The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest is in the books, and if you thought the weekend festivities went fast, well, they did.
The student-run contest was led by Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20 and her team of trivia masters, and they put a focus on rapid-fire questions during the 50-hour sprint.
was very pleased with the way the weekend went,” Taylor said. “One of our
priorities was speed, as we know the players are here for the questions and not
to hear us talk, so we made an effort to read new questions quickly. And it
worked; we had over 400 questions this year, which is something that hasn’t
happened in a few years.
“We received some really positive feedback about that.”
The winning on-campus team was Do You Really Trust Aquarius? The winning off-campus team was Get a Load of That.
For full results (and complete team names), see the Great Midwest Trivia Contest official page here.
The contest drew 13 on-campus
teams and 70 off-campus teams.
In other trivia contest news, Grace Krueger ’21 was named Trivia Headmaster for next year’s contest.
“My advice for Grace would be to playtest, playtest, playtest,” Taylor said. “That was something we didn’t do as much of this year, I think, and so we had more shutouts than I would like.”
As per tradition, the final Super Garuda question will serve as the first question of next year’s contest. It is: “A Facebook page formed by students at an Ivy League school crusades against a colorful sculpture installed on campus in 2016. On a web site run by students at this school, one of the directors of the organization that runs the site, which was founded in 2011, shares a name with someone who appeared on a show that ‘celebrates and explores life through food.’ On the site, there is a photo series of minimalist portraits with two of the subjects wearing silver jackets. In a stairwell of the building that this photo shoot was taken in, what is written in silver on a black door next to a wall of large blue writing.” (Answer: Apple Head)
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawrence University is strengthening its partnership with College Horizons, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for college-bound Native American students.
A newly awarded three-year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew
W. Mellon Foundation will extend the College Horizons Scholars Program through
College Horizons, the lead on the project, is a New
Mexico-based college access organization that works with Native American
students on college readiness. It aims to close the gap between Native and
non-Native achievement in higher education. Only about one in 20 Native
students will attend a four-year college or university, and once in college,
only about a third of those students will earn a degree within six years,
according to the organization.
For the past three years, Lawrence has hosted College
Horizons’ pilot Scholars Program, a three-week summer academy for Native
students in advance of their freshman year in college. Students with college
destinations across the country gathered on the Lawrence campus to learn about
transitioning to college and practice research and writing skills. It was
funded by a $650,000 Mellon Foundation grant that expired at the end of 2019.
The new grant will allow the program to extend, expand and
evolve. Instead of meeting only once for three weeks prior to their freshman
year, the Native students will now be part of a Scholars Pathway that will
continue through all four years of college. Beginning this summer, the
participating students will meet annually for a one-week academy. The meet-ups
prior to their freshman and sophomore years will be at Lawrence. Those before
their junior and senior years will be at the University of Michigan.
“This model allows us to better meet student needs at each
appropriate step in their academic journey and allows them to stay in frequent
personal contact with their cohorts, which increases resilience,” Catherine G.
Kodat, Lawrence’s provost and dean of faculty, said in the grant application.
The Scholars Program is one of three administered by College
Horizons. Lawrence has also hosted Graduate Horizons, a four-day program
offering graduate school admissions workshops. One of about 50 colleges that work
with College Horizons, Lawrence forged its initial partnership shortly after
the organization’s 1998 founding.
Kodat noted that among the lessons learned during the first
three years of the program was that it was difficult for the participating
students to dedicate three weeks of their summer to the program, and then the time
lapse between their initial visit and the Graduate Horizons program was too
great, exposing students to attrition risks.
The expanded and renamed Scholars Pathway Program offers
more continuity, most notably consistent mentoring through the college years.
“College Horizons is excited for the three-year grant
renewal with the Mellon Foundation and the continued partnership with Lawrence
University,” said Mikaela Crank, director of the Scholars Program. “We are
looking forward to our new cohorts of Scholars and implementing a more robust
and contiguous four-year Scholars Pathway Program that will include annual
“Our goal is to better meet our students’ mentoring,
academic, socio-emotional, pre-graduate advising and research needs. We are
applying a holistic and Indigenous approach to support our Scholars success by
helping them graduate from college and apply to graduate school.”
Lawrence will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant and
will partner with the University of Michigan in hosting the program.
Last summer, 21 new high school graduates representing six Indigenous
communities took part in the program at Lawrence.
“It is an honor and privilege to extend our fruitful
partnership with College Horizons through this program,” President Mark
Burstein said in a letter to the Mellon Foundation. “Our missions strongly
align through increasing college access and attainment among historically
underserved groups. The pilot program has raised our awareness of the
particular challenges facing Native American students, and I trust the renewal
will continue to increase our capacity to serve them better.”
The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest will soon be underway, beginning at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, and closing at midnight on Sunday, Jan. 26.
