The 55th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest will soon be underway, beginning at 37 seconds past 10 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 24, and closing at midnight on Sunday, Jan. 26.
So, what exactly are you getting into when you register for the contest? The simple answer is, a whole lot of fun. And a little chaos.
Midwest Trivia Contest probably isn’t trivia as you know it. All weekend, a
team of Trivia Masters dishes out 300 questions that require teamwork and
extensive searching to answer; all part of the fun. Nearly 100 teams from on
and off campus call in with their responses.
Since the first game appeared on the WLFM airwaves in 1966, the contest has become a Lawrence tradition of legendary proportions. It continues to air each year on the digital broadcast of WLFM, the student station that can be found here.
The questions come almost non-stop for 50 hours. Highlights include hourly action questions. Imagine, for example, measuring the distance from Colman Hall to Trever Hall using copies of Plato’s Republic, the beloved work that’s part of Freshman Studies. On the final day of the contest come the Garudas — very difficult questions — topped off by the Super Garuda, the impossible finale question that returns as the first question of the following year’s contest.
This year’s theme is Apocalypse, as you may have guessed from the Trivia Masters’ photos that can be seen around campus.
One aspect of last year’s theme, Fast, will carry over into this year’s contest. Questions will be given at rapid-fire speed to ensure that all players are kept busy. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a single dull moment in the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, perhaps this year more than previous years.
Take it from this year’s Trivia Headmaster Allegra Taylor ’20, a senior from Chico, California. She’s been playing trivia since she was a first-year student.
one of the reasons I came to Lawrence,” she says. “I got some friends together
and started a team as soon as I got here.”
didn’t always have her sights set on being a Trivia Master, let alone the
of doing it was so scary because it was so much responsibility. I didn’t know
if I wanted to take that on.”
Headmaster oversees the planning of the contest, which has been in the works
since May of last year. Taylor and her team of 13 Trivia Masters have been
tirelessly coming up with questions. Taylor admits the duty of Headmaster feels
all the more crucial at the 55-year landmark.
“That’s a 55-year tradition, so if you mess that up …,” she says as her voice drifts off. “But it’s been great. I have a great team of Trivia Masters so I’m really excited.”
the fanfare scare you off. Taylor wants people to know that the contest is all
about having fun.
“A lot of
people think it’s a huge, overwhelming thing to play, but a lot of people have
fun playing whenever they can,” Taylor says. “Just get some friends together
and play for a couple hours on Saturday night. You don’t have to be competitive.
It’s really fun no matter how much or how little you play.”
calendars: Registration for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest takes places at 8
p.m. on the first night of the contest. You can also set your alarms that
morning to catch Taylor talking more about the contest on Wisconsin Public
Radio’s Morning Show from 6 to 7 a.m.
Lawrence University faculty, students, and staff honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during a day of service on Monday.
No classes were held on the federal holiday honoring the
civil rights icon, but Lawrence again provided a bevy of volunteer and learning
opportunities around King’s life and message. The day was topped off with the
29th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration at
Memorial Chapel, an event co-sponsored by Lawrence and African Heritage Inc.
A community celebration
The evening event featured keynote speaker Simon Balto, an assistant professor of history and African American studies at the University of Iowa and author of the book, Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power.
He implored the
audience not to lose sight of the radical mission of King, not to be lulled
into complacency by a modern caricature that allows politicians and others to tap
into benign visions of King that they believe can impart feel-good messages.
“We treat him now
like this bundle of sound bites and remember him as a lovable man with little
more than a kumbaya dream of a colorblind society,” Balto said. “People, and
politicians in particular, seem to think that King can be whatever they want
him to have been.”
He was so much more
than that, Balto said. There’s a reason that a Gallup poll in 1966 found that
only 32% of Americans had a positive view of King. He sought radical change. He
made people uncomfortable. And that was a good thing.
“Martin Luther King
was a radical,” Balto said. “People often think of the word radical as if it is
pejorative or scary. But we shouldn’t think that way.”
It’s about “challenging
the status quo at a fundamental level,” he said.
King and others in the civil rights movement successfully took down Jim Crow laws in the south, ending legalized segregation. But that, Balto said, was only one phase. The next phase — fighting racism that was built into the very fabric of the nation — would prove far more difficult. It’s a battle that continues today even as we honor the great accomplishments of King.
“Yes, Dr. King did
want an end to racial discrimination, but he also knew that simply ending the
Jim Crow system was not going to do it,” Balto said. “He knew that racism was
manifested in all sorts of different ways … and not just in the south. He knew
it was baked into the housing policies in places like Milwaukee and Chicago and
Los Angeles. … He knew it was baked into the ways of the criminal justice
system and how it treated black people. He knew it was in the school system and
the labor market, in all sorts of places the civil rights movement that had
vanquished Jim Crow in the south hadn’t fixed.”
King told his followers that the new battle would be more difficult, in large part because it came with a much higher price tag for the nation, one that would run into the billions of dollars and require the transformation of many of the tenets of society, Balto said. It was an uphill fight, and remains so today.
“People died pursuing it,” Balto said. “Indeed, Dr. King died pursuing it.”
