Category: Faculty

Lawrence’s Metcalf, Singer Pur draw accolades with latest collaboration

Joanne Metcalf

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Joanne Metcalf, a professor of music composition in the Lawrence Conservatory, saw her latest work get major attention in Germany in late 2021.

Two of Metcalf’s compositions are on Singer Pur’s 2021 release, Among Whirlwinds, an album that landed on the Best Albums of the Year list at BR-Klassik, a Munich-based public radio station.

Featuring the works of women composers from all over the world, the release earned BR-Klassik’s Album of the Week honors shortly after its late October release, and it was broadcast on BBC Radio 3’s Record Review. The album is named for one of Metcalf’s compositions, Among Dark Whirlwinds, and features a second Metcalf piece, Gold and Thorns, Fire and Ice.

It’s the latest in a nearly three-decade collaboration between Metcalf, a member of the Lawrence Conservatory faculty since 2001, and Singer Pur, a leading German vocal ensemble consisting of a soprano, three tenors, and two basses. They first commissioned a composition from Metcalf in 1994.

“Since then, I have composed five more pieces of music for the group, and they have performed my compositions hundreds of times across the globe,” she said.

Among Whirlwinds is her fourth album release with Singer Pur.

Metcalf said she’s keeping good company on the album with the other talented composers. She comments in the album’s liner notes that she hopes such projects raise the profile of women composers around the world.

“The day will come when the music of female composers finds equitable representation in programming,” she said. “And on that day, dedicated concerts of women’s music will no longer be necessary; there will simply be concerts. We’ll no longer refer to women composers as such; there will simply be composers. In the meantime, it is recordings such as this that fulfill the crucial need for equity and representation.”

The two Metcalf compositions on the album got their world premieres in 2019, when she was the composer-in-residence at a summer festival hosted by Singer Pur.

Find information on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music here.

The group has won an ECHO Klassik three times—it’s the German equivalent of a Grammy and considered the most prestigious classical music award in Europe. They paid a visit to Lawrence in 2015, delivering a concert and working with Conservatory students. The relationship, Metcalf said, continues to be among the most fulfilling of her professional career.

“Looking back from the vantage point of 28 years, I could not have foreseen the extraordinary musical adventure Singer Pur and I have taken together, filled with new music, beautiful performances, and friendship,” she said. “Singer Pur’s performances of my music have been among the most inspired, beautiful performances of my life, and the compositions I have written for them are perfect expressions of what I hope to create as a composer.”

Metcalf said she first came to know the music of Singer Pur in 1994. They crossed paths when she was a guest composer at the renowned Hilliard Ensemble’s summer music school.

“Their voices radiated warmth, beauty, and flawless artistry; their sense of ensemble was perfect,” she said.

She composed Kyria christifera in 1995, then returned three years later with Il nome del bel fior for Singer Pur and the Hilliard Ensemble.

“That was the composition that cemented our musical collaboration and our friendship, and to this day it remains one of those closest to my heart,” Metcalf said.

In the liner notes for Among Whirlwinds, Singer Pur sings the praises of their long-time collaborator: “The works she has written for us are amongst those we perform most frequently in our contemporary repertoire.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

1. Rising to the challenge

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

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

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

2. A need for flexibility

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

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

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

3. Debut novel brings national buzz

Andrew Graff ’09

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

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

4. A new sound in the Conservatory

Jando Valdez ’24 (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

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

5. Pandemic rock stars

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

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

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

6. New visibility for Indigenous students

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

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

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

7. Raising profile of Latin American composers

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

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

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

8. A classroom with a purpose

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

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

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

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

English professor Peter Fritzell leaves legacy of commitment to liberal arts

Peter Fritzell, 1993

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is mourning the passing of retired English professor Peter Fritzell, a mainstay of the Lawrence faculty from the mid-1960s through the early 2000s. His creativity, passion for teaching, exuberant personality, and love of outdoor adventure made him a beloved figure on campus.

He died at home in Appleton on Dec. 7. He was 81.

Former students and colleagues are sharing stories of his enduring commitment to the students he taught and to Lawrence. Karen Hoffmann ’87, associate professor of English, had the good fortune of getting to know Fritzell as both a student and a colleague.

“He was deeply committed to his work at Lawrence and to his students as individuals,” she said. “His courses in American literature, known for their depth of inquiry, consistently stretched students’ thinking. Being in a ‘Fritzell class’ was an intellectually exciting, sometimes baffling, but always meaningful experience that brought about paradigm shifts for many of us students.”

