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From podcast to escape rooms, final exams at Lawrence can get creative

Students look through clues in an escape room in the Mudd Library.
Students work to solve an escape room set up in the Mudd Library during spring term finals. For Lavanya Murali, the teaching approach was all about experiential learning.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Professors at Lawrence are continuously tapping into new and creative ways to assess how well students comprehend the information taught in their classrooms.

We caught up with two classes at the end of spring term where new approaches were being used, setting aside the traditional final exam or research paper — Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology 531 Semiotics course, where students were asked to build escape rooms, and Brigid Vance’s History 101 course, where students created a Lawrence history-focused podcast.

Sharing the history

History 101 is an introductory course, meaning there is a different professor teaching the course each year. When it was Vance’s turn to teach the course, she decided to incorporate a more interactive element for both her and her students to engage with. Rather than assigning a research paper, which is typically the final assessment for the course, Vance assigned her students to work together to create a podcast. 

“You hone the same kinds of skills, you still write the script, you still do the research, but the tone is a little different” Vance said.  

Throughout the term, students learned how to conduct research and explored the techniques historians use to do their work. With that knowledge in place, the students began doing research on Lawrentians from the past.

“I met with the university archivist and asked if this was a possibility, and she was totally on board,” Vance said. “We worked together a few months in advance of the class, figuring out what would be possible for students in the class to complete given the 10-week term.”

Using a list of noteworthy Lawrentians compiled by the archivist, techniques on research they learned in class, and a podcast they listened to in class as a reference, the students set out to create their own podcast on notable Lawrentians through the years. Listen to a few examples below:

“Tell ’Em That It’s Human Nature: Nathan Pusey’s Defense of the Liberal Arts”
by Holly McDonald
“The Teacher Who Died in Class” by William Kertzman
“Emma Kate Corkhill: A Private Life” by Anna Johnston
“Western Learning and Patriotism: Was It a Paradox?” by Angel Li and May Li
“Ye Yun-Ho: Lawrence Through the Eyes of a Korean Minister” by Ressa Crubaugh

“I care a lot about the way the class feels,” Vance said. “And that’s not something I think you can control, but I think you can try to help create a space where people can connect with one another.”    

Vance called her new approach to assessment “very successful” — not only through the positive reaction from her students to the more engaging assignment, but also to creating something that could then be shared. They placed posters in the Mudd Library near the end of spring term to direct people to the podcast.

“The posters with the QR codes that linked to the podcast were up through reunion weekend (in mid-June),” Vance said. “So, all the alums coming in could learn something about the history of this place, too.”  

Check out all episodes of the podcast here

Vance has gone the more traditional route for assessing her students in the past, but she has found that when taking a more creative approach, learning is a lot more enjoyable for both her and her students.  

“At least for me, I get very excited when doing something creative and collaborative,” Vance said. “So that’s something that I feel is really authentic and honest, and if I am honest with myself, it allows for others to be honest with themselves. Ultimately, I think it makes for a better learning environment.”

Vance would like to thank the following people who helped make the project possible: David Berk, Gretchen Revie, Erin Dix, Debra Walker, her History Department colleagues, and all of her Spring 2019 History 101 students.

Reading the signs

In Murali’s anthropology course, students learned about the different ways in which signs can be expressed, shown throughout the world, and how to make meaning of them.  

“A sign can be anything from a street sign to the clothes someone wears,” said Joseph Wetzel ’20, a student who took Murali’s course. “So, anything that signifies something else is a sign.”  

Throughout the spring term, the class built on this idea of signs being more than we typically think of. 

“A lot of understanding of how information is translated through signs is thinking about shared cultural knowledge,” Wetzel said. 

All of the work they did throughout the term led to students breaking into groups and creating their own escape rooms in various places around campus. 

“The students spent all term drawing on the semiotic theory they were learning in class to understand how clues work as signs, and how escape rooms are semiotic spaces,” Murali said. “They then applied this knowledge to creating their own escape rooms.”  

During class, they looked at different escape rooms online to familiarize themselves with them. At the end of the course, they used all the knowledge they gained about signs having deeper meanings based on cultural knowledge to create the escape rooms, and opened them to others on campus to solve. 

“There are clues that refer to different buildings on campus, and we have clues (that refer to) Lawrentians,” Wetzel said. 

It was a fun way to also explore Lawrence culture.   

Students work to solve the escape room set up in the Mudd Library.
“Escape Room: Library” was created by a group of students in Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology 531 Semiotics course. “I think it went well,” Murali said of the hands-on approach.

One of the escape rooms, created by Amy Courter ’21, Hayoung Seo ’19, and Wetzel and titled Escape Room: Library, was based on a concept that students could identify with. “It’s based on a student waking up from her dream, because they fell asleep while studying for finals,” Seo said.

Murali has been incorporating innovative learning methods into her classroom and has seen it have a positive impact on the way her students react to learning. 

“I have increasingly been focusing on engaged, hands-on assignments as a way to help students understand and apply what they learn in class, and this assignment follows that pedagogic strategy,” Murali said. “I think it went well, and I’m very proud of my students.”   

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Roots of collaboration: Lawrence, Refuge Foundation nurture deeper connections

Students from the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class record a song in the main performance space at the Refuge in Appleton.
Lawrence students work on a recording last fall at the Refuge in Appleton. The students in the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class created their own roots music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Get Cory Chisel talking about American roots music and the floodgates open.

The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who is forging new partnerships with Lawrence University — including venturing into the classroom — will tell you about wisdom gained from working alongside genre-defining singers such as Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris.

He’ll tell you about learning to look deeply inward, needing to embrace his own journey before the music could come out.

And he’ll tell you about an eclectic collection of family members who influenced his musical psyche from early on, instilling in him a passion for early American roots music from the likes of Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson — survival music, he calls it.

“My uncle took me to a record player and we sat down, and with no explanation whatsoever he made me lay on the floor and let the music come into my body,” the Appleton-raised Chisel said. “Not just into my ears, but vibrationally into my body. He taught me how to receive music as a medicine. I learned about that style of music with my toes and my fingers and my back and my bones.”

If you think that sounds a little like Deep Listening, the practice espoused by and taught via Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music, you’re not wrong. Call it a reflection of the deepening connections between Lawrence, Chisel and his Refuge Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit artistic haven operated out of a converted monastery just two miles up the road from the Appleton liberal arts college.

When Lawrence’s fall term begins, Chisel will return to the classroom, co-teaching Sound Lab: American Roots Music with Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory, and Leila Ramagopal Pertl, a class they first launched a year ago. Lawrence students will again have opportunities to create their own music, record at the Refuge, talk with visiting musicians and hear from music industry professionals who periodically make their way to Appleton for sessions with Chisel and his rotating menagerie of artists.

The bonds began nearly seven years ago, when Chisel was co-founding Mile of Music with marketing executive Dave Willems and reached out to Pertl for advice on infusing music education into the all-original music festival. That led to a meeting with Ramagopal Pertl, a music education instructor at Lawrence who would become the music education curator for the annual downtown Appleton festival.

“It was like talking to the soul brother I never had,” Ramagopal Pertl said of those first meetings with Chisel.

Lawrence widens musical path with new B.M.A. degree: See announcement here

Cory Chisel works with five Lawrence students on a song as part of the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class.
Cory Chisel (wearing hat) works with students as part of last fall’s Sound Lab: American Roots Music class. He’ll return to the classroom for fall term in a co-teaching role.

Three years later, Chisel and his partner, Adriel Denae, founded the Refuge Foundation for the Arts and moved into the former Monte Alverno retreat, a monastery overlooking Riverside Cemetery that once served as a sanctuary for the monks of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph Order.

It’s become a gathering place for musicians, some local, some coming in from places across the country and even around the world. They come to record, to find their artistic bearings, often staying for extended stretches of time, sleeping among the dozens of tiny guest rooms that once housed the monks.