Also at Monday’s King Celebration event, Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru
Sekou, a musician, filmmaker, and theologian, led a rousing music portion of
the program. The annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty MLK Community Leader Award was
presented to Carla A. Manns, a local author, business owner, and community
leader. And Pa Lee Moua, formerly an associate dean of students for diversity
at Lawrence and now the Appleton Area School District’s diversity, equity, and
inclusion officer, received the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Educator Award.
Special video tributes were given to recently departed
community leaders Ronald Dunlap and Henry Golde.
Day of service activities
Nearly 400 Lawrence students, faculty, and staff took part
in community outreach activities or participated in teach-ins Monday in honor
of King’s legacy. With no classes being held, it was designated as a day of
Nearly 150 volunteers supported communities across the Fox
Cities through service at Riverview Gardens, the Fox Valley Humane Association,
Feeding America, Brewster Village, and the Boys and Girls Clubs in Appleton and
Menasha. Another 155 attended a half dozen teach-ins that ranged from being
actively engaged in anti-racism advocacy to addressing stigma and disparity
within mental health treatment.
“We were very impressed by the interest from the Lawrence campus,” said Kristi Hill, director of Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change. “We are hopeful that we provided a variety of offerings around learning, volunteering, and celebrating.”
At Riverview Gardens, an Appleton nonprofit that uses urban
farming as a means to produce food and provide job training for struggling
populations, nearly 25 students took to the fields on a cold afternoon to place
mulch into hoop houses and do other chores, all aimed at prepping the farm for
“Riverview Gardens is a really great organization because
they work with job skills training for homeless and disadvantaged communities,”
said Floreal Crubaugh ’20. “That’s really important for our day of service.”
She and many of the other volunteers she was working with
are members of the student organization that tends to the Lawrence University
Sustainable Garden (SLUG), so the outreach to Riverview Gardens was particularly
close to the heart.
“We’re a club that’s really organized around community
service and volunteering,” Crubaugh said. “This really meshed well with our
mission of giving our time and giving our skills to the community.”
It’s work that was much appreciated by the workers who tend
to the needs of Riverview Gardens on a daily basis.
“This helps us prepare for our spring planting,” said Elisse Pavletich, the farm manager. “They are putting mulch in a lot of our hoop houses, which will prevent weeds from growing in those places and it gives us a lot more time to focus on the vegetables in spring, which then helps us to help more people.”
At the Fox Valley Humane Association, a team of Lawrence
volunteers focused on cleaning the facility, doing laundry, and stocking
shelves before turning their attention to interaction with the animals that are
currently calling the shelter home.
“I find working with animals incredibly important,” said
Sara Prostko ’20. “They are a population that cannot say their needs, they
don’t have a say in their environment, where they go, who they’re with.
“Lawrence is all about trying to be a voice for those who
cannot have a voice for themselves. I think this is exactly that. … We’re doing
a lot of cleaning and sorting of stuff, things that I’d rather us volunteers do
rather than employees so they can spend their time and efforts on things to
expand the organization.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ice skates, gloves, and
the warmest of hats are all part of winter term at Lawrence. It might be getting
cold out there, but don’t forget that winter term on campus also is a
There are fun things to do all over campus (skating on Ormsby Lake, anyone?). That includes the events calendar, which gets particularly robust in winter term. Here are nine exciting things happening on campus this winter term, beginning with Monday’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
1. MLK outreach and celebration
Every year the Center
for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) hosts a day of
service in honor of King. As Lawrentians take time out of their
classes to recognize the great work of MLK, the CCE provides
a space for Lawrentians to give back to their community
and learn about King’s legacy. The full list of events
happening on MLK Day is available on the CCE section of the Lawrence web site.
To wrap up the day, the 29th annual Fox Cities
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, co-sponsored by Lawrence and African
Heritage Inc., will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.
Dr. Simon Balto, an assistant professor of history and
African American studies at the University of Iowa, will deliver the keynote
address. It also will feature the music of Rev. Sekou.
Balto holds a degree from the University of Wisconsin. He wrote the book, “Occupied Territory: Policing Black Chicago from Red Summer to Black Power,” and his writing has appeared in TIME magazine, the Washington Post, and other popular and scholarly outlets.
The event also will feature tributes to the late Ronald Dunlap and Henry Golde. MLK youth essay contest winners will be honored, and the recipient of the annual Jane LaChapelle McCarty MLK Community Leader Award will be announced.
2. Great Midwest Trivia Contest
What has been fun, trivial, exhausting, and ongoing at Lawrence since 1966? That is correct, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest. It’s billed as the world’s longest running trivia contest because of its tradition of having the final question of the contest serve as the first question of next year’s contest. This year is no different, with the much-anticipated trivia contest starting Jan. 24 at precisely 10:00:37 p.m. and ending at midnight on Jan 26. Find details here.
3. Lunar New Year
To celebrate the Lunar New Year, various clubs on campus host a Lunar New Year Celebration each winter term. The event features food, music, performances and information on different Lunar New Year Celebrations around the world. This year’s celebration will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Warch Campus Center. Cultural performances include traditional lion dance (Tay Phuong Lions from Savage, Minnesota), Japanese Taiko drummers (Taikoza from New York City) and Hmong dancers Nkauj Suab Nag (Gao Shoua Nah from Appleton). There also will be a Cultural Expo with educational activity booths sponsored by student organizations: Chinese Student Association, Japanese Student Group, Korean Culture Club, Pan-Asian Organization, Vietnamese Cultural Organization, and more. Find information here.