So, what exactly are you getting into when you register for the contest? The simple answer is, a whole lot of fun. And a little chaos.
Midwest Trivia Contest probably isn’t trivia as you know it. All weekend, a
team of Trivia Masters dishes out 300 questions that require teamwork and
extensive searching to answer; all part of the fun. Nearly 100 teams from on
and off campus call in with their responses.
Since the first game appeared on the WLFM airwaves in 1966, the contest has become a Lawrence tradition of legendary proportions. It continues to air each year on the digital broadcast of WLFM, the student station that can be found here.
The questions come almost non-stop for 50 hours. Highlights include hourly action questions. Imagine, for example, measuring the distance from Colman Hall to Trever Hall using copies of Plato’s Republic, the beloved work that’s part of Freshman Studies. On the final day of the contest come the Garudas — very difficult questions — topped off by the Super Garuda, the impossible finale question that returns as the first question of the following year’s contest.
This year’s theme is Apocalypse, as you may have guessed from the Trivia Masters’ photos that can be seen around campus.
One aspect of last year’s theme, Fast, will carry over into this year’s contest. Questions will be given at rapid-fire speed to ensure that all players are kept busy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single dull moment in the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, perhaps this year more than previous years.
Take it from this year’s Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20, a senior from Chico, California. She’s been playing trivia since she was a first-year student.
one of the reasons I came to Lawrence,” she says. “I got some friends together
and started a team as soon as I got here.”
didn’t always have her sights set on being a Trivia Master, let alone the
of doing it was so scary because it was so much responsibility. I didn’t know
if I wanted to take that on.”
Headmaster oversees the planning of the contest, which has been in the works
since May of last year. Taylor and her team of 13 Trivia Masters have been
tirelessly coming up with questions. Taylor admits the duty of Headmaster feels
all the more crucial at the 55-year landmark.
“That’s a 55-year tradition, so if you mess that up …,” she says as her voice drifts off. “But it’s been great. I have a great team of Trivia Masters so I’m really excited.”
the fanfare scare you off. Taylor wants people to know that the contest is all
about having fun.
“A lot of
people think it’s a huge, overwhelming thing to play, but a lot of people have
fun playing whenever they can,” Taylor says. “Just get some friends together
and play for a couple hours on Saturday night. You don’t have to be competitive.
It’s really fun no matter how much or how little you play.”
calendars: Registration for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest takes places at 8
p.m. on the first night of the contest. You can also set your alarms that
morning to catch Taylor talking more about the contest on Wisconsin Public
Radio’s Morning Show from 6 to 7 a.m.
J. Terrence (Terry) Franke ’68, an impactful
leader who helped guide Lawrence University through transformative changes and
served as a mentor for past and current students, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 21,
at the age of 73 with his wife, Mary, his three children, and siblings at his
Franke, of Evanston, Illinois, served as the chair
of Lawrence University’s Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2015, a capstone to five
decades of service in which he provided calm and insightful leadership and
mentored countless students, alumni, and fellow trustees.
As Board chair, he delivered steady guidance during
a time of great transition, leading to the 2013 appointment of Mark Burstein as
the University’s 16th president.
“Terry’s passion, unbounded energy, and strategic vision have carried Lawrence successfully forward,” Burstein said. “His investment in countless student interns and persistent support of many aspects of our learning community has had an extraordinary impact on the University. I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.”
as chair of the Board were preceded by his long service to the University as a
trustee, beginning in 2002. He also served an earlier term as an alumni trustee
from 1995 to 1998.
Among other leadership efforts, Franke led the
Board’s Investment Committee, stewarding the endowment through the Great
Recession of the late 2000s.
He transformed the Investment Committee shortly after
becoming chair, bringing in alumni who had expertise in the areas of private
equity and real estate and opening the conversation to a wider range of voices.
That had never been done before, and it reinvigorated the committee, bringing change
that would pay off in a big way when the markets collapsed in and around 2008.
“I can remember being in a meeting in March of 2009, which was within a few days of the market low, and the endowment had fallen from about $200 million to something in the $130 million range,” recalled David Knapp ’89, who now serves as the Investment Committee chair. “We were unsure of where we were going to go from there. And Terry was calm and had a long-term view, and helped lead the conversation in a way that kept us all from panicking. What followed was a decade of sustained growth of the endowment through appreciation and new gifts that has brought it over $350 million today. … He stewarded the endowment through the roughest financial period of our lifetimes.”
Knapp took over the lead role on the
Investment Committee when Franke was named chair of the Board of Trustees in
the Board of Trustees while chair, recruiting and welcoming new Board members
with wide ranges of experience and diverse perspectives, expanding the depth
and breadth of the Board.
always answered the call of his alma mater with talent, energy, and passion for
the Lawrence community,” said David Blowers ’82, the current Board chair. “He
led the Board of Trustees during a critical period in Lawrence’s
history. His ability to orchestrate a seamless presidential transition put
the University on the successful path it enjoys today. I know that I speak on
behalf of the entire Board when I say we will greatly miss his wisdom, energy,
and, above all, his loyal friendship.”
