Masha Gessen was up front that there would be no answers in this
address. Only questions, be they political, socio-economic or otherwise.
The Russian-American journalist and author, delivering the winter term Convocation Thursday morning at Lawrence University’s Memorial Chapel, told the gathering of mostly faculty, students, and staff that in order to find answers to society’s most perplexing problems, we must first challenge our assumptions of what we think we know and then imagine a better world, a better way to connect the dots.
In other words, think. And think deeply.
Gessen is the author of more than a dozen books, including the National Book Award-winning The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Two more books are in the works, one coming this summer focused on the three years of the Trump presidency, and another that is still a work in progress on imaginative political projects around the world and what we can learn from them.
It was the latter that was the focus of Gessen’s Convocation address, “The Parallel Polis.” It was the second of three Convocations in Lawrence’s 2019-20 series.
A staff writer at the New Yorker and an instructor at Amherst College, Gessen is a native of Russia, relocating to the United States at the age of 14.
Some things, Gessen said, seem so straightforward, so automatic, that we stop questioning it, stop thinking about it. It was an assumption about the former Soviet Union that kicked off the conversation that is now leading to the coming book.
“It started with this assumption I was raised with that I never, ever
questioned,” Gessen said. “The assumption was that, not only communism and the
communist idea, but any utopian idea would always lead to totalitarianism.”
Perhaps. But perhaps there are other ways to think about it, pieces to pull from it, ideas to reimagine in a different context. Can we challenge ourselves to dive deep and explore whether our assumptions are indeed correct and absolute?
Gessen talked about reporting around the world, from a community-based urban farm in Detroit to experiments with universal basic income in Finland, all as imaginative political projects aimed at upsetting the paradigm.
“I wasn’t looking for projects that were solving a specific problem. I
wasn’t writing about the problem itself. I was looking for very disparate
projects that were united by the commitment to imagining something different.”
Gessen said people working on some of these projects had a difficult
time telling their stories, in part because they were imagining something that
didn’t yet exist. They didn’t have a language to make sense of it, so they
struggled to articulate their vision.
“It got me thinking about different ways to think about imagination,
which was my ultimate topic,” Gessen said. “How do we talk about things that we
haven’t invented yet?”
Imaginative thinking is where real political change happens, Gessen
In late 2011, early 2012, when Russia was reeling in economic turmoil and there were mass protests and talk about the fate of Vladimir Putin, Gessen started pondering imaginative thinking, or the lack thereof. No one could really imagine what would come next in Russia should Putin be gone.
“The intellectual work of imagining what would happen after is actually
political work,” Gessen said. “It’s essential for something to be able to move forward.
But how do you imagine something that you don’t know, and then sort of will it
More questions. All the more important to think about at what Gessen
called “this particularly vexing moment in history.”
The answers won’t ever come easy.
“I think things that are right in one place are really wrong in
another, which is not to say everything is relative,” Gessen said. “It’s not.
But it is to say there probably aren’t universal recipes. But what’s useful is
figuring out what your assumptions are and thinking really hard about those
assumptions and doing some experimenting in your mind.”
Ed Berthiaume is the director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
The D-Term course Entrepreneurship in London: From the Mayflower to Brexit featured a variety of different aspects of entrepreneurship, both contemporary and historical.
Additionally, we explored different types of entrepreneurial ventures including: private for-profit, social not-for-profit, and public/ private partnerships. A significant portion of the course was devoted to the regeneration of economic activity for parts of London that had deteriorated and fell into disuse and then have benefited from unique entrepreneurial initiatives. Students selected initiatives to explore in an oral presentation and often revisited these sites.
Our Lawrence traveling classroom was led by two faculty — Marty Finkler and Claudena Skran — and included 10 students representing majors in music, philosophy, art history, biology, psychology, government, economics, theatre arts, and global studies.
We arrived in the Rotherhithe area of south London just after Thanksgiving. The group began with a historic tour of the area, learning about the launch of the Mayflower ship in 1620, and the many connections between seafaring and the subsequent development of the community. At the Brunel Museum, its founder, Robert Hulse, stressed that we were standing inside the tunnel that made possible the very first underground train system in the entire world. Students also celebrated a public theatre event, starring members of the Bubble Theatre group, and volunteered with community members at Time and Talents, one of the oldest social enterprises in the area.
From Rotherhithe, the group moved further east to the Docklands area of London, which thrived in the 18th and 19th century and part of the 20th century but lapsed into abandonment by the early 1970s with the rise of large container ships that the Thames River was not deep enough to accommodate. The globalization of the production and trade in material goods further diminished the economic viability of east London in general and Docklands in particular.
As finance for such globalization became a new source of income for London, the city began to expand, but central London could not cost-effectively provide the space needed for such expansion. This led to the development of Canary Wharf, which one of our speakers (Ralph Ward) actively participated in. He briefly described this high rise lavish commercial and financial sector development as well as the need for less lavish housing in east London.
Ward led us on a walk that literally went across the tracks to one of the poorest neighborhoods of London known as Poplar, where he introduced us to Danny Tompkins, who heads Poplar HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association). Tompkins led us around the area and explained how Poplar HARCA regenerated housing opportunities for its residents through a mix of private and public funds and developments. He pointed out the controversy related to selling some of the land for private development in order to have funds for social housing.
The following day we focused on another regeneration effort in the Docklands known as the Canada Water project. This new project envisions a buildout of commercial and residential developments over the next 10 to 20 years. The project director, Roger Madelin gave us an in depth tour of the area, which already features a significant increase in activity around the Canada Water transit station and some of its entertainment venues. Madelin showed us a physical model of the development and explained the different influences and problems that needed to be resolved to complete the project.