4. Winter Carnival and President’s Ball
No need to hide from winter. Let’s embrace it. The week-long Winter Carnival concludes with the annual President’s Ball in the Warch Campus Center on Feb. 1. Every year the Student Organization for University Programming (SOUP) hosts the picture-perfect President’s Ball. It gives all Lawrentians — students, faculty, and staff — the opportunity to enjoy live music, take photos in the photo booth, and get on the dance floor. Winter Carnival, meanwhile, kicks off Jan. 27 and runs through Feb. 2, featuring activities ranging from a scavenger hunt to a ping pong tournament to a ski outing to broomball games on Ormsby Lake to a gingerbread house competition. It’s highlighted by the President’s Ball on the evening of Feb. 1. A day of service follows on Feb. 2. Details can be found here.
5. Jazz Series concert featuring Bill Frisell
Music starts to heat up
winter term in February. Guitarist, composer, and arranger Bill
Frisell will be gracing the Lawrence campus as part of the
ongoing Jazz Series. Frisell has been recognized for his unique sound as he
transforms the modern guitar. Frisell and friends will be in concert at 8 p.m.
Feb. 7 at Memorial Chapel. For more on the Jazz Series (and other 2019-20 music
series at Lawrence), see here.
6. Richard III on stage
term isn’t complete without a production from the Theatre Arts department. Richard lll, by
William Shakespeare, will take the stage at Cloak Theatre for four performances
from Feb. 20 to 22. It is directed by Timothy X. Troy. Visit here
for more details on this show and others in the 2019-20 season.
7. Artist Series concert featuring Tine Thing Helseth
Here’s another big concert happening in winter term, this one as part of the Artist Series. It’ll feature Norwegian trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth. She has established herself as one of the foremost trumpet soloists of our time. The performance is set for 8 p.m. on Feb. 28. More details can be found here.
8. Cultural Expressions
The Lawrence University Black Student Union hosts an annual Black History Month Celebration called Cultural Expressions. It offers a space for members of the Black Student Union to showcase their talents — everything from music to dance to spoken word — to the entire Lawrence and Appleton communities. This year’s Cultural Expressions will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 29 in Warch Campus Center. See the calendar on the Lawrence web site for more information.
9. Opera takes center stage
Opera is a huge part of the Lawrence Conservatory
of Music, and the annual opera is must-see viewing on campus. This winter term
performance will feature Mozart’s The
Marriage of Figaro, set for March 5 through March 8 in Stansbury Theater. Check the calendar for show times.
Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
The D-Term course Entrepreneurship in London: From the Mayflower to Brexit featured a variety of different aspects of entrepreneurship, both contemporary and historical.
Additionally, we explored different types of entrepreneurial ventures including: private for-profit, social not-for-profit, and public/ private partnerships. A significant portion of the course was devoted to the regeneration of economic activity for parts of London that had deteriorated and fell into disuse and then have benefited from unique entrepreneurial initiatives. Students selected initiatives to explore in an oral presentation and often revisited these sites.
Our Lawrence traveling classroom was led by two faculty — Marty Finkler and Claudena Skran — and included 10 students representing majors in music, philosophy, art history, biology, psychology, government, economics, theatre arts, and global studies.
We arrived in the Rotherhithe area of south London just after Thanksgiving. The group began with a historic tour of the area, learning about the launch of the Mayflower ship in 1620, and the many connections between seafaring and the subsequent development of the community. At the Brunel Museum, its founder, Robert Hulse, stressed that we were standing inside the tunnel that made possible the very first underground train system in the entire world. Students also celebrated a public theatre event, starring members of the Bubble Theatre group, and volunteered with community members at Time and Talents, one of the oldest social enterprises in the area.
From Rotherhithe, the group moved further east to the Docklands area of London, which thrived in the 18th and 19th century and part of the 20th century but lapsed into abandonment by the early 1970s with the rise of large container ships that the Thames River was not deep enough to accommodate. The globalization of the production and trade in material goods further diminished the economic viability of east London in general and Docklands in particular.
As finance for such globalization became a new source of income for London, the city began to expand, but central London could not cost-effectively provide the space needed for such expansion. This led to the development of Canary Wharf, which one of our speakers (Ralph Ward) actively participated in. He briefly described this high rise lavish commercial and financial sector development as well as the need for less lavish housing in east London.
Ward led us on a walk that literally went across the tracks to one of the poorest neighborhoods of London known as Poplar, where he introduced us to Danny Tompkins, who heads Poplar HARCA (Housing and Regeneration Community Association). Tompkins led us around the area and explained how Poplar HARCA regenerated housing opportunities for its residents through a mix of private and public funds and developments. He pointed out the controversy related to selling some of the land for private development in order to have funds for social housing.
