CCOM Faculty Achievement

CCOM Faculty Achievement

Prof. Rob Norris (left) and Dr. Eileen Taylor (right) shortly after learning they had both been promoted to the role of senior lecturer within the College of Communication at Butler University.

I had the pleasure last week of delivering welcome news to a pair of amazing faculty. Dr. Eileen Taylor and Mr. Rob Norris, respectively, were promoted to senior lecturer within CCOM. They both came to Butler after concluding long and successful careers outside of academia and help to bring the experiential element into our classrooms as part of their second careers. Their success is their own, but I still share in their joy at this well-earned achievement.  

Eileen had a tremendous career in government, before returning to school to get her doctorate, and then joining CCOM as a faculty member in Organizational Communication and Leadership.  Her passion for teaching students leadership is only matched by her desire to prepare students for the demands and challenges of the coming changes to the workforce. She is a dedicated teacher, supportive mentor, and engaged member of the CCOM and Butler community.  It was a joy to walk into her office, share this news, and experience her process the moment from being speechless to overjoyed.

CCOM Dean Joe Valenzano delivering a letter of promotion to Dr. Eileen Taylor in Fairbanks Center.

Rob arrived at CCOM after a career in corporate communication, culminating with a leadership position at Cummins. He is a mainstay in Fairbanks Center, always in his office or engaging with students in the hallway outside his office. He rarely misses a college event, and always has a smile on his face—happy to go the extra mile to attract new students and help elevate current ones. Rob was at his desk when I delivered his letter, and, in typical Rob Norris fashion, he stood up, graciously invited me in, and then told me I made his day after he read the letter. 

Achievements need to be celebrated, and I was honored to be the bearer of glad tidings for both Rob and Eileen, two amazing CCOM faculty dedicated to our students’ success. They represent the best of Butler, and it is a gift for each of us to get to work with them. I am also excited to see them rewarded for their hard work and compassion for our students, alumni, and their CCOM colleagues. 

Please join me in congratulating Rob and Eileen, the newest senior lecturers in the College of Communication at Butler University!

‘Dawgs experience BIG EAST in the Big Apple

‘Dawgs experience BIG EAST in the Big Apple

What do a former dairy processing plant, The Drew Barrymore Show, and Butler basketball legend Shelvin Mack have in common? You’re about to find out as it relates to 12 current sports media majors embarking on New York City during our recent spring break trip.

Gary Beaulieu, senior director of Butler’s Career and Professional Success (CaPS) office, joined me in hosting the dozen CCOM students as part of a co-sponsored experiential learning opportunity provided by a partnership between our offices. 

The City that Never Sleeps welcomed us to where the Big East Conference and Butler alumni intersect during the opening days of the men’s basketball tournament. The festivities tipped-off on Wednesday afternoon and served as an invaluable whirlwind of activity and opportunity for our students. 

A pre-game gathering of approximately 75 alumni and friends at Mustang Harry’s, on Manhattan’s West Side, allowed current students to interact with former students, and current professionals, in the Tri-State area. Then it was time to head next door to Madison Square Garden to watch the Bulldogs Big East tournament game. The result on the court wasn’t what we hoped for but it was still a great experience, especially as some of our students had never been in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” But the most-impactful slam dunks, in my opinion, occurred the next day.

We headed right back to Madison Square Garden on Thursday morning, this time through the employee entrance. Taylor Harmon ’21, who majored in Sports Media and Strategic Communication, greeted us at the door and our next adventure was underway.

Taylor is a tour de force, and made time in her busy schedule to give us a behind-the-scenes look at MSG and its operations. She guided us around the home of the New York Rangers (NHL), New York Knicks (NHL)—and another BIG EAST basketball team I won’t mention here—as well as the hub for nearly every great concert act you can imagine since the mid-to-late 1960s. Everything there—even the garbage cans—had sponsors. And much like the sponsorship team at MSG making the most of every piece of real estate to monetize, Taylor didn’t miss a beat or opportunity to answer questions about her journey and future goals from our focused students before we left “The Garden” for lunch.

Next stop: CBS Broadcast Center, a short Uber ride away. Ryan Briganti ’98, senior vice president of sports sales at Paramount, arranged a tour of their NYC studios, including the stage where “The Drew Barrymore Show” is shot for CBS. Then a bonus VIP tour guide, Drew Kaliski, arrived to lead the next parts of the visit. Drew produces the NFL Sunday pregame show and might just be Bulldog parent in the near future. He noted that the building was once a dairy processing plant, which is amazing given how much technical equipment and space is needed for all of their broadcasts and content production.

Drew spun tales, provided information, and fielded questions from our group of students. We were introduced to Adam Zucker, the host of the NCAA Basketball desk for CBS, who also spent some quality time with us. Adam even remarked that this opportunity was something he didn’t get when he was at Syracuse!  We met the professionals in the “Bullpen” who watched every conference tournament game and helped prepare the hosts for their halftime show. We engaged with the production team in the control room, and even saw Butler basketball legend, Shelvin Mack, prior to his halftime show duties with Adam later that afternoon. Little did we know that we would cram into the studio, being still and silent behind the cameras, to watch the opening segment live as they produced the halftime show. 

