Category: Press Releases

On any given day: April 22 is packed, offering glimpse of campus life to come

Tai chi sessions began in the fall on Main Hall Green. They continue indoors in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

April 22 is shaping up as a day to remind us of the breadth and depth of the Lawrence experience.

It’s often been said that on any given day Lawrentians have at their fingertips a richly satisfying array of academic, arts, athletic, recreational, and social opportunities. When paired with the school’s small size and close community connections, it speaks to the transformational experience that has long defined Lawrence.

That has been tested at times during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But April 22 provides a hint that campus activity, all done with Honor the Pledge protocols in place, is again becoming robust.

This is just one day; a moment in time. But it has us remembering what’s to come when we return to something resembling normalcy on campus.

Let’s take a guided walk to see what April 22 has in store, in addition to classes.

11:15 a.m.

Yoga, anyone? Physically distanced, of course. Yoga sessions are a regular thing on campus, adapted this year for Honor the Pledge protocols. They’ve been held outdoors on campus when the weather has made that doable; otherwise in the gym in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

“We know that movement and experiences that are not on screen are beneficial to the overall health and well-being of our students,” said Erin Buenzli, director of wellness and recreation. “Not only can physical activities help us connect socially, it helps improve our sleep, our mood, energy, and, most of all, should be fun.”

12:30 p.m.

Let’s move on to tai chi, which follows yoga in the Wellness Center. It also has been held outdoors at times. It’s organized by Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, and this term is being led by fencing coach Eric Momberg.

Upwards of 40 students have turned out for sessions that Morgan-Clement calls socially distanced and physically present.

“Tai chi is internal awareness, opening energy, and connecting beyond oneself,” she said. “This year, tai chi has made us aware of our connections even when we are not able to be together, of our bodies in motion through opening and grounding, and of gratitude for breath and the possibilities in each inhale and exhale.”

3 p.m.

Here’s a chance to support Lawrence athletics on a beautiful spring day. The softball team plays a doubleheader against St. Norbert College at Whiting Field. Lawrence is now allowing two guests per LU student-athlete at spring sporting events. There are some rules. Guests will be checked in on a pass list, masks are required, and spectators will need to bring their own chairs. Go Vikings!

4:30 p.m.

OK, as we make our way deeper into the afternoon, we’ve got some decisions to make. Several options are on tap—one is the return of a notable lecture series from the Government Department, one is a chance to connect with classmates, one encourages you to connect with yourself, and one will deliver some knowledge courtesy of an accomplished mathematician.

Option 1: The Povolny Lecture Series will be held in Wriston Art Center. Lt. General William Troy will present “Three Challenges for the U.S. Military: The Rising Importance of Soft Power; Urbanization; and The State of Civil-Military Relations.” Open in person to Lawrence students, faculty, and staff (socially distanced), it is part of a Povolny Lecture Series that’s named in honor of former government professor Mojmir Povolny. It promotes interest and discussion on issues of moral significance and ethical dimensions. Troy was an Army officer for 38 years; he rose to the rank of lieutenant general (three-star) and went on to become a CEO in the private sector. His talk also is available via Zoom: https://lawrence.zoom.us/j/99033963657

Option 2: The Mudd Library staff will host a one-hour Zoom chat focused on fiber arts. Work on your knitting, needle point, cross stitch, or any other art or craft activity while enjoying connection with others. Join here: https://lawrence.zoom.us/j/91889764762?pwd=eFgyYlI1ak9VZlRBQ21nbEcxek5kQT09#success

Option 3: Gather outdoors at the Esch Hurvis Center for Spiritual and Religious Life for guided meditation.

Option 4: A McDougal Lecture features Lillian B. Pierce, a Duke University math professor whose research connects number theory with harmonic analysis. She’ll speak on, “What we talk about when we talk about math.” It’ll be presented via Zoom: https://lawrence.zoom.us/j/95898853704. The McDougal Lecture is in honor of alumnus Kevin F. McDougal ’79, a leading math scholar before his death in 2004.

6:30 p.m.

All campus community members will have the opportunity to join a two-hour virtual Courageous Conversations Workshop for skill-building and discussion toward being an antiracist, equity-minded institution and community. A Zoom link will be sent to community members earlier that day. Simon Greer, founder of Bridging the Gap, a Courageous Conversation at The Neighborhood Project, will facilitate the workshop. It will launch Courageous Conversations at Lawrence, to be followed by a four-week boot camp for Lawrentians who want to take on leadership roles in ongoing antiracism efforts.

