How an AU education can make all the difference



Tarah Butcher ’19 knows the value of a great education. Sure, she’s young – just two years removed from her time at Anderson University – but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t already reaped the benefits of her time on campus. Now an addiction neuroscience graduate student at IUPUI in Indianapolis, Indiana, Butcher has already had two pieces of research published.

Butcher, a Frankton, Indiana, native, stayed close to home for college and completed her degree in psychology and youth leadership development. Now, she’s checked something off the professional bucket list that not many people get to experience at such a young age.

“I feel extremely fortunate to have two first author publications within the first two years of graduate school,” she said. “Truthfully, I didn’t realize that having multiple first author publications in graduate school isn’t common so to already have two is a blessing. I would not have been able to do it without AU training me to be a productive scientist.”

Butcher’s publications include, “Cerebral Blood Flow in the Salience Network of Individuals with Alcohol Use Disorder” and “Brain responses during delay discounting in youth at high-risk for substance use disorders.” The cerebral blood flow piece served as her senior capstone project during her time at AU.

The process of seeing research publications published is exhaustive.“Wow, it is really quite the process,” said Butcher.

After putting countless hours into the design and execution of the study, Butcher spent many more analyzing the data and forming a story for the manuscript. Once the manuscripts were written, extensive revisions took place, sometimes exceeding 20 or more. With revisions complete, Butcher and her team selected a journal to submit the manuscript to.

The journal editor then made the decision to either send the manuscript back or send it out for review. Butcher was lucky enough to see her work sent out for review, but it can take 3-6 months to hear back about a decision. When the journal was accepted, Butcher had to incorporate the feedback of reviewers, then an editorial team put the paper into a publishable form for she and her team to approve. Only then, at long last, did Butcher get to add the publication to her curriculum vitae.

Clearly, it’s not an easy process, and Butcher has had to lean on her AU education throughout the process. An education that she insists has gotten her where she is today.

“[My AU education] seriously made all of the difference,” she said. “The AU psychology department understands that most people who earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology go on to pursue some sort of graduate degree, and the whole department ensures that every student who comes through will be set up to excel wherever they end up. I owe so much credit for my productivity to the AU psych professors for preparing me so well.”

“Many people leave undergrad without any familiarity of the research process, but even with limited resources in comparison to a large research institution, the psych faculty make sure every student who wants to have a thorough understanding of the research process has one before they walk across the stage to receive their degree.”

Butcher cites each psychology faculty member as playing a key role in her development. In her words, Dr. Laura Stull has a special ability to get anyone excited about the rather daunting process of research through constant encouragement and support. Dr. Janell Blunt is especially helpful in teaching students the best way to display their data, both for scientific accuracy and for aesthetics. Dr. Lee Griffith invests great time and effort into being sure that students understand the process of getting research approved by an institutional review board before conducting a study, while retired professor, Dr. Bill Farmen, volunteers his time to meet with every student undertaking a research project, and offers his statistical expertise. Dr. Wayne Priest helps students prepare to be great presenters through his thoughtful questions.

“It really is a team endeavor, and each and every psychology faculty is an integral part of that team,” said Butcher.

Stull served as Butcher’s faculty advisor during her senior capstone research, which is now published. She’s been teaching at AU since 2012, which means she understands the accomplishment of seeing research published.

“Tarah’s publication so soon after graduation is rare,” said Stull. “Tarah’s research was unique in that she began it during a summer internship and the research lab continued to assist her as she worked on the project in her senior Psychology Capstone research course. It is a nuanced study with complex analyses, published in an impressive journal.”

That Butcher has achieved success is not surprising to Stull. She recognized that Butcher appeared motivated to learn for the sake of growth, which seemed to produce a unique willingness to receive critical feedback, display impressive initiative, and invest considerable amounts of energy. Now, with two publications to her name, Stull hopes Butcher becomes an example for current and future AU students.

“Tarah’s success serves as an example for current and prospective AU students of what is possible to accomplish with initiative in seeking unique opportunities, strong drive, and support,” said Stull. “I hope that it motivates more of our students to seek publication of the impressive research that is being done on this campus!”

Butcher’s AU education prepared her for graduate school and beyond, and with two publications already to her name, she’s just getting started.

Anderson University is on a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service, offering more than 60 undergraduate majors, 30 three-year degrees, 20 NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, alongside adult and graduate programs. The private, liberal arts institution is fully accredited and recognized among top colleges for its business, computer science, cybersecurity, dance, engineering, nursing, and teacher education programs. Anderson University was established in 1917 in Anderson, Indiana, by the Church of God.