The trip would have been great if it ended there, but we still had the Big East Career Networking Event that evening. It was exciting watching our 12 students work the room, talking to representatives of the Big East, MLB, New York Yankees, New York Rangers (repped by Taylor Harmon), Military Bowl and many more sports organizations. They not only learned about career opportunities in the different organizations but also how to make themselves stand out in the applicant pool. This event was open only to students from Big East schools, and was such a great opportunity for our students to learn more about getting into the sports and entertainment industry.

This trip was an opportunity for me to spend significant time with these 12 exceptional CCOM students—and for that I could not be more grateful. I want to call out each of them for being such amazing ambassadors of The Butler Way. 

I’ll start with Emma Martin, a goalkeeper on Butler’s women’s soccer team, whose father traveled to meet her in New York. Ally White and Butler volleyball player Cora Taylor made it a road trip to New York from Indy. It was great to have a pair of Tri-State area locals in Nick Laudano and Michael Terzakis. Ethan Polak and Nina Mazzotti had the opportunity to work the men’s basketball game on Wednesday. And to round it out, I was able to learn more about Owen O’Keefe, Charlie Petrusch, Sam Carus (yes, Sam, I still remember your prediction😊), Tyler Bigford, and Sean Davies in a tremendous off-campus setting. This group made the trip memorable for me and there is no doubt they are destined for great things.

For a couple days Butler CCOM was the common thread between a dairy processing plant, The Drew Barrymore Show, and Shelvin Mack. Experiences like these, even when they happen during a supposed break, are what makes being a Butler Bulldog in CCOM so special, and I look forward to being back in the Big Apple again next year and paving the way for our students to learn from the best and brightest in more major cities in the future!

Spring Break ’24 and More!

Spring Break ’24 and More!

Spring Break is a cherished time in the academic calendar. It represents an opportunity to step back, recharge, rest, and even have fun away from campus before the final sprint to the end of another successful academic year.

Whether traveling, visiting family, or catching up on final projects or grading (and/or sleep), it’s a well-earned moment for the CCOM community at Butler. It’s also another opportunity to reflect on what we’ve accomplished so far in 2024.

Fairbanks has been buzzing all semester, before this quiet week of respite. So, I’m taking this time to provide a recap of some of the highlights. Away we go!

The inaugural CCOM Chili Cook-Off:  As a chili fan I am a firm believer that there is no one right way to make it. This theory was put to the test with the faculty and students, as eight different chilis were entered by faculty, and then judged by students, staff, and faculty in a blind taste competition.  The winner for best overall chili and hottest chili was Prof. Bob Schultz, who made a flavorful turkey tortilla chili. The most unique prize went to Ross Hollebon for something I had never tasted before—Peanut butter chili. It was surprisingly tasty too! Finally, Prof. Carly Middleton received the most votes for the best name category for her “Girl Dinner” entry. The best part was seeing our CCOM community come together for the new event.

Cory Stark ‘08 and Larry Potash class visits: Cory Stark ’08 and Larry Potash, parent of a current Bulldog, both have illustrious careers as broadcast TV anchors and hosts in St. Louis and Chicago, respectively.  They led a discussion with students stressing the importance of reading, writing, developing a character in new stories, and exhibiting hard work and creativity.  It was an engaging conversation, and Cory even left our students with a great set of slides, entitled “The Art of the Interview.”  Click to listen to the CCOM Pawcast episode with Cory and Larry.

Stephen Bulpett class visits: Stephen Bulpett is an old friend of mine. He visited Indianapolis to cover aspects of the NBA All-Star game and shared his time to speak to a pair of classes, telling tales from his more than 35 years as a journalist. Stephen has primarily covered the Boston Celtics, and the NBA at large, as a veteran reporter for the Boston Herald and Heavy.com. He engaged with our Media Ethics class and shared, among other things, the importance of telling the truth and maintaining professionalism when working with professional athletes. He also made time to talk with first-year journalism and sports media majors.  As a proud alum of the University of Dayton, he also could not hold back from trying to push for the Big East to invite his alma mater into the fold—and I can’t say I disagree! Click to listen to the CCOM Pawcast episode with Stephen.

Indy NBA All-Star Weekend: While conversations and classroom visits with Stark, Potash, and Bulpett were occurring, 100 Butler students were working as ambassadors for Indianapolis and the NBA All-Star Weekend. Led by the indefatigable Prof. Schultz, these students traded shifts downtown during a snowstorm Friday evening and then braved frigid temperatures Saturday and Sunday to shine warmth and smiles on visitors and fans during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.  As “Street Team” ambassadors they handed out sunglasses, maps, and good ol’ Hoosier Hospitality to the 150,000 guests in town for this major sporting celebration.  One student, Katelyn Skinner, created a short video about this opportunity.  Another student, Kristin Anderson, was on her shift and saw something suspicious that she called in, and it turned out she stopped scammers from taking advantage of Indy’s guests.  A third student helped a person find their way around downtown when they looked a little lost.  That person was perennial NBA All-Star Steph Curry, of the Golden State Warriors.  I don’t think she will ever forget that moment!

