A Core Curriculum requirement impacting the community

ICR course requirements offer students an opportunity to expand their horizons. Photo by Eva Hallman.

MASON KUPIAINEN | STAFF REPORTER | mkupiainen@butler.edu

Spring semester class registration is in full swing, and many students may find themselves trying to decide what class to take to fulfill the Indianapolis community requirement — otherwise known as an ICR. Butler University’s website defines these classes as “[involving] students in a wide range of reciprocal community partnerships wherein they can integrate classroom knowledge with active experiences in the Indianapolis community.” The core curriculum requirement can be fulfilled through a variety of classes through a student’s major, minor or simply taken as an elective. 

Part of the purpose of the ICR is to get students experience outside of the Butler community. It is easy for students to get comfortable with the professors, administrators and peers on campus, so getting out into the greater Indianapolis community can be an eye-opening, gratifying experience for students.

Shelley Etnier, associate professor in the department of biological sciences, spoke about how ICR classes can widen a student’s perspective of the Indianapolis community. She mentioned how many of her students were either hesitant at first, or unhappy, that they had to take the course.

“I think having students leave Butler’s campus and get to know a community or a population that is very different from them, not only in age but maybe in all sorts of other aspects, [can be beneficial],” Etnier said. “Seeing different aspects of who’s living in Indianapolis and who makes up Indianapolis [is important] because Butler, for better or worse, can be very insular.”

Stepping off Butler’s campus and into the greater Indianapolis community can be an enlightening  experience. While it can be comforting to have a particular schedule to follow every day, that type of situation also does not provide the growth and expansive learning that the ICR can.

Marva Meadows, a senior lecturer in the department of biological sciences, spoke about lasting professional relationships that students can build in their ICR courses. Since the courses may be related to a student’s major, there is an opportunity to work closely with professionals and form connections with them. These connections formed may even open doors to other jobs and opportunities for students. 

“A lot of [students] get excited about [starting] those [student-mentor] relationships and want to continue them in [the] future, ” Meadows said. “They don’t want to just say, ‘Okay, I’m only going to do this once, and then I’m done’.” 

Meadows went on to say that service learning is a very different kind of learning by being more practical, compared to traditional classroom learning. Since these classes allow students to form lasting connections, Meadows recommended taking them as early as possible.

By forming introspective relationships with the working professionals in the ICR classes, students will be better equipped with real-world experience that will set students up for after graduation. 

Allie Carmichael, a senior biology major, chose her ICR class, biology Indianapolis outreach, to gain experience for her future goal of becoming a pediatrician. The ICR class had students participate in hands-on science activities with children from a partnership with the Indiana State Museum.

“Being able to convey scientific terms in ways kids can understand is just an aspect of science that I think is really important for any sort of profession,” Carmichael said. “So I really liked just who they were working with and what we’d be doing.”

Depending on the class chosen, the work done within an ICR class can provide experiences that a class never will. An ICR within a student’s major allows them to take materials learned in class and practice them in a real-world context, giving them the opportunity to flex their muscles. 

Meadows commented on how finding the right class is critical to making sure students gain the most out of the ICR. 

“It’s your journey,” Meadows said. “And if you choose to leave that to chance, it may not be the thing that is gonna speak to you in a way that something else might. I think that you really want to be able to have something that’s meaningful to you.” 

These skills also can give the opportunity to have an upper hand over the competition with internships, jobs after college or any other education or work-related opportunity. 

“First of all, [my ICR class] gave me an awesome experience to talk about,” Carmichael said. “Being able to talk about my experience in the [biology] ICR actually made me a really competitive applicant.”    

Aside from the personal growth students experience, the class also provides growth to the community around Butler as well. 

When discussing the impact her ICR class had on the community, Carmichael mentioned how the kids she worked with benefited from the experience.

“The first hour was tutoring, helping with homework … really just making sure that they were on the right track academically,” Carmichael said. “But in the second hour, we were able to join the different clubs that they were involved in. A lot of the students were like, ‘Oh, come to my club, it’s like a dance club,’ or I got to play soccer with a lot of the kids, and they really loved having that college-age student to look up to. I didn’t realize how impactful that would be for me, to be able to be that person and kind of see the ways that they looked up to us.”

This impact is also seen by the professors. Meadow’s ICR course involved students helping at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. 

“This was a big deal to have college students come and hang out with them,” Meadows said. “Always a big deal.”

Butler students may choose any of the ICR classes to fulfill the requirement to graduate. It is easy to put these classes off, but putting care and consideration into the course chosen and putting in the effort to leave an impact can enhance one’s experience outside of Butler. It can become a symbiotic relationship between the student and the community, one that can leave a lasting impact on their life, as well as a greater impact on the lives they could be changing. 


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