It was during Franke’s time leading the Board of Trustees that Lawrence launched its Full Speed to Full Need campaign to support student scholarships. When he stepped down as chair of the Board in 2015, Franke received a surprise announcement: The establishment of the Terry and Mary Franke Scholarship Fund, courtesy of a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The money was put toward the Full Speed to Full Need campaign, to be used exclusively for endowed scholarships to help meet students’ demonstrated financial needs.
That was fitting because Franke’s commitment
to Lawrence ran so deep, as did the respect for him among his fellow alumni.
When he asked others to engage, the answer was most often a yes.
A committed mentor
Franke spent most of his professional career
at Hewitt Associates, where he was a senior partner. He also served as a senior
consultant for Productive Strategies Inc., a management and marketing
consulting firm based in Northfield, Illinois, and Franke Associates.
He was a dedicated member of the Lawrence community from the
moment he stepped on campus as a student in 1964. Since graduating in 1968, he has
fostered and maintained connections, sharing his time and knowledge with alumni
as well as current and future Lawrentians. Franke was ready to lend a hand as
an event volunteer, admissions volunteer, and as a member of reunion committees
and class leadership teams. He took particular joy in mentoring the student
interns at his workplace, supported by the Franke Scholarship Fund.
A proud member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Franke
connected often with past and current fraternity members.
Jake Woodford ’13, special assistant to the president at
Lawrence, first connected with Franke while a student in 2010. Those
connections continued, and Franke proved to be a mentor and supporter as
Woodford moved into Lawrence’s administration.
“One of the hallmarks for me was how much Terry cared about
people and how much he kept track of people,” Woodford said. “He knew the
projects they had going on. Their relationships and their passions in many ways
Franke would meet with fraternity members whenever he was on
campus for Board meetings.
“He was always mentoring,” Woodford said. “That was a really
special part of who he was.”
Henry Chesnutt ’14 was among the nearly 20 Lawrence students
who served as interns over the past decade in Franke’s office.
“Interning with Terry was an apprenticeship to a life of
integrity and hard work,” he said.
Chesnutt recalls struggling through much of his internship,
but Franke was there to guide him along and prep him for his launch into the
workforce. With Franke’s gentle prodding, he eventually found his bearings, and
is now thriving as a software engineer with Bain and Company.
“You might think that after his 15th intern he
might have stopped, relaxed, and rested on the fruits of his altruism,”
Chesnutt said of Franke. “But even up to his passing, he was still mentoring
students and offering internships to do all he could to pay it forward.”
In Lawrence’s Center for Career, Life, and Community
Engagement, Franke long set an example of how alumni can positively impact the
lives of current students. It’s those kinds of connections the office is
striving to enhance.
have helped countless students over the past decade, and have advanced the
lives of individuals now working in health care, consulting, finance, and more,”
said Mandy Netzel, assistant director of the CLC for employer and alumni
In honor of his lifelong commitment to his alma mater and its students, Franke received Lawrence’s Presidential Award in 2018.
Details on a Lawrence gathering to celebrate Franke’s life will be announced at a later date.
Lawrence University faculty, students, and staff honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a day of service on Monday.
No classes were held on the federal holiday honoring the
civil rights icon, but Lawrence again provided a bevy of volunteer and learning
opportunities around King’s life and message. The day was topped off with the
29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at
Memorial Chapel, an event co-sponsored by Lawrence and African Heritage Inc.
A community celebration
The evening event featured keynote speaker Simon Balto, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at the University of Iowa and author of the book, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power.
He implored the
audience not to lose sight of the radical mission of King, not to be lulled
into complacency by a modern caricature that allows politicians and others to tap
into benign visions of King that they believe can impart feel-good messages.
“We treat him now
like this bundle of sound bites and remember him as a lovable man with little
more than a kumbaya dream of a colorblind society,” Balto said. “People, and
politicians in particular, seem to think that King can be whatever they want
him to have been.”
He was so much more
than that, Balto said. There’s a reason that a Gallup poll in 1966 found that
only 32% of Americans had a positive view of King. He sought radical change. He
made people uncomfortable. And that was a good thing.
“Martin Luther King
was a radical,” Balto said. “People often think of the word radical as if it is
pejorative or scary. But we shouldn’t think that way.”
It’s about “challenging
the status quo at a fundamental level,” he said.
King and others in the civil rights movement successfully took down Jim Crow laws in the south, ending legalized segregation. But that, Balto said, was only one phase. The next phase — fighting racism that was built into the very fabric of the nation — would prove far more difficult. It’s a battle that continues today even as we honor the great accomplishments of King.
“Yes, Dr. King did
want an end to racial discrimination, but he also knew that simply ending the
Jim Crow system was not going to do it,” Balto said. “He knew that racism was
manifested in all sorts of different ways … and not just in the south. He knew
it was baked into the housing policies in places like Milwaukee and Chicago and
Los Angeles. … He knew it was baked into the ways of the criminal justice
system and how it treated black people. He knew it was in the school system and
the labor market, in all sorts of places the civil rights movement that had
vanquished Jim Crow in the south hadn’t fixed.”
King told his followers that the new battle would be more difficult, in large part because it came with a much higher price tag for the nation, one that would run into the billions of dollars and require the transformation of many of the tenets of society, Balto said. It was an uphill fight, and remains so today.
“People died pursuing it,” Balto said. “Indeed, Dr. King died pursuing it.”
Also at Monday’s King Celebration event, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru
Sekou, a musician, filmmaker, and theologian, led a rousing music portion of
the program. The annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty MLK Community Leader Award was
presented to Carla A. Manns, a local author, business owner, and community
leader. And Pa Lee Moua, formerly an associate dean of students for diversity
at Lawrence and now the Appleton Area School District’s diversity, equity, and
inclusion officer, received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educator Award.
Special video tributes were given to recently departed
community leaders Ronald Dunlap and Henry Golde.
Day of service activities
Nearly 400 Lawrence students, faculty, and staff took part
in community outreach activities or participated in teach-ins Monday in honor
of King’s legacy. With no classes being held, it was designated as a day of
Nearly 150 volunteers supported communities across the Fox
Cities through service at Riverview Gardens, the Fox Valley Humane Association,
Feeding America, Brewster Village, and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Appleton and
Menasha. Another 155 attended a half dozen teach-ins that ranged from being
actively engaged in anti-racism advocacy to addressing stigma and disparity
within mental health treatment.
“We were very impressed by the interest from the Lawrence campus,” said Kristi Hill, director of Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. “We are hopeful that we provided a variety of offerings around learning, volunteering, and celebrating.”
At Riverview Gardens, an Appleton nonprofit that uses urban
farming as a means to produce food and provide job training for struggling
populations, nearly 25 students took to the fields on a cold afternoon to place
mulch into hoop houses and do other chores, all aimed at prepping the farm for
“Riverview Gardens is a really great organization because
they work with job skills training for homeless and disadvantaged communities,”
said Floreal Crubaugh ’20. “That’s really important for our day of service.”
She and many of the other volunteers she was working with
are members of the student organization that tends to the Lawrence University
Sustainable Garden (SLUG), so the outreach to Riverview Gardens was particularly
close to the heart.
“We’re a club that’s really organized around community
service and volunteering,” Crubaugh said. “This really meshed well with our
mission of giving our time and giving our skills to the community.”
It’s work that was much appreciated by the workers who tend
to the needs of Riverview Gardens on a daily basis.
“This helps us prepare for our spring planting,” said Elisse Pavletich, the farm manager. “They are putting mulch in a lot of our hoop houses, which will prevent weeds from growing in those places and it gives us a lot more time to focus on the vegetables in spring, which then helps us to help more people.”
At the Fox Valley Humane Association, a team of Lawrence
volunteers focused on cleaning the facility, doing laundry, and stocking
shelves before turning their attention to interaction with the animals that are
currently calling the shelter home.
“I find working with animals incredibly important,” said
Sara Prostko ’20. “They are a population that cannot say their needs, they
don’t have a say in their environment, where they go, who they’re with.
“Lawrence is all about trying to be a voice for those who
cannot have a voice for themselves. I think this is exactly that. … We’re doing
a lot of cleaning and sorting of stuff, things that I’d rather us volunteers do
rather than employees so they can spend their time and efforts on things to
expand the organization.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Ice skates, gloves, and
the warmest of hats are all part of winter term at Lawrence. It might be getting
cold out there, but don’t forget that winter term on campus also is a
There are fun things to do all over campus (skating on Ormsby Lake, anyone?). That includes the events calendar, which gets particularly robust in winter term. Here are nine exciting things happening on campus this winter term, beginning with Monday’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1. MLK outreach and celebration
Every year the Center
for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) hosts a day of
service in honor of King. As Lawrentians take time out of their
classes to recognize the great work of MLK, the CCE provides
a space for Lawrentians to give back to their community
and learn about King’s legacy. The full list of events
happening on MLK Day is available on the CCE section of the Lawrence web site.
To wrap up the day, the 29th annual Fox Cities
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, co-sponsored by Lawrence and African
Heritage Inc., will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.