My trip to New Jersey: More recently, I traveled to New Jersey to watch our men’s basketball team take on Seton Hall. It was special to attend the game with several alumni from that area. Our own Dean’s Advisory Board Chair, Dan Cooreman ‘76, and his partner joined, as did current Butler parents Dana and Jenna McClintock.  Dana, as it turns out, worked alongside an alum who was with us, Ryan Briganti ‘98, years ago at CBS. Ryan was fresh off selling advertisements for the Super Bowl—during the Super Bowl!

Day of Giving 2024: I immediately switched gears for the 2024 Day of Giving upon returning to Indianapolis. Students and faculty concentrated on redecorating many of the main hallways (and the offices of five fountains and The Collegian) to produce our very own 9-hole miniature golf course. We staged a massive upset in terms of the number of gifts in 2023, more than any other group on campus, and aimed to defend our title. Unfortunately, Athletics managed to top us this year—and I now owe our new Athletic Director a round of golf—but we still set college records for most gifts received (365), and most support received for our students (a whopping $71,411). It was great seeing all the creative putt-putt holes our faculty and students crafted to help create the Fairways at Fairbanks, as well as all the smiles and cheer we had in the building.

CCOM Butler Bound 2024: Finally, on March 1st we welcomed roughly 40 prospective students to campus for the CCOM Butler Bound experience.  This fantastic all-day event helped students who are thinking about being a Bulldog (what’s there really to think about, I say) understand more about The Butler Way and how it can impact their immediate future and career and life goals. They heard from a terrific panel of current students and a panel of alumni. They met numerous members of the CCOM faculty, toured our phenomenal facilities, and learned more about internship and study abroad opportunities. In what was a humbling moment, one student and their parents came up after the event and asked where they could go to make a deposit right there and then!

I know this has been a long read (and an even longer post to write), but it goes to show you why, as we enjoy Spring Break, it’s understandable that people are eager to relax for a moment. On the other side of this lull, we still have so many fun activities, events, and achievements to pack into the final weeks, but a deep breath now goes a long way.  So, what will yours truly be doing? I’ll be accompanying a dozen of our students to the Big East Tournament for an alumni event, a networking opportunity in the sports and media industry, and a tour of Madison Square Garden. There is no rest for the weary here—and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

CCOM Distinguished Lecturer: Dr. Nneka Logan

CCOM Distinguished Lecturer: Dr. Nneka Logan

College campuses are hotbeds of thought and action. From student projects and presentations to diverse co-curricular groups. From the intensity and joy of intramural and NCAA intercollegiate sports to intellectual explorations of contemporary issues, Butler University is a shining example of passion as a guide for growth and understanding. 

Contributing to these campus efforts, CCOM will host our annual Distinguished Lecture Series on Monday, Feb. 19th in Gallahue Hall (Room 104) at 4:15 p.m., shining a spotlight on Dr. Nneka Logan and her topic: “Exploring the Relationship between Corporations, Race and Responsibility in the Age of AI.”

For me, this year’s speaker, voted on by CCOM faculty, brings a personal connection as well. I met Nneka, currently an Associate Professor of Communication in the School of Communication at Virginia Tech, 20 years ago while I was studying for my doctorate. It is thrilling to have her join us and share her expertise and professional experience with our college and the entire campus community. She is brilliant, accomplished, enthusiastic, a fantastic speaker, and, most importantly, a genuinely good soul.

In addition to presenting her lecture, Nneka will visit Butler CCOM classes to provide more intimate opportunities for our students and faculty to learn more about her and her scholastic pursuits. Her lecture also qualifies as a Butler Cultural Requirement for current students. To learn more please visit the CCOM Distinguished Lecture event page.

We’re excited to welcome Nneka to Butler for this special event!

20/20 Fo(u)r Vision and Inspiration

20/20 Fo(u)r Vision and Inspiration

New can be exciting, and, if we’re fortunate, it lights a passion while inspiring our vision. Excitement greets me still every single day after completing my first year at Butler with CCOM. The Fall 2023 semester was successful in myriad ways and I was able to reflect on all of our accomplishments during winter break. 

During the down time my family headed to warmer weather—visiting the magical place “Where Dreams Come True,” for the first time with my 9-year-old son, Connor. Something new, and at first intimidating, for him was encountering a full-sized roller coaster.

We boarded the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad Coaster and three minutes of twists, turns, and constant screaming later, we pulled into the exit and he was THRILLED. The positive new experience inspired him to try more roller coasters. A new year can also inspire us to do new things. It’s why now, as 2024 is just in its infancy, I am inspired by and excited for all the things ahead of us.