Fritzell’s connections with his students ran so deep that a former student, Jason Spaeth ’92, and his wife, Anne, recently established an endowed scholarship fund at Lawrence in his name. Fritzell spread the word about the scholarship in a letter to former students in which he celebrated their successes and the ongoing possibilities of a liberal arts education.

You can read Fritzell’s letter here.

In 1988, Fritzell was given Lawrence’s University Award for Excellence in Teaching, among the highest honors for a Lawrence faculty member. In presenting the honor, then-Lawrence President Richard Warch referred to Fritzell as a “scholar in the field of American literature, bedecked in gumboots, outfitted with philosophy, Freud, and Fritzellian originality, guided by a compass set on the polestar of excellence.”

During his time at Lawrence, he was the first to hold the endowed title of Patricia Hamar Boldt Professor of Liberal Studies. He served as chair of the English Department and spent time as director of Lawrence’s London Centre.

He was awarded two year-long fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, during one of which he served as a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. He wrote and published numerous reviews, articles, and essays on 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th-century American literature, including a widely shared essay on Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac.

Experiencing the outdoors and writing about nature became a lifelong passion. Fritzell was the only literary scholar invited to participate in the first National Symposium on Wetlands in 1978. He contributed a chapter to the book that resulted from that symposium. In 1982-83, he contributed a lecture to the symposium on the Social and Environmental History of the Great Lakes Forest, and a chapter to the book that resulted from it.

In 1990, he published his own scholarly book, Nature Writing and America: Essays Upon a Cultural Type.

In 1999, the English Department of his undergraduate alma mater, the University of North Dakota, awarded him the Maxwell Anderson Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement in Arts and Letters.

Fritzell continued to interact regularly with Lawrence well after his retirement.

“As a colleague, Peter kept his focus on the well-being of the university overall, especially given his belief in the expansive potential of liberal arts education,” Hoffmann said. “His compassion, wisdom, and unique sense of humor have touched so many of us. The passing of Peter Fritzell is a great loss for the Lawrence community, but he had a profound influence on many students that will be lasting.”

Fritzell is survived by his wife of 59 years, Marlys, sons Peter Jr. (Susan) and John (Dawn) and four grandchildren. The family has asked that any contributions go to the Peter A. Fritzell Endowed Scholarship Fund at Lawrence University (Office of Development, 711 E. Boldt Way, Appleton, WI 54911) or to a charity of one’s choosing. A celebration of Peter’s life will be held at a future date.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Digging into tropes, stereotypes part of deep immersion during 2021 D-Term

Jana Casey, a sophomore, gives a final presentation during Introduction to Tropes and Stereotypes in Theatre, Film, and Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, part of D-Term at Lawrence University. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

Once upon a time, there was a yankee. Clad in striped pants and a patched vest, this country-bumpkin character was immediately recognizable on stage, created by British authors in the colonial period to represent—and often mock—Americans at large.

But it didn’t stay that way. Rather than taking offense, Americans embraced the yankee, adopting the character as their own.

Now, as time has moved forward, the yankee has continued to evolve. One could argue that in the modern day, the yankee has morphed into the character of the redneck, stereotypically portrayed with a shotgun in one hand and a Bible in the other.

From insult to patriotic symbol and then back to a new kind of insult, this trope has evolved over time while remaining immediately identifiable, giving the audience a clear picture of who that character is and how he behaves through stereotypical mannerisms—a phenomenon that Lawrence’s Introduction to Tropes and Stereotypes in Theatre, Film, and Media: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly class has been studying this December Term (D-Term).

As an optional two-week addition to the academic calendar, this year running from Nov. 28 through Dec. 10, D-Term gives students the opportunity to take a focused, three-unit course of their choosing during winter break. For students who choose to stay, they often work with professors who are diving deep into a particular subject of interest within their field. Six courses were offered during this year’s D-Term, ranging from Food, Politics and Culture, to The Science of Superheroes, to Happiness: Meditation and Science.

Learn more about Lawrence’s D-Term here.

In the case of Introduction to Tropes and Stereotypes, Austin Rose, lecturer of theatre arts, built the course based on his M.F.A. research into tropes and stereotypes in American theatre, focusing on gay and lesbian, Black, and Latino representation.

With only two weeks at their disposal, the class moves fast by necessity, providing an overview of how tropes and stereotypes function, which common tropes persist in American media, and how to stop the perpetuation of harmful and negative portrayals.