For Pertl, the mere existence of the Refuge in Appleton is a gift to the conservatory. That Chisel and Denae share the philosophies of Lawrence and the passions of creative music-making, all the better.

“Our vision and our hope is that this partnership grows, it becomes porous, that what the Refuge can offer can flow into Lawrence and the conservatory, and what the conservatory and Lawrence can offer can flow into the Refuge,” Pertl said.

Classroom connections

What the Refuge can offer became abundantly clear to Pertl as he and Chisel ventured into the Sound Lab class last fall. They asked the 13 students to explore their own musical journeys, the influences that shaped them, and then partner with classmates to create their own roots music.

Listen to one of the student-created songs below.

It was a different approach than anything the conservatory has done, but something that might become more familiar with the launch of the new Bachelor of Musical Arts degree that aims to open the doors of the conservatory to a wider breadth of musical interests and styles.

The students in last fall’s class made numerous visits to the Refuge. They met with members of the Lumineers. They met with a record label executive who had signed Chisel to a recording contract more than a decade earlier. They laid down tracks as the songs they crafted in class came to fruition, eight of them later shared in a public performance. Similar experiences are on tap for this fall’s class.

Cory Chisel listens as students in the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class work on a song.
“We are on a parallel path,” Cory Chisel, seen here during a classroom session, says of the Refuge Foundation for the Arts and the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Having this resource so readily available provides another layer to the Lawrence education, allowing music students to interact with musicians and music industry people who are navigating the world of music-making in a very real way. They’re not talking about it. They’re doing it.

“The Refuge and all of the connections that it offers into the greater world of commercial music-making gives Lawrence this incredible pathway into learning about the music world that is rare among America’s top conservatories,” Pertl said. “The whole class came over and hung out with the Lumineers. They heard the Head and the Heart in a recording session. They were talking to one of the head execs at RCA Records. When the class came over here, most of them didn’t know this building existed. They were just walking around with their jaws open.”

A project is born

Sam Taylor ’19 was one of those students. The Sound Lab class inspired his Lullaby Project, an effort to work through Lawrence, the Refuge, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs and New York’s Carnegie Hall to teach mothers at the Appleton shelter to write lullabies for their children. Carnegie Hall, where Taylor interned this summer, originally began the Lullaby Project with unwed mothers. It now provides guidance for related projects across the country.

Even though he graduated in spring, Taylor will be back in Appleton this fall — splitting his time between here and Madison — to see the project through, working with Chisel and Denae, Lawrence students, and Harbor House staff to bring the lullabies to fruition and get them recorded at the Refuge.

That’s just one slice of the value that came from the Sound Lab class, Taylor said.

“The Roots class came at the perfect time in my Lawrence career,” he said. “I was reflecting a lot on my time as a student, musician, and person. This course not only allowed us but also encouraged us to explore our individual journeys and music. … Who inspired us? Where our sound comes from. It gave me time to place myself on a larger timeline, to find specific moments that have led me to this exact time and space.”

New adventure, a shared vision

For Chisel, the opportunity to teach at Lawrence, to share his passion for roots music, is something he didn’t envision earlier in his life. He doesn’t hide his history of once shunning school. But now he has something that’s drawing him to the classroom, and a receptive audience ready and willing to listen and respond.

“When people found out I was being welcomed to teach at Lawrence University, I had teachers calling me, saying, ‘I have to say, I never saw this one coming,’” Chisel said. “I’d be lying if I said I did. But that’s not really what it’s about. The idea that through effort and maybe this emphasis on approach, which is on the individual and the elevation of the consciousness, that really might be what we’re on to.

“I think when you spend your whole life not wanting to go to class, you get a good idea of what it might look like when there’s a class you want to go to.”

Cory Chisel speaks at the podium during Lawrence's 2015 Report to the Community. He received a collaboration award for Mile of Music.
Cory Chisel accepted a collaboration award for Mile of Music from Lawrence University in 2015. The relationship with Lawrence has continued to grow since then.

That elevated consciousness, the looking inward to discover your own musical roots and then pouring that into song, was front and center when Pertl first broached the idea of jointly teaching a class with Chisel on American roots music, in the process emphatically cementing a relationship between Lawrence and the Refuge that had already been quietly blossoming.

“We are on a parallel path,” Chisel said. “That’s been the beauty of this. We’ve bounced off of each other’s ideas, but in certain ways we were really plowing the same field. Eventually, it was, ‘Let’s line this all up and get organized.’”

A new classroom approach

How to co-teach the course was the question that needed a fresh answer.

“This was not going to be a standard musicology class,” Pertl said. “I have taught that class dozens of times at other institutions. Here’s the history of American roots music. I’ve done that. It’s a fine approach. We did not want to do that here at Lawrence. We wanted to blow that paradigm out of the water and say, ‘Why can’t musicology be performative? And why can’t performances be influenced by history?’ That’s about as liberal arts as you can get.”

The class took the students by surprise, Pertl said.

“In a traditional conservatory education, we have brilliant musicians who can play anything,” he said. “But often you are so focused on getting all those notes right to play Chopin or Liszt that you forget that you have a voice, too. You are used to always channeling someone else’s voice. All of a sudden in this class, two or three weeks in, we say, ‘OK, so your assignment is to write about your musical roots. Who are you musically?’

“All of a sudden the class pivots to be about them instead of about dead people. All of a sudden roots isn’t about something that happened in the ’20s, it’s now. All of a sudden they’re reading their roots to each other and it’s like, ‘Oh my god, our roots are similar because our musical roots both came out of church traditions, completely different church traditions.’

“And then the next pivot was, ‘OK, now we’re going to create together, you’re going to use your roots collaboratively to create music.’ And to me that is where the magic of the class really took off.”

The students would go on to create eight original songs together and record them at the Refuge. They then performed those songs for a live audience at The Draw.

“Once the roots music became real to them, and once it became about their story, at that point they could see the way in and see what its use is,” Chisel said. “And then you just get excited. And then we couldn’t keep up.”

A mutual respect

The lessons learned don’t go just one way. While Pertl and Ramagopal Pertl call the Refuge an unbelievably valuable resource, Chisel is quick to praise Lawrence, the intelligence and vibrancy of its students and faculty and its deep history.

“We look at Lawrence with a great deal of respect, just the reverence that we haven’t had around here that really exists within that institution,” Chisel said. “As time goes on, we’re going to remain our own identities, but I think respectfully we at the Refuge are learning how to walk a walk of sustainability and longevity. We really want to be a place like Lawrence. When people say they’re from Appleton, Wisconsin, people are like, ‘Oh yea, Lawrence University.’ We want to be one of those places.”

Pertl paints the connections with the Refuge as a relationship not bound by a contract. It’s fluid, and it dovetails nicely with the conservatory’s efforts to help prepare 21st century students to live their best musical lives, to be a light both in and out of the traditional corridors of the music world.

“We want to hold open possibilities, but we know if we can make this relationship closer and closer and integrate it more and more, it’s going to benefit both institutions in ways that we probably can’t completely imagine,” Pertl said. “We definitely think it’ll benefit the B.M.A. in beautiful ways as more contemporary singers come in and more singer-songwriters come in, more people trending toward that side of the music business. The basis of the B.M.A. is jazz and improvisation, but from that foundation you can go anywhere.

“As a university, if you stagnate, you’re going backwards. If you are treading water, you are going downstream. Unless you’re absolutely thinking about what’s next, you’re probably not going to have long-term viability. And I never say that as if change itself is the thing. You have to pursue thoughtful change and insightful change and forward-thinking change.

“We’re doing this because our partnership will better prepare our students for the world they’re going to be launching into after graduation,” Pertl continued. “And this place, the Refuge, Cory, Adriel, everyone here can help our students better prepare for the unknowns of that world.”