REASONS TO BE EXCITED IN ‘24

Morgan Snyder ’07, Sr. Director of Public Relations at Visit Indy and a CCOM Dean’s Advisory Board member, recently wrote 24 REASONS 2024 IS A BLOCKBUSTER YEAR FOR INDIANAPOLIS. It is a terrific piece highlighting tentpole events like hosting the NBA All Star Game, the Solar Eclipse in April, renovation at the Madam Walker Legacy Center, and much more.

Events on and off campus are great for the Indy community but are even more valuable, in our eyes, because they provide unmatched experiential learning opportunities for our students beyond the classroom. Here’s just a sampling of what we have on the horizon:

  • In February, 100 Butler students (many from CCOM) will serve as Hospitality Ambassadors during NBA All-Star Weekend thanks to a creative one-credit opportunity designed by faculty members Prof. Bob Schultz, Dr. Abbey Levenshus, and Dr. Lee Farquhar. 
  • Dr. Nneka Logan will be the 2024 CCOM Distinguished Lecturer on Feb. 19th. She will give a talk that explores the relationship between corporations, race, and social responsibility in the age of AI. 
  • Classroom visits by Larry Potash, WGN Morning News anchor (Chicago) 
  • Classroom visits by Cory Stark ’08, KMOV News 4 anchor (St. Louis) 
  • CCOM will host Steve Bulpett, of heavy.com and formerly of the Boston Herald, who will talk with our students in journalism about his experiences. 
  • Chicago Trek: Students will travel to the Windy City in April to learn more about career opportunities, and how to earn them, during an immersive experience across industries.

But it’s not just the academic experiences we are excited about, especially once we reach February. On the 12th we will have our inaugural CCOM Chili Cook-Off. Faculty and staff will line the hallways of Fairbanks with their Crock-pots to present their own homemade chilis at lunch time. Then, after all the tasting and comparing has been completed, students, faculty and staff will vote for winners in multiple categories. 

At the end of the short but impactful month, we will also celebrate Butler’s Day of Giving. No pies this year (you’re welcome Mark, Amira, Mary, etc.) but Fairbanks will be transformed into Fairways. Current students, alumni, and staff will have a chance to “Putt Against Their Prof” while supporting CCOM’s giving goals for this year’s incredibly important event. 

In March we will host March Madness Watch Parties in Fairbanks for the CCOM community—and mark my prediction—Butler will be playing! As the weather gets nicer I’ll also find excuses for us to do one or two Dogs with the Dean outings too.

We have so much ahead of us to be excited about and to get involved with. I know these opportunities will inspire our students to try new things, challenge themselves, and discover new passions to start 2024!

Go Dawgs!

CCOM Community Warmth & Well Wishes

CCOM Community Warmth & Well Wishes

The winter holiday season, for many, is a time of joy, celebration, family, and friends. On a college campus, this aura kicks into full swing upon the return from the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s hectic but full of positive energy, engagement, and a rewarding, sometimes exhausting, sense of accomplishment. This holiday season in CCOM provided numerous reasons for cheer, provided gifts full of meaning and recognition,and has inspired our college resolutions for the coming year.

A good friend of mine used to call exams, “celebrations of knowledge.” Whether it’s final exams, final projects, or final papers, it is something to acknowledge with a smile—for our hard working faculty, who have to grade each assignment on a tight deadline, as much as the students who have to perform the work. A small group of these students, after getting everything graded, finished their current course of studies.  

We proudly celebrated our December graduates in recent weeks. In the quiet of winter these students reached the summit of their undergraduate careers at Butler and now march undeterred into their bright futures as Bulldog graduates.I know they will make an impact on the world and their respective communities. 

These members of the CCOM community included undergrads representing numerous degrees, as well as students from our quickly growing graduate program in Strategic Communication. We hosted a reception for the entire group in Fairbanks. Each graduate received an alumni blanket to mark their momentous achievement, and to reassure each graduate they were always welcome to return to the warmth and comfort of “home.”    

The holiday season also ushers in the new year. It is common practice to resolve ourselves to improve on who we are and what we contribute. Instead of making resolutions supporting greater physical health (which I will do), eating better (which I also will do), and taking up a new hobby (unlikely), colleges and universities resolve to improve different things. So, here are just a few of CCOM’s resolutions for 2024:

Provide more opportunities for students to explore their intended vocation: 

We have several established immersive experiences for students to apply their knowledge in the classroom and in real life. And we encourage them to connect with industry professionals while exploring potential career paths, but I want to develop more of these opportunities. From New York to LA, and Atlanta to Indianapolis, I want our students to be able to navigate their path, and a successful future, wherever it may lead.

Develop new educational programs for students: 

We have a stable of strong majors and minors, as well as a budding graduate program, but there is more we can offer students. In 2024 I hope we can develop and introduce another graduate program. Fluidity and creativity are also important so we intend to offer some unique one-credit classes and workshops for students. These all provide memorable and impactful experiences.

