Stratton’s class produced “Add a Page or Two: Stories of Butler Bulldogs.” Photo by Joshua Doering.
MEGHAN STRATTON | MANAGING EDITOR | firstname.lastname@example.org
Group projects and I have a complicated relationship — for better or worse, they just never quite turn out how I expect. So you can imagine my cynical apprehensiveness when I found out that my ED 453: Perspectives in Leadership class was one big group project. I was convinced the class would never agree on something, the project wouldn’t come to fruition or I wouldn’t be proud of the final product.
Little did I know that this class would be one of the most personally influential experiences I’ve ever had at Butler.
My class wanted to make an impact on people with our project, but we didn’t know what that would look like in reality. I thought there was no way we’d be able to synchronize 23 people’s individual perspectives and desires. So, we brainstormed. And brainstormed. I usually tend to play devil’s advocate to ideas, so this specific brainstorming session was a test for me. The “yes, and…” attitude — basically the concept of not shooting anything down — definitely doesn’t come naturally to me.
After much debate, we decided to create and publish a book for our class project. The book, titled “Add a Page or Two: Stories of Butler Bulldogs,” is a collection of interviews from 95 Butler community members and each member of the class. The book, as the title implies, aims to not only share Butler stories but also encourage community through listening.
Everyone was tasked with interviewing three people who have been impactful during their Butler career. Interviewees range from James and Bethanie Danko to students at the Butler Lab school; the interview questions cover leadership advice, Butler experiences, perspectives on the past and goals for the future.
The class was split into work teams to complete different book-related tasks, including content, marketing, book launch, fundraising and project managers. I chose to be on the content team because, believe it or not, I genuinely like editing. In four short weeks, my four team members and I edited, condensed and formatted the interviews to look like a real book.
Reading and editing the interviews impacted me in a way I didn’t think it originally would. During the editing process I laughed out loud, shed a tear or two and felt connected to each interviewee. Reading that Thad Matta realized family is the most important thing in his life when his daughter jumped into his arms after a tough Butler basketball loss really humanized him in my mind. Or, when I read that Bethanie Danko asked her husband to decline the interview for the Butler presidency because she prefers rural living, I felt personally connected to her.
This is the type of content that makes you text your friends at 2 a.m. because you can’t help but share your immediate reaction.
I think what makes this book exceptional is the vulnerability shown through each interview. The interviewees have shared personal stories that gave me — and hopefully will give other readers — a complex glimpse into their lives. I believe sharing struggles and triumphs can help to promote connectivity and understanding throughout Butler.
This book is about connection, humanization, relatability and vulnerability. These interviews gave me a great snapshot of a diverse group of people, and made me feel a part of the Butler community.
And the process of creating the book didn’t come easy — in fact, the task of editing interviews came at a time of year when I had a million and two other things on my plate. But if I took away one thing from this publishing process and reading the interviews, it’s that just because something is difficult doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
When I got to hold the published book for the first time, I couldn’t stop smiling for like two days straight. The sense of pride and communal accomplishment in the classroom was extraordinary. I think this publishing process showed us that leadership isn’t some large achievable end point, but that leadership is made up of the small moments when you change someone’s perspective.
I’m looking forward to sharing stories and collaborating with the community at the book launch on Dec. 12 at 5 p.m. in the Reilly Room. The book is also available for purchase online.
Happy reading, and I hope the book encourages you to add your own page or two.