Summer hires diversify Butler staff

Several new faces will be joining Butler’s staff this semester. Collegian file photo.


Along with the new first-year class, at least six new women staff members have chosen to make Butler their home. The women vary in their years of experience, race and area of expertise, but all share a common mission of making tangible change on campus. 

Assistant directors of student activities 

Lilly Howard and Jenna Spini are two young professionals, both in their 20s, who will collaborate as the assistant directors of student activities. Together, the two plan to increase student leadership roles and foster growth among student organizations. 

This is Spini’s first job after earning her master’s degree in student affairs administration in higher education from Ball State University last spring. Originally a California native, Spini said her years spent in Indiana for her undergraduate and graduate degrees are what kept her in the area and wanting to work at Butler. 

“I’ve been in Indiana for a long time, and I’ve gotten to know a lot of people,” Spini said. “I coached volleyball and I worked at Orange Theory, and all the Butler alums that I know from Orange Theory and coaching just stood out to me. They’re all so driven, so motivated, they have this undivided love for Butler, and that really is what tied me down and what made me interested in the community here.”

Howard graduated one year prior to Spini with her master’s degree in student affairs and higher education from Indiana State University. After a short tenure working at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Howard returned to the Hoosier state to pursue a “dream job” at Butler.

Howard said she was sort of in disbelief as she kept advancing through the interview process. Aside from Butler’s impressive reputation, Howard said as soon as she stepped on campus for her last interview, she was set on being Bulldog.  

“[Butler] has this public appearance of being a very ample and influential college,” Howard said. “ … I felt like Butler was the best fit for me, not just because of the reputation or how their procedures are, but because I knew that they could provide the resources that I needed as an individual, and provide the opportunity to move up within my career.”

A large part of Spini and Howard’s job includes advising student organizations on campus. Howard said one of her main goals for the year is to create opportunities for organizations to collaborate – especially encouraging partnerships between large organizations and smaller organizations.

Spini felt that this was also important to increase awareness for organizations that might not be as well-known among students.  

“When I was in college, I was super involved, but I wasn’t involved in the smaller student organizations,” Spini said. “I just think, from what I see, there’s a big disconnect, and I want to make sure that everyone’s connected across campus.” 

Along with bridging the gap between student organizations, Spini hopes to reinvigorate the Engage platform on campus — a website where students can navigate and learn about all of the events and organizations present at Butler.  

Howard and Spini both said they appreciate how student-centric Butler feels. Not only focused on the outcome and achievements of students, Howard and Spini said they want to continue the Butler culture of honoring and tending to the needs of students.

“It’s the simplicity of how people here really do have a passion for working with students and doing their best,” Howard said. “It’s not just about how we are perceived, but the value of the work that we do and how much we put into it in order to benefit the students, no matter what their backgrounds.”

Assistant director, Efroymson Diversity Center 

Unlike Spini and Howard who already had history in Indiana, KaBree Harley credits her recent move to Indiana to her husband, who wanted to be closer to his family. Harley began applying for jobs after the move and said that Butler felt like where she had the most potential to grow both as an individual and a professional.

“I like the fact that the student voice [is] present,” Harley said. “Butler seemed to be a place where students were able to articulate exactly what they wanted exactly what they needed … and as a student affairs professional that is really all you can ask for and hope for when entering a new institution.”

Harley described having a longtime passion for empowering and advocating for under-represented communities. Harley said she saw and loved early on how Butler not only has a mission of creating space for all students, but provides its faculty and staff with the resources in order to make that a reality. 

After studying communication at Western Illinois University, Harley went on to earn her master’s degree in education from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. Harley has been a voice for students who vary in race, sexuality and identity during tenures at Fontbonne University, Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Houston. 

“I’ve been very intentional about making space for women of color, people of color, and people who historically experienced marginalized backgrounds to make sure that their experiences are not only validated, but institutions are held to the responsibility of respecting people in their individualized opportunities,” Harley said.

Harley will serve as the primary contact for a number of the student organizations housed in the Diversity Center. Harley said her goal working with student organizations is to help them operate at their full potential while reaching a wider audience than ever before. In addition, Harley hopes her guidance can help the students involved realize how the skills they learn in student organizations can translate into the professional world.

In addition to advising and creating opportunities for students within the Diversity Center, Harley said she hopes to continue the process of making the Diversity Center a place where all feel welcome and accepted. 

Vice president of marketing and brand management

Sherry Wallace’s path to Butler is a testament of time and maintaining connections. Wallace first met Butler President James Danko about twelve years into her career in corporate marketing. Danko, who then taught entrepreneurship at the Kenan-Flagler business school at the University of North Carolina, UNC, convinced Wallace to shift from her then-corporate role to leading his admissions team at UNC.