Madelin previously led the development of the regeneration of Kings Cross, another area we explored in depth. Kings Cross had fallen into disrepair and disrepute as industrial activities left London in the second half of the 20th century. The development over the past decade took advantage of the two major transportation centers (Kings Cross and St. Pancras) to provide significant office space for Google, Facebook, and Nike as well as many commercial activities. For the most part, these commercial venues now serve upper income groups.
A guide at the Visitors’ Centre provided us with an overview of the history and prospects for the development. On their own, students then explored the fascinating architecture of the new buildings before getting together for lunch and discussion of their observations.
After 10 days in London, we headed to Oxford, to consider how both innovation and entrepreneurship have shaped this historic university town. Students visited the Oxford Foundry, a hub for start-ups, attended a talk by Dr. Evan Easton-Calabria at the Refugee Studies Centre on humanitarian aid, and had lunch with Gil Loescher, the distinguished professor who was awarded an honorary degree from Lawrence.
The student experience
Samantha Torres ’20 was among the students taking part in the D-Term class in London. She shared some of her observations:
I participated in the London Centre program in the Fall of 2018. I had no idea when I’d return, but when I saw the opportunity to go back during D-Term, I knew I had to go back. However, what I thought would become an add-on to my past experience became a stand alone, standout program that offered a completely different taste of London that could only be obtained through insider connections.
Having both professors who’ve previously lived in London made it truly one of a kind and remarkably immersive. Alongside tours, we experienced the idiosyncrasies that make up London. From learning about the inception of the Mayflower to the current debates on Brexit, my cohort was able to identify the complexities that continue to define one of the oldest cities in the world.
During my time at Lawrence, I’ve found the most impactful experiences have been those of the traveling classroom. I’ve had the fortune of traveling to London and Jamaica with Professor Skran, a big advocate for this unconventional learning. And I couldn’t agree with her more. The traveling classroom model has taught me that there are intangible lessons that cannot be learned through lectures or textbooks.
Life lessons I’ve learned were ones that provided personal development and an independence that traditional classroom settings simply can’t challenge you to do. There’s a whole world out there, and sometimes you need to experience it to learn from it. As a Lawrentian, we are encouraged to go beyond. Because of the traveling classroom, I’ve been able to go beyond places I could ever imagine.
Marty Finkler is the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the American Economic System and a professor of economics, and Claudena Skran is the Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and a professor of government.
Watching college students enthusiastically play Mortal Kombat II on Sega Genesis controllers while friends look on — minus blood mode but with plenty of talk of cheat codes and jump punches — might put you squarely in a dormitory circa 1994.
This is the Kruse Room on the fourth of floor of Lawrence University’s Mudd Library, and it’s early December 2019. The eight students taking turns on the sofa are duking it out in a video game that is considered a classic, but one that 25 years after its release for home play is a bit primitive when compared to the slick graphics and realistic play of today’s most popular games. It’s part of a history lesson these Lawrence students are happily absorbing in History of Video Games: 1977-1996, a D-Term course being taught for the third time by reference and learning technologies librarian and assistant professor Angela Vanden Elzen.
“I did not grow up playing pretty much any video games,”
said Miriam Syvertsen ’22, a mathematics major from Madison who is among the
students who signed up for the two-week D-Term class. “But, and this is going
to sound really nerdy, I like analyzing cultural products and the cultures they
come from. Video games are cultural products and I really just like watching
and studying the progressions.”
Fall Term at Lawrence ended in late November. Most students headed home for a five-week break before Winter Term begins. But a couple dozen students signed up for D-Term — or December Term — classes, some for this one on video game history, some for a class exploring entrepreneurship in London, and others for a class on improved learning and memory.
Video games as scholarship
The Vanden Elzen class isn’t just an excuse to play old-school
video games. This is about exploring the history and influence of the gaming
world over the past four decades. Other pop culture mediums such as movies and
television have long been in the mix for scholarly exploration; video games not
so much. But that has started to change.
“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to create this class,” Vanden
Elzen said. “Working in the library, I noticed more and more video game
scholarship coming out, and it was all very interesting and coming from so many
different academic disciplines. It was coming from media studies, it was coming
from gender studies, it was coming from history, from computer science.”
Vanden Elzen taught the D-Term class in 2016, 2017, and now 2019. Come Winter Term in the 2020-21 academic year, she and Film Studies support coordinator Jose Lozano will co-teach a new course, Introduction to Game Studies, that will be added to the Film Studies curriculum.
“That course has been a long time in the making,” Vanden
She said she first started pondering such a class in the
late 2000s. A visiting teaching fellow had offered a couple of courses focused
on virtual worlds. Those classes, Vanden Elzen said, drew interest from the
Gaming Club on campus and sparked an idea that eventually led to the D-Term video
game course and now the expanded gaming course coming a year from now.
“It really resonates with some students, being able to study one of their passions,” she said.
For Amy A. Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor, the introduction of the new class simply takes the curriculum where the students already are. Students have been pursuing new media projects for independent studies and capstones for several years now, an indication that there was an appetite for this type of course.
“Visual culture is one of the strongest and most pervasive influences on our contemporary culture, and film and video is just one component of that influence,” Ongiri said. “We want to explore as many aspects of visual culture as possible within our program. The new game studies class will help us expand the focus we already have in new media studies in classes offered by John Shimon and Anne Haydock. It will allow students to engage not only in the act of creating games but also to understand their aesthetic and cultural importance through the study of the history and theory of games.”