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

These 4 Lawrence faculty members push physical limits with ultramarathons

Douglas Martin, Megan Pickett, Relena Del Toro Ribbons, and Jason Brozek pose on campus in their running gear.
Ultramarathoners on the Lawrence University campus include, from left, Douglas Martin, Megan Pickett, Relena Del Toro Ribbons, and Jason Brozek.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Whether it is for a worthwhile cause, to satisfy your competitive nature, or just to say you did it, running a full marathon is a remarkable achievement. But for a small collection of runners in this world, 26.2 miles is not enough. 

These ultramarathoners are a special breed — according to ultrarunning.com, only 0.0139% of the Wisconsin population partake in this sport.

And, yet, here on the Lawrence University campus, four faculty members count themselves among the state’s ultramarathoners. Relena Del Toro Ribbons, Jason Brozek, Megan Pickett, and Douglas Martin have all competed recently in ultramarathon races, some in the 31-mile range, others stretching as long as 100 miles. 

“26.2 is the marathon distance in miles, or 42.125 in kilometers; any distance over becomes an ultramarathon,” Ribbons said. “But the general consensus is around 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, is the entry-level ultramarathon distance. So, any person who runs that distance or walks it or hikes it is an ultramarathoner.” 

Ribbons, Brozek, and Martin all competed in 100-mile runs this summer, Ribbons and Brozek in Wisconsin, Martin in England.

Ribbons: “I love the solitude about it”

Ribbons, a 32-year-old geoscience and environmental studies professor, started running ultramarathons when she moved to Appleton in 2017. 

“To mark the fact that I was turning 30, I decided I wanted to run 30 miles, and 50K is just a little farther, so I might as well sign up for a race that was the day before my 30th birthday,” Ribbons said. 

What she expected to be a one-time milestone marker turned out to be something she really enjoyed. She was hooked. 

“I found once I got into trail running, I love the solitude about it,” she said. “It can be really social, or really great alone time. If I’m having a bad day, running will make me feel better, and a great day running will make my day feel awesome.” 

Since her first 50K, ultramarathon training has become a big part of Ribbons’ life. She runs at least one mile a day, no matter the circumstances, and averages 70 to 100 miles a week. 

She also happens to be really, really good at it. She placed in the top five in three ultramarathon races in 2018. 

Ribbons’ most recent long race was the Kettle Moraine 100 in June, a 100-mile trail run in east-central Wisconsin, with 65 of the miles coming on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. It’s part of the Midwest Grand Slam of Ultra Running. 

“This year we had a torrential downpour,” Ribbons said. “Lightning and thunderstorms were rolling in while everyone was out running, the mud was really bad, and it was really humid in the build-up to that. It was kind of intense.” 

Despite all the adversities, Ribbons managed to complete her first 100-mile race in 27 hours, 4 minutes.

“I’d go from these really intense ‘this is amazing’ moments to ‘this is terrible, why did I sign up for this,’” she said. “’Who said this will be fun,’ and then someone else is like, ‘Nobody said this will be fun, you did this to yourself, remember?’ and I was like, ‘oh, right. I know it will be fun at some point,’ and you hang on until you get back to that high. … 

“I got to the last part with about a mile to go, and I was like, ‘Guys, do you think it’s OK to just sprint this in? I just want to feel like sprinting again.’ So, I zoomed in to the finish line, and it felt amazing. Then I sat down and I’m like, now I’m tired.”  

Brozek: “It was the farthest and longest I’d ever run”

Brozek, a 39-year-old professor of government, also ran in this year’s Kettle Moraine 100. He was among those getting a DNF (did not finish), but he’s not apologizing for that. He made it 77 miles, a new personal best. 

“This year, I think 50% of the starters dropped out of the Kettle 100,” Brozek said. 

He’s been participating in ultramarathons since 2014. 

“I did my first marathon with my wife the year after our second child was born,” Brozek said. “We ran that together in San Francisco. She decided, ‘Check, I got that off my list, I’m happy to do that.’ And then I signed up for a trail ultramarathon that next spring.” 

Since that first ultramarathon, Brozek has run in more than 20 ultramarathons, including June’s Kettle 100. 

“I dropped out of my most recent race, but I’m OK with it,” Brozek said. “It was the farthest and longest I’d ever run, and I’m happy with that.”

Brozek made it to mile 77, crushing his distance from the previous year of 62 miles. 

In the five years since his first ultramarathon, Brozek has become well known in the running community. He’s even become a running shoe product tester. 

“I don’t really wear out shoes,” he said. “Twice a year companies send me new shoes that are pre-release. Then I review them for Outside Magazine and a company called Gear Institute.” 

Douglas Martin, Megan Pickett, Relena Del Toro Ribbons, and Jason Brozek pose in their running gear on the Lawrence campus.
Douglas Martin, Megan Pickett, Relena Del Toro Ribbons, and Jason Brozek share a passion for running. They often train together.

Martin: “I truly love being out in nature”

Martin, a 44-year-old professor in the physics department, has been running ultramarathons since 2012.

“I have a running friend who, because he is not a very good friend, asked me to run with him to help him run a 100-mile race, to run with him the last 38 miles,” Martin said. “After thinking about it, I decided, I’ll do that with you.”  

Martin called that first ultramarathon a great experience.  

 “That first run of 38 miles, because it was the last 38 miles — (my friend) had already run 62 before that — it was delightful for me and it was terrible for him,” Martin said. “It was over night, we were moving smoothly, and I could talk with him, and there were a lot of check points where you would stop to get drinks, and there are volunteers to help you out, and I would talk with them. I had a great time.”  

Because Martin enjoyed that first ultramarathon so much, he decided to continue, upping his investment and the physical toll it would take. The running, of course, got more difficult.   

“When I started running the first 62 miles, it got much, much harder,” Martin said. “I always thought at the end of a race, ‘Wait, I want this to be more fun and less hard.’ So, that kept me trying, to ‘Let’s do another one, I’ll do another one.’”  

Martin has now run so many ultramarathons he said he’s lost track. 

“I don’t know, maybe two dozen, maybe three dozen,” he said.  

Aside from the pain of running such distances, there is joy to being on the trails.

“I truly love being out in nature,” Martin said. “It’s so much fun to run trails, to just go out and have a reason to be outside for five or eight hours every week.”  

Martin has spent the past year in London as a visiting professor at the Lawrence London Center. Being on another continent has not stopped him from running ultramarathons, with his most recent race being a 100-mile event in England this summer called the 1066 Run. The route, dubbed Harold’s Way, follows King Harold’s 1066 march from Westminster Abbey to Battle Abbey, where he and his army fought William the Conqueror.   

Martin said he plans to continue running ultramarathons, and has plans to run in the 50-mile North Face Endurance Challenge in Milwaukee the weekend before classes start.  

Pickett: “I wanted to do better and push myself” 

Pickett, a 53-year-old professor in the physics department, participated in her first ultramarathon a few years ago. Initially, she would run them as a relay with friends. 

It started when a friend saw information on the Apple Creek 50K near Appleton and suggested they run it as a relay team, Pickett said. 

“One person would do one of those eight-mile loops and then the other, so it would be half of (a full ultramarathon). And we’ve done something called Ragnar Races, which are 100-mile races broken up to a team of four or eight.” 

This year, however, Pickett and her friend decided to push themselves, signing up individually for the Apple Creek 50K race in April. 

“She wanted to sign up for this as a relay, but I said, ‘We’ve already done half of it, let’s do the full,’” Pickett said. “Worst thing is that I would regret it in the middle of the race. I’ve run half of the ultra already, so I wanted to do better and push myself.” 

 Pickett, who plans to run the Community First Fox Cities Marathon on Sept. 22, did indeed push herself, managing to finish her first ultramarathon in 7 hours, 31 minutes. 

“There’s a joy to crossing the finish line with someone who has never crossed that distance,” Pickett said. “For me, that was the longest distance I’ve ever run and the longest time I had been running. … You get emotional. We both ended up crying.” 

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office. 

Chimpanzee skeleton gets a much-needed makeover in LU student’s study project

For Claudia Rohr ’19, the chimpanzee project was an ideal supplement to a double major in biological anthropology and biology. The skeleton, seen over Rohr’s right shoulder, is on display in Briggs Hall. “It was a way to expand my work with primates,” she says.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Claudia Rohr ’19 remembers when Dan Proctor, a Lawrence University visiting assistant professor of anthropology, first wheeled an old chimpanzee skeleton into the forensic anthropology classroom.

A sophomore at the time, Rohr was struck by the skeleton’s appearance — the skull and torso hung limp from a hook and the limbs rested on a nearby table. There were missing pieces and backwards parts that made its purpose as a teaching tool difficult to fulfill.

Proctor said he was looking to have a student rearticulate and refurbish the skeleton. Make it useful again. Rohr was immediately interested.

With some help from the Mudd Library’s Makerspace and the physics department, Rohr spent much of the spring term rearticulating the skeleton as an independent study project.

“I thought it would be really cool if it could be put together well because Lawrence doesn’t have a lot of primate-related things,” she said.

The skeleton’s origins are unknown. For as long as anyone in the Anthropology Department can remember, it has hung on its stand on the third floor of Briggs Hall. It is believed that Lawrence student Richard H. Dorsey ’51 first articulated the skeleton in 1949, threading wire through small drilled holes in the bones to fasten them. But time and outdated articulation techniques eventually pushed the skeleton into disrepair.

To start her ambitious project, Rohr spent some late nights disassembling the skeleton, pulling wire apart from bone. She then took inventory of what bones she had and, with an osteology textbook at her side, deciphered which of the numerous tiny bones belonged to hands and which to feet. Eventually she was able to glue everything together and reattach the arms and legs to the torso.

But what to do about the missing bones? With training from Angela Vanden Elzen in the Makerspace, Rohr learned how to 3D print the missing bones using the existing parallel ones for reference. Most of these were finger bones. She quickly got the hang of it and printed with a resin so well matched to the skeleton’s original color that it’s difficult to tell the authentic bones from the fabricated ones.

With all the bones accounted for, the skeleton needed a new display configuration that would do justice to Rohr’s work and the chimpanzee itself. For this, Rohr reached out to LeRoy Frahm, the longtime electronics technician for the physics department. Frahm constructed a custom stand for the skeleton that would support its new knuckle-walking position.

The joint assist from anthropology, physics and the Makerspace carried Rohr’s project beyond an ordinary independent study.

“I thought it was really cool being able to work with everyone,” Rohr said of the collaboration. “LeRoy and Angela were really into it. It all worked together really well.”

Rohr graduated in the spring. From an academic perspective, the hands-on project turned out to be an excellent supplement to her double major in biological anthropology and biology.

“It was a way to expand my work with primates,” she said. “It was cool being able to see how the skeleton works as a whole and how different bones are articulated, rather than just looking at it for a day or two in class and then being tested on it.”

Rohr recently returned from her second research trip to Peru, where she studied the behaviors and disease ecology of New World monkeys.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Mark Jenike said the skeleton will be more useful than ever as a teaching tool in anthropology lab classes.

“People can look at it more easily now than they would’ve been able to when it was hanging from that hook,” he said. “It’s really for seeing what the whole skeleton together looks like, the way in which the chimpanzee would have been when it was alive.”

The value of Rohr’s project is far-reaching.

“It’s a form of respect to the skeleton,” Jenike said. “The chimpanzees are our closest living relative species. They have culture, they make tools, they seem to show emotions. … The chimp itself deserves respect. I think this is a more respectful way of displaying it than hanging from a hook with parts falling off.”

Rohr’s work is displayed in a hallway on the third floor of Briggs, visible to all who pass, including prospective students on campus tours. It stands as a testament to Lawrence’s commitment to academic excellence and the value of interdisciplinary teamwork.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Treasures of Lawrence: 8 cool finds during a Lawrence University treasure hunt

Some of the 220-plus rare books are seen on the shelves at the Wriston Art Center.
More than 200 rare books can be found in the Wriston Art Center. That’s just one stop on a Lawrence University treasure hunt that’ll take you across campus. Go do this!

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Lawrence University has accumulated some pretty amazing things over the years.

Since you might be surprised at what artifacts await your discovery right here on campus, we’re highlighting eight items that should be on your radar. Use it as a guide for your own treasure hunt around Lawrence.

The casts of Abraham Lincoln’s hands are found in the Lincoln Room in the Mudd Library.

1. Bronze casts of Abraham Lincoln’s face and hands

I had a lot of questions when I first saw these in the Lincoln Room in the Seeley G. Mudd Library, so I’ll tell you everything I found out. In 2000, the casts were gifted to Lawrence by avid Lincoln scholar and Lawrence alum Robert S. French ’48. The Lincoln Room was also funded by French and his sister, and stocked with a collection of Lincoln books.

The casts were made by Victor Bocchetta in the 1970s. They’re among 3,000 copies of the plaster originals, made in 1860 by sculptor Leonard Volk in Springfield, Illinois, the one-time home of the 16th American president. The molds were done shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration; you can see that his right hand is swollen from shaking hands with supporters.

A page is opened in a first edition of Jane Austen’s "Pride and Prejudice," part of the Nelson Collection at Lawrence.
A first edition of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” is part of the Earl and Aubrey Richmond Collection.

2. Rare books in Wriston

Lovers of literature and history will be thrilled by the rare books in the Nelson Collection in the Wriston Art Center. Among the 228 printed works, first editions of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and John Steinbeck’s East of Eden are included in this noteworthy collection.

The books are on long-term loan to the university from Susan Nelson Goldsmith ’65 and Eric Nelson, through the estate of their mother, Ann Sullivan Nelson MD-’41. 

Want to see the books? Contact the Wriston galleries staff to set up an appointment.

Temperature-controlled storage areas in Wriston house a sprawling art collection.

3. Wriston Art Gallery collection

Here’s something you might not know: Lawrence has collected about 5,710 fascinating pieces of art in donations from alumni, professors and community members. These include works by Delacroix, Kandinsky, Klee and Bouguereau; Japanese woodblock prints, featuring prints by Hiroshige; and ancient ceramics and coins.

In order to preserve and protect them, these valuable pieces are stored in high security, temperature-controlled storage areas in Wriston. But don’t be intimidated. Students can schedule appointments to take a look at the collections, for research or just for fun. Search the collection online here.

Photo of the Hiett Hall fireplace, found on the fourth floor.
The fireplace on the fourth floor of Hiett Hall has some rock-solid history to it.

4. One of the oldest rocks in the world is in the Hiett fireplace

When you’re cozied up to a fireplace doing your classwork, you probably don’t think about where the materials for that fireplace came from. Well, the fireplace in the fourth floor Hiett Hall lounge has a story to tell.

It’s overlaid with slabs of beautiful Morton gneiss, one of the oldest rocks in the world; 3.6 billion years old, to be sort of exact. These particular slabs of decorative ancient stone were once part of the façade of the JC Penny building in downtown Appleton. In 2002, Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Studies and Professor of Geology Marcia Bjornerud found out the building would be torn down. She got them to donate the rock to Lawrence, where it was included in Hiett Hall, which finished construction in 2003.

This chimpanzee skeleton is viewable in Briggs Hall. It’s a teaching tool in Anthropology.

5. Chimpanzee skeleton is back

This one’s a real mystery, and a success story. No one knows where this skeleton came from or how it found its way to campus. We do know that it was originally articulated in 1949 by Richard H. Dorsey ’51. For the next 70 years the skeleton was used as a teaching tool. It hung on a hook, falling into disrepair, until recent graduate Claudia Rohr ’19 rearticulated and repaired it as an independent study. You can see the chimp standing proudly on display in Briggs, where it continues to be used as a teaching tool in anthropology labs.

