Carving out your niche in college isn’t easy.
For many students their sense of purpose and community revolves around one man, Keith “Fletch” Fletcher.
Since 2006, Fletcher has directed the William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development at the University of Miami, an office on campus that encourages student involvement within the Miami community and challenges them to grow as leaders individually. Fletcher recently announced that he will be leaving his position at UM for the opportunity to be Assistant Vice President for Community Engagement at Florida International University on Feb. 24.
“For me it’s about the opportunity to do good community work… and pursue my doctorate,” Fletcher said. “I believe in FIU’s mission for community involvement.”
Fletcher has worked at the university for almost a decade. Prior to his current job, he was the residence coordinator in Hecht Residential College from 2001-2005. He then accepted the position of director at the Butler Center, a growing office in student life at the time.
The Butler Center has become an important part of campus life, primarily through connecting students to the outside community through service programs, leadership development campaigns and connections with service-based student organizations.
RAK, Dance Marathon, STRIVE, Alternative Breaks, CERT, Relay for Life and Fun Day are all run through the Butler Center under Fletcher’s advisement.
“The Butler Center is all about defining and recognizing the potential of our students to show that leadership isn’t a one-time intervention, but a process,” Fletcher said.
During his time at the Butler Center, the office has grown from advising 12 student organizations to 55. The office’s alternative breaks program has grown from sending out 37 students to almost 180 across the nation. And, according to Fletcher, student groups under the office have raised over $250,000 for charity.
Though Fletcher is most well-known among student leaders, thousands of students interact with the office yearly.
“Gandhi Day alone sends out 1,200 students among the Miami community, and more professional staff would allow for expansion. It baffles me why there isn’t more administrative support,” said senior Matthew Robayna, who is a placement assistant at the Butler Center.
The Butler Center originated as a part of the Smith-Tucker Involvement Center and originally had one student representative. Eventually, the office grew and was named after William R. Butler, a past vice president of student affairs at UM who left the position in 1997. Fletcher has continued the office’s work by helping students become active within their community.
“I think that he has helped me grow more than anybody on campus, or ever,” senior Claire Heckerman said. “I think I have transformed as a leader in the last two years from being a frustrated sophomore to an adult that can work with different types of people.”
Fletcher interacts on campus unlike any other administrator.
“I remember the first time I encountered Fletch; it was during a freshman leadership program and I forgot to wear a belt that day,” Robayna said. “He singled me out in front of the whole program and asked me to pull up my pants. I was kind of intimidated by him, but now if I need anything he is the first person I go to. He is like Superman.”
Fletcher has created a community around the Butler Center and the students whose lives he has personally touched.
“He is a boss, mentor, friend, advisor… all of the above,” Heckerman said. “And I really don’t know how I am going to cope with him not being in my life anymore.”
Dr. Richard Walker, assistant vice president for student affairs, will serve as the interim director of the Butler Center as a national search is conducted to find a new permanent director. As of now, the office has two professional staff members, Fletcher and assistant director Franklin McCune, although thousands of students interact with the office yearly.
In order to sustain the impact that the Butler Center has on this campus, junior Jake Krupa, Heckerman and Robayna are all in favor of an expanded professional staff in order to enhance the abilities of the university to impact the community.
Students are pushing for expansion, but they are also saddened by the loss of their companion.
“Not only is Fletch a fun, lively person to be around,” said Krupa, a summer placement assistant at the center. “He’ll become personally invested in your life and just talk to you about you.”
Nicholas Moore may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.