Category: Faculty

Carter calls on Lawrentians to work together to confront coming challenges

Lawrence University President Laurie A. Carter delivers her first Matriculation Convocation Friday in Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has an opportunity to build on past successes, but it’ll need to do so at a time of significant challenges in higher education, President Laurie A. Carter said Friday in her first Matriculation Convocation address.

Carter, who began her tenure as Lawrence’s 17th president on July 1, said Lawrence isn’t immune to the growing turbulence across higher education—financial pressures heightened by the pandemic, political strife, attacks on the liberal arts, bloated student debt, declining retention and graduation rates, and a coming steep decline in the number of college-age students. But its community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni are ready to rise to the challenge and place Lawrence among the leaders in a new higher education environment.

“Creating a sense of urgency is the first step in the process,” Carter told the Lawrence community in a presidential address that annually serves as a kick-off of a new academic year.

Speaking at Memorial Chapel and via a livestream, Carter reiterated how honored she is to lead Lawrence. She celebrated the university’s 174-year history and its recent successes and invited all Lawrentians to sign up for the hard work to come, even if it means working outside of their comfort zones.

“I am excited for this work, and I feel uniquely positioned for the challenges ahead,” she said. “As an African American woman and leader, discomfort has always been a part of my journey.”

Following Carter’s speech, a video was presented featuring students speaking about why they love Lawrence:

Looking forward

There is much to build on at Lawrence—the success of the recently concluded Be the Light! Campaign, the commitment of dedicated alumni, the size and strength of the newest class, the recent launch of five key academic programs, the addition of several endowed professorships that have strengthened existing programs, and the unity in purpose that has been so evident over the past year and a half.

“The manner in which the community came together to support one another during the pandemic is why we are brighter together,” Carter said.

Let’s celebrate those successes, she said. Embrace the great traditions of Lawrence. But don’t lose sight of the challenges ahead for higher education; they will be significant.

“Through our collective efforts, we must transform Lawrence into a university that is poised to lead in this new environment,” Carter said. “And as the environment evolves, we must be nimble enough to evolve with it.”

Watch a replay of President Carter’s speech here

Setting priorities

Carter laid out five priorities that will be key pieces of a to-be-built strategic plan — strategic equitable student success; Lawrence brand enhancement; diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism; an enhanced integrated university experience; and strategic financial stewardship.

“While these five priorities touch nearly every aspect of our university, from recruitment and retention to the curricular and co-curricular programs, they all are in the service of our students,” Carter said. “And our ability to collectively engage in dialogue and problem-solving around these areas will determine our course for the future.”

Lawrence’s current strategic plan expires in 2022.

Carter also introduced the formation of five guiding coalitions, each with a mix of faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni, to address particular areas that need expedited attention. These coalitions will be tasked with creating a path to meaningful progress in the assigned areas, with timelines focused on the current academic year. The work of the coalitions will help inform the strategic plan.

The guiding coalitions include: Visioning of Our Five Priorities; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism; Full Speed to Full Need; Amplifying Athletics; and 175th Anniversary. Each will have at least two co-leads, one from faculty and one from staff. Members of the Lawrence community are being invited to join the coalitions.

“Our volunteer army will consist of members of the community who are passionate about these issues and are willing to lock arms with others to create meaningful change around them,” Carter said. “You—faculty, staff, students alike—have the opportunity to participate, step up and act like never before.”

The Convocation, the first of three to be held during the 2021-22 academic year, featured a performance of Mark A. Miller’s Creation of Peace by the Welcome Week Choir, directed by music professors Phillip A. Swan and Stephen M. Sieck. Other elements of the program, including the size of the audience in Memorial Chapel, were adjusted to accommodate pandemic protocols.

Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Public Events Committee, announced that Austin Segrest, assistant professor of English, has been chosen as the Honors Convocation speaker in the spring. Multidisciplinary artist Alexandra Bell will deliver the Winter Term convocation.

As the pandemic continues with no clear end in sight, Carter encouraged all Lawrentians to lean into the truth Lawrence has long embraced — “light, more light.”

“When the sun was shining brightly, meaning before the public discourse on higher education turned negative and the pandemic disrupted the world, our light shone brighter than ever,” Carter said. “But now that darkness has threatened us, we must use the light within us to demonstrate to the world who we are.”

