View All Content

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.
Innovation

Butler Prof: ‘Local Newspapers Near Crisis Point’

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 30 2019

To understand media mergers like the proposed one between Gannett and GateHouse Media, Nancy Whitmore says “you need to understand the state newspapers are in. And it is a sad state.”

Whitmore, a Professor of Communication at Butler University, explains that mergers are often meant to help papers hold on long enough to figure out a more permanent business model for surviving the digital age. In the time when local print papers provided the main source of information, advertising dollars were key. Now, as most of that money goes to big technology companies such as Google and Facebook, more newspapers have tried to hold their ground with funding from subscriptions. Whitmore says this model mostly works for larger national outlets, but local newspapers struggle to convert readers into digital subscribers.

So mid-sized and smaller papers are “really in a tight spot.” Gannett and GateHouse both focus on these sorts of local outlets.

Horizontal mergers between similar companies can help save money, often by combining and sharing human resources, editing, design, and printing teams. The combined company would also be able to boast a more widespread audience—a draw for advertisers looking to reach the most people.

But good journalism will still be expensive, and combining companies usually means cutting jobs. Whitmore says it’s hard to tell how many layoffs a Gannett-GateHouse merger could cause, since most local newsrooms are already spread thin, but some job cuts would be likely. And there would be consequences.

“I think we are almost at a crisis point here,” she says. “If you’re not getting local journalism, you are losing the independent voice that is monitoring those in power.”

According to Pew Research Center, the number of Americans working in the newspaper industry has been slashed almost in half since the early 2000s. Wages are down, closures are up, and many of the papers that survive have started to publish less frequently.

While mergers and acquisitions can keep some struggling outlets on their feet, about 1,300 communities in the United States have lost local newspaper coverage altogether.

Whitmore says ethical concerns sometimes surround the idea of big companies owning so many media outlets, but a financial need to merge for the survival of local journalism might start to outweigh those worries. Plus, since GateHouse and Gannett own mostly local papers that aren’t in direct competition with one another, Whitmore says combining the two companies might not raise regulatory concerns.

“But mergers are expensive,” she goes on to explain, “and they don’t always work out well. You’ve got different cultures—different ways of doing things. It’s not always smooth sailing.” 

Whitmore predicts that, if anything holds back a merger between Gannett and GateHouse, it will probably be the financing. Given the already-dismal state of local outlets, she’s not sure a deal can be done. But for the sake of local newspapers, she hopes it works.

Because without journalism, even at the most local level, Whitmore says communities will be left vulnerable to “people in power doing unseemly things.”

 

Nancy Whitmore (Professor of Communication at Butler University) specializes in research and teaching about the laws, ethics, and economics surrounding the media industry.

 

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

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.
Innovation

Butler Prof: ‘Local Newspapers Near Crisis Point’

Nancy Whitmore says merger of Gannett and GateHouse Media could help save money, but at a cost.

Jul 30 2019 Read more

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

By Larry Clow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet.
Innovation

Global Warming? Climate Change? How do we talk about what’s happening? Butler prof looks to set the rhetoric record straight

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

Of the 37 climate scientists Carol Reeves has interviewed across the United States, all of them feel a moral obligation to help save the planet. All of them want to tell the world how bad things will get if we don’t take better care of our Earth. The thing is, not all of them have the right words to make people listen.

An English Professor at Butler University, Reeves studies how climate scientists communicate with one another, with policy makers, and with the public about their research findings. While not a climate scientist herself, she teaches courses about the rhetoric and language of science. Through working with students on how to talk about climate change, as well as through interviewing climate scientists over the past several years, Reeves has learned about the nuanced challenges scientists often face in discussing their research.

“In science, you don’t talk about absolute facts: You talk about evidence,” Reeves says. “But normal people listen to dramatic claims. They have trouble getting that we have loads of evidence from research to support that we are heading into a really terrible time if we don’t do anything about it. We are going to have more extremes, more heat waves and draughts, more heavy rains, more wildfires, and stronger hurricanes.”

Reeves says we might view this summer’s heat waves as a sort of “test run” for what climate scientists are warning about the future, and how that heat will continue to affect us.