“Recognizing that engaging in these dialogues is much easier said than done, we sought out a program that would equip our campus community with the skills and tools necessary to have these often intense and emotion-inducing conversations,” the Office of the President and Public Events Committee said in an invitation sent to all students, faculty, and staff.

7 p.m.

Intramural sports offer chances to get some exercise, connect with other students, and scratch that competition itch. The Wellness Center gym will feature intramural volleyball on this night.

“We have been able to safely operate the Wellness Center since last summer,” Buenzli said, noting that that includes personal training programs for students, all with health and safety protocols in place. “Offering a place where students can get out of their rooms, concentrate on their wellness, and see others has been important.”

8 p.m.

We’re all well aware of the richness of arts opportunities available at Lawrence because of the Conservatory of Music. Nothing speaks to the Conservatory experience quite like a student recital, putting into practice all that has been learned in classroom and studio spaces. This night’s recital, available via livestream, will feature Ben Hiles ’22 and Melanie Shefchik ’23, both on saxophone. Among the works they will perform is one composed by a Lawrentian who came before them, Evan Williams ’10.

“Having a joint recital during the pandemic comes with obvious logistical challenges in working with each other and other musicians, but we have found a way to make it work,” Hiles said. “This opportunity to work on a recital with one of my closest friends has been so rewarding.”

Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl notes that this will be one of 73 student recitals taking place during Spring Term.

“Some students will play live recitals with limited audiences—no more than 10 people in Harper Hall—but also webcast; others webcast their recitals from home; others use the opportunity to create feature-length films that incorporate their recital repertoire. They provide a portal from the upside-down world of the pandemic into a space of music and magic and community.”

8:30 p.m.

LU Earth Hour in celebration of Earth Day will bring students to Main Hall Green after dark. Sponsored by Greenfire, a student organization dedicated to environmentally-conscious initiatives, Earth Hour aims to be a global energy-saving activity in response to climate change. For this hour, all of Lawrence’s nonessential lights will go dark around campus. Students are encouraged to turn out their lights and come together on Main Hall Green to watch the stars and learn about astronomy with associate professor of physics Megan Pickett. Glow sticks will be provided.

“We need to use less energy to combat climate change, and this event will allow students to do that while still having a good time together,” said Grace Subat, sustainability and special projects fellow in the president’s office. “Even unplugging your electronics and turning off your lights for one hour can make a difference.”

Need more motivation? “There also will be free stuff for all who attend,” Subat said.

That’s a full day.

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

Lawrence ranked by Princeton Review among “Best Value” colleges in nation

Lawrence University

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is ranked as one of the “Best Value Colleges” in the country by The Princeton Review.

The 2021 Best Value list, released Tuesday, includes Lawrence as one of the top 200 private colleges across the country based on academics, costs, financial aid, debt, graduation rates, and alumni career and salary data.

“We are happy that, after they evaluated some 650 colleges on more than 40 data points, The Princeton Review has determined Lawrence University provides one of the nation’s best returns on investment,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications. “For students and families who are making the decision to invest in a Lawrence experience, this is welcome news.”

The schools listed are not ranked in order.

“The 200 schools we chose are those we recommend as offering the best ROI (return on investment),” The Princeton Review said in announcing the rankings. “Our ROI rating tallies considered more than 40 data points, broadly covering academics, affordability, and career preparation.”

Lawrence recently marked the close of its Be the Light! Campaign, which raised $232.6 million. That includes more than $91 million for Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN), an ongoing initiative that provides endowed scholarships to help bridge the difference between a student’s financial aid and their demonstrated need.

The impact of the FSFN efforts can be seen in the lessening of the average debt for Lawrence graduates over the past five years. The average student debt has dropped to $29,118, its lowest mark in 10 years. It hit a high mark of $34,573 in 2015-16 and has dropped steadily each year since. The percentage of Lawrence’s students graduating with debt dropped to 56% in 2019-20, well below the 75% of a decade earlier.

“The schools we name as our Best Value Colleges for 2021 comprise only just over 1% of the nation’s four-year colleges,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief. “They are distinctive in their programs, size, region, and type, yet they are similar in three areas. Every school we selected offers outstanding academics, generous financial aid and/or a relative low cost of attendance, and stellar career services.”

The Princeton Review is a tutoring, test prep, and college admission services company.

In August, The Princeton Review included Lawrence in The Best 386 Colleges guide, which came months after the organization named Lawrence the No. 3 Best Impact School in the country.