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

President Carter to discuss Lawrence priorities in opening convocation

President Laurie A. Carter (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Communications

President Laurie A. Carter will deliver her first Matriculation Convocation to the Lawrence University community at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 17.

Centered on the theme of comfort with discomfort, the address will focus on Carter’s priorities to ensure that Lawrence remains a leader in higher education. She will discuss the need to build on Lawrence’s enduring strengths as we look to the future and the challenges facing higher education, and she will call on all members of the Lawrence community to join together to guide Lawrence to a brighter future. 

The event will be held in Memorial Chapel with an audience limited to 300 to account for pandemic protocols. It will be livestreamed at go.lawrence.edu/convo so all Lawrentians can watch from their rooms, offices, or another location. 

While Memorial Chapel is closed to the public, alumni and friends are encouraged to access the stream to watch.

The Matriculation Convocation address, delivered by the university president each September to mark the launch of another academic year, will be one of three convocations held this year. The others are scheduled for Feb. 18 and May 27

Carter began her tenure as Lawrence’s 17th president on July 1.

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

We’re “Brighter Together”: In-person Fall Term welcomed; health protocols in place

It’s almost that time. Fall Term classes at Lawrence will begin Sept. 13. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

“Brighter Together” is a message you’ll hear and see repeatedly as Lawrence University prepares to launch a new academic year, one marked by the arrival of a new president, Laurie A. Carter, and the much-anticipated return to campus of students, faculty, and staff after 18 months of mostly remote learning.

Those two words—Brighter Together—will be displayed on banners hanging in front of Main Hall and on T-shirts and face masks being made available to the Lawrence community, and will be repeated in conversations, in convocations, and in campus celebrations. The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but we are together again.

“I think of it as an anthem for this moment in Lawrence’s history and a reminder of our strength as a community,” said Carter, the university’s 17th president since its founding 174 years ago.

Fall Term, beginning Sept. 13, does not arrive without challenges. The spread of the Delta variant has kept us from getting to the finish line of the pandemic. But, the Lawrence community has shown its ability and willingness to work together to overcome pandemic challenges. With a campus vaccine mandate for students in place, once again wearing masks in indoor public spaces, and continuing to Honor the Pledge by following health and safety protocols, we are facing the challenges.

Classes will again be mostly in person. Athletic competitions have resumed. Conservatory ensembles are practicing together. Andrew Commons will be open for meals. Like last year, the university will continue to monitor the health situation and adjust accordingly.

Julia Ammons, a senior biology major from Sheboygan who has spent much of the summer on campus, said she can deal with masks. She just wants to be together with her classmates.

“I have been looking forward to campus getting somewhat back to normal ever since we got sent home in 2020,” she said. “I am really excited to be able to eat in the Commons again with my friends.”

New students set to arrive

Admissions reports a strong first-year class, numbering about 400 students. Welcoming them to Lawrence will be a campus-wide effort, with faculty and staff joining together to greet incoming students who are being celebrated for the resiliency they’ve shown just to get to this time and place.

“For the past 18 months, this year’s class of new students—not just Lawrentians, but nearly every college-bound student on the planet—has been exploring their college options at a distance, with a small percentage of them ever having physically been on their college’s campuses,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications. “Every year, we are eager to meet our students in person for the first time—but this year’s eagerness is unprecedented given the circumstances.”

First-year and transfer students will begin arriving for New Student Orientation Sept. 8 and 9. For the first-years, it follows a chaotic and often frustrating end to their high school journeys.

Sophomores, meanwhile, are coming to campus—some also for the first time—having experienced their first year at Lawrence mostly from a distance.

It all ties in to the palpable excitement building as the campus begins to fill up. Athletes from Lawrence’s fall sports teams began moving in to residence halls in mid-August. International students arrived this week, to be followed by first-years and transfers mid-next week, and then other returning students on the weekend. It’ll mark the first time the entire campus community has been together in 18 months.

“I often say that I was drawn to the light of Lawrence—the light of knowledge, the light of truth, and the light each member of our community brings to campus,” Carter said. “The points at which light intersect are always brighter than any individual light, and our strength as a community shines when we engage in challenging endeavors, share our talents and strengths, pursue our passions, and enjoy all that this rich and vibrant community has to offer.”

