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President James M. Danko on SB 12

BY

PUBLISHED ON Feb 28 2019

Just as we did as a University back in August, we continue to stand for, and support, strong hate crimes law. The specific language that made SB 12 a strong, comprehensive, and therefore, effective, hate crimes bill, was removed, rendering it unenforceable, unjust, and therefore, unacceptable. That’s why I called Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma to express the time is long overdue to remove Indiana from the list of five states without sufficient hate crimes law that the majority of Hoosiers support. I have signed on with other area leaders in a letter to Legislative Leadership making it abundantly clear how important a real bill that protects everyone is. Butler was founded on the ideals of inclusivity, respect, and making sure we provide an open and tolerant environment for all. That is our responsibility and duty. Those are our values and principles.

 

Fait Muedini: Helping Half a World Away

by Sarah Bahr

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

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

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

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

Born in America, with a Heart in the Middle East

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

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

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

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

“College only fortified that position,” he says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Putting Pen to Paper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boots on the Ground

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

Was he concerned for his safety?

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

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

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

Sufism and Tupac Shakur

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Researching...for fun.

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

And they him.

Unleashed

Fait Muedini: Helping Half a World Away

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

Gateway to Success

 

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis has a problem. With each passing year memberships— family, two-person household, and single—are declining. For an organization that relies on these fees to operate, reversing this nearly decade-long slide is critical.

So, when Gregg Hiland, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of the YMCA, set out to address the issue, he was excited to have 27 helpers. Enter, the newest batch of Butler University MBA students.

This is MBA 505, the Gateway Experience—the first on-campus course in the program after they finish their online prerequisites—and it is a trial by fire. Meet new people, learn to work together, examine a problem, come up with recommendations, and deliver those recommendations directly to the leaders of the organization.

All in one day.

Over 800 students have gone through the class since 2006, helping more than 20 different businesses tackle a specific problem. The future MBAs are put through the wringer for a specific reason.

"Having only 24 hours helps students realize that time can't be the excuse for coming up with great solutions," says Marie Mackintosh '06, who is both the Chief Operating Officer of EmployIndy, which delivers workforce services and training to Marion County residents, and the professor who has taught the course for the past four years. "It simulates the pressures of the real world where you have to juggle many different priorities, and the trial by fire forces teams to gel quickly and leverage each other’s strengths. Or learn from their failures.”

They get a little preparation beforehand, in the form of a two-page background briefing on their issue and a session with Butler Business Librarian Teresa Williams to learn about conducting background research. Each team is assigned a facilitator who provides advice and feedback on what they did well and what they need to work on.

Then the rush begins.

The Butler University MBA promises that students get ample opportunities to apply classroom concepts to real-world situations—and that explains why 27 new participants in the program are spending their first day of class fanned out across Indianapolis.

For the next 24, breathless hours, they've been grouped in teams of five or six students—strangers to each other previously—and asked to help the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis reverse a nearly decade-long slide in family memberships.

*

The class starts at 5:30 PM on Thursday with a big dinner and introduction to the organization. Hiland, Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, lays out the problem: Since 2014, the number of two-adult member households has dropped from 12,746 to 10,281. The number of one-adult households is down from 3,784 to 3,353.

This is a trend nationwide, not just in Indianapolis, he says.

"We want recommendations from you that will be actionable, something that will help us," Hiland tells the group.

For the next 45 minutes or so, the MBA students pepper him with questions: Are outside vendors allowed in? How are you marketing? Do you survey the people who quit? And so on.

"I'm enjoying the idea of getting to make a presentation to people who can really make a difference," says Taylor Cagle, a Financial Analyst with Roche Diagnostics. "It feels like you're putting in work and getting value out of that work. This isn't an academic exercise."

*

The teams are given more time that night and some the next morning to confer before they get into vans and head to one of five YMCAs in the city (there are 12 YMCAs in greater Indianapolis.)