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

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

Main Hall

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Ten members of the Lawrence University faculty have been granted 2021 tenure appointments.

President Mark Burstein and the college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Employment Opportunity, granted tenure to Ingrid Albrecht (philosophy), Matthew Arau (music education), Chloe Armstrong (philosophy), Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd (education), Horacio Contreras (music), John Holiday (music), Danielle Joyner (art history), Victoria Kononova (Russian), Nora Lewis (music), and Brigid Vance (history). All 10 have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.

The appointments span multiple disciplines across the college and conservatory.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a dedicated and richly talented group of faculty into the tenured ranks,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine G. Kodat. “The breadth of ability and skill represented in this year’s tenure ‘class’ is truly extraordinary, both in terms of individual achievement and in how those achievements support our broader efforts to expand and enhance our curriculum to support diversity, inclusion, and excellence.”

The 10 newly tenured faculty:

Albrecht

Ingrid Albrecht: A specialist in ethics and moral philosophy, she joined the Lawrence philosophy department in 2013. Her courses have ranged from existentialism and ethics to feminism and philosophy and biomedical ethics.

Arau

Matthew Arau ’97: A Lawrence alumnus, he joined the Lawrence Conservatory’s music education faculty in 2014 and serves as the associate director of bands. His efforts on and off campus to teach a positive mindset in music education have drawn a strong following.

Armstrong

Chloe Armstrong: A specialist in early modern philosophy, she joined Lawrence’s philosophy department in 2015. Her teaching ranges from the works of Margaret Cavendish and Gottfried Leibniz to courses on food ethics and ancient Greek philosophy.

Burdick-Shepherd

Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd: A specialist in early childhood education, she joined the education department in 2015. She played a big role in launching the new teacher certification program in early childhood education and provides leadership for students going through teaching residencies.

Contreras

Horacio Contreras: A professor of cello, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017. He taught for 10 years at Universidad de Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela, before receiving his DMA in cello performance from the University of Michigan in 2016. He performs regularly nationally and internationally.

Holiday

John Holiday: A professor of voice, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017 after teaching for two years at Ithaca College. He has been hailed as a rising star in the opera world and performs frequently on some of opera’s biggest stages. He gained national attention as a crossover artist in late 2020 when he advanced to the finals on NBC’s The Voice.

Joyner

Danielle Joyner: A medieval art historian, she joined the art history faculty in 2018. She teaches courses on medieval and gothic art and is part of a faculty research and teaching collective on ancient and pre-modern societies.

Kononova

Victoria Kononova: A specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature and theater, she joined the Russian department in 2015. She teaches advanced Russian language classes and courses in English translation that include Russia’s Golden Age, women and gender in Russian culture, and Slavic science fiction.

Lewis

Nora Lewis ’99: A professor of oboe and an alumna of Lawrence, she joined the Conservatory faculty in 2018 after teaching stints at Austin Peay, Kansas State, and Western Michigan. She has performed extensively and presents master classes nationally and internationally.

Vance

Brigid Vance: A historian of late imperial China, she joined the history department in 2015. A regular contributor to First-Year Studies, she teaches courses that range from Chinese women’s history and the West’s view of China to the history of Chinese medicine and modern East Asian civilization.

The high level of achievement across the group speaks well of Lawrence’s ongoing commitment to academic excellence, Kodat said.

“It’s such a pleasure seeing their many past accomplishments rewarded with tenure, and I look forward to many years of rewarding partnership,” she said.

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

Environmental Science major launches; adds path to climate-focused research

Catherine Wagoner ’22 sifts soil during hydroponics research in December. She was among the Lawrence students doing research with geosciences professor Relena Ribbons, who is part of the faculty group that built the new Environmental Science major. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has launched a new Environmental Science major, giving science-minded students with an interest in environmental research a more concentrated path.

The major, running parallel with Lawrence’s long-established Environmental Studies major, taps into deep expertise in Lawrence’s science faculty on topics ranging from urban ecology and tectonics to soil biology and atmospheric chemistry. Approved in a recent faculty vote following two years of study, the new major will be available beginning in Fall Term, said Environmental Studies chair Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government.

The new major speaks to the growing interest and career paths tied to the climate crisis and the desire by students to do hands-on research in environmental protection. For some students, it will provide a clearer path to graduate school.