“Extreme and prolonged high temperatures place an enormous burden on communities and citizens, especially the most vulnerable,” she says. “If you’re wealthy enough to be sitting in your cooled home, you may dismiss this very clear sign of climate change. But if you’re poor, or if you have to work outdoors, you probably wish someone would get to work on the problem.”

Starting in 2008, Reeves decided to start conducting interviews with climate scientists to gain more background for the unit of her class that discusses climate change. She focused on those scientists involved in writing climate assessment reports for the United Nations—reports that analyze where the climate is now, and what will probably happen in the future. These scientists also look at how climate change is already affecting the Earth, and they build recommendations for what humans can do to help.

Researchers see a stark future in the data, but they struggle to spread the word. Reeves says policy makers and members of the public often misunderstand the concept of climate change, especially the way scientists talk about it. This has caused climatologists to sometimes disagree among themselves about what kind of language to use when sharing their research.

“You have a set of data,” she says, “but you have to write about that data, and you have to decide how strong your language is going to be.”

Reeves explains that scientists need to balance the ethical responsibility to stay within their data with their desire to help the public understand.

“It is a tenuous balance between explaining the science in a simple and clear way without simplifying and over-stating,” she says.

But it doesn’t matter what the studies show if people don’t want to think about the future. Scientists want to convince the population that, even though we are facing so many other problems, we need to put climate change at the top of the list. They just aren’t sure how.

 

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

Campus

New Faces, New Mission: Diversity Center Gets a Makeover

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jul 22 2019

The Efroymson Diversity Center is undergoing some cosmetic changes. 

The Center is getting a fresh paint job. Old books—like ones on how to update a resume using Word Perfect—are being removed and replaced with new ones. Dry erase boards, comfortable furniture, and communal spaces are in the works, along with an expanded prayer and meditation room.

But the physical transformation happening in Butler University’s Atherton Union is far from the only shift the Diversity Center has been experiencing over the last few months. With three new staff members and a brand new mission, the Center, known around campus as the DC, is ready for a makeover of different sorts. Instead of being largely viewed as just a physical space with a fixed location, the Center has set out to make its presence felt all around campus and the wider Indianapolis community. 

“We are mobile,” emphasizes Tiffany Reed, the new Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.

In the spring, Student Affairs conducted a study of the DC and its programs, including an outside consultant, feedback from more than 600 students, and stakeholders from more than 20 departments across campus. Three main themes emerged: They needed to address the physical space, increase outreach, and staff hired must be up to date on best practices when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The physical transformation is underway. Three new hires have been made. And outreach is just one item on the Center’s long list of goals.

“Butler’s founding mission was focused on diversity and inclusivity,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Frank E. Ross, who led the DC study. “Given Ovid Butler and his role as an abolitionist who propagated the need for education for all, and access to education, it is imperative that we continue to work and strive to create conditions where all students can be successful and all students can thrive. The Diversity Center is critical to that mission. It is a hub for learning outside the classroom. It helps as we work to create and sustain an intentionally inclusive campus environment.”

The first key to bringing the mission to life was hiring three new faces of the DC. In addition to Reed, Gina Forrest, who served as interim Director of the Center since February after longtime Director Valerie Davidson retired, has been named Executive Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Thalia Anguiano has been named Assistant Director of Multicultural Programs and Services.

Forrest will primarily focus on partnering with others across campus to enhance the student experience through diversity, equity, and inclusion. She will work closely with students, staff, and faculty, facilitating new workshops and trainings on how to have crucial conversations. Forrest will also look beyond campus, working to create meaningful partnerships throughout the wider Indianapolis area. She will consider the resources Butler provides to its students, as well as how the University responds to bias incidents, for example, to ensure appropriate support.

“This work is so much more encompassing than the actual Center,” Forrest says. “We want diversity, equity, and inclusion to be part of the University’s identity. By having all these different initiatives happening in tandem, it becomes proactive work, not just a reactive thing we say we are doing.” 

Reed will work collaboratively with faculty, and the Office of Admission to hone in on student success and retention. Reed will focus on being intentional about supporting students. 

For example, this year’s Dawg Days 2.0, which strives to create a welcoming environment and provide connections, resources, and programs for students who are underrepresented at Butler, will include a wider range of students, such as first-generation students, 21st century scholars, multicultural students, students of color, and LGBTQ students. 

