Science and religion can mix

Continuing the Science in Action weekly lecture series, the fall 2015 semester’s first guest speaker was Jonathan Z. Butler, Ph.D. Butler is a post doctoral scholar at University of San Francisco. His research mainly focuses on how religion, socioeconomic status, and race and ethnicity can affect one’s health.

Butler brings with him a unique background with much experience and knowledge of both religion in science.

Butler grew up in a lower economic area in Arkansas, with his single mom. He did not grow up with many advantages or very many opportunities as far as school was concerned. In high school, he decided to join what is known as the JROTC program, where he worked closely with Sergeant Major Joseph Edwards, who Butler strongly believes prepared him for not only college but life. Shortly after, he joined the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, which taught him skill sets he would need for life; things like making resumes and applying for colleges and for jobs.

The next summer, Butler joined the academy program at Howard University School of Divinity. There, the dean helped him to receive scholarships to pay for the program. Two professors at the school also helped Butler to be a part of the program, with the stipulation that he maintain at least a 3.0.

Butler was very heavily involved in his church, which conveniently was located right across the street from his university. He had a very close relationship with his pastor, Dr. Cosby, who also helped him financially with school and other expenses.

At the university, Butler formed ties with one of the faculty members, who got him a job into the president’s office at the campus. Butler stresses the importance of not only taking risks and putting yourself out there, but also the importance of talking to people and gaining mentors. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in marketing, Butler realized he was interested in studying and possibly getting a degree in religion. Through one of his peers, whom he met at Howard university, he got accepted into the Ph.D program for medical sociology, a field that he did not know very much about, however was interested in. In the Ph.D program, he worked alongside many new people, such as a Flo McAfee, a media consultant who introduced him to new opportunities, for instance, meeting Richard Gillum, a researcher in cardiology and religion, who taught him how to do publications and was an integral part of Butler’s academic and personal life. Through Gillum’s help, Butler was offered a teaching job at San Francisco State University.

“These people will help propel you to the next level,” Butler said.

Butler’s career has been a series of steps that he climbed with the help and guidance of many exceptional mentors who he gave much recognition to.

Butler’s passion, dedication, and commitment got him not only into the career he wanted, but allowed him to venture out into the world and to expand his learning experience. His hopes are not only to spark interest in his particular field for other people, but to also remind people that through networking, risk-taking, and balance, you can achieve your goals.