“Environmental Studies has always evolved to fit the needs of students, and we see this as a step that builds on our strengths and makes our long-standing program even more robust,” Brozek said. “One of the goals is to help students feel prepared for graduate programs and careers in the environmental sciences—without sacrificing the interdisciplinary perspective that our Environmental Studies program has been built on for more than two decades.”

Lawrence continues to excel in STEM fields. Read more here.

The particulars of the major came out of a working faculty group that involved numerous science professors—Marcia Bjornerud, Jeff Clark, Andrew Knudsen, and Relena Ribbons from the Geology Department, Israel Del Toro from Biology, and Deanna Donohoue from Chemistry.

As has been done elsewhere on campus, this was an opportunity to create space for more than one major under the same umbrella. The Environmental Studies program remains, but under that banner students will be able to major in Environmental Studies or Environmental Science.

“Both are interdisciplinary majors made up of courses from a wide range of different disciplines, and both will guide students from early exploration through advanced independent research,” Brozek said

The Environmental Studies major will continue to explore environmental issues through a multitude of lenses—scientific, political, economic, and cultural. The Environmental Science major, meanwhile, will focus more on hands-on scientific research.

The annual BioFest: Senior Symposium allows biology students to showcase their research. (Photo by Ellie Younger)

There are opportunities here in Appleton and in the surrounding northeast Wisconsin region for students to engage more broadly in authentic, meaningful, and focused environmental science research, Clark said. The research not only provides valuable hands-on learning experiences for the students but also serves important public service functions.

“Our students want to be engaged in real-world problem-solving, and the Environmental Science major provides the background to tackle these problems,” Clark said.

Attention to the climate crisis is growing as evidence of distress becomes increasingly perilous. Employment opportunities are following suit, with career paths expanding in everything from climate modeling and environmental engineering to water resource management and sustainability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an 8% growth in employment of environmental scientists and specialists over the course of this decade. 

For some students with an eye on the environment, the interest is in the political, policy, or economic realm. For a growing number of others, it’s in the science. Thus, Lawrence providing a new path of study that focuses squarely on environmental science is reflective of what more and more students are asking for, Brozek said.

“I think all of us do feel the urgency of the climate crisis, and we see that in our students who are looking for the sort of hands-on, experiential learning that can help them become more effective environmental advocates, experts, and leaders,” he said.

Bjornerud, the Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology and the author of the 2018 book, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, said the makeup of the new major shows how environmental study has evolved since Lawrence launched its Environmental Studies program more than 20 years ago.

“In that time, scientific understanding of climate, ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and human interaction with these complex natural phenomena has become far deeper and more nuanced,” she said. “Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.”

Current students interested in switching to the Environmental Science major can do so, but they’ll want to consult with their advisor first to see how the major’s requirements mesh with courses they’ve already taken, Brozek said.

For prospective or incoming students, it’s one more option to consider if they’re exploring the rapidly expanding career paths tied to the environment and climate change.

“Whether students picture a career in environmental justice or hydrology or policy analysis—or all three—we hope they see Lawrence as a good fit for them,” Brozek said. “Environmental Science is another springboard for the next generation of environmental leaders.”

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

Lawrence’s Dillon receives prestigious NSF Fellowship to pursue math research

Travis Dillon ’21 (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Travis Dillon ’21 has received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) award that will assist the mathematics major as he heads to graduate school and pursues a doctorate.

The NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) award, which provides three years of financial support to any institution of his choice, comes a year after Dillon was named a Goldwater Scholar, also a highly competitive honor. It also marks the second consecutive year that a Lawrence senior has received an NSF GRFP award. A year ago, Willa Dworschack ’20, a physics major, earned the honor.

The NSF Fellowship is among the most coveted in STEM fields. Students heading into graduate school as well as students already in a Ph.D. program are eligible to apply for the award from the NSF, an independent agency of the federal government that supports research and education in math and the sciences. Its fellowship award, first launched in 1952, is given to approximately 2,000 recipients a year to support the next generation of STEM leaders as they pursue research-based master’s and doctoral degrees. 

No matter where Dillon goes to graduate school—he’s been accepted at and is deciding between Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and University of California-San Diego—he said the award will give him flexibility, most notably not needing to work to cover expenses.

“I’ll be able to repurpose that time to focus on my classes and research,” he said.

Lawrence has impressive track record with STEM-to-Ph.D. success. Read more here.

The Newport, Washington, native has excelled in mathematics research during his time at Lawrence. He pursued an independent project that led to two published papers. He took part in a high-level math program in Budapest during his junior year. His work has taken him to Texas A&M’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU), a research program sponsored by the NSF, and he’s done research with noted City University of New York professor Pablo Soberón. Along the way, he’s worked closely with Lawrence Assistant Professor of Mathematics Elizabeth Sattler and counts her as an important mentor.