Dr. Simon Balto, an assistant professor of history and
African American studies at the University of Iowa, will deliver the keynote
address. It also will feature the music of Rev. Sekou.
Balto holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin. He wrote the book, “Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power,” and his writing has appeared in TIME magazine, the Washington Post, and other popular and scholarly outlets.
The event also will feature tributes to the late Ronald Dunlap and Henry Golde. MLK youth essay contest winners will be honored, and the recipient of the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty MLK Community Leader Award will be announced.
2. Great Midwest Trivia Contest
What has been fun, trivial, exhausting, and ongoing at Lawrence since 1966? That is correct, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest. It’s billed as the world’s longest running trivia contest because of its tradition of having the final question of the contest serve as the first question of next year’s contest. This year is no different, with the much-anticipated trivia contest starting Jan. 24 at precisely 10:00:37 p.m. and ending at midnight on Jan 26. Find details here.
3. Lunar New Year
To celebrate the Lunar New Year, various clubs on campus host a Lunar New Year Celebration each winter term. The event features food, music, performances and information on different Lunar New Year Celebrations around the world. This year’s celebration will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Warch Campus Center. Cultural performances include traditional lion dance (Tay Phuong Lions from Savage, Minnesota), Japanese Taiko drummers (Taikoza from New York City) and Hmong dancers Nkauj Suab Nag (Gao Shoua Nah from Appleton). There also will be a Cultural Expo with educational activity booths sponsored by student organizations: Chinese Student Association, Japanese Student Group, Korean Culture Club, Pan-Asian Organization, Vietnamese Cultural Organization, and more. Find information here.
4. Winter Carnival and President’s Ball
No need to hide from winter. Let’s embrace it. The week-long Winter Carnival concludes with the annual President’s Ball in the Warch Campus Center on Feb. 1. Every year the Student Organization for University Programming (SOUP) hosts the picture-perfect President’s Ball. It gives all Lawrentians — students, faculty, and staff — the opportunity to enjoy live music, take photos in the photo booth, and get on the dance floor. Winter Carnival, meanwhile, kicks off Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 2, featuring activities ranging from a scavenger hunt to a ping pong tournament to a ski outing to broomball games on Ormsby Lake to a gingerbread house competition. It’s highlighted by the President’s Ball on the evening of Feb. 1. A day of service follows on Feb. 2. Details can be found here.
5. Jazz Series concert featuring Bill Frisell
Music starts to heat up
winter term in February. Guitarist, composer, and arranger Bill
Frisell will be gracing the Lawrence campus as part of the
ongoing Jazz Series. Frisell has been recognized for his unique sound as he
transforms the modern guitar. Frisell and friends will be in concert at 8 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Memorial Chapel. For more on the Jazz Series (and other 2019-20 music
series at Lawrence), see here.
6. Richard III on stage
term isn’t complete without a production from the Theatre Arts department. Richard lll, by
William Shakespeare, will take the stage at Cloak Theatre for four performances
from Feb. 20 to 22. It is directed by Timothy X. Troy. Visit here
for more details on this show and others in the 2019-20 season.
7. Artist Series concert featuring Tine Thing Helseth
Here’s another big concert happening in winter term, this one as part of the Artist Series. It’ll feature Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth. She has established herself as one of the foremost trumpet soloists of our time. The performance is set for 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. More details can be found here.
8. Cultural Expressions
The Lawrence University Black Student Union hosts an annual Black History Month Celebration called Cultural Expressions. It offers a space for members of the Black Student Union to showcase their talents — everything from music to dance to spoken word — to the entire Lawrence and Appleton communities. This year’s Cultural Expressions will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 29 in Warch Campus Center. See the calendar on the Lawrence web site for more information.
9. Opera takes center stage
Opera is a huge part of the Lawrence Conservatory
of Music, and the annual opera is must-see viewing on campus. This winter term
performance will feature Mozart’s The
Marriage of Figaro, set for March 5 through March 8 in Stansbury Theater. Check the calendar for show times.
Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
Masha Gessen was up front that there would be no answers in this
address. Only questions, be they political, socio-economic or otherwise.
The Russian-American journalist and author, delivering the winter term Convocation Thursday morning at Lawrence University’s Memorial Chapel, told the gathering of mostly faculty, students, and staff that in order to find answers to society’s most perplexing problems, we must first challenge our assumptions of what we think we know and then imagine a better world, a better way to connect the dots.
In other words, think. And think deeply.
Gessen is the author of more than a dozen books, including the National Book Award-winning The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Two more books are in the works, one coming this summer focused on the three years of the Trump presidency, and another that is still a work in progress on imaginative political projects around the world and what we can learn from them.
It was the latter that was the focus of Gessen’s Convocation address, “The Parallel Polis.” It was the second of three Convocations in Lawrence’s 2019-20 series.
