View All Content

Academics

The MBA Class that Saved a Town

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 19 2019

The story of how a Butler University Lacy School of Business instructor and his MBA students helped revive the small town of Atlanta, Indiana, begins in 2016, inside an 8,000-square-foot flour mill-turned-grocery store that had been vacant for 10 years.

Wall of model trainsThe instructor, Steve Nelson, needed a place to display his collection of 6,000 model trains. He bought the empty building on Atlanta’s Main Street, even though the floor had caved in and the furnace didn’t work, because he liked the location, and the price was right.

He fixed up the building and spread the word that his trains, which had been on display for several years in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel, had moved about 35 miles north of Indianapolis. Soon, model railroad enthusiasts and families with kids started coming to Atlanta on Saturdays to see Mr. Muffin’s Trains, as the layout is called.

But once visitors had seen Nelson’s collection and watched his train wind its way around miniature cities, their visit to Atlanta was essentially over. Downtown was almost entirely vacant otherwise, with no place to eat or shop. Not only that, but Atlanta had gained nothing—admission to see the trains is free.

“We started talking,” Nelson says, “and we wondered: Is there a way to bring Atlanta back, to turn Atlanta into some kind of destination?”

***

Nelson and his wife, Liz, didn’t have an answer. But as a professor in Butler’s MBA program, he knew how to find one. He posed the question as a semester-long project for his Integrated Capstone Experience class—an assignment that would give his students valuable experience as they worked to figure out a real-world problem.

Jenn Truitt MBA '16 was one of the students who took on the challenge.

"I like the concept of taking a small town and trying to build a community around a business that would attract both families with children and train enthusiasts," she says. "That was my draw to the project."

On April 25, 2016, a group of students took a day trip to Atlanta to scout the location.

They found a small town in great decline—there was no one on the streets and nearly every storefront was empty—but they also recognized opportunity. Through subsequent research, the students found examples of at least four other small towns that reversed their declines by making themselves tourist destinations. One—Hamilton, Missouri—had turned itself into “the Disneyland of quilting.”

The students suggested using a train theme as a centerpiece for the town’s turnaround.

***

The Nelsons put the report into action. They bought a second building, where Liz opened the Choo Choo Café, and a third, where Steve’s son Jeff operates a workshop that buys, sells, and repairs trains.

Steve bought a light manufacturing business called Korber Models and moved it to Atlanta, upstairs from the train layout. Korber makes easy-to-build structures like power plants and grain silos that augment model railroad displays.

Atlanta Post OfficeBetween the train sales, Korber, and the seed company Beck’s Hybrids, which is also in Atlanta, they generated enough business to keep the post office open.

Meanwhile, others joined in Atlanta’s rebuilding. The Roads Hotel began offering ghost-hunting expeditions. The Nickel Plate Heritage Railroad took riders on train trips from Atlanta south. More than 10,000 people made the trip during fall 2018, and rides resume on Valentine’s Day 2019. The Monon Historical Society moved its historic Monon caboose to Atlanta.

In addition, the town received grants to build a public restroom, and another to renovate its park, including spaces for people to sit while waiting for the train, and build a fire pit.

The report the MBA students put together noted that turnarounds for small towns can take years, and that's true—downtown Atlanta is still mostly open only on weekends for visitors.

Still, the Nelsons’ businesses and the railroad have generated at least 30 full-time and part-time jobs.

“A lot of small towns think they need to bring businesses where the town is the customer, but that doesn't work,” Nelson says. “The town isn't big enough. In today's world, you can bring in ecommerce business to a small town. The real estate is very cost-effective. All three of these buildings we own cost us less than my rent in Carmel. Then there are people who will work for you there, and they're affordable, and you can organize synergy around it.”

***

The Nelsons plan to continue what the MBA students suggested. Steve has plans to add a speakeasy and an indoor train that kids can ride. He’s hoping Atlanta can attract another restaurant, too.

They’re not doing this to make a living. Steve, a former tech executive, has been teaching at Butler since the 1990s; Liz sells real estate.

Steve Nelson in Mr. Muffin's Trains“When we started doing this, success for us was knowing that we've entertained a family and when they go home, they're talking about what fun they had at Mr. Muffin’s,” he says. “I feel really, really good about it. It's meant a lot to people in Atlanta. The local people are very excited about it.”

Robyn Cook, the town’s former clerk-treasurer and a 26-year resident of Atlanta, confirms that. She says the Nelsons have been “a godsend” for the town.

“They were a perfect fit for what our community needed,” she says. “What's going on, whatever is needed, we call Liz and Steve and they just jump in, roll up their sleeves, and help in any way they can.”

Jenn Truitt, who was part of the MBA team that spurred the Nelsons’ plans, says she feels good about having a helping hand in Atlanta’s revitalization. She’s brought her 4-year-old daughter to Atlanta to see Mr. Muffin’s Trains, and she plans to go back again to see what else is happening in Atlanta.

