Katie Brethorst: The Eyes of the Butterfly

Learning empowers the future. That’s why academic excellence is a Reaching Stellar Campaign priority. Katie Brethorst’s interest caught fire during a UIS field trip, redirecting her life and leading her to the academic achievement that is uniquely possible here at Springfield’s own university.


Katie Brethorst

During her first year at UIS, as part of a class, Katie Brethorst took a field trip to Springfield’s Dana-Thomas House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. That field trip changed her life.

“I wasn’t really expecting much,” says Katie, “but then I saw the butterfly arch above the door, and inside the house is full of art glass and so beautiful.”

After a return visit to the House on her own time—“I just loved it all over again”—Katie signed up as a volunteer. Last summer during July and August, she led tours through the house, and she continued to drop by during school to help out and lead tours. “Just seeing the awe on everyone’s face—it’s incredible!”

Internships like Katie’s offer UIS students a special learning experience, one that allows them to enrich their academic experience at UIS while learning from experts in the community.

How Katie’s service at the Dana-Thomas House changed her life

  • Katie changed her major to history because of the House. She became so fascinated by the history of the Dana-Thomas House that she became a history major. “I just love learning about history.”
  • Katie discovered an academic passion. During her first visit to the house, Katie became intrigued by Susan Lawrence Dana, who hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design the house, and she has continued to learn more about Susan in her free time. “Susan wanted to build something beautiful here in Springfield,” Katie says, “and the House has definitely stood the test of time. She also saved lots of people’s lives during the Springfield race riots. She brought Jane Addams and other women’s rights activists to Springfield. She suffered many setbacks in her life but she overcame them all. She was an amazing person.”
  • Katie clarified her career goals. Initially, Katie planned to be a teacher, but after working at the House (as well as some excellent counseling at the UIS Career Development Center), Katie now plans to work in a museum, perhaps as a curator.
  • Most of all, Katie understands herself better. “I got closer to myself as I learned more about the House, and now I am much more confident. I feel a little bit prouder to be myself.”

At UIS, many students experience the life-changing benefits of applying what they have learned in the classroom through internships. These opportunities and other outstanding academic experiences rely on the generous support of people like you who sustain and strengthen what UIS offers to students.

Through the Eyes of the Butterfly

Would you like to benefit from Katie’s experiences at the Dana-Thomas house? This past spring at the Student Technology, Arts & Research Symposium, Katie and a troupe of students performed a play she wrote about Susan Lawrence Dana called Through the Eyes of the Butterfly. You can view it here (it’s about 11 minutes, followed by discussion).

Academic Excellence: A Reaching Stellar campaign priority
Because learning empowers the future

You can support academic excellence like Katie’s at UIS. You can find a list here that will link you to giving opportunities for each college and academic program.