View All Content

My Butler Story | Namitha Vellian

Namitha Vellian ‘22
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Major: Pharmacy
Hometown: Campbell, CA

Namitha Vellian spent her Thanksgiving break back in San Jose, California, a little different than yours.

Seated opposite from five of her mother’s sisters, they took turns asking questions that Namitha expected to answer on a test once she returned to Butler’s campus after the long weekend.

She’s a junior Pharmacy major in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Her aunts are pretending to be patients. A role familiar to each of them because her five aunts are pharmacists in real life.

“Coming to Butler was a big leap for me even though I’ve known for a while what I wanted to be,” Namitha says. “Not only was it tough to be so far away from my family, but I also had a rocky start in my first semester because of the workload.”

But out of the 12 universities she applied to, she chose Butler because of the supportive community she felt right away as she stepped onto campus. And once she was confronted with that workload, the campus around her did not disappoint.

“Other students in my classes and in the pharmacy fraternity are always willing to help me gain new insights on what classes to take, which professors to go to first, and how to apply what I study to my life, both in the present and future,” Namitha says.

Another reason the program at Butler stood out from the others she applied to was the fierce competition that Butler’s curriculum avoided. Instead of requiring students to take a Pharmacy College Admission Test after a few years into classes like the majority of programs, Butler only has its students pass an initial interview, complete a written exercise, and maintain a certain GPA to guarantee placement.

“So I knew that they would have my back right away rather than potentially turn me away after I put in so many semesters of work,” she says. “That’s why I felt it was so supportive—not only academically, but also emotionally and mentally as well. Everyone checks in with me because they actually care.”

Being off at school is still the big leap she always knew it would be, but at Butler it’s a lot less daunting.

“I am 100 percent glad I made this choice to be what I always wanted to be at Butler,” Namitha says. “I think that’s why I’m always so excited to return.”

 

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Namitha Vellian

Namitha Vellian spent her Thanksgiving in San Jose, California, a little different than yours.  

My Butler Story | Bailee Dodson

Bailee Dodson ‘20
Jordan College of the Arts
Major: Art + Design, Psychology
Hometown: Zionsville, IN

It took a little looking back for Bailee Dodson to find her way forward.

She grew up in Zionsville, Indiana with a brother who struggled with a learning disability. The medication he was prescribed didn’t help as much as it was supposed to.

“In fact, it kind of totally changed him. He became tired all the time, even to the point that he no longer wanted to connect with anyone around him,” she said. “It was tough for all of us. But luckily, when I was a junior in high school, my teacher told me about art therapy.”

Using creative and self-expressive means to therapeutic ends sounded like the perfect career choice for Bailee. It combined her passion for the arts and helping others with her curiosity of how the mind works, but there was a catch.

Not many universities offer art therapy as an undergraduate degree. Not even Butler University, where she was set to attend in the fall of 2016. But fortunately for her, the Jordan College of the Arts encourages its Art + Design majors to earn a secondary major.

“I needed a little direction, and it only took one meeting with my director to realize I could also get a Psychology degree at the same time to make my own art therapy degree,” she said. “And other schools in the area offered courses I could enroll in on a part-time basis to prepare me for grad school. All the right opportunities just started falling into place.”

By the time her first year year ended, Bailee would need no further proof that she was exactly where she needed to be.

She was awarded best in series at the Art Now showcase for the way she expressed an array of different emotions by painting with watercolors, a technique she’s found effective in helping people just like her brother.

Next semester, she plans to volunteer with kids and families at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, before eventually earning a graduate degree in art therapy across town at the Herron School of Art and Design. As Bailee’s exciting future continues to unfold, it’s not something she takes for granted.

“My professors and classmates haven’t just helped me find my voice; they’ve helped me find its purpose. Being vulnerable isn’t easy,” she said, “but sometimes it’s the only way to heal. It's amazing how choosing our own paintbrush, canvas, or color can help us open up and find the help we need.”
 

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Bailee Dodson

It took a little looking back for Bailee Dodson to find her way forward.