Continue to keep alumni, friends and partners informed: 

In 2023 we launched this blog and the CCOM Pawcast (podcast), and they have been great vehicles for helping our community keep up with what is going on at Butler. In 2024 I want to explore ways to create more avenues to interact with students, alumni, and partners so even more friends can see how much we provide and accomplish as proud members, contributors, and stewards of CCOM.

Keep bringing the “fun” to Fairbanks:  

In 2023 we had “Pie the New Guy,” “Dogs with the Dean,” the “Stay Puft Marshmallow Dean Halloween,” and an Ugly Holiday Sweater party. It won’t stop there!  In 2024 I want to ensure that every month with students on campus we do something fun together. I tell people all the time I have the best job on earth, because I get to wake up every morning and go to Butler—so it should be fun!  What’s in store next year? One hint is that as a graduate student I always loved to putt golf balls in my hallway. 😊

This is the final Pawprints blog for 2023, and what a year it has been—and what a way to celebrate the holiday season with newly minted graduates! Even though I cannot wait for 2024, I want to wish all Bulldogs, friends of Butler, and our extended CCOM family a very happy, healthy, and joyful holiday season. May 2024 bring you all the blessings you could hope for!

GO DAWGS!!! 

Thankful As We Move Forward

Thankful As We Move Forward

Descriptions of Thanksgiving can offer many Hallmark-esque ways to define it—too often trite and fleeting. When I say Thanksgiving for me brings grace and gratitude to the forefront, I mean it on a deeply personal level.

Two years ago, my younger brother, Michael, lost his fight with addiction on Thanksgiving eve.  For the rest of my life I will never forget how I spent that holiday. Nor will I forget how from the seeds of grief we can experience and truly treasure the fruits of that grace and gratitude. Through my brother’s struggles and the heartbreaking nature of learning of his passing, my reflections on Thanksgiving help ground me in appreciation for the time we have with each other and the things we can accomplish and experience with the time we are given.

Like favorite plates at the family table during the holidays, here I’m going to share individual items that I’m able to reflect upon and cherish as I give thanks for the love, opportunities, and ever-expanding communities in my life. 

I am grateful to be in Indianapolis with my family.  The first six months of my time at Butler were spent becoming closely acquainted with I-70. I commuted between where my family was still living and the new community I had joined. Spending so much time driving each week, and the warm welcome I’d receive upon returning to Indianapolis, made me deeply appreciate the warm nature of everyone at Butler. It helped make the time when my wonderful family could join me here so much more special and I appreciate the sacrifices they made for me and my new opportunity.

I am grateful to work at a mission-oriented institution that clearly knows who it is and who it wants to be. Making a high-quality education like that which we provide at Butler available to, and accessible for, more people is a mission and a purpose that resonates deep within my core.  Activating and energizing the Butler community behind this mission is critically important—and with Butler’s New Two-Year College, in association with the non-profit Come to Believe, I have seen first hand we put our money and resources where our mission is.

Dr. Mary Gospel (center) is applauded by CCOM Dean Joe Valenzano (left), Provost Brooke Barnett (right), and fans during the first half of the Butler men’s basketball game vs. Southeast Missouri State at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Fri., Nov. 10, 2023. (Photo courtesy of zjbphotography.com)

I am grateful for my colleagues in the College of Communication.  Their patience and grace as we learn about each other and explore ways to elevate the college has helped me feel at home in Fairbanks. Their dedication to our students inspires me every day, just as it inspires those learners. Their willingness to serve their communities as well as participate meaningfully in shared governance motivates me to work hard for them. Most of all, I am thankful to them for their energy and enthusiasm, evidenced in large and small ways everyday. I was humbled to celebrate one of them—the very special Dr. Mary Gospel—recently at midcourt during the first half of a men’s basketball game as our CCOM Faculty All-Star.

I am grateful to be at a place with such amazing students.  From Abby Kom, who recently recorded a TedX presentation while also taking home hardware at every speech and debate competition around, to Kody Leach, whose ability to tackle opponents on the Bulldog football team is only exceeded by his tackling of his coursework in CCOM, to Ethan Polak who conducted a social media takeover during his summer broadcast internship with the Chicago Cubs, to Gabbi Hart who speaks so eloquently from her heart every chance she gets, especially about her desire to be a speech pathologist. That is such a small sample of so many other talented, hardworking individuals. I have no doubt these students will change the world.

I am grateful for working alongside my fellow deans, who have accepted and supported me from the jump. Like all of the senior leaders at Butler, they are a creative, innovative, mission-oriented, student-centered, and faculty-supportive group who all believe in what we do at Butler. Being around individuals like this is not a given. I am thankful for the opportunity to learn and work with them towards our common goals. I am thankful everyday for the fact we do not see ourselves as leading separate silos on campus, but as a team seeking to elevate Butler for all.

Matt Schumaker ‘14 (left), Mark Minner ‘12 (center), and Brendan King ‘17 (right) all visited campus and volunteered their time to discuss with sports media students the intricacies and secrets to their success in sports announcing.

I am grateful for alumni that continue to be invested in our students.  There is Corey McPherrin ‘77 who returns every month to work with students one-on-one. In Sports Media Matt Schumaker ‘14, Mark Minner ‘12, and Brendan King ‘17 have visited campus to run evening broadcasting workshops this fall. Our alumni continue to help the next generation of Bulldogs prepare for their careers with real-world anecdotes and samples from these leaders who are out there already living their dreams. It doesn’t stop there though. Kayla Long ‘19, just last week, saw we were running a canned food drive for the Butler Food Pantry and showed up with grocery bags full of cans to further the effort!  Then there is Steve Key ‘77 who helped bring the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame to Butler this past semester. These committed Butler community members continue to impress me with their engagement and desire to help their fellow Bulldogs.  

Finally, I am grateful for the challenges this year presented to me. Whether personal or professional, it was these challenges that continued to make me into a better version of myself. Things worth doing are often not done easily, and the value in the doing comes not just in the outcome, but through the process. The challenges of this past year are no different, and I am thankful for them and the people that helped me along the way.

As I reflect on Thanksgiving this year, and recall the tragedy of my brother’s passing two years ago, I remind myself that everyday is a gift and another opportunity to do good. The time we have each day is not promised, and as I continue to be thankful for the time I had with my brother, I am grateful for the time I get to do things I enjoy with terrific people whom I care about in the service of a greater good. I suppose the thing I am most thankful for is the time I have each day, and the ability to choose to spend it in pursuit of the good with my fellow Bulldogs.  

I wish all of you a very happy, healthy, and joyful holiday with your loved ones. May you spend this time in ways that make you feel fulfilled and warm.  

Thank you for reading and Happy Thanksgiving, Bulldog Nation!

Chill-inducing: Homecoming & Halloween 2023

Chill-inducing: Homecoming & Halloween 2023

PHOTOS: Amy Ulrich ’98 with Prof. Scott Bridge at Homecoming (left); Dean Joe Valenzano and Mary Duffer in Dr. Tatsiana Karaliova’s office in Fairbanks Center on Halloween (right).

Autumn, in many parts of the country, provides a soundtrack of crunching leaves accompanying a seemingly brush-stroked backdrop of reds, yellows, browns, and crisp greens as the transition from summer to winter occurs. This change in setting and temperature—and boy did the temperature change quickly this year—also alerts us to some of the most creative and enjoyable festivals and celebrations held in our communities. This fall, Butler introduced me to a new celebration, and reminded me why an age-old holiday remains a personal favorite.  

Homecoming may adopt the natural colors of the changing leaves and graying sky as its background setting, but Butler Blue and white still dominated Oct. 27 – 29 as school pride elevated with each alum who arrived on campus. It was extra-special for me, as I had never attended a Homecoming event before. With the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, I wanted to soak up everything as fast as I could. 

There’s a vibe that starts building in the middle of the week and ramps up on Friday as friends gather from near and far to first get business taken care of. The semi-annual meetings of the Butler Alumni Board, the different College Advisory Boards, and the University Alumni Award Celebration are all critical aspects of evolving the University, but also include hugs, handshakes, laughs, and smiles shared by those who lived their best Butler days as an undergraduate and light up while reminiscing about their time. As the Dean of  CCOM, it was humbling to see our energizing and inspiring alumni everywhere. 

Our Friday CCOM Dean’s Advisory Board meeting is a gathering that is fast becoming a highlight for me each year. Roughly 15 members of the Board met for five hours—yes, we stopped for lunch—and talked about the future of the College of Communication, shared successes by our faculty and students, and pre-celebrated two CCOM alumni who would receive University-level awards later that night (more details on this later). The meeting was engaging, and I am grateful to our members for volunteering their time, talents, and expertise to advise us on our opportunities going forward. The Chair and Vice-Chair, Dan Cooreman ‘76 and Patricia Mays ‘93, deserve special recognition for their leadership of this insightful group.

The calling of the CCOM Grill (thanks, Mark and Dutch for getting it ready) meant the meetings were over and it was time to unwind. I cooked both meat and plant-based hot dogs for our alumni, faculty, and students outside Fairbanks Center. The weather could not have cooperated better, and it’s a new tradition I look forward to carrying forward into the years to come.

PHOTOS: (Left) John Doyle ’74 accepting The Butler Medal; (Right) Sharon (Boyack) Myers ’90, Jacqueline Eckhardt ’13 after accepting the Joseph Irwin Sweeney Alumni Service Award, and Butler University President James M. Danko.

Later that evening many of us represented CCOM at the Butler Alumni Awards and were honored to watch all of the recipients be recognized, but especially the two CCOM alumni being honored.

Jacqueline Eckhardt ’13 received the Joseph Irwin Sweeney Alumni Service Award for her efforts as a young alumnus in giving back to Butler and the community through service. She was introduced during the awards by her long-time mentor and Butler professor, Bob Schultz. To help celebrate Jacqueline and her accomplishments to a larger audience, she joined me on the CCOM Dean’s Pawcast and, as always, represented Indianapolis well. 

CCOM’s second award winner was John Doyle ’74, who earned the Butler Medal, the highest honor the University can bestow on an alum. John is a special individual who is as caring as he is intelligent and inspiring. Upon receiving the award he praised the individuals who made a profound impact on his life. For all of John’s successes, and they are many, he remains humble and a seemingly peerless example of being a Butler Bulldog. It was an honor to be there with both Jacqueline and John for this very special evening to close out Friday.

A brisk Saturday morning welcomed the Homecoming celebration at its height, leading up to the football game, a 17 – 7 win by the Bulldogs over Valparaiso. The CCOM Tailgate tent, hosted by “Mr. 3 a.m. Email” himself, Professor Scott Bridge, was homebase for many alumni. Although the Indy Marathon prevented my attendance—no, I didn’t run it—I enjoyed hearing about the number of CCOM alumni who came to celebrate with one another. Finally, Saturday evening, I enjoyed watching the first men’s basketball exhibition game of the season with two amazing CCOM alumni, professional voice talent Amy Ulrich ‘98, who flew in from L.A., and Critical Communication and Media graduate, Kayla Long ’19.  Both Amy and Kayla are shining examples of CCOM and Butler success and generosity, and I was grateful to spend an evening learning from and laughing with them.

PHOTO: Prof. Rob Norris sharing stories with CCOM alumni outside Hinkle Fieldhouse on the Saturday of Homecoming.

After such an amazing introduction to Homecoming done right and spending time with so many wonderful individuals, you might think I was due for a letdown heading into the new week. Not a chance!

Halloween is a holiday I have always loved, and much like Homecoming, it wasn’t treated like a one-day or just a weekend event. During October the faculty in Fairbanks were invited to decorate their doors and offices, with prizes, based on student voting, for the most creative, the scariest, and the spookiest. In the first year of this exercise in Fairbanks it went so well—I was really excited and thankful for those who contributed to our culture—that I created a Best in Show Dean’s Award. The decorating by Dr. Tatsiana Karaliova and Dr. Kristen Patrow of their offices was so fantastic that I needed to up my game from a recognition standpoint. A high bar has been set for next year. There was candy, creativity, and camaraderie, and I even got into the act by giving out candy across campus in costume (contrary to people saying I was the Michelin Man, I was the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from the Ghostbusters)! From Fairbanks to Dugan, Jordan to Atherton, and through Irwin Library, I handed out treats  to students, faculty, and staff wherever I found them.  

To say this week was fun would be an understatement! From Homecoming to Halloween, it was a spooktacular experience for this new Bulldog, and one that will haunt my dreams, in the best way imaginable, for a long time!

“Dawgs Helping Dawgs” – Chicago Style

“Dawgs Helping Dawgs” – Chicago Style

There is no substitute for experience. Julius Caesar claimed it is the teacher of all things. And as a teacher for my entire professional life, I can tell you how accurate that statement is. A recent example is the Oct. 11-13 Butler Career Trek in Chicago during fall break. 

Or maybe I should instead refer to the trek as fall break-through based on the myriad opportunities Butler students had to visit a variety of companies and learn from top-notch professionals while building their networks in a structured experiential setting. 

Accompanying 13 students, representing numerous Butler colleges, for a snapshot of what life after graduation in the Windy City could be like was exciting, especially as we entered each new building—immersed in impactful brands. Two powerful stops during the trek were relative but distinct global strategic communications firms in the heart of downtown. 

Edelman is a global communications firm that partners with businesses to evolve, promote, and protect their brands, while Publicis is a global creative network, driving strategy, messaging, and the ads and digital experiences we all see every day.

I was particularly impressed with Butler alumni Catrina Cranfill ’15 and Rachel Berner ’20 who both work at Edelman. They crafted an engaging and informative presentation regarding what they do at Edelman and  the importance of internships, preparing resumes, networking, and refining interview skills. Rule #1: Know your audience—It was the perfect message to students gearing up to launch their careers. These are foundational elements you find in classrooms across Butler, but this experiential extravaganza hosted by former Butler students was filled with helpful hints, interesting anecdotes, and compelling stories that reinforce classroom learning but hit differently in this “real-world” environment shared by members of the Bulldogs community. 

And there may be no better example of a Windy City warm-welcome than a visit with Corey McPherrin ’77, longtime Chicago news anchor.  Corey may have stepped away from the news desk a few months ago, but he was right at home guiding our students through his natural habitat, the Fox32 newsroom. His access to former colleagues, who were preparing stories and packages for air, showed the power of relationships and an eagerness to pay it forward. These busy professionals spoke with students about their careers, and even managed to interview an anchor who was delivering the noon show at the same time (don’t worry, all Corey’s questions occurred during commercial breaks!).

The Chicago Career Trek program is in its third year at Butler and costs students just $50 each. I may not be in the Lacy School of Business at Butler but I see that the return on that investment is incredible for the future leaders and the stewardship of the entire university.  I look forward to experiencing the program’s trips to Detroit (this was the sixth time for the Motor City) and New York City in the future.

The offices and studio were great but there’s also value in socializing with friends, and friends of friends. On Wednesday night we gathered at Chicago’s Gaslight Bar and Grill where the students had a chance to meet and talk with some of the numerous alumni from throughout the city. Personally, I cherished the opportunity to talk with Stacy Hodge ‘00, David Fryrear MS ’03, Jacqueline Wishau ’10, Jessie Surridge ’21, and her mother, Mary Surridge, just to name a few.  They shared their memories of Butler and their excitement for this week’s Homecoming, but mostly peppered the current students with questions about the campus and how they could help prepare them for their futures. The idea of “Dawgs helping Dawgs” is something special, and it truly warms my heart to see it at work when our current students meet our alumni. 

Experiences, and alumni, like those found on Butler’s Chicago Trek, are a huge reason why our university is such a special place. I could not think of a better way to spend fall break than with these curious, driven students. Exploring their options for the future and networking with alumni just a few hours northwest—I know they all feel like it was worth the price of admission!

Butler CCOM: Where Great Stories…Live

Butler CCOM: Where Great Stories…Live

From left, Lawrence Taylor, IJHF executive director; Stephanie Salter, IJHF board president; Joe Valenzano, Butler University College of Communications dean; and Steve Key, IJHF board member, announced the partnership between IJHF and Butler University Sept. 12.

I raced against my father and four brothers to claim the sports section of the The Bergen Record every morning while growing up. Lifting it in the air, on successful days, like I had just captured the opposing team’s flag on the playground. The runner-up would happily settle for the feature stories, recaps, and scores from the New York Daily News, as the rest waited for the remaining second-hand scraps of knowledge. 

Whether it was those journalistic institutions, or as I grew older, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, one thing remained consistent. A connection between me and the men and women crafting the words and collecting the quotes and facts as they documented and explained day-to-day history. These storytellers became my earliest heroes and made a moment from earlier this summer that much more impactful. The College of Communication at Butler University was presented the opportunity to partner with the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame (IJHF), and I couldn’t be more honored for CCOM.

This hot scoop came from Steve Key ’77, the retired Executive Director of the Hoosier Press Association and a member of the CCOM Dean’s Advisory Board. He shared that the IJHF was looking for a new home and asked if Butler and CCOM would have interest in hosting their mission-driven operation to honor women and men whose lives and careers make them standouts among Hoosier journalists. I didn’t skip a beat in saying “we sure would!” and our meetings commenced.  

IJHF leaders Stephanie Salter, president, and Larry Taylor, executive director, met me on campus two weeks later at Chatham Tap. We discussed Butler’s history of producing quality journalists, and CCOM’s mission to educate the next era of journalists for more than an hour. As a recently transplanted Indiana resident I wasn’t previously aware of the long and storied history of journalists from the Hoosier state. The IJHF celebrates more than 250 inducted members and maintains an archive of their work. As Stephanie and Larry shared more details and anecdotes it was apparent that Butler, CCOM and the IJHF were a tremendous fit. 

Eventually we did the final dance of “i” dotting and “t” crossing, reaching a late-summer agreement signing. CCOM is excited to welcome the IJHF to their new home in Fairbanks at Butler. It is a powerful step having the archives of the Hall available to faculty and students but there are more inherent benefits. 

Their annual IJHF induction ceremony will have connections to student work, which may also include video interviews and productions for the members. We will also partner internally with students, faculty, and staff to develop more meaningful ways to help celebrate, study and promote the work of Indiana’s finest journalists and media innovators—those already inducted and the active media members who make up incoming classes. To me, this is one of the best aspects of the IJHF. Of course they celebrate journalists from the past, but the process of inducting active, working journalists into their annals brings a special energy while recognizing the leaders of this critical profession.  

From left are new Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame 2023 inductees Steve Inskeep, Dorothy Leavell, Jim Shella, Linda Graham Caleca and Mike Lopresti. Not pictured is the sixth inductee, the late Ida Husted Harper. (Photo by IJHF board member Gena Asher)

As the IJHF settles into its new address in Fairbanks, we will continue to explore ways to connect our students with its members and its resources, further cementing the strength of the Pulliam School of Journalism and Creative Media and what it offers to the journalists of tomorrow.

Our CCOM student-focused tagline is “great stories begin here.” Now we can also say great storytellers are recognized and their work lives here, thanks to this partnership with the IJHF. And it’s downstairs from my office so I don’t need to race family members down there to get the information that I’m eager to read.

For more information on IJHF moving to Butler please visit Butler Stories and the official website of the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame