Category: Academics

Lawrence’s Dillon earns prestigious Morgan Prize for undergrad math research

Travis Dillon ’21 (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Travis Dillon ’21 is the recipient of one of the nation’s most esteemed awards for undergraduate students doing mathematics research.

Dillon, who majored in mathematics while diving deep into a wide range of research before graduating from Lawrence in June, will receive the 2022 AMS-MAA-SIAM Frank and Brennie Morgan Prize for Outstanding Research in Mathematics by an Undergraduate Student.

The Morgan Prize, presented jointly by the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), will be awarded January 5 in Seattle.

Now a graduate student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Dillon called the “incredible honor” a testament to the great mentors he had as an undergrad, including Lawrence math professor Elizabeth Sattler, with whom he collaborated frequently over the past four years.

“Liz Sattler has been, in more ways than I can count, an extraordinary mentor, advisor, and collaborator,” he said.

Travis Dillon named a National Science Foundation (NSF) Fellow.

Goldwater award goes to a Lawrence student for second consecutive year.

In making its announcement of the award, the AMS said Dillon earned the Morgan Prize for his “significant work in number theory, combinatorics, discrete geometry, and symbolic dynamics.”

“When I was told that I won, I was stunned,” Dillon said. “Every winner in the last 15 years had attended high-profile universities—either Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford or Yale.”

Sattler said she first recognized Dillon’s vast potential as a math student when he dove into an independent research project with her as a sophomore.

“I was shocked at his ability to solve challenging, high-level problems in such a short amount of time,” she said. “I had anticipated this project would last an entire summer for a full-time student, but Travis solved that problem and pushed it further in just 10 weeks while still taking classes in Spring Term. Every time I threw something new at him or pointed him in a different direction, he ran away with it. It was just amazing.”

For his Senior Experience project last year, Dillon wrote a book, Graphs, Groups, Infinity: Three stories in mathematics, that looked to explain math concepts in a way that people with minimal math experience could understand and appreciate. He did it, Sattler said, with a mix of authority, expertise, and humor.

“He finished with over 200 pages of creative and imaginative text complete with pictures, stories, and exercises,” she said. “It’s more fun than your standard textbook with things like Travis Dillon’s Rule of the Infinite—‘If you think it’s true, it probably isn’t’—and abstract multiplication tables filled in with rubber ducks with hats or scarves. This was a great way for him to finish his time here at Lawrence and allowed him to put all those wonderful quirks of a liberal arts student into a document that will be around for a long time.”

The book currently lives in a digital format, with a few printed copies at Lawrence courtesy of a print-on-demand service. Now Dillon is exploring options on how “to best get it out into the world.”

The book project, he said, was a great opportunity to meld his love of math with a growing interest in writing.

“There’s a certain Zen to selecting and arranging words that communicate an idea exactly; to crafting sentences, paragraphs, sections, and chapters in my own particular style; to being sly, quirky, serious, profound, and irreverent precisely as I choose,” he said. “It’s frustrating, too, at times, but so is math. To a certain extent, difficulty is part of the appeal.”

While at Lawrence, Dillon completed seven papers, six of them published or accepted, four single-authored. In addition to independent studies with Lawrence faculty, he attended summer Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) at Texas A&M University and Baruch College, and he spent a year in the Budapest Semesters in Mathematics program.

Scott Corry, professor of mathematics and chair of the Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science Department, called the Morgan Prize “a stunning and well-deserved achievement” for Dillon.

“Our goal at Lawrence is to help every student reach their full potential, and Travis’ potential is off the charts,” Corry said. “We are proud to have supported his development, through courses, mentoring, and research at LU as well as in off-campus programs, and we are eager to see his future contributions to mathematics and the broader world.”

This isn’t the first time Dillon has been honored for his math research while at Lawrence. Earlier this year, he received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) award that will assist his work at MIT. A year prior, he was named a Goldwater Scholar, also a highly competitive honor.

Besides Sattler, Dillon said he’s had incredible mentors every step of the way. He was first inspired to pursue math while growing up near Newport, Washington. Two summers spent at a Canada/USA Mathcamp set him on his way.

This fall, Dillon began his graduate work at MIT as an MIT Presidential Fellow. Since 1999, MIT has used its Presidential Fellowships to “recruit the most outstanding students worldwide to pursue graduate studies at the Institute.” It currently supports 110 to 125 new graduate students as Presidential Fellows each year.

The Morgan Prize, awarded annually to an undergraduate student for outstanding research in mathematics, was established in 1995 and is entirely endowed by a gift from Mrs. Frank (Brennie) Morgan. Learn more here about the prize and previous recipients.

The award is one more step on the journey, Dillon said. Whether it’s more research or elevating the writing he started with his book project, the possibilities going forward are plentiful.

“I really enjoy working on research, but explaining and getting people fired up about math, leading them to their own aha! moments—that’s a different kind of joy,” he said. “Fortunately, these things often go hand in hand, and I’m looking forward to a long career in both.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Best of 2021: Eight stories show resilience, creativity of Lawrence community

A reimagined Science Learning Commons in Youngchild Hall was three years in the making. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Sure, the ongoing pandemic kept things a bit weird in 2021. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for telling the stories of Lawrence University and the Lawrentians who make this world a better place.

Today we’re going to spotlight eight Lawrence stories from the past year that speak to resilience, ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness. These stories are among our favorites of the year. If you read them the first time around, consider this a reminder of how amazing this place can be. If you missed them earlier, now is the time to catch up.

See Lawrence’s 20 most-viewed stories of 2021 here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey through 2021 as much as we have.

1. Rising to the challenge

COVID-19 testing in the Wellness Center gym was part of the routine to keep campus safe. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Lawrence had welcomed about 800 of its students back to campus in the fall of 2020 at a time when COVID outbreaks in Wisconsin were spiking. Classes remained remote and students needed to adhere to strict safety protocols, but the opportunity to resume a semblance of campus life was a big step forward. How did Lawrentians manage to keep campus safe while the surrounding community was struggling with outbreaks? We took a closer look.

“We’ve all read the stories from other places where decisions that students make really do make or break what happens,” Assistant to the President Christyn Abaray said. “We have students who get it. They’re making some of the most mature decisions that we could ask for.”