“I felt like we did a really good job (on the MBA project), but I didn’t know how much it benefited them,” she says. “It’s awesome to see that it created this vision for him. He’s built upon it since then, but I feel like it helped validate their thinking. And it was a great experience for us, as students. I'm excited that our team had a small influence in the success that's coming, and will continue to come, to Atlanta.”

Academics

The MBA Class that Saved a Town

The students found at least four other small towns that reversed their declines by becoming tourist destinations.

Feb 19 2019 Read more

Shane Battier on Leadership and The Catalyst Effect

 

When most think about leadership, a CEO or All-Star athlete might come to mind. Think Bill Gates or LeBron James. However, according to recent research from two Lacy School of Business professors, we may have it all wrong.

Now, think retired NBA player, Shane Battier.

The book The Catalyst Effect highlights how the most successful organizations (or teams) are full of individuals who lead from wherever they are. In this interview exclusive to Butler University, Shane Battier shares his advice for leading from within with co-author and Butler MBA adjunct professor Jerry Toomer.

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 Kohn, 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—Kohn 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, Kohn 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.

Discovering Myself while Discovering the World

by Jackson Borman ’20

I was weaving through cars on Calle de la Princesa in a taxi driven by a middle aged man to whom I was terrified to try to speak Spanish, especially over the noise of traffic and the shuffle of latin pop and AC/DC on the radio. Thirty minutes earlier, armed with only my suitcase and my limited knowledge of the Spanish language, I had arrived in Madrid - the city that I would call home for the next four months.

Jackson Borman abroadOnce inside the taxi, I was greeted by the driver with, what I would later learn to be the blunt, but typical Spanish command, “Dime chico.” (“Tell me, kid.”) I scrambled for the piece of paper in my pocket that had my host family’s address and gave it to him. For the next 20 minutes we sat in what would have been silence if it were not for the radio, him driving and me looking out the window so as to avoid eye contact. The lyrics of “Back in Black” pouring through the speakers were unexpected, but somehow comforting. We pulled up to my apartment and he helped me unload my bags onto the street. I handed him the 30 euros for the flat rate airport taxi fare, and he was on his way. I had successfully arrived without ever muttering a word of Spanish.

My journey to Spain actually started after attending a Butler Center for Global Education introductory meeting. I signed up to study abroad with an open mind. I knew that I wanted to go to Madrid. I saw it not only as one of the world’s leading cities, but also as a gateway to exploring the rest of Europe. I was excited to travel, to experience different cultures, languages and ways of living, and I hoped that I would come out of the semester as a more worldly version of myself.

While abroad I had the opportunity to see some of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to, the most diverse and unique cultures I have ever witnessed, as well as world renowned art, architecture, festivals, and legendary landforms. But, perhaps the aspect of studying abroad that I am most thankful for is the personal growth I experienced during my time in Europe.

Madrid

When I first arrived in Madrid I had no idea how to get from one place to another. Having always lived in suburban areas, I was reliant on cars to move around. Living in the city was a big change for me, and learning how to navigate the metro and exploring the city was an interesting and worthwhile challenge.

My campus in Madrid was made up of students from across the globe. In the classroom we learned about art, communication theory, history, and language in classes taught by professors from Madrid, London, Boston, and Valencia. Students from the United States, Mexico, Egypt, Montenegro, and a variety of other countries helped me learn concepts for myself, but with a global point of view that I would not have achieved here in the United States.

I lived with a host mom who only spoke Spanish. My roommate was from San Diego and only spoke English. At times it was challenging to communicate with my host mom, and it was even more difficult to translate between her and my roomate. Despite these difficulties, I survived, and because of these difficulties, my communication and Spanish skills increased tenfold.

Travel

While abroad I was able to check many cities off of my bucket list. I took weekend trips to Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, and multiple cities in different parts of Spain. Planning these travels forced me to be organized, to plan ahead, to take care of my schoolwork during the week, and to think logistically about timing and cost.

In countries outside of Spain it was often more challenging to communicate. I went to multiple places where I did not have any background knowledge of the national language. At some point my problem-solving skills kicked in, and luckily, I still was able to navigate and enjoy my experience.

On a trip to Portugal, some new friends from Madrid and I stepped into a taxi expecting to be able to speak to the driver in either English or Spanish, or some combination, but he spoke only Portuguese. Thanks to some quick thinking and the power of google maps, we were able to show him exactly where we wanted to be dropped off.

In an elevator in Paris, I accidentally bumped into the emergency call button with my backpack and tried to assure the dispatcher over the intercom that everything was alright by saying “accident” which is the same in French as it is in English. However, they stayed on the line, as I realized that accident can also be translated as “problem,” or “trouble.” After some back and forth in heavily accented English, we were on the same page and continued on our way.