“We consume so much media that there are stereotypes and tropes everywhere, and it’s really hard to recognize them when you haven’t learned about them before and how harmful they are,” said sophomore Lucie Peltier, a philosophy and creative writing major enrolled in the course. “I’m hoping to become more aware of all the tropes in everyday life, in film, in theatre, in media.”

With each trope covered and each piece of media introduced, Rose will turn to the class and ask, “What are your thoughts?” Through this discussion-based structure, students said they are able to process the information verbally with their classmates to understand the trope in all its forms, whether positive, negative or neutral. The course culminates with in-depth student presentations on a specific trope of their choice, enabling students to do their own research and supplementing the surface-level introductions that have occurred throughout the week.

As well as the structure of the class itself, the format of D-Term has allowed students to focus more time and energy on the subject matter, becoming closer with classmates in the process. After every class period, the nine-student class will go to lunch together, where discussions of the class material often continue, according to sophomore Nayla Brunnbauer, a film major enrolled in the course. Since students are also only taking one course during the two-week period, they go to each class feeling more energized, Peltier said, and can take the time to understand the subject better.

“I think one of the big appeals of a D-Term course is that you don’t have all the other stuff hanging over your head,” Rose said. “It feels a little more relaxed and a little more privileged, I would say, than the regular term feels.”

That said, D-Term can also serve as a way to experiment with introducing a new class, workshopping the format and gauging student interest, before expanding the course to 10 weeks for a standard term—an idea that Peltier and Brunnbauer both supported. They hope that future students will get the chance to delve even deeper into the complex world of tropes and stereotypes.

“Identifying these different tropes and different characters, maybe we can identify something about ourselves and how we fit into our society,” Rose said. “Along the way, we can try to knock out the goofy stuff and not perpetuate the bad stuff anymore. We’ve learned why it’s bad, so let’s stop it.”

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

Lawrence professors Monica Rico, Michael Mizrahi named to endowed positions

Monica Rico and Michael Mizrahi

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University faculty members were named to endowed professorships this fall.

Monica Rico, a professor of history, has been named the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies, and pianist Michael Mizrahi, a professor of music in the Conservatory, has been named the Frank C. Shattuck Professor of Music.

Rico joined the Lawrence faculty in 2001, with her research focused on gender and cultural history. She’s been honored multiple times both on campus and in the Fox Cities community for her scholarship, teaching, and outreach. She assumes the endowed professorship held by Jerald Podair since 2005. He retired in 2021

Mizrahi joined the Lawrence faculty in 2009. A member of the music collective Decoda, he has recorded multiple albums and has performed world premieres of new music on numerous occasions. His latest album, with the group NOW Ensemble, debuted in November. He also presented the Lawrence premiere of the Florence Price Piano Concerto with the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra. He played a lead role in relocating the annual Decoda Chamber Music Festival to Appleton, beginning in the summer of 2021. He assumes the endowed professorship that had been held by Kenneth Bozeman from 1999 until his retirement in 2020.

The Robert S. French Professorship in American Studies was established in 2001 by a gift from William F. Zuendt and his family in honor of his former high school counselor and long-time friend. Robert S. French graduated from Lawrence in 1948 with a self-devised major in American Studies and carved out an impressive career in education.

The French Professorship is intended to embrace and examine a broad array of American subjects, from history to literature, from political thought to artistic and creative expression.

Ruth Harwood Shattuck, Class of 1906, provided the initial funding for establishing the Shattuck professorship in 1969. It became fully endowed in 1999 through a bequest from her son, Frank C. Shattuck. The chair was then renamed in Frank Shattuck’s honor.

He was the architect of seven buildings on the Lawrence campus, and he was a major supporter of the Conservatory of Music. The Shattuck professorship supports a faculty member in the Conservatory.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Reimagined classroom brings new energy, creativity to intro science classes

Nicole Legman, a sophomore, Ryan Johnson, a senior, and Haleigh Andrews, a first-year, work with other students at their table during an Introduction to Physics class in the remodeled Science Learning Commons in Youngchild Hall. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Stefan Debbert will tell you he got a little emotional when he addressed the introductory chemistry class on the first day of Fall Term.

Part of that might have been tied to the emotions of standing in front of a classroom full of students for the first time since the pandemic had rerouted lives a year and half earlier. But mostly, he said, it was about the room he was standing in.