2. A need for flexibility

Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, Maria Poimenidou ’20

Diving head first into a job search upon graduation can be daunting enough in the best of times. Now do it in the midst of a pandemic when the job market is in turmoil. We caught up with three newly graduated Lawrentians, Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, and Maria Poimenidou ’20, to talk about navigating the job search in these strange days.

“There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with that and you can fall into a spiral of worries, but the way I adapted to everything was by becoming more flexible,” Poimenidou said.

3. Debut novel brings national buzz

Andrew Graff ’09

Catching up with Lawrence alumni who are doing creative things is always a pleasure. Andrew Graff ’09 leaned heavily on the lessons learned as an English student at Lawrence as he wrote his debut novel, Raft of Stars. It arrived among the spring releases with national shout-outs from the likes of the New York Times and USA Today.

“His work is a testimony to the fact that inspired, artful writing happens over time and is not the product of a flash of genius or a single good idea,” English professor David McGlynn said. “A Lawrence student might not publish a novel while a student, but our record shows that something foundational is happening here.”

4. A new sound in the Conservatory

Jando Valdez ’24 (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Jando Valdez, a sophomore at Lawrence, has had a passion for mariachi music since his freshman year at Appleton North High School. How he turned that passion into the newly launched Lawrence University Mariachi Ensemble (LUMÉ) speaks to the beauty of the Conservatory of Music and the growing flexibility built into its various degree programs.

The first time LUMÉ was able to meet in person, it felt as if a piece of myself and my family’s heritage had been reignited,” Valdez said.

5. Pandemic rock stars

Rob Neilson and Jake Frederick became the Junkyard Tornadoes. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

This was fun. When Rob Neilson, an art professor, and Jake Frederick, a history professor, had their sabbaticals canceled by the pandemic, they hunkered down in a storage garage on campus and wrote and recorded an album. Never mind that they knew very little about writing music and even less about recording it. It was new territory, but it gave them a chance to channel some energy and creativity at a time when there was nothing much to do and nowhere to go.

“We were in shock about how crazy the world had suddenly become,” Frederick said.

6. New visibility for Indigenous students

Otāēciah, a sculpture created by artist Chris Cornelius, is gorgeous inside and out. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The creation of a new piece of public art raises the profile of the Native community on campus to new levels. The sculpture, known as Otāēciah and located on the renamed Kaeyes Mamaceqtawuk Plaza between Mudd Library and the Wriston Art Center, was dedicated on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Once they see themselves, they kind of have that reinforcement that we’re here, and we’re always going to be here,” Taneya Garcia, a senior who is president of Lawrence University Native Americans (LUNA), said of Native students’ reaction to the sculpture.

7. Raising profile of Latin American composers

Natali Herrera-Pacheco and Horacio Contreras are leading the work of SOLA from Lawrence. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The level of talent and commitment from Lawrence faculty is always impressive. We’ve highlighted some of that through the year. The story of Horacio Contreras, a cello professor in the Conservatory, and his wife, Natali Herrera-Pacheco, a research and intern coordinator for SOLA, stands out. They launched SOLA (Strings of Latin America) to build catalogs, biographical materials, and pedagogic tools to help raise the visibility of Latin American composers in classical music. Their efforts are paying off, with catalogs for cello and viola now available, and more on the way. Lawrence students are working as SOLA interns to move the project forward.

“Society is made up of Hispanic and Black and Asian and South Asian and all these other populations,” Contreras said. “When they go to a concert, they want to see themselves represented as well.”

8. A classroom with a purpose

Students work together during an Introduction to Physics class in the remodeled Science Learning Commons in Youngchild Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Lawrence science faculty announced three years ago that they were launching an initiative to reimagine and remodel a lecture hall in Youngchild Hall to make it more inclusive and more engaging for intro-level STEM classes. With funding from donors through the Be the Light! Campaign and an assist from a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), they set out on a journey that would come to fruition at the outset of Fall Term 2021. We took a look at how this modern classroom moves STEM teaching forward and raises the bar across campus.

“We’re pushing some of our students out of their comfort zones intentionally,” chemistry professor Stefan Debbert said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2021: Arrival of a new president leads the way

President Laurie A. Carter speaks in front of Main Hall during a new student welcome event in September. Carter was named Lawrence’s 17th president in March and began her tenure July 1. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

From the early March announcement of a new president being named to Lawrentians doing amazing things on and off campus, there has been no shortage of Lawrence stories to tell in 2021.

The Lawrence community (and beyond) has been hungry to read about it every step of the way. We perused the analytics so we can share today the 20 most viewed stories of the year. The list includes new faces, creative approaches to the pandemic, and the brilliance of our students, faculty, and alumni.

If you missed a story earlier, take a look now. If you read it already, take another look as a reminder of the many reasons Lawrentians are brighter together.

1. Laurie A. Carter named 17th president of Lawrence University; begins July 1

“As a sitting president, I am well aware of the challenges facing higher education, but I know the Lawrence community is ready to work together to continue the traditions of excellence while ensuring a bright future for the students, the university, and the community.” – Laurie Carter

2. 10 new tenure-track faculty join Lawrence University for 2021-22 academic year

“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a talented, dedicated group of scholars to the Lawrence faculty. Our new colleagues will fortify strengths in existing academic programs and help us develop new areas of focus.” – Catherine Gunther Kodat

3. Lawrence debuts new athletics logo; Viking ship gives nod to school history

“The ship is the perfect illustration of our great campus, and having the antelope, shield, and LU all part of the design connects every corner of our campus. This is a logo for all who love and support LU; I believe it represents all of us.” – Tony Aker

4. Lawrence places high in value, teaching, first-year experience in U.S. News rankings

“Lawrence’s faculty are not only terrific scientists, artists, and scholars—they are also first-rate teachers. It’s extremely gratifying to see them receive this much-deserved national recognition for the extraordinary work they do with their students.” – Catherine Gunther Kodat

5. “Impressive” class welcomed to campus on busy opening day of student orientation

“This class has some of the strongest academic credentials we have seen in a long time. Considering that they have performed at such a high level while learning in the midst of a pandemic speaks volumes about the resilience and readiness of our newest Lawrentians. They are going to do great things.” – Ken Anselment

