Butler University Combines Tradition & Innovation in New Science Complex

Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana, is utterly devoted to offering their students the best possible educational experience. Butler’s dedication to this goal is further realized by the recent debut of their $100 million renovation and construction project for their new science complex, which combines both tradition and innovation.

The science complex project will be the largest investment undertaking to date for the college, and it will certainly take Butler to a completely new level of academic excellence.

Environment and Encouragement

The complex includes innovative and cutting-edge classrooms and labs that mimic those of today’s top-research companies. The design of the spaces encourages students to do interdisciplinary work with other cohorts, which can help teach valuable teamwork skills that are a necessity for any future researcher.

One example of Butler’s enthusiasm for collaboration and technology is seen in Holcomb’s observatory; Butler’s Physics and Astronomy programs are a part of a consortium involving three of the top observing sites in the world, which students are able to view via computers on campus.

The first phase of the project included an additional 44,000 square feet as well as a 13,200 square-foot atrium. In the following two phases, Butler has renovated their existing science buildings, Gallahue Hall and the Holcomb Building. By the end of the project, the new science complex will include 96,000 square-feet of expansion and renovations.

A Culture of Cooperation

As research becomes more focused on collaboration, and less on working in silos, it is ever-increasingly important for students to learn early the importance of interdisciplinary efforts. This is one reason Butler made the intentional choice for state-of-the-art designs which allow for professors to teach using more hands-on methodology, and engage with the students like colleagues.

Over the last decade, Butler’s science program enrollment has increased 70%, which highlights the need to invest in this aspect of the institution. The labs, classrooms, and study areas will be used for Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, Engineering, and Psychology undergraduate students.

Additionally, Butler is planning to explore other related fields, such as Neuroscience and Data Science, as those fields offer increasing job opportunities.

Financing this Project and More

Butler needed $100 million for the new science complex to be all the college envisioned. Strategic plans for the project were originally discussed in 2011, and the planning was put into action starting in 2014. Once a plan of attack was established, the construction was able to begin in 2017.  At this time, when the construction of the science complex was in its infancy, Butler raised $27.5 million through philanthropic donations, mostly via Butler alumni.

The institution recently launched the largest-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign; this year, President James “Jim” Danko announced at the groundbreaking of the new science complex his plan for Butler Beyond, the university’s new strategic plan involving a $250 million capital campaign fund.

The campus is aspiring to reach their goal by May 2022. As of October, 2019, Butler has raised over $172 million toward the fund.

Investing in Indiana

Butler is proud of their greater community, and they want to help their area grow and expand. The university hopes their efforts will further cement Butler as a top-tier school at both a state and national level. The new science complex will allow their outstanding students and faculty to work in an equally impressive location to teach their students the needed skills and talents to practice research in Indiana post-graduation.

In 2016, a study found that 63% of their science grads stayed locally to begin their careers, thus proving how investing in students early can aid in local economic growth for the city and state.

Additionally, the university has a long history of attracting young women to their STEM programs, and in recent history, the majority of their STEM graduates have been female. In fact, Butler has more Lilly Scholar recipients than any other comparably sized institution.

The new science complex will only increase the educational and career opportunities for their female students.

Change and Tradition

Butler has a realistic approach to construction: either fix it now or fix it later; either way, the project(s) will have to happen. Though there are certain challenges, such as dust, noise, and parking issues whenever construction is underway, the long-term outcome is well-worth the temporary hassle.

As Paul Valliere, Emeritus Professor of Religion at Butler, said during the 2018 State of the University Address, “Butler cannot just exist in a steady state; we need to change to move on.” Valliere explained how change is something that should be celebrated on campus—with all students and faculty who have spent time on Butler’s campus having experienced programs or buildings adapting and morphing over time; this growth is something to be admired.

That being said, Butler has been able to maintain many of the same values and vision over the passing decades, due to their commitment to ethical academic brilliance. Valliere stated, “In my view, we have achieved a proper balance—a healthy synthesis—of change and tradition.” One year later, at the most recent State of the University Address, President Danko expanded upon Valliere’s previous points.

Danko described how encouraged he is by the progress Butler has made, explaining he believes the university is stronger than ever. The future of Butler, though planned out, is still flexible in nature, which allows for some breathing room while they continue to strive for what the Butler Beyond initiative defines as the “educational quality, expectations, and outcomes” they are working toward.

About the Author
Cassidy Clevenger is a Samford University alum. After earning her BA in Psychology, she studied Gerontology at Georgia State, and is back at Samford finishing her MSW while working as a staff writer for PUPN Magazine.