The following day we focused on another regeneration effort in the Docklands known as the Canada Water project. This new project envisions a buildout of commercial and residential developments over the next 10 to 20 years. The project director, Roger Madelin gave us an in depth tour of the area, which already features a significant increase in activity around the Canada Water transit station and some of its entertainment venues. Madelin showed us a physical model of the development and explained the different influences and problems that needed to be resolved to complete the project.
Madelin previously led the development of the regeneration of Kings Cross, another area we explored in depth. Kings Cross had fallen into disrepair and disrepute as industrial activities left London in the second half of the 20th century. The development over the past decade took advantage of the two major transportation centers (Kings Cross and St. Pancras) to provide significant office space for Google, Facebook, and Nike as well as many commercial activities. For the most part, these commercial venues now serve upper income groups.
A guide at the Visitors’ Centre provided us with an overview of the history and prospects for the development. On their own, students then explored the fascinating architecture of the new buildings before getting together for lunch and discussion of their observations.
After 10 days in London, we headed to Oxford, to consider how both innovation and entrepreneurship have shaped this historic university town. Students visited the Oxford Foundry, a hub for start-ups, attended a talk by Dr. Evan Easton-Calabria at the Refugee Studies Centre on humanitarian aid, and had lunch with Gil Loescher, the distinguished professor who was awarded an honorary degree from Lawrence.
The student experience
Samantha Torres ’20 was among the students taking part in the D-Term class in London. She shared some of her observations:
I participated in the London Centre program in the Fall of 2018. I had no idea when I’d return, but when I saw the opportunity to go back during D-Term, I knew I had to go back. However, what I thought would become an add-on to my past experience became a stand alone, standout program that offered a completely different taste of London that could only be obtained through insider connections.
Having both professors who’ve previously lived in London made it truly one of a kind and remarkably immersive. Alongside tours, we experienced the idiosyncrasies that make up London. From learning about the inception of the Mayflower to the current debates on Brexit, my cohort was able to identify the complexities that continue to define one of the oldest cities in the world.
During my time at Lawrence, I’ve found the most impactful experiences have been those of the traveling classroom. I’ve had the fortune of traveling to London and Jamaica with Professor Skran, a big advocate for this unconventional learning. And I couldn’t agree with her more. The traveling classroom model has taught me that there are intangible lessons that cannot be learned through lectures or textbooks.
Life lessons I’ve learned were ones that provided personal development and an independence that traditional classroom settings simply can’t challenge you to do. There’s a whole world out there, and sometimes you need to experience it to learn from it. As a Lawrentian, we are encouraged to go beyond. Because of the traveling classroom, I’ve been able to go beyond places I could ever imagine.
Marty Finkler is the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the American Economic System and a professor of economics, and Claudena Skran is the Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and a professor of government.
If you’ve ever talked to Lawrentians about their relationship with the Appleton community, you’ve probably heard a reference to the “Lawrence bubble.” In the Lawrence University lexicon, the term refers to campus as its own world in which some students may feel a disconnect from the surrounding community.
Emily Austin ’20 challenged this sentiment by starting Pop the Bubble.
month, this student-run program puts together an evening of various artistic
performances by Lawrence students at The Draw, a multipurpose venue located
along Lawe Street just a short walk south of campus. Each event centers around
a theme chosen to spur conversation and build relationships between students
and community members.
that open space and communication is the main goal of this project,” Austin
said. “I think we often get stuck in the bubble, yet we have so much to learn
from the community and they have so much to learn from us.”
It was the
students’ final performance at The Draw that inspired Pop the Bubble.
Organizers at the venue invited the Lawrentians back to perform any time they
wanted for free. A new door into the Appleton community was opened, and Austin
jumped at the opportunity.
“I thought, ‘This is so cool, we have to do this,’” Austin said. “It would be an opportunity to bridge the gap between Appleton community artists and Lawrence University artists. It would also give musicians on campus a space to perform and feel comfortable outside of the Con and campus spaces.”
Pop the Bubble show resembled an open mic night where Lawrence students
performed for a local audience. The shows have since developed to focus on a
theme that unites performers and audience, Lawrentians and community members
alike. The most recent show, Stories of
Home, asked all to share their personal experiences and memories from home.
Performances included spoken word, music and film. Audience members wrote and
drew their stories from home on Post-it notes that were collected at the end of
the night; just one of the ways Pop the Bubble works to collaborate and connect
with the people of Appleton.
The Pop the
Bubble team has grown to include student artists of many disciplines, including
a dancer, a visual artist, and creative writers. And it’s not just students who
are interested. Community members, especially local artists, have reached out
to the Pop the Bubble team expressing a desire to work with Lawrence students.
community we’ve found here has been so welcoming and excited about the project,”
Austin said. “There’s a desire to get our students out and working and making
“I think if the Appleton community knew about what we were doing on this campus, especially in the Con and in the arts, there would be a little bit more acceptance of each other. It would become a way to share those ideas and collaborate on a human level.”
and theatre major Caro Granner ’20 has been on the Pop the Bubble team since
“When I came in, I felt this really warm, inviting energy,” Granner said of the Stories of Home event during fall term. “People were able to come together and enjoy each other’s company and create some really cool stuff together. To feel that welcoming, joyful energy at the end of a long week was really rewarding for me.”