6. 17 things to know about No. 17: An introduction to President Laurie A. Carter

“I want to eat cheese curds; I want to do it all. Snowmobiling, too. I want to try that. I really just want to get a sense of the culture; the unique things about Wisconsin. I can’t wait. I’m very excited.” – Laurie A. Carter

7. Kenyon’s Robyn Bowers to join Lawrence as its new dean of admissions

“Lawrence’s rich liberal arts tradition, commitment to the arts, emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and welcoming community create an extraordinary learning environment.” – Robyn Bowers

8. Mayes joins Lawrence as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion

“To realize the unique value of a liberal arts education, you need to have an environment where people feel welcome, where people feel supported, where people can bring their authentic self to the classroom, to campus, and their presence and contributions are welcomed, valued, and celebrated.” – Eric Mayes

9. “Dedicated and richly talented:” 10 Lawrence University faculty earn tenure

“The breadth of ability and skill represented in this year’s tenure ‘class’ is truly extraordinary, both in terms of individual achievement and in how those achievements support our broader efforts to expand and enhance our curriculum to support diversity, inclusion, and excellence.” – Catherine Gunther Kodat

10. Lawrence lands on The Princeton Review’s 2022 list of best colleges in nation

“While being considered one of the best is great, we’re even more excited that The Princeton Review continues to acknowledge the important work we do every day on behalf of our students, which is providing top-notch preparation for a meaningful life after college, and doing so in a way that families can afford.” – Ken Anselment

11. Five retiring Lawrence faculty members to be honored at 2021 Commencement

“What was true when I arrived in 1998 is still true today—you have to ask the question ‘why?’ over and over, in every class you take. And that goes for the professors, too. The ‘why?’ question is the central one in critical thinking, which is the essence of the Lawrence experience.” – Jerald Podair

12. Great Midwest Trivia Contest carries on amid daunting obstacles, new rules

“It’s very difficult to balance the needs of the contest with this year’s restrictions, and, in some cases, we have had to make changes to trivia that go against tradition. Our main focus is making sure the contest happens this year and that it can be a positive experience for everyone.” – Grace Krueger ’21

13. Class of 2021 celebrated for courage, resilience: “You have shone brightly”

“Your responses have made you stronger, have tested your resolve, and have tempered you so that you will turn future challenges into opportunities. And you have validated the Lawrence experience as formative and essential to who you are, and who you will be.” – Dr. John Raymond

14. Lawrence’s beloved Rock is heading east, a gift to university’s departing president

OK, this one was a little bit of April’s Fools fun with departing President Mark Burstein. We were excited that people enjoyed it (if they read to the very end).

15. Pandemic canceled their sabbaticals; they channeled their rock star dreams instead

“The university stopped all travel. I was going to Scotland; Jake was going to Chicago. I also had a public art project that got canceled. My gallery shut down. The whole world shut down. That was the moment we realized, well, maybe we should record these tunes. We don’t have anything else to do.” – Rob Neilson

16. Lighting the Way With … Tom Coben: When Kimmel calls and statues dance

“I had a lot of very cool opportunities at Lawrence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing today if my professors hadn’t given me the ability to pursue my interests with as much freedom as they did.” – Tom Coben

17. Sculpture adds visibility to journey of Indigenous people; brings new conversations, reflection

“I would hope the Indigenous community here on campus would see it as a place to gather, to have as a physical symbol that they are being acknowledged, and to open those conversations up about how land was acquired and who was Indigenous to it and how do we begin to reconcile that with one another.” – Chris Cornelius

18. Building community: A study guide to Lawrence’s 2021-22 First-Year Studies

“I would like to suggest that our experience of the pandemic has thrown a new light on the works chosen for First-Year Studies. They continue to serve as an ambitious introduction to the liberal arts, but we can now see a strong sub-theme of community that runs throughout these works.” – Martyn Smith

19. “Raft of Stars,” Lawrence alumnus’ debut novel, arrives amid growing buzz

“Without Lawrence, I wouldn’t be writing, hands down. It was an interest of mine. I loved books; I always loved reading; I loved daydreaming. But it was at Lawrence where I thought, yes, I really want to try this. I got so much guidance from professors like David McGlynn and (former Lawrence professor) Faith Barrett and others that I couldn’t have done it without those years. It was absolutely informative.” – Andrew Graff

20. Reframing of a music major adds greater flexibility for Lawrence students

“The beauty of this major is that it welcomes a much broader variety of music and music makers into the Conservatory, and that’s great news and more great music for everyone.” – Brian Pertl

Bonus story: NIH fellowship lets Lawrence alum take her neuroscience research to new levels

“It wasn’t just my science course work at Lawrence that has deeply shaped my career as a scientist today. It was that experience of being in the double-degree program, having to constantly negotiate being in two different worlds.” – Katherine Meckel (This story isn’t in our 2021 top 20 yet, but it’s been our most-viewed story during December and is definitely worth reading.)

Read more: Best of 2021: We’re highlighting 8 stories that speak to resilience, creativity at Lawrence

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence at center of global efforts to raise profile of Latin American composers

Natali Herrera-Pacheco, the Lawrence/Sphinx research and intern coordinator and director of research for SOLA, and her husband, Horacio Contreras, associate professor of music at Lawrence and artistic director of SOLA, stand outside of Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Horacio Contreras was at a music workshop for high school students in South Carolina recently when a young cello player tapped him on the shoulder to offer a heartfelt thank you.

The student told Contreras he had been desperately searching for a piece of music with Latin American roots that he could incorporate into his cello repertoire. It was a search that in the past had been, if not impossible, surely daunting—not because classical music from Latin America doesn’t exist but because it is often unavailable through traditional publishing houses and poorly documented on the Internet.

Enter Contreras, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, and his wife, Natali Herrera-Pacheco. They launched SOLA (Strings of Latin America) three years ago to build catalogs, biographical materials, and pedagogic tools to help facilitate the use of the music and in the process raise the profile of Latin American composers. It picks up on work originally started by Germán Marcano, a Venezuelan cellist, teacher, and conductor.