For three years, Debbert, an associate professor of chemistry, and his science colleagues have worked with architects to reimagine how a science lecture hall could and should work. More specifically, how Room 121 in Youngchild Hall could be transformed from an outdated, tiered lecture hall with 150-plus forward-facing seats into an interactive classroom divided into a dozen tables, each seating four to six students and each equipped with technology to keep every student engaged and involved, be it a lecture or a lab. Work on the classroom project was completed just as Fall Term arrived in September.

“I kind of had to collect myself a little bit,” Debbert said of that first day. “It was a great moment.”

Debbert played a lead role in bringing the transformation of the classroom—now called the Science Learning Commons—to fruition. Lawrence donors funded the renovation, part of the successful Be the Light! campaign that came to a close at the end of 2020. Preparations for how to best utilize the remodeled space was supported by a $1 million grant to Lawrence University from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) through the Science Education Program to implement its Inclusive Excellence Initiative. It’s aimed at encouraging colleges and universities to explore new ways to bring underrepresented students into the sciences.

An important piece of Lawrence’s strategy has been in reimagining this lecture hall, which is now home to intro courses and a smattering of upper-level courses across the sciences. By creating a more interactive and inclusive environment, the science faculty are hoping to spur the imagination and showcase the collaborative beauty of the sciences, all catered to students who are just beginning their college journeys.

Take a 360 tour of the Science Learning Commons

Students work in groups at individual pods in the Science Learning Commons, located in Room 121 in Youngchild Hall.

First-year students often come in wide-eyed, not sure what to expect, Debbert said. If that intro class in physics or chemistry or biology doesn’t light a fire, they may never come back. For students from historically underrepresented backgrounds, research has shown that that’s often been the case.

“Having a situation like this where we can emphasize the social aspect of science is so important,” Debbert said. “Part of being a scientist is talking to other people and working together, putting stuff on the board, being wrong. It’s amazing how much of that attitude and emotional work we do in these science courses, but that’s a big part of the job.”

STEM-to-Ph.D. rankings, pedagogy changes build excitement in the sciences

Any student hoping to sleepwalk through an intro science class in the back of a sterile lecture hall may be a bit surprised. But the science faculty are betting that in the end it’ll be a welcome surprise.

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

The room is now equipped with two massive projector screens, allowing the professor to use them for different purposes simultaneously. Each of the student tables have their own screens, connected to the big screens up front. Microphones at each table allow for easy interaction across the room. Document cameras give faculty new options for sharing materials. David Berk, director of instructional technology, has led the implementation of the equipment and guided faculty through a learning curve in how to utilize it.

“It’s like flying an airplane up there,” Beth De Stasio, the Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and professor of biology, said with a laugh. “There are a lot of buttons to push. The technology is amazing.”

Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, and Margaret Koker, assistant professor of physics, tap into new technologies in the Science Learning Commons as they teach Introduction to Physics.

Intro science classes are among the largest classes at Lawrence. This Fall Term, Introduction to Chemistry has 50 students. Introduction to Physics is closer to 70. The reconfigured Science Learning Commons can seat about 75 students if needed.

Faculty have long infused interactive elements into those intro classes. But doing so in a lecture hall not equipped for that interaction was often awkward or inefficient, De Stasio said.

Now the interaction is happening organically. It can be seen at the individual tables. No one is working solo. Discussions and debates are robust, and the ability for the professor to connect with each group is seamless.

“There’s this sharing that’s happening,” De Stasio said. “But what’s really important about that is you’re getting each individual student, as much as possible, to think during class and not be a passive receiver of knowledge, but rather be a creator of understanding. That’s when learning is deeper, when it’s something you’ve wrestled with yourself and not just been told. That is what scientists do.”

De Stasio said lessons learned during the four terms of distance learning are finding their way into how the Science Learning Commons is being used. The individual table with the built-in technology is the in-person version of Zoom’s breakout room, she said.

“In terms of inclusion, I think it’s a huge step forward,” De Stasio said. “We can have students in groups, we easily monitor who is talking, who’s not; is anyone being left out? It becomes obvious right away.”

Tracking student progress

Junior Difei Jiang collaborates with sophomore Connor Phelps during an Introduction to Physics class session.

How the students learn in this new environment will be tracked and studied. The HHMI grant includes follow-up, analyzing grade gaps and performance of underrepresented minority students and first-generation college students, studying whether students feel welcomed or engaged in those classes, whether they then aspire to take higher level STEM courses.