Much of his research has focused on a branch of math known as combinatorics, which involves the study of discrete and finite objects.

“If you want to count or enumerate, arrange or rearrange, or really just understand the inner workings of some finite structure, combinatorics is what’s called for,” Dillon said. “It might sound simplistic or wishy-washy, but it’s not. Combinatorics has grown from a collection of ad hoc techniques to a fairly comprehensive body of knowledge with connections throughout the many subfields of mathematics, and it provides much of the mathematical basis for theoretical computer science and those algorithms that make our fancy-schmancy laptops and phones do so many things so quickly.”

Dillon finished his Lawrence graduation requirements during Winter Term. He’s spending the spring working on various research projects and preparing for a grad school journey that could open a myriad of doors in the world of mathematics. He expects to make a decision on where he’ll attend grad school in the coming days. It’s all part of a deep dive into mathematics that he is relishing.

“I derive a lot of satisfaction from completing projects; I really like stepping back from the finished product and seeing that I’ve created something,” Dillon said. “So, I get a lot of fulfillment from the work itself. When I heard that I was selected for an NSF fellowship, though, I was, as the kids say, pumped. No matter how much individual satisfaction I get from my work, it’s always affirming to hear someone else say that you’re on the right track, especially when this someone else is a panel of experts in the field. It’s encouraging and energizing.”

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

Dr. Raymond, a top medical voice during pandemic, to be Commencement speaker

Dr. John Raymond

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Dr. John R. Raymond Sr., president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) and an important guiding voice for many during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, will be Lawrence University’s 2021 Commencement speaker.

Dr. Raymond will address Lawrence’s graduates in an in-person Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. June 13 in the Banta Bowl, with health and safety protocols in place.

See Commencement weekend details here.

The resiliency shown by young people through the pandemic will be part of his message, said Dr. Raymond, who oversees a Milwaukee-based School of Medicine with regional campuses in Green Bay and Wausau, a School of Pharmacy, and a Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences—encompassing a total enrollment of almost 1,500 students.

“The resiliency that students show is an example for the rest of us about how to be flexible when we face challenges, as well as how to persevere through our social networks, through finding our passion for making a difference, and for being innovative under duress,” he said. “In general, I believe that students and young people are more resilient than individuals who have greater decision-making responsibilities, so it has been refreshing for me to be recharged and redirected by our students, who have been thinking differently about opportunities during the pandemic.”

Dr. Raymond, who became MCW’s sixth president in 2010, has been among the leading medical voices in Wisconsin over the past year, providing advice and updates throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. He said it’s not a role he necessarily sought, but he opportunely stepped up when disinformation and confusion were hindering efforts to get needed information to citizens, employers, and elected officials.

“We needed multiple voices in science and medicine to share well-curated information so that individuals, businesses, and communities could make critical decisions,” he said.

Among those who leaned into Dr. Raymond’s advice and insights were the members of the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team. They talked frequently with Dr. Raymond, as well as with ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi, as decisions were made about going to remote classes in the spring of 2020, closing campus to the public, establishing Honor the Pledge protocols, and bringing nearly 60% of the students back to campus in the fall.

Dr. Raymond provided high-level insight into the spread of the virus in Wisconsin, how hospitals and others in the medical community were responding, and how institutions such as Lawrence could help keep their communities safe. As a president of a health sciences university, he also brought an important educational perspective.

“When the pandemic first began, there were few clear voices that provided direction,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “John was there ready to offer insight and essential health context for the decisions that faced Lawrence. He not only stayed current with the constant updates in research and policy changes, he also saw each decision through the lens of leading an academic community himself.” 

An in-person ceremony

While not all Lawrence students are on campus during Spring Term, all members of the senior class are being invited back to campus to participate in the Commencement ceremony. Each graduate can have up to two guests. The ceremony is being moved from its usual location on Main Hall Green to the Banta Bowl to accommodate health and safety protocols.

It will be streamed live via Lawrence’s YouTube channel.  

“As we end our last year at Lawrence, together, I am deeply thankful for your leadership of our learning community,” Burstein said in a letter to seniors announcing Commencement plans. “I am particularly grateful for your commitment to Honor the Pledge, which has allowed us to consider an in-person celebration of your time here.”