SOLA, working with student interns from Lawrence and elsewhere, has now released online music catalogs for cello and viola, with others on the way.

The South Carolina teen, Contreras said, was thrilled to find the cello catalog, The Sphinx Catalog of Latin American Cello Works. “He said he wanted to say thanks because, ‘it was through your catalog that I found a piece that I really love and I am practicing it right now.’”

Contreras lights up at the mention of that exchange. As word of the catalogs spreads, so does interest in the classical music repertoire written by Latin American composers, whether it’s in the musical selections of a kid in South Carolina or in the concerts of a cello ensemble or an orchestra in a major music hall. The catalogs, built in partnership with The Sphinx Organization, are just a slice of what SOLA is looking to develop; music directories and video interviews also are in the works, and it’s all centered here in Appleton.

“People have reached out to us asking for presentations in different countries,” Contreras said. “We have done things in Peru, in Colombia, in Panama, in Puerto Rico, in Spain. We’ve been in Chicago. We’ve done workshops online.”

The web site cellobello.org, a leading site for cellists, has thrown its support behind SOLA, sharing the Sphinx Catalog of Latin American Cello Works as one of its resources, calling it a “comprehensive database, the most extensive source of its kind with more than 2,000 entries to date.”

Horacio Contreras works with first-year student Josue Koenig during a recent cello studio session in Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Contreras, SOLA’s artistic director, and Herrera-Pacheco, director of research, work closely with Sphinx, a social justice organization that has been addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music for more than two decades. SOLA was launched three years ago as an offshoot that could focus on building materials for strings music from Latin America.

“It gets at the larger issue of privilege,” Contreras said of SOLA’s mission.

He notes that the world of classical music has traditionally been dominated by European and American composers, and the major publishing houses traditionally support those known composers. Meanwhile, the resources in Latin America are much more limited. When music schools or band leaders or performance spaces seek out music, they most often go to where the information is readily available.

“There’s the problem of representation that arises from that,” Contreras said. “We know society is more complicated than that, than just European and American and white composers. Society is made up of Hispanic and Black and Asian and South Asian and all these other populations. When they go to a concert, they want to see themselves represented as well.”

Interns step up

Herrera-Pacheco heads up the day-to-day efforts of SOLA, overseeing the work of interns from several colleges, including Lawrence, as they research composers—some living, some not—and build profiles for the catalogs.

“In their activities, they not only get in touch with the music heritage from Latin America, they also learn about the challenge that comes when you actively work in the promotion of underrepresented repertoire,” Contreras said.

Two Lawrence interns have worked with Contreras and Herrera-Pacheco during recent summers. This year, they got funding for a Lawrence intern for the academic year as well, plus two more from Louisiana State University.

See more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music here.

Contreras, a celebrated cello player originally from Venezuela, has been on the Conservatory faculty in the cello studio since 2017. He taught for 10 years at Universidad de Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela, before receiving his doctor of musical arts in cello performance from the University of Michigan in 2016.

Herrera-Pacheco, also a trained cellist from Venezuela, was hired last year as the Lawrence/Sphinx research and intern coordinator. She praises Lawrence and the other participating schools for providing the resources to allow the work to happen.

“We are trying to work in two different spaces,” Herrera-Pacheco said of the interns. “One, the creation of those catalogs with information on these composers and making it available to everyone for free. But the other thing that is very important to us is to show the interns the sweet part and the hard part of finding information on these composers. Sometimes they can’t find any information. So, that’s the problem. It’s a problem of power. These composers don’t have profiles, they don’t have bios, they don’t have stories—all these things that here in the States we take for granted.”

The students then do the work of tracking composers through social media and other contacts as they begin to build profiles for use in the online catalogs.

Nora Briddell, a junior from McFarland who studies in Contreras’ cello studio at Lawrence, did a summer internship with SOLA that she called empowering.

“I am a double-degree student, studying cello performance and history, and I was really excited that the internship allowed me to bring my two interests together,” she said. “I also saw the internship as an opportunity to develop my own research skills.”

In Winter Term, Briddell will be performing a piece by Andres Soto, a Costa Rican composer she connected with as part of her summer research. It will be a featured part of her junior recital.

“I loved building personal relationships with living composers because it makes me feel connected to them and their music in a way that I don’t get to experience when I play music from the standard canonic repertoire,” she said.

Sarah Smith, a senior cello student from Wichita, Kansas, is working as a SOLA intern this term. She said being part of developing a long-needed resource has been both inspiring and eye-opening.

“It’s taught me the level of earnest patience you need when you’re working to make positive change,” she said. “Researching underrepresented composers isn’t often easy; you won’t always find what you need with a simple online search, or sometimes even with a thoughtful search in a library database. Sometimes you won’t even get an email back. … Nevertheless, I’ve learned the power of self-motivation and continual commitment to being the progress you want to see in your corner of the world.”

Contreras said he appreciates the enthusiasm the student interns have brought to the work of SOLA. That energy is contagious, and he hopes it helps draw prospective students to Lawrence who want to continue the work.  

“Knowing you can work side by side with people who are working to develop the most important resources for Latin American composers for strings; I think that’s appealing to students,” Contreras said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Former U.S. ambassador brings insights to Lawrence as visiting Scarff professor

Shaun Donnelly, Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor, speaks to students earlier this week in Dylan Fitz’s Effective Altruism class in Briggs Hall. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Shaun Donnelly ’68 says his message to Lawrence University students interested in careers with an international focus is a simple one.

You’re in the right place.

“My message is that I think a good liberal arts education is about the best preparation you can have for working internationally,” Donnelly said during a break from participating in economics and government class discussions as the Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor at Lawrence. “The world is constantly changing and you’ve got to be able to adjust.”

Donnelly forged a 36-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, retiring in 2008. He served as U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1997 to 2000, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and worked as deputy ambassador in Tunisia and Mali, among other positions. He spent 15 of those 36 years living and working abroad.

He is spending two weeks in October on the Lawrence campus, the latest in a line of distinguished public servants, professional leaders, and scholars who have shared insights and collaborated with students and faculty since the Scarff Professorship was established in 1989 by Edward and Nancy Scarff in memory of their son, Stephen. It is designed to bring civic leaders and scholars to Lawrence to provide broad perspectives on the central issues of the day.