“It is important to create intentional spaces for students of color, or for the LBGTQ community, but it is also important for spaces to intersect because many of our students are also first generation or biracial. They want to know how they fit in at a predominantly white institution,” says Reed, who as a student at IUPUI often studied and hung out at Butler’s Diversity Center because IUPUI didn’t have one.

Because of her experiences at IUPUI—fighting to get a Diversity Center of their own as an undergraduate and seeing firsthand how helpful it was to have a space on Butler’s campus—she also hopes to create partnerships with other universities. 

Reed has also been busy revamping the mentorship program, now dubbed the DC Squad. It will be much more robust, encouraging ongoing relationships instead of having mentors meet with their mentees just once or twice a semester. 

Anguiano will focus on programming and working with the student organizations that are housed in the DC. 

“I plan on challenging our student orgs within the Center to work much more collaboratively with one another to enhance dialogue and bring different perspectives from different lenses,” she says. “If it is Hispanic Heritage month, we might look at what it means to be Latinx and part of the LGBTQ community. We want to encompass different identities and bring more collaboration.”

As much as their roles differ, they will all work as one unit, striving to bring the mission of the DC to all parts of Butler’s campus, and beyond.

The Center’s physical space might be getting a new makeover, but in reality, if everything is working, the DC will be traveling to a building near you soon, collaborating with faculty across campus, visiting classrooms, partnering in many different ways.

“The goal is for you to feel connected to the DC as a collective unit,” Reed says. “It is about utilizing all of our different powers to move the space beyond this space. For us, the Center could be in Jordan Hall, a residence hall, a sorority house. We want it to travel wherever it is needed. That’s the ultimate goal around diversity, equity, and inclusion. That way we are reaching everyone.”

Campus

New Faces, New Mission: Diversity Center Gets a Makeover

Butler's Diversity Center has three new staff members, and a brand new mission. 

Jul 22 2019 Read more
$41.4 million raised in fiscal year 2019
Butler Beyond

Generous Donors Drive a Banner Fundraising Year for Butler

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 19 2019

Fiscal year 2019 was a banner year for philanthropy at Butler University, with 15,823 generous graduates and friends contributing $41.4 million, representing the second highest fundraising total in the past 10 years. The gifts will bolster academic programs, enhance student life initiatives, and support Butler Athletics, cementing Butler’s status as the No. 1 regional university in the Midwest, a distinction made this year in U.S. News & World Report’s Best College Rankings.

The new building for the Andre B. Lacy School of Business (LSB) was one of the fiscal year’s landmark achievements. Twelve Founders Circle donor families each made $1 million gifts to lead the fundraising effort, which has totaled more than $21 million to support construction of the building. The atrium of the new building will be named in honor of these donors’ visionary investment in Butler’s future and the lives of future business students.

On June 7, the University marked another milestone as the Board of Trustees approved a $100 million renovation and expansion of Butler’s sciences complex. With the help of generous lead donors, more than $27 million has already been raised toward the total $42 million fundraising goal. Butler will hold a formal groundbreaking ceremony for the project this fall, but work is beginning immediately.

In another major infrastructure project this year, Butler announced a second phase of renovations to Hinkle Fieldhouse estimated to cost $10.5 million. To date, $10.1 million of that total has been raised through generous philanthropic support. The renovations began in May and will include enhancements to the Efroymson Family Gym and the men’s soccer locker room. The installation of an HVAC system will provide air conditioning for the main court, the concourses, and the Efroymson Family Gym.

Butler’s most dedicated donors also were recognized during the fiscal year. In September, the University celebrated the launch of the inaugural Carillon Society, which honors individuals who have made cumulative gifts of $100,000. The celebration inducted 248 honorees into the Carillon Society—representing more than $73 million in philanthropic support that has impacted nearly every corner of the University. Additionally, eight new plaques were unveiled on Cornerstone Plaza, recognizing the generosity of those whose cumulative giving has reached $1 million or more.

