A program to help Butler University students—primarily Liberal Arts and Sciences majors—is expected to be launched in summer 2015 thanks to a grant from Lilly Endowment, Incorporated.
The university received a nearly $1-million grant from Lilly Endowment, according to a Butler press release on Thursday.
Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based philanthropic organization that provides funding to Indiana colleges and universities for educational-, community development- and religion-based projects, according to the organization’s website.
The grant will be used to launch Butler Advance, which will “offer career management, creative problem-solving and communication skills” to Butler students, according to the press release.
Jay Howard, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean, said Butler filed an application for the program with Lilly Endowment after the latter expressed interest in supporting programs that would help keep Indiana college graduates in Indiana and prepare them to meet the needs of Indiana employers.
“(Lilly Endowment’s) interest is in stemming the brain drain, or creating a brain gain,” Howard said. “I just think we’re fortunate to be able to partner with the Lilly Endowment because they’re interested in making sure students have every opportunity when they graduate.”
Ronni Kloth, Lilly Endowment communications director, said preparing Indiana college graduates who are entering the workforce and trying to keep them in Indiana is something the endowment “has cared about for a long time.”
Kloth said the grant is the culmination of a three-part initiative that began in 2003.
Butler’s application for the grant stemmed directly from a planning grant Lilly Endowment gave the university in 2012.
“We thought this planning period helped (colleges submitting applications for a grant) put together promising grant applications,” Kloth said. “With Butler specifically, the focus on helping students who are studying the liberal arts was compelling.”
Any Butler student will be able to participate in Butler Advance, but the program will be primarily tailored toward LAS students. Howard said he could also see College of Communication and Jordan College of the Arts students being interested in participating.
A key component of Butler Advance will be a four-week summer certificate program.
Howard said the certificate program’s main focus will be providing students exposure to foundational business terminology and business practices.
To achieve these goals, students in Butler Advance will complete a group project during the certificate program. Howard said students will put skills learned and developed during their education to use when completing the project.
Some of these skills include verbal and written communication skills, teamwork and independent work skills, and critical thinking skills, Howard said.
“Often, arts and sciences majors have trouble articulating (those skills to potential employers),” Howard said. “In the arts and sciences, you learn a skill set that will enable you to do almost anything. And sometimes, almost anything is completely overwhelming to students.”
Kloth said Butler’s focus on what students do after graduation and what makes them attractive to employers is a reason Lilly Endowment awarded the university a grant.
“I think the fact that the university was really thinking how to help liberal arts majors have career preparation and real world skills that are attractive to businesses (is why Butler was chosen),” Kloth said.
“(Butler’s application) echoed some of what we’ve seen in the data and heard from employers.”
Howard said Butler Advance will prepare students looking for jobs not only in the for-profit field, but also in the non-profit and government sectors.
“These graduates will be ready to hit the ground running as flexible, innovate, teamwork-oriented employees,” said Butler President James Danko in the press release. “Helping students to refine and augment skills developed in the liberal arts curriculum to meet the needs of Indiana businesses and organizations will improve the placement rate for all majors within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.”
Butler Advance’s second goal is to help LAS students and faculty with internship and career advising.
Howard said helping students navigate the job market is especially important in a down economy.
“We want to be as much help as we possibly can to our majors and graduates who are heading directly into the job market, and not just those who are heading on to higher education,” Howard said.
Howard said many LAS faculty are not as comfortable offering students career and career placement advice as they are offering academic advice.
Butler Advance will increase interaction between LAS faculty and Butler’s Internship and Career Services program in hopes of changing those feelings.
An additional goal of Butler Advance, according to the press release, is to have a 98-percent job placement rate for LAS graduates.
The specifics of Butler Advance’s budget have not yet been determined. Howard said someone will need to be hired to coordinate the summer certificate program, and faculty from within and outside LAS will be recruited to help run the program.
Scholarship funds might also be made available to participating students to offset the cost of the summer certificate program.
Howard said the grant and what it will go toward are beneficial to LAS’ goals.
“We want to make sure students have every opportunity when they graduate,” Howard said. “We’re simply trying to work harder on behalf of Butler students.”