crises.

Jul 19 2019 Read more
Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
AcademicsUnleashed

From the Top of a Glacier: Grace Hart Feels Climate Change Up Close

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 26 2019

Grace Hart stared out at the white ice. She couldn’t see where it ended, but she noticed a blue tinge marking the Icelandic glacier’s age. It had lived a long life.

According to the guide who’d just led Hart’s hike to the top of the slope, that would probably change within the next 200 years.

I want you all to spend a minute taking in your surroundings, the guide said before leading the group back down the trail. Think about where you are right now. Because this glacier changes every single day, and some day, it’s going to be gone.

Living in the Midwest, Hart had only ever heard news stories of the ice caps melting. Now, as part of her study abroad trip in spring 2019, she was seeing it happen live.

The guide broke the silence.

Remember this feeling, he said. When you’re trying to explain to someone why it’s important to slow down climate change, remember this.

Hart knows she will.

During the semester-long program through the School for International Training (SIT), the rising Butler University senior traveled around Greenland and Iceland to study topics related to climate change: what’s happening, how it affects people, and what we can do to help. She’d first read about the trip as a freshman Environmental Studies major. She had always wanted to go to Iceland, and the topic was right in line with her interests.

Hart says her choice to study climate change started with “a love of nature and a sadness that people were trying to destroy it.” Butler taught her about the real consequences climate change has already caused, even in Indianapolis.

“Seeing that in my own community cemented my goals of advocating for the environment and those who have been negatively affected by the irresponsible actions of people who are careless with the earth's resources,” Hart says.

Through almost-daily discussions about climate change in her environmental studies classes, Hart sometimes loses hope that things will get better. She believed visiting Iceland and Greenland would break that cycle and give her the skills to do something.

“I thought it would be really cool to learn about climate change from a place that is typically seen as very sustainable and environmentally friendly,” Hart says. “It’s a different conversation than happens in the U.S., where we have a long way to go.”

Calie Florek, Study Abroad Advisor at Butler, says SIT offers some of her favorite study abroad opportunities. Hart was the first Butler student to go to Iceland with SIT, but all the organization’s programs emphasize engaging with local communities. Through experiences such as internships, research projects, and home stays, SIT students really dive into a culture and learn about its people in ways not all study abroad programs offer.

When Hart first came to see Florek, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She’d had a challenging fall semester during junior year, and she decided to apply to the Iceland program in hopes of shaking things up. Commiting to a three-and-a-half-month trip with a group of strangers scared her, but she looked forward to feeling independent. 

The trip began in February, just missing the time of year when the sun never rises. They started in Reykjavík, Iceland, studying climate modeling and glaciology before heading to Nuuk, Greenland. For two weeks, the group learned about the country’s culture. Hart studied how climate research often excludes native people, and she loved learning the value of including diverse voices in those conversations. She says you shouldn’t make decisions about the land without asking the people who’ve been working with it for centuries.

There was also time for some fun. During a brief stay in Akureyri, Iceland (where Hart would return for the final part of her program), she traveled far enough north to see the arctic circle. She loved Akureyri for its beautiful location, deep in a fjord with mountains all around. Actual trees grow there, too, which can be hard to find in Iceland.

But Hart’s favorite thing was the endless light. At sunset, the sky turned orange and pink, then it just stayed that way for hours.

“At a certain point, I think I kind of got used to the fact that it was so pretty,” Hart says. “I had to think about it again and realize how cool it was that I got to be there.”

In her free time, she swam in geothermal pools, visited art museums, tried out new restaurants, and learned how to knit a sweater. She saw waterfalls and volcanoes. She snowshoed up a mountain. She even tried her hand at some Greenlandic dishes.

For most of the semester, Hart followed a set program, but the last five weeks were up to her.

 

 

Comparing Iceland to Indy

Hart first learned about food security through her classes and internships at Butler, where she spent a semester working on the campus farm.

“I really became passionate about it because the faculty at Butler are passionate about it,” she says.

During the last five weeks of her study abroad trip, which were dedicated to independent study, she wanted to see how an issue so prominent in Indianapolis might play out in a different climate.

Mostly through secondary research, Hart found that food security in Iceland isn’t really an economic issue: It’s a land issue. People there have started demanding foods that just can’t grow in the frigid climate, forcing residents to import most of what they eat. Beyond harming the environment, Hart says, importing can make the country especially vulnerable whenever trade gets disrupted.

Her study offered some solutions. She focused mainly on changes that might shift tastes back to what the land can support, such as subsidizing and labeling local foods. She also suggests more Icelanders rent garden pots to grow their own produce. Ultimately, she says, the country should try to become self-sufficient.

For now, Hart’s research is more of a personal exploration. She wasn’t able to share it with anyone outside of the study abroad group, but she believes her study could inspire change.

Hart would like to return to Iceland and build a community outreach program, which she hopes would get Icelanders talking about their food in ways they might not have before.

 

 

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.

Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
AcademicsUnleashed

From the Top of a Glacier: Grace Hart Feels Climate Change Up Close

Butler student travels to Iceland and Greenland for program with the School for International Training.

Jun 26 2019 Read more
Owners of Guggman Haus Brewing Co.
UnleashedCommunity

Built on More Than Beer: How New Brewery Embraces Community

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 17 2019

When Guggman Haus Brewing Co. first opened its doors to friends and family last month, Butler University graduates filled the cozy taproom. Crowding around handcrafted tables, which were built in-house by the founders, they celebrated something many of them had helped to create.

Some had tried the beers before, taste-testing new brews over the last five years. Others had helped with the marketing plan, and one had designed the Haus’s logo. Another even served as the trademark lawyer. Of the microbrewery’s four founders, three hold Butler degrees, so their Bulldog network runs deep.A few of the brews from Guggman Haus Brewing Co.

Twins Courtney (Logel) Guggenberger ‘10 and Abby (Logel) Gorman ‘10 launched the business with their husbands, Derek Guggenberger ‘11 and Ryan Gorman, in 2016. Now, they’ve finally found a home in the Riverside neighborhood just northwest of downtown Indianapolis, where they remodeled a 1916 house that was once occupied by a racing legend.

Since opening to the public on May 25, the microbrewery has focused on more than just beer. Butler gave the owners a passion for chasing their dreams and embracing community. They wanted to provide a welcoming space for people to gather, and making beer has let them do that.

“Beer can bring people together,” says Derek, who now serves as head brewer.

 

The Brewing Bug

Derek was first to catch the brewing bug. Toward the end of college, he started trying Mr. Beer kits. He knows his beer didn’t taste great, but he enjoyed the process and was proud of what he made. When Derek graduated and headed to Germany for an engineering job, Courtney came along, and they stayed for a year.

Courtney and Derek fell in love with Germany’s beer. They spent weekends exploring small towns, and almost everywhere they went, they found festivals based on Pilsners and Hefeweizens. It was less about the beer and more about the culture.

When they came back to Indiana, Derek started brewing for real. He filled their tiny kitchen with pots, and he used the pantry for fermenting. Brewing soon became more than a hobby: It let Derek merge art and science into one project.

Abby and Ryan found their own love for craft beer in Colorado. They had moved to Denver for a few years, where Abby says the beer scene was “pretty hoppin’.” Ryan started his own home brewing, and Derek pitched the idea of a family business.  

 

The Business is Born

It all started in a basement. When Abby and Ryan moved back to Indianapolis in 2014 (to a home just two streets away from Courtney and Derek in Broad Ripple), they installed a brewing system and built a cold room under the stairs. The couples started hosting beer-centered events in their houses, from casual birthday parties to taste-testing focus groups.

For the next year, they combined their skills to build a plan. Derek’s dual major in Economics and Engineering made him the go-to person for business and brewing. Playing football at Butler (as part of the 2009 team that went 11-1) also taught him time management and the grit to keep going.