A staff writer at the New Yorker and an instructor at Amherst College, Gessen is a native of Russia, relocating to the United States at the age of 14.
Some things, Gessen said, seem so straightforward, so automatic, that we stop questioning it, stop thinking about it. It was an assumption about the former Soviet Union that kicked off the conversation that is now leading to the coming book.
“It started with this assumption I was raised with that I never, ever
questioned,” Gessen said. “The assumption was that, not only communism and the
communist idea, but any utopian idea would always lead to totalitarianism.”
Perhaps. But perhaps there are other ways to think about it, pieces to pull from it, ideas to reimagine in a different context. Can we challenge ourselves to dive deep and explore whether our assumptions are indeed correct and absolute?
Gessen talked about reporting around the world, from a community-based urban farm in Detroit to experiments with universal basic income in Finland, all as imaginative political projects aimed at upsetting the paradigm.
“I wasn’t looking for projects that were solving a specific problem. I
wasn’t writing about the problem itself. I was looking for very disparate
projects that were united by the commitment to imagining something different.”
Gessen said people working on some of these projects had a difficult
time telling their stories, in part because they were imagining something that
didn’t yet exist. They didn’t have a language to make sense of it, so they
struggled to articulate their vision.
“It got me thinking about different ways to think about imagination,
which was my ultimate topic,” Gessen said. “How do we talk about things that we
haven’t invented yet?”
Imaginative thinking is where real political change happens, Gessen
In late 2011, early 2012, when Russia was reeling in economic turmoil and there were mass protests and talk about the fate of Vladimir Putin, Gessen started pondering imaginative thinking, or the lack thereof. No one could really imagine what would come next in Russia should Putin be gone.
“The intellectual work of imagining what would happen after is actually
political work,” Gessen said. “It’s essential for something to be able to move forward.
But how do you imagine something that you don’t know, and then sort of will it
More questions. All the more important to think about at what Gessen
called “this particularly vexing moment in history.”
The answers won’t ever come easy.
“I think things that are right in one place are really wrong in
another, which is not to say everything is relative,” Gessen said. “It’s not.
But it is to say there probably aren’t universal recipes. But what’s useful is
figuring out what your assumptions are and thinking really hard about those
assumptions and doing some experimenting in your mind.”
Ed Berthiaume is the director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The D-Term course Entrepreneurship in London: From the Mayflower to Brexit featured a variety of different aspects of entrepreneurship, both contemporary and historical.
Additionally, we explored different types of entrepreneurial ventures including: private for-profit, social not-for-profit, and public/ private partnerships. A significant portion of the course was devoted to the regeneration of economic activity for parts of London that had deteriorated and fell into disuse and then have benefited from unique entrepreneurial initiatives. Students selected initiatives to explore in an oral presentation and often revisited these sites.
Our Lawrence traveling classroom was led by two faculty — Marty Finkler and Claudena Skran — and included 10 students representing majors in music, philosophy, art history, biology, psychology, government, economics, theatre arts, and global studies.
We arrived in the Rotherhithe area of south London just after Thanksgiving. The group began with a historic tour of the area, learning about the launch of the Mayflower ship in 1620, and the many connections between seafaring and the subsequent development of the community. At the Brunel Museum, its founder, Robert Hulse, stressed that we were standing inside the tunnel that made possible the very first underground train system in the entire world. Students also celebrated a public theatre event, starring members of the Bubble Theatre group, and volunteered with community members at Time and Talents, one of the oldest social enterprises in the area.
From Rotherhithe, the group moved further east to the Docklands area of London, which thrived in the 18th and 19th century and part of the 20th century but lapsed into abandonment by the early 1970s with the rise of large container ships that the Thames River was not deep enough to accommodate. The globalization of the production and trade in material goods further diminished the economic viability of east London in general and Docklands in particular.
As finance for such globalization became a new source of income for London, the city began to expand, but central London could not cost-effectively provide the space needed for such expansion. This led to the development of Canary Wharf, which one of our speakers (Ralph Ward) actively participated in. He briefly described this high rise lavish commercial and financial sector development as well as the need for less lavish housing in east London.
Ward led us on a walk that literally went across the tracks to one of the poorest neighborhoods of London known as Poplar, where he introduced us to Danny Tompkins, who heads Poplar HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association). Tompkins led us around the area and explained how Poplar HARCA regenerated housing opportunities for its residents through a mix of private and public funds and developments. He pointed out the controversy related to selling some of the land for private development in order to have funds for social housing.
The following day we focused on another regeneration effort in the Docklands known as the Canada Water project. This new project envisions a buildout of commercial and residential developments over the next 10 to 20 years. The project director, Roger Madelin gave us an in depth tour of the area, which already features a significant increase in activity around the Canada Water transit station and some of its entertainment venues. Madelin showed us a physical model of the development and explained the different influences and problems that needed to be resolved to complete the project.
Madelin previously led the development of the regeneration of Kings Cross, another area we explored in depth. Kings Cross had fallen into disrepair and disrepute as industrial activities left London in the second half of the 20th century. The development over the past decade took advantage of the two major transportation centers (Kings Cross and St. Pancras) to provide significant office space for Google, Facebook, and Nike as well as many commercial activities. For the most part, these commercial venues now serve upper income groups.
A guide at the Visitors’ Centre provided us with an overview of the history and prospects for the development. On their own, students then explored the fascinating architecture of the new buildings before getting together for lunch and discussion of their observations.
After 10 days in London, we headed to Oxford, to consider how both innovation and entrepreneurship have shaped this historic university town. Students visited the Oxford Foundry, a hub for start-ups, attended a talk by Dr. Evan Easton-Calabria at the Refugee Studies Centre on humanitarian aid, and had lunch with Gil Loescher, the distinguished professor who was awarded an honorary degree from Lawrence.
The student experience
Samantha Torres ’20 was among the students taking part in the D-Term class in London. She shared some of her observations:
I participated in the London Centre program in the Fall of 2018. I had no idea when I’d return, but when I saw the opportunity to go back during D-Term, I knew I had to go back. However, what I thought would become an add-on to my past experience became a stand alone, standout program that offered a completely different taste of London that could only be obtained through insider connections.
Having both professors who’ve previously lived in London made it truly one of a kind and remarkably immersive. Alongside tours, we experienced the idiosyncrasies that make up London. From learning about the inception of the Mayflower to the current debates on Brexit, my cohort was able to identify the complexities that continue to define one of the oldest cities in the world.
During my time at Lawrence, I’ve found the most impactful experiences have been those of the traveling classroom. I’ve had the fortune of traveling to London and Jamaica with Professor Skran, a big advocate for this unconventional learning. And I couldn’t agree with her more. The traveling classroom model has taught me that there are intangible lessons that cannot be learned through lectures or textbooks.
Life lessons I’ve learned were ones that provided personal development and an independence that traditional classroom settings simply can’t challenge you to do. There’s a whole world out there, and sometimes you need to experience it to learn from it. As a Lawrentian, we are encouraged to go beyond. Because of the traveling classroom, I’ve been able to go beyond places I could ever imagine.
Marty Finkler is the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the American Economic System and a professor of economics, and Claudena Skran is the Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and a professor of government.
Composer Asha Srinivasan has been no stranger to navigating the world of music creation over the past decade.
The associate professor of music at Lawrence University has composed 21 commissioned pieces since arriving at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music in 2008, mostly at the behest of performance groups seeking new chamber music from emerging composers. But the request that came to her a year ago took her by surprise and kicked off a three-year musical relationship with students at a college more than a thousand miles away.
Srinivasan was chosen to write a piece of music commissioned
as part of East Carolina University’s NewMusic
Initiative. She’s now into the second year of a three-year process that is
allowing her to stretch her musical boundaries and to represent Lawrence in new
ways. She spent two days in Greenville, North Carolina, during Lawrence’s fall term
reading period working with East Carolina composition students, a prelude to
the choral music she’ll be writing in the months ahead.
“It’s a prestigious commission because it’s such a selective
process,” Srinivasan said.
The ECU initiative works like this: Undergraduate and graduate students in the school’s music program spend the better part of a semester listening to music and surveying the landscape for composers they’d like to work with. Composers need not apply. Any composer from anywhere may be in the mix, unbeknownst to them until someone from the program reaches out.
Once a selection has been made, the school contacts the
composer to make an introduction and an offer, to talk about committing to a
three-year process and, if interested, to hammer out the details. The first
year is about doing that groundwork, making the connection, and giving the
composer the opportunity to choose which ECU music group he or she would like
to write for. The second year involves interactions between the composer and
the students — hence Srinivasan’s recent two-day trip to Greenville — and
the start of the writing process. The third year brings the completion of the
piece and eventually a premiere performance.
Through it all, the ECU students get an education in the
commissioning process. Srinivasan gets a chance to tackle her work in a whole
new way. And Lawrence gets an important connection with a new batch of young
One never knows when those types of connections will circle
back, Srinivasan said, noting how she first came to the attention of the ECU
“It turns out that one of the cello graduate students had been an undergraduate at Western Illinois University when I was featured there as a guest composer several years ago,” she said. “She had heard a flute and cello piece of mine called Dviraag. She got interested in my music, and so she’s the one who first put in my name.”
For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here
Because it’s a three-year process — most of her commissioned
work has happened in five- or six-month windows — this project gives
Srinivasan new possibilities. Not only did she get to choose the ensemble she’d
be writing for, but composer Edward Jacobs, a professor in ECU’s School of
Music and the founding director of the NewMusic Initiative, encouraged her to
try new things.
“He said, ‘This is a chance for experimentation,’”
Srinivasan said. “It’s usually a performance group that commissions me, and
it’s usually chamber music, and so the instrumentation is already a given. But
in this case, I got to choose the instrumentation. I chose to write for their
chamber singers, which is kind of like our concert choir. I haven’t done much
work for the choir. That isn’t an opportunity that’s come my way, but it’s also
something I’ve stayed away from or veered away from. So, I’m using this as an
opportunity to embrace something that would be major growth for me and push
myself out of my comfort zone a little bit.”
A new commission is launched in the three-year cycle each
year. The process, ECU’s Jacobs said, benefits both the composer and the
students, in part because of the collaboration that’s built in.
“The lengthy span of a commission allows a composer to
become a part of our community through multiple visits to campus,” he said. “It
allows for students and composer to collaborate on sketches during the work’s
development, and allows the composer a longer time-span than usual for a
commissioned piece to be written.”
Srinivasan said it was on her two-day excursion to the ECU
campus that she realized how valuable this sort of thing was for the
“I listened to their ensemble and talked to their
composition students,” she said. “I gave nine private lessons. I met with
master’s students. And I came as a representative of Lawrence, of course, so
they got to know Lawrence.
“I think it helps give Lawrence more notice. People already
know of it. But it helps to have that personal connection. People see my
teaching and it represents Lawrence’s commitment to me as a composer and shows
that my work as a composer is supported.”
Srinivasan said she’s in the early stages of writing. The composition
will be finished in time for its premiere at ECU in the spring of 2021.
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Alex Damisch ’16 is a big fan of knowledge games. Now more than ever.
Her gaming history, which included stints at Lawrence University as a trivia master for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest and president of the Quizbowl club, paid off recently with a run on Jeopardy! that included three days of winning and a tally of $35,549. The episodes featuring Damisch on the popular TV game show aired in late November.
been a fan of competitive knowledge games for as long as I can remember,” said
Damisch, who lives in Chicago and works as a data analyst for Underwriters
She was drawn to the games while growing up — Jeopardy! and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire were favorites — but it was her experience with Quizbowl while a student at Lawrence that really prepped her for her shot when the Jeopardy! cameras rolled.
Quizbowl is a team knowledge competition. Students at
Lawrence meet regularly to practice and they travel to compete against other
asks about a wider range of academic subjects, and with greater depth, than
anything you’d see on TV,” Damisch said. “I was never a dominant player, but it
broadened my range of knowledge and got me reading about things I would have
That wasn’t the only Lawrence connection contributing to her success as she fielded questions from Alex Trebek on the set in Los Angeles. She credits her fiancé, John O’Neill ’18, with prepping her in the three weeks leading up to her Jeopardy! taping. She and O’Neill met at Lawrence when she was a sophomore and he was a freshman. He, too, is a big fan of the Jeopardy!-style games.
“After I got the call, we dropped wedding planning and pretty much everything else but work for the three weeks that we had to prepare,” Damisch said.
She used a standup desk and held a click pen to simulate a buzzer while playing along to old episodes of Jeopardy!, with O’Neill coaching and keeping score along the way.
“John worked in various capacities at the library for all
five years at Lawrence, and he’s particularly gifted at finding resources on
any topic you can imagine,” Damisch said. “That really came in handy when we
tried to attack some of my weaker subjects, like animal science and older pop
culture. … It says a lot about John that he would, for example, quiz me on Canadian
provincial capitals and major cities well into the night without complaint.”
This marked the fourth time Damisch had auditioned for Jeopardy! — once as a Lawrence student and three times since graduating in 2016. It’s not an easy process. This time, she felt she was ready.
“The day after I came back from vacation, I got the call,” she said. “I admit that my first thought was exasperation at having to take more vacation time. But for Jeopardy!, you make it work.”
Damisch is used to juggling tight schedules. While at
Lawrence, she completed a B.A. degree in mathematics and a B.Mus. degree in
clarinet in four years — and served as a trivia master for the Great Midwest
Trivia Contest in both 2015 and 2016. She went on to earn a master’s degree in
predictive analytics from DePaul University.
Now she plays trivia games with co-workers and continues to volunteer for organizations that work with Quizbowl competitions. When she receives her Jeopardy! winnings in a few weeks, she said she plans to set aside a little for a honeymoon trip, donate some to Orthodox Christian causes that are important to her, and invest the rest.
And she’ll look back fondly on her Jeopardy! experience, even if much of it is a bit fuzzy.
“I’d say I probably remember one or two distinct moments from each game, the rest is a blur,” Damisch said. “It doesn’t take that much longer to tape an episode of Jeopardy! than it does to watch one. … After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.”