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GuideDawg 2.0 icon on a phone
Experiential LearningUnleashed

New app to help blind, visually-impaired Butler students, visitors

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 14 2019

Haley Sumner’s first few weeks at Butler University were spent navigating campus—learning routes between buildings,figuring out where to go for coffee, and learning how to use her student ID card. Most new students could always use a head start but Sumner, who graduated in May 2019, is blind. She needed three weeks before the start of classes to feel comfortable with her new academic environment.

Sumner admits there were challenges as construction changed her routes every year. The young graduate had to be mindful of twisting sidewalks, changes in ground surfaces and certain doors being made unavailable, again due to construction.

“Having a guide dog was an asset,” Sumner remembers. “It was incredible to work with a guide dog. I thought campus was very accessible.”

Haley Sumner on campus
Haley Sumner '19 was instrumental in GuideDawg 2.0's development.

But not all blind or visually impaired people have access to a guide dog, and those that do use guide dogs may not have weeks to learn Butler’s campus. What if a visually impaired prospective student wants to find their way around? What if a blind person wants to attend a concert at Clowes Memorial Hall?

A team of undergraduate software developers are working on an answer. Led by Computer Science and Software Engineering Professor Panos Linos, the team is creating a digital guide for the blind and visually impaired. Inspired by its four-legged predecessors, GuideDawg 2.0 will be a mobile prototype application available in time for fall 2020 classes. The app will work on any smartphone.

Initial coding started in fall 2018 and Linos says the students will have enough of GuideDawg 2.0 complete to present at conferences next semester. The app will vocally tell users the best route to take from class to class or the cafeteria to Starbucks in Atherton Union. Custom digital mapping installed in the software combined with GPS location will serve as guidance but with features that stretch beyond Google Maps.

“They are eager to push the envelope,” he says. “Throughout this project, it wasn’t just about finding the answers but also finding the questions. We are really figuring out what it means to have people differently abled than us. These students are all here because of their willingness to learn, to explore, and to communicate.”

Serving the community

GuideDawg 1.0 was developed by Linos and other students for the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in 2015. Blind students at the school were assisted by navigation instructors to get around, but they weren’t getting detailed directions once outside the classroom and on their own. GuideDawg helped them get from classroom to classroom as it gave directions step by step.

Linos and his students had to develop a completely different user experience than typical apps they developed in class. They also had to factor the cadence of the app’s vocalizations with voice-to-text and text-to-voice development, while eliminating as many touches as possible.

“They can hear—and prefer—much faster speech for their apps,” Linos says. “We had to speed up the voice for the app.”

For GuideDawg 1.0, Linos had his students wear blindfolds in early meetings.

“Everybody was wearing them while holding their phones,” Linos says. “That experience reminds us of who the actual user will be. We had ideas that would work for you and me, but not for someone who is differently-abled. Would a blind student be able to use this?”

Tech details

A major key to GuideDawg 2.0 will be data collection by Linos’ students. They are in the process of gathering the latitude and longitude of every door on Butler’s campus—every classroom, every entrance to Atherton Union, every bathroom. The data will be entered into a database that GuideDawg 2.0 will pull from via Microsoft Azure cloud. A pre-existing database of every room at Butler that contains technology was also utilized courtesy of Butler Information Technology.

Bluetooth-activated, weatherproof sensors were purchased and will be placed at construction sites and other “hazardous” areas on campus. The sensors work as beacons to trigger GuideDawg 2.0 and are designed to blend in with walls and doorways.

“It’s an interesting challenge,” says Ryan Graham, a senior studying Computer Science on the GuideDawg 2.0 team, “to try to make it so users can understand where buttons are very efficiently and effectively without seeing them. It can’t be clunky with a billion buttons on the front. It has to be very minimal but extremely functional."

Prof. Linos and student
Professor Panos Linos, left, shows Bluetooth-activated beacons to student Gabbi Forsythe.

GuideDawg 2.0 must be nimble and able to change with a growing campus. In just the last year, the new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business and the expansion and renovation of the sciences buildings were added to maps.

“I think Butler is really big on inclusivity and this is just another step in becoming more inclusive,” says Gabbi Forsythe, a Software Engineering senior developing the web interface of the app, “so everyone can get around campus.”

Michele Atterson, Director of the Office of Student Disability Services (SDS), concurs that GuideDawg 2.0 will only improve a campus that has received favorable accessibility feedback, even at active construction sites. She says, “I had many conversations with the project managers for the (sciences complex construction) to ensure the color contrast, font, and size of the detour signage was also accessible to people with vision impairments—as well as those with mobility impairments.

“Raising disability awareness is a mission of SDS. Overall, we have a community that is committed to welcoming people with disabilities.”

The students presented their progress on GuideDawg 2.0 at the October 25 College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Advisory Committee meeting and were met with enthusiastic, positive feedback. The project was given a $500 donation from committee chair Michael Swarzman ’74 and his wife, Barbara Grier, on the spot.

“You can’t help but respect the innovation a project like that demands,” Swarzman says. “It is an obvious commitment for the professor and the students. Expanding on need of inclusivity and diversity is applaudable and the broader application to it is exactly what my family wants to support.”

‘Very beneficial’

During her senior year at Butler, Sumner served as a consultant for GuideDawg 2.0’s early development. She took the developers on her campus routes and pointed out landmarks like a loud air conditioner near Jordan Hall. Sumner noted doors that were difficult for her to open. The GuideDawg team implemented these details into the app to alert users when they approach potential problem areas.

“I think this will be very beneficial for step-by-step routes between buildings,” Sumner says. “Hopefully it will have a very smooth transition.”

Sumner adds that apps like Google Maps don’t have enough spatial awareness for blind users. Like the young students at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Sumner couldn’t rely on Apple Maps for which doors to use and what hallways to take to reach her Communications Sciences and Disorders classes on time.

But accessible technology has come a long way and is improving rapidly. Sumner has noticed a marked improvement in the quality of apps and screen-reading software. GuideDawg 2.0 will be part of the further advancement in technological accessibility. Sumner still lives around Butler and she is excited to download the app next year.

“Technology has come a long way,” says Sumner, who is pursuing certification as a life coach. “It needs to continue to be equal and inclusive for everyone. It will cultivate empowerment and diminish stigma.”

 

Media Contact:

Tim Brouk

Senior News Content Manager

tbrouk@butler.edu

765-977-3931 (cell)

 

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.

GuideDawg 2.0 icon on a phone
Experiential LearningUnleashed

New app to help blind, visually-impaired Butler students, visitors

Launching in fall 2020, the GuideDawg app measures steps between classrooms and warns of construction sites

Nov 14 2019 Read more
Students get a tour on the Detroit Trek
Experiential LearningUnleashed

LSB Treks allow students to get inside peek in New York, Detroit

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 11 2019

Detroit, Michigan, has gone by many names: the Motor City, Hockeytown, and The D, just to name a few. Comeback City is its latest, and that moniker was witnessed by Butler University students.