Donnelly, who studied economics at Lawrence, worked on international economics and trade policies during much of his Foreign Service career and continues to work part-time as a consultant for the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). He said students today need to be aware that there will almost certainly be an international component to their work no matter the field they’re in.

Shaun Donnelly on liberal arts colleges preparing students to work internationally: “It’s a good training ground, I would argue.”

“They are going to be living in a world that’s going to be increasingly international,” Donnelly said. “They may think, oh, I’m going to work for a company like Kimberly-Clark or Caterpillar or something, but those are international companies. They’re competing with international companies and their markets are going to be increasingly outside of the U.S.”

He encouraged students to seek out international opportunities while in school, from studying foreign languages, to taking educational trips abroad, to attending events hosted by international students on campus.

Donnelly found his path into the U.S. Foreign Service while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Tunisia shortly after graduating from Lawrence in 1968. He took his first assignment during the administration of Richard Nixon and would work through seven presidents, retiring as George W. Bush was leaving office.

He said he leaned into his Lawrence education each step of the way as he climbed the ranks as a government servant, working in Senegal for two and a half years, Ethiopia for two years, Egypt for two years, Mali for two years, Tunisia for three years, and Sri Lanka for three years.

He quickly learned to navigate the world of government service when elections shuffle the players.

“Ninety percent of American foreign policy doesn’t change,” Donnelly said. “We’re doing visas for people coming, we’re out there trying to promote American companies, we’re looking for support at the UN for democracy. That doesn’t change. But you do see changes when a new administration comes in.”

Some administrations he worked through were more idealistic in their foreign policies, he said. Others were more pragmatic. As an employee of the government, you aren’t always going to agree with policies, but you have a job to do, he said.

“I quickly realized that I was not elected to make these policies,” Donnelly said. “We have a process. Government employees are basically paid to implement them. So, I say to young people all the time, if you are going to go work for the government—internationally or domestic—you need to know enough about yourself to know if you’re comfortable being a government servant.”

Donnelly is one of four Lawrence alumni who have been appointed U.S. ambassadors by presidents, joining Walter North ’72, U.S. ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Republic of Vanuatu from 2012 to 2016; Christopher Murray ’75, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of the Congo from 2010 to 2013; and David Mulford ’59, U.S. ambassador to India from 2004 to 2009.

“All of the traits that make someone successful in business or academia or journalism or whatever it is, you need all of those to succeed in international work,” Donnelly said. “But you also need to be culturally sensitive and be understanding and be intellectually curious about other cultures and free from quick value judgments. You have to be willing to try to understand the complexities of the international world.

“And I do think a good liberal arts college like Lawrence does that. It’s a good training ground, I would argue.”

Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, has been coordinating Donnelly’s visit to Lawrence, bringing him into courses ranging from International Law, to Intro to Political Science, to Effective Altruism. Donnelly also is meeting with students in the Career Center and talking with faculty.

He was initially due to be the Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor in Spring 2020, but that was postponed due to the pandemic. In Spring 2021, he and Brozek worked to split the duties of the position to accommodate the times. He spent a week with Brozek’s remote-synchronous Intro to International Relations class, and in May he delivered a remote public lecture titled “America’s Trade Mess: Who Caused it, and Can Biden Fix it?”

“Thanks to the support of the Scarff family over the last three decades, we’ve been able to connect students with ambassadors, diplomats, leaders of global nonprofits, and other experts in international affairs,” Brozek said.

Scarff visiting professors have included, among others, William Sloane Coffin Jr., civil rights and peace activist; Takakazu Kuriyama, former ambassador of Japan to the United States; George Meyer, former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Robert Suettinger ’68, Intelligence analyst and China policy expert; Russ Feingold, former U.S. senator from Wisconsin; and Nancy Hendry, international attorney fighting sexual exploitation.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to enrich our academic community and to make the work of international politics tangible and hands-on for multiple decades of Lawrentians,” Brozek said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Four national grants provide boost for LU faculty, bring more students into research

Julie Rana, assistant professor of mathematics, works with students in a Discrete Mathematics class in Briggs Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University faculty members—Julie Rana in Mathematics and Israel Del Toro in Biology—are the recipients of six-figure national grants that will further their research and bring more Lawrence students into the research process.

Two other faculty members—Lori Hilt ’97 in Psychology and Beth Zinsli ’02 in Art History— received five-figure national grants to enhance their work.

Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of faculty, said bringing in four national grants this fall speaks to the breadth of the high-level work being done by Lawrence’s faculty. It comes on the heels of Lawrence being named one of the best liberal arts colleges for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report.

“It’s wonderfully gratifying to see our faculty receiving national recognition for something we at Lawrence have always known—our faculty are gifted, dedicated teachers who are also engaged in ground-breaking scholarship across the full range of the liberal arts disciplines,” Kodat said. “Being able to count such accomplished individuals as colleagues is a true privilege.”

NSF math grant supports research, inclusive pedagogy

Rana, assistant professor of mathematics since 2017, was awarded a two-year grant of $192,905 through the National Science Foundation’s Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (LEAPS-MPS) program. It’s a first-time grant, awarded to pre-tenure faculty. It’s a huge accomplishment for Rana, with only 21 grants awarded across the country.

A portion of the grant will allow Rana to work on research in algebraic geometry related to moduli spaces, collaborating with math scholars in Europe, Chile, and elsewhere in the United States. The funding will allow her to hire four students in each of the next two summers to work with her on research in an area of math known as graph theory.

“The best part of this project is that students will join a community of peers working together on fun and interesting math problems,” Rana said. “Mathematics is a very collaborative discipline, and I’m just thrilled that I get to share that joy of collaboration with students over the next two summers.”

In addition, the grant will cover costs of work Rana is doing in developing math curriculum and support mechanisms aimed at making Lawrence’s mathematics, computer science, and data science programs more inclusive and accessible. She’s developing two new math courses—Mathematics and Community (developed in collaboration with senior Caitlyn Lansing), debuting in Winter Term, and Modern BIPOC Mathematicians, debuting next year—and organizing inclusive pedagogy reading groups among the faculty.

