Skip to main content
Aerial image of Butler University campus
Faculty Development

Brown Bag Series

The Brown Bag Series provides an opportunity for Butler faculty to present their original research, scholarship, and creative work, aimed to speak to both departmental colleagues and those in completely different disciplines. 

All sessions will take place in AU111 from noon-1 p.m. unless otherwise indicated.

Students, staff and faculty are all welcome. Light refreshments will be available. No RSVP required.

Show 2017-18 Presentations:

"Not My Saturday Morning Cartoons: Jonny Quest, Wacky Races, and (Zoinks!) Scooby Doo Go from Screen to Page to WTF!"
Rocky Colavito, English
Tuesday, September 19

In winter 2017, DC Comics issued the bound collections of the newest, and wildest versions of comics appropriating favorites from our Saturday mornings of yesteryear. Jonny Quest finds himself adventuring in a mashup universe where Space Ghost, the Herculoids, and even a modern version of Mightor exist and fight a common enemy. The Wacky Racers find themselves racing for keeps in a Road Warrior-esque setting that seems to have been based upon Death Race 2000. Scooby Doo, and Mystery, Inc., now find themselves confronting a zombie-infested dystopia, giving new meaning to the phrase “rotten kids.” While inspiring fond memories, there is also a serious case of WTF when we read these new re-imaginings, but maybe the W tends more to “why” than “what”. Dr. Colavito will offer an historical survey of the evolution from original cartoon to current print versions, along with consideration of the changes wrought, the effects of the changes, and what the changes tell us about not only the comic book/graphic novel industry, but also the culture industry. By looking at the changes as both practice and process, we perhaps glean some insight into the ways in which the past continues to become present, and what this means for future artistic endeavor.


"Data Science, Bioinformatics, and DNA"
Alex Erkine, Pharmaceutical Sciences
Tuesday, October 3

Computers are becoming an indispensable tool in handling huge data sets. That allows us to switch from seeing the trees to seeing the forest, and this view often is very revealing. Currently, looking via computer “lenses” at the sequence of an individual’s DNA isolated from a droplet of blood, allows us to not only predict the hair/eye color, race, and age, but also to fully reconstruct a computer image of an individual’s face. Extrapolation of these developments suggests that in next few years a combination of data science and DNA sequencing technologies will be used to predict and possibly direct (hopefully in positive way) many facets of individuals’ lives including medical aspects, professional development, interpersonal relationships, possible migrations, and more.


"Confucius, Socrates, and Asimov Walk into a Bar– and in front of a Driverless Car"
Ankur Gupta, Computer Science
James McGrath, Religion
Wednesday, November 8

It is a well-worn setting for a joke to have three famous individuals or categories of individuals walk into a bar. But Brown Bag talks can also start this way, and in this case the three protagonists are Confucius, Socrates, and Isaac Asimov. The intention in sending them to a drinking establishment together is not entertainment, but a very serious ethical matter about technology that is in the news all the time. It is necessary, however, as a prelude to this discussion of driverless cars and ethics, that we get our three famous thinkers as drunk as we can. After we have accomplished that aim, they will inevitably stagger out of the bar (despite protestations from the robot bartender) and into the street – where they find themselves in the path of a driverless car. The main focus of this talk will be to explore the more sober thoughts attributed to these individuals, and to apply them to the question of how we might best program driverless cars so as to cope effectively with scenarios like this, in which the safety of passenger(s) could be prioritized at all costs, or avoidance of injury or death to those that get in the way could be the priority, or some balance could be struck between the two. The potential ability for an automated car to apply the ethical principles programmed into it consistently and speedily when an accident becomes imminent may make the use of driverless cars fundamentally superior, with respect to ethical reasoning, than leaving driving in the hands of humans. 


"Ukraine: An Introduction to Its Conflicts"
Paul Valliere, Religion (McGregor Professor in the Humanities)
Tuesday, January 30

Ukraine today is a country beset by conflicts.  In this Brown Bag presentation, Dr. Valliere will enumerate some basic facts about Ukraine that should be kept in mind by those who want to gain perspective on the Ukrainian situation.  

Western media coverage of Ukraine is intermittent and focused mainly on the confrontation with Russia.  This lecture will add depth to the picture by summarizing not just the political conflict, but some of the historical, cultural and religious factors that shape Ukrainian life in our day.


"Our Revolution Shakes the World! Maoist Politics, Global Narratives, and the Chinese Sixties"
Zachary Scarlett, History
Thursday, February 15

In the 1960s, China claimed dominion over international revolution. Dr. Scarlett's lecture will explain how the Chinese Communist Party used the social protests of the 1960s to legitimize mass campaigns at home and reinforce Maoist revolution. Chinese students followed suit, tying the Cultural Revolution to anti-war protests, the civil rights movement, and student uprisings from Paris to Tokyo. Through the process of knowledge production and the crafting of new global categories, the Communist Party merged domestic and international revolution into a single Maoist framework, creating a new type of political discourse in China. 


"Pernicious Plants: Uncanny Ecocritical Thought in Gustav Meyrink’s “Dr. Cinderella’s Plants"
Melissa Etzler, MLLC
Monday, March 5

Gustav Meyrink’s “Dr. Cinderella’s Plants” (1905), is a fantastical tale about plant-human hybrids born of experimental human intervention. Dr. Etzler will explore how this short story translates foundational scientific hypotheses from the 19th century into the science fiction and body-horror genre. Because Meyrink was concerned with the sentient nature and agency of objects that many would consider dead matter, she will take an anachronistic leap and bring this short story into dialogue with 21st century ecocritical theories.



Presentation Proposal Process and Application Instructions

Faculty interested in presenting a Brown Bag lecture in the following academic year should submit a proposal by May 1st of the current academic year.

Proposals should include the following: description of the session, objective of the session, ways of including the audience, and what attendees can expect to learn. To submit a proposal, please send your responses to the following items in an email to by May 1st.

  1. What is your college/department affiliation?
  2. Please briefly describe your proposed Brown Bag session (150 words or fewer). A detailed abstract will be requested at a later date if your proposal is accepted.
  3. List at least two things you expect attendees to learn from your session.
  4. Please describe the ways in which you plan to make this session engaging, hands-on, and/or participant-focused.
  5. Will you provide a PowerPoint, a handout, or a website for attendees to refer to for more information?
  6. Have you presented as part of the Brown Bag series in the past? If so, when?
  7. If you are not selected to present a full-length session this year, would you be willing to give a short-format presentation during an end-of-year “Pearls of Wisdom” session in which multiple faculty members present a brief version of their lecture?

Proposals will be evaluated on the following characteristics:

  • Organization and clarity
  • Novelty and innovation/creativity
  • Likelihood of being interactive/engaging

In addition, selection will be based, in part, on the desire to offer a variety of topics so as to appeal to different faculty, staff, and students across disciplines. First-time presenters and faculty from underrepresented colleges/units/disciplines are especially encouraged to apply.

To request disability-related accommodations or inquire about accessibility, please contact Rebecca DeGrazia at or at 317-940-8558. Please allow two weeks’ advance notice in order to allow adequate time to make arrangements. Although attempts will be made to honor accommodation requests with less notice, it cannot be guaranteed that without two weeks’ notice a reasonable accommodation can be provided.