With the help of alumni like Steve Hamp ‘70, Detroit caught the eye of the Andre B. Lacy School of Business’ Trek program. During Fall Break, nine Business students took part in the second annual Detroit Trek. Hosted by Butler grads, the students met professionals and toured national companies and venues like Quicken Loans, General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Ford Field, NYX Inc., and the Detroit Empowerment Plan, where homeless women craft specialized coats to combat global homelessness.

“Trips like this are exciting and fun and advertise Detroit as a destination for graduates to participate and be a part of its renaissance,” says Hamp, who coordinated the Ford Field and Ford Motor Company visits.

The Detroit Trek is the second such trip of its kind within the LSB. A New York Trek has enjoyed a successful five-year run. It concentrates on Wall Street and the world of finance. The 2020 New York Trek will take 10 more Business students to the Big Apple in March.

Both Treks were funded by alumni donations before Michigan native Amy Wierenga ‘01 and her husband, Luis Felipe Perez-Costa, established a $100,000 endowment to ensure the Treks’ continuation.

“It’s so valuable for students to be able to experience the culture of several different firms first hand—to directly interact with people in different kinds of roles in a low-pressure setting,” says Wierenga, who is a Butler Trustee. “Many students don’t realize how diverse the potential opportunities are within and across firms, how many different ways there are to apply their talents and plug into a career. Thanks to the Treks, students get exposed to, and can explore seeing themselves in different seats. They can say ‘I could see that being me in five or 10 years.’”

From trains to electric autonomous vehicles

Hamp, who earned an American History degree from Butler before spending the last four decades in Detroit, introduced Pamela Lewis, director of the New Economy Initiative, to talk about entrepreneurialism with the students over lunch before a behind-the-scenes look at Ford’s development of the old Michigan Central Station. The 105-year-old landmark will be the new home of the car manufacturer’s electric autonomous vehicle research and development.

At Ford Field, the students experienced a rare glimpse of the inner-workings of an NFL franchise in midseason. They met Detroit Lions President Rod Wood, and took a tour of the stadium, which included the opportunity to walk on the turf and stand in the end zones where Lions Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown 141 touchdown passes and counting.

Whether picking professionals’ brains or conversing with alumni over dinner, almost every interaction had a common thread for the students.

Bradley Herzog in Detroit
Senior Bradley Herzog stands inside Michigan Central Station, a future home to Ford vehicle research.

“Everyone we talked to was very passionate about the city and the direction it’s going,” says Bradley Herzog, a senior studying International Business and Spanish. “It was great to see people moving back into the city and finding jobs there. There’s a lot of positive things to say about Detroit.”

Herzog and sophomore Emma Ryan cited the visit to the Empowerment Plan as especially impactful. CEO Veronika Scott was studying fashion design in college when she came up with the idea to create coats that convert to sleeping bags. More than a decade later, the Plan has grown into much more than coats. Ryan was impressed with the tremendous social impact a young entrepreneur has made in a major city.

“Many of the people making the coats were domestic violence victims,” says Ryan, a Finance and Marketing major. “It was a safe place for them with a full kitchen and supportive environment. They were paying them to make coats, but also to unwind and recharge. There was yoga and classes to earn their GED. They could stay for two years and get back on their feet.”

Ryan was also impressed at the number of young women represented at major companies at every level. Two recent college graduates at GM spoke to her about finance and what their job paths have consisted of. In the two young businesswomen, Ryan found inspiration and confidence in her own career path, which now might include Detroit.

“After graduation, I was planning on moving to Chicago or New York,” says the Evansville, Indiana, native, “but after this trip, I saw a different side of Detroit: I saw the booming business side.”

Next Treks: Windy City? Bay Area?

Graham Honaker, Executive Director of Principal Gifts for Butler Advancement, revealed the Trek program could extend to Chicago and the Bay Area. Applications for the New York Trek number in the dozens and Detroit is not far behind. Not bad for a program that started with a cup of Starbucks coffee. Honaker met up with Michael Bennett ‘09, then an analyst with JP Morgan Chase & Co., in Manhattan. The young alumnus spoke about bringing Butler Business students to New York to get an early taste of what working on Wall Street is like.

“It’s so competitive to get into the financial sector in New York,” Honaker says. “From that Starbucks, we outlined the program and launched it a couple years later.”

Bennett is thrilled to see the Treks grow. Only 10 years removed from his own Butler graduation, he is happy to help bring Butler students to the Big Apple for the Trek and, later, as professionals.

“It’s how to get your foot in the door; you have to be there to make that happen,” says Bennett, now director of investment counseling for Citibank. “During these Treks, they have proximity to companies and alumni. It’s engaging and fun, and there’s some elements of excitement around it. It’s a major recruitment tool.”

Whether it’s Detroit Rock City, the City That Never Sleeps, or any other market brimming with Butler alumni, LSB Treks are worth every mile.

“I would highly recommend attending as many as you can,” Herzog says. “There’s no downside. You get the opportunity to see so many companies inside the city. We were really privileged to see and talk to so many successful professionals. It’s an opportunity you don't get at a lot of colleges.”

 

Media Contact:

Tim Brouk

Senior News Content Manager

tbrouk@butler.edu

765-977-3931 (cell)

 

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.

Students get a tour on the Detroit Trek
Experiential LearningUnleashed

LSB Treks allow students to get inside peek in New York, Detroit

Business students tour companies and network with alumni

Nov 11 2019 Read more
Butler in Asia (Singapore)
AcademicsExperiential Learning

Renewed Grant to Butler in Asia Sets Total Funding at More Than $1 Million

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Nov 07 2019

When Su-Mei Ooi first started teaching at Butler University, she never imagined she’d have the chance to travel with students back to where she grew up in the city-state of Singapore.

“Indianapolis just seems so far away from there,” says the Associate Professor of Political Science.

But in 2017, Ooi joined the Butler in Asia study abroad experience as a Faculty Director. The program, which places students at six-week internships in Asian cities, had just developed a Singapore option to add to the China trips it first launched in 2015.

Now, the program is growing again. The Freeman Foundation has renewed its grant to Butler in Asia, awarding $400,000 that will fund the internship experience for the next two years and support new trips to Tokyo starting next summer.

About 40 percent of Butler students travel abroad by the time they graduate—making the University ninth in the nation for undergraduate participation. More than 700 students studied abroad from summer 2018 through spring 2019, an increase of 34 percent from the year before. And with continued support from organizations like the Freeman Foundation, those numbers are only continuing to grow.

The Freeman Foundation is dedicated to strengthening relationships between the United States and nations in East Asia. It has provided grants to Butler in Asia since 2014, with the most recent award setting Butler’s total funding from the foundation at more than $1 million.

“Finances continue to be the largest deterrent for students to be able to go abroad,” says Butler Director of Global Engagement Jill McKinney. “The Freeman Foundation has helped remove this barrier to make this culturally complex region of the world more accessible to more students.”

Since the start of the relationship, 146 Butler students have participated. A total of 72 more students are expected to travel with the program over the next two years.

The Freeman Foundation aims to provide U.S. college students with experiences in East and Southeast Asia, locations that aren’t typical study abroad destinations.

“These countries have rich histories and are also important contemporary influences in the world,” McKinney says. “With their ongoing financial support, the Freeman Foundation has literally opened this part of the world up to our students.”

But just going to these places isn’t enough: Freeman Foundation members want students to really engage in the cultures and interact with the people. That cultural engagement is a core part of the program at Butler, one of just 23 U.S. universities that receive funding from the Freeman Foundation.

Through Butler in Asia, students are placed in workplace experiences relevant to their majors. But that’s not the only selling point. The program also pairs students with faculty members who travel with them, teach them about the complexities of local culture, and mentor them through the first few weeks of their trip.

“This structure has allowed more students to envision themselves taking on a study abroad location they might not have otherwise considered,” McKinney says.

As a Faculty Director, Ooi takes groups of 10 to 15 students back to her home country every summer. She leads a week of regional travel before the internships begin, teaches students about the social issues affecting Singapore, and provides moral support as students acclimate to the culture and workplace.

Kelly Stone, a sophomore who traveled to Singapore with Butler in Asia last summer, says she learned a lot from Ooi that she wouldn’t have otherwise understood.

“She was able to tell us about the behind-the-scenes context on things,” Stone says. “She had so much to teach us, and she was also really helpful in preparing us for the trip.”

Stone, who studies Marketing and Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Butler, spent her internship with a local Singaporean marketing firm called ENCE Marketing Group. She’d been itching to travel again since first going abroad during a gap year after high school. She says actually having the chance to work in another country rounded out her other international experiences, which she had mostly spent volunteering or just exploring. Plus, it gave her a taste of what it might be like to move abroad later in her career.

At her internship, Stone worked mostly with the public relations team. Beyond providing her first-ever internship experience, the time in Singapore helped Stone grow more confident in working through cultural barriers or differences. With the goal of starting her own business one day, she also valued the chance to be part of a small company, where she worked closely with the person who had launched the firm.

Like Stone, roughly half of the students who travel with Butler in Asia each year are from the Lacy School of Business (LSB). Bill Templeton, the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs in LSB, says he works to promote the program among business students as a way to complete one of their two required internships in cities that are central to the business world.

“Most of our graduates will likely encounter doing business with Asian counterparts,” he says. “The opportunity to actually go to Asia, and to get a sense of the economic and business climate there, is a huge advantage for our students.”

Applications for the Summer 2020 Butler in Asia trips are due December 4, 2019. Students can apply here for Shanghai, here for Singapore, or here for Tokyo. Feel free to contact Jill McKinney (jsmckinn@butler.edu) with any questions.

 

Media Contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

 

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.

Butler in Asia (Singapore)
AcademicsExperiential Learning

Renewed Grant to Butler in Asia Sets Total Funding at More Than $1 Million

Support from the Freeman Foundation helps Butler place students at internships in East Asia.

Nov 07 2019 Read more
Tom Mould
ResearchUnleashed

Butler professor’s research dispels myths of the ‘Welfare Queen’

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 04 2019

Recipients of welfare and other government aid are unfairly scrutinized and even demonized as “welfare queens,” according to Professor of Anthropology and History Tom Mould and his several years of research on public assistance.

Mould dispels numerous myths while humanizing people that rely on welfare. He and his students recorded more than 150 interviews with not only welfare recipients but politicians, grocery store clerks, aid providers, and members of the general public in North Carolina. Mould says his findings go against the grain of what most Americans think of the welfare system.

“Official government documents are clear that the food stamp fraud rate has been between half a percent and one and a half percent over the past decade, way lower than most federal programs,” Mould says. “What we have with stories of so-called ‘welfare queens’ is an incredibly unfair narrative and an incredibly negative light that is unfair. This work is trying to rectify that.”

Mould’s book Overthrowing the Queen: Telling Stories of Welfare in America focuses on the broad picture of welfare in America while weaving in riveting narratives of aid recipients and the overwhelming lengths people go through to provide for their children and to keep a roof over their heads. The title will hit shelves this summer from Indiana University Press.

Mould says the stereotype of the “welfare queen,” someone who is believed to work the welfare system to gain wealth, was mostly fabricated in the 1970s and 1980s.

“It infuriated people, but, of course, the stories, by and large, were not true,” Mould says. “There doesn’t appear to be any more fraud in the welfare system than any government system. Why are we singling out the poor to demonize?”

While all of his research was in the Tarheel State, Overthrow the Queen appeals to readers nationwide, Mould says. The book documents how recipients came to need public assistance and the current challenges they are facing.

“The stories show people putting in a lot of hard work, a lot of ingenuity, a lot of commitment to their children,” he adds. “Parents were unwilling to give up on trying to make a better life for their kids.”

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

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

 

Media Contact:

Tim Brouk

Senior News Content Manager

tbrouk@butler.edu

765-977-3931 (cell)

Tom Mould
ResearchUnleashed

Butler professor’s research dispels myths of the ‘Welfare Queen’

Professor of Anthropology Tom Mould’s research shows food stamp fraud rate is lower than most federal programs

Nov 04 2019 Read more
A woman casts her ballot
ResearchUnleashed

Republican delegates more likely to disagree, new Butler research shows

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 04 2019

Within any political party, there’s a multitude of views and approaches to campaigning. Some members want to advance specific policies, others just want to do whatever it takes to win.

Recent research co-authored by Greg Shufeldt, Butler University Assistant Professor of Political Science, found that at the 2012 conventions, Republican delegates were not only much more polarized within their party than Democratic delegates, but they were much more divided than in previous years.

While published results are from 2012, they shed important light on internal party processes that shaped the conflicts evident in the 2016 presidential primary contests.

Greg Shufeldt
Greg Shufeldt

“This was before President Trump,” Shufeldt says, “but this might inform some of the things that allowed President Trump to rise to power.” 

Shufeldt culled his data from surveys sent to every delegate that attended the Republican and Democratic conventions. The Butler researcher helped draft the questionnaires in 2012 and 2016, which the delegates filled out online.

“We’re looking at fault lines within the parties,” Shufeldt says. “Congress is more polarized than it's ever been. The parties are farther apart ideologically but also more homogenous. Delegates or party activists are what connects these polarized elites with the general public.” 

Shufeldt writes that delegates are classified as more pragmatist, or wanting the party to win elections at the expense of advancing specific policies, or classified as more purist, believing that advancing specific policies is the way for the party to win elections.

The research found not much variation between 2012 Democratic delegates, which offered more balanced pragmatic and purist tendencies. Shufeldt says the Democratic party is more used to navigating inner faction conflict because that is the nature of the Democratic party. Through group identities, they become Democrats. While Democrats internally balance these competing pragmatic and purist tendencies, Republican delegates are more divided into a clearer pragmatic wing and purist wings.

In fact, his research found that the 2012 Republican delegates were more internally divided than the infamous 1972 McGovern Democrats. Based on how delegates responded to questions about group membership, key policy areas, and attitudes toward key party groups, the study organized delegates into factions. On the Republican side, three factions were developed from the Republican delegate data—“contemporary conservatives,” “establishment Republicans,” and “Libertarians.” Among Democrats, the study identified factions of “cultural liberals,” “all-purpose liberals,” and “centrists.” 

Looking back on 2012, the rise of the Tea Party and support for Rep. Ron Paul, who campaigned for the Republican candidacy, were influencers to Republican delegates within the “Libertarian” faction. Shufeldt reveals that those factors were less crucial in 2016, but new groups formed four years later within both Republican and Democratic parties. 

“These studies inform our politics,” Shufeldt says. “We’re so evenly divided into red and blue states. It’s a really unique time to be talking to people that are at these conventions.”

 

Innovations in Teaching and Learning

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

 

Media Contact:

Tim Brouk

Senior News Content Manager

tbrouk@butler.edu

765-977-3931 (cell)

A woman casts her ballot
ResearchUnleashed

Republican delegates more likely to disagree, new Butler research shows

Research sheds light on what led to internal conflicts during 2016 presidential primary contests

Nov 04 2019 Read more
A Sparki robot used in the Analytical Reasoning course
Experiential LearningUnleashed

Robots Enhance Coding Prowess, Passion in the Core Curriculum

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Nov 01 2019

Getting Butler University Dance majors to learn computer coding was as easy as a plié in first position, thanks to robots.

In Computer Science Professor Panos Linos’ pilot Analytical Reasoning course in 2010, part of the Butler Core Curriculum, the goal was to give students not majoring in Computer Science or Software Engineering some experience in coding. So, Linos employed robots, something he thought would get non-majors excited about using things foreign to almost everyone in the class, such as the Python language. The class, now in its ninth year, teaches students to program robots to do small tasks like drawing shapes, making a sequence of noises, and flashing lights in a pattern.

A recent final project saw a group of Dance majors choreograph their robots to “dance” a routine, something they could all relate to. The students had a classical music score to back up the bots.

“All five robots performed a ballet together,” says Linos, with a laugh. “It’s very challenging to synchronize all of these robots to do the same routine.”

Adjunct Professor in Computer Science Jeremy Eglen now leads the course with a new robot—Sparki. Each student gets their own small robot, which is equipped with motorized wheels, an LCD screen, and little arms for gripping small objects. They also have sensors to help them see light, identify objects, and follow the lines of a maze or edge of a table.

Most of the work is done in groups. The students help one another on assignments with colorful names like Back-Up Bot, Episode 1: The Phantom Obstacle—one that involves writing a program that makes the robot move backward for two seconds without crashing into an obstacle.

The robots have been effective in getting students hooked on coding. Linos says the students treat their bots like their pets, carrying them around and celebrating new tricks that took hours to compute. While some students might have taken a coding class in high school, Analytical Reasoning is more hands-on. They can see their hours of meticulous coding create action for Sparki.

“You can sense the excitement of the students,” Linos says. “The motivation and passion I saw in the students was a great measure of this class’ success.”

Coding encoded in most careers

Whether future teachers or rising anthropologists, students in Eglen’s class realize the importance of basic coding

Jeremy Eglen instructs his students.
Computer Science faculty member Jeremy Eglen, second from left, helps his students code.

Journalism sophomore David Brown already knows the need for coding experience in a competitive job market. He found Analytical Reasoning as an ideal fit.

“Coding seemed so inaccessible to me,” he says. “But it’s a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you put your time into it, it’s doable.”

Despite taking a coding class in high school, first-year Journalism major Brook Tracy admitted feeling intimidated by early coding assignments. But after early success in getting Sparki to move around in response to her coding, that changed.

“I thought learning how to code was way out of reach. There was no way I could do that,” Tracy says. “But it is something that’s attainable. You don’t need to be a crazy genius to learn how to do it, but my family and friends are still amazed at what I can do now. You just have to be detail-oriented and listen to instructions, and you can figure it out.

“And If you’re the person at the office who can code, your human capital goes up. Whatever field you go into, this experience will boost your resume even higher.”

Eglen agrees. He says there aren’t many jobs that don’t require computers and the ability to work them.

“Knowledge of programming is going to help you, no matter what your career is,” Eglen says. “And some of the students find out they actually like it.”

‘Still Alive’

Students program their robot.
Students program their Sparki robot in the Analytical Reasoning course.

First-year student Hannah Goergens, a Creative Writing and Computer Science major, enjoys the creative atmosphere in the Analytical Reasoning class, which serves as an appetizer before her Computer Science main courses.

In her spare time, Goergens programmed her robot to “sing” a tune called Still Alive from the video game Portal. She downloaded sheet music for the song, which is sung from the perspective of a robot, and got to work scripting every note, pitching Sparki’s bleeps to match the melody.

“This took me a week,” Goergens says, “right after we learned we could make it learn music. I’m just a big Portal fan, so I thought, ‘Why not?’”

Inspiring the coder within

The Sparki robots used in the class run about $150 a piece, and they are covered by Core Curriculum grants. The Core Curriculum covers a broad student educational experience, which includes getting STEM students into art classes and vice versa. Analytical Reasoning has been especially effective, says James McGrath, Faculty Director of the Core Curriculum. He has seen positive results when students are taken outside of their comfort zones.

“Lots of students think they’re not good at math, music, or writing,” McGrath says. “One of the purposes of the Core is to foster students to be well-rounded, no matter their focus of study. In these classes, they’re actually approaching the subject in ways not thought of. They may find they’re good at something they didn't know. They’re using a whole other part of their brains.”

Linos says programming drones would be a natural next step for the course, but whether they fly or dance, the robots are making some former Analytical Reasoning students change majors to Computer Science or Software Engineering. The class gave them the confidence that they can—and should—code. 

“It was very gratifying to me—as an educator, as a facilitator of their learning—to see them learning how to write code in a fun way,” Linos says.

 

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.

 

Media Contact:

Tim Brouk

Senior News Content Manager

tbrouk@butler.edu

765-977-3931 (cell)

A Sparki robot used in the Analytical Reasoning course
Experiential LearningUnleashed

Robots Enhance Coding Prowess, Passion in the Core Curriculum

Designed for humanities majors, the Analytical Reasoning course teaches coding with an assist from robots.

Nov 01 2019 Read more
sandeep das percussion ensemble Butler University
Arts & CulturePeople

Seeing Yourself On Stage: Students Dance and Play Alongside Guest Artists

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 31 2019

 

 

“Whatever is written is just a suggestion,” Sandeep Das, a world-renowned Indian tabla musician, tells the small group of Butler University percussion students during their Wednesday-afternoon rehearsal. “You have to make it dance. Make it breathe.

And let’s try it one more time.”

Das visited campus in late October as part of the JCA Signature Series, an artist residency program organized through Butler’s Jordan College of the Arts. Featuring guests from the worlds of art, theatre, music, and dance, the series is designed to serve the Indianapolis community through high-quality public performances, while also providing opportunities for students to interact with and learn from artists in the classroom.

For Das, the three-day visit to Butler felt like coming back home. He first performed at the University in 2017, and JCA Dean Lisa Brooks says students haven’t stopped talking about Das and his joyful teaching style ever since.

“He’s so giving,” Brooks says. “When he sits and talks with students, it’s not like, ‘I am so successful. I played with the Silkroad Ensemble—one of the most famous music groups in the world.’ There’s none of that. He is just this incredibly warm human being.”

This time around, Das didn’t just bring his tabla—a traditional Indian hand drum resembling a pair of unattached bongos, but ringing with a more vibrant, melodic sound. He also brought along two fellow Indian performers: sitar player Rajib Karmakar and Kathak dancer Antara Bhardwaj.

Beyond a main performance featuring all three guests, the artists spent time working directly with students through rehearsals and master classes—a key element of the JCA Signature Series. The performers led classroom-based demonstrations and interactive lessons, playing and dancing right alongside students.

“They come and work with you in your class, and then you go watch them perform, and you are going to see yourself on that stage,” Brooks says.

Sometimes, you’ll actually be on that stage, soloing in an Indian song about the creation of the universe while standing just a few feet away from the person who wrote it. 

 

Forget About the Paper

For the night, Robby Buetow is Shiva. As part of a concert from Butler’s Percussion Ensemble, Das has left his front-row seat to join students for a performance of Shristi, a piece he created during his time with Yo Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble. From Buetow’s spot holding down the beat on tom-toms—a role based on the universe-creating Hindu god Shiva—the Percussion Performance junior can’t help but smile every time he looks over at Das drumming on tabla and nodding along to the complex rhythms.

And Das never stops smiling back.

“Shabash!” he shouts—an Indian term for “bravo.”

He’s glad to see the students looking up at him instead of down at their music. It’s a change from the day before, when he’d asked them during rehearsal to forget about the paper and just feel the groove. And they listened, approaching Das before the concert to leave all the sheet music in a pile at his feet.

“When Das is on stage with students, there is just this feeling of, ‘We did this together,’” Brooks says. “It’s not just a gig for him, and the kids pick up on that. He inspires them with the sheer force of his love for music.”

Das first started teaching when he began to feel like just playing music wasn’t enough. He feels responsible for passing what he’s learned on to younger generations, and he sees music as a way to help students learn more about people who are different from them.

“We might play different instruments,” he says. “We might sing different songs. But at the end of it all, we are humans first.”

 

Not an Everyday Experience

“The body that dances on this earth is for the divine,” translates Antara Bhardwaj.

She’s teaching a class of about 30 Butler students how to consecrate their dance space—common practice within Kathak, a classical Indian dance style. The poem she chants matches the choppy but powerful stomps of her feet, which just barely leave the floor with each step.

 

 

As she goes on to demonstrate a storytelling dance about the flute-playing Hindu god Krishna dancing on the banks of a river, the fluid waves of her arms offer contrast to the strength of her legs. She explains the sounds of the dance, from a flat-footed slap on the ground to a heel stomp that brings out a deep echo from the floor.

Combining those rapid foot rhythms with the intricate hand movements is the hardest part for senior Dance Pedagogy major Elizabeth Labovitz, who has never taken an Indian dance class before now. But the students catch on fast, learning in an hour what Bhardwaj usually teaches throughout a semester.

“I’m really glad Butler provided this opportunity for us, and that they are trying to bring in dancers outside of what we normally do,” Labovits says. “I thought the teacher was fantastic. She broke it down very easily and made it accessible to people who don’t have any background in this. It was super cool to explore a different dance style and culture from what I do everyday.”

Creating these out-of-the-ordinary experiences for students is a main goal of the JCA Signature Series, but the program also serves and inspires community members through a full lineup of performances. See below for details about upcoming events.

 

Remaining performances, 2019-2020 JCA Signature Series:

 

Media Contact:

Katie Grieze

News Content Manager

kgrieze@butler.edu

260-307-3403 (cell)

 

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.

sandeep das percussion ensemble Butler University
Arts & CulturePeople

Seeing Yourself On Stage: Students Dance and Play Alongside Guest Artists

World-renowned musician Sandeep Das and dancer Antara Bhardwaj visit Butler classrooms for JCA Signature Series.

Oct 31 2019 Read more

Butler's Move-in Day Experience

By Meredith Sauter

Jeanette Collier remembers arriving at Butler University to move her son, Cedric, into his first-year residence hall. The whole family was nervous, she says. Would things go according to plan?

Then the movers arrived, greeted the Colliers at Cedric’s residence hall, started unloading belongings out of their car, and delivered the things right to Cedric’s room.

“I couldn’t believe how easy it was,” Jeanette says. “There’s a lot of stress leading up to this day—the day you leave your child for the first time. I’d say I was at a stress level of about 100 when we arrived on campus, but Butler took it down to probably a two. Everything was taken care of, and we were able to relax. It was a great first impression.”

The Colliers were far from alone in their feelings of anxiety leading up to move-in day. In August, Butler welcomed 1,125 new students into three different residence halls. On top of the logistical tasks of moving into a new place, students face the stress of leaving home, meeting new people, and adjusting to a new schedule.

The goal of move-in, of course, is efficiency, but also to ease the nerves of new families like the Colliers, says Meg Haggerty, Director of New Student and Family Programs at Butler. But things weren’t always this seamless. It took one infamous move-in day to get to the systematic approach Haggerty says now appears to be second nature.

“It was pouring rain,” she says. “People were carrying their things around campus, and everything was wet. Everything was taking forever. It was sort of that moment you realize, ‘This is not working. This has got to change.’”

Now, families are assigned a specific time to arrive at the residence hall. They drive up to the unloading space, open the trunk of their car, and sit inside while a team of movers unload their belongings.

The movers then put all the items—pre-labeled with the student’s last name and room number—into a large rolling cart and deliver everything to the student’s room. Meanwhile, families leave the residence hall and drive a short distance to an assigned parking lot. By the time they take a short walk (or take a golf cart shuttle) back to the residence hall, all of the items are waiting in the student’s room.

Now, moving belongings from the car to the dorm takes minutes. The process also takes contingencies—like bad weather—into account.

In addition to implementing this new move-in process, Butler has planned the entire day around the first-year student and family experience. While moving into the residence halls is the highlight, there’s also a resource fair set up in the middle of campus where students and families are connected with campus offices, religious organizations, banks, and other entities. Food trucks visit campus, and student orientation guides serve as leaders of Welcome Wagons. The wagons are filled with temporary tattoos, bubbles, first aid kits, water bottles, maps of campus and Indianapolis, and schedules for the rest of the week.

Cristina Veraza, Family Council member and parent of Butler sophomore Jorge Veraza, has fond memories of her family’s move-in day one year earlier.

“It was very organized and very quick, especially when compared to my older daughter’s move-in experience at a different school,” Veraza says. “We spent the better part of the day unloading and carrying my daughter’s things to her room, but at Butler, that was all done for us in a matter of minutes. With Jorge’s move-in experience, we were able to enjoy the day and go out for dinner. It was a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience.”

Future prospective Butler families can expect to receive the same level of service—if not better—on their own move-in days. The University is evaluating its processes to see how else it can be improved.

“We know that this is already a time of heightened stress and great transition for families,” Haggerty says. “If we can help alleviate elements of this stress to make families feel like they're leaving their student in a safe place, that is what we want to do.”

Butler Move-in Day
CampusStudent Life

Butler's Move-in Day Experience

At Butler, there's no need to stress about move-in day. We make it easy, giving families more time together.

youth and community development Butler
AcademicsAlumni Outcomes

Butler Education Alumni Inspire New Major

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Oct 28 2019

When faculty in Butler University’s College of Education started hearing the stories of the many trailblazing graduates who have pursued youth-focused careers outside the classroom, they saw those paths forming a map for how to better serve future students.

“We really began to think, ‘How do we create a purposeful, intentional program to offer a valid and useful pathway for students who want to pursue careers working with young people in the community, but not within a traditional classroom setting?’” says Angela Lupton, a Senior Lecturer of Education. 

This fall, COE launched the new non-licensure Youth and Community Development major as an answer to that question. Students in the pathway share foundational curriculum required for all COE majors, but they also choose from one of five interdisciplinary, community-focused intensive areas: Sociology with an emphasis in Social Work; Recreation and Sport Studies; Human Communication and Organizational Leadership; Arts Administration; or Entrepreneurship and Innovation. To finish out the major, all students complete full-time internships within youth-focused organizations related to their concentrations.

“We don’t see this at all as an alternative pathway for those who decide not to become teachers,” says Shelly Furuness, an Associate Professor of Education who worked with Lupton to develop the new major over the last four years. “It’s a pathway for you to see yourself as an educator, but not in the context of a traditional classroom.”

Furuness says each of the five intensive areas was inspired by the career paths of former students, from entering the field of social work, to pursuing student affairs roles within higher education, to serving youth through nonprofit work. Others have gone on to roles as professional school counselors, museum educators, and a variety of other youth-focused positions.

“We want to help broaden the concept of what educators do,” Furuness says. “Our vision for the COE is that we imagine a world where we are trying to push the status quo and help students see schools and communities as they could be.”

Building the curriculum involved listening to voices from across disciplines, and Lupton has already received ideas for ways to add more concentration options. It took a University to raise the major, and Lupton believes the program is all the stronger for it.

“I think the opportunity to work with colleagues across campus was a really powerful process,” she says. “I was amazed at the number of people who kept saying, ‘Oh my gosh, where was this when I was an undergrad?’”

 

Making Meaningful Connections

Amanda Murphy loves education. She loves working with young people. But she has never loved being in a classroom.

Murphy first applied to Butler as an English major, then switched to Exploratory before move-in day. From there, she bounced around to political science, communication, and education until the start of her Sophomore year. She knew she needed to settle on something soon, but nothing seemed to fit.

Then in fall 2018, Lupton visited one of Murphy’s COE core classes to announce the new Youth and Community Development major.

“I thought, Woah, this is exactly what I want,” Murphy says. “You have the ability to work with young people, to study educational theories and practices, while not having to be in a classroom.”

Now a student in the Human Communication and Organizational Leadership area of the Youth and Community Development major, Murphy says her favorite thing about the program is the freedom it allows for personalization, which let her satisfy most of her required credits with classes she’d taken before switching.

While Murphy still isn’t sure exactly what she wants to do after graduation, she knows she wants to work with high school students.

“I just think that’s such a cool age for young people,” she says. “They make these huge bounds in social and emotional development. But when I was in high school, I didn’t like any of my classes. I still did well in them, and I enjoy learning, but the most meaningful connections I made were with people outside the classroom.”

She says high schoolers need people who are dedicated to being there for them and guiding them, and she wants to be one of those people. She’s passionate about educational advocacy, especially when it comes to fighting for equitable testing practices or LGBTQ and gender rights within schools. She wants to advocate for these things, but she mostly wants to help young people become leaders in advocating for themselves.

“Once you give them a little taste of leadership, that’s going to stick with them throughout their entire lives,” she says. “It’s a stepping stone that they’ll remember and will actually use to make a change within their own lives and communities.”

 

From Camp to Career

At a recent Butler admissions visit, Lupton met with a high school senior who was interested in the COE. He said he planned to become a classroom teacher, so Lupton explained some details about Butler’s licensure programs.

And while I’ve got you here, she told him, let me tell you about the new Youth and Community Development major.

As she talked, Lupton watched the wide-eyed expressions of the student and his mom. They looked at Lupton, and then they looked at each other, and then they looked back at Lupton.

“I thought, ‘What is going on here? I clearly hit a button,’” she recalls.

Okay, I need to confess to you, the student said. Part of the reason I like working with young people is that when I was younger, I had the chance to be involved in an amazing camp program. Throughout high school, I’ve gone back every summer to be a counselor. I always thought teaching would be a good fit for me because I could work with young people during the school year but still have my summers to go back and be a part of that program.

He stood in shock because, for the first time, someone was telling him that working with youth in recreational settings could be a viable year-round job.

“It was just such an ‘aha’ moment for him and his mom,” Lupton says. “They were both like, ‘That’s what you are meant to do.’”

Lupton says people too often think that whatever they enjoy doing most can’t be a career.

“This major stands in the face of that and asks people to think about those experiences they have adored and would love to keep doing,” she says. “It’s very possible that this pathway could lead you there.”

 

 

Revealing a Path

Through launching a nonprofit organization and following his passion for working with youth through sports—all after realizing a traumatic brain injury would prevent him from teaching in a classroom—College of Education graduate Mark Spiegel helped inspire curriculum for Butler's new Youth and Community Development major.

As a soccer coach in Indianapolis and founder of the nonprofit organization Make Your Own Ball Day, Mark Spiegel gets to spend his days with kids who are just as excited to be there as he is. Back when he was student teaching in English classrooms, asking high schoolers to read the next chapter of Shakespeare, that wasn’t always the case.

Still, a career outside the classroom wasn’t always the plan for Spiegel, who graduated from Butler University in 2013 with majors in English and Secondary Education.

He first came to Butler from Lee's Summit, Missouri, not quite sure what to study. He just knew he wanted to play soccer and volunteer with kids—the rest would work itself out, he figured. So he took “the money route,” declaring majors in Business and Mandarin while spending the rest of his time either out on the field or mentoring youth in the community.

But everything changed during a soccer practice his sophomore year. A ball struck the back of his head, leaving an injury that has caused him daily headaches ever since. After another hit during a game the following season, Spiegel had to quit soccer and drop out of school.

“The head injury knocked me off this automated, sleepy track of what many people consider to be the American Dream,” he says. “But I was faced for the first time with figuring out what I was really passionate about.”

It took years—and a challenge from his therapist to find life through giving life to others—but Spiegel eventually went back to coaching soccer and volunteering with organizations that let him work with kids outdoors. He came back to Butler to finish his degree, this time in Education. And he graduated, but only after realizing while student teaching in his last semester that the chronic headaches would prevent him from ever working in a classroom.

“I was finding myself in situations where I had 32 kids looking at me, when I was in pain to the point where I needed to remove myself, but I didn’t have that ability,” he says.

He needed flexibility. He needed to take care of his health. But he also needed to follow his passion for making an impact on kids' lives.

Today, Spiegel works with the Indy-based youth soccer club Dynamo F.C., where he mentors kids and develops curriculum. He spends his evenings coaching young athletes from around the city.

“Coaching soccer has been the most appropriate and purest platform for me to advocate for the kids I want to reach,” he says. “I get to teach kids how to play soccer, but I also get to teach them important lessons of character and integrity.”

Whenever he’s not coaching, Spiegel works on Make Your Own Ball Day, the event-turned-nonprofit he first launched in 2012. The program serves children in two important ways, Spiegel says, helping kids in the United States appreciate what they have while providing resources for those in need.

At events where young people build their own soccer balls from materials like duct tape and crumpled newspaper, the organization teaches kids about thankfulness through showing them part of what it’s like to live in a developing nation. Spiegel also works to build soccer fields and establish youth camps in communities around the world, where he collaborates with schools and orphanages to promote mentorship, leadership, education, and gender equality.

The organization not only allows Spiegel to work with kids in his own way—it will change lives for students at Butler, where Education faculty say Spiegel’s story helped inspire the Entrepreneurship and Innovation track within the new Youth and Community Development major.

“It’s cool to hear that the College of Education is moving toward a broader view of impacting kids through any means necessary,” Spiegel says, “whether that’s through sports, mentorship programs, or teaching in a traditional classroom. When I heard that, I was like, ‘Yep. That’s what I would have done if I was at Butler right now.’ I would have eaten that up.”

 

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.

youth and community development Butler
AcademicsAlumni Outcomes

Butler Education Alumni Inspire New Major

Youth & Community Development major offers path for students who want to work with youth outside the classroom.

Oct 28 2019 Read more
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CampusStudent Life

Butler ready to launch first esports and gaming space, but much more to come

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Oct 24 2019

 

 

A new space on Butler University’s campus dedicated to esports and gaming is in the works. But it will be about much more than one of the world’s hottest industries.

The Esports and Gaming Lounge is set to open in late November. It will be located in Atherton Union, adjacent to the newly designed Plum Market at C-Club, which will open around the same time. Open to the campus community, the space will have stations dedicated to esports, or competitive, organized video gaming. There will be 16 gaming PCs, an area of gaming consoles, and an area for tabletop gaming.

But this is just the beginning. Plans for a much larger, 7,500-square-foot multi-use space in the Butler Parking Garage are in the works, says Eric Kammeyer, Butler’s new Director of Esports and Gaming Technology. The space is slated to open fall 2020, and it will build upon the Atherton Union space, featuring 50 gaming PCs, an area of gaming consoles, and room for technology-infused corporate trainings and events or youth STEM and esports camps. It will also have broadcasting production capabilities for live events such as podcasts or esports competitions, a coworking space, a cafe, and a small office space available for lease to support new ventures.

In addition to the Butler esports team that competes in the BIG EAST and will start practicing in the new space, gaming and innovative technologies are being incorporated into the wider Butler curriculum, as the new spaces will enable campus to serve as a sports hub for the greater Indianapolis community. These new spaces will foster student access, community partnerships, and innovations in teaching and learning—all key aspects of Butler’s new strategic direction.

“While competitive and recreational esports is a key driver of this new space, our vision is larger,” says Butler’s Vice President for Strategy and Innovation, Melissa Beckwith. “Our goal is to create a space that will ultimately support curricular innovation, serve the K-12 community, and align with two of the city’s economic engines—sports and technology. Integrating these efforts is the key to creating maximum impact for our students, faculty, and broader community.”

 

Future Esports & Technology space in the Sunset Avenue Parking Garage, expected to open in fall 2020

 

Why invest?

In 2014, more than 70 million people across the globe watched esports on the internet or television, according to Newzoo, the leading provider of market intelligence covering global games, esports, and mobile markets. That same year, a single esports event retained viewership that surpassed the NBA’s Game Seven.

Newzoo expects that esports viewership will increase to 427 million people and top $1 billion in revenue in 2019.

“Gaming is extremely popular among students, and its popularity will only continue to grow,” says Butler’s Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross. “Universities must be responsive to students’ changing needs and interests, identifying innovative and meaningful ways to engage them on campus. This investment in Butler students is important as we continue to enhance the student experience.”

It is also an area exploding with job opportunities. 

Butler Assistant Professor of Creative Media and Entertainment Ryan Rogers just published a book on esportsUnderstanding Esports: An Introduction to the Global Phenomenon. The book explores the rise of the esports industry and its significance, and is the first comprehensive look at an industry that has risen so quickly.

Because of that accelerated growth, the industry needs employees.

“It is incumbent on us, as an institute of higher learning, to prepare students for jobs and get them thinking about new jobs they may not have previously thought about, or may not even know exist,” says Rogers, whose research has explored the ways video games influence their audiences and users. “It is imperative to serve students, and this is a growth field. There are opportunities for students in this field, from competing, to working, to conducting research. As a higher ed institution, we should work to understand why, like anything else, this is happening and how it is happening.”

 

Curriculum

Rogers teaches an esports class. He also teaches a class that works with FOX Sports. This semester, that class is working closely with Caffeine, a new broadcasting service that is mostly geared toward streaming video games.

But it is about much more than just integrating esports into the Butler curriculum. There is a much broader, cross-disciplinary effort being made toward integrating gaming into pedagogy across campus.

James McGrath, Professor of Religion and Classics, says: “There is real educational value in the mixing of gaming and learning because, I remember at one point in my life, learning was fun.”

McGrath says as educators, it is easy to fall into old habits such as talking at people, or doing “other boring things like that.” But, he says, there is a reason that students spend hours playing video games. These games give people the freedom to fail and try again.

“We often forget the need to incorporate failure in any educational experience that is ultimately going to lead to success and learning,” he says. “The only way to become good at something is to do it repeatedly, and fail, and if you get penalized for failing, you will never get the chance to ultimately get very good at it.”

Incorporating game-like elements, such as a point-based system, into higher education sparks learning, McGrath says. This is the gamification of higher education. 

For McGrath, this started when he was teaching a course on the Bible. The second day of class, he knew he had to teach his students, essentially, a history lesson about why Bibles are different and where the table of contents comes from, for example. He decided to create a card game, Canon: The Card Game

“People like to game,” McGrath says. “Faculty are starting to recognize the value of these types of things as part of culture and things we can harness for good in terms of learning outcomes. The fact that institutions such as our own are being more aware that people need to be well-rounded and that involves different things, even gaming, is a huge step toward true innovation.”

Jason Goldsmith, Associate Professor of English, quite literally studies video games. 

He offers a course called Video Game Narrative, which looks at how video games tell stories and what they can do differently from a standard novel or film. One iteration of the course studied Lord of the Rings. The students read the novel, watched the film, and then played online with people all over the world. The class looked at how the narrative shifted based on environment.

“These kids grow up playing video games much more than watching movies, so it is vital that we teach them to think about this medium critically with the same attention we ask of them when reading Shakespeare,” he says. “If they are playing these games, and if they will one day produce these games, we must encourage them to think more deeply about the relationship between story, game, and what players want out of a game.”

Goldsmith has also gamified aspects of classes he teaches, such as a course he recently taught on Jane Austen. Austen played many games when she was younger, and games play a crucial role in her novels. Students had to create a Jane Austen game, complete with a character sheet that reflected the characteristics Austen valued in her main characters.

Goldsmith says he looks forward to studying the broader cultural significance of gaming, while also making sure Butler continues to evolve and prepare students for emerging career opportunities. 

Butler is working University-wide to do just that. 

 

Future Esports & Technology space in the Sunset Avenue Parking Garage, expected to open in fall 2020

 

Competition

When John George ‘18 started at Butler, he had two passions: sports and video games. But he had never heard of esports.

He was watching ESPN one morning and heard something about competitive video games and esports. His mind was blown. He started Googling like crazy, and he found there was this whole world out there with teams and leagues. He started playing League of Legends and was hooked.

By the time he was a senior, he heard about Rogers and his esports class. After the first class, he ran up to Rogers, and the two decided to start the Butler esports student organization. There wasn't much interest that first year, and George was the only senior at the meeting. There were a handful of others.

“I can’t believe we went from having some interest, to now being on the brink of an actual space on campus,” says George, who worked for Echo Fox, an esports organization in Los Angeles, running a podcast and producing video after graduation. “We used to all practice in our dorm rooms apart, so the chance to all be together will be amazing.”

Interest has grown quite a bit, too. In 2018, the esports team started competing in the BIG EAST. The team competes in two titles in the BIG EAST now—Rocket League and League of Legends

“The BIG EAST Conference and our members have been formally exploring the esports space since 2017,” says Chris Schneider, Senior Associate Commissioner for Sport Administration and Championships at the BIG EAST. “It’s exciting to see growth on each campus, and Butler University is certainly one of the leading programs in the conference.”

Growth on Butler’s campus over the last few years has really skyrocketed. There is discussion around Butler-sanctioned scholarships, Kammeyer says.

“Interest on campus has mirrored the explosion of this industry at the global level,” he says. “We continue to work with our partners at the high school level to develop advancement opportunities much like traditional sports. We want to provide an end-to-end solution for those that want to pursue anything that falls under the umbrella of esports and innovative technology, from music and production, to competition, to developing the games they are playing.”

 

Community

Butler is not the only member of the Indianapolis community active in the esports and gaming space. 

Ryan Vaughn, Indiana Sports Corp President, says esports is no longer an emerging phenomenon, but rather something that the wider community is very much engaged in. However, Indianapolis lacks the physical space to bring this sport to life.

“With basketball or swimming, for example, it is easy for us as a city to demonstrate we have the infrastructure here to compete with other cities to host major events. But for esports events, it is different,” Vaughn says. “It will be a game changer for us to now have a community space and a University to partner with.”

Esports also differ from other sports in their clear connection to STEM fields and tech, Vaughn says. To continue to grow in these areas as a state, it is important to recognize and develop that connection.

Scott Dorsey agrees. Dorsey, Managing Partner at High Alpha and Past-Chair of the Indiana Sports Corp, sees Butler’s new esports and tech space as key to developing Indiana’s workforce.

“Esports is an excellent example of the collision between sports and technology in Indianapolis,” Dorsey says. “We are a city that embraces our sports legacy and is well positioned to leverage our explosive growth in technology and innovation. Butler’s planned esports and technology park will be an important asset in our city as we build on our unique strengths and further develop, recruit, and retain top tech talent to the state.”

Potential partnerships with professional sports teams, other universities, K-12 schools, and start-up companies are all part of Butler’s larger plan, says Kammeyer. 

This past summer, for example, Butler partnered with NexTech, an Indianapolis-based organization committed to elevating the technical, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills of K-12 students, to host their Explorers Camp and provide programming for the Catapult Program—an intensive summer experience for high school students interested in exploring careers in technology.

“The investment Butler is making in innovative and transformative technology will be a tremendous asset for our city as we work to open doors for youth to explore opportunities in related fields,” says NexTech President Karen Jung.

Partnerships could lead to potential internship opportunities for Butler students, summer camps for community members, and mentorship programs for the esports team, for example.

Take the Indiana Pacers, for example. In 2017, Cody Parrent was hired to be their Director of Esports Operations. That year, they were one of 17 inaugural teams in the NBA 2K League. The league drafts players 18 years old or older from all over the world. 

Since that inaugural year, the league has added six new teams, including one from China. 

“We have seen interest grow exponentially,” says Parrent, who coaches the team, serves as the general manager, and works on partnerships.

As part of his partnership work, Parrent has spent time guest lecturing in Butler’s esports classes. And that has led to the Pacers having multiple Butler interns—a multimedia intern and a business operations intern.

“A lot of people know about the gaming side of esports, but there is a whole other side, which is the business side of things, and that is what I see as the most exciting part of what Butler is doing,” Parrent says. “The sport itself is open to everyone, as is the business side of things. We are ecstatic about finally having a hub that will bring everything together. The possibilities are endless.”

 

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.

 

Media Contact:

Rachel Stern

Director of Strategic Communications

rstern@butler.edu

914-815-5656

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CampusStudent Life

Butler ready to launch first esports and gaming space, but much more to come

The new space in Atherton Union will open in late November, with a second Parking Garage space planned for 2020.

Oct 24 2019 Read more

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