UC Merced Update

From Student to Staff – Chris Butler, ‘07, ’09


Chris ButlerChris Butler, the assistant director of The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning, is a campus original.

That is, he has been here since the campus opened.

He started as a student, studying environmental engineering studies with Professor Tom Harmon, and is now a staff member. A Central Valley native, Butler transferred to UC Merced because he knew he’d enjoy the intimate campus setting. He graduated with a bachelor’s of science in 2007 and got his master’s in environmental science in 2009.

He lives in Merced with his two sons, Jacob, 10, and Jackson, 8, and the three of them are slackers — they enjoy slacklining together. Slacklining is walking and doing tricks and acrobatics on a long, flat, narrow band of nylon or polyester suspended in the air between two anchor points.

Perhaps it's good practice for balancing the demands of his job.

Within The Foster Family Center for Engineering Service Learning, Butler focuses on providing students with opportunities to develop their discipline-specific skills while giving back to the community in real and meaningful ways.

He administers the Engineering Service Learning course that allows students from all grade levels and majors to work on complex, real-world projects that benefit nonprofit organizations in their community, such as projects aimed at improving K-12 education; the development of a “green” certification for loans funded through Kiva Zip; a micro-finance NGO; or the establishment of the new natural reserve adjacent to campus.

He develops off-campus relationships with organizations that share the campus’s vision of helping students and improving the community.

The most rewarding part of his job is interacting with students.

“We have a unique set of students who are intensely creative and are able to grasp the complexities of real-world issues and identify innovative ways of addressing those issues,” Butler said. “Our students also have a desire to use their education to give back to their community professionally.”