Years prior to meeting Danko, Wallace studied broadcast journalism and Spanish as an undergraduate student at UNC, and later earned her master of business administration from the same university. 

Wallace worked at her alma mater for 24 years, but decided to come to Butler for the same reason she first entered her role at UNC — James Danko.

“[Danko] didn’t steer me wrong the first time, and I trust that the same types of things that he told me about this organization will prove as true as the things that he told me the first time,” Wallace said.

Wallace does not officially start in her position until Sept. 1, but will be in charge of a team of around 20 marketing and development professionals and will serve as a member of the President’s cabinet. 

She said her main goal at Butler is to hone in on the story and message of the university and what it has to offer. While Wallace is still learning the narrative at Butler, she said she is eager to learn from the “Butler experts” on her team as she works to most effectively market the university. 

“A big part of what we do in marketing is understanding the brand,” Wallace said. “What do we mean? Who are we reaching? What do they think of us? Where might there be gaps and disconnects? It’s understanding and conveying the relevant story to audiences that we’re trying to reach … Butler is not just the one thing, so it’s understanding who we are, who we want to be and how we move to that.”

While she is always excited and eager to work with students, Wallace said she is most excited about embarking on this new venture with her team. One of the most satisfying things for Wallace throughout her career has been leading people to help them grow and achieve goals together. 

During one of her first visits to Butler, Wallace got the chance to meet the leadership team and said she left inspired by their energy. The variety of experiences and backgrounds among her then-potential peers was encouraging for Wallace as she thought about what she could accomplish. 

“In addition to pure talent, I get excited about people who have a growth mindset, and I think one of the biggest signs of that is the diversity of where people come from,” Wallace said. “I think the quality of the ideas that you generate from that, the ability to get things done, is just so much better.” 

Senior executive director of division of professional studies 

Julie Straub brings a variety of experiences and perspectives to her inaugural role in a brand-new unit at Butler — the division of professional studies, DPS.

Straub began her career as a K-12 teacher and went on to further her career in workforce development, career development. She landed at Miami University in Ohio, where she worked for the past 10 years, and served as an innovator who worked to redesign education. These interests led Straub to become the founding director of the virtual campus and programming at Miami University. 

The similar passion for innovation present at Butler was what drew Straub to the university,

“Traditional higher education is not known for being great at embracing change and being able to facilitate change, so seeing an institution that was willing to put both resources and action behind that idea, you know, [made] this organization really attractive to me, ” Straub said. 

DPS was designed to further Butler Beyond’s goal of expanding the university’s impact by changing delivery and program types offered to students. Butler Ventures falls under Butler Beyond and was envisioned to “embrace disruption to transform education,” according to Straub.

Butler Ventures focuses on partnership and redesigning what it means to be a student. Straub is currently working to tap into Butler’s strengths to reimagine education and the reach of the university.

“We want to see a growth in the amount of Butler students that we’re able to serve, both online and in extended locations beyond Indianapolis, [and] we want to see an increase in the partnerships and working relationships,” Straub said. 

Keeping in line with her own interests, Straub said she is most excited to see the “enthusiasm and appetite” across the Butler community of students, staff and faculty.

“There seems to be a lot of excitement about how we’ve created Butler Ventures, and that’s really signaled something very different than what most universities are doing,” Straub said. “I feel like the quality of the opportunities that are coming forward, and then also just the enthusiasm around wanting to see Butler succeed, wanting to see Butler students succeed, just the enthusiasm around that I have found to be just really refreshing and also really inspiring.”

Vice president and chief diversity officer 

Butler will also be welcoming Khalilah Shabazz on Sept. 12 as she assumes her role as vice president and chief diversity officer. Shabazz comes to Butler from Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis, IUPUI, where she served as the assistant vice chancellor for student diversity, equity & inclusion. 

Shabazz said in an email to The Butler Collegian that she plans to serve as a “catalyst and champion for diversity, equity and inclusion” while connecting with students, faculty and staff.  


Among so many new women faces on campus, Harley said it is inspiring to be part of an institution that values diversity and is willing to hear a variety of voices.  

“I am truly honored to look to my left and my right and see women who have been in this field for a while and still loving what they do,” Harley said. “I think that that speaks volumes about Butler valuing the people that they’re bringing in, because beyond their titles, Butler is bringing in some really great women, and I’m excited to be part of that.”

Maggie Conlon, a junior marketing and entrepreneurship double major, feels similarly to Harley and said she is glad to see Butler putting women in roles to help grow the university as a whole. 

“I think it’s really great that Butler is taking steps to recognize that they should not only have a diverse class in terms of students here, but also diverse professors and staff members on campus so then students of any identity can have someone to relate to,” Conlon said.


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