A robust welcome to Lawrence

The New Student Orientation will begin the campus’s slow walk toward a new normal, with pandemic-related adjustments in place, as first-year and transfer students go through four days of orientation. The welcome from the president—Carter’s first—will break from its traditional location in Memorial Chapel and instead become an outdoor gathering in front of Main Hall. A reception for parents of new students will take place on the Hamar House lawn.

“This year’s welcome to campus is an even bigger deal than usual because we are essentially welcoming two classes of new students to Lawrence—the 2021 class and the 2020 class, who arrived on campus last year under very different circumstances,” Anselment said.

Sophomores will get their own assist in acclimating to campus. Some were fully remote last year. Others were on campus but mostly with classes delivered via Zoom.

Once here, the sophomores will get an added assist settling into their residence halls, connecting to the Center for Academic Success and the Career Center, and will be able to participate in sophomore programming focused on belonging, community, and purpose.

“We plan to do even more intentional outreach to the sophomore class knowing that they will in some ways have similar transitional hurdles as our first-year students,” said Rose Wasielewski, associate dean of students and dean of the sophomore class. “Regardless of whether they were on campus last year, I want to provide additional opportunities for these students to connect to the campus physically, as well as to each other socially.”

Finding a balance, together

Classes will begin Sept. 13 with the excitement of being together—the 2020-21 academic year had nearly two-thirds of the student body on campus but with most classes being taught remotely and social distancing protocols in place—balanced with the need to keep one another safe. Fall Term protocols will include masks being worn in indoor shared spaces no matter your vaccination status, the return of surveillance testing on campus (weekly for anyone unvaccinated, randomly for others), and rigid rules regarding campus visitors. Details are being shared on the COVID-19 page here.

The first week of classes will close with the annual Matriculation Convocation, set for 12:30 p.m.  Sept. 17 in Memorial Chapel and available via a livestream. It will mark Carter’s first in-person address to all Lawrentians. That day also will feature a community fair organized on the quad by the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) at 5:30 p.m. and a men’s soccer game at the Banta Bowl at 7 p.m.

It’ll all be framed by the “Brighter Together” message.

“We will all adjust to new ways of engaging with each other as we navigate the ongoing pandemic,” Carter said. “As I’ve heard many times over the last year, we can’t look to what we knew but, instead, must look to what is new as we live and learn together.”

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has announced the hiring of 10 new tenure-track faculty, all beginning at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

Three of the new faculty will fill positions in the Psychology department, including two newly created endowed professorships, one in cognitive neuroscience and one in collaboration and organizational psychology.

The influx of new faculty brings talent and experience across the college and the Conservatory, including in environmental studies, ethnic studies, history, philosophy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and vocal coaching.

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

The new hires include:

Alperin

Brittany Alperin, assistant professor of psychology. She will be the inaugural holder of the Singleton Professorship in Cognitive Neuroscience. She comes from the University of Richmond, where she’s been a visiting assistant professor since 2019. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from Hampshire College and a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health and Science University.

Colon

Sigma Colón, assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2017, first in postdoctoral NEH fellowships in geography and history, then as a visiting assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

Culhane

Kelly Culhane, assistant professor of chemistry. She has been working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota since 2019. She joins the Chemistry department after earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University.

Dixon

Scott Dixon, assistant professor of philosophy. He has been on the faculty at Ashoka University in Haryana, India since 2015. He studied philosophy and German at the University of Montana and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Davis.

Draheim

Amanda Draheim, assistant professor of psychology. She joins the Psychology department at Lawrence after recently completing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Georgia State University. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Trinity University.

Heaton

Alex Heaton, assistant professor of mathematics. Beginning in 2019, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the Math+ Berlin Mathematics Research Center, both in Germany. He then joined the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Koker

Margaret Koker, assistant professor of physics. She has been teaching in the Physics department at Lawrence as a visiting assistant professor since 2018. She previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow, a research assistant, and an engineering lecturer at Cornell University and as a Beamline scientist at the University of Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, a master’s from the University of Illinois, and her doctor rerum naturalium from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany.

Ng

Linnea Ng, assistant professor of psychology. She will be the inaugural holder of the Hurvis Professorship in Collaboration and Organizational Psychology at Lawrence. She is completing a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology at Rice University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Davidson College.

Roach

Kristin Roach, assistant professor of music (vocal coaching). Her recent accomplishments include work as a vocal coach at the Chautauqua Opera Theatre, conductor with the Pacific Opera Project, musical director and conductor with Spotlight on Opera, and conductor with Vocal Academy of Orvieto. She earned a bachelor’s degree in applied piano and a master of music in piano performance/literature and accompanying/chamber music, both from Eastman School of Music.