The Brombaugh organ is a centerpiece on the stage of Memorial Chapel.

6. Brombaugh organ for the ages

This isn’t a hidden gem. The impressive instrument is the pièce de résistance of Memorial Chapel. But the Brombaugh organ is still a treasure. Builder John Brombaugh modeled it after a 1685 organ by Englishman “Father” Bernard Smith, giving it the appearance of a 17th century cathedral mainstay. Famously, the organ’s debut in May 1995 was so highly anticipated that the opening performance by Professor George Damp was given twice. In 1997, it was the featured organ at the American Guild of Organists Region Six convention. You can hear the organ played at chapel performances and convocations.

This piece of rock fell to earth a long, long time ago. Now it sits in Steitz Hall of Science.

7. A piece of one of the oldest, largest earth impacts

1.85 billion years ago, a comet struck present-day Ontario. Today, a fragment from the impact sits on a lab counter in Steitz Hall. It was found in a surface outcrop in the Upper Peninsula, hundreds of miles away from the impact site. The crater, called the Sudbury Basin, is the second-largest impact crater ever formed, as well as one of the oldest. Pay a visit to this chunk of rock in Steitz if you enjoy having existential crises.

Teakwood Room doesn’t feature just one piece of history. The entire room is history.

8. Teakwood room: A Downer connection

It’s hard to believe you’re still on the Lawrence campus when you’re in this room, or even in the 21st century. But it’s a piece of Lawrence; a perfectly preserved monument to its past. The room was originally in the home of Alice G. Chapman, a faithful benefactor of Milwaukee-Downer College. After her passing in 1935, the room was moved to the Milwaukee-Downer Library and became beloved by students. It was disassembled and brought to Lawrence in 1968 after the two schools consolidated in 1964. Its doors are open in Alice G. Chapman Hall; feel free to stroll into the past and view the antique furniture, art and paneling.

Did we miss anything? Tell us about the treasures you’ve found on the Lawrence campus.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communication office.

Lawrence unveils new B.M.A. degree, widening path for student musicians

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble performs at Memorial Chapel during the 2018-19 academic year.
The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble has been part of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music’s long history of jazz education excellence. The new B.M.A. degree, beginning this fall, will build on that with its Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Electric guitars and synthesizers could soon become as familiar as violins and bassoons in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

A new degree program is being introduced at Lawrence University that is expected to open the school’s Conservatory of Music to a wider group of student musicians. Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.), with a Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation track, has been added to Lawrence’s degree options, joining Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.).

It’s a new avenue for a conservatory whose history dates back to the 19th century. Built on the strength of a nationally recognized jazz program that has been earning major honors since the 1970s, the new degree expands on the classical music component in the Conservatory, allowing students for the first time to audition with non-classical repertoire. The foundation is in jazz and contemporary improvisation, but the degree is built to accommodate a wide range of music making.

The B.M.A. degree, in place beginning this academic year, has a 50-50 split between music studies and a student’s choice of another field in the liberal arts landscape, with expectations to connect the two.

The high standards haven’t changed. The audition process for acceptance into the Conservatory remains intact, and the skill-development expectations continue to be top level. But for prospective students eyeing the B.M.A. degree, the audition no longer needs to be limited to pieces from the Western classical repertoire, potentially opening the door for students who see their strengths and interests in jazz or pop or hip-hop or another music genre. And the new degree presents an alternate path of study for classical musicians, as well.

It unwraps all sorts of additional choices, said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.

“The new degree will open the Conservatory to a broader range of musical interests,” he said. “No longer does a student have to audition on a Western classical instrument and perform classical repertoire. Drummers, electric guitarists, fiddlers, keyboard players, jazz vocalists, songwriters and contemporary composers are all welcome to audition into the new program.”

For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.

For details on the new B.M.A. degree, including an FAQ, see here.

This isn’t completely new territory for the Conservatory. It has long had a thriving jazz program. Lawrence won the first of its 28 Downbeat jazz education awards as far back as 1985, its latest as recently as April, picking up the award for the best undergraduate large ensemble for the second consecutive year. But current students have had to come into the jazz track via the classical music auditions and training, then seek a jazz emphasis while also studying classical repertoire.

The current B.Mus. degree, Pertl said, works well for many aspiring musicians who seek both classical and jazz training, but it leaves out those whose aspirations do not include the classical side of performance training. The new degree will rectify that. It also will expand the opportunities to tap into music-related fields that don’t necessarily involve performance.

Students perform as part of a Jazz Ensemble concert in Memorial Chapel.
Jazz and improvisation have long been part of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music. The new B.M.A. degree will add flexibility for music students.

Read more: Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble wins DownBeat Award for second consecutive year

Read more: Roomful of Teeth’s Estelí Gomez to join Lawrence Conservatory

The late Fred Sturm, who oversaw the jazz studies program at Lawrence for 26 years, began laying the groundwork for the new degree prior to his death in 2014.

What started as a specific focus on jazz eventually grew into the more wide-ranging B.M.A. degree, Pertl said. The degree allows the Conservatory to welcome in musicians who don’t necessarily fit a certain musical footprint.

“Last year, for example, we graduated an exceptional student from Chicago named Bernard Lilly,” Pertl said. “Bernard is an amazing soul singer. He’d been singing long before he came to Lawrence and sang all the way through Lawrence, but he never took any courses in the Conservatory because he didn’t feel like there was anything there for him, until his last term in his senior year when he took my entrepreneurship class and studied with (voice professor) John Holiday, and worked with professors in our jazz department. He would have been a perfect candidate for a B.M.A. degree.

“To be able to give students like Bernard high-level musical training will certainly broaden what they can do. But it also expands the musical culture of the Conservatory, mixing different genres and different musical sensibilities. This will be a huge advantage to everyone at the Conservatory.”

Students pursuing a B.Mus. degree in the Conservatory take about two-thirds of their classes in their major area of study and about one-third in general education or electives. Music students who pursue a double degree — a music degree and a B.A. in the college — do so on a five-year plan.

The new B.M.A., meanwhile, combines high-level music study with another field of interest in a four-year plan. As part of the degree requirements, students pursue a cognate focus that makes up 15% of their coursework. The cognate allows them to deeply explore another area of interest that ties into their music studies.

“It could be musically oriented but in the area of anthropology,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat said. “Or musically oriented but in political science.”

Core classes, one-on-one work with faculty and a wide range of electives give B.M.A. students opportunities to carve their own musical paths, some performance based, some not.

That, said Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, speaks to how music can inform so many disciplines in a variety of ways. Today, preparing young musicians to pursue their musical lives can’t be limited to focusing solely on technical mastery. Each year, opportunities will arise that don’t exist today, so musicians need to pair their high-level musicianship with high-level thinking, creative problem-solving, and the flexibility to capitalize on opportunities that others don’t even see.

Flexibility, an ability to adapt quickly, and a willingness to collaborate are all key attributes for anyone entering the world of music in the 21st century. Blending those core musicianship skills with an education in a student’s other field of interest is the next step in keeping the Conservatory forward-thinking.

“A lot of these students who come in wanting to create their own musical voice are pretty self-directed already,” Darling said. “While they’ll be gaining a lot of these core musicianship skills, they also want to be able to access entrepreneurial practices, music business models and opportunities for internships.

“It’s really interesting how the recording scene has developed, how music publishing has changed,” she said. “Even large ensembles and orchestras — all these musical opportunities have transformed dramatically in the last 10 years and students need the ability to self-promote. That’s a very important skill to have … to be able to put your best self out there.”

Pertl called the B.M.A. a natural progression for the Conservatory as it embraces and nurtures the modern musician.