A nod to science, medicine

As part of the ceremony, Dr. Raymond will receive an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

At MCW, Dr. Raymond leads a health sciences university, including Wisconsin’s only private medical school, with a total operating budget of about $1.2 billion. Approximately 50 percent of Wisconsin’s practicing physicians graduated from MCW or trained at the Medical College of Wisconsin Affiliated Hospitals. MCW is ranked in the top third of all medical schools nationwide for National Institutes of Health research funding.

A practicing nephrologist, Dr. Raymond also is a medical researcher studying the basic mechanisms of kidney cell function. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees with honors from The Ohio State University and performed his internship, residency, chief residency, and nephrology fellowship training at Duke University Medical Center.

It’s fitting, Burstein said, that this year’s Commencement speaker is someone steeped in science and medicine and who played such an important role in helping to guide Lawrence leadership through the uncertainties of a once-in-a-century crisis.

“John’s advice, counsel, and good common sense provided and continues to provide an invaluable resource for the Lawrence community,” Burstein said. “I look forward to welcoming him to campus for our Commencement celebration.” 

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

Newly renovated Center for Academic Success better serves student needs

The Center for Academic Success can be found on the second floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

The Center for Academic Success (CAS), a staple of student learning at Lawrence in recent years, is newly relocated and renovated and is ready to host more students as soon as pandemic protocols allow.

The second floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library has been remade courtesy of a $1.5 million investment that was part of the recently concluded Be the Light! Campaign. Even though most staff continue to work remotely, a peek inside shows the possibilities ahead. The renovations have added nine offices, a classroom, a testing room, a conference room, a general tutoring area, a remodeled Help Desk, and a computer lab. The center offers support in areas that range from tutoring to accessibility services to academic counseling.

CAS staff have been working with students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but much of that has been virtual or by appointment. When the free flow of students returns, the users of the CAS are going to find a space that is more efficient, flexible, and accessible than the former Briggs Hall location.

Above: Explore the CAS in this 360 video. Click and drag on the video to tour the new space.

Since its opening in the mid-2010s, the CAS has been focused on tailoring services to the needs of students. That isn’t changing. The center will continue to act as a one-stop shop for students’ academic needs, helping students to reach their academic goals, said Monita Mohammadian Gray ’92, dean of academic success.

Shortly after it opened in its original location, conversations turned to the need for a larger space that would make more sense for students,

“The past space on the first floor of Briggs evolved in segments, and you could feel that when you were in the space,” Gray said. “Several staff members had offices on the external hallway, intermingled with the Education Department, and the internal space was developed as department needs emerged. It was hard for students to see and understand that we were all connected in the same unit.”

As CAS and university leaders were planning a new space, they wanted to ensure the office would be better connected and visible, centering the needs of students. They also recognized that they had outgrown the space in Briggs. They set their sights on the library.

“One of the primary purposes of moving to the library was to gain more visibility and access for students,” Gray said.

In the new space, they were able to “reconfigure” in a way that allows for more efficiency and effectiveness between CAS staff. Some of the staff have yet to physically be in the renovated space because of the pandemic, but there is a collective excitement, Gray said.

The new space has plenty of added amenities for students.

“We have a large, flexible tutoring space for students to study individually, in small groups or work with our tutors,” Gray said. “We also have more dedicated testing space for students who need reduced distraction, isolated space or extra time for a test because of a disability.”

The new space includes a classroom for use by CAS staff.

CAS moved into the library during Fall Term following construction last summer. Because of the pandemic, most students have not been able to use the new space, making it difficult to gauge student response. But Gray and her staff trust that this move will be a welcomed improvement for students.

“We’re now part of the library space, where students frequently pursue their academic research,” Gray said. “We have an integrated academic learning center. The synergy of these resources—innovative library services, information technology, academic technology, and the Makerspace—is going to be incredibly helpful to all students, and for future academic collaboration.”

Gray called the larger and more efficient CAS a reflection of how the university’s relationship with its students is always evolving.

“When I was a student here, most of the services offered by the CAS were nonexistent,” Gray said. “We [students] had to support each other. Now we have a full suite of services and professional staff who are ready to support students academically.

“At the heart of our work, we take a holistic approach to consider other factors and challenges individual students could be facing that hinder them academically. We then help students work through what is holding them back from maximizing their success.”

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

Two Lawrence seniors named Watson Fellows, set for year of global learning

Ricardo Jimenez ’21 and Ben Portzen ’21 are part of the 53rd class of Watson Fellows.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University seniors have been named national recipients of prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowships, setting them up for a year of global travel and immersive learning.

Ricardo Jimenez ’21, a biology and music performance (trumpet) double major from Barrington, Illinois, and Ben Portzen ’21, a music composition major from Rosemount, Minnesota, were announced as part of the 53rd class of Watson Fellows, making them the 67th and 68th Lawrentians to be awarded a Watson since 1969.

This marks the first time Lawrence has had two Watson recipients in the same year since 2005.

“The Watson is all about chasing one’s dreams,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory and lead advisor for the school’s Watson applications. “This year, perhaps more than any other, it feels good to know that two Lawrentians will travel around the globe to do just that.”

The Watson provides $36,000 in funding for a year-long wanderjahr of independent travel and exploration following college graduation.

Jimenez will travel to China, India, Mongolia, and Brazil, exploring the ways voice can help people rediscover their roots: “How do we communicate beyond language?” he said in his proposal. “How do the ways we express ourselves inform who we are and where we belong? I will explore these questions through the voice, singing around the world to engage with the life and culture of the voice, as well as my own roots.”

Portzen will travel to Japan, Nepal, France, Germany, and Iceland to explore how art can help inform our journey: “What role can art play in imagining and building a more equitable, sustainable, and compassionate future?” he said in his proposal. “I will explore how — across a variety of traditions, locales, and media — art makes space for the unknown to be embraced, and transformed from feared into fascinating.”

Jimenez: “I was humbled”

Ricardo Jimenez ’21

Jimenez has excelled in the Conservatory as a trumpet player, but he also found his voice in jazz and Latin-influenced music with encouragement and guidance from Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación and lecturer of music Janet Planet.

The Chicago-born Jimenez has family roots in Puerto Rico and he said his journey to understand how singing can express who we are and where we are started for him as far back as pre-school. When he sang a song in class in Spanish, a teacher scolded him, telling him he could only sing in English.

“That was a very humiliating moment and it’s just stayed with me,” Jimenez said. “It was so powerful to me that I actually stopped speaking Spanish for a number of years. I wanted to fit in. In a way, some of my cultural identity died that day.”

By the time he got to high school, he was singing, but only privately, only with his family as an audience. But when he arrived at Lawrence as a trumpet player, he was encouraged to sing as well, to embrace salsa and the other Latin music he adored.

Two years ago, Encarnación redirected the Lawrence University Jazz Band into a Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban ensemble. The group went on to earn a coveted Downbeat award in the Latin Group category, and Jimenez was inspired.

“He allowed me to sing and play percussion and that was like the most alive and the most myself that I had ever felt on a stage,” Jimenez said. “That’s how I knew there is something really powerful to this and I have to figure out if this is just me or if this is something that perhaps is innately human, that all cultures and people share.”

That led him to the highly competitive Watson application. The news came earlier this week that he had been accepted.

“It was such a surreal experience,” he said of getting the message from the Watson Foundation. “It was something I was not expecting just because I know it’s so competitive and I know the kind of applications they get are from some of the brightest young minds around the country. I was humbled, to say the least.”

Portzen: “I’m still riding high”

Ben Portzen ’21

Portzen’s Watson journey will be all about discovery. He said he’s fascinated by the unknowns in our lives and the ways art can help define and inform our journeys.

“My project takes as its departure point the intersection of art and the unknown,” he said. “In my four years at Lawrence, studying composition, improvisation, art history, and dance, I’ve found this relationship increasingly compelling both intellectually and personally.”

Gaining insights through the arts can lessen the fear that often accompanies the unknown, Portzen said. He hopes his exploration of different cultures and locales will shed light on that concept.

“While I am deeply passionate about exploring this in my own art-making, what drove me to channel this passion into a Watson Fellowship is the recognition that in our world of globalized unknowns – from environmental degradation to racial injustice to global pandemics – expansive creativity is not a luxury but a necessity as we imagine a more sustainable, equitable, and compassionate future for our world,” he said.

“As I immerse myself in the unique artistic cultures of Japan, Nepal, France, Germany, and Iceland, studying everything from the relationship between light and shade in traditional Japanese architecture to artificially intelligent music making in France, my aim is to experience art’s role in this process; its power to keep us in touch with our humanity, to inspire and challenge, to heal – to take us into the unknown with arms open ready to embrace it.”

Portzen said he was a bit late getting word that he had been named a Watson Fellow. For two weeks he had been checking his phone constantly, awaiting a yes or a no. When the announcement was made on Monday, he didn’t see the message immediately, instead finding out in a congratulations Facebook message from Meghan Murphy ’19, Lawrence’s most recent Watson winner.

“Twenty-four hours later, I’m still riding high on the news but have already gotten to work solidifying plans with my contacts in each country,” Portzen said.

The journey begins

Jimenez and Portzen are among 42 graduating seniors selected for Watson Fellowships out of 158 finalists. The recipients come from 22 states and eight countries.

The announcement of the 2021 Watson class comes even as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. If international travel conditions are deemed safe, all of the fellows are expected to depart Aug. 1. If conditions do not allow that, the fellows will be granted a deferral period.

Watson Fellows are selected from 41 private colleges and universities across the United States that partner with the Watson Foundation. More than 3,000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969.

The Watson Foundation dates back to 1961, created as a charitable trust in the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr., best known for building IBM. It works with students to develop personal, professional, and cultural opportunities that build their confidence and perspective to be more humane and effective leaders with a world view.

Being a Watson Fellow is a special life-changing opportunity, said Pertl, himself a Watson Fellow in 1986.

“Ricardo has a special knack for building community through his music,” he said. “This will serve him well as he explores the world, and himself, through song. And Ben, he is part philosopher and part composer with a wildly playful approach to the creative process.  When he told me he wanted to explore how art-makers could explore the vast unknown, hold space for the vast unknown, I knew he had found his perfect Watson.” 

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

Drier, Meyer earn President’s Award, lauded for keeping campus safe

2020-21 Presidential Award of Excellence recipients: Jillian Drier and Jon Meyer

Two Lawrence University staff members who have been instrumental in keeping the campus community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic have been honored with the annual President’s Award of Excellence.

Jillian Drier, director of health services, and Jon Meyer, director of campus services, are the 2020-21 recipients. The award honors a staff person for outstanding support, stewardship, innovation, and teamwork in service to the Lawrence community.

The President’s Award of Excellence Committee and President Mark Burstein announced the honors. In past years, the awards have been presented at the annual Service Award Luncheon, but for the second year in a row that has not been doable because of safety protocols tied to the pandemic. The awards were instead announced in a virtual all-staff meeting.

Staff members who nominated Drier and Meyer say they both have gone to great lengths to keep the community safe in a year in which the pandemic rerouted lives, incorporated an array of new safety protocols, and brought COVID testing into our lives.

Terra Winston, associate dean of spiritual and religious life, said Drier has been a shining light over the past year, providing care while being responsive and calm.

“She does it with thought and care and professionalism,” Winston said.

“One of the things I really appreciate about Jill is that she’s a planner, and that has been really helpful when working with her because, as you all know, this pandemic is constantly shifting. We’re shifting different pieces, the CDC is shifting different things, how we do our testing, when we do our testing, and she’s in every piece of this. And then she’s there for you when you have a cut or a scrape or a stomach ache as well. … She’s doing this work all the time with her whole heart.”

Lindsey Wyngaard, wellness services office coordinator, said Drier really became the focal point for a lot of the COVID work happening on campus. That has meant an exhausting schedule at times.

“She has put a lot of time and work into COVID testing on campus,” Wyngaard said. “Jill also did a lot of weekend work. Sometimes we would get results on Saturdays or Sundays and Jill wouldn’t hesitate to go contact those students, contact the people to make sure they got what they needed.”

Meyer, meanwhile, has led a Campus Services team that oversees safety on campus. Keeping the community safe during the pandemic, including prepping and cleaning public spaces while working with everyone on campus to adhere to the Pledge has been key. And Meyer has done it with the same professionalism he has brought to other roles at Lawrence, including being a longtime assistant men’s basketball coach.

“Talk to anyone who knows him and you know he’s in your corner and cares deeply about your experience … but also cares so deeply about the campus,” said Andrew Borresen, associate director of athletics giving.

Borresen said people on campus are frequently applauding Meyer, “his level of commitment and sacrifice and really the level of humility and work ethic in which he leads and how he influences others and brings his best every day for our campus community.”

That has grown even more pronounced during the pandemic.

“It’s very special to win this award in the midst of this year,” said Zach Filzen, men’s basketball coach. He pointed to the impact Meyer has had while juggling the “variety of hats he’s wearing and the roles he’s playing,” all tied to campus safety.

“He’s done a phenomenal job,” Filzen said. “He’s here to help Lawrence, he’s here to help the individuals who work at Lawrence, and he’s here to help the students.”