Schlabach

Elizabeth Schlabach, associate professor of history. She comes to Lawrence following eight years as a member of the faculty at Earlham College. She previously worked as a visiting professor for five years at The College of William & Mary. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and theology from Valparaiso University, a master’s in American Studies from Lehigh University, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from St. Louis University. 

Endowed professorships

The hiring of Alperin as Lawrence’s first Singleton Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience and Ng as the first Hurvis Professor in Collaboration and Organizational Psychology marks a significant milestone in the Psychology department.

The two endowed positions came out of the hugely successful Be the Light! campaign that over the course of seven years raised $232.6 million and added five endowed professorships.

The Singleton professorship elevates Lawrence’s work in the area of cognitive neuroscience and the Hurvis professorship allows for the exploration of the psychology of collaboration, a growing field that has relevance across the curriculum as students prepare for life after Lawrence. 

Kodat called the filling of the two endowed positions “especially gratifying,” a tangible result of the generosity and vision seen in the Be the Light! Campaign.

“These positions—in organizational psychology and cognitive neuroscience—will help advance the curricular innovation that was one of the centerpieces of the campaign,” she said.

The 10 new faculty begin their first academic year when Fall Term opens Sept. 13.

“I look forward to a long and happy collaboration,” Kodat said.

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

Work with economics faculty leads 2021 grad to EPA-funded research program

Doan Thu Thuy Nguyen ’21 at her June commencement at Lawrence University.

By Karina Herrera ’22

It was in an environmental economics class at Lawrence University that Doan Thu Thuy Nguyen ’21 realized her interest in economics and her passion for the environment could co-exist.

The experience in that class, taught by David Gerard, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor in the American Economic System and an associate professor of economics, led Nguyen to two summers at Lawrence spent on environment-related research tied to her home country of Vietnam. And that work has now led the economics and mathematics double major to her next academic adventure—acceptance into Carnegie Mellon University in the doctorate program in Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) as a graduate research assistant. She will join a group of Carnegie Mellon researchers this fall.

Reflecting on her undergraduate experience, Nguyen said her time at Lawrence could not have had a more positive or fruitful impact on her academic interests, pointing to her collaborations with Gerard and other economics faculty as key to getting into the Carnegie Mellon research program.

Find more on Lawrence’s economics program here

Get to know economics professor David Gerard here

The Carnegie Mellon team, led by Nicholas Z. Muller, the Lester and Judith Lave Professor of Economics, Engineering and Public Policy, secured an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to fund the research, which will explore environmental impacts of certain manufacturing processes. Among other things, the funding provides for financial assistantships for graduate students. For Nguyen, this means that she will be given full tuition and a stipend for the initial academic year.

Although a little nervous, Nguyen said she is ready to begin. She’s excited to work with Muller and his team in part because she’s read academic papers of his and admires his work. She’ll also be working with people from different STEM fields and expects to be challenged.

“I expect it to be very intense but I also like that environment,” Nguyen said.

However, making the decision to apply to the Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. program in EPP was not an easy one, Nguyen said. She had offers from numerous economic Ph.D. programs and was hesitant at first to consider Carnegie Mellon because it was the only program that she applied to that was not solely focused in economics. She explained that what drew her in at the end was that the EPP program is exceptionally strong in areas regarding energy and environment, which are her main interests surrounding economics.

“It was clear that it was such a great place to be and I’ll be working with a lot of people who are really pioneering areas in research,” Nguyen said.

When asked how she found her passion for environmental economics and energy, she explained that it was initially through taking the environmental economics class with Gerard. Nguyen has since worked closely with Gerard and associate professor of economics Jonathan Lhost. They and other faculty have helped facilitate and augment her academic interests, she said.

She spent two summers at Lawrence conducting research—one summer focusing on the cost of decarbonizing Vietnam and the other on the air quality and public health in Vietnam. Both professors recommended that she apply to present her research at professional academic conferences and helped her to prepare and practice for her presentation.

“This is just one example of how professors at Lawrence go above and beyond for their students,” Nguyen said. “My professors really didn’t have to do any of those things, but they did because they care.”