Courtney, who studied Integrated Communications, hadn’t sent a news release since college. But by the time she was writing the first one for Guggman Haus, she remembered her campaigns class and even dug out one of her old textbooks.

“To get to do it for your own business—it’s extremely vulnerable,” Courtney says.

Beer glass with logoBut they weren’t going it alone. Among the several Butler friends the owners called on was Sheila (Tomasbi) Schwab, a 2014 graduate the twins knew through their younger sister Sara, who also attended Butler.

During Schwab’s time on campus, she majored in Strategic Communications and minored in Art + Design. She thanks Associate Professor Deborah Skinner for that. Schwab had started college as a Marketing major, but it didn’t feel right, and she says Skinner’s advice helped her find a better fit.

“If it weren't for her, I think I would be doing something I didn't actually love,” she says.

When the Guggman Haus owners gave Schwab a creative brief for the logo, she was in the process of becoming a full-time designer. It was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down.

“I wanted the logo to be perfect,” she says. “I probably sketched for hours and hours before I ever took things to the computer to start building out my ideas.”

The final logo includes some fun hidden meanings, Schwab says. The house’s door is a pint glass, and the water and path represent Indy’s downtown canal and cultural trail. The two pine trees in front were made identical, like the twins.

“I don't think people always realize how much work goes into making something like this come to life,” Schwab says about the brewery.

But the Butler community made it happen. Schwab says Bulldogs become family fast, “and once that happens, there is a lot of trust that exists and joy that comes out of working with people you know.”

While Derek and Courtney recently left their day jobs to run the brewery, the Gormans are splitting their time. Between brewing beer, handling Guggman’s finances, and running the taproom, Ryan works remotely as a business analyst. Abby, who majored in Communication Sciences and Disorders while at Butler, spends three days a week doing speech therapy at Riley Hospital. Her job description at Guggman Haus? “All other things.”

With a business plan made and beers in the works, the only thing holding Guggman back was the Haus.

Exterior of the house

 

A Partnership of Beer and Cars

The building now housing Guggman Haus Brewing Co. rests on the old site of the Boyle Racing Headquarters, which was once home to racing legend and three-time Indy 500-winner Wilbur Shaw. After Boyle Racing left the property more than six decades ago, other companies came and went throughout the 1900s until the buildings were left to fall apart.

Then in 2015, a group of vintage racing enthusiasts partnered with Indiana Landmarks to save the historic structures from demolition. They had a vision for restoring the property and driving revenue—a vision that would give Guggman Haus a home.

The two groups met up about three years ago, and it was a match. Now, Boyle Racing owns the land, and Guggman Haus brews the beer. An events center and racing memorabilia garage are slated for the larger building (which, at the moment, is just three walls and a dirt floor). Next door, the property’s two-story 1916 house was perfectly on-brand for the Guggman vision. It even resembles the house in the brewery’s logo, which was designed before the Boyle property was ever in the picture.

“It all came together beautifully,” says Courtney.Interior decor of the house

While restoring the building, the owners stayed as involved as possible. Rather than opting for the industrial vibe common in modern taprooms, they just wanted the space to feel like home.

They decorated with pieces from their own houses, hand-picked all the paint and stain colors, and brightened the room with fresh-cut flowers. Near the window, a giant Connect Four game tempts guests to stay a while.

When it comes to the beer, Guggman’s brewers are still debating their “signature” drink—or if they will even have one. Instead of featuring a few special options on a menu of milder beers, they want everything to stand out.

The Guggman Haus founders also aim to stay present in community conversations. They want people to know how much they care about the neighborhood. They don’t want to just come in and change it: They want to grow with it. They’ve joined the Riverside Investment Club and the Riverside Business Association, and they hosted a few community events before even celebrating their official grand opening June 15.

According to Schwab, who watched the family work toward that day for the last five years, the Guggenbergers and Gormans are definitely go-getters.

“Some people talk about cool ideas,” she says. “Some people actually go out and chase them.”

Owners of Guggman Haus Brewing Co.
UnleashedCommunity

Built on More Than Beer: How New Brewery Embraces Community

After years of calling on Butler connections, the owners of Guggman Haus Brewing Co. celebrate grand opening.

Jun 17 2019 Read more
Ed Carpenter driving the #20 car
Unleashed

Ed Carpenter, The Man of May

BY Michael Kaltenmark ’02, MS ’16

PUBLISHED ON May 23 2019

The Month Man of May

May in Indianapolis. The month that Ed Carpenter ’03 lives for. The month that drives him.  

In Carpenter’s world, everything—his marriage, his family, his friendships, his livelihood—revolves around May.

And the arrival of May this year brings the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 and Carpenter’s 16th attempt at what he hopes will be the culmination of a lifetime of hard work, determination, and the realization of life-long reverie.  

Carpenter has made it his job to win the very race that has made everything possible for him. The very race that is, well, more than a race to him. A task derived from a single burning desire.

One man’s mission to master one month.

 

Bulldogs Aren’t Born, They’re Made

Carpenter wasn’t born a racer, nor was he born in a racing family. He was acquired by one.

Born just across the Indiana state line in Marshall, Illinois, Carpenter caught the racing bug in grade school. The year was 1989, and Carpenter’s exposure to the sport came when his family moved to Indianapolis and his mother, Laura George, married Tony George—a name also synonymous with May in Indianapolis.

George is the son of Elmer George, a late 1950s and early 1960s era Indy 500 driver, and Mari Hulman George, the late matriarch of the Hulman George family which has owned the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1945.

With the George’s racing connections, and Carpenter’s desire to try his hand at his new family’s business, young Carpenter quickly discovered he had a knack behind the wheel.

So, Carpenter spent his formative years on local dirt tracks and backwoods ovals, turning circles and honing his craft, all while attending school at Park Tudor School in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, 16th & Georgetown became Carpenter’s playground, spending the May months of his youth amidst Gasoline Alley, and occupying his summers by cleaning golf carts at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Course.

“I was just having fun as a kid in Indy,” Carpenter says. “I wasn’t fully processing what it could be or what it takes to get somewhere like that. I always enjoyed being at the Speedway, but I don’t think I realized what it could be until I got a little further along in my career. As I moved through the ranks, then I really started to get it in my head that I could do that.”

Carpenter’s progression moved steadily. Racing quarter-midget cars led to midgets cars, then Silver Crown, and then sprint cars as Carpenter climbed the USAC ranks. And as the racing became more serious, so did Carpenter’s focus. From then on, his sights were set on the Indianapolis 500.

But, there was school, too. The parallel trajectories of racing and education would come to a head as Carpenter finished high school.

Carpenter was ready to continue racing. His mother had other ideas. They both got what they wanted.

 

Butler Bound for Indy Crown

“My choice in Butler was really just a matter of logistics,” Carpenter says. “It was the closest to my race shop. I wish there was a better reason as to why I chose Butler, but I’m still really happy with the decision.”

So in fall 1999, just a few miles from his childhood home and the historic speedway, Carpenter moved into his new home, Ross Hall.

The marketing major made quick work of his studies and homework so he could spend as much of his free time on racing as possible. Still, the classroom served its purpose for Carpenter, perhaps initially in the form of discipline and a worldly perspective, and later in the form of preparation for a career in racing beyond driving.

“Beyond just the learning that took place in the classroom, Butler really prepared me for the dual role situation that I’m in now,” he says.“I was a professional student and a professional racecar driver, so I had to learn how to manage both of those things stay on top of school work, the racing, and everything else I was doing. I don’t think I would’ve been able to sustain the type of career I’ve had without that experience.”

Carpenter raced all throughout his time at Butler and by May 2003, Carpenter’s mother got her wish as her son walked across the stage at Hinkle Fieldhouse to receive his diploma. A week later, Carpenter got his wish by driving to victory in the Freedom 100 at Indy. While it was a win in the Indy Lights Series, a step below Indy cars, it was still his first taste of winning at the Brickyard.