“This level of generosity demonstrates the incredible loyalty of our alumni, faculty, staff, and community, and the commitment we share to advancing Butler’s mission of providing the highest quality liberal arts education,” says Butler President James Danko. “Philanthropic support helps us to more effectively advance integrated learning in business, science, innovation, and technology. We are grateful for the many partners who have placed their trust in Butler and invested in the lives of our students with their gifts.”

Butler employees showed significant generosity this year, providing gifts totaling $1,042,196 from 599 faculty and staff donors, up from 424 faculty and staff donors in FY18 and 349 in FY17. This total indicates 59 percent of full-time Butler employees made a gift to the University in FY19 in a powerful demonstration of support for the institution’s mission and vision.

Butler’s annual Day of Giving marked its fourth year in record-setting fashion. The University raised $311,183—a 159 percent increase from its inaugural year in FY16. Of special note, this year’s Day of Giving raised $21,899 for the Butler Emergency Assistance Fund, which provides gift assistance to students with short-term, unforeseen financial hardships that might impact their academic success at the University. The Fund was a new initiative in FY19 that has already provided assistance to 16 students thanks to donor support.

“Exciting things are happening at Butler, and we’re grateful to the donors and community partners who have come alongside us this year with their support and enthusiasm,” says Jonathan Purvis, Vice President for University Advancement. “Philanthropic partners are making a difference in the lives of our students every day by establishing scholarships, providing resources for our outstanding faculty, investing in state-of-the-art facilities, and supporting community partnerships that enrich student learning. Butler donors are absolutely integral to our students’ success and the impact we make in the community.”

$41.4 million raised in fiscal year 2019
Butler Beyond

Generous Donors Drive a Banner Fundraising Year for Butler

$41.4 million raised in fiscal year 2019

Jul 19 2019 Read more
Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Brain Club Fights Stigma of Mental Illness

BY Larry Clow

PUBLISHED ON Jul 19 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Photo by Mike Dickbernd

Brain Club Fights Stigma of Mental Illness

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

Jul 19 2019 Read more
Bob Jones

Old National Bank’s Bob Jones Joins Butler’s Lacy School of Business

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18 2019

Bob Jones, Chairman of Old National Bank, will join Butler University’s Lacy School of Business as a Senior Advisor of Ethical Leadership, the University announced.

In this role, Jones will be a part of the school's leadership team, as well as a mentor to students, faculty, and staff. He will hold office hours, present in classes, and advise the Dean. The only previous Senior Advisor in the school was Andre B. Lacy.

“We expect that by having Bob as part of our team, he will, in the most positive way, force us to be a better version of ourselves,” Dean Steve Standifird said. “He will force us to think deeply about who we are and what we want to accomplish.”

Jones joined Old National Bank in 2004, and continues as Chairman of the Board. Under Jones' leadership, Old National Bank was recognized as a leader in ethics, equality and impact by the Ethisphere Institute, Bloomberg, and VolunteerMatch. In 2016, Old National was recognized as one of the Best Banks to Work for. Jones has appeared on Fox News, Fox Business News, CNBC, and Bloomberg Television, as a spokesperson for Old National and community banking.  

Jones serves on the boards of the University of Evansville, Riley Children’s Foundation, ABA’s American Bankers Council Chair, and International City/County Management Association-Retirement Corporation (ICMA-RC). He served on the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis Board of Directors, where he was a member of its Executive Committee and Chaired the Audit Committee.  

“I am honored to become part of the Lacy School of Business team,” Jones said. “I have long admired the work of Dean Standifird. I deeply appreciate his vision for the school and aligning it with a focus on ethical leadership.”

Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels presented Jones with the Sagamore of the Wabash award and the Distinguished Hoosier Award. Jones was inducted into the Evansville Regional Business Hall of Fame and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation Hall of Fame. Jones was also appointed by Governor Eric Holcomb to serve on the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission. He also serves on the Second Curve Capital Advisory Board.

Jones brings to Butler a depth of knowledge and experience about how to create an ethical organization, Standifird says.

“This is an approach to leadership that is highly consistent with the Butler Way and will add significant value to our students, faculty, and business partners,” he says.  

Bob Jones

Old National Bank’s Bob Jones Joins Butler’s Lacy School of Business

Bob Jones, Chairman of Old National Bank, joins the Lacy School of Business as Senior Advisor of Ethical Leadership.

Jul 18 2019 Read more
Tom Pieciak performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.
Student Profiles

In The Moment: Butler Summer Institute Student Explores Spirituality Through Jazz

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18 2019

Tom Pieciak ‘21 can’t explain why he loves jazz. He just knows it makes him feel good.

To him, the genre is more than music. It’s a raw, organic expression of humanity, but perhaps it’s even more than that. For Pieciak, jazz is spirituality.

After watching Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary during his sophomore year at Butler University, Pieciak discovered this wasn’t uncommon.

“I saw how deeply spiritual his music was,” Pieciak says about the jazz saxophonist.

At the time, he was trying to decide which project to pursue during the 2019 Butler Summer Institute (BSI). The Jazz Studies major knew he wanted to research something relating to music, and he had been long fascinated with existential questions and philosophical topics, already starting to connect the two interests.

“It makes music an even more emotional experience for me,” he says of how philosophy affects his trumpet playing. “I really feel like what I’m doing is beyond me: I’m simply a vessel for this kind of creativity.”

After a meeting with Matthew Pivec, an Associate Professor of Music at Butler and Pieciak’s BSI faculty mentor, the two agreed there was something in the intersection between jazz and spirituality. For his project over the last two months, Pieciak interviewed musicians and listened to recordings to study why and how the genre can inspire such a spiritual experience. He also asked what it even means to be spiritual—how people express spirituality in different ways, and whether you can be spiritual without being religious.

Pieciak first started playing jazz in high school, when he fell in love with the freedom the style offers. So far in his research, he’s found it’s that space for creativity that might help set jazz apart when it comes to spiritual expression. He says the improvisatory nature of jazz—the room it grants for living in the moment—is similar to how humans handle spirituality.

“Within jazz,” Pieciak says, “I like to think that when I’m really in the element, I’m connecting myself to this bigger purpose.”

 

During the 2019 Butler Summer Institute, from May 19 - July 19, rising junior Tom Pieciak studied the power of jazz music to be a vehicle for spiritual expression. Pieciak feels this connection in his own music. Here, he performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.

 

Now, he and the rest of his quartet have the chance to perform every month at Monon Coffee Co. in Broad Ripple. While playing in a group, Pieciak often feels a different kind of spiritual connection in the community that emerges when the bass, drums, guitar, and trumpet all come together.

“You’re listening to each other,” he says. “You’re trusting each other.”

Based on this direct experience of how spirituality can show itself in different ways through jazz, Pieciak has broken the concept into three categories for his project: divine (anything relating to religion or a higher power), community (the spirituality involved in relationships between people), and individual (or, everything else). He assigned jazz songs to each of these categories, providing examples of their musical expressions.

At the beginning of the summer, Pieciak wasn’t sure he’d be able to find enough people to speak about his topic. But with a bit of digging and some help from Pivec’s network, he found five artists to study and had the chance to interview four of them. Some of these musicians are directly involved with church communities, with “one foot in jazz and one foot in religion,” like Indianapolis-based Rev. Marvin Chandler, and Ike Sturn, the music director for jazz ministry at a church in New York City. Pieciak also studied the history of spiritual expression in jazz, as well as identified recordings that reflect that relationship.

Pivec says with so many elements to consider and perspectives to balance, “it gets a little bit messy in the organization process.” And it isn’t the sort of project that will lead to any momentous discoveries. But that’s okay, Pivec says, because the project is giving Pieciak the chance to explore something meaningful.

“Really the biggest thing for the talented young people at the Butler Summer Institute is, in many ways, the transformative experience,” Pivec says.

During the regular school year, students take courses meant to fill certain requirements, often offering less freedom. But for this project, Pivec says “there’s nothing students are not capable of.” For Pieciak, he’s already felt the project’s influence.

“It has been affecting, already, the way I approach practicing and the way I approach writing,” he says. “It’s coming from a much more organic place.”

Scheduling constraints limited the number of interviews Pieciak could conduct this summer, but he plans for the BSI project to be just a stepping stone to a longer-term pursuit down the road. He will share his results at conferences, but rather than presenting any finite conclusions, he hopes he might encourage jazz musicians to embrace the spiritual nature of their music and change their crafts accordingly. He also hopes his research will prompt people to reflect on their own expressions of spirituality, even beyond the realm of jazz.

 

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.

Tom Pieciak performs "I Fall in Love Too Easily" by Jule Styne, a song that is especially meaningful to him.
Student Profiles

In The Moment: Butler Summer Institute Student Explores Spirituality Through Jazz

Through the Butler Summer Institute, Tom Pieciak had the chance to research something deeply meaningful to him.

Jul 18 2019 Read more
Hopkins is studying which aspects of music education curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field.
Experiential Learning

Are Music Education Grads Ready for Reality?

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jul 15 2019

During her last two years at a small high school in Villa Grove, Illinois, Abigail Hopkins rarely went to class.

But that was okay. Her teachers knew where she was.

Hopkins had stepped in to help when the music program at her school faced budget cuts. The general music teacher there, who had to take over band, choir, and other music classes at all levels of the K-12 school, didn’t know how to play any band instruments. Hopkins was a star in the band room and had been playing violin for years, so the teacher asked her to help out as a Teaching Assistant during the hour she was scheduled for band class each day.

One hour snowballed into five. Hopkins got caught up sautering sousaphones and meeting with music shops, and she eventually became known as the school’s unpaid band director. She had an office and everything.

“If I didn’t have to be in the classroom, I was in the band room,” she says.

Beyond repairing instruments, Hopkins sometimes conducted rehearsals for the junior high ensembles or helped coordinate concerts. She loved helping, but she worried what might happen when she graduated. Through researching for a paper in her high school English class, she learned the situation wasn’t unique.

Now a rising sophomore at Butler University, Hopkins hasn’t let it go. The Violin Performance major would love to be a full-time performer, but she says she knows she’ll probably end up teaching. She wants to be ready.

That’s why she took on a project through this year’s Butler Summer Institute (BSI), a program allowing students to stay on campus for two months in pursuit of significant research questions. Through interviews with recent graduates of music education programs at several Indiana universities, Hopkins is studying which aspects of the curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field, along with which areas might have been neglected.

“My overall goal is to prolong the life of music education,” she says. “Because, sadly, it’s the first thing to be cut when there’s some sort of budget crisis.”

The project’s interviewees all have between one and five years of professional teaching experience, and they all come from undergraduate music education programs at Butler, Indiana University, Ball State University, or Indiana State University.

Hopkins hopes her findings will inform recommendations for schools to incorporate a wider variety of classes into each music concentration, better preparing graduates to take on what might be expected of them when funding gets cut.

So far, Hopkins has confirmed conversations with 10 recent graduates. Beyond questions about their college programs, she’s asking if the things they’re doing in their jobs today align with what they expected when they pursued careers in music education. She hopes she can make their feedback available for incoming students, who still have time to adapt their studies accordingly.

After completing the interviews, Hopkins and faculty mentor Dr. Becky Marsh will code the answers to find common themes. When the nine-week program ends on July 19, Hopkins will present her findings as a poster. She says the results can apply beyond Indiana, however, and she hopes to share the conclusions at music education conferences across the country.

 

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

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

Hopkins is studying which aspects of music education curricula proved most helpful for preparing students to face the realities of the field.
Experiential Learning

Are Music Education Grads Ready for Reality?

Butler student interviews recent Indiana grads for Butler Summer Institute project.

Jul 15 2019 Read more
The new Lacy School of Business buiding.
Campus

Butler’s Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business Unveils New Business Partners

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jul 15 2019

Indianapolis — The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business within Butler University’s Andre B. Lacy School of Business has announced 15 accredited partners to help member companies achieve their goals.

The Center, serving as a strategic advisory group for closely held businesses, designed the accredited partner program to provide Center Members access to a community of trusted resources. The lineup of partners brings a diverse set of skills, and expertise, for established companies of all sizes and industries.

Unlike general networking associations, the Center’s model is built to proactively identify a Member Company’s specific gaps between their current, and their targeted, performance. Once these specific gaps are identified, the Center assists Members by connecting them with Accredited Partners based on topic and expertise.

Below is the full lineup of the new accredited partner companies:

 

“The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business is excited to welcome our core group of accredited partners. Our focus has always been to help closely held businesses succeed, and by connecting our members with these high quality of partners, we’re well positioned to do that,” said Mark McFatridge, Director for The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business. “We vet and onboard partners who understand closely held business dynamics and roadblocks. All bring areas of expertise that will help take our member companies to the next level.”

About Butler’s Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business

The Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business is focused on helping closely held businesses succeed. Housed within Butler's Lacy School of Business, the Center connects closely held businesses with the resources and advisors needed for them to achieve their goals. Center members gain a Butler-backed competitive edge for their business through research, business valuations, planning, educational opportunities, referral partners, and coaching. Learn more about how becoming a member can help move your organization forward.

The new Lacy School of Business buiding.
Campus

Butler’s Old National Bank Center for Closely Held Business Unveils New Business Partners

The Center has announced 15 accredited partners to help member companies achieve their goals.

Jul 15 2019 Read more
The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.

Butler’s Oldest Study Abroad Trip Watches Climate Change Through Coral

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Jun 27 2019

Back in 1969, they met at Butler University, loaded up five cars with camping gear, and were off to the Florida Keys for the inaugural Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef study abroad trip. Nearly everyone took a turn at the wheel—including students and the chairs of the Chemistry and Zoology Departments at the time—and they made it to Cordele, Georgia, the first night. Then, on to the Keys.

Before hitting the road, the students learned how to snorkel in the old Hinkle Fieldhouse pool, where Professor Emeritus of Biology James Berry transformed from Biology Professor to underwater guru. The week-long trip cost students about $45 that first year. They cooked their own meals. They shared one shower. They pitched their own tents.

Berry says he was inspired to start the trip when a student revealed he had never been south of Bloomington, Indiana.

“We wanted to show these students what the rest of the world looked like,” says Berry.

Fifty years later, the Tropical Field Biology trip is Butler’s longest-running study abroad program. Though the backdrop has changed—the class has gone to the Florida Keys, then Pigeon Key, then Jamaica, now Belize—the original reason for packing up those cars has not. The trip gives students a chance to see everything they learn about in a classroom up close.

Oh, that fish we read about in the textbook back in Indianapolis, it is swimming right next to me, and now I have to identify it and explain that it is important to this ecosystem because...

The study abroad trip has also morphed into a 50-year study, of sorts, on the effects of climate change.

“Back in the 1970s, we weren’t thinking much about global warming,” says Dave Daniell, who was part of the original trip in 1969 and is now Professor Emeritus of Biology. “We certainly heard about the possibility back then, but it was a relatively new concept. We were starting to chart out areas of the world that it might effect. As the years went on, it became clear that you could really see the effects on corals, as they were sensitive to a few degrees in temperature change. This trip, then, became a way to observe how corals were changing over time, year after year.”

Students are no longer paying $45 to go to Belize. They are not driving themselves. They are not cooking their own meals, pitching their own tents, or sharing a single shower. But the impact of the trip has not changed a bit since 1969.

In fact, because the effects of climate change have become increasingly apparent and detrimental with each passing year, the impact of the trip has only become more immediate and intense, says senior Matt Warren, who went on the trip this spring.

“The fragility of the ecosystem becomes so clear when it is right in front of you,” Warren says. “Let’s say we are only seeing 20 percent of it, because the other 80 percent has been damaged. What will the next generation see 10, 15, 20 years down the line? Will we even have this ecosystem anymore? And if so, what will it look like? When you are in Belize learning about everything this ecosystem does and impacts, it becomes impossible to not start wondering about all the things we are doing to ruin it, but then start thinking, how can we make positive change?

 

Underwater tests

Since 1997, the class has been visiting Ambergris Caye, Belize, home to the world’s second-longest barrier reef. The Butler group stays at the Belize Marine Tropical Research and Education Center, where the staff serve as hosts, providing the boats and leading the group to different reefs.

A typical day starts around 9:00 AM with breakfast, then a boat ride to the day’s snorkeling location. The class usually snorkels for about two hours before a lunch break. Then, it’s on to the next snorkeling spot. The goal is to snorkel in as many different ecosystems as possible. After a few more hours under the water, it’s back to the house for dinner and lectures until around 8:30 PM.

Shelley Etnier, Associate Professor of Biology, has been leading the trip since 2003. A lot of the learning happens before, during, and after the trip, she explains.

“We ask our students to learn more than 200 organisms before we even arrive in Belize,” Etnier says. “We have exams at Butler before we leave, lectures on the boat once we are there, exams underwater on slates with a mask and snorkel on while swimming, an exam at the airport. We write up every organism we see when we get back from snorkeling. If you go and snorkel for five hours and don’t know anything, you just think you saw a bunch of cool fish. But we know all of the fish, the algae, the coral, and invertebrates, and as a result, we become much more invested.”

Beyond biology, the course discusses what has shaped Belize, the ecotourism industry, the challenges the country is facing, the government, and what life in Belize is like.

All of this helps the students understand the social, cultural, political, and economic forces that influence the health of marine ecosystems. And it helps paint a full picture of how what they are seeing in the water every day has an impact on the entire country.

 

Drastic changes over the years

Etnier used to send out the same packing list to her students year after year. Historically, the weather in Belize was very predictable: Always leave the raincoat at home. Now, Etnier says, she makes sure students are ready for the elements.

“We never used to see cool, rainy weather before,” Etnier says. “But now, things aren’t as predictable as they were before. That is all associated with climate change.”

The trip’s location hopping wasn’t without reason, either. The effects of climate change had left them with less to study while snorkeling. In some places, hurricanes damaged the reefs, but the most common occurrence has been coral bleaching.

When temperatures get too hot, corals get stressed, causing them to spit out algae inside of them, which makes them lose their color and turn white. Corals can recover from a temporary stressor. But if the stressor is consistent, corals become weak and will not recover.

“Belize definitely doesn’t look like what it did in 2003,” Etnier says. “It is not as pristine. The country has done a great job protecting their reefs, but we still see major differences.”

Since 2013, the group has also seen an increase in floating algae. With a very rough, almost sandpapery texture, floating algae used to pop up here and there—maybe a piece or two. Now, Etnier says, it is everywhere. Giant tennis-court-size pieces of it, about six inches deep. The people of Belize need bulldozers to scrape it off the beaches.

Sam Ross, a senior at Butler, has always loved animals. He grew up watching The Crocodile Hunter and knew he wanted to get involved in biology and study animals in college.

But after taking Tropical Field Biology and going to Belize this past spring, everything changed for him.

“It made me really sad to come face to face with the reality that we continue to do things every day, even with the knowledge that what we are doing is incredibly damaging,” says Ross, a Biology major. “One might think a couple-degree change in temperature isn’t a big deal. But when we see the impact on the life in the ocean, it is a huge deal. And when we learn about everything that impacts an entire country’s way of life, you start to look at things differently.”

Ross still wants to study animals, but he now wants his research to be more impactful. Instead of just looking at snakes, for example, he wants to go to graduate school, get his doctorate in ecology, and teach at the college level. He wants to look at entire ecosystems, not just one species, and study how humans affect their lives and their existence.

“This course and experience made me really take a step back and look at the broader picture,” he says. “I might have known I always loved animals, but I never thought about the bigger picture and how everything is connected. Everything impacts everything else, and we need to take ownership and make change because no one else will.”

The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.

Butler’s Oldest Study Abroad Trip Watches Climate Change Through Coral

The Tropical Field Biology Coral Reef program has changed since 1969, but its purpose stays the same.

Jun 27 2019 Read more
Grace Hart studied in Greenland and Iceland for the spring 2019 semester.
Student Profiles

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

BY Katie Grieze

PUBLISHED ON Jun 26 2019

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

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

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

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

The guide broke the silence.

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

Hart knows she will.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Comparing Iceland to Indy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Student Access and Success

At the heart of Butler Beyond is a desire to increase student access and success, putting a Butler education within reach of all who desire to pursue it. With a focus on enhancing the overall student experience that is foundational to a Butler education, gifts to this pillar will grow student scholarships, elevate student support services, expand experiential learning opportunities, and more. Learn more, make a gift, and read other stories like this one at beyond.butler.edu.

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

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

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

Jun 26 2019 Read more

Pages