Gerard also encouraged her to consider the EPP program at Carnegie Mellon and wrote her a letter of recommendation. He saw Carnegie Mellon as a great fit for her in part because of his own experiences there; he was on the faculty for eight years prior to coming to Lawrence in 2009, serving as executive director of the Center for the Study & Improvement of Regulation. He continues to serve as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy.

Although he knows it was a tough decision for Nguyen, he doesn’t doubt she’ll exceed expectations.

“She was certainly an extraordinary student,” Gerard said.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

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

Stranger in the Shogun’s City and The Harm in Hate Speech are new additions to this year’s First-Year Studies reading list. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Communications

Our annual guide—updated—to Lawrence University’s First-Year Studies reading list has arrived.

Martyn Smith, associate professor of religious studies, has taken the baton as this year’s director of First-Year Studies (previously known as Freshman Studies).

Smith generously agreed to update the guide and offer new insights as we approach the launch of the 2021-22 academic year. Two new works have been added to the list, one for Fall Term, one for Winter Term.

First-Year Studies, as all Lawrentians know, is an important piece of the Lawrence experience. Since its establishment in 1945, the First-Year Studies syllabus has been continuously revised to introduce a changing student body to the intellectual challenges of a liberal arts education, and to the resulting benefits of the interdisciplinary thinking it embraces.

While adjustments will be made as needed, Smith said he remains hopeful all First-Year Studies courses will be in person this year.

“I would like to suggest that our experience of the pandemic has thrown a new light on the works chosen for First-Year Studies,” he said. “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.”

Fall Term

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard.  We are again starting off the year with poetry. This collection of poems asks students to see a relationship between private experience and the larger narratives of history. This work sets the tone for thinking about racism in America, demonstrating to students that one part of a liberal arts education is learning to talk about the pressing issues of our time. Reading these poems, we begin to see the threat to community when stories are suppressed or erased. At the same time, we see through these poems the importance of memory and memorials in establishing a flourishing community. (Adopted Fall 2015)

Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy. From Trethewey’s poetry, we move to a biologist’s study of the most fascinating of social insects: the honeybee. Seeley demonstrates that we now know a surprising amount about collective decision-making in the hive. It turns out that something like an argument can take place in the hive as they consider where they should move, and that there are mechanisms for resolving that difference. But while the honeybees are a fascinating look at another form of community, we also come to see how scholars have built on each other’s work and collaborated as a unit to learn about honeybees. (Adopted Winter 2019)

Plato, The Republic. There’s a reason why this book has been on the syllabus, almost continuously, for 75 years. It raises big questions that can be worked through in class discussions. Since the work itself is in the form of a dialogue, it serves as a model for these discussions that are at the core of First-Year Studies. It’s hard to think of a major issue that doesn’t turn up somewhere in this work, but at its core is a question about the ideal city. No students or instructors will today wholly agree with the prescriptions for community given by Plato (through his character Socrates), but his wide-ranging questions prompt us to think about what an ideal community would look like.

Berenice Abbott, Tri-Boro Barber School, 264 Bowery, Manhattan. Taken in 1935 as part of the WPA’s Federal Art Project, this photograph rewards close inspection. The barber-stripe column, the contrasting façade tiles, and the patterns of light and shadow evoke modernist art styles like cubism and abstraction. As we continue to examine the photo, economic issues begin to stand out: questions about advertising and who is inside and who is outside of the “world’s up-to-date system.” (Adopted Fall 2020)

Amy Stanley, Stranger in the Shogun’s City. This work of history is one of the new works for First Year Studies. It is a biography of a woman named Tsuneno who lived in the first half of the 19th century in Edo, Japan (which would become Tokyo). On the strength of its storytelling this work has been awarded the 2021 PEN and National Book Critics Circle awards for biography. The book takes a sympathetic look at the life of a woman who made her way from a village to the big city. After having read about Plato’s ideal vision for a city in The Republic, this work of history will sketch for us the reality of life in a growing modern city, and give us a look at the demands such a city makes on individuals. (Adopted Fall 2021)

Winter Term

The Harm in Hate Speech, Jeremy Waldron. We begin the term with the second new work for First-Year Studies. This is a book that provides a philosophical and legal framework for understanding the contemporary question of hate speech. One of the goals of a liberal arts education is to gain facility entering into close written argumentation about contemporary issues, and this work is a model of argument building. It also marks a turn in our approach to thinking about community. In this book, we examine a direct threat to any ideal community, and consider how words sometimes act more like bricks than as reasoned statements. (Adopted Winter 2022)