Granner hope to increase student involvement with Pop the Bubble and expand
their efforts, including doing fundraising for local nonprofits and arts
Pop the Bubble will schedule its next event in winter term.
Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.
Lawrence University has seen a big
jump this year in the number of students opting to study abroad, boosted in
part by a change in the school’s financial aid rules that allows all aid a
student receives to travel abroad with them.
The school has about 150 students
studying abroad this academic year, up from 89 a year ago.
Beginning this year, Lawrence is allowing all financial aid to apply to study abroad opportunities, said Laura Zuege, the director of Off-Campus Programs who is transitioning into a new role as assistant director of Financial Aid. In addition to federal aid (by completing the FAFSA), Lawrence grants and scholarships can now be applied toward tuition and program fees for off-campus study. In previous years, Lawrence scholarships could not be used abroad and there was a cap on the Lawrence need-based grant amount.
“There is a pretty significant difference in the number of students going abroad, and we think a good portion of that is because of the financial aid change,” said Ashley Trump, assistant with Lawrence’s Off-Campus Programs office.
The 2018-19 numbers were down from the norm, which ranged from 110 to 121 annually in the three prior years. But the jump to 150 is still significant, Zuege said.
“In addition to the new financial aid
policy allowing LU grants and scholarships to apply, in the last few years
Lawrence has also greatly grown the number of supplemental scholarships we
offer students — in addition to their regular financial aid — which are
specifically to support studying abroad,” she said. “Our hope is that changes
in funding support will change the question for some students from, ‘Can I
afford to study abroad?’ to ‘Where will I study abroad?’”
It’s all aimed at clearing hurdles that might keep students from considering a study abroad experience. Now, whether studying in London, Senegal, Japan or any of the multitude of other locations around the globe, Lawrence students have more flexibility with their finances to make that happen.
“The deep-impact experience that it can give you as far as getting to immerse yourself in another culture is incredible,” Trump said. “You get to see life from a different perspective and see your daily going-about-things from a different perspective.
“You can really enrich not only what
you’re studying but how you see what you’re studying. For a lot of programs,
you get to do hands-on work with your direct subject matter as well as getting
to learn that subject matter in a different environment and see how different
cultures view that subject matter.”
A recent “Open Doors” report from the
Institute of International Education shows study abroad numbers are on the rise
across higher education, a trend that has continued over the past 25 years.
It’s estimated that about 16 percent of students enrolled in baccalaureate programs
in the U.S. will study abroad.
The Off-Campus Programs office at
Lawrence recommends that every student considering studying abroad first meet
with officials in the Financial
Aid office to look at financing options. The
goal is to make studying abroad doable for any Lawrence student interested.
“We wanted to make it more accessible
to more students, and only having that need-based cap was not as accessible as
the model we have now,” Trump said.
Zuege said seven new programs were added
starting this fall. Also, recent program changes at the London Centre has
strengthened the London experience, boosting interest. And students of greater
diversity are pursuing the study abroad options.
“In looking at demographics of this year’s
study abroad participants, we see that 2019-20 participants are more likely to
be first generation college students, Pell Grant recipients, and domestic
students of color than compared to the previous three academic years,” Zuege said.
The deadline for applying to a Lawrence-affiliated study abroad program for the 2020-21 academic year is Jan. 27. For the London Centre and the Francophone program in Senegal, the deadline is Feb. 24.
Note: Ashley Trump recently left the Off-Campus Programs office to pursue another job opportunity.
Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.
Eyes got a little wide when Jason Brozek told his Government
425: War & Pop Culture students they’d be researching, scripting, and
recording a series of podcasts during fall term.
Fallon Sellers ’20 just smiled and nodded.
The Lawrence University senior, one of about 20 students in the class, knew the drill, having done a podcast in the spring in Brozek’s Environmental Justice class and already being deep into a podcast in Linnet Ramos’ fall term Psychopharmacology & Behavior class.
“I was able to be a little reassuring to everybody else,” Sellers
Welcome to the world of classroom podcasting.
As the popularity of podcasts has exploded over the past few years and the technology for recording and sharing podcasts has been streamlined, professors have increasingly turned to the format as an alternate means of research and study in their classes. Instead of an end-of-term paper being due, students are showcasing what they’ve learned by creating episodes of podcasts that will in many cases be accessible to anyone who wants to listen.
At Lawrence, the creation of podcasts as part of coursework is becoming more frequent. Brozek and Ramos are the latest, but they are far from alone. Marcia Bjornerud in geosciences, Brigid Vance in history, and Israel Del Toro in biology, among others, have all experimented with podcasting in their classes.
“First, the barrier to entry is low,” Jedidiah Rex, a designer on Lawrence’s Instructional Technology staff, said of the increase in podcast usage as a teaching strategy. “The tools necessary to create podcasts are easy to use. Second, podcasting makes use of writing skills but offers an opportunity for students to express creativity. There is a pedagogical value in students doing this work.”
Podcast numbers keep growing
According to a survey from Edison Research and Triton Digital, released earlier this year, the percentage of U.S. residents 12 and older who have listened to a podcast at least once surpassed 50% for the first time. That milestone marks a “watershed moment” for podcasting, Edison Senior Vice President Tom Webster wrote in a blog entry about the report.