The grant is covering the costs of bringing two speakers to campus who have been significant voices in improving inclusivity in STEM fields. Both are women of color who have carved out impressive careers as math scholars and have authored or edited works aimed at widening the path into the mathematics field.

Emille Lawrence, an associate professor and chair of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of San Francisco, is expected to visit Lawrence in Winter Term, Rana said. She is the editor of the American Mathematical Society’s Math Mamas blog and co-edited Living Proof, a collection of essays featuring mathematicians of various identities sharing how they found communities and persevered through professional challenges.

Pamela E. Harris, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Williams College, is expected to visit during the 2022-23 academic year. She has been a leading voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields, math in particular. She co-founded Lathisms.org, a platform that features the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic math scholars, and co-hosts the podcast, Mathematically Uncensored. She’s the co-author of two books advocating for students of color in mathematics.

The NSF grant will allow for all of these initiatives to move forward at once.

“I worked hard to get this grant,” Rana said. “I’m really proud that I got it because there just aren’t very many of us who got it.”

Rana said the collaborations with other math scholars who are focused on algebraic geometry will take her research to another level. She’ll have the opportunity to travel to other institutions to work directly with her collaborators, and she’ll be able to bring some of them to Lawrence.

“Without this, I wouldn’t be able to go work with them in person,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to do math in person.”

Bee research focus of NSF grant

Israel Del Toro

Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology since 2016, was awarded a two-year, $199,957 EAGER grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance the research he’s doing on bee conservation. The grant will allow Del Toro to supersize his research, including bringing more students into the process.

Over the past five years, Del Toro has done extensive field work on pollinator habitats, advocating for bee conservation not only on campus but across the Fox Valley. This grant will allow him to take that work into a lab, investigating the varied reasons that bees are good pollinators. He’ll be collaborating with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, using microtomography (microCT) technology to take a closer look at the inner workings of bees.

“We are taking a look under the hood of a bee,” Del Toro said. “And really taking a peek to see why the internal parts of the bee allow them to be effective pollinators.”

Read more: Lawrence on front lines of bee advocacy

Del Toro will be using the microCT technology at UW. He and his students also will be doing experiments in the lab at Lawrence that relate to climate change.

“We’ll be doing thermal tolerance, figuring out how bees are affected as we increase and decrease temperature,” he said. “We want to see how increases and decreases in temperatures affect bee behavior and bee restoration and try to make predictions of how these populations would be affected in the future.”

Over the two years of the grant, eight Lawrence students will be able to join Del Toro in his research.

“I’m actively recruiting students who have interest in ecology or microscopy or pollinator biology,” he said. “Those are the students I’m looking to take on. We’re going to learn some really cool new things about pollinators, but also how to better protect our pollinators in light of climate change.”

Psychology grant to help build on adolescent rumination research

Lori Hilt

Hilt, an associate professor of psychology, received a subaward for more than $51,000 throughHarvard University from the National Institutes of Health. She will serve as an expert on adolescent rumination on a five-year clinical trial. It follows a three-year $368,196 grant she received from NIH in 2019 to study adolescent rumination and the development of a mobile app designed as a coping tool for young people.

Adolescent rumination refers to a mindset in which someone can’t get beyond the negative things that are happening around them. Where most kids will process something bad that has happened, react to it and then move on, an adolescent struggling with rumination will dwell on the negative information, stew on it until it consumes them, unable to let go.

Read more: 2019 NIH grant helps professor develop mental health app

“The new NIH grant is a really nice follow-up to my other NIH grant,” Hilt said. “In our previous grant research, we found that using a brief mindfulness mobile app intervention that we developed — known as the CARE app — reduced rumination and mental health symptoms relative to a mood-monitoring control condition. The new grant will similarly recruit ruminative teens and ask them to use a mindfulness mobile app, this time for one month using the Headspace app vs. a control condition.”

The primary study site is at Harvard’s McLean Hospital. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan will be done before and after the teens use the app.

“This will allow us to see whether a brief mindfulness intervention changes brain network patterns that have been associated with rumination,” Hilt said.

This grant will allow Hilt and other participants to take a personalized medicine approach by examining which teens benefit from mindfulness training.

“This is something that we started looking at in our other grant, and it offers a promising new approach to mental health—being able to know if a particular intervention will work before engaging in it,” Hilt said.  

NEH grant to provide insights into preserving Teakwood Room

Teakwood Room

Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, was awarded a $10,000 Preservation Assistance Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will provide a professional assessment of the Teakwood Room and its contents so that Lawrence knows best how to steward the room going forward.

Zinsli called the room “a university treasure and a distinctive piece of global material culture” that needs careful attention.

“The recommendations from the assessment report will allow LU to steward the room and its objects responsibly and expand access to the space,” she said.

Read more: Teakwood Room among the treasures of Lawrence

The Teakwood Room, located in Chapman Hall, was originally built by American artist and architect Lockwood de Forest in Alice Chapman’s Milwaukee home. After Chapman died in 1935, the Teakwood Room was placed in Chapman Library on the Milwaukee-Downer campus and used for receptions, poetry readings, and chamber music. When Lawrence and Downer consolidated in 1964, members of the Downer community asked that the room be preserved. The room was carefully disassembled and stored in a warehouse until 1968, when it was reassembled at Lawrence.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this content are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, or the National Science Foundation.”

B.M.A. degree opens path for Conservatory students with a passion for bluegrass

Tashi Litch performs during LUaroo in May 2021. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University sophomore Tashi Litch is a mandolin player with a passion for bluegrass music and a deep curiosity about the world.

So, when the Orcas Island, Washington, native set out to select a college, he had two priorities in mind. He sought a music conservatory willing to nurture his bluegrass skills, and he sought a college that would allow him to explore academic subjects across the liberal arts. He found what he was looking for in Lawrence’s Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) degree, launched three years ago with a focus on jazz and improvisational music but open to almost any genre of music. Its 50-50 split between music courses in the Conservatory and non-music courses in the college gave him what he needed.

Litch is now one of more than 30 students who have come to Lawrence via the B.M.A. program since it launched in 2019.

“Lawrence was one of the few that has a college and a conservatory and allows students to participate in both,” he said. “That was pretty important to me, to be able to study music at a high level and also be able to take liberal arts college courses. That’s what drew me in.”

Lawrence students dance at LUaroo to the bluegrass sounds of the foursome now known as The Woebegones.

A love of bluegrass

Since arriving at Lawrence, Litch has found his interest in bluegrass nurtured, embraced alongside the classical and jazz repertoire that has long been the Conservatory’s calling card.

He connected almost immediately with a fellow B.M.A. student from Washington state, Evan Snoey, a fiddle player who shares his deep love of bluegrass.

“We knew each other from out in Washington,” Litch said. “He is a year ahead of me and he had felt out the scene here and knew a few players. When I got here, I said, ‘We have to do something, we’ve got to play some bluegrass.’”

That led them to Dominic LaCalamita, a B.M.A. student from Naperville, Illinois, and Ian Harvey, a music and philosophy double major from Seattle. Together they became The Woebegones (they were earlier known as Highcliff).

Evan Snoey

Coached by Matt Turner, a music instructor in the Conservatory, the foursome has been pushing the boundaries, turning a Billie Eilish song into a bluegrass tune, covering a song by The Strokes, and embracing the progressive bluegrass sounds of the Punch Brothers. They’re also playing some bluegrass standards and have a couple of originals in their set.

They’re getting a chance to show their skills on a big stage during the first weekend of October. The foursome has been invited to perform at the annual IBMA World of Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. They’ll be performing as the Lawrence University Bluegrass Band as part of Saturday’s College Band Showcase.

Litch had connections with some of the festival organizers after having played the festival in his youth as part of a Kids on Bluegrass collective.

“I thought it might be cool to put our names in and see if we can go out there to play,” Litch said. “And here we are. We’re going to be doing an hour-long set on one of the big stages.”

Litch said he grew up playing the fiddle and then the mandolin. He tagged along to jam sessions with his musical family and spent much of his free time trying to emulate the skills of mandolinist Chris Thile. He hit the road during recent summers to play at bluegrass festivals as a duo with his brother.

Now studying at Lawrence and playing in a quartet with other talented music students is raising his game, he said.

“I’m used to playing with a duo, so having the four-piece band was a really different dynamic for me,” he said. “It’s really exciting. There are so many more possibilities and directions we can go with that. I love the more high-energy type of bluegrass that you can do with four of us.”

A beautiful fit with B.M.A.

That’s sweet music to Turner, who has worked closely with the bluegrass foursome while also welcoming B.M.A. students focused on jazz, electronic music, punk, mariachi, global music, and songwriting. They are students looking for high-level music and theory instruction but through a lens of their own choosing.

“I think I can safely say that most of these students would not have come to Lawrence if the B.M.A had not been here,” Turner said. “We’re very excited about all of these students. They’re really good musicians and they’re great scholars, which is an important part of the B.M.A. because it’s a 50-50 split between non-music and music courses.”

Mariachi Ensemble finds a home in the Conservatory

Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, said it’s no coincidence that three of the four members of the bluegrass band are seeking B.M.A. degrees. They are following a path that was envisioned when the program was first rolled out.

“Although the specific track in the B.M.A. degree is called Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, the program welcomes students interested in a broad range of contemporary music styles,” Pertl said. “The common thread is that all of our students, no matter their primary focus, are musically curious, collaborative, and boundary-crossing. These students have brought bluegrass in as another prominent voice in our multi-faceted musical community, so they really are a perfect fit for Lawrence and the B.M.A. program.”

Litch said he has felt that love since the day he brought his mandolin to campus.

“I’ve been able to improve my skills as a musician technically, but also my theory understanding, especially with jazz theory, which complements bluegrass and makes me a more well-rounded musician,” he said.

“The whole ethos of the B.M.A. program is that anyone is welcome,” Litch added. “So, for me, with bluegrass, it’s been great. It’s been really supported.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence places high in value, teaching, first-year experience in U.S. News rankings

Four days of New Student Orientation led into today’s opening of the Fall Term at Lawrence University. U.S. News and World Report lists Lawrence among the best schools in the nation for first-year experiences. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is once again ranked among the best colleges in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

In addition to being included in the 2022 Best Colleges report, placing No. 62 among the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, Lawrence placed high on four other lists that are part of the annual rankings:

No. 36: Best Value

No. 44: Best Undergraduate Teaching

No. 54: Best First-Year Experiences

No. 167: Top Performers on Social Mobility

Released today, the rankings come as Lawrence opens its 2021-22 academic year amid the excitement of having all of its students back on campus.

Class of 2025 welcomed as new academic year begins

“We are, of course, happy to be recognized once again among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications. “That US News bestowed upon Lawrence a bouquet of additional rankings about the quality of our educational environment makes this year’s ranking season that much sweeter.”

Lawrence moved up one spot in the ranking of liberal arts colleges and maintained its No. 36 ranking for Best Value among liberal arts colleges. The latter speaks to Lawrence’s push to make more need-based aid available in the form of grants and scholarships, bolstered by a Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) campaign that has now raised more than $91 million.

To be considered for U.S. News’ Best Value Schools listing, a school first had to be ranked among the Best Colleges in the nation. Those qualifying schools were then examined on the basis of net cost of attendance and available need-based financial aid.

Placement on the other lists, meanwhile, is particularly gratifying because they each reflect ongoing efforts to make Lawrence more inclusive and to provide a broad, holistic student experience.

Being on the list for Best Undergraduate Teaching is heartening because it speaks to the relationship-building that comes with Lawrence’s 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and the expansion of key academic programs.

“Lawrence’s faculty are not only terrific scientists, artists, and scholars—they are also first-rate teachers,” said Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of faculty. “It’s extremely gratifying to see them receive this much-deserved national recognition for the extraordinary work they do with their students.”

Lawrence has added or strengthened academic programs in, among other areas, music, data science, computer science, creative writing, neuroscience, psychology, environmental science, and global studies. In some cases, majors or minors were launched. In other instances, endowed professorships were added as part of the recently concluded Be the Light! Campaign.

The First-Year Experiences ranking is new for Lawrence this year. It follows efforts across campus to enhance the student life experience in a holistic way, including more coordinated health and wellness outreach, the launch and growth of the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, the expansion of the Center for Academic Success, and the more intentional focus of the Career Center in connecting with students in their first year on campus. That has all played into first-year students having positive experiences as they transition to college life.