Tony Kushner, Angels in America. Set in the 1980s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play offers a searching exploration of the political and ethical conflicts of the AIDS epidemic. We find ourselves in the midst of a community whose sense of meaning is threatened by a deadly virus. As its title suggests, the play works to awaken a larger sense of possibility and wonder. Kushner’s script explores the complex motives of a politically, spiritually, and racially diverse cast as they struggle to find meaning in the midst of a tragedy. (Adopted Winter 2020)

The periodic table of elements. Many students will have used the table in high school, but few will have had the chance to explore it as a created object. Students will be asked to think about the table not as a passive container for information, but as an innovative visual representation of scientific knowledge. This approach will remind us that our shared ideas about the world are built by finding ways to share and disseminate them. There are lots of questions to ask about this iconic image: Who was responsible for designing it? What other possibilities were there for presenting this information? What is the argument made by the table about the nature of the universe? (Adopted Winter 2021)

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Poor Economics. Two distinguished economists offer a scientific approach to the battle with global poverty. Their conclusions are sometimes counterintuitive. Banerjee and Duflo advocate putting aside big ideas, like increasing aid or freeing markets, in favor of careful research addressed to small, specific questions. Reading the book helps students to see how answering these small questions can also give voice to the experience of those living on $1 a day. This book also brings students into contact with a way of thinking about global problem-solving that is highly influential in our time. (Adopted Winter 2017)

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music is a fundamental part of our university community. This most famous of jazz albums invites students to explore the complex relationship between planned structure and improvised action at the heart of musical performance. If many of the works in First-Year Studies have taken us to questions about community, this final work reminds us of the place of human creativity. This deeply influential LP challenges students to think about the process of memory and the creation of meaning. (Adopted Winter 2016)

Note to incoming students:

Looking for First-Year Studies books? The first book, Native Guard, will be sent to domestic students in the U.S. mail or they will receive a copy in their mailbox. Copies of the Abbott photograph will be made available to students later. The other works are now available from our online bookstore, www.lawrence.edu/academics/bookstore. Wherever you get your books, you should make sure to get the editions we’ve chosen for you. Information about editions, including ISBN numbers, can be found at https://www.lawrence.edu/academics/study/freshman_studies/current_works.

New internship program puts focus on hard work of social, environmental justice

Adya Kadambari ’23, seen here during Spring Term, is among the 12 Lawrence students taking part this summer in the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program. She’s working an internship with Bay Bridge in Whitefish Bay. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Adya Kadambari ’23 processes the slow movement on social justice issues she’s championing this summer and chooses to channel her frustration into more work. Always more work.

The Lawrence University government major from Bangalore, India, has found her summer internship with Bay Bridge, a Whitefish Bay-based nonprofit working to address systematic racism in the community, to be eye-opening in the sheer weight of the challenge.

“I have learned that being part of Bay Bridge means continuing to try—even if it goes unnoticed—because that is the point of being a racial justice organization,” she said.

Kadambari is one of 12 Lawrence students who are setting the foundation for the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program, a new summer internship initiative at Lawrence, one that is unlike any the school has launched in the past. It’s focused on social and environmental justice issues and has been developed as a shared experience across multiple nonprofit organizations doing work in a particular geographic area.

In this case, the area is the City of Milwaukee and its suburbs. The students, working across nine organizations, meet weekly as a cohort, their discussions facilitated by Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, to share and reflect on their experiences—successes, failures, frustrations, and everything in between.

Jason Brozek meets with Naomi Torres ’22 and Fernando Ismael Delgado ’22, both of whom are working internships this summer with the Center for Urban Teaching in Milwaukee. Brozek meets weekly with the full Social and Environmental Justice Cohort via Zoom.

“The idea is to really be explicit and deliberate about the reflection piece of this,” Brozek said of the cohort structure built into the internship program. “One of the things I’ve learned is how important it is to not just hope students will reflect on their experience but to specifically and deliberately guide them through that process and give them space to do it, prompt them to do it.”

This is work that is often emotional and potentially life-changing. Being able to talk about it, process it, hear others’ experiences, can be educational and therapeutic at the same time.

“That process of reflection, I think that’s where the real impact and transformation of these experiences comes from,” Brozek said.

To date, more than $350,000 has been raised to support the Social & Environmental Justice Cohort program, with a goal of $1 million to grow it into an ongoing staple of the Lawrence summer.

The program came together quickly after an anonymous donor, moved by the activism that followed the murder of George Floyd, sought to fund internships that would aid community organizations, give students an avenue into social and environmental justice work, and allow those students to share their experiences with one another in a collaborative learning environment.

The program provides a stipend for the students, who are working for nonprofits that in many cases couldn’t otherwise afford interns.

“For me, that’s a really critical part of the program because it means these experiences are more accessible and equitable, and available to a wider range of students,” Brozek said.

Kenneth Penaherrera ’24 is working an internship this summer at a youth crisis center through Pathfinders in Milwaukee.

Mandy Netzel, assistant director of career services in Lawrence’s Career Center, went to work connecting with nonprofits in the Milwaukee region to set the scope of the internship program. Meanwhile, Cassie Curry, director of major and planned giving for Lawrence, set out to raise the monies needed to financially support the program as an annual endeavor.

Brozek came on board as the faculty advisor. He’s meeting weekly with the students via Zoom, a nod to the barriers still being posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope is that those meetings will be in person by next summer, as will all of the internships.

It all came together in a matter of a few months. The early momentum suggests this is a program that will continue to thrive, perhaps growing in the number of participating students and organizations, possibly expanding at some point to other regions.

“We really have a chance to not just make it a great experience for the 12 students who are doing it this summer but to really build something that is distinctive for Lawrence and to keep it going,” Brozek said.

Some of the students are doing social media and communications work for their organizations. Others are working with young people or families in schools or shelters. All of the organizations are located in the Milwaukee metro area with the exception of Pillars, of Appleton. The list includes Pathfinders, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, a Milwaukee aldermanic office, Bay Bridge, Legal Action Wisconsin, Center for Urban Teaching, Blue Lotus, and Walker’s Point.

“Spending time doing this justice work can be really draining,” Brozek said. “How do you make this kind of work sustainable? Not just sustainable for the organization, but personally as well? We’re talking about that and they’re learning from each other, and really supporting each other and being impressed with each other. I’ve really loved that part of it.”

For Ben DePasquale ’22, joining the team at Milwaukee Riverkeeper gave him a chance to gain valuable experience in environmental advocacy and politics. He’s working on website content, social media, surveys, and focus group questions alongside the organization’s communications manager. He’s learning about reader engagement, targeting particular audiences, and the power of clarity.

“Politics is local, yet the greatest environmental threat of our lifetime, climate change, is global,” DePasquale said. “I wanted to be part of this organization because I saw an opportunity to craft narratives around environmental issues that might appeal to people who may not always see the bigger picture.”

Ben DePasquale ’22 is working on environmentally focused social media campaigns as part of an internship with Milwaukee Riverkeeper.

Netzel said the response from partner organizations—some with alumni connections—and students has been “overwhelmingly positive” in the pilot year.

“The pace at which we were able to pull it all together indicates a need and desire in the community for social and environmental justice work, and Lawrentians are interested and ready to rise in serving that need,” she said.

Sarah Gettel ’14, one of the leaders of Bay Bridge, said the fit has been ideal, with two Lawrence students, Kadambari and Sierra Johnson ’22, doing important advocacy work.

“Right from the start, Adya and Sierra jumped into the storm of moving projects and pieces,” Gettel said. “They asked excellent questions, raised ideas, and brought their creativity and intentionality to every project. Their support has been an incredible help to us at Bay Bridge and has helped us to build our supportive infrastructure to invite more people in our community into this work, from designing a volunteer orientation, to creating eye-catching event posters, to extending our social media reach, to facilitating a book discussion, to helping us work on a communications strategy to help connect systemic justice and equity to people’s values and lived experiences.”

Curry said a gift from a second donor that followed the initial gift has put Lawrence in position to fund the program for at least the next five years, providing time to secure financial support that will hopefully feed an endowment that’ll make the program ongoing.

“The donors want to ensure that Lawrence students can share what they are learning for the betterment of society, while at the same time growing and learning themselves through the process,” Curry said. “That was part of their motivation for a cohort model and faculty involvement.”

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

Lawrence’s Jesús Smith takes to the dance floor for annual Shall We Dance fundraiser

Jesús Smith, assistant professor of ethnic studies, rehearses with Pamela Cribbs at the Boogie Ballroom dance studio in Neenah. They are preparing for the annual Shall We Dance fund-raising event, set for this fall in Appleton. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

Jesús Smith is excited to show off his dance moves.

The Lawrence University assistant professor of ethnic studies is one of eight local community dancers preparing to compete this fall in the Sexual Assault Crisis Center’s annual Shall We Dance competition in downtown Appleton.

The work of the Appleton nonprofit spoke to Smith in many ways—he said he’s felt passionate about sexual assault advocacy since participating in a program called Men Can Stop Rape as an undergraduate at the University of Texas El Paso—and saw this fundraiser as a valuable opportunity. So, when the chance to enter the competition appeared, Smith grabbed his dancing shoes.

“It was a way to tie my passion with the things I do as a scholar and as a professor and make those connections in the community,” he said.

Shall We Dance, built on the same premise as ABC’s popular series, Dancing with the Stars, is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley. But the all-important fund-raising component and the months of practice and preparation are already in full swing.

See Jesús Smith’s Shall We Dance profile page here.

Jesús Smith said practices have been intense as he prepares for the Oct. 16 competition. “It’s hard, it’s different,” he said.

Shall We Dance is an entertainment event that aims to increase awareness about sexual assault while helping the Sexual Assault Crisis Center raise important funds. All of the money raised before and during the event will go to the center to help provide needed services to sexual assault survivors.

Each year, eight Fox Cities community dancers are selected to compete. They are paired with various dance organizations and each is matched with a professional dancer. A part of the competition consists of the community dancers raising at least $10,000 for the Crisis Center in the lead-up to the event.

Smith, a member of the Lawrence faculty since 2017, is partnered with professional dancer Pamela Cribbs from Boogie Ballroom, a dance studio in Neenah.

Although he never trained formally, Smith said he is confident in his dancing abilities. For him, the hardest part is learning the footwork; he and Cribbs meet about once a week to work on their moves. In between those sessions, Smith is spending a lot of time practicing on his own.

“So far, it’s going really fantastic,” Smith said. “It’s hard, it’s different. I have these little Cuban dance shoes that have these heels that I swear sometimes are going to break my ankles.”

Jesús Smith was featured in Lawrence’s On Main Hall Green With … series in January 2020. See it here.

Smith first heard about the competition through a friend, Cristi Burrill, who won it last year. He said he immediately thought that participating in Shall We Dance would be a great opportunity to incorporate what he learned about sexual assault advocacy as an undergraduate in Texas and share it with the Appleton and Lawrence communities—all the while sweating it out on the dance floor.  

Smith and the other dancers are currently seeking support while they rehearse in preparation for the dance-off in October.

With his fundraising, Smith said he wanted to take a more educational route to help promote the message of the Crisis Center. He is at the midpoint of hosting four virtual mini educational fundraisers, with discussions concerning different communities’ experiences with sexual assault and violence. The sessions include guest speakers. The next Zoom talk will be July 30 with Tommy Curry, a professor of philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, speaking on sexual assault and violence toward racialized boys and men. The final talk will be Sept. 26 and will focus on women, sexism, and surveillance labor with Melissa Ochoa-Garza, a scholar at Texas A&M University. Look for details on Smith’s social media accounts.

Jesús Smith: “I wanted to do a song and dance that was reflective of my cultural, ethnic, racial backgrounds.”

Smith also created a Patreon page where supporters can watch behind-the-scenes rehearsals and silly videos of him doing various workouts and activities to get into dancing shape.

The competition will include advance voting (via contributions on the Shall We Dance site) and voting at the Oct. 16 event.

When asked about the specifics of his dance performance, Smith was excited to share. He will be dancing to a Spanish trap song, A Palé, by Rosalía.

“I wanted to do a song and dance that was reflective of my cultural, ethnic, racial backgrounds,” he said.

The song starts slow and beautiful, with Smith and his partner doing a Viennese waltz. It transitions from there as the tempo picks up.

Smith earns Wilson Foundation Fellowship. See details here.

Smith said he wanted to perform a mix of dance styles to match the song and his upbringing, so the performance will include hip-hop, different waltzes, and various Latin-style dances such as cumbias and the Paso Doble, plus other surprises. He aims for their dance to tell a story through both the movements and the costumes.

“It’s just such a conglomeration of different things, which I love because it’s me,” Smith said. “It’s going to be amazing.”

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.