“At Lawrence, we’ve already been incorporating so many of the elements of improvisation and world music into the trajectory of a classically trained musician for the same reason,” he said. “It’s going to be the flexibility of art, and of mind, that will help you to successfully create your musical life.”

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

Voices from abroad: LU students share takeaways from studying across the globe

Fallon Sellers drinks milk from a coconut while studying in Auckland, New Zealand.
Fallon Sellers ’20 enjoys fresh coconut milk while studying in Auckland, New Zealand.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

It’s more than traveling the world; students who have enhanced their college experience with off-campus study often return with new perspectives and skills that stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Studying abroad last year made a lasting impression on Jackeline Flores ’19, who studied at the Lawrence University London Centre for her global studies major and Spanish minor.

“Personally, I feel that my experience abroad really solidified the idea that the world truly is my oyster,” she said. “All the knowledge and culture I was exposed to while abroad reminded me that there is so much out there left for me to learn about, which I find super exciting.”

Jackeline Flores takes in a view of the streets of London.
Jackeline Flores ’19 spent a term studying in London.

She’s not alone. We sampled more than a dozen Lawrence students who studied abroad during the past academic year, asking them to share key takeaways from their experience.

So many opportunities

The London Centre satellite campus is just one of 52 life-changing opportunities available to Lawrence students through the off-campus study program.

Each program blends classroom and experiential learning to facilitate students’ personal and academic growth through engagement with different cultures in an immersive learning environment. This leads to a range of profound benefits, says Director of Off-Campus Programs Laura Zuege.

“We know it affords the opportunities for intercultural learning, growth and development that employers time and time again are looking for,” she says. “Study abroad is a laboratory for that kind of development.”

Zuege and her colleagues work tirelessly to make these programs accessible and suitable for students of diverse academic, socioeconomic, social and ethnic backgrounds, by offering programs for every major and addressing students’ varied needs.

For more information on off-campus study, click here.

To see the full list of programs, click here.

“Different students have different concerns in different locations,” Zuege says. “We want to be tuned in with some of our portfolio (program) choices but also with how we approach, prepare and recruit students to be sure we’re reaching a range of the student body that’s representative of our student body.”

This fall, a breakthrough financial aid policy change is making that possible. All of a student’s institutional financial aid — grants, federal loans, scholarships — can now be contributed to off-campus study, in addition to existing study abroad scholarships. In the past, 100 to 120 students went abroad each year; this fall there will be 145.

What they’re saying

Here are a dozen more Lawrence students whose lives changed thanks to off-campus study last year:

Tamima Tabishat poses for a photo overlooking Rabat, Morocco.
Tamima Tabishat ’20 takes in a view overlooking Rabat, Morocco.

Tamima Tabishat ’20, AMIDEAST, area and Arabic language studies in Rabat, Morocco; global studies/German language studies and French language studies: “The most important (impact) was the way it helped me learn how to adapt quickly and smoothly to a new environment. Morocco’s geographic, linguistic, religious, political and cultural elements are very different from my typical academic environment. By studying in a new context, I felt that I was able to adopt new habits, adapt to new customs, and abide by new social rules, all of which are incredibly important skills to have in life. Practicing these things every day taught me how to see everything from a totally new perspective, which has made me not only a more critical thinker, but also a more considerate and tolerant citizen of the world.”

Joe Hedin ’19, Lawrence University London Centre, government/Spanish: “The London Centre allowed me to prepare myself for life after Lawrence. Thanks to the London Centre and Off-Campus programs staff, I had an internship, so I learned how to work in traditional offices, along with learning how to commute to work. I will never be able to put into words how impactful this was.”

Abigail Keefe ’20, IES Paris, language and area studies; violin performance, and mathematics/French and music theory: “Living in France with my host family helped me to improve my skills in the French language way beyond what I ever thought I would be capable of. Living in a country where my native language was not the primary language also helped me to try to understand how it would feel for people living and working in America for whom English is not their native language.”

Ryan Leonard sits in the sand in front of Mount Maunganui.
Ryan Leonard ’19 poses for a photo in Tauranga in front of Mount Maunganui.

Ryan Leonard ’19, IES Auckland, New Zealand, geology: “This experience is going to be one of the biggest selling points in my life after college. From the challenge of moving to a new country alone and having to meet new people, to maintaining good grades and budgeting and making time for travel, I have gained many marketable skills that I may not even realize I have acquired.”

Julia Johnson ’20, IES Vienna, music, cello performance; psychology/pedagogy: “It pushed my boundaries in so many ways such as speaking another language, making friends, being comfortable with public transportation, making travel plans, and not being afraid to explore Vienna and go to performances on my own. I feel like I grew more as a person studying in a new city where they speak another language more than I ever would have on my own campus.”

Ethren Lindsay ’20, Japan; linguistics and Japanese: “I was able to take many classes that would not have been available at my home university, one of which was a translation job. Since I am planning on possibly going into translation as a part of my future work, this was quite literally the most valuable thing that I could have gotten out of college.”

Alice Luo poses for a photo in an urban garden in Berlin.
Alice Luo ’19 visits an urban garden in Berlin.

Alice Luo (Manxin) ’19, IES Berlin, language and area studies; history: “Berlin is such a dynamic city with people coming from all over the world. In America, I felt an urge to be more American and I tried to deny my Chinese identity to some extent in order to better merge into the American culture. In Berlin, with the diverse population and cultures and a seemingly freer atmosphere, which I personally felt, I learned to accept my identity and even celebrate it and appreciate it.”

Juan Marin ’20, IES Freiburg, language and area studies; film studies and German: “I feel like the program taught me how to understand people better. I met a lot of people abroad, and I don’t just mean my classmates and more Americans. I met people from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Greece, Russia, Bolivia, France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Australia, Germany (of course), Morocco, the UK, and more. The program gave me an even higher appreciation for diversity and inclusion.”

Kate Martensis ’20, Budapest, semesters in mathematics education; math and history: “As part of our practicum course, my fellow students and I each had to teach two classes at a local high school. Though the process was not without its difficulties, it was an incredibly valuable experience, and I was so glad to put all the things we’d learned from school visits and our classes into practice. This made me all the more excited to be a teacher.”

Tia Colbert looks up at a wax figure of Sherlock Holmes at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London.
Tia Colbert ’20 checks out a wax figure of Sherlock Holmes while visiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London with her British Crime Fiction class.

Tia Colbert ’20, Lawrence University London Centre, English and Greek/creative writing: “There was a significant focus on using London itself as a textbook, and I feel like that enhanced all the classes. I believe that experiential learning is one of the best ways to engage students, and the London Centre Program definitely delivered in that respect.”

Harry Rivas ’19, ACM Shanghai, economics: “The program had a drastic impact on my life. It changed the way I saw the rest of the world, specifically how I saw China, the impact China has already had on the world, and what is to come. I got to explore a culture and mindset so different from my own.”

Fallon Sellers ’20, IES Auckland, New Zealand, government/international relations: “It was incredibly interesting to interact and work with others my age from a different social and academic culture than mine. Collaborating with them and learning their stances on business and ethical behavior was fascinating, and it was immensely rewarding to observe other points of view outside of the U.S.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Signage a nod to strange, complicated history of Lawrence’s favorite rock

New signage has gone up next to the Rock on Lawrence’s Main Hall lawn, noting the big boulder’s ties to campus dating back to 1895.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Rock, a 2-ton boulder resting peacefully on a stretch of lawn near the northwest corner of Main Hall, has finally had its long, strange history commemorated by Lawrence University.

Newly installed signage provides a nod to the 4,700-pound piece of granite that has been tolerated but rarely celebrated by the university that has been its home — mostly — since members of the Class of 1895 first hauled it to campus 124 years ago.

As campus traditions go, this is one that has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the school. The Rock — not to be confused with a certain Hollywood celebrity of the same nickname — has been the subject of pranks, fraternity feuds and deep mysteries through the decades. It was returned to campus in the spring of 2018 after having gone missing for 20 years.

Now it’s home, and there’s nothing but love. Thus, the new signage recently placed next to the Rock:

“Members of the Class of 1895 found this boulder on a geology field trip in New London, WI, and brought it to campus to serve as the senior class gift. In the years since, the Rock has been painted, buried, moved around, and even removed from campus. After a 20-year stay on the Nickel family farm (Michael Nickel ’02, Adam Nickel ’03), it was returned to its original placement in front of Main Hall in spring 2018.”

The Rock, now painted green with the white lettering of the Class of 2019, has a history that started out combative, if all in good fun. Consider this dispatch in The Lawrentian in July 1895:

“Tuesday afternoon was Class Day and the big boulder of the Class of ’95 made its debut in college history. Somehow the seniors had an idea that the giddy juniors would not allow it to become a landmark on the campus and they watched all night till the day of its dedication, lest some festive ’96er should come along and carry the pebble off and throw it in the river.”

That would set a tone that would become part of the Rock’s tradition, one of mostly harmless rivalry and midnight escapades stretching across more than 100 years, frequently chronicled by The Lawrentian and sometimes The Post-Crescent.

Among the highlights:

With concerns the pranks had gotten out of hand, the Rock was moved to a mostly out-of-the-way spot near the Fox River in 1939; it would be returned to the Main Hall green by ambitious students three years later.

It would go missing in 1964, finally retrieved in 1983 (it had been buried behind Plantz Hall by members of the Class of 1967, so, technically, it was still on campus).

And it would once again disappear in 1998, discovered 20 years later by students Sarah Axtell ’17 and Jon Hanrahan ’16, who had launched an entertaining, Serial-style podcast in hopes of solving the mystery of the Rock’s whereabouts.

In between all of that, the Rock was at the center of some much-chronicled campus rivalries and shenanigans that included students hiring towing companies to move the rock around campus in the dark of night, tossing it into the Fox River on multiple occasions, placing it in cement, and building a papier-mache replica that would appear one morning in 1957 on the roof of the former Stephenson Hall.

As the location of the Rock became a competition among fraternities, there was an unwritten rule that said wherever the rock was located on the morning of homecoming, that is where it would stay for the rest of the school year.

The 1998 disappearance came not long after the Phi Delta Theta and Delta Tau Delta fraternities had a bit of a public showdown, one that involved a front-end loader and required the dean of students to negotiate a compromise as local media looked on.

The engraving of Class of '95 can clearly be seen on the Rock, which sits on the Main Hall lawn. The rock is painted green with Class of 2019 in white.
A paint job by the Class of 2019 does not obscure the engraving from the Class of ’95 (that’s 1895) on the Rock, which sits on the Main Hall lawn with newly installed signage commemorating its history.

A search and a podcast

The Rock was then mostly forgotten for nearly two decades until Axtell and Hanrahan launched their No Stone Unturned podcast in 2016.

“Sarah and I were real dorks about Lawrence history,” Hanrahan said.

Their sleuthing eventually took them to a farm in Calumet County where the rock was found behind an old barn, the carved Class of ’95 in plain sight. It turns out there were a lot of complicated emotions tied to the Rock and how it ended up on that farm.

Lawrence and the Nickel family would eventually reach agreement that the Rock should return to the Main Hall green. It came home in 2018.

The ongoing fascination with the big boulder speaks to college students’ need to feel connected to their school’s history, said Hanrahan, who now works as an associate producer for New York Public Radio. He points to other schools with similar objects that have served as traditions that tie together generations of students — Rutgers’ cannon, Carnegie Mellon’s fence painting, and Northwestern’s own version of an oft-painted rock.

“There’s definitely that element of college students wanting and needing that quirky sense of identity,” Hanrahan said.

The podcast not only gave Hanrahan and Axtell the chance to fixate on Lawrence history — “This project was one of the first real moments when I fell in love with archives,” Hanrahan said — it also provided an opportunity to connect with alumni in a meaningful way.

“We got a sense of what life was like at Lawrence, especially in the ’90s, which was when the disappearance occurred,” Hanrahan said. “… We got a taste of life in the ’60s when the Rock disappeared then. That was very, very different from what life was like in the ’90s, which was also very different from what life is like in the 2010s.”   

An uneasy history

Erin Dix ’08, the university’s archivist over the past nine years, said the many Rock-related pranks left some past university administrators uneasy. That’s why the new signage is notable.

“The administration at Lawrence has not always embraced the disruptive elements of the Rock’s tradition,” she said. “In 1939, college officials moved the Rock to the tennis courts at the bottom of the Drew Street hill to try to discourage the constant pranks. But students managed to hoist it back up the hill three years later. During the Rock’s most recent absence, I often heard the theory that the administration had purposefully removed it from campus.” (It had not.)

“My favorite anecdote about the Rock comes from a Post-Crescent article published when it was being exhumed from the parking lot behind Plantz Hall in 1983,” Dix said. “‘Richard Warch, president of the university, was there, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his sack lunch during the noon-hour event. “What a great day for Lawrence University,” he said with mock enthusiasm as a big P.G. Miron crane lifted the rock from the ground.’”

Hanrahan believes that kind of history should be celebrated. Students today should be aware of the school’s deep history and the student experiences that preceded them, even if it’s just a goofy old rock. That it has Class of ’95 carved into it is reason enough to acknowledge that connection, he said.

“That’s not 1995, that’s 1895, this unimaginably distant group of people,” Hanrahan said. “And it has these classes from the 1930s carved on the side as well. So, it’s a rock and it’s obviously this old geological artifact, but it broadcasts its oldness and it’s Lawrenceness right there on the side. It’s hard to look at it and not think of a Lawrence from 100 years ago.”

New signage now accompanies the Rock on the Main Hall lawn.

Axtell, now working in New York City for Accomplice the Show, an immersive theater company, applauds the university for formally recognizing the history of the Rock, calling it an important connection between generations of students.

“I don’t think the university can always take an official stance on some of the goofy things that have happened in the past, but I think the university should be proud of the ingenuity and creativity of its students,” she said.

“It gives people a reason to connect back to the history of the place. People need to pay more attention to the history of the areas around them, for better or worse.”

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

From Houdini to Ferber, 6 things you should know about Appleton

Photo of the signage in Houdini Plaza.
Houdini Plaza, named for Harry Houdini, is at the center of Appleton’s downtown.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Like any city, Appleton has its own claims to fame, whether it’s an actor from here who made it big or an innovation in technology that has its roots here in this community. 

For incoming Lawrence students trying to get the lay of the land when it comes to a new home, here are six curious tidbits about Appleton history that may surprise you.

Appleton was the childhood home of Harry Houdini

This amazes a lot of people, but there’s no trick to it. Houdini, or Erik Weisz, was born in Budapest in 1874. His family settled in Appleton in 1878, where they lived for four years until his father lost his job and they moved to Milwaukee. Despite the move, Houdini considered Appleton to be his boyhood home. Houdini Plaza, the community space in the center of downtown, is named for the famed escape artist. The History Museum at the Castle, just down the street, has an extensive Houdini exhibit. There’s a Houdini Elementary School in town. You can eat at the Houdini’s Escape Gastropub, and each fall you can run in the Houdini 10K race. So, yea, Houdini is here.

Willem Dafoe got his start in Appleton

You might recognize Willem Dafoe from Platoon (1986), Spider-Man (2002) and The Florida Project (2017). Did you know the four-time Academy Award nominee was born in Appleton in 1955? He was William then. Early in his teenage years, he began acting in Appleton’s Attic Theatre. He was Billy then. When he was kicked out of Appleton East High School (that’s another story) he fulfilled his graduation requirements by taking a class at Lawrence.

Appleton is the home of the oldest coeducational college in Wisconsin

Here’s some history that involves Lawrence. Did you know Appleton has been making strides in gender equality since the time of its founding? Lawrence University was chartered in 1847 and has admitted women since the first day of classes on Nov. 12, 1849, making it the oldest coed college in Wisconsin.

Sen. Joe McCarthy grew up in the Appleton area

Here’s a refresher from history class: Sen. Joseph McCarthy achieved notoriety in the 1950s when he accused members of the U.S. government (and others) of communist activity, contributing to the collective panic that marked the Cold War era. Before that, the senator was Joe from Appleton. Well, Grand Chute, actually. He was at one time the manager at an Appleton grocery store. He later earned his law degree at Marquette University, was elected to a circuit court judgeship and eventually was elected to the Senate, all before becoming one of the most reviled politicians in U.S. history. He is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Appleton.

Appleton had the first hydroelectric power station

In 1882, Appleton paper manufacturer H.F. Rogers needed a source to power his paper plant. Inspired by Thomas Edison’s designs for a steam power station in New York, Rogers commissioned the first hydroelectric power station to be built. It came to fruition along the Fox River, generating enough power to run his plant, his home, and a nearby building. The Hearthstone House Museum in Appleton is now open to the public, marking that historic contribution to the modern power grid.

Appleton gave us author Edna Ferber

The Pulitzer Prize winner was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1885, moving with her family to Appleton when she was 12. She started her writing career here in Appleton, working as a reporter for the Appleton Daily Crescent at age 17. She nurtured her love of writing and reporting, leading her to eventually write iconic novels such as So Big (1924) and Showboat (1926). She’s often mentioned among the greatest novelists of her generation.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Cheesehead or cheese curd? A guide to talking the talk in Wisconsin

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21 and Awa Badiane ’21

With three-quarters of Lawrence University students coming from out of state — or, in some cases, out of the country — there can be a learning curve on all things Wisconsin. Getting to know Wisconsin is an important part of adjusting to life at Lawrence.

With that in mind, we’ve created this quick and handy Wisconsin vocabulary guide for our out-of-state newcomers who are getting ready to make this their home away from home for the next nine months.

Isabella is a born-and-raised Wisconsinite. Awa hails from New York City and has been busy learning this Wisconsin lingo for the past two years. We’re here to be your tour guide through Wisconsin vocabulary. There are other phrases to explore, but we cut it off at our favorite 15. There will not be a test.

1. Cheesehead (cheez-hed): Refers to a person from Wisconsin, especially a Packers fan. Also refers to the foam cheese wedge-shaped hat worn by fans at Packers games. It’s a fashion thing. You’ll get used to it.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “All the cheeseheads were cheering when the Packers scored the touchdown.”

2. Brat Fest (braht-fest): This is an annual three-day festival held in Madison that celebrates Wisconsin heritage by dishing out hundreds of thousands of brats to hungry festival-goers. We highlight the festival because it so nobly honors the state’s love affair with its favorite sausage meat. Billed as the world’s largest bratwurst festival, it comes around again in late May, should you be thinking about a road trip.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “I ate five brats at Brat Fest last year and I can’t wait to go again this year!”

3. Sconnie (skah-nee): Referring to a person who hails from Wisconsin. It’s a term embraced by some, derided by others. People can be seen proudly sporting “Sconnie” T-shirts; the term signifies pride in being from Wisconsin.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “I’ve lived in Madison my whole life. I’m proud to be a Sconnie!”

4. “Squeaky” cheese curds (skwee-kee cheez kurds): The “squeak” is the sound you’ll hear when you bite into fresh cheese curds. This is exactly what you want to hear; squeakiness indicates freshness. It’s an acquired taste.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “The cheese curds I got from the farmer’s market are really squeaky. It’s going to be a good day.”

5. Deep-fried cheese curds (deep frahyd cheez kurds): A Wisconsin staple food. Cheese curds, ideally squeaky and fresh, are breaded and deep-fried and served as an appetizer. Best when they’re not too greasy. No fried cheese curds are exactly alike; they’re served at a variety of eating establishments that have their own particular claim to cheese curd goodness.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “The deep-fried cheese curds at this bar are the best in town.”

6. Supper club (suh-per klub): A traditional family-owned eating establishment. Only open for supper. But it’s more than a meal. It’s a social engagement. You’ll spend some time in the bar (not optional) before you’re shown to your table. Typical fare includes fish fry, prime rib, a salad bar, cheese and crackers, a relish tray and cocktails. Supper clubs can be found throughout the Midwest, but the tradition lives on most strongly in Wisconsin. They differ from location to location, but all come with a heavy dose of nostalgia.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “This is the supper club my grandma went to all the time in the ’60s. We still go every Sunday for prime rib.”

7. Stop-and-go lights: A reference you’ll sometimes hear from Wisconsin motorists as they approach traffic lights because, well, you stop and then you go. Used interchangeably with stop lights.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “Take a right up here at the stop-and-go light.”

8. Bubbler (buh-blur): A Wisconsin term for a water fountain. This one’s a classic. Wisconsinites take pride in it. Residents of neighboring states tend to mock it. You’ll get used to it.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “I filled my water bottle at the bubbler in the hallway.”

9. Friday night fish fry (frahy-dey nahyt fish frahy): This is more of a way of life than a vocabulary quirk. It’s a traditional Wisconsin dinner — usually cod, perch, haddock or walleye, fried and served with lemon wedges and tartar sauce. Accompanied by a slew of sides: coleslaw, potatoes in numerous forms, and bread and butter. Sometimes it’s all you can eat. Can be enjoyed at a variety of eating establishments, especially supper clubs. You also might find a fish fry in the basement of a church. And always, of course, on Friday.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “I’m still so full from that Friday night fish fry last night.”

10. The Pack (th uh pak): Referring to the Green Bay Packers, Wisconsin’s NFL football team. This, too, is a lifestyle thing among Wisconsinites. The cheesehead headwear is optional, but full-throated fandom is encouraged.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “We’re rooting for The Pack tonight. Go Pack, go!”

11. TYME machine (ty-m muh-sheen): A reference to an ATM machine that to a newcomer makes absolutely no sense. But there’s history here. TYME was a specific brand of ATM machines local to Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The name at some point expanded in usage in Wisconsin to include all ATM machines. The acronym stands for “Take Your Money Everywhere.” The TYME brand went away a decade ago, but its usage in the Wisconsin vocab continues.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “I have to go to the TYME machine to get some cash.”

12. Sausage race (saw-sij rey-s): Referring to the race of sausage mascots that takes place at Milwaukee Brewers’ home games at Miller Park. The five participants — Brat, Italian, Chorizo, Hot Dog and Polish — sprint along the track around the baseball field. Again, this is more Wisconsin tradition than a vocabulary quirk. But, still, it’s a sausage race.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “I rooted for the Chorizo in the sausage race at last night’s game.”

13. “Aw jeez!” (aw jeez): Exclamatory remark expressing regret, sympathy or excitement. Usually punctuated by a very strong Wisconsin accent. Its multiple uses make it a go-to in almost any situation.

  • Use in a sentence, please: Person 1: “Aw jeez, who ate the last cheese curd? Person 2: “Aw jeez! I ate it, I’m sorry.”

14. “Uff-da!” (oof-duh): Exclamatory remark expressing amazement, exasperation or relief.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “Did you see that Packers game yesterday? Uff-da!”

15. “Or no?” (er-no): An utterance placed at the end of a question or an invitation to present the option to decline. The sound tends to blend into the rest of the sentence, functioning more as a habitual articulation than a question.

  • Use in a sentence, please: “Did you enjoy this Wisconsin vocabulary guide, or no?”

Isabella Mariani ’21 and Awa Badiane ’21 are student writers in the Communications office.