My Butler Story | Colin Harts

Colin Harts ‘23
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Major: English

What would Colin Harts tell his younger self? “Don’t have any doubts in yourself. You can pursue whatever passion you want to pursue.” 

It’s that passion that ultimately brought Colin to Butler University to study English. 

“I chose English as my major because I had always had a natural inclination for it. I excelled at it in high school, so I thought ‘why not’?,” says Harts. “Before I scheduled my classes for my first semester, I found that I was really intrigued by the kind of literature that we’d be reading as well as the historical context that goes along with it.” 

It’s that variety of literature—as well as the interpretive aspects and creative expression—that Hart says have been some of his favorite parts of his major. 

“I have the freedom to explore topics,” Harts says. “I’m not just sitting in a classroom getting lectured to. I have a variety of projects that I can freely choose from. I have essays where I can delve deeper into the literature that we read.” 

And the faculty relationships in the English department are just another bonus. Harts is able to lean on his professors for guidance, whether that is help scheduling which classes to take the following semester or tips on how to improve his writing. 

That community, whether it’s with his professors, classmates, or other students living in his unit, has made a huge difference for Harts. 

“What makes Butler unique is its emphasis on building community,” he says. “I feel like I have this really strong network of people that I can rely on for friendship, laughter, and support. It’s really nice to know that I have this core group of people that I’m not only living and studying with, but also going through life with.” 

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Colin Harts

Colin found that he had the freedom to choose what he wanted to learn at Butler. Hear how.

My Butler Story | Rieser Wells

 

Rieser Wells ‘21
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Major: Biochemistry

Rieser Wells knew as soon as he discovered Butler University, it was the place for him. “I wanted a small school with a big campus feel,” he says. And being only five miles from downtown Indianapolis was also a perk. “I knew, being close to Indy, that I’d always have something to do.” 

It also helped that Butler had his major of choice: Biochemistry. Wells knew that after graduating from Butler, he was interested in attending either graduate school or dental school, and after doing some research, he found that Biochemistry most directly paralleled the information and courses that he would need for an advanced degree. 

Not only that, but as a Biochemistry major, Wells has access to a number of undergraduate research opportunities. In fact, he’s participating in two research projects concurrently—one with a Biology professor and one with a Chemistry professor. 

And it’s that personalized attention that makes all the difference. 

Although Wells knew that Butler’s class sizes were small (the student to faculty ratio is only 11:1!),  he still says that he was surprised with the close relationships that he has formed with many of his professors. 

“I learned really quickly that I’m not just a number,” he says. “I can go to them anytime. I even have a couple of their phone numbers if I’m ever in a big jam and need some help. They’re always there and I can always rely on them if I need help.” 

Not only are they there to help academically, but they’re also there to ensure that students are taken care of on a personal level. 

“My Organic Chemistry professor, Dr. Wilson, invites all of her students to come to her house for a big barbeque that she cooks herself,” says Wells. “There are forty or fifty kids who show up at her house and she feeds us all and even has to-go containers so we can take food back to our other friends. It’s really unreal that a professor would do that for her students.” 

It’s that level of personalized attention from his professors that Wells knows he just wouldn’t get anywhere else but Butler. 

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Rieser Wells

The University's close access to Indianapolis is just one the reasons Rieser choose to attend Butler.

My Butler Story | David Sexton

David Sexton ‘20
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Major: Political Science, Human Communication and Organizational Leadership
Hometown: Richmond, IN

For David Sexton, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) has been a lot like a pool.

Sometimes it’s a neighborhood’s only basin of water in the heat of July, home to dynamic classroom discussions on any given subject matter. At other moments, it looks like a synchronized swimming match, with students’ nodding in agreement as a professor walks them through the intricacies of public policy.

But no matter what, David and his peers are learning what it means to always keep their heads above water. To tread together, despite personal politics, is to grow.

"I think our professors' biggest metric for success has been the honesty we put forth when writing about or discussing the issues they present to us," he said. "This has created a whole environment of discussion-based courses across the College, which is probably why we typically leave each class more encouraged than when we entered it."

Though David's passion for democracy came later in life, his love of Butler started early when his grandparents took him on walks through campus. So when his interest in politics began to rise, Butler emerged as the perfect fit.

Why? The campus is located in the capital city of a state that remains a sticking point on the national political stage. But internally, Butler makes it a priority to engage its students with their eventual field as soon as possible.

Whether it's by pursuing internships at the statehouse or at local non-profits, or by working internally on policy matters within student government, David’s experience has been as hands-on as he hoped for.

"I've always felt educated, never preached at," he said. "People always expect me to start complaining about my classes because of how intense things are nationally. But it's the opposite. Some of the strongest relationships I have made are with people I usually disagree with."

As he gears up for the final legs of his Butler education, David feels more and more prepared for the world beyond the campus than ever before.

"What separates Butler from other colleges is the cohesiveness between all the different courses and disciplines that are offered here," he said. "It's why they call it 'The Butler Way,' I guess. This place really is helping us all grow, both as individuals and as a community."

That's because Butler students don't dip their toes in the pool. They dive right in.
 

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | David Sexton

For David Sexton, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) has been a lot like a pool.

My Butler Story | Colton Haymon

Colton Haymon ‘20
Lacy School of Business
Major: Marketing
Hometown: Forest Park, IL

For Colton Haymon, Butler University was never the destination. It’s his gateway to the globe.

“I want to help small businesses connect with global markets and give them the confidence to compete,” he said. “I believe there’s a lack of strong morals and ethics in the business world, which can turn people away from it. But successful opportunities are out there waiting for small businesses to take advantage of, and where I will fit in is helping them get there.”

Let’s back up.

As he grew up in Forest Park, Illinois Colton’s interest in a business career began at a young age. Once his high school advisor told him about a small school in Indiana that might be the perfect fit for him, he applied to be a Bulldog and was on campus the following fall.

“A lot of people say that Butler felt like a second home right away, but for me it was more than that,” he said. “This felt like a place where I was going to be set up for success. Professors asked me what I wanted to accomplish and the rest of the conversation was always how they could help make it happen.”

Gaining experience beyond campus was near the top of his list. Fortunately, the Lacy School of Business’ prioritization of internships fed right into that, and before long he was in the offices of Smart Moves Pediatrics, Inc.

There, he was able to spend valuable hours working directly with professionals while gaining hands-on accounting and web development experience, which shed a new light on what he was learning in class.

“What’s been great about Butler’s curriculum is that, in the classroom, you’re given the tools and knowledge you need to go out and succeed,” he said. “And once you do, you come back to class with a fresh perspective and an eagerness to apply what you’ve learned.”

That’s why Colton is ready for the global stage. He knew he had the potential to be a leader in the business world and timely encouragement from his professors was the exact push he needed.

He wants to help businesses in the same way by showing them they can accomplish whatever they want to. And, most importantly, do so without losing their essence.

“We can all make a bigger impact than we think,” he said. “I’m ready to make mine.”

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Colton Haymon

For Colton Haymon, Butler University was never the destination. It’s his gateway to the globe.

My Butler Story | Jen Barton

Jen Barton ‘21
College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
Major: Health Sciences
Hometown: Brownsburg, IN

Jen Barton comes from a long line of Bulldogs—both her parents and both her older siblings attended Butler University. 

Because of that, Jen grew up coming to campus frequently, both with her parents and to visit her older siblings. So, when the time came for Jen to begin her own college search, she always knew that Butler would be high on the list. 

“It had majors I was interested in, and it also had the small community feel that I was looking for,” she says. 

When applying, she declared Health Sciences as her major because she wanted a well-rounded healthcare experience, knowing her future plans will hopefully include dental school. 

“This major gives me the flexibility to take other classes and prerequisite courses that I need for applying to dental school,” she says. It’s also the perfect mixture of staying in the healthcare field—which I’m passionate about—but also giving me the flexibility to take classes outside of my major.” 

In addition to her classes, Barton says that the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (COPHS) provides ample opportunities for experiential learning with a diverse array of organizations. 

One of Barton’s particularly memorable experiences was volunteering with the Christian Healthcare Providers Organization. Through that organization, she was able to travel to the Dominican Republic over the summer with a group of other COPHS students. While there, Butler students were able to provide essential health services to those living in the local communities, giving students a first-hand opportunity to put their skills into practice. 

That combination of academic coursework with experiential learning is what makes a Butler academic experience unique, and is one of the many reasons that Butler was nationally ranked in the top 25 universities for internships, according to U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 rankings. 

Jen agrees. “One of the best decisions you’ll make is sticking to it and becoming a Bulldog,” she says. 

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Jen Barton

Jen's parents and siblings went to Butler. See why she decided to follow in their footsteps.

My Butler Story | Olivia Allen

Olivia Allen ‘21
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Major: Exploratory Studies
Hometown: Raleigh, NC

Growing up in a family on the move, Olivia Allen always had to find her own ways to call new places home. But that was never easier for her to do than at Butler University.

“One of the biggest reasons for that is my advisor, Jan Ruston. I’m seeing her almost every week now,” Allen says. “When I felt too overwhelmed, I went into her office and said: ‘You’re my mom away from home now. Help me get my life into shape.’”

Originally an Austin, Texas native, Olivia attended high school in North Carolina. An avid swimmer most of her life, she's now making a splash on Butler's swim team. 

But how can a Division-I athlete who set two school records within her first year on the team feel as if she needs help to get her life into shape?

“I have no idea what I want to do for a career,” Allen says.

And she’s okay with that for now. After turning to resources on campus for guidance, such as Internship and Career Services, or her advisor-mom hybrid Jan, she’s realized that most people around her don’t know what they want to do, either.

Even, or most especially, if they pretend to.

“What I do have now that I didn’t have a year or two ago is a much clearer sense of what I don’t want to do, and I credit the way Butler throws you into different classes for that,” Allen says. “They give you the freedom to explore interests while also introducing you with new ideas in a first-year seminar course, for example.”

So far, it’s working. Her increasing interest in the sciences has inclined her to choose the Healthcare and Business major with a Spanish minor. Between athletics and academics, each day is filled with a new set of demands and challenges.

“My family and teammates keep me grounded by reminding me it’s okay to be uncertain and to fail,” Allen says. “Test scores don’t define me as long as I don’t let everything come crashing down.”
Which means it is time for the analogy that every reader knew was coming: no matter what life throws at her, Olivia, just like Dory, keeps on swimming.

Watch more My Butler Stories
 

Admission

My Butler Story | Olivia Allen

Growing up in a family on the move, Olivia Allen always had to find her own ways to call new places home. 

Kelsey Burton with Bella the Newfoundland dog
Alumni Success

Butler Alumnae Dominate United Way ELEVATE Nominations

BY Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Feb 24 2020

Each year, United Way’s ELEVATE Awards recognize the next generation of philanthropists, volunteers, and activists in the Central Indiana community. After receiving nearly 100 nominations, the organization has selected 15 finalists for the 2020 awards.

A third of them are Butler graduates. Five alumnae are among the nominees, and winners will be announced at ELEVATE on Saturday, February 29, at Crane Bay Event Center in downtown Indianapolis.

Kelsey Burton ‘06 is one of three nominees for the Nonprofit Professional of the Year. As executive director of Paws and Think,  she is always promoting the benefits of dogs. Since joining the local nonprofit in 2016, the Chemistry and Biology graduate has developed numerous programs for her organization’s 130 therapy dogs all over Indianapolis.

 

“Paws and Think focuses on improving lives through the power of the human/dog connection,” says Burton.

One day a week, she stops by a small office at St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital to catch up with some of her star canines. A recent visit saw one of Paws and Think’s top dogs, the 100-pound Bella. The shaggy, 10-year-old Newfoundland specializes in encouraging children to read. For children who are shy or don’t like reading out loud during school, reading to Bella can help calm the nerves. The pages turn as Bella takes in every line.

Burton says she is honored to be among the 15 ELEVATE finalists because the recognition shows her work has been meaningful to the community.

“We want to bring love, happiness, and comfort to those who need it most,” Burton says, “We know dogs are amazing. They’re non-judgemental and offer unconditional love. So, what better tool than dogs to be able to do those things.”

Sarah Myer ‘06, also among the award nominees, says she’s grateful she decided to stay in Indianapolis after graduating from Butler.

Sarah Myer
Sarah Myer '06 helped attract the 2021 Final Four to Indianapolis.

“Indy is a city where you can get connected quickly and make an impact if you are willing to hustle,” says the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Indiana Sports Corp. “Not many cities have that kind of opportunity for young people starting their careers.”

In her role, Myer works to make sure those career opportunities stay in the Circle City. Since 1979, Indiana Sports Corp has helped attract major sporting events to Indianapolis in the form of NCAA basketball tournament games, U.S. Olympic team trials, and, of course, Super Bowl XLVI in 2012. Events co-produced by the nonprofit sports commission have led to more than $4 billion in direct spending in the city.

“Our team helps execute events from start to finish,” Myer says. “And while these events are here, they not only elevate civic pride and have a huge economic impact on our city, but we always find ways to include our youth.”

Emily Shrock ‘09 is nominated for Board Member of the Year for her work with Coburn Place, a local nonprofit that works to empower and house victims of abuse. A Marketing major when she was at Butler, Shrock credits her time at the University for helping her realize “the power of community."

“While I was on campus, I had the opportunity to take a number of leadership roles through organizations that not only taught me how to lead but instilled in me an even stronger sense of compassion and desire to serve those around me,” she says. “My heart has forever been in serving others, and Butler truly enhanced that longing that has led me to a career in public service.”

As Director of Public Engagement and Programs at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, Shrock wanted to maintain that balance of servitude with her professional life. She started at Coburn Place as a student volunteer, and a decade later, she is helping lead the nonprofit into a strong 2020. 

Shrock says Coburn Place houses 70 people daily in its Midtown building, but its programming and services reach all over Indianapolis.

Also nominated are Lisa Glavan ‘19 and Molly McDonnell ‘17, who will represent the Roche Diagnostics Young Professionals group for the Employee Resource Group of the Year award.

Burton wasn’t surprised to see so many fellow Butler Bulldogs on the ELEVATE program.

“We all got really good groundwork in college to learn how to make things possible in our community,” she says. “All the time, I find myself very honored to be part of that group—to say I’m a Butler alum.”

 

Photos and video by Tim Brouk

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

Kelsey Burton with Bella the Newfoundland dog
Alumni Success

Butler Alumnae Dominate United Way ELEVATE Nominations

Five alumnae are among finalists at the February 29 award ceremony honoring philanthropy, volunteerism, and activism

Feb 24 2020 Read more
strat comm
Student-Centered

Butler’s College of Communication Launches First Master’s Degree

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Feb 20 2020

As new media platforms rise and fall nearly every month, offering fresh avenues for organizations to communicate with audiences and one another, it can become more and more complicated to make sure every message stays true to key values and goals. It can be daunting, in an age that emphasizes traffic and engagements, to cut through the noise and find the feedback that matters most. And it can be tricky, especially in times of crisis, to make sure information is shared responsibly and in a cohesive voice.

That’s why Butler University’s new Master’s in Strategic Communication builds on the idea that lifelong learning is a must. Now open for applications, the online-only degree invites both up-and-coming communicators and seasoned professionals—creating a group of students who can learn from one another.

“In collaboration, our faculty and students will be exploring new practices, new vantage points, and new ideas,” says Strategic Communication Department Chair Mark Rademacher. “We really want to empower them to co-construct that learning experience. They’re the ones out there working in the field and bringing in real-world challenges to help us understand how these concepts work, not just in theory but in practice.”

The 30-credit-hour program prepares students for careers in a range of fields, from public relations, to advertising, to nonprofit work, and more. After five core classes covering the foundations of ethical, strategy-based communication—and how to use research and data to inform decisions—students can customize the program through five elective courses. These electives offer a deep dive into areas such as Crisis Communication, Branding, Media Relations, Social Media, and other timely topics.

Rademacher says strategic communication is about using research-based insights to understand the needs of key stakeholders, to communicate with them in an authentic way across a variety of channels, and to build trust and mutually beneficial relationships. Professionals in this field must be able to understand the process of how ideas are developed and received. It’s not just about advertising, or just about public relations—as professional organizations see increased crossover between these roles, Butler’s program reflects that shift.

The curriculum was developed based on market research that Rademacher and other Strategic Communication faculty began pursuing several years ago with the support of Butler’s Office of Academic Program Development and Innovation. They discovered a great deal of demand and excitement for this kind of program across the communication industry, among both employers and potential students. According to EAB, a company that collects data about trends and challenges facing the education industry, regional demand for degreed strategic communication professionals increased by 80 percent from September 2016 through February 2019. This growth is expected to continue over the next several years.

With the rise of new technologies and media platforms, some professionals without academic backgrounds in communication are finding themselves in communication-heavy roles. Others who have been in the field for years—or even decades—have watched those technologies change around them, and they are seeking opportunities to grow their skills while learning the most up-to-date strategies. And in a time when we have the ability to collect and analyze more information than ever before, communicators want to know how they can sort through all that data and use it in ways that will help them better serve their audiences.

“Increasingly in our communication environment,” Rademacher says, “we have access to so much data. We have so much insight into how people are using websites and how they are engaging via social media. That old adage of ‘I know what worked before, so let’s do that again’—that’s out the window. Using data and research isn’t just a crutch for communicating to executives that what you’re doing is a smart move: It really pervades everything we’re doing.”

Each class module lasts for seven weeks, allowing students to focus on one topic at a time, with week-long breaks between courses. If continuously enrolled, this means the program can be completed in as little as 20 months.

“We don’t want students to think this is a program that drags on, or that it will be a challenge to your ability to work full-time and balance family obligations,” Rademacher says. “We want you to come in, focus, and really invest in this experience. We believe that when you can do that in intensive, short bursts, that’s the most engaging way to do it.”

This is a degree for working professionals, with the goal of helping them do what they do better. Rademacher wants students to apply what they are learning each day, having an immediate impact in their workplaces or other spaces they are passionate about.

Even though the classes are entirely online—a feature meant to provide more flexibility—the program emphasizes learning through connections with peers, faculty, and industry professionals. Rademacher calls this the Butler online experience.

“For us, that means tapping into this idea that you can be online but not alone,” he says. “We’re working on elements of the program that help build a cohort mentality. We want students forming relationships with one another through group work and conversation.”

The Master’s in Strategic Communication will be truly hands-on. Classes will be project-based, focusing on the application of theory to the practice of strategic communication, which will allow students to pursue topics related to the challenges that are most relevant to their personal or professional goals.

“Butler’s Strategic Communication faculty provide that ideal balance of theory and practice,” says CCOM Dean Brooke Barnett. “They have created a graduate program that plays to their strengths. Students will benefit from the dynamic, relevant, and engaged learning techniques that are a hallmark of a Butler education.”

Classes for the program’s first cohort begin August 26, 2020. There are three application deadlines: April 1, June 1, and August 1. You can learn more or submit an application here.

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403 (cell)

strat comm
Student-Centered

Butler’s College of Communication Launches First Master’s Degree

The Master’s in Strategic Communication offers flexibility, professional networking, and project-based learning

Feb 20 2020 Read more
Midwinter Dances
Campus

Butler Commissions New Music From Composer Behind 'Get Out' and 'Us'

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Feb 18 2020

When Michael Colburn first saw the movie Get Out, a 2017 film directed by Jordan Peele that captures themes of racism through lenses of horror and comedy, he thought it was all-around fantastic. But what stood out most to the Butler University Director of Bands was the music behind the dialogue.

“I knew nothing about Michael Abels as a composer until I saw that movie,” he says. “The freshness of the score caught my attention. It was very unusual, and it got me wondering if Michael had ever written anything for band.”

So Colburn tracked down the critically acclaimed composer on Facebook, asking if he would be interested in writing a piece for Butler’s Wind Ensemble.

Abels replied almost instantly. The composer has become known for his work in orchestral music and film score (especially for the Jordan Peele movies Get Out and Us), but he had never written for concert band. He was intrigued.

As the conversation went on, Colburn mentioned Butler’s nationally known ballet program. Abels had already considered trying his hand at writing for dance, and a collaboration with Butler’s annual Midwinter Dances event meant he could create music that would be performed by student-musicians, alongside choreography by student-dancers. The piece, Falling Sky, made its world debut during the performances in Clowes Hall earlier this month.

Leaders from Butler’s Dance department recommended world-renowned Patrick de Bana to lead the choreography, and the two men joined on campus last year to start talking about what they wanted to create.

Colburn asked that the piece focus on some kind of social issue because “one of the more intriguing places we approach these topics is through the arts.” Together, Abels and de Bana realized they both cared deeply about the current humanitarian crisis at the United States’ southern border.

“What really impressed me was how open-minded they were,” Colburn says. “They were making very strong points—and making them adamantly—but they were both receptive to what the other person had to offer. It was truly collaborative.”

The artists also discussed how dance differs from film: Movies have strong narratives—with music that supports certain scenes and actions—while dance is more representational.

“Patrick encouraged Abels to not think about a specific plot or narrative,” Colburn says, “but to think more in terms of representational images that convey emotions, or that capture the general experiences of people who are caught up in this crisis.”

 

 

Working together, the artists created a 20-minute performance packed with themes of innocence, terror, diversity, and hope.

Falling Sky is really a unique score,” Colburn says about the work. “I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say there’s nothing like it in the band world. Some parts are very traditional, but the second movement is based entirely on hip hop. One of Abels’ overall goals is finding ways to fuse classical music with more popular, contemporary reference points.”

A few basic themes pop up throughout the piece, Colburn says. A youthful exuberance toward the beginning reflects the spirit of the children involved in the border situation. Darker, more sinister elements come in during the second movement, representing the forces working against families.

“Then the third movement is the most angst-ridden,” Colburn says. “It seeks to capture what these families are going through when they are incarcerated and the kids are separated from their parents—and the incredible difficulties that presents.”

The piece concludes in a final movement, hinting at the optimism that comes with moving toward a better place.

 

Butler's Wind Ensemble will perform music from Falling Sky in concert on March 1 as part of the Music at Butler Series. This event is free and open to the public. 

 

Photos by Brent Smith

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
(260) 307-3403

 

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.

Midwinter Dances
Campus

Butler Commissions New Music From Composer Behind 'Get Out' and 'Us'

Butler Ballet and Wind Ensemble teamed up to perform the world premiere of Michael Abels' 'Falling Sky'

Feb 18 2020 Read more
Sam Varie in Iowa
Student-Centered

Butler Student Embraces Campaign Trail

BY Meredith Sauter and Tim Brouk

PUBLISHED ON Feb 17 2020

Getting stuck in a snowbank in rural Iowa didn’t freeze Sam Varie’s passion for politics in this presidential election year.

In January, the Butler University senior and former Student Government Association (SGA) President put his final semester on hold to volunteer for Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg. With only 12 credits left to graduate, Varie arrived in the Hawkeye State on January 20 to help canvas and phone bank for the former South Bend, Indiana, mayor.

Thanks to some kitty litter under his dad's car tires, Varie was able to escape the snow to continue his first foray into politics, a passion he developed during his years at Butler.

“In one of my classes, we studied marketing tactics in a political campaign. That was one of my first inside exposures to how a campaign operates,” says Varie, who will return to Butler next year to finish his senior year and receive his degree in Strategic Communication. “Mayor Pete’s entire marketing strategy is relational. He connects with people through empathy. That immediately grabbed my attention and was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Buttigieg team’s long hours and dedication were fruitful as Buttigieg narrowly defeated Bernie Sanders to win the Iowa Caucus. The results were delayed, but the outcome was savored. The momentum had Varie in good spirits while en route to the New Hampshire primary, which featured another strong showing from Buttigieg.

Varie’s role has now changed from a volunteer in field organizing to a staff member on the Advance Team. As an advance team member, he assists in event execution and management of town halls and rallies for Buttigieg’s campaign appearances. He is currently travelling across the United States.

Buttigieg talks to Iowa voters
Sam Varie is helping with Pete Buttigieg's campaign events. 

As expected, the first few weeks of campaign work felt like “drinking out of a firehose,” Varie says. He went door-to-door talking with potential voters, and he attended events to drum up support for Buttigieg. His main mission was to connect with voters. 

“Iowan voters take the job as an early state very seriously,” Varie says. “We would knock on a door and be welcomed into the voter’s home for 30 or 40 minutes. Although some voters had one too many volunteers knock on their door, they really listened to everyone.”

A crashed smartphone app and the delayed results overshadowed the Iowa Caucus, but in the end, Varie was a part of the winning movement.

“More than anything, having a gay mayor from Indiana on the leader board was the victory,” he says. “The major takeaway from the beginning has been that we can envision love and support for Pete beyond Indiana, and we hope to build momentum going forward.”

Strategic preparation

Varie, an Indianapolis native, says his three-plus years at Butler have served him well so far during his first month on the campaign trail—especially his courses in Strategic Communication.

“Strategic Communication is all about developing relationships and communicating in a meaningful way,” Varie says. “I have to do that every day on the campaign.”

Varie is also leaning on his nearly two terms as SGA president to help him during the long campaign hours.

“My time at Butler was all about connecting with students and understanding what they love about Butler or what the challenges they face. I worked with them to ensure that they are having a positive experience,” Varie says of his service as SGA President. “That's essentially what I'm doing on the campaign trail—connecting with community members, understanding their experiences, and talking with them about Pete's vision for the America that we need. That relational aspect has been crucial to my success here.”

Experience right now

Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Ross got to know Varie through the student’s work with SGA. Ross believes that experience is serving Varie well.

“Sam is incredibly passionate about making positive change in the world,” Ross says, “and he worked tirelessly as SGA president to help students learn about issues and become civically engaged. He has taken this passion and what he learned at Butler to the national level in joining this campaign.”

Abbey Levenshus, an Associate Professor of Strategic Communication, only taught Varie in her introductory Promotional Writing course, but she has been the student’s advisor since Varie declared his major. Having previously worked as a staff assistant for Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington on Capitol Hill, Levenshus supported Varie’s decision to work on a political campaign and offered her advice.

“You get this one life, and you have to decide how you’re going to spend it,” she says. “You can come back to campus. This place will be here if that’s the way you want to do it. That is the Butler Way. Go and get experience right now.”

Varie is unsure if politics will be a part of his career after graduation, but he plans on soaking up this campaign experience as much as possible.

“Right now, I'm really enjoying it—the fast-paced lifestyle, the people I'm meeting, and supporting a presidential candidate I believe in,” Varie says. “But I also really enjoy the higher ed experience. I’m not sure where my future will take me, but I’m enjoying all of the experiences right now.”

 

Photography provided by Sam Varie

 

Media Contact:
Katie Grieze
News Content Manager
kgrieze@butler.edu
260-307-3403

 

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.

Sam Varie in Iowa
Student-Centered

Butler Student Embraces Campaign Trail

Senior, former SGA President Sam Varie took the semester off to gain experience on Pete Buttigieg’s staff

Feb 17 2020 Read more

Pages