A two-week immersion
The D-Term class is broken into two parts each day. For the
first hour, the class studies a particular slice of video game history,
analyzing media from the time and digging into how gaming has influenced
societal trends and cultural debates. The second hour is spent in the Kruse
Room, where the students play selected games from yesteryear on the consoles
that existed at the time the games came out. An analysis of the game follows.
In advance of Monday’s Mortal
Kombat II gaming session, the class discussed violence in video games, the
earliest games that introduced fighting, and the development, for better or
worse, of the video game rating system.
“Growing up, I always played a lot of these old-school video
games, and it’s just interesting to study them from a more historical
perspective,” said Dylan McMurray ’22, a neuroscience major from Chicago.
“There was an article we read about the parallels in video
game subjects and what was happening in world politics at the time — the Cold
War, nuclear weapons crisis, and terrorist attacks like 9/11, and the trend
toward first-person shooter games,” Syvertsen said. “It’s just really
interesting, and getting a little bit of literacy about video games because I
did not grow up with them is really helpful.”
Vanden Elzen launches her D-Term course in and around 1977,
when video games began to emerge in the mainstream. She takes the class in
fairly rapid order through the rise and fall of Atari — Space Invaders, anyone? — early video game marketing, the crash of
1983, high-stakes battles between Sega and Nintendo, the use of music and sound
in games, early sports franchises, ties to movie themes, the introduction and
evolution of violence in video games, gender and other representation, the
development of marketable characters, and more.
“Video games have been such a major part of our culture in the United States and worldwide for a really long time,” said Vanden Elzen, a dedicated gamer herself. “Just by studying the games it gives us insight into that time when the game was released. Games can provide so much insight. They are so immersive and they can be such interesting forms of art and creativity.
“It’s important to study video game history to really understand where we’ve come from with video game technology, content, representation, narrative, and how that ties in with our culture and society. It tells us a little about ourselves.”
Eyes got a little wide when Jason Brozek told his Government
425: War & Pop Culture students they’d be researching, scripting, and
recording a series of podcasts during fall term.
Fallon Sellers ’20 just smiled and nodded.
The Lawrence University senior, one of about 20 students in the class, knew the drill, having done a podcast in the spring in Brozek’s Environmental Justice class and already being deep into a podcast in Linnet Ramos’ fall term Psychopharmacology & Behavior class.
“I was able to be a little reassuring to everybody else,” Sellers
Welcome to the world of classroom podcasting.
As the popularity of podcasts has exploded over the past few years and the technology for recording and sharing podcasts has been streamlined, professors have increasingly turned to the format as an alternate means of research and study in their classes. Instead of an end-of-term paper being due, students are showcasing what they’ve learned by creating episodes of podcasts that will in many cases be accessible to anyone who wants to listen.
At Lawrence, the creation of podcasts as part of coursework is becoming more frequent. Brozek and Ramos are the latest, but they are far from alone. Marcia Bjornerud in geosciences, Brigid Vance in history, and Israel Del Toro in biology, among others, have all experimented with podcasting in their classes.
“First, the barrier to entry is low,” Jedidiah Rex, a designer on Lawrence’s Instructional Technology staff, said of the increase in podcast usage as a teaching strategy. “The tools necessary to create podcasts are easy to use. Second, podcasting makes use of writing skills but offers an opportunity for students to express creativity. There is a pedagogical value in students doing this work.”
Podcast numbers keep growing
According to a survey from Edison Research and Triton Digital, released earlier this year, the percentage of U.S. residents 12 and older who have listened to a podcast at least once surpassed 50% for the first time. That milestone marks a “watershed moment” for podcasting, Edison Senior Vice President Tom Webster wrote in a blog entry about the report.
“With over half of Americans 12+ saying that they have
listened to a podcast, the medium has firmly crossed into the mainstream,” he
Brozek said he was intrigued to incorporate podcasts into
his teaching in part because it gives his students a chance to create something
that can be shared much wider. Topics his students are exploring in the areas
of environmental justice and war and pop culture have potential audiences
across the globe.
“They’re out there,” Brozek said of the eight episodes on environmental justice his students did in spring term. “When I go through my podcast app, they are just in my list of podcasts along with the other things I listen to. I like the idea that they’re available for a much wider community.”
In the process, the students are learning technical skills,
writing strategies, script creation, interviewing techniques, and copyright
laws, all valuable things no matter what career path they might be eyeing.
“I thought this was a way we could keep expanding the quiver of professional skills that we’re trying to help students learn,” Brozek said.
They’re also learning and discussing privacy topics — putting yourself in the public conversation, and what that means. That’s an issue professors using podcast technology need to navigate.
“One of the challenges of doing public-facing scholarship in classes is that students have reasonable privacy concerns, but we can always find a way to work within those boundaries,” Brozek said. (To that end, the release of some or all of the podcasts created in the War and Pop Culture class will be held until early in winter term to make sure all participants are comfortable with the process).
While most of the students in the Brozek and Ramos classes
were new to creating their own podcasts, most had long been consumers of the
“Podcasts are ubiquitous, consumed by this generation, and
it’s a genre that they largely already understand,” said Andrew McSorely, a
reference and digital librarian in Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library. “It’s not
a huge leap to apply it to the classroom, and, generally speaking, it’s as easy
to set up and get students to engage with as a blog. Because of that, it’s hard
to say how many classrooms are utilizing podcast assignments, but there’s no
question that more instructors have asked about this technology in the library
the past few years.”
