Center for Faith and Vocation

Faculty ~ Answering the Call

Anne Wilson, Chemistry ~ Show Information

Butler University Professor of Chemistry ~ September 2004

It is very interesting for me to think about why I am a chemist, mostly because chemists don't often think about why they became chemists. Many of us found that it "made sense" or an aspect of the discipline was fascinating to us, but the vast majority would never claim that being a chemist was a calling. However, I came to chemistry very differently.

As a first year student, I signed up for courses following the path I had taken in high school. I took an English course (I was planning on being an English major), a history course, a math course, and I needed a science and chemistry was the only thing that fit into my schedule at the end. I really enjoyed laboratory, but I would characterize myself as a lackluster student in class. The laboratory instructor suggested, almost dared, that I consider continuing in chemistry and taking organic, the second year course. I was incredibly naïve, as I did not know that this was a notorious weed-out course, and signed up.

I loved organic chemistry. Each new topic built upon what we had already learned. This multi-layered and complex system of looking at the molecular world gave me a framework that fit well with my personality. One of the best thing about organic is that, while the discipline has lots of rules, almost every one of them is broken and this really appealed to my rebellious nature. In the meantime, I was not having as much success in English. I would work really hard and receive a B or do a relatively poor job by my own standards and receive a B. I got the impression that English was far more subjective and that chemistry was objective and, for me, intuitive. Each piece of the organic chemistry puzzle built on the previous foundation I had forged. I sensed the natural progression of the course. I connected with the concepts, internalized the maxims, and really engaged the material without much work on my part. I can almost say that organic chemistry found me. Upon declaring myself a chemistry major, I was challenged in other courses and sufficiently humbled, but I knew that I would be a chemist.

Even now, I learn new things every time I teach chemistry even though it is the same basic subject material each year. There are new nuances and emphases that change my perspective on my subject. Each time I teach how I "see" organic molecules, I am reminded that we don't actually see them, but make our best guess based on what we know and what has worked in the past. Isn't that like a great many other things in life? I feel that we all continue to do what works well for us. When shown by a student, colleague, mentor, or friend that some other way of understanding works well for them, don't we accept that? I try to work as many of these insights into my material as I can to strive to reach out to as many people as possible. After returning to Butler from seven months working in industry on sabbatical, I can say that I am always going to be an organic chemist at heart. Organic chemistry is a whisper in my ear, a magic trick in my pocket, a smile on my face. I am thankful that I have found a profession that means so much to me.

Sue Bierman, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences ~ Show Information

Assistant Professor, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

I entered college with the intent of becoming a psychologist and was one of those rare students who NEVER changed her major. I loved my psychology courses and as a liberal arts major, enrolled in courses that were interesting to me in history, philosophy, business, and criminal justice. I went on to get my masters and realized that there was actually a career in student development. As I've gone through my professional career, I realized just how critical the time spent in college is for someone. College students come with a variety of academic skills and its here where the personal values, faith, and calling are internalized. I have yet to meet a college student who isn't trying to answer the person questions of "what do I want to BE" and "how can I make a difference?"

While working in residence life, student affairs, and the classroom, I have had wonderful opportunities to teach, counsel and learn. The student success and freshmen seminar courses I have taught, and the publications I have assisted in producing, have been extremely rewarding. Assisting students in not only finding answers, but asking questions is a big part of teaching - and one that is extremely rewarding. Part of that adventure is really thinking about our personal values and they are fully internalized usually when they are challenged but upheld. College is one of the last "safety nets" where there are resources willing to help students face issues that can lead toward successful lives. I have also worked at large state universities and smaller private colleges. No matter the setting, students enrich the lives of faculty, staff and administrators each and every day. What keeps people involved in higher education is the passion to teach - and learning occurs in and outside of the classroom. In order to be a good teacher, I have come to realize that it takes being prepared, but also the willingness to be a good learner. I enjoy teaching ethical principles and analyzing cases. I also enjoy having students raise questions that I do not know the ready answer - we can investigate the question together. I depend upon the other faculty and staff at Butler to serve as resources when students come to me with issues with which I am not equipped to assist. Students who come to me for help trust me, it's something I value and honor dearly. I respect that trust so in exchange, admit when I don't know something but utilize the resources in financial aid, residence life, student affairs, LRC, career planning and development, registrar office, etc. I tap into the folks I know who WILL know how to help. The student is assisted and I learn for the next time I'm asked.

The reason I chose higher education as my calling was because I listened to my heart and used my mind to investigate the possibilities. I am in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and was liberal arts - psychology major. But my background fit a "need" for this college and I was lucky to have a dean who thinks out of the box. In exchange, I hope to assist students in stretching what they see as boundaries and to reach for opportunities that they may not realize are there.