Irene Stevens, dean of student life, said she never thought she would have ended up working in student affairs on a college campus.
Now, after 15 years of work at Butler University, Stevens is reflecting on her time before she retires at the end of the academic year.
Stevens originally went to Boise State University to teach and coach basketball, softball, and volleyball for junior high and high school students.
“I just fell into student affairs,” Stevens said. “I love it. It’s a great career. I had no idea that people did this for a living. It never occurred to me.”
Stevens taught and coached for two years in a small district in Star, Idaho, her hometown of about 700 people.
She decided she didn’t like the pressure of coaching and went to get her master’s in counseling with the intent of being a high school guidance counselor.
Stevens worked as a hall director while getting her master’s degree in Idaho.
Afterward, she went to Ohio University, and then finished her doctoral degree while working at the University of Florida for 10 years.
When Stevens heard of a job opening at Butler University, she became interested in the small school located so close to downtown Indianapolis.
Coming from Florida, which had 35,000 students, Stevens said she was ready for a smaller environment.
“There’s something special about Butler,” Stevens said. “I’ve been lucky enough to work on four different campuses. I’ve enjoyed every campus I’ve worked on, but Butler is just a wonderful environment.”
Throughout her time here, Stevens supervised the residence life department, PuLSE Office, Greek life and spirit programs.
She also acted as the primary hearing officer for conduct-related issues.
“I hate suspending students,” Stevens said. “I have to do it sometimes. It’s a difficult decision for me, but sometimes it’s what they need to get themselves back on track. I do have their best interest in mind.”
Stevens said she will miss her co-workers in student affairs.
“My colleagues are fabulous,” Stevens said. “They are people who have lots of fun, care about what they do and care about the students. They’re wonderful people who live life to the fullest.”
Becky Druetzler, director of Greek life, has directly reported to Stevens the entire time she has worked here.
Druetzler said Stevens helped facilitate the environment for fraternities Delta Tau Delta, Sigma Nu and Phi Delta Theta to reorganize and reestablish Butler chapters during her time here.
She did the same for sorority Delta Delta Delta.
“She is extremely student-focused and really an advocate for the students,” Druetzler said. “She’s truly been a friend to students, particularly for those who maybe were underrepresented on campus.”
Stevens has a passion for diversity and community service.
“It’s important to try to help others,” Stevens said. “For those of us who are blessed to be able to help others, I think we have some responsibility to do that.”
She helped to start a sophomore committee that helps sophomores with their developmental needs, as well as well as a first-generation college students committee, which offers support to students who are the first in their family to come to college.
Stevens said this is relevant to Butler, as 9 to 10 percent of students are first-generation students.
Along with these organizations, Stevens also worked closely with the Butler Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender organization.
When she first got to Butler, the association was off campus. She worked with students to get the group a space on campus and to strengthen it.
“I hoped that I could bring to the campus a sense of openness to diversity and a sense of respect to help people see the importance of respecting community,” Stevens said. “That way I could help people develop into the best person that they could be.”
Sally Click, dean of student services, worked with Stevens for five years and said Stevens’ absence will be felt for a long time.
“It creates a hole,” Click said. “We’ll be able to fill the hole, but she really has a lot of threads to the fabric of this place.”
Click said Stevens was invaluable to her and her transition to working at Butler.
“She’s been my rock,” Click said. “When I have a question or need some perspective about something, she’s there. She listens and gives great advice.”
Stevens said she is looking forward to what the future holds for her.
“It will be hard to leave,” she said. “I’m anxious and excited for this next phase, but it’s going to be difficult.”
Click said student affairs will be looking to fill the position for next year.
Depending on how busy the rest of the semester becomes, Click said the search may start before the semester ends or in the summer.
After Stevens retires, she plans on traveling and living life to the fullest, although she is anxious about leaving the Butler community.
“I’m a big believer in change,” Stevens said. “I think change is important. If you get into a rut with your life, you’re not really living life. It’s important that we all make the most of our life and live every day to not regret what we didn’t do in life.”
Stevens will start her traveling with a motorcycle ride to a different state, which she does every year.
She also wants to travel to Africa and Asia.
“My goal is to visit all seven continents,” Stevens said. “I believe that there is a time for everything, and, for me, you do things while you still want to do them.”