They arrive at their locations around 10:00 AM, and then it's up to them how to use the next two hours. For Team Holcomb (each group is named for a Butler building), the six students spend that time touring the Arthur Jordan YMCA on the north side of Indianapolis. They interview staff and talk to members about their experience at the Y.

Team member Alyssa Rudner, a Client Success Manager for a software company, talks to a member-services representative and finds that one of their biggest challenges is that there isn’t a method in place to schedule exercise classes in advance.

"If I'm paying $80 a month, I want to know that if I show up to the Y, I'm going to be able to take the class that I want to take," says Rudner.

There's one recommendation for her team to share: explore a scheduling system that goes beyond physical passes.

Cagle, another member of Team Holcomb, finds it surprising that the Jordan Y sometimes turns away parents looking for preschool programs due to lack of space. He looks around the facility and sees plenty of places to add new preschool programs.

That becomes another recommendation for the team: expand preschool offerings.

"If you can do that here," he said. "You're really separating yourself from the Lifetime Fitnesses, the LA Fitnesses. I think it would be really beneficial."

Andy Starling agrees. He's the Senior Membership Director at the Y, and he thinks the perspective of these business-minded outsiders is going to help.

"I've worked at the Y for more than six years, and you get tunnel vision a little bit," he says. "We always try to be innovative, but they brought up some things I hadn't thought about.

*

The teams return to Butler around 1:00 PM. They adjourn to their respective "war rooms" and, over boxed lunches, get to work. They have about three hours to hash out their ideas and prepare both a sheet of brainstormed recommendations and a PowerPoint they'll use as part of a rigidly-timed 10-minute presentation.

They also need to prepare what they're going to say and how they're going to say it, and the deadline comes quickly.

"We were five individuals who didn't know each other 24 hours before presenting," Chancellor Collins, a Product Manager in Marketing at Roche Diagnostics and member of Team Lilly, says. "It's funny, because you quickly figure out roles and responsibilities, and strengths, and different ways to play off each other, and I think we did a great job of that in that 24-hour period."

At 4:30 PM, the teams assemble in Gallahue Hall 108, a lecture hall, where seven representatives of the Y—including retiring CEO Eric Ellsworth—are ready to listen. There's a notable buzz among the students.

"I love the energy in this room," says Mackintosh.

For the next 90 minutes, the teams take their turn presenting their findings and watching their counterparts.

If the students are nervous, they don't show it. The presentations go off remarkably well across the board. The Y comes away with a long list of useful ideas.

"I want to hire all of these people," says Ellsworth.

Hiland praises the group for their fantastic work and innovative ideas. He was impressed with how deeply the students dove into the issue in only 24 hours. In the future, he wants to put the students’ concepts into practice at local Ys.

“We're committed to implementing and trying some of these ideas—either in pilots at certain centers or potentially across the organization,” he says.

*

In the end, Team Lilly—Chancellor Collins, Danny Lawton, Davina Isaacs, James Pokryfky, and Swetha Vaddi—won Butler goodie bags and, more importantly, bragging rights. They made suggestions that included installing a kiosk, at a cost of $1,000, to allow members to give instant feedback, offering incentives for positive reviews on Google, and instituting a holistic approach to wellness.

"The judges appreciated Team Lilly’s focus on retention and their financial implications," Mackintosh says. "They thought they did the best job of telling the story of their problem-solving process and had good ideas of how to increase retention of family memberships in particular."

Collins says the team owed credit to its facilitator, Marcelle Gress, an Executive Coach at Butler. She advised them to make time to practice their presentation a couple of times. They listened, and rehearsed twice.

"If she had not held our feet to the fire to carve out 30 minutes before we had to turn in our presentation, I don't think it would have gone so smoothly," says Collins.

In the end, Team Lilly celebrated with high-fives, fist bumps, and some wine.

"This really was a good experience and exposure to what we'll be going through in the Butler MBA program in terms of looking at complex cases and having to think through ways to solve problems," Collins said. "I think that's what the Butler MBA is going to prepare us for the most—how to think differently about ways to solve real-world problems."