“You join a community of scholars who are ready to engage you, befriend you, teach you, and learn from you,” Christopher Card, vice president for student life, said last week as Lawrence welcomed the Class of 2025 to campus. “We are a community that’s interested in the whole person, not just the academics. … Fundamentally, all of us are here to learn—with each other and from each other.”

The Top Performers on Social Mobility list speaks to the success of a college advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating economically disadvantaged students who are awarded Pell Grants. The majority of those federal grants are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family incomes are below $50,000.

The U.S. News announcement marks the second significant national college ranking that Lawrence has landed on in the past two weeks. On Aug. 31, The Princeton Review listed Lawrence as one of the best colleges in the nation, including the university in its annual Best 387 Colleges for 2022 guide. Lawrence was included on several separate lists within the Princeton Review ranking—Best Value Colleges, Best Green Colleges, and Best Midwestern Colleges.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence lands on The Princeton Review’s 2022 list of best colleges in nation

Main Hall on the Lawrence University campus. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is again listed as one of the best colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. It’s also included in several separate lists within the ranking—Best Value Colleges, Best Green Colleges, and Best Midwestern Colleges.

The Best 387 Colleges for 2022 highlights the top colleges based on data and feedback the education services company annually collects on everything from academic offerings to financial aid to student experiences. The book was released Aug. 31.

“At a time when students are searching for institutional strength and quality, we appreciate that The Princeton Review has once again recognized Lawrence University as one of the best colleges in the country,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications.

Only about 14% of the nearly 2,800 eligible four-year colleges make the Best book each year. Published each August and focused on undergraduate education, it has been an annual resource for prospective students since its debut in 1992. The book does not rank the schools within the list of 387.

See more on Lawrence admissions here.

Information on Lawrence application process here.

The Green College ranking speaks to the work Lawrence has done on sustainability and reducing the school’s carbon footprint.

The Best Value designation, meanwhile, is based on stellar academics, affordable cost with financial aid factored in, and strong career prospects for graduates, according to Princeton Review editors.

Showing up on the Best Value list is particularly heartening, Anselment said. It not only speaks to the academic offerings that make Lawrence such a draw, but it also highlights two huge, ongoing investments—the launch of the Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) campaign to make the school more accessible and the retooling of the Career Center as part of a Life After Lawrence initiative.

While average student loan debt has continued to rise across the country, Lawrence’s numbers have been going down, fueled by the $91 million that has been raised in the FSFN campaign. Those funds have augmented other available financial aid and scholarships. The average student debt for Lawrence graduates has dropped to $29,118, its lowest mark in 10 years. It hit a high mark of $34,573 in 2015–16 and has dropped steadily each year since. The percentage of Lawrence’s students graduating with debt has dropped to 56%, well below the 75% a decade ago.

“While being considered one of the best is great, we’re even more excited that The Princeton Review continues to acknowledge the important work we do every day on behalf of our students, which is providing top-notch preparation for a meaningful life after college, and doing so in a way that families can afford,” Anselment said.

The Princeton Review report lauded Lawrence for its “stunning 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, which means students have access to their professors at all times.” It also praised Lawrence for its robust international student population, its impressive First-Year Studies program, and its “holistic approach to the admissions game.”

The Princeton Review’s school profiles and ranking lists in The Best 387 Colleges are posted at www.princetonreview.com/best387 where they can be searched for free with site registration.

The Best 387 Colleges is the 30th annual edition of The Princeton Review’s best colleges book.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence launches new Health and Society minor, with focus on health disparities

The Health and Society minor will dig deep into issues and complexities that shape individual and public health, from food sourcing to social inequities.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has introduced a new Health and Society minor that will explore the intersection of human health and global social inequities.

The program, drawing on faculty expertise from social, cultural, biological, and environmental fields across campus, will be available to students beginning in Fall Term. It can be paired with any major and will provide important preparation for students eyeing health- or social justice-related careers or graduate school programs, said Beth De Stasio, the Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and professor of biology.

The minor isn’t only about health care; rather, it’s focused on all of the complex issues that shape individual and population health.

“It brings together courses from across the humanities, social and natural sciences to give students a more holistic understanding of the origins of health, illness, and disability, including origins of the disparities in health and health outcomes we see in this country and across the globe,” De Stasio said.

More on the Health and Society minor can be found here

Students pursuing the Health and Society minor will take classes across fields such as anthropology, ethnic studies, and philosophy. They will examine their own experiences working with vulnerable populations and explore career paths that empower them to make a difference in people’s lives.

The minor will include one course that places health in a global or community setting; two courses covering cultural and psychosocial aspects of health and illness or disability; two courses focused on the biological, biochemical, or environmental aspect of human health; one course that facilitates career exploration and self-reflection; and an option for 100 hours of engaged learning.

It will allow students the space to learn about the complexities and complications tied to health and the varied factors at play—from privilege and discrimination to food systems and infrastructure.

The new minor represents a liberal arts approach to a complicated, important area of study, said Mark Jenike, associate professor of anthropology.

“They often seek out and demand rich, complicated understandings of outcomes using tools from across the curriculum,” he said of Lawrence students. “The Health and Society minor gives them an opportunity to do so specifically in the realm of health. We hope that the broader and deeper understanding of why health disparities exist, both locally and globally, that they gain from the minor will help to make them more empathetic, critical, and ultimately more effective health care providers in their chosen field.”

One newly developed course brings it all together with a focus on career exploration tied to health. Alumni who are working in related fields will be integrated into the teaching of the course to share their wisdom and experiences with students, De Stasio said.

“It will allow students the time and intention to undertake exploration of the wide variety of career paths within the field of health care, as well as provide a facilitated discernment process in which their values and skills can be matched against various types of career paths,” she said.

In addition to the classroom work, faculty will work with students in pursuit of internships, paid employment, or volunteer work related to health care delivery, health care policy, or related work with vulnerable populations.

“I think health-interested students will be drawn to the minor because it is distinctive,” Jenike said. “And that’s the point of coming to Lawrence in the first place, right?”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu