Most often growth is good, but it's rarely easy. Butler's presence in Andover was no exception.
Butler was struggling with space. It had found a slight reprieve with the use of portable space for classrooms, a nowhere close to perfect solution but certainly workable. During this time, advising had outgrown its small one-office hub and turned to a trailer, parked in front of the 9100 building at 21st and Andover Road, to use as Butler's Andover advising center.
The temporary trailers worked but were hardly ideal for advising, recalls Nelson Escalante and Meg Hageman, Butler's two full-time advisors in Andover since the late '80s.
"It was cold in the winter and warm in the summer," said Escalante, Butler of Andover's lead academic advisor. "But, the advising trailers did provide us with three 'offices.' While the make-shift partitioned walls didn't provide students the privacy we have now, we welcomed the basic space to do our jobs."
As inadequate as these temporary classrooms and offices were, Butler made sure to take the time to celebrate these milestones. One of those moments, Escalante remembers, came with holding an official ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the opening of the first portable classroom.
A vision for the future
By the mid-90s, with two locations and an Andover enrollment of 3,000 plus, Butler had come a long way from its first 14 students just more than a decade earlier. It still had a long way to go, however.
Mike Calvert, vice president and campus president at Central Community College in Nebraska and long-time dean of Butler Community Learning Centers, helped lead the constant change that growth and additional spaces brought.
Calvert recalls the cost-benefit analysis he looked at when bringing the first portable building onboard. The analysis showed that the building would pay for itself in three years of the five-year lease.
"It paid for itself in one," he said.
An even more creative solution came in the form of Butler's Weekend College. To handle overflow demand, Butler offered classes in 12 sessions of four-hour blocks on Friday evenings, Saturday mornings and afternoons, and often even on Sunday afternoons. This came before the popularity or technology of online courses and it worked, according to Calvert, because all other times and courses were full.
Entering the 2000s, Butler was not quite on par with the 21st century learning styles envisioned by President Vietti. Now, with portable classrooms at its 21st location and two more outside of its Andover High School site – along with utilizing more of the high school space during the evening hours – the need for a larger permanent presence was overwhelmingly evident.
"We literally had students taking classes on every side of the high school, outside the high school and inside and out of our 21st Street location," Calvert said.
Page 2 of 3 - To advance Butler's vision for its future in Andover, a consultant was commissioned to provide a needs assessment and master plan that included a study on the strongest area for growth. The study was alarming for the Andover campus.
"Taking the standard for classroom utilization, the consultant group Carter-Burgess noted that optimal room utilization was assumed at 67 percent," Calvert said. "We were found to be at 98 percent. We were maxed, completely full, with no flexibility."
With the report also documenting western Butler County, specifically Andover, to be Butler's largest growth zone, the recommendation was to start planning a stand-alone campus on Butler's 34 acres north of the high school.
An unexpected solution
"Another milestone moment in the development of our Andover campus came at the hands of an unexpected phone call from a developer and supporter of Butler who said he had a good solution to alleviate our critical space constraints," Vietti said. "Although some internal and external stakeholders thought it was anything but a good solution, all now are in agreement that is wasn't only good; it was superb."
In December 2002, Raytheon vacated its building in Andover's 13th Street Industrial Park. Karl Solomon, representing this space for Solomon Investments, offered Butler an incredible lease-to-purchase proposal that presented a new question: Could converting an aviation warehouse in an industrial park truly be a feasible option?
"I remember touring this dark, empty, very industrial building and thinking, 'good luck,' " Escalante said. "But it's developed into one of the best spaces and collegiate environments at Butler."
This innovative solution didn't come without its share of controversy as placing an educational institution in an industrial park didn't initially seem right to some. However, after several council meetings and a great deal of support shown for Butler, the permission was granted.
Armed with this newfound opportunity in 120,000 square feet of possibility, Butler opened the 5000 Building in a remodeled 30,000-square-foot portion on the north end in the fall of 2003, within eight months from its first exposure to the building.
"We cut it close," Calvert remembered. "Classes were scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m., and we still had construction happening all through the night. We finally received our occupancy permit at around 8 that morning."
Now, more than 90,000 square feet of its 120,000 square feet are occupied, including a state-of-the-art student union that opened in 2008. Gone are any signs of portable classrooms, replaced instead by innovations in learning spaces and technology-rich program offerings.
Today, Butler in Andover has grown to an average enrollment of nearly 5,500 students a semester, the majority of whom are under the age of 22, much different from its adult student learners of the '80s and '90s.
Page 3 of 3 - The story of Butler in Andover unfolds through the pages of history like a compelling novel. A tale defined by humble beginnings, uncertain chapters, suspenseful plots and heroic efforts. From a high-school classroom to a brilliant beacon of education to thousands, Butler is grounded in the western Butler County town of Andover, Kan. – and looks forward to its powerful future.