“With over half of Americans 12+ saying that they have
listened to a podcast, the medium has firmly crossed into the mainstream,” he
Brozek said he was intrigued to incorporate podcasts into
his teaching in part because it gives his students a chance to create something
that can be shared much wider. Topics his students are exploring in the areas
of environmental justice and war and pop culture have potential audiences
across the globe.
“They’re out there,” Brozek said of the eight episodes on environmental justice his students did in spring term. “When I go through my podcast app, they are just in my list of podcasts along with the other things I listen to. I like the idea that they’re available for a much wider community.”
In the process, the students are learning technical skills,
writing strategies, script creation, interviewing techniques, and copyright
laws, all valuable things no matter what career path they might be eyeing.
“I thought this was a way we could keep expanding the quiver of professional skills that we’re trying to help students learn,” Brozek said.
They’re also learning and discussing privacy topics — putting yourself in the public conversation, and what that means. That’s an issue professors using podcast technology need to navigate.
“One of the challenges of doing public-facing scholarship in classes is that students have reasonable privacy concerns, but we can always find a way to work within those boundaries,” Brozek said. (To that end, the release of some or all of the podcasts created in the War and Pop Culture class will be held until early in winter term to make sure all participants are comfortable with the process).
While most of the students in the Brozek and Ramos classes
were new to creating their own podcasts, most had long been consumers of the
“Podcasts are ubiquitous, consumed by this generation, and
it’s a genre that they largely already understand,” said Andrew McSorely, a
reference and digital librarian in Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library. “It’s not
a huge leap to apply it to the classroom, and, generally speaking, it’s as easy
to set up and get students to engage with as a blog. Because of that, it’s hard
to say how many classrooms are utilizing podcast assignments, but there’s no
question that more instructors have asked about this technology in the library
the past few years.”
Finding an audience
The appeal comes as podcasts have transitioned from the
domain of sports and pop culture to something that can find niche audiences in
almost any sector.
“Where once it was distinctly for entertainment purposes, it
now can hold scholarship and be taken seriously,” McSorely said. “For content
creators in the academy, this serves as a way to engage with new audiences, and
for undergraduates, it’s a means of expression that can seem more natural than
a traditional essay.”
In Ramos’ psychopharmacology course, the students, working
in groups of three to five, are recording video podcasts where they explain,
critique, and discuss research articles on a specific drug. The episodes are being
made available on the class’s
new YouTube channel.
“Often times in classes, students read an article, create a
PowerPoint presentation that describes it and mention a couple of ideas on how
it can be improved,” Ramos said. “But rarely do I get to hear how students felt
after reading the article or get to hear their opinions on why it matters, what
they learned from it, how it can impact other sciences or society.”
In Brozek’s War & Pop Culture class, the students have dug
into topics ranging from post-nuclear apocalypse to how terrorism is depicted
in the media to the use of propaganda to influence audiences during wartime.
Doing that in a podcast allows not only for substantial research but also
“Part of what they’re required to do in the podcast is bring
in academic scholarship,” Brozek said as the fall term course got rolling.
“This new course is designed around thinking about the way political science
scholars write about and think about issues related to war, like terrorism,
extraordinary, exceptional circumstances, torture, things like that. Think
about the way political science crafts narratives and asks and answers
questions and the way pop culture crafts those narratives — where they may have
some overlap, where there are differences, what those differences mean, how
concerned we ought to be about the differences.
“If (pop culture) is where most people are getting their
perspective on terrorism, what does it look like and how consistent is it with
the political science literature? So, those are the kind of questions we’re
asking in this course.”
For the students, that kind of scholarship isn’t out of the
ordinary. Academic work is almost always question-driven. But channeling that
work through a podcast takes it in a different direction. That is where
excitement meets anxiety, Sellers said.
“Most of the anxiety comes with just learning the technical
stuff,” she said. “A podcast is essentially just a conversation. You’re talking
through something with your peers. That’s pretty natural to do. I don’t think
that’s the hard part. The daunting part was I didn’t have any experience with
the computer-related things, the audio techniques, and learning how to use
Audacity and how to navigate that.”
Learning those technical skills and related communication
skills will pay off later as students enter the job market with a wider breadth
of knowledge and know-how. For Sellers, a government major, that’s no small
“Media is so pertinent in our society, and I think it’s so
important that higher education is also moving along with that, and we’re
learning how to adapt,” she said. “Being able to go into a job and say, ‘Hey,
I’m able to produce a podcast, I know how to use these techniques,’ I think people
are generally pretty excited about that.
“By the end of my Lawrence career, I will have done podcasts
on the dairy industry, on pedagogy and propaganda in pop culture and on opioids
and how they impact social behavior,” Sellers said. “So, it’s very Lawrence,
and very well-rounded.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
Lawrence musicians reflect on “Ten Thousand Birds” experience, a highlight of fall term in the Conservatory
“I’ve always been really inspired by music that is tied to the outdoors, but I’ve never played music that tries to emulate the outdoors.” — Helen Threlkeld ’23
Story by Emily Austin ’21
Julian Bennett ’20, a cello performance major, called it “something
out of a storybook.”