Finding an audience
The appeal comes as podcasts have transitioned from the
domain of sports and pop culture to something that can find niche audiences in
almost any sector.
“Where once it was distinctly for entertainment purposes, it
now can hold scholarship and be taken seriously,” McSorely said. “For content
creators in the academy, this serves as a way to engage with new audiences, and
for undergraduates, it’s a means of expression that can seem more natural than
a traditional essay.”
In Ramos’ psychopharmacology course, the students, working
in groups of three to five, are recording video podcasts where they explain,
critique, and discuss research articles on a specific drug. The episodes are being
made available on the class’s
new YouTube channel.
“Often times in classes, students read an article, create a
PowerPoint presentation that describes it and mention a couple of ideas on how
it can be improved,” Ramos said. “But rarely do I get to hear how students felt
after reading the article or get to hear their opinions on why it matters, what
they learned from it, how it can impact other sciences or society.”
In Brozek’s War & Pop Culture class, the students have dug
into topics ranging from post-nuclear apocalypse to how terrorism is depicted
in the media to the use of propaganda to influence audiences during wartime.
Doing that in a podcast allows not only for substantial research but also
“Part of what they’re required to do in the podcast is bring
in academic scholarship,” Brozek said as the fall term course got rolling.
“This new course is designed around thinking about the way political science
scholars write about and think about issues related to war, like terrorism,
extraordinary, exceptional circumstances, torture, things like that. Think
about the way political science crafts narratives and asks and answers
questions and the way pop culture crafts those narratives — where they may have
some overlap, where there are differences, what those differences mean, how
concerned we ought to be about the differences.
“If (pop culture) is where most people are getting their
perspective on terrorism, what does it look like and how consistent is it with
the political science literature? So, those are the kind of questions we’re
asking in this course.”
For the students, that kind of scholarship isn’t out of the
ordinary. Academic work is almost always question-driven. But channeling that
work through a podcast takes it in a different direction. That is where
excitement meets anxiety, Sellers said.
“Most of the anxiety comes with just learning the technical
stuff,” she said. “A podcast is essentially just a conversation. You’re talking
through something with your peers. That’s pretty natural to do. I don’t think
that’s the hard part. The daunting part was I didn’t have any experience with
the computer-related things, the audio techniques, and learning how to use
Audacity and how to navigate that.”
Learning those technical skills and related communication
skills will pay off later as students enter the job market with a wider breadth
of knowledge and know-how. For Sellers, a government major, that’s no small
“Media is so pertinent in our society, and I think it’s so
important that higher education is also moving along with that, and we’re
learning how to adapt,” she said. “Being able to go into a job and say, ‘Hey,
I’m able to produce a podcast, I know how to use these techniques,’ I think people
are generally pretty excited about that.
“By the end of my Lawrence career, I will have done podcasts
on the dairy industry, on pedagogy and propaganda in pop culture and on opioids
and how they impact social behavior,” Sellers said. “So, it’s very Lawrence,
and very well-rounded.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
John Huber ’84, a professor of political science at Columbia University, will deliver a talk Tuesday on the rise of populist appeals that focus on “identity politics.”
Huber will present his talk as part of Lawrence’s Povolny Lecture Series in International Studies. The talk, Trump, Le Pen and Brexit: Inequality and Right-wing Populism, will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Wriston Art Center at Lawrence. It is free and open to the public.
democracies around the world, there has been a rise in populist appeals that
focus on “identity politics,” with a strong voting component based on race,
religion, ethnicity and/or national identity, Huber says. This phenomenon
influenced the election of President Donald Trump, the Brexit vote, the support
for Marine Le Pen in France and the rise of right-wing parties across Europe.
Why is this occurring, and what are the consequences?
will argue that the rise of identity-based populism can be linked to the
parallel rise of economic inequality around the world. His talk will focus on
this dynamic and its implications for ways we might address both the rise of
populism and the rise of inequality
in Europe and the world today.
Huber’s teaching and research focuses on the comparative study of democratic processes. His recent studies have focused on a range of topics, including bureaucratic politics, civil war, inequality, ethnic politics, the politics of redistribution, and the role of religion in elections. He is the author of three books from Cambridge University Press as well as numerous articles. Huber served as chair of Columbia’s political science department for six years, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013.
Welcome to the 2019-20 academic year. As classes begin today, students are kicking off a journey filled with performances, events and activities, and amid all the fun, they must stay in control of exams and deadlines. We couldn’t include everything, but we chose some important dates you should remember — the indispensable Lawrence traditions and crucial academic deadlines — so you can make the most of this year at Lawrence.
Thursday, Sept. 19,
11:10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Memorial Chapel
At the start of each academic year, the president welcomes the Lawrence community back to campus with the Matriculation Convocation. The speech lays the foundation for a collaborative, engaging year. This Thursday, President Mark Burstein will address students, faculty and members of the Appleton community with “Is Our Future Too Hot to Handle?” He’ll examine how human activities are impacting our natural environment and speak to how higher education institutions can better educate and inform on the topic. The convocation is open to the public. Admission is free.
Last day to make class changes
OK, this one has several dates to mark on the calendar. Fall Term: Friday, Sept. 20 | D-Term: Monday, Dec. 2 | Winter Term: Friday, Jan. 10 | Spring Term: Friday, April 3.