Later that fall, Carpenter made his first NTT Data IndyCar Series start at Chicagoland Speedway. The following season, Red Bull Cheever Racing signed Carpenter for his rookie season, and he’s been driving in IndyCar ever since. As Carpenter found success behind the wheel, he also set his sights on new opportunities outside the cockpit.

 

The Butler Way

In late 2011, Carpenter had the opportunity to partner with step-father Tony George, and local businessman Stuart Reed to start his own team, Ed Carpenter Racing. The multi-car operation, complete with full crew, equipment, and resources, has allowed Carpenter to secure his seat at Indianapolis for the foreseeable future.  

And with that, Carpenter not only became one of the few college graduates in the field, he also became the only driver/owner in IndyCar. Because of his dual role, Carpenter holds a unique position in the paddock. In one instance Carpenter may be head-to-head with his driving competitors, and the next he’s shoulder-to-shoulder with the sport’s other powerful team owners.

That can be heady stuff for a thirty-something in any profession, but Carpenter understands that racing is a people business, no matter his role. Whether as driver or owner, Carpenter is focused on how to be operate, manage, and motivate his own team. His Butler experience offered him insight into his approach.

“I think there’s a Butler influence, at least in a subconscious way,” Carpenter says. “The emphasis that Butler puts on culture, especially in athletics, is something I subscribe to and believe in. A lot of people talk about culture, but it's something that really requires follow through and trust. That’s my focus as a leader of my team.”

Carpenter’s ability to motivate and retain his crew at Ed Carpenter Racing is evident in the familiar faces that have been with the team since the beginning. That continuity has also attributed to the team’s recent success at Indianapolis which now boasts multiple front row starts and Top 10 finishes at the Brickyard.

In Ed Carpenter Racing, Carpenter has found strength in numbers. By sharing his vision for success at Indianapolis, he’s brought his team along for the ride. Each May they are serious contenders. This year more than ever.  

 

Unleashed

Carpenter’s Front Row starting position for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will be his third consecutive at Indianapolis, and his fifth time in seven years. Moreover, teammates Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones will start just behind him in positions third and fourth, making Ed Carpenter Racing the collective best in the field.

Results like this are proof of Carpenter’s hard work, determination, and Bulldog mentality, which is fitting for a guy that will don a Bulldog logo and other Butler marks on his helmet for this year’s race. In 16 tries at Indianapolis, Carpenter has gone from Indy 500 back-marker, to underdog, to black horse, and now perennial favorite, in more than one sense of the word.

Certainly, his speed makes him a likely winner, but it’s Carpenter’s humble and relentless pursuit of success at Indy that has endeared him to those that fill the stands on race day; to those that revere this race just like he does.

“I dream about winning at Indy all the time. So, I just stay focused on that and do the work necessary to make that dream a reality.”

Anything can happen over the course of 500 miles, including victory. That’s the only outcome that will appease Carpenter this May. And it’s just the sort of outcome to expect when you unleash a Bulldog with a dream and a really fast car.

 

Photo Credit: IMS Photography

Ed Carpenter driving the #20 car
Unleashed

Ed Carpenter, The Man of May

One man’s mission to master one month.

May 23 2019 Read more
Emily Nettesheim at the Capitol Building
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Why We Dance: Butler Student Researcher Refutes Her Generation’s Reputation

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON May 10 2019

Emily Nettesheim '19 has heard her generation called lazy, entitled, and selfish. Her research—which she presented in Washington, DC, in late April to an audience that included both of Indiana's Senators—suggests that those labels are misguided.

Since sophomore year, Nettesheim has been examining why so many students participate in Dance Marathon, the annual fundraiser benefiting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for more than 170 pediatric hospitals across North America. This year at Butler University alone, more than 500 participants raised over $365,000.

"Especially in light of how millennials have been portrayed negatively in the media, I knew the passion, drive, and sacrifice I was seeing in Dance Marathon was counter-cultural and special," says Nettesheim, a Health Sciences and Spanish double major from Lafayette, Indiana.

In a survey of Butler, Ball State, and IUPUI students, she found that an overwhelming majority participated in Dance Marathon because they were acting on their values—and because participants have the opportunity to meet families affected by the hospital, and visit the hospitals for tours to see first-hand where the money is going.

"Millennials tend to be motivated if they can see the impact of the cause," she says.

More than 85 percent also said they benefited from participating by developing maturity and specific skills, such as communication and empathy, that they can use later in life, according to Nettesheim’s research.

 

*

Nettesheim's story starts not with Dance Marathon—her high school didn't participate—but with her interest in Indianapolis-based Riley Hospital for Children, the beneficiary of Indiana Dance Marathon events. When her parents' friends asked what she wanted to do when she grew up, she said she wanted to be in the medical field and work with kids.

In 2015, when she arrived on campus, she heard about Dance Marathon almost immediately at an event about campus organizations.

"It sounded like a great opportunity to get my foot in the door somewhere I wanted to work," she says.

She joined the Riley Relations Committee as a first-year student—the committee works directly with Riley families—and fell in love with the people, and what Dance Marathon stood for. Sophomore and junior years, she served as the director of Riley Relations, and senior year became president.

In fall of her sophomore year, she started thinking about a subject for her honors thesis. She met with Pharmacy Professor Chad Knoderer.Knoderer had never taught Nettesheim, but after talking to her and hearing about her interest in Dance Marathon, he suggested that it could be her focus.

"As I researched more," Nettesheim says, "I realized that nonprofits across the country are experiencing issues trying to recruit donors and volunteers, and that the Dance Marathon movement is the No. 14 fastest growing peer-to-peer campaign in the nation. It became really evident that something different and unique is happening. So I wanted to see if I could figure out why—or at least quantify it a little bit."

She and Knoderer worked together on how to design the thesis, roll it out, and make it realistic to be completed. With help from Butler's Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement (CHASE), everything came into focus.

Normally, the final step in the work Nettesheim was doing would be to write and turn in her honors thesis. And she did that—a 35-page paper.

But she wanted to do more. So early this year, she submitted an abstract to present at Posters on the Hill, the Council on Undergraduate Research's annual undergraduate poster session on Capitol Hill.  Members of Congress and their staff gather at the presentations to learn about the importance of undergraduate research through talking directly with the student researchers themselves.

The selection process is extremely competitive, but Nettesheim beat the odds—becoming the first Butler student in memory to be invited to participate.

"I can’t say definitively that she’s the first," says Rusty Jones, the CHASE Faculty Director, "but she’s certainly the first that I know of. What’s especially great about the Posters on the Hill event is that they are highlighting the importance of undergraduate research to our lawmakers in DC."

 

*

Part of Nettesheim's goal was to detail her findings, but she was also in Washington to share the value of undergraduate research with members of the Senate and Congress, and their staffs.

Nettesheim's father worked at Purdue University, and being around research there got her interested in it from a young age. She chose Butler precisely because she wanted the opportunity to do her own projects.

"It's so cool that even at a small university, there have been so many opportunities for me to get involved in research," she says.

In addition to delving into students' motivations to participate in Dance Marathon, Nettesheim also has worked in the Neurobiology Lab at Butler with Associate Professor of Biology Jennifer Kowalski. She's studying microscopic roundworms known as C. elegans, which have nervous systems similar to humans.

"It’s exciting to share the impact of research in my life and be the face behind the cause of research," Nettesheim says. "I've had much more of an opportunity to get involved and have my research be my own here than I would have had the opportunity to do elsewhere."

And that, says Knoderer, is the takeaway: Butler encourages and supports undergraduate research.

"If you've got an idea, go for it," he says. "The sky's the limit. I knew what Dance Marathon was from working at Riley Hospital for a number of years, so I knew the organization and what it was, but I didn't necessarily know how to approach her question. But there are enough people to help support a student and see their project through."

Emily Nettesheim at the Capitol Building
AcademicsResearchUnleashed

Why We Dance: Butler Student Researcher Refutes Her Generation’s Reputation

Millennials tend to be motivated if they can see the impact of the cause.

May 10 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
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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

Butler Blue III: A Dog with a Nose for Service

By Sarah Bahr

Hoops

Butler Blue III’s best moment was also his worst.

When Butler University’s then 3-year-old bulldog mascot threw up on the court at Madison Square Garden before a 2015 Big East men’s basketball tournament loss to Xavier, it brought him national notoriety. 

Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, and The Washington Post all poked fun at the pint-sized puker, but Blue III, also known as Trip, took to Twitter to rally the troops.

“Puke and rally. Give me some water. I’ve got a #BIGEASTTourney game to win. #GoDawgs,” Michael Kaltenmark, Trip’s caretaker and Butler’s Director of External Relations, tweeted on his behalf.

Kaltenmark says the 65-pound bulldog, who typically paces the Butler sidelines during most men’s football and basketball games, lapping up popcorn, head pats, and praise, was overwhelmed by the moment.

“He goes hard,” Kaltenmark says, “which sometimes equates to him getting overheated and overexcited.”

But, tongue lolling and tail wagging, Trip quickly recovered—and shot Butler into the national spotlight.

“Vomiting on the court at Madison Square Garden might be the best thing he ever did publicity-wise,” Kaltenmark said. “He has so much heart.”

On and off the court.

 

Hospital

It isn’t hard to imagine the utility of a floppy-eared, doe-eyed, Pikachu costume-clad bulldog skidding down a hospital hallway for cheering up a patient.

As a member of the Eskenazi Hospital pet therapy team, Trip visits patients at the downtown Indianapolis campus once a month.

“He’s gentle and patient,” Kaltenmark says. “He acts like he was raised as a therapy dog.”

In addition to raising the spirits of hospital residents, Kaltenmark says Trip receives numerous requests for charity event appearances at schools and businesses — “none of which we really turn down,” he says.

Kaltenmark and Trip head to elementary school classrooms to read Blue's children’s book, Good Boy, Blue!, and stop by Gleaners Food Bank, where they help sort donations.

But Trip—and Kaltenmark’s—favorite community initiative might be the Butler acceptance letters the duo deliver to admitted students’ doors.

The two cruise the city in Trip’s “Blue Mobile,” a white Ford Transit covered in decals of Trip’s face that sports a “Blue 3” license plate. Kaltenmark and Trip have taken the van all over the country, from Butler men’s basketball games in Florida to frozen custard runs at Kopp’s Frozen Custard in Milwaukee.

They’ve been making the doorstep visits to admitted students since 2014, logging about 100 visits annually, October through March, Kaltenmark says.

Most of the visits happen in greater Indianapolis, including one earlier this fall to a senior from North Central High School, Tatum Parker, who beat cancer—twice—and then started a foundation that has delivered more than 3,500 game-and-goodie-stuffed backpacks to kids with cancer.

Special visits to students like Parker stand out, Kaltenmark says. 

“Any time you can make a kid cry, those are good,” he says. “When he or she is so excited about getting in to Butler that they’re moved to tears.”

 

Hashtags

In addition to his charity and community work, Trip has a loyal following of virtual fans who track his every bark on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Kaltenmark posts daily updates on Twitter, where Trip’s more than 31,000 followers like and laugh about photos, videos, and GIFs of the bulldog lapping up ice cream, wading through a ball pit, and posing with Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Unlike in real life, in which Kaltenmark says Trip is “sort of a diva” who’s a bit select about who he’ll associate with, he has legions of canine friends on social media, including the governor’s dog, Henry Holcomb, and fellow mascots like Yale’s Handsome Dan and the University of Redlands’ first female bulldog mascot, Addie, who Kaltenmark says is Trip’s “girlfriend.”

But Trip doesn’t just lap up the likes: Kaltenmark uses social media as a force for good.

When Trip celebrated his seventh birthday December 23, a Twitter campaign encouraging people to donate non-perishable food items to Gleaners Food Pantry at the December 21 men’s basketball game netted six full bins of donations and $200 in cash.

And Trip’s Twitter updates allow followers a glimpse of his home life when he isn’t pounding the paint, from bathtime to balloon-popping to standing guard over one of Kaltenmark’s sick sons, asleep on the couch under a Star Wars blanket with a bulldog atop his back.

 

Home

Kaltenmark began caring for Butler’s second live mascot of the modern era, Blue II, in 2004. After donning the Butler mascot suit as an undergraduate, the Butler alum (‘02) knew he was ready for the real thing.

“My wife and I knew when we got married that we wanted to get a bulldog,” Kaltenmark says. “I just didn’t know we would get THE bulldog.”

After the 9-year-old Blue II, whom ESPN called the “undisputed star” of Butler basketball, died of congestive heart failure in 2013, Trip stepped into the role and became Blue III.

Kaltenmark says he wouldn’t be surprised if, between Butler basketball and football games, hospital visits, doorstep deliveries, charity events, and award dinners, Trip clocked 365 appearances per year.

“You name it, he goes to it,” Kaltenmark says. “And he has an outfit for everything.”

Blue III’s wardrobe is comprised of tuxedos, jerseys, white coats, and two overflowing tubs of Halloween costumes, including sushi roll and hot-dog getups (“I wish Halloween was more than one day a year,” Kaltenmark says).

Being the personal assistant for a bulldog takes more time than you’d think.

“It’s a lot to juggle,” Kaltenmark says. “I wish there were three of me. But it doesn’t feel like work because I love all the things I do.”

Trip has had the chance to meet T-Pain, Kesha, John Green, and Jay Leno, and has traveled to New York City, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, and a bevy of other Midwest cities. He counts Hogsett, Andrew Luck, and Gordon Hayward as fans. 

But humble? That’s one word Kaltenmark wouldn’t use to describe his diva dog.

“He thinks it’s all for him,” Kaltenmark says. “The plane he sometimes travels with the basketball team on, the applause [at games] … ”

Of course, it doesn’t help that Trip has a personal van with his face plastered on it, or that the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame sells a $650 life-size bobblehead of the bulldog, or that he’s been featured on NBC Nightly News, or that he’s photographed more often than a fashion model.

“It is exhausting being this beautiful,” the caption on a Twitter photo of him lying on his back in his bed reads.

But, at the end of the day, he’s all about simple pleasures. Give him a cardboard box to crawl into, a bag of popcorn to snarf, or a hospital patient to hug, and he’s a happy-go-lucky pooch.

“I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. I love my job. #GoDawgs,” he tweeted Dec. 5.

If he hadn’t hit the character limit, he might still be writing.

  

Trip in a tux
Unleashed

Butler Blue III: A Dog with a Nose for Service

Butler's live mascot, a.k.a. Trip, spreads love (and drool) wherever he goes. 

Fait Muedini: Helping Half a World Away

by Sarah Bahr

For LGBTI individuals in Turkey, days revolve around these thoughts: How can I get food on the table? How can I walk down the street without being attacked? Where can I get medical treatment from a doctor who won’t discriminate against me?

It’d be easy for Americans to dismiss human-rights violations committed against citizens of a country 6,000 miles away. But Butler University Director of International Studies Fait Muedini, who published a book in December about LGBTI rights in Turkey, believes Americans must care about Turkish atrocities the same way they would if they’d occurred in the United States.

“If Americans were told we couldn’t live freely, we’d be furious,” he says. “We need to fight for the freedom of everyone.”

Muedini traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, in Summer 2015 to talk to LGBTI leaders and human rights activists first-hand about the issues he’d devote the next several years of his life to studying. It wasn’t enough to read about the taunts, slurs, and threats directed at LGBTI individuals half a world away. He wanted to know what he could do to help. Muedini’s passionate activism generated his critical work on the subject, and in December 2018, Cambridge University Press published LGBTI Rights in Turkey: Sexuality and the State in the Middle East. Muedini’s scholarship underscores the importance of research in generating new knowledge and shaping conversations that can have an important effect on people’s lives.

Born in America, with a Heart in the Middle East

Though Muedini grew up in Michigan, just outside Detroit, his parents are ethnic Albanians from southwest Macedonia, a southern European country with a history of ethnic tensions between Albanians and Macedonians over rights for the minority ethnic Albanians.

“My parents were progressive; many Muslim societies are not,” he says. “They stressed the importance of the American Dream and focused on the freedoms of being in the U.S.”

Just as in Turkey, homosexuality is not illegal in Macedonia. But, Muedini says, that doesn’t mean LGBTI individuals don’t face daily discrimination and other forms of retribution.

Even as a child, Muedini knew he wanted to make social justice his life’s work. Human-rights violations and social inequality tore at him.

“College only fortified that position,” he says.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, but was conflicted between a career in policy or academia. It was the Iraq War and conversations with a political science professor that made the now-37-year-old Muedini realize he wanted to be a professor himself.

“I started getting involved in protests [at Wayne State University],” he says. “I enjoyed having conversations about contemporary international issues in my classes, and I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to have these sorts of conversations with students and colleagues throughout my life?’”

After earning a master’s degree in International Affairs from the American University School of International Service in Washington, D.C., and a doctorate in Political Science from the University at Buffalo in New York, he headed to Butler in 2014.

“Butler students are just absolutely fantastic,” he says. “They’re passionate about social justice, prepared, and want to keep learning.”

Lynn Alsatie, a senior International Studies and French major, who’s worked with Muedini on research about the politics of Ramadan, says Muedini’s discussion-based teaching format is key to his effectiveness as an educator.

“You know he isn’t going to judge you if you make a mistake,” she says. “He’s there only to teach you and encourage, not to put you down if you don’t know the answer.”

Katie Morford, a 2016 Butler graduate who worked with Muedini on his LGBTI Rights in Turkey book during her senior year, says Muedini was her favorite professor.

“He’s so nice, and so freaking smart,” she says.

Putting Pen to Paper

Before focusing on LGBTI rights in the Islamic community for the past few years, Muedini published a book in 2015 entitled Human Rights and Universal Child Primary Education.

“Millions of children don’t have access to basic elementary education, and I wanted to understand why,” he says.

His attraction to investigating the treatment of LGBTI individuals in Turkey was similar: If homosexuality isn’t illegal, why are LGBTI individuals treated so poorly?

He examined Turkey’s hate-crimes penalties, interrogated human-rights abuses against LGBTI individuals, and investigated the Islamist AKP party’s approach to LGBTI rights in the country. He focused on Turkey specifically, rather than Islamic countries more broadly, after noting a surprising statistic.

Less than 10 percent of the majority-Muslim country’s population found the idea of LGBTI equality permissible.

The other 90 percent believed homosexuality was a sin. Something didn’t square with Turkey’s otherwise liberal image among Middle East countries.

“Turkey is a very liberal society,” Muedini says. “But on the other hand, you have significant ignorance of the repression of LGBTI equality. You have a country that claims to be one thing, but isn’t providing rights for sexual minorities and making it more difficult to live faithfully and freely.”

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, as it is in many other countries (though same-sex marriage is). But the image of a progressive state is a sham, Muedini says.

“There’s no criminal penalty for identifying as LGBTI, but the constitution doesn’t specify LGBTI as a protected group,” Muedini says. “There’s no hate-crimes law [that specifically protects those targeted for their sexual orientation], and when an LGBTI individual is attacked in Turkey, they can be hurt severely or killed.”

There are also no laws in housing, health care, education, or employment that protect LGBTI individuals from discriminatory treatment.

Turkey currently ranks 47 among 49 European countries in the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association’s human-rights ranking for LGBTI individuals. The countries are ranked on a scale ranging from 0 to 100 percent, with 100 percent indicating full equality and respect for human rights, and 0 percent “gross violations of human rights and discrimination.” Turkey scored a dismal 8.6 percent.

Morford, the research assistant on the book project who often transcribed interviews for Muedini, says she’s inspired by the impact of Muedini’s work.

“It’s important that [his research] is on the international stage because of the perspective it gives,” she says. “LGBTQ individuals are still fighting for rights, so it’s important that there is research like Muedini’s out there so people can learn about it.”

Boots on the Ground

The statistics painted a depressing picture of life under an increasingly authoritarian regime. In 2015, Muedini traveled to Istanbul, Turkey, for a week-and-a-half to meet with human-rights activists and draw his own conclusions.

Was he concerned for his safety?

No, he says, though his hope had been to make a return visit to conduct follow-up interviews with the LGBTI leaders and activists. But the political situation in Turkey grew more challenging, and the vitriol directed at academics and journalists more toxic. He elected to conduct follow-up interviews over Skype instead.

Despite only spending nine days in the country, Muedini was struck by the resilience of the activists. Facing threats from ISIS and government crackdowns on ‘Pride’ parades, the Turks refused to hide. After all, what was safety if they couldn’t be themselves?

“Nothing stopped them from risking their lives for human rights,” he says. “That stayed with me.”

Sufism and Tupac Shakur

After more than two years of writing and revising, Cambridge University Press published Muedini’s book LGBTI Rights in Turkey: Sexuality and the State in the Middle East in December 2018.

“It’s the first of its kind,” Muedini says. “There’s literally nothing else like it.”

But even with his third book under his belt, Muedini isn’t resting on his laurels. His next project?

“I’m thinking about the idea of freedom in art,” he says. “The notion of oneness and the beauty of the divine in Islam, and the commonalities with Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism.”

Now seems like a good time to mention one of his other research interests: mystic Sufi poetry. And a better time to mention one of his personal interests: hip hop.

Muedini pens Sufi poetry (he published his second book on Sufism and politics). He is also a big fan of artists like Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar.

“I try to find conscious rap whenever possible,” he says

But ask him what his favorite thing to do in his free time is, and after offering an immediate ‘spend time with my family’ response — he has two children, Edon, 8, and Dua, 4, whom he plays with “for hours” after work — his close second is:

Researching...for fun.

“I feel very privileged to go to work every morning,” he says. “I always tell my students I’m thankful for their conversation, and for the opportunity to learn from them.”

And they him.

Unleashed

Fait Muedini: Helping Half a World Away

Even as a child, Muedini knew he wanted to make social justice his life’s work.

Ryan Tsai: An Unstoppable Problem Solver

by Sarah Bahr

The security alert scrolled across Butler senior Ryan Tsai’s computer screen on the first day of his summer internship as an actuary at Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance (IFBI):

“Error: User is not authorized to access database.”

The company’s system was disabled. Any time an IFBI employee tried to log in, they’d be met with an error message.

Oh, no, he panicked. They’re going to fire me.

Intern mishaps are typical on the first day. Some forget the creamer in the coffee; some jam the copier.

Tsai accidentally caused an all-day security shutdown.

“I was playing around in the security system, trying to figure out what data was stored in it,” the 22-year-old Actuarial Science major says. “I ran a command to return the names of everything in the system, and the system flagged it as risky. It was definitely my fault.” 

The puzzling part? Tsai’s supervisor had given him read-only access to the system, so he theoretically shouldn't have been able to mess anything up.

He outsmarted the security system.

Oops.

The company was able to fix his mistake—several hours later, at the end of the day.

It was a harmless error, Eric Skirvin, Tsai’s supervisor, says, but it clued IFBI staff in that Tsai knew more than the average intern.

“After that we knew that he was definitely savvy around a computer,” he says.

 

An Unstoppable Problem Solver

Long division was a Stonehenge-level enigma, the numbers swirling around in Tsai’s brain like a puzzle missing a crucial piece.

He came home from kindergarten in tears because he couldn’t intuit the second-grade math his two-years-older sister, Heather, was doing.

“I was crying because I couldn’t figure out long division,” he says. “I thought it was the hardest thing in the world.”

But he was hooked. Math became his addiction, life a series of problems to be solved.

When Tsai took Butler’s Introduction to Computer Science course his freshman year, he came across a challenge that both confused and consumed him: artificial intelligence (AI). He thought his final AI project needed to be perfect.

Just one problem: That isn’t currently possible.

He stayed up night after night trying to perfect his work. And his professor told him he came close.

“But I didn’t need to work that hard,” he says. “I got the assignment wrong—successful AI just means it’s able to work and make any move. But I interpreted that as perfect.”

 

Coding for Fun

Tsai settled on his major, Actuarial Science, because he found it challenging. No kidding: Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman once called actuarial exams “just the hardest examinations in the world.”

Actuaries, who work in the insurance industry, perform statistical evaluations of the risks involved in hypothetical scenarios and then advise clients how to reduce financial losses.

Tsai wades through mountains of probabilities amid tight deadlines. But he thrives on pressure, which is more coffee than Kryptonite.

The same goes for coding—he took Butler’s “extremely difficult” Computer Science capstone course for fun, putting himself through long nights of frustration and failure.

He credits Butler professor Dr. Chris Wilson’s Actuarial Mathematics and Financial Derivatives courses and the Actuarial Science department for preparing him with the lingo, Excel and Access training, and programming experience he needed to blow the IFBI folks out of the water last summer.

But he’s made an equally strong impression on them. Actuarial Science professor Dr. Mary Krohn, who met Tsai as a junior, lauds both his work ethic—and his selflessness.

“He made an amazing computer program that would randomize the questions [from my Financial Mathematics for Actuarial Science class] and correlate the solutions,” she says. “Then he selflessly made these files available to students in the class.”

But Tsai isn’t just an IT whiz—Krohn says he also has the baking skills of Bobby Flay.

He whipped up homemade macaroons one holiday to share with the Actuarial Science department. After the department administrator raved about their tastiness, he made a second batch just for her—and now brings them in regularly, Krohn says.

But his cookie baking wasn’t going to give him the edge in the biggest coding competition of his life.

 

The Big Test

Tsai had always been a shy person, more inclined to absorb knowledge like a sponge than expel it like a T-shirt cannon.

So when he signed up for IFBI’s 24-hour Hackathon last summer—the only one of 25 interns to do so—he was decidedly out of his element.

“I was really worried I was going to be useless, because I didn’t know too much about Computer Science,” he says.

The goal of the Hackathon was for teams of five coders to devise an IT solution to a problem a business was having as quickly, efficiently, and ingeniously as possible.

Their first task? Tsai’s team was trying to program a smart outlet to determine the wattage used by a washing machine, but something was out of whack. The machine was drawing more power than it was supposed to, and was shaking and vibrating like the Gravitron. They had to find a way to shut it off.

Then a house burned down, and Tsai’s team had to determine what caused the fire.

‘Basically, something awful happens, and you have to figure out how to stop it—and maybe even prevent it,” Tsai says.

The challenges continued for 24 hours, stretching from Friday into Saturday, one problem after another.

“It was both the best and worst time of my life,” Tsai says. “I was miserable in the moment, but in hindsight, I realized how much I learned.”

At the end of the event, each team presented their ideas to a panel of judges, attempting to convince them that their “hacks” were the best solutions. Ingenuity, Tsai says, won the day—using drones to provide an aerial view of fires, for instance.

“But it’s also like gymnastics, so you earn more points if you solve a more difficult problem,” he says.

Tsai’s team didn’t win, but Skirvin, his supervisor, has no doubt Tsai held his own.

Tsai’s assessment is more humble.

“I’m just proud I wasn’t useless,” he says.

Far from it.

“He has very strong programming skills,” Skirvin says. “[During his internship], he took full control and gave us a very impressive set of outputs.”

Skrivin says Tsai was invaluable to the IFBI team. He reviewed the insurance coverage policies of companies, looking for potential issues, and overhauled IFBI’s Reinsurance Billing Process using Excel, Access, Java, and SQL.

Tsai couldn’t believe his luck: He’d scored his perfect internship on the first try.

“It wasn’t a set ‘Here’s what we want you to do; can you do it for us?’” Tsai says. “I had a lot of freedom to find problems and attack them using solutions I came up with on my own.”

 

“I’d Return in a Heartbeat”

While he says he’d be honored to be back at IFBI, it turns out Tsai may be strolling the Butler halls a little while longer.

“I’m thinking about coming back to Butler for my MBA [Master’s of Business Administration],” he says. “But I’m not sure my mom’s too happy about that—she wants me to have a job.”

But if IFBI comes calling, Tsai says he’d return in a heartbeat.

“The best compliment my boss gave me last summer was that he’d hire me if he had the space,” he says.

Unleashed

Ryan Tsai: An Unstoppable Problem Solver

The Computer Science major made a huge difference while only an intern at Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. 

Stephanie Fernhaber: A Butler Professor Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom

by Sarah Bahr

While visiting a friend 4,300 miles away in Morocco last fall, Butler University Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Stephanie Fernhaber came face-to-face with her first-world privilege.

She encountered a woman her age—43—who’d never attended a day of school in her life. The woman could neither read nor write.

“I’d read about the percent of women who are illiterate, but she wasn’t a number,” Fernhaber says. “She was an actual person.”

Fernhaber was inspired by the Moroccan mother’s determination to send her daughters to school, to break the cycle of illiteracy.

Back in Indianapolis, Fernhaber had a similar experience in 2017 when she discovered that the city she lives and works in was ranked last in the nation for food deserts, or areas where residents must travel a mile or more to reach a grocery store.

“I was shocked,” she says.

But, in both cases, she was also inspired. And she turned her shock into action.

All in the Family

Fernhaber grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin—Gresham, population 586 as of the 2010 census—as the daughter of community-minded parents.

“I was familiar with social justice before I ever learned the word,” she says.

She credits her father, who owned a construction company, for instilling her passion for community-conscious activism.

“I was always conscious of the balance between business, community, and social impact,” she says.

Fernhaber has now lived in Indiana for nine years—she moved after she took a teaching position at Butler in 2010—but her passion for social entrepreneurship, or using start-up companies to develop and implement solutions to community issues, transcends location.

A longtime dream came to fruition when she developed a social entrepreneurship course at Butler, which she inaugurated in spring 2014.

Nonprofits in Indianapolis were scrambling to address big-picture issues like food insecurity and refugee resettlement with limited resources.

She had a captive audience of 24 students for 16 weeks (and could have had even more, but she caps the class, which she says always fills, to ensure it remains meaningful for students).

What can we do to help?, she thought.

A Class of Dreams

Fernhaber calls the Social Entrepreneurship course her “dream class”—in more ways than one. Yes, it allows her to share her passion for utilizing entrepreneurship to create social justice solutions, but it also inspires students to exercise their creativity.

“I wanted them to have a chance to see what’s happening in the community and have the chance to dream, and this class allows me to do both,” she says.

This spring, her fifth semester teaching the course, her students will split into teams of three and partner with eight community organizations. Past partners have included the Indianapolis Canine Assistance Network, Exodus Refugee Immigration, and Indy Reads Books, but Fernhaber adds new ones each year.

Each team will assess their assigned organization’s business model based on the social enterprise concepts they’re learning in class, as well as provide recommendations for how the organization can better serve their target population.

They’ll also produce a short video that will highlight the impact the organization is having in the community. At the end of the semester, the videos will be shared on the Central Indiana Social Enterprise Alliance website.

Beyond the Classroom

Butler sophomore Jordan Stewart-Curet, 20, helped Boys & Girls Club Teen Council members develop youth empowerment initiatives as part of the communityINNOVATE project, an initiative Fernhaber developed in 2016 to inspire the community to co-create solutions for social issues.

“The best memories I have are from the group discussions that would take place with the teen groups,” Stewart-Curet says. “To see them transform from shy, reserved individuals to powerful, confident community leaders are experiences I will forever take with me.”

Stewart-Curet calls Fernhaber someone who “truly, truly cares” and “is full of passion and drive to better the community.”

“She is a phenomenal woman,” Stewart-Curet says. “She has a heart for not only the students she works with, but issues of justice and equality for the community around her.”

Case in point: Teaching a class on social entrepreneurship and empowering her students to better their community wasn’t enough.

Fernhaber does so in her free time as well.

She’s developed a myriad of social entrepreneurship initiatives in Indianapolis through her communityINNOVATE project, among them the 2018 Indy Youth Empowerment Challenge and the 2017 Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could bring some of these processes from the class into the community?’” says Fernhaber.

Through communityINNOVATE, Fernhaber brings together a group of change-makers from Indianapolis businesses, nonprofits, and citizens to devise solutions to one social issue per year.

In spring 2017, she launched the Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge to facilitate discussions among businesses, church groups, and neighborhood residents to answer the question: “How might Indianapolis residents better access healthy and affordable food?”

She followed up the effort with the Indy Youth Empowerment Challenge in spring 2018, a four-month process designed to pinpoint the obstacles preventing youth empowerment in Indy — and implode them.

She worked with the Kheprw Institute, an Indianapolis nonprofit that works to empower young people through mentorship, to host workshops to teach young people about social capital—for instance, putting participants in groups and asking them to plan a trip to Florida in 10 minutes, including how they’d get there, where they’d stay, and what they’d eat.

The catch? They couldn’t use money.

Attendees instead had to think about how to leverage their existing relationships to make the trip happen, relying on social rather than financial capital.

As for 2019? She’s taking a hiatus from hosting a challenge to map out the initiative’s future, but with plenty of social problems left to solve—Indy’s increasing gap among the haves and have-nots, the race divide, and economic problems among them—she’s sure to be busy for the foreseeable future.

No Day But Today

Fernhaber’s Social Entrepreneurship students will soon dive into this spring’s projects with partner organizations ranging from Nine Lives Cat Café in Fountain Square to RecycleForce, a recycling company that employs formerly incarcerated individuals.

And some students, such as Stewart-Curet, might even come away from the class with changed career goals.

“I want to become a creative director for a nonprofit or minority-owned business that focuses on intercommunity efforts and youth empowerment,” she says. “This project definitely influenced that.”

Fernhaber is clever like that: Students think their work is impacting the Indianapolis community, but the greater impact may actually be on them.

AcademicsPeople

Stephanie Fernhaber: A Butler Professor Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom

Fernhaber brings together a group of change-makers to devise solutions to  social issues.  

Maria De Leon: A Lifelong Activist

By Sarah Bahr

Twelve-year-old Maria De Leon was on the phone with a doctor 40 years her senior.

She was translating a pain-pill prescription from English for her Spanish-speaking parents—but struggling with unfamiliar words like ‘hydrocodone’ and ‘acetaminophen.’

The language is rife with false cognates; each an opportunity for disaster.

‘Intoxicado’ doesn’t mean intoxicated, but ingested. ‘Embarazada’ means not embarrassed, but pregnant.

“That was something my parents didn’t understand,” she says. “Even though I do know English, I don’t know all the words.”

She would translate insurance claims, doctor’s appointments, sometimes even conversations with lawyers.

It was challenging, she says—her parents, who moved to the United States from Guatemala before she was born and have the equivalent of elementary-school educations, don’t speak enough English “to survive,” in her words.

Which meant that in high school, she was on her own to navigate the FAFSA, scholarships, SAT, and college application process.

But she didn’t end up a dropout.

She graduated salutatorian.

And won a full-tuition scholarship to any college in Indiana.

 

“Will Getting Arrested Keep me From Attending Butler?”

Except she almost didn’t.

Butler admission counselor Whitney Ramsay’s phone buzzed one morning last winter.

Will getting arrested keep me from attending Butler?

De Leon, then a senior in high school, was planning to participate in a sit-in protest in Washington, D.C. in January to lobby senators to approve a “clean” Dream Act, or one that creates a pathway to citizenship for immigrants without adding additional stipulations.

Would being arrested for civil disobedience, she wanted to know, affect her eligibility to attend Butler—and her Lilly scholarship?

Ramsay talked to her supervisor: De Leon’s admission decision wouldn’t automatically be rescinded, but any disciplinary infraction would be reviewed by a committee. (Butler later issued a statement reading: “Applicants to Butler University who respectfully engage in meaningful and authentic discourse regarding important issues within our society will not be penalized in the admission process”).

“I told her to be safe, be smart, and listen to her gut,” Ramsay says.

De Leon ultimately decided to stop short of being arrested—though some of her fellow protesters were.

“I felt like me going and protesting was enough at that moment,” she says.

De Leon’s passion for civic engagement started at Crispus Attucks High School on the northwest side of Indianapolis. She was a community ambassador for the Central Indiana Community Foundation, researching Indianapolis’ Hispanic and Latino communities to discover their biggest challenges. She interviewed student DACA recipients, as well as police officers who worked in the Hispanic community.

She also volunteered with the Domestic Violence Youth Network and became a leader of Crispus Attucks’ NO MORE Club, which raises awareness of teen dating violence and sexual assault.

But De Leon wanted to do more than just join a club. Why, she wondered, did Indianapolis Public Schools not have a teen dating violence prevention and response policy?

According to a 2017 Indiana Youth Institute Report, one in eight high school students said they had been “forced to do sexual things they did not want to do by someone they were dating or going out with.” That’s higher than the one in 10 national average.

De Leon worked with Lindsay Stawick, the Youth Program Manager at the Domestic Violence Network, and three other students to draft a policy. It took eight months.

When the policy was enacted at IPS schools this fall, it was the first teen dating violence prevention and response policy in Indianapolis, Stawick says. It holds school staff accountable for preventing abusive behavior and punishes students who participate in it. It also mandates training for teachers and places a teen dating abuse advocate in every IPS school. 

That policy was possibly De Leon’s most significant achievement at Crispus Attucks, but she didn’t wait until her senior year to get involved with organizations she was passionate about.

She began volunteering at TeenWorks, an Indianapolis college-and-career readiness and youth employment nonprofit serving at-risk Marion County teens, her freshman year of high school.

TeenWorks President and CEO Tammie Barney says De Leon can reach the students in a way the adult volunteers can’t.

“It’s rare to see that level of boldness and leadership in such a young person,” Barney says. “She seizes the day to get the most out of every opportunity.”

Her go-getter attitude is one the reasons De Leon says Butler has been a perfect fit.

“I’ve learned that Indy is a city where if an opportunity isn’t there, you can create it,” she says.

 

A DIY Education

Just because her parents didn’t speak English doesn’t mean they weren’t her fiercest academic cheerleaders, De Leon says.

They accompanied her to the many college preparation programs she’d enrolled in as a show of support—even though they couldn’t understand what her instructors were saying.

When De Leon graduated from Crispus Attucks last spring—the first in her family to graduate high school—her parents, two younger brothers, and younger sister were all there to see her walk across the stage.

She gave the second half of her salutatorian speech in Spanish to honor her parents. She was proud to be a role model for her siblings, and the ear-to-ear smiles on her mom’s and dad’s faces said it all.

Her mom’s mantra growing up—and one that De Leon included in her personal statement for Butler—was that her daughter’s U.S. citizenship wouldn’t matter if she didn’t pursue an education.

So De Leon networked like her life depended on it in high school, printing professional business cards and job-shadowing mentors. She knocked out a semester’s worth of college credits from dual-credit courses before ever arriving on the Butler campus.

But sweetest of all?

A full-tuition, four-year Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, which 143 Indiana students from the state’s 92 counties receive each year. Scholars must be leaders, civically engaged, and academic all-stars—all boxes De Leon checked.

But she didn’t think she had a chance at the scholarship after she found out the valedictorian had also applied.

“We thought only one of us was going to get it,” De Leon says. “But then we both got it, which is crazy!”

 

Look Out, Joe Hogsett

When former first lady Michelle Obama spoke in Indianapolis last February, De Leon was in the audience. The quote that stuck with her?

“If there’s not a chair at the table, bring your own.”

That’s what De Leon is trying to do at Butler; The Political Science and Critical Communication & Media Studies double major recently established a Latino chapter of Butler’s Leading Women of Tomorrow initiative, a group focused on empowering women to seek public service careers. She applied to be vice president or secretary.

She was asked to serve as president.

And De Leon continues to volunteer with the organizations that triggered her passion for activism four years ago.

She’s a mentor with the Domestic Violence Youth Network, where she volunteers twice per month and during breaks, and she plans to continue to help with TeenWorks events this summer, from conducting mock interviews to providing resume advice.

De Leon’s goal is to work in politics after she graduates in 2022. She’d love to be the president of a youth-focused nonprofit organization like TeenWorks, but she’s also considering a run for mayor of Indianapolis.

Look out, Joe Hogsett.

Maria De Leon
UnleashedStudent Life

Maria De Leon: A Lifelong Activist

As a daughter, student, and mentor, first-year Maria De Leon works hard for herself and others. 

Katie Pfaff: A Small-Town Success Story

By Sarah Bahr

They were beautiful, those tiaraed Indy 500 Festival princesses in black-and-white sashes, visiting a Lewisville elementary school in a small, rural Indiana farm community more than a decade ago. They inspired a mesmerized Katie Pfaff to dream of one day donning a crown herself.

Though the 21-year-old Butler University senior’s big dreams would take her 60 miles west of the farm where she grew up—more on that in a minute—she’s always had a soft spot for driving down a backroad with no destination in sight, or digging into a slice of the apple-crumb pie her grandma would make her each April 25 because she didn’t like birthday cake.

Small-town life was comforting. There were euchre games with dozens of cousins around the fire on Friday nights, tractor rides through the rustling corn under the fading pinks and purples of an August Indiana sunset. The breeze tickled her hair as she clutched her brother’s back, looking up at the stars in wide, open spaces with no skyscrapers to fill them.

Her graduating class had 60 people in it, in a town of 366.

When both grandparents died on the same day before Christmas one year, her family didn’t cook for a week—her neighbors kept ringing the doorbell with plates of chicken and spaghetti. Their driveway was cleared of snow by an unseen phantom, as though someone had poured hot lava on the white mass and left a sparkling drive.

But Pfaff wasn’t content to accept the charity of others—she was ready to repay it.

 

A Gathering Place

Pfaff, her parents, and her older twin brothers Tyler and Tom started their own business her sophomore year of high school; a Lewisville wedding and event venue known as The Gathering. They converted an old church into a place to celebrate marriages, birthdays, and Christmas—anything that would bring people together.

But when Pfaff went off to college at Butler, some in her hometown thought she’d never come back. She’d become a city girl, forsaking her farm roots. Her role in the family business would be toast.

At first, it looked like they were right.

The minute Pfaff stepped on the Butler campus, the senior Strategic Communication and Human Communication & Organizational Leadership double major was smitten with the big-city school’s small-town feel.

“I don’t know everyone on campus, but it takes no more than a five-second conversation while getting coffee for someone to not feel like a stranger anymore,” she says. 

But all the opportunities could be overwhelming for someone who’d always wanted to do everything.

Her Ethics professor noticed her stress and offered to buy her coffee at the campus Starbucks last spring. But when she walked into class, setting her cup on the table, someone bumped into it, and her drink hit the deck.

“I was paralyzed,” she says. “But Professor Norris waited until everyone had left, bought me another cup of coffee, and sat down for an hour to talk about what I was feeling. He just wanted to know how he could make my day better.”

It was that conversation with Norris, she says, that inspired her to take on a leadership role with Butler’s BUBeWell initiative last spring, a program designed to keep stressed-out students sane while cultivating their mental, physical, and social wellbeing.

Going to Butler was a big adjustment for a small-town girl. She’d come across more people in a single day of walking across campus than she’d meet in an entire year in Lewisville. She missed her mom’s bacon-wrapped water chestnuts; Friday nights around the fire with her parents and brothers, biting into slices of ooey, gooey cheese pizza.

Then she realized: She needed structure.

She set a “golden rule” for herself: She’d be in bed by midnight every evening, no matter whether it was Tuesday or Saturday.

She joined a sorority and found friends like her roommate of two years, 21-year-old Butler pharmacy student Chloe Sandman, who also grew up in a small town and shares Pfaff’s love of ice cream and Hallmark movies.

Now that she was secure in herself, it was time to begin giving back. To the parents who invested in her. To the school that sculpted her.

To the town that raised her.

 

A Royal Coronation

But first, let’s talk about the 178-page paper she just finished writing. Not by herself, of course. The assignment was an eight-person group project for her senior communication capstone class. But 25 pages of that behemoth were hers.

It was that commitment to academics that propelled her to princesshood.

She was chosen as one of 33 Indianapolis 500 Festival princesses in spring 2018 out of a field of more than 2,000 women—just over 33 times the size of her high school graduating class.

Her days sometimes started as early as 3 AM and ended as late as 1 AM (sorry, “golden rule”). She could work as many as three events in a day.

“I spent countless hours doing community outreach in nursing homes and elementary schools,” she says.

But Pfaff’s internship advisor, Butler Communication professor Scott Bridge, says Pfaff has never been one to court recognition for her accomplishments.

“She doesn’t try to draw attention to herself,” he says. “But she does things so well that she can’t help it.”   

Pfaff is still involved in The Gathering’s operations in her hometown, from running social media to answering calls between classes, and coming home on weekends and breaks to help out. She’s raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the college ambitions of children in her community through an internship with her hometown scholarship foundation.

And when Cindy Oler, a Lewisville dance instructor who taught Pfaff for 13 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, Pfaff choreographed a sign-language routine to the song “Blessings” by Laura Story and taught it to Oler’s dance troupe.

“The movements are simple, pure, and so beautiful,” Oler says. “We now teach it every year, invoking the name of the kind and loving heart that created the piece.”

But as soon as she got the call last February that she would be a 500 Festival princess, she knew there was one more thing she had to do.

 

Full Circle

The gleaming blue Chevy rolled up in front of the Lewisville school last May, dozens of eyeballs glued to the 2018 Indianapolis 500 pace car’s star-studded chrome wheels.

Pfaff and several other princesses brought the glitz and glamour of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” to Henry County, and Pfaff even got to wave the checkered flag at the end of the school’s tricycle race she’d pedaled in as a kid.

“It meant everything to me,” Pfaff says.

Being a princess comes with crazy hours—one 3 AM Mini Marathon wakeup call came after she’d stayed up past midnight the night before to finish a final paper—but she always keeps things in perspective.

“So many people would love to be where I am,” she says.

She’s one of Butler’s Top 100 students, a Chapman Champion Award recipient for her exemplary service to the University, and a soon-to-be intern with Indy Hub, an Indianapolis nonprofit designed to help the city attract and retain young professionals.

But most meaningful to her?

The smiles on those little Lewisville boys’ and girls’ faces.

UnleashedStudent Life

Katie Pfaff: A Small-Town Success Story

From rural Indiana to a princess, Katie's journey has always been focused on helping others.