He and the other musicians in the Lawrence University New Music Ensemble were performing Ten Thousand Birds, creating music inspired by bird calls and interacting with the audience in the natural settings of the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.
“At one point I had about five ladybugs on my cello as I was
playing and all the birds in the garden were singing back at us,” Bennett said.
The magical experience — in addition to the botanical
gardens performance, the ensemble had a performance at Lawrence that was moved
indoors because of bad weather and a public rehearsal at Bjorklunden in Door
County — was among the highlights of fall term in the Lawrence Conservatory of
Music and shined a light on the possibilities that come with participation in
the New Music Ensemble.
We caught up with students who took part in the Ten Thousand Birds performances to talk about what they took from the experience — performing music based on Midwestern animal sounds and bird calls, playing while walking in and around the audience, and exploring the nature around them.
Zoe Markle ’20, a bass performance major, said her playing
was directly affected by these “interactions with the audience” as well as
those with the environment around them and believes that in the end the
musicians “were as much a part of the piece as the music.”
Because the structure of this particular piece is left up to
the musicians and based largely on improvisation, how the audience reacts and
interacts can change the music.
“It was always
fascinating to hear how the performances would differ from each other, and what
melodic lines I would hear that I hadn’t heard before,” percussion major Alex
Quade ’20 said.
Learning and rehearsing Ten
Thousand Birds was unlike any process the students had experienced, though
each piece they learn in the New Music Ensemble provides a new and different
learning challenge. Because the work is constructed on a timetable, there is no
mapped-out score. Every sound comes in at a different timing.
For these performances, the directors of the ensemble, visiting
assistant professor of entrepreneurial studies and social engagement Michael
Clayville and associate professor of music Erin Lesser, decided to arrange the
piece in a day-long journey, placing the sounds one would typically hear at
different times of the day. Both professors are part of the award-winning
contemporary ensemble Alarm Will Sound, which has performed the piece in this
arrangement several times.
“We rehearsed the piece by sound and were split up into
small groups for many rehearsals, rather than working as a whole,” Markle said.
This small group work is a major draw for students
participating in the New Music Ensemble, she said.
Markle noted that a huge reason she joined the group was because she loves “to perform in smaller chamber ensembles” as she is “able to connect more on an individual level with all the members of the ensemble.”
Ten Thousand Birds is a piece by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer John Luther Adams that was commissioned for Alarm Will Sound. The work is a collection of bird calls and animal sounds that can be found in the Midwest and takes the form of a folio, each page of notated animal sounds separate so that the musicians can arrange them whichever way they like. If Ten Thousand Birds is performed outside the Midwest, it can be updated to feature the animal sounds of that region.
The work was initially introduced to Lawrence’s ensemble by
Clayville and Lesser last spring when they asked if students would be
interested in playing outdoors. The response was a unanimous yes.
Helen Threlkeld ’23, a flute performance and biology double
degree student, explained that it was an especially cathartic experience for
her, having grown up embracing nature.
“I’ve always been really inspired by music that is tied to the outdoors,” she said, “but I’ve never played music that tries to emulate the outdoors.”
As a flutist, playing bird calls was especially exciting for
Threlkeld, who explained that “a lot of composers have used bird song as
inspiration, like Prokofiev’s Peter and
the Wolf,” but she notes that no composer has done what Adams has by
notating them directly into playable notation.
Before bringing Ten
Thousand Birds to Lawrence and the Green Bay Botanical Gardens, the New
Music Ensemble traveled to Björklunden, the university’s retreat campus on the
Door County banks of Lake Michigan. The group rehearsed outdoors in the woods
surrounding the main lodge to get a feel for playing in nature and to bond as
During the rehearsal, Threlkeld also realized how much the
environment played a part in the piece.
“The waves coming up on the shore created a soundscape that
sort of enveloped all the performers,” she said.
During the community performance at Björklunden, she said
she experienced the power of the piece and described a moment where she “lost
all passage of time” while they were playing.
The ensemble also pushes students to develop new skill sets
within their musicianship. During the Ten
Thousand Birds experience, students were encouraged to improvise, choosing
the times they would play and how they responded to other players.
Thelkeld noted the difference in thinking about this contemporary
piece and traditional classical music. She’d often think hard about “what the
composer wanted” when learning a piece. That was flipped this time, she said.
“I had more of a chance to use my own judgment and use my own responsibility as a musician to create an experience for the audience instead of worrying about ‘what did Mahler’ or ‘what did Dvorák think?’”
Alarm Will Sound came to Lawrence for a residency last year
and opened up their rehearsals to members of the New Music Ensemble,
challenging them to sight-read through one of the pieces they were working on. It
tied in with the ensemble’s mantra to push musical boundaries.
Quade called the experience “invaluable,” emphasizing how
important it is to take advantage of “the opportunity to rehearse, interact,
and learn” from groups that come in.
“Having these connections, along with every Lawrence
professor, is such an asset that everyone needs to take advantage of,” Quade
Being part of the New Music Ensemble is pushing the
participants to become better listeners and communicators, and the deep
connections they’ve made with faculty is changing the way they play and
The success of Ten Thousand Birds bodes well for this ensemble, which will have more performances and a guest artist residency in the spring.
Emily Austin ’21 is a student writer in the Conservatory of Music.
Today, Lawrence University joins more than 100 public and
private universities and colleges in filing an amicus brief in support of a
longstanding U.S. immigration program that assists international students in
getting practical training with U.S. employers.
The “friend of the court” brief is supportive in the
Washington Alliance of Technology Workers Union vs. U.S. Department of Homeland
Security (Washtech) litigation in district court to defend the immigration
program known as Optional Practical Training and its more recent expansion,
STEM OPT (collectively “OPT”).
“OPT has long been a critical program for students from abroad, and Lawrence stands strongly in support of the program and our students,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “International students make up an important part of the Lawrence community. Any rollback of the OPT program will greatly impact these bright and engaged students’ ability to obtain a full educational experience and for this state and for our country to benefit from their talent and energy. The protection of OPT is vital for our international students, for our campus, and for all institutions of higher learning that embrace and nurture global education.”
OPT permits international students studying at colleges and universities in the United States on F-1 status to pursue practical training with a U.S. employer in a position directly related to their course of study for a set period of time following graduation.
“Experiential learning, such as OPT, is now and has long
been a crucial component of education in this country,” said Miriam Feldblum, co-founder
and executive director of the Presidents’ Alliance of Higher Education and
Immigration, which drafted the brief. “The brief and its diverse, wide-ranging
list of supporters, representing all sectors of higher education, demonstrate
how colleges, universities, and the economy benefit tremendously from OPT. Any
rollback of OPT will severely harm international students, the future of
American higher education, and economic growth.”
Hundreds of thousands of international students and
graduates participate in OPT across the nation each year, with more than 325,000
participating in 2017 (the most recent year statistics are available) and 1.5
million participating between 2004 and 2016.
As the amicus brief states, this is a longstanding
government program that permits international students to continue, and deepen,
their education by applying the skills and knowledge they learn in the
classroom to a professional setting. OPT provides untold benefits for these
international students. But, just as critical, being able to provide
international students with the opportunities facilitated by OPT gives American
institutions of higher education an edge in an increasingly competitive global
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
spirit of International Education Week (Nov. 18-22), Lawrence University is celebrating
the amazing contributions of its many international students. This year, that
includes three students who are here from Waseda University in Shinjuku, Tokyo,
The Waseda study
abroad program has been sending students to Lawrence since 2002.
here this year are Mika Ohara, a sophomore from Tokyo; Manami Takahashi, a
junior from Saitama; Arisa Yanagimoto, a sophomore from Tokyo. As their first
term at Lawrence closes, we catch up with them to learn more about their
experience with the program.
sizes, residential living and a diverse student body drew the Waseda students
department here is more diverse,” says Takahashi, who studies old Japanese
literature. “You can talk with people from other countries. People who have
different cultures and living styles are so important.”
she loves living amongst students from so many different backgrounds.
“There are a
lot of international students from many countries,” Ohara said, “and we live on
the same campus so we can get together on the weekends and cook something and
sharpening their English language skills is a primary goal for all three
visiting students. Lawrence belongs to a group of one-year programs at Waseda
called Customized Study-Language Focused programs, or CS-L, making it an ideal
destination for Waseda students looking to improve their English. During fall
term, the group takes specialized language classes, including English in the
American University, and a modified version of Freshman Studies that makes the
works more accessible to non-native speakers.
staff at Lawrence is integral to the students’ success. Cecile Despres-Berry is
the director of ESL and the Waseda Program. While she teaches classes,
Despres-Berry also is an ever-present support system for the visiting students.
“One of the
goals is to add extra layers of support in order to help them integrate into
the campus more quickly, so they can find out about organizations and make
friends and do all of those things within the 10 months they’re here,” Despres-Berry
quickly reap the benefits of that support system.
huge gains in their language abilities and confidence in English,”
Despres-Berry said. “Depending on what they’re interested in, they make huge
gains in their academic area.”
Changing lives on campus
impressions don’t stop with academics. Historically, Waseda students form
relationships with Lawrence students that continue long after they leave. That
could have something to do with Lawrentians’ willingness to get involved with
the program by becoming tutors, mentors, and roommates.
of hosting Waseda students extend to all corners of life on campus.
who are interested in working with language learners can benefit,” Despres-Berry
said. “Students who are interested in studying Japanese have a group of
students who they can learn from. They can be roommates. We have cultural
programming. They’ve joined our varsity teams. They’ve really been a part of
about their goals for the rest of the year at Lawrence, Ohara, Takahashi, and
Yanagimoto all look forward to making more friends. They are enjoying the
small, close-knit makeup of the Lawrence community.
“Waseda has many students so it’s difficult to get along with many people,” Yanagimoto said. “Here all the students live on the campus, and the community is very small and close, so I’m going to get along with many people and we’ll know about each other deeply.”
Lawrence students interested in studying in Japan also have an option to sign up for a study abroad experience at Waseda. Options include a full year of study or a partial year. For information, contact the Off-Campus Programs office.
Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.