Some students miss their registration time or are waitlisted for a class. That’s what late class change deadlines are there for. When you get into that class you were waitlisted for, or you decide on the second day of the term that a course isn’t for you, your schedule is still in your hands. Remember, failing to finalize your schedule by these dates will earn you a late registration fee.
Friday, Sept. 20,
7-8 p.m., Somerset Room
Do you want to get involved on campus? This is the place to
go. The Involvement Fair gives students the chance to explore more than 100
clubs and organizations at Lawrence, from the Baking and Cooking Club to the
Society of Physics Students. Tour the booths and chat with club representatives
to explore all of your extracurricular options. Who knows, you might find the
group you stick with for the rest of your Lawrence journey.
“The Involvement Fair is a great way for student
organizations to recruit new members and spread the word about their purpose,”
says Assistant Director of Student Organizations Charity Rasmussen. “Or just
have a great time welcoming new or returning students to campus.”
Mid-term reading period and D-Term registration deadline
Thursday, Oct. 24
to Saturday, Oct. 27
This long weekend is designated for students to prepare for
midterm exams. Some students use this free time to take a trip home; the winter
and spring reading periods only last two days. In the meantime, maybe you’ve
been considering a supplemental academic experience during your winter break.
If so, in the midst of studying, don’t forget to register for D-Term.
Lawrence’s optional two-week term runs Dec. 2-13. Registration can be completed
on Voyager. Find information on D-Term and the course list here.
Convocation Series: “The Parallel Polis”
Thursday, Jan. 16, 11:10 a.m., Memorial Chapel
Russian-American journalist, author, translator and activist Masha Gessen will give a speech, “The Parallel Polis,” as part of the 2019-20 Convocation Series. These convocations are free and open to the community.
Saturday, Feb. 29, Warch
Cultural Expressions is an evening of performances in music,
dance and poetry that showcase the talents of students of color on campus. This
free event serves to celebrate and educate about cultures at the close of Black
History Month. Cultural Expressions also punctuates the end of POC Empowerment
Week (Feb. 23-29), highlighting the amazing contributions of people of color on
Saturday, April 11
and Sunday, April 12, Stansbury
Lawrence International presents Cabaret, an evening of
impressive student talent and a whirlwind of cultures. Members of Lawrence’s
diverse student body – approximately 13 percent of which are international
students – take the stage and treat the audience to cultural performances with
the goal of cultural education. This annual spring showcase has taken the stage
for 43 years and counting.
Saturday, May 16,
Main Hall Green
By mid-May, the weather is warming up and the school year is
winding down. In true Ormsby Hall spirit of tradition, members of the Ormsby
community host this event to showcase activities from student organizations,
Greek Life and other residence halls at booths and tables. Zoo Days is
distinguished from other campus affairs by the classic carnival booths that are
brought to Main Hall Green. Try your hand at the dunk tank and enjoy live
music, snow cones, cotton candy and popcorn.
Saturday, May 23 and
Sunday, May 24, Quad Green
Every Memorial Day weekend, students gather on the quad in
the final days of Spring Term for Lawrence’s own student-run music festival.
The lineup consists of student musicians and exciting headliners, with past
performances from The Tallest Man on Earth and Empress Of. This always much-anticipated
Lawrence tradition is one last hurrah before finals arrive.
Georgia Greenberg ’20, co-chair
of the Band Booking Committee and co-director of LUaroo, says the festival
strikes a special chord with students.
“(Students) should feel like they can take time to
relax and celebrate how far they’ve come in the school year,” she says. “It’s
usually about two weeks from finals, and while that can be a stressful time,
Lawrentians like to set time aside to party with their friends and have an
awesome and fun-filled weekend.”
Thursday, May 28,
Memorial Chapel, 11:10 a.m.
The 2019-20 Convocation Series closes with the Honors
Convocation, which highlights academic and extracurricular achievements of
students. Amy Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and Associate
Professor of Film Studies, was selected for this year’s honor. Her speech is
“The Importance of Failure.”
Again, several dates to be aware of here. Fall: Sunday, Nov. 24 to Tuesday, Nov. 26 | D-Term: Friday, Dec. 13 | Winter: Monday, March 16 to Wednesday, March 18 | Spring: Monday, June 8 to Wednesday, June 10.
Final exams are perhaps the most important dates for a
student to mark on the calendar. Know the dates well ahead of time so you can
give yourself enough time to prepare and ace those tests. Professors give
reminders as the exams approach, but they can still sneak up on you.
Sunday, June 14,
Main Hall Green
Residence halls close for underclassman three days prior,
but the year’s festivities aren’t over yet. Graduating seniors stay on campus
for Commencement, which signifies their move into life after Lawrence. It’s a
time for family, friends and the future. There will be a number of events during
the weekend for the graduates, culminating with Sunday’s Commencement.
Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
’19 remembers when Dan Proctor, a Lawrence University visiting assistant professor
of anthropology, first wheeled an old chimpanzee skeleton into the forensic
at the time, Rohr was struck by the skeleton’s appearance — the skull and torso
hung limp from a hook and the limbs rested on a nearby table. There were
missing pieces and backwards parts that made its purpose as a teaching tool
difficult to fulfill.
he was looking to have a student rearticulate and refurbish the skeleton. Make
it useful again. Rohr was immediately interested.
help from the Mudd Library’s Makerspace and the physics department, Rohr spent
much of the spring term rearticulating the skeleton as an independent study
“I thought it would be really cool if it could be put together well because Lawrence doesn’t have a lot of primate-related things,” she said.
The skeleton’s origins are unknown. For as long as anyone in the Anthropology Department can remember, it has hung on its stand on the third floor of Briggs Hall. It is believed that Lawrence student Richard H. Dorsey ’51 first articulated the skeleton in 1949, threading wire through small drilled holes in the bones to fasten them. But time and outdated articulation techniques eventually pushed the skeleton into disrepair.
To start her ambitious project, Rohr spent some late nights disassembling the skeleton, pulling wire apart from bone. She then took inventory of what bones she had and, with an osteology textbook at her side, deciphered which of the numerous tiny bones belonged to hands and which to feet. Eventually she was able to glue everything together and reattach the arms and legs to the torso.
But what to
do about the missing bones? With training from Angela Vanden Elzen in the
Makerspace, Rohr learned how to 3D print the missing bones using the existing
parallel ones for reference. Most of these were finger bones. She quickly got
the hang of it and printed with a resin so well matched to the skeleton’s
original color that it’s difficult to tell the authentic bones from the fabricated
With all the
bones accounted for, the skeleton needed a new display configuration that would
do justice to Rohr’s work and the chimpanzee itself. For this, Rohr reached out
to LeRoy Frahm, the longtime electronics technician for the physics department.
Frahm constructed a custom stand for the skeleton that would support its new
The joint assist
from anthropology, physics and the Makerspace carried Rohr’s project beyond an
ordinary independent study.
“I thought it was really cool being able to work with everyone,” Rohr said of the collaboration. “LeRoy and Angela were really into it. It all worked together really well.”
Rohr graduated in the spring. From an academic perspective, the hands-on project turned out to be an excellent supplement to her double major in biological anthropology and biology.
“It was a way to expand my work with primates,” she said. “It was cool being able to see how the skeleton works as a whole and how different bones are articulated, rather than just looking at it for a day or two in class and then being tested on it.”
returned from her second research trip to Peru, where she studied the behaviors
and disease ecology of New World monkeys.
Associate Professor of Anthropology Mark Jenike said the skeleton will be more useful than ever as a teaching tool in anthropology lab classes.
“People can look at it more easily now than they would’ve been able to when it was hanging from that hook,” he said. “It’s really for seeing what the whole skeleton together looks like, the way in which the chimpanzee would have been when it was alive.”
The value of
Rohr’s project is far-reaching.
“It’s a form of respect to the skeleton,” Jenike said. “The chimpanzees are our closest living relative species. They have culture, they make tools, they seem to show emotions. … The chimp itself deserves respect. I think this is a more respectful way of displaying it than hanging from a hook with parts falling off.”
Rohr’s work is displayed in a hallway on the third floor of Briggs, visible to all who pass, including prospective students on campus tours. It stands as a testament to Lawrence’s commitment to academic excellence and the value of interdisciplinary teamwork.
Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
Electric guitars and synthesizers could soon become as familiar as violins and bassoons in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.
A new degree program is being introduced at Lawrence University that is expected to open the school’s Conservatory of Music to a wider group of student musicians. Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.), with a Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track, has been added to Lawrence’s degree options, joining Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).
It’s a new avenue for a conservatory whose history dates back to the 19th century. Built on the strength of a nationally recognized jazz program that has been earning major honors since the 1970s, the new degree expands on the classical music component in the Conservatory, allowing students for the first time to audition with non-classical repertoire. The foundation is in jazz and contemporary improvisation, but the degree is built to accommodate a wide range of music making.
The B.M.A. degree, in place beginning this academic year, has a 50-50 split between music studies and a student’s choice of another field in the liberal arts landscape, with expectations to connect the two.
The high standards haven’t changed. The audition process for acceptance into the Conservatory remains intact, and the skill-development expectations continue to be top level. But for prospective students eyeing the B.M.A. degree, the audition no longer needs to be limited to pieces from the Western classical repertoire, potentially opening the door for students who see their strengths and interests in jazz or pop or hip-hop or another music genre. And the new degree presents an alternate path of study for classical musicians, as well.
It unwraps all sorts of additional choices, said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.
“The new degree will open the Conservatory to a broader
range of musical interests,” he said. “No longer does a student have to
audition on a Western classical instrument and perform classical repertoire. Drummers,
electric guitarists, fiddlers, keyboard players, jazz vocalists, songwriters
and contemporary composers are all welcome to audition into the new program.”
For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.
For details on the new B.M.A. degree, including an FAQ, see here.
This isn’t completely new territory for the Conservatory. It has long had a thriving jazz program. Lawrence won the first of its 28 Downbeat jazz education awards as far back as 1985, its latest as recently as April, picking up the award for the best undergraduate large ensemble for the second consecutive year. But current students have had to come into the jazz track via the classical music auditions and training, then seek a jazz emphasis while also studying classical repertoire.
The current B.Mus. degree, Pertl said, works well for many aspiring musicians who seek both classical and jazz training, but it leaves out those whose aspirations do not include the classical side of performance training. The new degree will rectify that. It also will expand the opportunities to tap into music-related fields that don’t necessarily involve performance.
The late Fred Sturm, who oversaw the jazz studies program at Lawrence for 26 years, began laying the groundwork for the new degree prior to his death in 2014.
What started as a specific focus on jazz eventually grew
into the more wide-ranging B.M.A. degree, Pertl said. The degree allows the
Conservatory to welcome in musicians who don’t necessarily fit a certain
“Last year, for example, we graduated an exceptional student
from Chicago named Bernard Lilly,” Pertl said. “Bernard is an amazing soul
singer. He’d been singing long before he came to Lawrence and sang all the way
through Lawrence, but he never took any courses in the Conservatory because he
didn’t feel like there was anything there for him, until his last term in his
senior year when he took my entrepreneurship class and studied with (voice
professor) John Holiday, and worked with professors in our jazz department. He
would have been a perfect candidate for a B.M.A. degree.
“To be able to give students like Bernard high-level musical
training will certainly broaden what they can do. But it also expands the
musical culture of the Conservatory, mixing different genres and different
musical sensibilities. This will be a huge advantage to everyone at the
Students pursuing a B.Mus. degree in the Conservatory take
about two-thirds of their classes in their major area of study and about
one-third in general education or electives. Music students who pursue a double
degree — a music degree and a B.A. in the college — do so on a five-year plan.
The new B.M.A., meanwhile, combines high-level music study
with another field of interest in a four-year plan. As part of the degree
requirements, students pursue a cognate focus that makes up 15% of their
coursework. The cognate allows them to deeply explore another area of interest
that ties into their music studies.
“It could be musically oriented but in the area of anthropology,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat said. “Or musically oriented but in political science.”
Core classes, one-on-one work with faculty and a wide range of electives give B.M.A. students opportunities to carve their own musical paths, some performance based, some not.
That, said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence
University Jazz Ensemble, speaks to how music can inform so many disciplines in
a variety of ways. Today, preparing young musicians to pursue their musical
lives can’t be limited to focusing solely on technical mastery. Each year,
opportunities will arise that don’t exist today, so musicians need to pair
their high-level musicianship with high-level thinking, creative problem-solving,
and the flexibility to capitalize on opportunities that others don’t even see.
Flexibility, an ability to adapt quickly, and a willingness
to collaborate are all key attributes for anyone entering the world of music in
the 21st century. Blending those core musicianship skills with an
education in a student’s other field of interest is the next step in keeping
the Conservatory forward-thinking.
“A lot of these students who come in wanting to create their
own musical voice are pretty self-directed already,” Darling said. “While
they’ll be gaining a lot of these core musicianship skills, they also want to
be able to access entrepreneurial practices, music business models and
opportunities for internships.
“It’s really interesting how the recording scene has developed,
how music publishing has changed,” she said. “Even large ensembles and
orchestras — all these musical opportunities have transformed dramatically in
the last 10 years and students need the ability to self-promote. That’s a very
important skill to have … to be able to put your best self out there.”
Pertl called the B.M.A. a natural progression for the
Conservatory as it embraces and nurtures the modern musician.
“At Lawrence, we’ve already been incorporating so many of
the elements of improvisation and world music into the trajectory of a
classically trained musician for the same reason,” he said. “It’s going to be
the flexibility of art, and of mind, that will help you to successfully create
your musical life.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
than traveling the world; students who have enhanced their college experience
with off-campus study often return with new perspectives and skills that stay
with them for the rest of their lives.
abroad last year made a lasting impression on Jackeline Flores ’19, who studied
at the Lawrence University London Centre for her global studies major and
“Personally, I feel that my experience abroad really solidified the idea that the world truly is my oyster,” she said. “All the knowledge and culture I was exposed to while abroad reminded me that there is so much out there left for me to learn about, which I find super exciting.”
alone. We sampled more than a dozen Lawrence students who studied abroad during
the past academic year, asking them to share key takeaways from their
So many opportunities
Centre satellite campus is just one of 52 life-changing opportunities available
to Lawrence students through the off-campus study program.
blends classroom and experiential learning to facilitate students’ personal and
academic growth through engagement with different cultures in an immersive
learning environment. This leads to a range of profound benefits, says Director
of Off-Campus Programs Laura Zuege.
“We know it
affords the opportunities for intercultural learning, growth and development
that employers time and time again are looking for,” she says. “Study abroad is
a laboratory for that kind of development.”
her colleagues work tirelessly to make these programs accessible and suitable
for students of diverse academic, socioeconomic, social and ethnic backgrounds,
by offering programs for every major and addressing students’ varied needs.
For more information on off-campus
study, click here.
students have different concerns in different locations,” Zuege says. “We want
to be tuned in with some of our portfolio (program) choices but also with how
we approach, prepare and recruit students to be sure we’re reaching a range of
the student body that’s representative of our student body.”
This fall, a
breakthrough financial aid policy change is making that possible. All of a
student’s institutional financial aid — grants, federal loans, scholarships —
can now be contributed to off-campus study, in addition to existing study
abroad scholarships. In the past, 100 to 120 students went abroad each year;
this fall there will be 145.
What they’re saying
Here are a dozen more Lawrence students whose lives changed thanks to off-campus study last year:
Tamima Tabishat ’20, AMIDEAST, area and Arabic language studies in Rabat, Morocco; global studies/German language studies and French language studies: “The most important (impact) was the way it helped me learn how to adapt quickly and smoothly to a new environment. Morocco’s geographic, linguistic, religious, political and cultural elements are very different from my typical academic environment. By studying in a new context, I felt that I was able to adopt new habits, adapt to new customs, and abide by new social rules, all of which are incredibly important skills to have in life. Practicing these things every day taught me how to see everything from a totally new perspective, which has made me not only a more critical thinker, but also a more considerate and tolerant citizen of the world.”
University London Centre, government/Spanish: “The London Centre allowed me to
prepare myself for life after Lawrence. Thanks to the London Centre and
Off-Campus programs staff, I had an internship, so I learned how to work in
traditional offices, along with learning how to commute to work. I will never
be able to put into words how impactful this was.”
Abigail Keefe ’20, IES Paris, language and area studies; violin performance, and mathematics/French and music theory: “Living in France with my host family helped me to improve my skills in the French language way beyond what I ever thought I would be capable of. Living in a country where my native language was not the primary language also helped me to try to understand how it would feel for people living and working in America for whom English is not their native language.”
Ryan Leonard ’19, IES Auckland, New Zealand, geology: “This experience is going to be one of the biggest selling points in my life after college. From the challenge of moving to a new country alone and having to meet new people, to maintaining good grades and budgeting and making time for travel, I have gained many marketable skills that I may not even realize I have acquired.”
Julia Johnson ’20, IES Vienna, music, cello performance; psychology/pedagogy: “It pushed my boundaries in so many ways such as speaking another language, making friends, being comfortable with public transportation, making travel plans, and not being afraid to explore Vienna and go to performances on my own. I feel like I grew more as a person studying in a new city where they speak another language more than I ever would have on my own campus.”
Ethren Lindsay ’20, Japan; linguistics and Japanese: “I was able to take many classes that would not have been available at my home university, one of which was a translation job. Since I am planning on possibly going into translation as a part of my future work, this was quite literally the most valuable thing that I could have gotten out of college.”
Alice Luo (Manxin) ’19, IES Berlin, language and area studies; history: “Berlin is such a dynamic city with people coming from all over the world. In America, I felt an urge to be more American and I tried to deny my Chinese identity to some extent in order to better merge into the American culture. In Berlin, with the diverse population and cultures and a seemingly freer atmosphere, which I personally felt, I learned to accept my identity and even celebrate it and appreciate it.”
Juan Marin ’20, IES Freiburg, language and area studies; film studies and German: “I feel like the program taught me how to understand people better. I met a lot of people abroad, and I don’t just mean my classmates and more Americans. I met people from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Russia, Bolivia, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Australia, Germany (of course), Morocco, the UK, and more. The program gave me an even higher appreciation for diversity and inclusion.”
Kate Martensis ’20, Budapest, semesters in mathematics education; math and history: “As part of our practicum course, my fellow students and I each had to teach two classes at a local high school. Though the process was not without its difficulties, it was an incredibly valuable experience, and I was so glad to put all the things we’d learned from school visits and our classes into practice. This made me all the more excited to be a teacher.”
Tia Colbert ’20, Lawrence University London Centre, English and Greek/creative writing: “There was a significant focus on using London itself as a textbook, and I feel like that enhanced all the classes. I believe that experiential learning is one of the best ways to engage students, and the London Centre Program definitely delivered in that respect.”
Harry Rivas ’19, ACM Shanghai, economics: “The program had a drastic impact on my life. It changed the way I saw the rest of the world, specifically how I saw China, the impact China has already had on the world, and what is to come. I got to explore a culture and mindset so different from my own.”
IES Auckland, New Zealand, government/international relations: “It was incredibly interesting to
interact and work with others my age from a different social and academic
culture than mine. Collaborating with them and learning their stances on
business and ethical behavior was fascinating, and it was immensely rewarding
to observe other points of view outside of the U.S.”
Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
Lawrence University continues to feel the love from The Princeton Review.
After being named the No. 4 Impact School in the country on a Princeton Review ranking earlier this year, Lawrence has made the education service company’s list of the best 385 colleges in the country — only about 13% of eligible four-year colleges make the “Best” book.
“The Best 385 Colleges,” published each August, has been an annual resource for prospective students since its debut in 1992. The book does not rank the schools within the list of 385, but it does include a series of Top 20 lists in a variety of sub categories. The lists come after data is gathered from school administrators and interviews are done with students from each of the schools.
Earlier this year, Lawrence was hailed by The Princeton Review as one of 200 “Best Value Schools” in the United States. That book placed Lawrence at No. 4 in the category of best schools for Making an Impact, which focused on life on campus but also post-college work.
“The college ranking field is full of many flowers,” notes
Ken Anselment, dean of admissions at Lawrence. “But one of our favorites is
being shortlisted as one of the Princeton Review’s Impact Schools because it
underscores the quality of life our graduates enjoy after Lawrence. It affirms
that our mission of providing a transformative education is, indeed, having an
Here’s a quick guide to Lawrence’s evaluation in the most
What students are
saying about academics: “Tutoring is readily available, and the school
‘places an incredible focus on mental health issues and counseling.’ Lawrence
is especially good at ‘providing a creative and explorative atmosphere within
the college,’ and structuring itself in a manner that allows for student
flexibility, so students ‘are able to explore and study whatever we are
interested in, and we are encouraged to do so.’”
What students are
saying about life at Lawrence: “Many people take advantage of the school’s
offered activities like dances, comedians, musicians, speakers who are brought
to campus, and movies shown in the cinema, and every term has a big event, such
as the Fall Festival, Trivia, Winter Carnival, Cabaret and LUaroo. … As the
university houses a popular music conservatory, ‘there is ALWAYS a type of concert
What students are
saying about their classmates: “Students here ‘are not afraid to show who
they really are’ and ‘truly just love expressing how every person is their own
and that we all accept it.’”
What the Princeton Review editors are saying: “Lawrence University takes a holistic approach to the admissions game. The school does its best to look beyond numbers and get a full sense of each applicant.”
In addition to the Princeton Review rankings, Lawrence also was honored earlier this year by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for being among the top-producing institutions for the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. With five recent graduates teaching abroad on Fulbright awards, Lawrence landed on the prestigious list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students during the past academic year.