INDIANAPOLIS - Butler University has unveiled a new strategic direction and launched the public phase of its largest-ever fundraising campaign. The university says Butler Beyond seeks to combine tradition with innovation by continuing to deliver undergraduate residential education while expanding to offer new opportunities for lifelong learning and more affordable and flexible educational pathways.

As part of the campaign, Butler is looking to raise $250 million by May 2022. The university began the quiet phase of the campaign in June 2015 and, to date, has raised more than $171 million from more than 27,000 donors.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Butler President James Danko said it is the perfect time for a new strategy, which evolved out the previous one, known as Butler 2020.

"The disruption of higher ed is a strong impetus out there to be reviewing what we are and where we're going. It's also been an opportunity for us to assess the success, frankly, of Butler 2020. We had set out a pretty strong set of goals in that particular strategy and to make sure we're kind of on path for the next five to six years."

Danko says Butler Beyond will push heavily on educational transformation, making sure Butler is on the leading edge of the way students are educated, and thinking more broadly about the student population.

"We're very heavy in the undergrad residential space right now, but we're working more aggressively on looking for educational partnerships with organizations, with companies, even with some startup companies. Right here in our own back yard is Kenzie Academy, which does a lot of coding work. How do we add educational breadth to what they're doing? So I think you're going to hear a lot more about educational evolution and transformation during the next era of the Butler strategy." 

The university says the new strategy aims to provide new opportunities, including growth in customized corporate education programs, non-degree certificates and credentials, and community-focused talent programs. 

The fundraising campaign focuses on three pillars the university says will fuel the new strategic direction: student access and success, innovations in teaching and learning, and community partnerships. Jonathan Purvis, vice president for university advancement at Butler, says it was really important to align the campaign with strategy.

He says the quiet phase of the campaign was aligned with the previous Butler 2020 strategy and including fundraising for capital projects such as the new building for the Lacy School of Business, which opened in August, and the $100 million science complex, which broke ground earlier this week.

The public phase of the campaign, however, is now aligned with the Butler Beyond strategy.

"(With) student access and success, we know that we need to be able to have accessibility of a Butler education (available) to a broader set of learners and we'll need donor support to help us do that, primarily through greater scholarship support," said Purvis. "We know that we're going to have to have greater innovations in teaching and learning so that a Butler education is relevant to a changing type of student, but also to the changing needs of employers in society, so we'll need donor support to help fund that. We also know that we're going to have to continue to deepen our community partnerships and we also are looking for donor funds to really make sure that Butler is aligned with community needs here in our own back yard in Indianapolis, but throughout the state and beyond."

Purvis says the response to the campaign thus far has been tremendously positive. He says the university's board of trustees has been very supportive in the quiet phase of the campaign, with 25% of the $170 million coming from the trustees. Danko adds engaging the university community in developing the new strategy has contributed to the success.

"This was not just a top-down approach coming from the trustees and the leadership team; it very much is built upon about 18 months of very highly-engaged discussions with faculty, staff, students, community leaders," Danko said. "We undertook a major push and study to understand what this community in Indianapolis needed, which has been instrumental in our strategic direction. So, when you engage people in that, they're more likely to contribute."

Butler Beyond: The Campaign for Butler University will come to an end May 31, 2022.