 

AcademicsCampusCommunity

Gateway to Success

This is MBA 505, the Gateway Experience—the first on-campus course in the program—and it is a trial by fire.

Confidence to Succeed: Leadership Coaches and the Butler MBA Program

By Jeff Stanich ’16

Just a few months in to the Butler MBA program, Natalie Johnson found herself in a pivotal professional moment. Newly assigned as a Product Data Manager at Delta Faucet, Johnson was asked to lead a team of colleagues for the first time in her career. Rather than panic or shy away from what could have been a daunting challenge, she found herself already prepared for the role, and she credits her leadership coach for giving her the skills and confidence to succeed.  

A critical element of Butler’s MBA program, leadership coaches like Brown are assigned to each student early on in their experience to help them navigate through the program and to provide invaluable guidance as they develop as managers and leaders. As experts in their own fields, coaches bring a rich combination of experience and wisdom in order to provide counsel for students who may find themselves in positions similar to what Johnson encountered.

“I had no manual on leading, no how-to-manage training, or prior experience to guide me in my new position,” Johnson says. “With a lack of experience, I also lacked confidence in my abilities as a leader. My coaching experience has alleviated the fears and given me the confidence to lead.”

According to Marietta Stalcup, Director of Graduate Programs for Butler’s Lacy School of Business, that’s exactly the kind of success story that Butler students enjoy time and time again.

“We aim to meet our students wherever they are in their career,” Stalcup says. “The key to our students’ leadership development lies in the distinction between a mentor and a leadership coach. A mentor typically has answers to all of your questions. A leadership coach has questions for all your answers.”

Butler MBA leadership coaches prep students for the inevitable moments in one’s career where there will not be anyone to turn to but themselves.

“I was never told what to do, but instead was asked questions. And I was encouraged to ask questions. More than anything, I realized that was how I (also) needed to lead,” Johnson says. “Not by commanding, but by influencing my team so that they feel confident in their own ability to head in the right direction.”

___

 

It all begins in the 510-course, which MBA students take early on in the program. A cohort of coaches, all experts in their fields and most certified through the six-month International Coaching Federation training program, enter the classroom and walk the students through what to expect. From there, each coach will take five or six students under their wing and begin to meet on a monthly or quarterly basis, with the frequency and depth of these meetings up to the student’s discretion. Once the 510-course concludes, some students choose to part ways or even switch coaches, but most continue the relationship with regular conversations over the phone or while getting coffee.

According to leadership coach Randy Brown, what separates Butler from other MBA programs that offer coaches is the confidentiality that is maintained between the students and the coach.

“We are asking these students to be quite introspective and often times vulnerable because that is the only way that we will be able to identify the true areas where a student needs the most attention,” Brown says. “By keeping the conversations between student and coach confidential, students won’t have to worry about any sort of blowback from their teachers or fellow students.”

Put simply, coaches are there to provide guidance, not grades.

Brown, like most of Butler’s leadership coaches, wanted to become a coach because he recognized the value of individual attention during his corporate career. “I knew the impact others had on my career when they helped me find the confidence in my own abilities,” says Brown.  “A little nudge in the right direction can truly make a huge difference.”

And as Director Stalcup has seen in her time at the University thus far, the students who realize the most growth and success from Butler’s MBA program are the ones who utilize their coaches the most.

“Students who really engage their coaches leave Butler more transformed than ones that don’t. That’s what we aim to do at Butler: transform our students into the best, most effective versions of themselves,” Stalcup says.

That’s exactly why career-minded individuals seek a graduate program like Butler’s in the first place. Not to be told what to do, but to learn how to follow one’s own instincts above all else.

 

Academics

Confidence to Succeed: Leadership Coaches and the Butler MBA Program

A critical element of the Butler MBA program, coaches counsel students and instill confidence.

Community

Cybersecurity, An $87 Billion Industry and Growing

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 20 2019

Keny Ramirez and Linet Rivas visited Butler University on Tuesday, February 12, thinking they might be interested in some kind of computer career. They left feeling even more certain.

The 10th graders from Shortridge High School made the trip to campus to participate in The Alliance Cybersecurity Converge Tour, a three-hour exploration of potential jobs in computer security, along with lessons in how to protect themselves from scammers.

"I'm definitely thinking about it," says Ramirez.

The event was part of a partnership between Security Advisor Alliance (SAA), a nonprofit serving the cybersecurity industry, and Butler's Information Technology office. SAA approached Eric Schmidt, Butler's Chief Information Security Officer, who thought the session would be a good way to bring students to campus and give them information about potential careers.

Shortridge and Purdue Polytechnic High School brought about 40 students total to the Reilly Room, where they heard some startling statistics about the cybersecurity industry, played a game of Capture the Flag (on computers, of course), and heard from professionals about career options.

The students heard that cybersecurity is an $87 billion industry annually, and it's growing by 30 percent a year. Gaming, by comparison, is a $70 billion industry, growing by 5 percent a year. Not only that, but 1.5 million computer security jobs are currently open, as the industry tries to stop the $2 trillion in cybercrime that takes place each year.

The industry is looking for more women, and more people of diverse backgrounds. Diverse backgrounds, they were told, equals diversity of solutions for stopping hackers.

They also heard about scams like "vishing"—people who pretend to be from reputable companies and get their victims to reveal personal information like credit card and social security numbers—and were schooled in the benefits of "password hygiene"—creating a password that cannot be easily guessed.

Sidney Plaza, Executive Director of SAA, says her organization wants students to understand that hacking into computers is just one way thieves steal information. Sometimes, people unknowingly give away their information.

"It's the human element," Plaza says. "It's not just 1's and 0's; it's people making decisions."

Taft Davis, who teaches engineering and computer science at Shortridge, said the International Baccalaureate school is adding cybersecurity courses next year. He wanted his students to attend the session at Butler to give them an idea of what cybersecurity is and gauge their interest in a career.

"Like they said, it's a wide-open market out there, and it's just going to get bigger," Davis says. "Every company needs protection."

Community

Cybersecurity, An $87 Billion Industry and Growing

1.5 million computer security jobs are open, as the industry combats $2 trillion in cybercrime annually.  

Feb 20 2019 Read more
Academics

The MBA Class that Saved a Town

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 19 2019

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academics

The MBA Class that Saved a Town

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

Feb 19 2019 Read more

Shane Battier on Leadership and The Catalyst Effect

 

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

Now, think retired NBA player, Shane Battier.

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

Ryan Tsai: An Unstoppable Problem Solver

by Sarah Bahr

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

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

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

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

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

Tsai accidentally caused an all-day security shutdown.

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

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

He outsmarted the security system.

Oops.

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

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

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

 

An Unstoppable Problem Solver

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

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

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

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

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

Just one problem: That isn’t currently possible.

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

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

 

Coding for Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Big Test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tsai’s assessment is more humble.

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

Far from it.

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

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

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

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

 

“I’d Return in a Heartbeat”

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

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

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

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

Unleashed

Ryan Tsai: An Unstoppable Problem Solver

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

Discovering Myself while Discovering the World

by Jackson Borman ’20

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

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

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

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

Madrid

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

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

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

Travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AcademicsStudent Life

Discovering Myself while Discovering the World

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

Study Abroad: International Lessons of a Lifetime

by Jackson Borman ’20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read Jackson's personal account of studying abroad.

Academics

Study Abroad: International Lessons of a Lifetime

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

Academics

College of Education Named AACTE Global Award Recipient

BY Marc Allan

PUBLISHED ON Feb 15 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academics

College of Education Named AACTE Global Award Recipient

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

Feb 15 2019 Read more

Find Your Passion

by Jackson Borman ’20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Academics

Find Your Passion

Discover your major through the Exploratory Studies Program.

Find Your Passion

by Jackson Borman ’20

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