Rhema Butler, '23, Psychology & English

Rhema Butler, Psychology and English, Class of 2023

As a student at Grandview, Missouri, High School, Rhema Butler didn’t know where she wanted to go to college, just that she wanted a place with small classes, a close-knit community, and professors who “genuinely cared about your success.”

She ended up taking a tour of Rockhurst and found it to be a different environment than what she was used to – but that was a positive in her college search.

“Change can be hard, but it's good,” said Butler, a first-generation student who’s now a sophomore psychology and English major at RU.

The “extreme change,” as she calls it, from high school to college proved to be harder than expected for Butler. She says she faced many challenges at that time with the passing of loved ones, as well as “everyday obstacles.”

That’s when her determination and the professors she had wished for became the driving forces of her success in the classroom.

Butler was paired with Elizabeth Walter, an assistant professor in the School of Education, as part of the Companions in Success program. The Learning Center initiative is designed to assist students who go on academic probation or financial aid warning by connecting them with a trained faculty and staff member across Rockhurst who will support them through regular meetings, developing success plans and linking them to resources on campus.

“We met weekly in the spring of 2020 for mentoring sessions,” Walter recalls. “We focused on study skills, self-advocacy and executive functioning skills.”

It was exactly what Butler needed to help her turn her grades around.

“I could not be more grateful,” Butler said. “[Walter] is someone I can count on, go to and she keeps me accountable. I appreciate and value all the time she has invested in me and we still speak on a regular basis every week.”

Walter said Butler’s hard work and resolve resulted in all A’s and B’s in her classes. Butler works 20 hours a week at CVS and eight hours a week at the Magis Activity Center (MAC) on campus. 

“She’s an inspiration because instead of rolling over and quitting, she dug in and honed her skills in order to be successful,” Walter said. “She is receptive to critical feedback, she seeks out mentors and she is very reflective and self-aware. She is never satisfied with taking the path of least resistance, and is always looking to better herself. She religiously attends tutoring and SI sessions to ensure that she’s working at max capacity. I am so grateful to the Companions in Success program for introducing me to Rhema. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with her for the past three semesters."

Even after the program ended for the pair, Butler requested that the two continue to meet. Walter gladly agreed.

“Despite her initial struggles, she has continued to be diligent and driven in her journey to be the first college graduate in her family,” Walter said.

As a first-generation student and oldest sibling, Butler views her own determination, faith and path as an example for her family to follow.

“My drive to better myself and my grades comes from the place of wanting to start a new path that I can leave behind for my immediate family and future family,” she said. “I have a great support team at home, and they encourage me to pursue my dreams. I grew up facing many obstacles and have endured a lot. However, I know there is a plan for my life. My faith in God keeps me going as well. I believe He leads my path, and He helps me when I feel like I cannot do something.”

As she continues toward her undergraduate degree, and with her grades now where she wants them to be, Butler seeks to find new ways to be involved in the University, build new connections, and “continue to seize every positive opportunity that comes my way.”

A strong support system lifting her up, Butler is eyeing grad school, hoping to be a part of a physician’s assistant program.

She aims to give back to others in her career, much the same as she has received in her journey.

“I have made many great bonds and met phenomenal professors who care about your academics and mental health,” she said. “The community that Rockhurst fosters is amazing. My overall goal is to help people, whether mentally or physically, and use every chance I get to be a positive impact on someone’s everyday life.”