Jackson in ParisIt was moments like these when I learned to think on my feet and roll with whatever unexpected events took place. Canceled flights and trains needed to be rescheduled so that I could be back in Madrid on time for class; sudden weather changes meant some trips needed to be rescheduled or altered.

When you hear stories of students studying abroad, you may think they sound fun, often times they are filled with blow-off classes, endless happiness, and a seemingly perfect life. In my experience, these were just stereotypes and exaggerations.

There were hard times, times when it was difficult to communicate, times when classes were challenging, times when I missed home. However, through those experiences, I was able to grow as an individual, become more confident in myself, and learn more in a semester than I ever have before. On that first day in Madrid, I was anxious, uncertain, and questioning my decision, but by the end of my study and travels, I had transformed. That anxious chico sitting quietly in the taxi was nowhere to be found.

AcademicsStudent Life

Discovering Myself while Discovering the World

Jackson Borman's semester in Spain taught him to be more self-suficient.

Study Abroad: International Lessons of a Lifetime

by Jackson Borman ’20

Upon graduation from Butler University, students are given a survey with questions like, “What was the best thing you did at Butler?” and “What do you regret not doing at Butler?” One of the most popular answers to both questions is the same—study abroad.

Around 40 percent of Butler students study abroad during their four years, but why is study abroad such a popular experience?

Calie Florek is the study abroad advisor in the Center for Global Education, and is used to explaining that question. Aside from learning languages and seeing new places, she sees study abroad as an invaluable opportunity for students’ personal growth and seeing new perspectives.

“Students are talking to people from other locations, or from their host country, and having conversations about hot topic issues, where maybe they hadn’t previously seen things from the perspective that one of their international friends does,” Florek says. “Being able to communicate with others, even internationally, is something that the world needs today.”

Alice Moore in PragueAdditionally, she says that many students return to Butler as more mature, worldly versions of themselves just by learning from their everyday experiences while abroad.

“If they are going on a weekend trip, and their flight gets delayed, they are learning flexibility and resilience just by going through that,” Florek says. “In something that they don’t think is teaching them skills, they are constantly learning things.”

While the majority of students choose study abroad locations in Europe or Australia, there are options for programs all over the world. Currently, Butler students are enrolled in programs in Iceland and Greenland studying climate change, on the island of Samoa studying Pacific Islander communities, and in Tanzania participating in service learning.

Senior Ari Gerstein is a Finance and Management Information Systems double major who studied abroad in Hong Kong last semester on an exchange program.

Gerstein says he picked Hong Kong because he wanted to experience a place where he may not be able to travel to after graduation. Gerstein says that his decision paid off, and that traveling around Asia to places like China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand was an amazing experience.

“I think I gained cultural awareness and a better understanding of Asian culture. It is so foreign to us, especially with the expansion of China today and how big a role they play in the world economy, it was interesting to be there and experience it first hand,” Gerstein says. “It was also amazing traveling and appreciating the beauty of the world; there are so many amazing places and it has really enhanced my admiration for traveling”

Gerstein was uncertain if he would be able to study abroad during the semester because he needed to take major-specific courses, and because he is on the tennis team and was unsure if he could remain on the team if he went abroad.

His exchange program allowed him to take finance and MIS classes, and he was even able to practice tennis with local players in Hong Kong and play in tournaments like the Hong Kong National Tournament.

“I would say you should 100 percent study abroad,” Gerstein says. “You have eight semesters in college, so to give up one of them to go do something incredible, I think everyone should go.”

And Butler has been working to make sure that it is a possibility. The Center for Global Education, as well as individual colleges, have been planning and networking to make sure that students will have opportunities to study abroad, no matter their area of study.

Students in the GALA program in Siena, Italy.Bill Templeton is a Professor and the Associate Dean of the Lacy School of Business. He says that when he was in school, study abroad opportunities were more limited to students studying the arts or studying language. During his time at Butler, Templeton has been responsible for the international efforts of the Lacy School of Business and has made connections with accredited business schools around the world so that business students will have opportunities to study abroad, something that he highly encourages.

“I think it is really important for business students, because nearly all business these days is global in nature,” Templeton says. “Students nearly always find that such an experience changes their perspective dramatically, and that they come to appreciate different cultures and different ways of looking at the world.”

Where previously it may have been difficult for students to stay on track with their major if they studied abroad later in their college career, now students can take high-level business classes at partner schools across the globe.

Thanks to open international doors, the Lacy School of Business alone sends over 60 students every year on study abroad programs. Templeton says he is excited for students who partake in study abroad, not only for the worthwhile addition to their college experience, but also for how it can help them after graduation.

“In the Lacy School, we have a rate of study abroad that is astronomical compared to national averages,” Templeton says. “When the interviewer has studied or worked abroad then the value of that in the student’s resume just skyrockets because they know what they got out of the experience and they know how important it is to their perspective of business and the world.”

Other schools within Butler also have programs for students eager to study abroad and learn within their discipline.

Jane Gervasio, Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Nutrition in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences,  leads a trip for a group of students studying nutrition to Florence, Italy, where they learn and observe first-hand the Mediterranean diet and the history, culture, and health benefits that are associated with it. Taking the classroom on-site to teach students is something that Gervasio always enjoys.

“We know that active learning is part of the experience,” Gervasio says. “[We have the] opportunity to introduce them to this world and to really focus on an area, because the experience is based on us studying it in a classroom, but now they have the opportunity to interact with it hands on.”

Siena Amodeo is a senior Development Management major who studied abroad during the summer after her first year through the Fulbright United States-United Kingdom exchange program at the University of London.

Amodeo says one of the most interesting parts of the program was the diversity that she experienced while in London.

“I was in a classroom with students from all around the world,” Amodeo says. “It wasn’t just English people, there were people from all over Europe as well as China and Latin America.”

Coming into college, Amodeo says that she knew she was interested in studying abroad, but that her summer program in London confirmed that interest. Now she has been accepted into the London School of Economics and will be moving back to London after graduation.

“I had that experience and it had such a big impact on me,” Amodeo says. “This is the best experience I have ever had.”

Amodeo is not alone in that excitement. Ask one of the 400 students each year who study abroad, and you’ll probably hear the exact same answer.


Read Jackson's personal account of studying abroad.

Academics

Study Abroad: International Lessons of a Lifetime

Around 40 percent of Butler students study abroad during their four years.

Academics

College of Education Named AACTE Global Award Recipient

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 15 2019

Two Reggio Emelia-inspired Lab Schools in the Indianapolis Public Schools system, a Lab School created within Shortridge International Baccalaureate World School, partnerships with schools in Sweden and Australia, to name a few, and study abroad and faculty development opportunities outside the United States.

Those are just a few of the reasons that the Butler University College of Education was awarded the national 2019 Best Practice Award in Support of Global and International Perspectives. The award, presented by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), recognizes exemplary practice in the intercultural, global, cross-cultural, and international arenas.

“We believe that our students have to be globally informed,” says Kelli Esteves, College of Education Associate Professor and Global Coordinator. “Our students need to bring knowledge of diverse perspectives from around the world into their teaching. Intercultural knowledge and an expanded worldview enable them to meet the needs of their future students.”

The award will be presented to Esteves at the AACTE 71st annual conference February 22-24 in Louisville, Kentucky. It is sponsored by AACTE’s Committee on Global Diversity as part of its mission to assure that a global and international perspective is brought to policy and programs associated with the preparation of education professionals.

The College of Education was lauded for its programs in international student teaching, international partnerships, and teacher-preparation programs.

"We do a great job of preparing globally ready educators who go out into the world to educate students," Esteves said. "Our teachers understand the global dimensions of their discipline and are prepared to go into any classroom in any setting and succeed."

Academics

College of Education Named AACTE Global Award Recipient

The COE was lauded for international student teaching, international partnerships, and teacher-preparation.

Feb 15 2019 Read more

Find Your Passion

by Jackson Borman ’20

If you walk inside of Butler University’’s Learning Resource Center, you will likely run into Heather Lee, one of the academic advisors for students in the Exploratory Studies Program. Inside her office hangs a bulletin board covered in photographs of students: students she has helped pick an area of study through the program in the past year alone.

For some, deciding what to study in college can be one of the hardest decisions to make. Typically, Lee will meet with students to plan a schedule that includes classes that cover a wide range of the student’s interests before they even arrive on campus.

“What’s the number one question that people ask when you are coming into college? ‘What’s your major?’” Lee says. “Exploratory studies is a great place to fall if you have a couple of ideas or if you have 20 or 30.”

Lee teaches an exploratory studies class that is geared toward first-year students. The class isn’t like a typical seminar; students complete self assessments, shadow and observe classes, and do research on the types of careers that are available with each degree that they might be interested in.

Through the class, exploratory students can also job shadow and attend faculty panels where professors come and discuss every major and minor that Butler offers.

“This leaves them with a foundation where they get to learn about their strengths, what their interests are, and gives them an opportunity to see what [a certain major] is really like,” says Lee.

Lee feels that the program is extremely valuable to students because it can empower them and give them reassurance that they will find a major that they are interested in.

“Some students look around campus and feel that their peers have it all figured out,” Lee says. “You don’t have to have it all figured out. When [students] do come in as exploratory, I like for them to convey it to other people and say that they are an exploratory studies student; that it is a major, and that they are doing the research to make an informed decision on what their major is going to be.”

In recent years, exploratory studies has been one of the largest majors on Butler’s campus. Since the 2015-2016 school year, the program has grown by over 60 students. Currently, there are almost 200 students in the program.

Jen Mann is another academic advisor in the Learning Resource Center who also works as a student development specialist. She says that the exploratory studies major is essential because of the countless options that are available to Butler students.

“In high school, students are likely only exposed to around 10 areas of study,” Mann says. “Here at Butler, we have over 65 majors. There is no way that a first year student has any concept of what some of those areas are that they could potentially go into.”

Mann sees the exploratory studies program as a unique opportunity for Butler students.

“I think what this program has done is make [exploratory studies] a very real major,” Mann says. “It is a program that is intentional, planned,  and thoughtful, and is a space where you can come in and have some normalcy with the goal of students feeling confident in saying that they are an exploratory studies major.”

Corrin Godlevske is a junior marketing major who started her first year at Butler in the exploratory studies major. She said that coming into college, she was torn between studying business or going into the pre-PA program.

“I’m thankful that I fell into exploratory,” Godlevske says. “The amount of help that I’ve received, even after [declaring my major], with questions about prerequisites and classes and all of that, they are always so willing to help me out.”

During her first semester as an exploratory studies major, Godlevske felt a little nervous about choosing an area of study, but listening to professors talk about their majors during classes and taking a Real Business Experience class helped to guide her toward the marketing major. Now she is confident in her major and thankful for the program.

“I’m not behind and I don’t feel like I missed anything that any other first-year would have done,” Godlevske says. “If anything, it has added to my experience and now I have such a great support system in the [Learning Resource Center] because they are always there to reassure me.”

Godlevske thinks that the exploratory studies major is something that separates Butler from other schools because it can be comforting to a new student who is unsure about deciding a major.

“I don’t think that a lot of other universities offer the same experience,” Godlevske says. “You come in and get this reassurance that you are in the right place.”

Nina Bertino is a junior strategic communications major who started as an exploratory student. She said that originally she was thinking about studying psychology in college, but joined the exploratory studies program to hone in on her interests.

“I didn’t even know that [strategic communication] was an option,” Bertino says. “It has been such a great major for me and the exploratory class helped me narrow down what exactly I was interested in.”

Some may doubt that the exploratory studies major would work or that it is worth the time to go through. But for Bertino, it was well worth it.

“I had a lot of people tell me, ‘Oh, you are going to school and you don’t even know what your major is?’” Bertino says. “I am actually on track to graduate a semester early because I went into exploratory.”

Bertino said the biggest thing is to figure out what you are passionate about and to go from there.

“There are a lot of people who declare, but you shouldn’t let that scare you,” Bertino says. “A lot of people change their majors or go into a major that they don’t really like. Take the time and figure out what exactly you want to study.”

Academics

Find Your Passion

Discover your major through the Exploratory Studies Program.

Find Your Passion

by Jackson Borman ’20
Giving

$1 million Gift from Butler Alumni to Name Andre B. Lacy School of Business Investment Room

BY Jennifer Gunnels

PUBLISHED ON Feb 12 2019

 

 

INDIANAPOLIS -- Sean ’89 and Erin McGould ’93 have made a $1 million gift to Butler University to name the investment room of the new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business. The building will open in the fall 0f 2019.

The new McGould Investment Room will include state-of-the-art technology along with eight Bloomberg terminals. The space will serve as the home to the University’s Student-Managed Investment Fund, a real investment portfolio worth $3 million managed exclusively by students for the University.

“Regardless of your profession in life, you are going to have to save money and invest for the future.  Learning how to invest and allocate capital is important to everyone,” said Sean McGould. “We thought it would be great that students would have a dedicated space to explore investing.”

Sean, an Accounting major while at Butler, currently serves on the Lacy School of Business Dean’s Advisory Council and is the CEO of Lighthouse Investment Partners, LLC in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.  As a student, he was a senior class officer and a member of the baseball team and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity. Erin is a graduate of the Jordan College of the Arts and was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. She is an avid volunteer for Butler University and the West Palm Beach community.

“Butler taught both of us how to think critically. In my opinion, the goal of an education is learning to think for yourself and being able to work through problems,” said Sean McGould.  “We will continue to contribute to Butler because we believe in the value of education and how Butler delivers the college experience in a unique format that prepares students for life after college.”

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


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

Giving

$1 million Gift from Butler Alumni to Name Andre B. Lacy School of Business Investment Room

The new McGould Investment Room will include state-of-the-art technology along with eight Bloomberg terminals.

Feb 12 2019 Read more

Dancing to the Beat of His Own Drum

In the eyes of Butler University Ballet Chair Larry Attaway, there likely won’t be another Jeremy Gruner in, well, forever.

“There’s never been another one like him before, at least in my time here,” says Attaway.

And that’s because Gruner, who is working on a Master of Music Composition, is also a sophomore-level non-degree student in Butler’s dance program. And Gruner is about to pull off a rare feat: He has written a 15-minute musical composition for this year’s Midwinter Dance Festival that he will also dance in.

The piece, titled Prophetstown, is about Tecumseh, the Native American Shawnee warrior and chief, and Tenskwatawa, his younger brother. Collaborating with Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Fernando Carrillo, who choreographed the piece, Gruner wrote a composition he describes as "rhythmically consistent and drum-heavy, with distinctive fast and slow sections."

To get the music right, Carrillo says, he talked to Gruner about the style of music he likes and sent samples of music that inspire him to dance or choreograph.

"We talked about tempo, dynamic, and the structure of the dance piece," Carrillo says. "Jeremy, being a dancer, understood what I wanted and has delivered a great piece of music that has made my choreography flow with ease."

Carillo says he's worked with composers who have a background in dance, which helps the choreographer during collaborations. But, Carillo says, it was a very rare experience to have a composer like Gruner who will actually dance in the performance.

Gruner, who is originally from Mahomet, Illinois, was more of a musician—he plays trumpet—than a dancer when he came to Butler. He danced briefly in high school musical theater, and as an undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University he collaborated with a faculty member to create music for a dance she choreographed.

But when he started looking at graduate schools, he wanted one that had strong music and dance programs, and also supported collaboration between departments.

"Butler was by far the most pro-collaboration," Gruner says. "That's why I came here."

He started at Butler by concentrating in both music composition and trumpet performance. He also enrolled in a 7:30 AM dance class with Liberty Harris, who is the rehearsal director of the Indianapolis company Dance Kaleidoscope and teaches dance for non-major Butler students. That was his first true ballet class.

On the first day, he was "completely clueless." The terminology and steps were new to him. But he wanted to keep going, and Harris encouraged him.

"I don't know if it's because it was so much of a struggle, but when I would accomplish something—when I would get even a little step further—I would feel such a sense of satisfaction that I never really got out of playing trumpet," Gruner says. "So I started to work more on dance and less on trumpet."

Gruner dropped the trumpet after his first semester and prepared to audition for the dance program. He's now doing the full technique course rotation of an undergraduate sophomore dance major while he finishes his master's with Professor of Music Composition Michael Schelle.

In place of the traditional graduate thesis recital expected of Music Composition students, Gruner will present an hour-long dance show comprised of music he has written in collaboration with Butler Ballet faculty, alumni, and current student choreographers. He will present that performance at Butler's Schrott Center for the Arts on Saturday, March 30 at 7:30 PM.

Gruner says studying music and dance simultaneously, along with teaching and holding two part-time jobs, is a lot of work. But he's up to the challenge.

"Dancing to music is completely different than writing it,” Gruner says, “so it's been interesting to separate myself from Composer Jeremy when I’m trying to be Dancer Jeremy. With just about everything, I either go full force at it or I don't even bother."


You can see Gruner piece in Program A of the Dance Department’s Midwinter Dance Festival, February 13-17 at the Schrott Center for the Arts.  Tickets for all shows are $15 for adults, $10 for 55-and-older, and $7 for children. For tickets and information, visit the Butler Art's Center site.

AthleticsGiving

Matt White Court Named Through Major Gift

BY Jennifer Gunnels

PUBLISHED ON Feb 12 2019

INDIANAPOLIS – Friends and fraternity brothers of 1989 Butler University graduate Matt White have made a major gift to Butler University toward the second phase of renovations to Hinkle Fieldhouse, set to begin in May 2019. With the gift, the donors have chosen to honor White, who passed away after a 19-year battle with ALS on Friday, Feb. 8, by naming the practice court in the Efroymson Family Gym in his memory. The practice court will hereafter be known as the Matt White Court.

White was a standout member of the track and cross country teams during his years at Butler and a member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Throughout White’s life, and particularly throughout his battle with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, he embodied The Butler Way, accepting the realities of a debilitating disease with grace while putting others above himself.

The donation to the Athletics Capital Improvement fund in White’s honor is a fitting tribute to a tenacious and loyal Bulldog who maintained a fierce devotion to Butler Athletics throughout his life, expressing in his final days a desire to watch one last Butler men’s basketball game. After White passed away Friday evening surrounded by friends and family, the Bulldogs posted a road win at Georgetown Saturday afternoon in his honor.

“Every Bulldog has a lot to learn about The Butler Way from Matt, his story and his toughness,” said Barry Collier, Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics. “Some have referred to Matt as Butler’s biggest fan. And while that might be true, Matt should also be known as one of Butler’s most inspiring Bulldogs for the way he lived his life.”

After earning his telecommunications degree from Butler in 1989, White went on to a successful career in advertising sales with Emmis Communications. White retired to Florida a few years after his ALS diagnosis in 2000, and despite being given a short and grim prognosis, White made the most of his remaining years with his wife Shartrina, his parents, and a large group of devoted friends.

Despite losing the ability to speak, eat and move, White found ways to continue enjoying many of the things he loved, including fishing in the Gulf waters off the west coast of Florida near his home with the help of his family and an innovative fishing pole he could control with his eye movements. He also remained devoted to following Butler Athletics. When Butler competed in the Final Four in Indianapolis in 2010, Coach Brad Stevens invited White to speak to the team before the semifinal matchup. White labored for days at his computer to type out a speech, which Shartrina read to the team.

“I try to live like you play,” he wrote. “You are my inspiration.”

White long outlived his original prognosis and inspired all who knew him, particularly his Butler family.

“I know I speak for a lot of former Bulldogs when I say we are thankful to have gotten a chance to know Matt,” said Stevens, Butler’s men’s basketball coach from 2007-13. “Despite all that he was battling, his spirits were always focused on helping others, and his words always were inspiring and encouraging.”

The Matt White Court will serve as a daily reminder of a beloved Bulldog’s grit, determination, and devotion to Butler Athletics. This legacy gift will continue to inspire future generations of Bulldogs in White’s memory and will support major enhancements to the Efroymson Family Gym. With new flooring, lighting, and air conditioning, the renovated gym will mirror the look of the main Hinkle Fieldhouse court. The renovations will also include installing air conditioning throughout Hinkle Fieldhouse and refurbishment of the Men’s Soccer locker room.

The Matt White Scholarship was previously established at Butler University in 2004 by White’s family and friends as a way to pay tribute to a great Bulldog. The scholarship supports Butler student-athletes with preference given to those who share Matt’s interest in the field of broadcast communications. On Saturday (Feb. 16), Butler’s men’s basketball team will host DePaul at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler is planning a “Matt White-out” and asks fans to wear white to celebrate his life.

“Matt White represented the very best of Butler University,” said Butler University President James Danko. “His courage, wisdom, and perseverance inspired us all. We are grateful that through this generous gift to name the Matt White Court, future generations of student-athletes can be inspired by Matt’s legacy as they train on the floor bearing his name.”

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

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

AthleticsGiving

Matt White Court Named Through Major Gift

The practice court in the Efoymson Family Gym will hereafter be known as the Matt White Court.

Feb 12 2019 Read more
Academics

Butler Professor Uses Past to Predict Sports Attendance

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 05 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Everybody knows when the Golden State Warriors are in town.

There’s a buzz around the arena earlier than usual, as fans make sure to arrive at least 90 minutes before tipoff to catch a glimpse of Stephen Curry’s famous pregame ritual, complete with two-ball dribbling drills and circus-like shots from the tunnel. All of a sudden, a random Wednesday night in name-that-NBA-city is not so mundane. And game No. 24 on the drawn-out NBA schedule is not so meaningless. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize when the winners of three of the last four NBA titles comes to town, attendance will be up.

But, what about all those other random games packed into an 82 game NBA season? When Curry isn’t there to get the crowd excited? When the weather is bad? Or when the average person cannot name a single player on the opposing team? Turns out there is a way to predict attendance on those nights, too.

King’s findings were certainly accurate. Published in the Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology, King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons, on average, within five percent. Enter Butler University Associate Professor of Operations Management Barry King. And enter his algorithm-based, machine learning approach to NBA attendance predictions.

“We were able to predict attendance by looking at home team popularity, Twitter followers, day of the week, home team winning percentage, home city’s total personal income, and other variables,” says King, who specializes in predictive analytics. “By taking those predictor variables, along with historical data, we were able to come up with an accurate forecast that can have many applications beyond just the NBA.”

King’s findings were certainly accurate. Published in the Journal of Computer Science & Information Technology, King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons, on average, within five percent.

To get an accurate prediction, King explains, he trained a type of algorithm (Random Forest) to predict an outcome using historical data. This, he says, is machine learning. Machine learning leverages historical data to inform future forecasts.

So, King trained the machine. He plugged in attendance data from the 2009-2013 NBA seasons into the algorithm, along with predictor variables like home team popularity, popularity of the opponent, day of the week the game occurred, home team winning percentage, home city’s total personal income, and capacity of home venue.

“We are among the first to use machine learning to predict attendance,” he says. “That is unique because it takes historical data into consideration. We believe that training the machine on historical data enabled us to get a much more accurate prediction of future attendance. Taking history into account, and teaching the machine that history, enables the machine to come up with future forecasts.”

King has applied this method of predictive analysis to the NHL and MLS. And the accuracy remained. While he now has the ability to accurately predict the attendance for these professional sport leagues, he believes the application goes beyond the wide world of sports.

“This has carry over to the business world and how companies can run their enterprises better,” he says. “As a manager of a basketball team, I would certainly like to know how many people are likely to show up for a random February game so that I can plan to have more staff on hand, if needed, or start to think about amping up the promotions, if attendance looks low. This could also help teams determine ticket price levels.”

Machine learning, King says, is an important area when it comes to forecasting. In the future, he says, he would like to build his prediction tool into an app that industry people can use to easily access this information, and then make decisions based off the results, on their own.

King says the information can also be applied to coming up with scheduling at a hospital, crews on airlines, and those are just some examples.

“Real world solutions often start with having a good idea of what the future might look like,” he says. “We now have a way to make accurate future predictions, based on historical data. I see this being useful in many industries.”

Academics

Butler Professor Uses Past to Predict Sports Attendance

King was able to predict attendance at every regular season game from the 2015-2017 NBA seasons within five percent.

Feb 05 2019 Read more
Academics

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Feb 01 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—People flock to Facebook to see the latest wedding news, vacation photos, new baby arrival, or home purchase. Most people, research indicates, head to their newsfeeds to passively watch and compare, much more often than post their own news or updates.

But, it turns out, some of us prefer to look at and compare ourselves to certain types of individuals: those who make us feel better about ourselves. And that, in turn, can lead to an increase in happiness and life satisfaction.

That’s according to new research from Lee Farquhar, Butler University Associate Professor of Entertainment Media and Journalism in the College of Communication. Humans continually observe those around them to see how they fit in, a process called social comparison theory. This innate concept holds true in the world of social media, according to Farquhar’s research. It not only holds true, but the more individuals engage in that type of behavior on Facebook—comparing themselves to others in various ways—the happier and more satisfied they were with their life.

“There is no secret that Facebook intensity has been associated with negative social consequences, such as anxiety, narcissism, and loneliness,” says Farquhar, whose own previous research has revealed those very things. “But this looked at something new. When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness. These findings nuance previous scholarship that largely indicated heavy Facebook use has a detrimental effect on one’s psychological well-being. It is not the amount of Facebook use that matters, but rather, how one feels they measure up in comparison with those around them.”

Farquhar’s research, published in the Journal of New Media & Culture, surveyed 406 college students and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk Workers. The average age was 32, and 46 percent were male.

The participants went through a series of questions about their social media use, such as time spent on Facebook, how they would feel if the social media outlet was taken away from them, and how often they look at others on Facebook, for example. They also measured life satisfaction and happiness.

The average life satisfaction and happiness scores were about a five out of seven. And, the more frequently one engaged in Facebook activities, the happier one was, Farquhar says. This, he says, can most likely be explained by downward social comparisons.

When individuals positively compared themselves to other Facebook users, they had higher levels of reported happiness and life satisfaction. So, he says, it is likely that individuals were seeking out others who made them feel better about themselves.

“For example, if the user wanted to feel better about his or her career, they might compare to an individual who is unemployed, or had a less appealing job. That same type of comparison could be done for virtually every other aspect of one’s life, like intelligence, family life, the list goes on,” he says. “It is not simply the amount of social comparing one does that matters, but the type of comparison that predicts happiness and life satisfaction.”

This targeted, downward social comparison, was the predictor of happiness and overall life satisfaction, Farquhar says. Facebook is the ideal medium for this, he says, because it allows users to select particular people or elements to hone in on for comparison, while blocking out those elements, or people, that are unwanted.

What this study didn’t account for, Farquhar explains, is the long-term impact of this behavior.

“I wouldn’t encourage people to spend more time on Facebook looking for people to look down on,” he says. “Looking for peers to look down on to make oneself feel better is not the prescription here. We believe the more time spent on there, the less satisfied with life one will eventually be, as one is bound to run into unfavorable social comparisons.”

But, he says, the findings are important for adding a more nuanced understanding to the social media behemoth. For so long the conversation has focused on doom and gloom when it comes to Facebook. While that may still be true, it is important to understand the medium in a more detailed way.

Facebook lends itself to downward social comparison, and therefore, makes the user feel better. So, he explains, for some, social media can have a positive impact, even if it is fleeting. This study also helps us understand how users interact with the medium on a more intimate level.

“We assumed the results would fall in line with the body of literature that says social media interactions make you feel worse and were surprised to see any sort of uptick,” Farquhar says. “We assumed, you go online, look at others, and feel worse. We believe downward comparison is going on and this adds another dimension to the complex conversation about Facebook.”

 

Media contact:
Rachel Stern
Director of Strategic Communications
rstern@butler.edu
914-815-5656

Academics

Butler Researcher Shows Link Between Social Media and Happiness

  Turns out social media can make you happy.

Feb 01 2019 Read more

Pages