In other words, this is just the start, Debbert said.

“We’re not posting the mission accomplished banner and saying we’re done,” he said. “We’re tracking everything we can think of.”

Alex Rothstein, a senior biology and music performance double major, took two courses this term in the Science Learning Commons—one was an upper-level biochemistry course, the other an Introduction to Physics course that had more than 70 students.  

“Physics was the largest class on campus this term, but the classroom didn’t make it feel like that,” he said.

The classroom setup is going to pay dividends for years to come because it changes the dynamics of those early science courses, which in the past could often be intimidating, Rothstein said.

“Being able to work in small pods enhanced my experience this term, as it started to feel like a small group versus a class of roughly 70,” he said. “Overall, I feel like this classroom enhances students’ abilities to work together creatively without intimidation, which I feel is important for happiness and success in the sciences.”

The classroom, designed with a hexagon motif that makes Debbert smile, is in use almost constantly. When classes aren’t in session, students are encouraged to use it for group study sessions or tutoring.

“We call it a Science Learning Commons because we want this to be a gathering place,” Debbert said. “We ask these students to work together during class and hopefully that carries over and they’ll work together outside of class.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Conservatory faculty, students, alumni honored with five American Prize awards

Emily Richter as Countess Rosina and Emma Milton as Susanna dress Sam Gibson as Cherubino during a dress rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro in Stansbury Theater in March 2020.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Lawrence Conservatory of Music drew high praise in the recently released 2021 The American Prize Awards, with two faculty—and the students they direct—and three alumni being honored.

The American Prize annually hands out awards of excellence in the performing arts among nonprofit arts organizations and schools across the country.

This year’s recipients include:

Mark Dupere, director of orchestral studies, received a third-place honor for the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra in the college orchestral category.

Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies, received a third-place honor in the college opera category for the 2020 production of The Marriage of Figaro.

Evan Williams ’10 received a Special Judges’ Citation for Music Both Relevant and Thought-Provoking. He was honored for his piece, Dead White Man Music, in the orchestral performance category.

Nicolas Bizub ’16 received a Special Judges’ Citation for Social Relevance and Musical Quality. He was honored for his piece, Fill The Swamp, in the composition category.

Nick Fahrenkrug ’20 received a Special Citation for Artistic Achievement. He was honored for his short performance film, Dichterliebe: Within + Without, in the opera category.

See more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music here.

Dupere and the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra

Mark Dupere leads a rehearsal of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra in the Shattuck Hall of Music in October 2019.

While Dupere’s name is on the award, he said it’s really an honor for the students who perform with the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra. The performances cited for the award pre-date the arrival of the pandemic in March 2020.

“I’m deeply proud of our students for receiving this honor and thankful for the opportunity to show the great things Lawrence students are doing,” Dupere said. “It is a privilege to work with these highly motivated students who are committed to pursuing an excellent level of playing and creating meaningful and memorable performances. I love coming to work every day with these students.”

See information on upcoming Lawrence Symphony Orchestra performances here.

Woodruff and the cast of 2020’s The Marriage of Figaro

Erik Nordstrom as Count Almaviva and Max Muter as Figaro during a dress rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro in March 2020.

When The Marriage of Figaro took to the stage in early 2020, Woodruff heaped praise on the students in the cast for the way they embraced the challenges of staging the comic opera.

“It’s one of the most generous casts I’ve worked with in a long time,” Woodruff said. “They’re just generous with each other as far as sharing the stage space and working with one another.”

The American Prize called it a team effort between students and faculty worth celebrating, one that is seen often in Lawrence’s opera theatre program: “Recent productions have garnered national attention because of their well-crafted and dedicated musical and dramatic performances.”

Williams: Dead White Man Music

Evan Williams ’10

Williams, a composer and conductor, received the citation for his harpsichord concerto with chamber orchestra, which he says is at times a love letter to the classical music of Bach, Brahms, and Dowland and at other times a celebration of jazz, soul, and gospel. 

“Most of my musical training consisted of studying works of the Western canon—so mostly the music of dead European men,” Williams said. “As someone who doesn’t look like that, I started to question if I should continue to study and make music in this tradition. Dead White Man Music is me grappling with that question.”

Williams said he heard some negative feedback related to the title of the piece but otherwise has gotten an overwhelmingly positive response.

“This special citation from the American Prize is further proof that this is a conversation worth having in the concert halls and music classrooms around the world,” he said.

Williams serves as assistant professor of music and director of instrumental activities at Rhodes College in Tennessee.

Bizub: “Radiance and light”

Nicolas Bizub ’16

Bizub describes his music as “dark, striving, and yearning, which also points toward radiance and light.”

For Bizub, music is one more outlet to speak up for social and environmental justice.

“Most of my work is concerned with advocating for rights within the LGBTQIA+ community, of which I am a part, as well as responding to the climate change crisis,” he said. “So, for me, receiving this particular honor from The American Prize was quite special and humbling, as it is affirmation that the social relevance I attempt to imbue in music I write is starting to hit an intended mark.”

It also speaks to the lessons he learned as an undergraduate at Lawrence.

“I began this journey at Lawrence, and the training I received from their composition department has stayed with me as I continue writing music today,” he said.

Bizub graduated in May from the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati with a doctoral degree in music composition.

Fahrenkrug: A new vision

Nick Fahrenkrug ’20

Fahrenkrug began his Dichterliebe: Within + Without video project while a senior at Lawrence. It was conceived as a response to the initial outbreak of COVID-19.

“I was not interested in going through the motions of performing a voice recital to an empty room,” he said. “At the time, we didn’t even have the livestreaming system that Lawrence now uses.”

He began talking with professors and others about creating a voice project that would cater to a virtual, screen-based viewing experience. He quickly realized his initial recital repertoire wasn’t going to work, so he shifted his vision.

“From there I decided to pare down the music to only Schumann’s Dichterliebe, and took the following three months to realize and complete the entire video cycle, which very much realized itself in real time,” Fahrenkrug said. “What I mean by this is that while I was able to form a loose concept in the beginning, it really was more a set of guidelines and boundaries from which I could play in, rather than a preconceived vision of how everything would go. It was truly the most artistically liberating project I’ve ever worked on.”

Fahrenkrug is currently pursuing a master’s in vocal performance at Louisiana State University.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Giving Day builds on momentum, sets records for Lawrence donors, donations

Spin the Wheel Trivia was part of Giving Day activities at Lawrence on Wednesday. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

More than 3,300 donors stepped up Wednesday to contribute more than $1.97 million in Lawrence University’s Giving Day—both all-time highs for the eighth annual event.

The day was a celebration of being back together after more than a year of remote study, with on-campus engagement events mixed with a virtual campaign to connect with alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends, getting them excited about what’s to come for Lawrence.

Amber Nelson, associate director of annual giving and project manager for Giving Day, said the day was all about supporting students—current and future—and nurturing day-to-day life at Lawrence, mostly through the Lawrence Fund, which provides for campus improvements, sustainability efforts, academic innovations, and student opportunities in arts and athletics. Alumni who signed up as “game changers” matched donated funds as part of various “game changer challenges” on campus and on social media throughout the day.

“We are so grateful that the Lawrence community shined so bright on Giving Day to help us break records for both donors and dollars,” Nelson said.

Nelson said support came from on and off campus. There was a 36% increase in participation from faculty and staff; more than 150 alumni volunteers signed up to help spread the word of Giving Day; and students helped unlock $5,000 of “game changer” funds while organizing and participating in a bag toss challenge.

“The success of this day really was a full community effort—from alumni reaching out to their classmates encouraging them to give, to staff answering phones, to students running events on campus, to the generosity of our ‘game changers’ who provided matching gift funds, to countless other ways people showed their support for Lawrence,” Nelson said.

President Laurie A. Carter, who began her tenure as Lawrence’s 17th president in July, participated in her first Giving Day. She joined students for trivia and bag toss challenges.

Senior Anna Kallay (left) joins President Laurie A. Carter in a bag toss challenge on Main Hall Green.

“There is so much to love about Lawrence, but one thing I notice every day is how much our community cares,” Carter said. “Giving Day is such a powerful and exciting example of that.”  

A year ago, Giving Day went entirely virtual because of COVID-19 pandemic protocols. Having on-campus activities again provided additional enthusiasm, another “shining example,” Carter said, of being “Brighter Together.”

All of the “game changer” challenges were met.

“Lawrentians are pretty humble,” said Matthew Baumler, executive director of Alumni and Constituency Engagement. “All that changes on Giving Day when their support, their stories, and their encouragement is heard from around the world. It’s a day that reaffirms our commitment to the mission, and I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

You’re in the right place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: