Category: Students

Students pitch in to make cloth masks to keep Lawrence community safe

Members of the Lawrence community and visitors to campus have been asked to wear masks in shared spaces. Students in the costume shop, spread across the country, have pitched in by making more than 350 cloth masks. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Being quarantined isn’t stopping Lawrentians from stepping up for the health and safety of the campus community. Six students employed in the costume shop have constructed more than 350 cloth face masks so far for students and staff who are on campus.

Director of Wellness and Recreation Erin Buenzli helped orchestrate the mask-making operation. With the threat of COVID-19 spread an ongoing concern and the need for masks to be worn in shared spaces on campus, she worked with Lawrence’s COVID-19 Management Team on the idea of supplying masks to Lawrence community members who need to be on campus. This idea reached the costume shop, where six students took on the challenge during Spring Term to make as many masks as they could.

“I love the collaboration and the ingenuity of students,” Buenzli said. “The fact that we can reach across departments to look at an issue and be creative and solve it. It’s been fun to be a part of.”

The masks have been distributed to students, faculty, and staff as needed. Signage has been placed throughout campus reminding anyone on campus grounds to wear a mask.

Five of the six students made the masks remotely from home and sent them to campus. The work continues this summer.

Andrea Lara ‘21 shipped her work from her Milwaukee home-turned-workspace. Combating a global pandemic by making more than 50 face masks probably wasn’t on her mind when she learned to sew in the costume shop in Fall 2017. But Lara embraced the work wholeheartedly.

For one, she’s always been driven by a simple desire to help others. Secondly, she’s seen the pandemic taking its toll around her in Milwaukee. That experience motivated her to be an agent of change.

“Sometimes it can feel overwhelming that I don’t have any power,” Lara said. “Sometimes the only way I feel like I can take control is to do something to help others stay safe.”

Lara is a psychology and theater double major. Like the other students involved in this project, she found a marriage between her education and reaching out to help others that goes beyond employing sewing skills.

“As a psych major, I really focus on the betterment of people,” Lara said. “In particular, disenfranchised people who don’t have access to resources. That’s really important to me. And as a costume designer and theater major, it’s important to show how well you can work and adapt under pressure.”

Never underestimate the influence of the good you put into the world. Lara’s 7-year-old brother has taken notice of her efforts.

“When he sees me making masks, he gets so excited and says, ‘We should make more so we can help more people.’ And that increases my excitement to try to help out.”

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

Pride all year long: New center latest in efforts to support LGBTQ community

The Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center is located in Colman Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

June is designated as Pride Month, a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have had on history.

A year ago, we shared a list of ways that Lawrence University flies its Pride flag all year long. We’re sharing that list again this June, with notable updates – led by the arrival of the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center (GSDC), which opened in the fall in Colman Hall. We’ll start there.

1. Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center

The new GSDC space, located in Colman 110, is designed as a welcoming spot for queer Lawrentians of all backgrounds and their allies to gather to socialize, study, or just hang out. Programming in the space is led by a GSDC Council. A soft opening took place near the close of fall term, and a mixer was held in January.

2. Colores 

Colores is a student organization that was originally created to be a space for empowerment for LGBTQ students of color. It has since expanded to incorporate any LGBTQ students on campus and to help educate the wider community on LGBTQ intersectionality. Colores hosts weekly meetings and special events throughout the academic year. Find out how to get involved with Colores here.

3. Pride Prom 

As a way to celebrate our differences and to educate the wider campus on queer history, the student group Colores hosts an annual Pride Prom. Along with the music and food you might find at a traditional high school prom, Pride Prom includes information about queer history and rainbow decor. Organizers feature images, films, articles, and more on queer history throughout the venue. Most importantly, Pride Prom is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to gather, have fun, celebrate their identities, and feel connected on campus. Pride Prom is open to the entire campus, as well as the Appleton community, and serves as a great opportunity to learn about queer history and to boogie down.

4. LGBTQ Alliance House 

Lawrence University now has a LGBTQ Alliance house. This house, which opened in the fall, acts as a safe space for queer individuals and allies. As a house, they do lots of community outreach, including a clothing exchange, throughout the Lawrence and Appleton communities to spread awareness and acceptance for queer identities.

5. Lavender Ceremony 

To say goodbye and congratulate graduating seniors, Student Life and the Diversity and Intercultural Center co-host an annual Lavender Ceremony. This is a celebration for queer-identifying students as they prepare to graduate from Lawrence. There are speeches on behalf of the seniors and a dinner for the seniors and their guests. The students being honored also are presented with a lavender stole to wear at Commencement.

6. Alumni connections

The Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network is a recently formed alumni group. It kicked off a year ago, serving as an outlet for support, social interactions, and career networking. Also, an LGBTQ group is now part of Viking Connect, providing opportunities for alumni to mentor students as they prepare to launch careers.

7. Pride Resource Group

The Faculty/Staff Pride Resource Group is a network for Lawrence faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ or have family who identify as such. This group offers a sense of community for the faculty and provides an avenue for updates on available resources. Learn how to get involved with the Pride Resource Group here.

8. Queer Thanksgiving

The Diversity and Intercultural Center hosts an annual potluck, called Queer Thanksgiving, just before the end of fall term. The annual event has been held in the Diversity and Intercultural Center and is open to the Appleton community. It is a way for queer individuals to come together and celebrate over some delicious food.

9. Gender-inclusive bathrooms

Lawrence expanded the number of gender-inclusive restrooms available on campus last year. The expansion increased the number of gender-inclusive facilities available to community members, including those who identify as transgender, transgender non-binary, and non-binary.

10. Trans Rights United (TRU)

Also new this year is the launch of Trans Rights United (TRU), a student organization committed to supporting trans Lawrentians through community building and advocacy, both on campus and in the larger community. The group is an open community for all Lawrentians who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender-nonconforming, as well as those who are questioning their gender identity.

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

Class of 2020 celebrated with virtual Commencement: Don’t lose the joy

(Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Lawrence University community gathered virtually on Sunday for a Commencement celebration unlike any other in the school’s 171-year history.

Held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic that moved Spring Term classes to distance learning, the ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of nearly 270 Lawrentians in the Class of 2020.

“We are at a time like no other, when both far too much—and not nearly enough—has changed,” President Mark Burstein told the graduates and their families, all looking in from locations around the world.

Watch the 2020 Lawrence University Commencement webcast in its entirety here.

Congratulatory messages from faculty and staff, shared via video and an online chat, were mixed with the traditional speeches and the conferring of degrees.

Commencement speaker Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose book, Native Guard, has been on the Freshman Studies reading list at Lawrence for five years, implored the graduates to find inspiration in the arts as they make sense of a world that has changed mightily since they first stepped on campus four years ago.


Divisive politics, a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in 100 years, and racial injustice protests that are shining new light on systematic inequalities have rocked the world. Find your voice, Trethewey urged the graduates. Seek inspiration in poetry, music, and other arts as a means to process and navigate these times.

“Art allows us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition, to see ourselves in others, evoking in us our noblest trait, the ability to empathize,” she said. “Art has always been a necessary part of our collective survival.”

Trethewey said she turned to poetry and other art in the aftermath of the murder of her mother, citing W.H. Auden’s poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, and Pieter Bruegel’s painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, as being particularly enlightening.

“It was the first time I understood that art could speak to me intimately about my own experience, that the language of a poem or a painting could save me from the feeling of overwhelming isolation brought on by trauma and grief,” she said. “In the midst of my despair, I suddenly felt part of something communal—ancient and ongoing.”

Cling to such beacons as you set out to make your mark in the world, Trethewey said. This moment in time isn’t an easy one, but it’s one that is ripe for change. And with it comes a need for compassion and empathy, and this generation is positioned to embrace each other wholly like none before.

“We are in a moment of shared national and international mourning and we are reminded of what links us to every other human being on this planet: our mortality, our need for justice, shelter, sustenance, sanctuary, air to breathe,” Trethewey said.

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20, selected as the senior class speaker, asked her classmates not to lose sight of the great accomplishment of graduating from Lawrence despite the global pandemic short-circuiting their final term on campus, not allowing for proper good-byes and celebrations. As a first-generation college student, a daughter of immigrants, missing out on an in-person Commencement has been painful, she said.

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20 delivers a Commencement address to her classmates.

“Like many of you, I am still grieving this loss. The act of physically walking across that stage to receive a hard-earned diploma is one of the pinnacle moments for first-generation families and our most marginalized students. Lawrence is not easy for us. It was never meant to be. But signing up for that challenge, whether that meant leaving home a mile away or a continent away, demonstrates the strength and audacity it took to make Lawrence your own. I implore you to recognize the sheer amount of work, dedication and heart you’ve poured into yourselves and this Lawrence community over the past four years. You may be tired, overworked, or even burnt out. Relish this moment and all you’ve accomplished. Recognize the sacrifices you and your families have made and remember the great joy you’ve experienced here.”

Torres, a Posse scholar from New York City, praised her classmates for raising their voices over the past four years on issues ranging from divisive politics and immigration to LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter protests.

“We followed in the steps of our ancestors and of the great Lawrentians who have paved the way for us to continue making Lawrence a safe haven for all identities to be embraced and celebrated,” she said.

Continue that work no matter where your journey takes you, she said. It’s a responsibility that comes with being a Lawrentian.

“When the world tries to dim your light, shine bright,” Torres said. “No matter what comes next, anxieties and all, shine your light as fiercely as you can.”

Burstein told the graduates that a virtual Commencement does not diminish in any way the celebration of their accomplishments. But he said he has agonized over the prospect of not celebrating in person, unable to shake the hands of each graduate as they cross the stage.

“Even harder,” he said, “is knowing that Lawrence graduates you today into a world more uncertain than many generations before you. As someone who graduated from college and graduate school in another moment of economic and societal stress, I have a sense of what you may feel as you face the future. I am confident saying that regardless of what happens next, I know you have all acquired the skills necessary to succeed in this increasingly complex world.  Your future homes and workplaces will benefit from your passion and skill. Your leadership will strengthen the world in which we live.”

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

A time to celebrate: What you need to know for June 14 virtual Commencement

Banners are on display along College Avenue to honor 2020 graduates. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A virtual Commencement on June 14 will honor Lawrence University’s Class of 2020, celebrating graduates who had their final term disrupted by a global pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis resulted in Spring Term courses being delivered via distance learning. That means the ceremony will take on a different look, one that will still honor the great accomplishments that Commencement represents, but this time with graduates and their families looking on from home.

“I promised that we would do our best to recognize your achievements and celebrate your graduation, even if we could not all be together on Main Hall Green,” President Mark Burstein said in a message to graduates. “We have been working closely with the senior class leaders to ensure that we celebrate you in a way that reflects the many contributions you have brought to Lawrence during your time on campus.”

Here’s what you need to know in advance of the virtual ceremony.

How to view Commencement

Commencement, honoring nearly 300 students from the Class of 2020, will be streamed at 10 a.m. You can access the ceremony at the Commencement page at There will be an opportunity to leave congratulatory messages during the ceremony. You also can celebrate the graduates using tools found in this Celebration Kit.

A message to classmates

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20, a psychology and theater arts double major from New York City, will serve as class speaker. In addition to celebrating achievements, she said she’ll focus her message on opportunities to be part of the solution as she and her classmates confront societal challenges. 

“It is never my intention for all of us to agree, but we do need to be able to see each other and hear each other,” Torres said. 

“We also need to be able to unlearn and relearn. Lawrence taught me a lot about unlearning.  That unlearning meant accepting that someone like me can succeed at an institution that may not look like home to me. Thanks to Lawrence’s Posse Program, I, a first-generation child of immigrants, was able to leave my low-income home for a prestigious school halfway across the country. Now, I’m the Commencement speaker. But how do I reach an audience that doesn’t look or sound like me, that doesn’t know me, and I don’t know them? I think about how I see myself in them.” 

Torres said her speech will address the pain of having to finish her Lawrence education 1,000 miles from campus as the pandemic took its toll on people’s health and the economy. She’ll encourage her classmates to persevere amid challenges no graduating class has seen. 

“I chose to reflect, to be thoughtful and cognizant of the good and the bad of the moment,” she said. “We have all experienced loss. Not just the loss of our last spring term, but the loss of family members, jobs, financial security, and opportunities that awaited us after graduation. Still, we’ve experienced great joy through the kindness we’ve received from our Lawrence community. It’s also a time to be grateful. But we need to be respectful of all feelings. Not just good or just bad. It will take time for my class to process all of this after graduation. It’s not easy.”

A familiar, poetic voice


Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose Native Guard has been required reading in Freshman Studies for the past five years, will deliver the Commencement address.

She served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States and is the author of five collections of poetry: Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), Native Guard (2006)—for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—Thrall (2012), and Monument: Poems New and Selected (2018). In 2010, she published a book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“Having Ms. Trethewey’s commencement address will help us all remember the importance of inclusive social connection and the power of humanity,” Burstein said.

The ceremony details

While a virtual Commencement ceremony may not be able to duplicate the experience of an in-person event, many familiar elements will be incorporated. The ceremony will include opening remarks from President Burstein, the reading of the land acknowledgement by Shelby Siebers ’20,  speeches from Torres and Trethewey, conferring of degrees by Burstein, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat, and Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl, a message from Burstein, and closing words from Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life. Also, watch for congratulatory messages from faculty and staff.

Four long-serving Lawrence faculty members are retiring at the close of the academic year: David Burrows, Ruth Lunt, Thomas Ryckman, and Richard Sanerib. See details and reflections in this story.

Three members of the Lawrence faculty are being honored with annual faculty awards for excellence in teaching and scholarship. See details here.

More weekend celebrations

In addition to Commencement, you can find two other celebratory events being showcased virtually during Commencement weekend. The annual Commencement concert will be seen at 7:30 p.m. June 12 and the Baccalaureate Service will be seen at 3 p.m. June 13. Both are available at Also, the 2020 Senior Art Exhibition is viewable now. It can be found online here.

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

Diversity and Inclusion Award recipients honored for campus, community efforts

From left, top: Awa Badiane, Tim Hanna, Gaelyn Rose, and Jesús Smith.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is honoring several members of the campus community, as well as a former mayor of Appleton, with its annual Diversity and Inclusion Champion Awards.

The awards celebrate efforts to foster greater diversity and inclusion on campus while creating a climate that encourages and supports the expression of diverse perspectives and builds avenues to academic and personal success for groups that have been underserved and underrepresented in higher education.

“It is especially important given the current national context to recognize members of our community who make extraordinary efforts to create a more just Lawrence,” said Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of the faculty. 

Recipients include:

  • Jesús Smith, assistant professor of ethnic studies, with the Faculty Award.
  • Awa Badiane ’21, a former president of Lawrence’s Black Student Union (BSU), with the Student Award.
  • LUNA (Lawrence University Native American), with the Student Organization Award.
  • Gaelyn Rose, associate director of admissions, with the Staff Award.
  • Tim Hanna, the former mayor of Appleton who opted not to seek re-election following 24 years in office, with the Community Partner Award.

“I am extremely impressed by this year’s Diversity & Inclusion Champion Award recipients,” Barrett said. “The fact that they are being recognized in this way will come as no surprise to those who are fortunate enough to know them, given their positive presence on campus and in the Appleton community.”

The awards announcement comes at a time of pain and unrest across the country. It amplifies the need for leadership as has been shown by these recipients, Barrett said.

“As our country has seen the consequences of centuries of inequities play out in real time over the past few months in terms of needless death and suffering, these impressive individuals have used their many talents, resources, influence, and privilege to help make Lawrence University more inclusive,” she said. “While excelling in their individual roles of faculty, student, staff, or community leader they are helping to create a new normal in which we are all treated with dignity and respect.”

Smith has been part of the Lawrence faculty since 2017. He was recently awarded a 12-month Wilson Foundation Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

“In just three short years on campus he has become a favorite role model and mentor to Lawrence students while also making his mark nationally in terms of his scholarly research in ethnic studies,” Barrett said.

Badiane is a government major from New York City who served as president of BSU and has been a writer in the Communications office the past two years. She is being honored for her ongoing advocacy for students of color.

LUNA helped create the mural on the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

Also, the students who are part of LUNA are being recognized. It’s the first time a student organization has been given one of the D&I Awards. LUNA played a huge role in bringing Project 562’s Matika Wilbur to campus and creating the indigenous education mural that now adorns the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

“Although we usually only give one student award, this year we had two extremely strong nominees in this category,” Barrett said. “One was an individual and the other was an organization. So, we decided to give two student awards. I think giving an award to both an individual student and a student organization will become a tradition for us.”

Rose has worked diligently to enhance Lawrence’s admissions process to make sure it is accessible and equitable for all.

“As associate director of admissions, she helped recruit international students, students from tribal nations, and domestic students of color,” Barrett said. “She also helped to create systematic changes in the way the admissions counselors recruit students by developing training materials that address issues of diversity.”

Hanna, meanwhile, is being honored for his efforts to champion diversity and inclusion in the community during his six terms as mayor.

“He was a true strategic partner with the university in its efforts to become more inclusive,” Barrett said.

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

We miss you! Student writers long to return to these favorite spaces on campus

Hurvis Crossing leads into the patio outside The Café at Warch Campus Center. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Communications team

We’re all missing campus during Spring Term. With spring now fully in bloom, the yearning to walk the paths of campus, to kick back on Main Hall Green, or to enjoy food and conversation on the Warch Campus Center patio grows that much stronger.

We’ll be back together soon. We cannot wait. In the meantime, we asked the three student writers who work in the Communications office—Awa Badiane ’21, Alex Freeman ’23, and Isabella Mariani ’21—to share their favorite spaces on campus, inside or out. They’re all off campus this term as well, so this exercise provided a chance for the three of them to take their minds to some happy places.

Here are nine favorite student spaces, three from each writer, in no particular order.

1. Main Hall Green

This is a great place for studying with friends or taking naps on warm spring days. Or, just throw down a blanket, bring some snacks, and watch people walk by. There’s always a bustle of activity on Main Hall Green, from a Frisbee being tossed to music being played to games and festivals being held. (Isabella)

2. The path along the river

Whenever the warm weather arrives, I head down the staircase behind Sage Hall to the path that runs behind campus. The trees shading you from the sun and the sounds of the Fox River acting as a natural playlist make it the perfect spot to appreciate the hidden beauty of campus—either exploring with your friends or taking your own personal tour. (Alex)

3. SLUG hill

The hill overlooks the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG), and it’s a great space all year round. During the warmer months in the fall and spring terms, you can lay out a blanket on the top of the hill to do some homework. You’ll have the best view of the Fox River. And during the winter months, the hill is perfect for snow tubing. (Awa)

4. The Café at Warch

I like going to The Café in the Warch Campus Center really early in the morning with the intention of doing assignments, then getting distracted and people-watching instead. Also good for late-night snack sessions with friends. Great seating inside. Even better seating outside when the weather warms up. (Isabella)

5. Top floor of Briggs

The top floor of Briggs Hall might just be the most underrated study spot on campus. It features floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Fox River. If you can snag a study table or armchair at sunset, you’re guaranteed an incredible view … which hopefully won’t distract you too much from that midterm essay. (Alex)

6. The Quad

In between all of the group houses on campus, you’ll find The Quad, a grassy hangout spot that beckons on a sunny day. Have a picnic or study amid the sunshine. The Quad also doubles as a concert venue. It is home to Lawrence’s annual LUaroo music festival, which, of course, we’re all missing this year. (Awa)

7. Fourth floor of Mudd Library

This is the best place to settle in to get some work done because it’s usually dead silent, which is something I lack here at home. The Mudd Library is filled with a variety of great spaces to study, read, or collaborate. But the fourth floor is my favorite. All that beautiful quiet. I can’t believe how much I miss it. (Isabella)

8. Memorial Chapel

There’s a reason that every major concert is held in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel—the impressive acoustics and elegant design cement its place as the best on-campus site to experience music in all of its glory. From student ensembles to Jazz Weekend performances (pictured) to the amazing talents showcased during the Artist Series, Memorial Chapel reminds us regularly that having a music conservatory here adds so much to the Lawrence experience. (Alex)

9. Diversity and Intercultural Center

Ever since my freshman year, the DIC has been a great hangout spot with friends. In between class or at the end of the day, we would come together in the DIC to do homework, watch a movie, or just bond. It is always lots of fun. Plus, the DIC is a prime event space for diversity-focused organizations on campus. (Awa)

Do you have a favorite spot on campus? Share it with us on Lawrence’s social media channels.

The Lawrentian launches podcast in effort to keep students connected

Luther Abel ’22 and Fariba Lale ’21 are co-hosting a Lawrentian podcast during Spring Term.

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

With its writers scattered across the world, The Lawrentian has not come out in its weekly paper format since the end of Winter Term, but that does not mean it’s gone silent. In an effort to keep the Lawrence community connected and in-the-know during distance learning, Lawrence’s student-run news outlet is now coming to you in the form of the new Lawrentian Student Podcast.

Although you can’t pick up the weekly paper, the podcast is staying true to The Lawrentian’s original focus: providing coverage for Lawrence students.

“If you just want the news, you can get it from a lot of other places that are probably better at it than a bunch of 20-somethings,” podcast host and creator Luther Abel ’22 said. “I want coverage from the eyes of the students, because just naked news coverage gets old in a few days. If we do it more in story format, I think it will stand the test of time better, where we can come back to this in a few years and feel the same emotions we’re going through now.”

Launched on Spotify earlier in May, The Lawrentian Student Podcast is now published at least once a week, perhaps more depending on the schedules of hosts Abel and Fariba Lale ’21. Each episode, they’ll pair up to discuss developments in their lives, provide commentary on major international events, and break down the news coming out of Lawrence. Most weeks will also include a special guest, usually a writer, professor, or member of the administration.

Despite the structures preventing a more traditional newspaper this term, Editor-in-Chief Dannielle Konz ’21 sees this podcast as an opportunity for The Lawrentian to continue playing a role in connecting the campus community. The podcast will provide The Lawrentian a channel to distribute the news in an easier-to-swallow format.

“I feel like people are constantly being barraged on their phones with news articles and social media posts, and everyone is seeing things all the time,” Konz said. “To have something to listen to rather than to look at, I feel kind of gives our medium for this a little novelty. Having something that’s not being done on campus gives us an opportunity to try and reach students in a way that’s not the same as everybody else.”

In order to foster a diverse student connection, the hosts recognize the importance of providing balanced reporting and commentary on world events. When originally hiring writers for Spring Term, Abel and Lale were brought on to tag-team election coverage for the Op-Ed section, with Abel representing a more conservative viewpoint and Lale writing from a more liberal point of view.

This plan quickly fell through when the shift was made to remote learning, but when Abel pitched the idea for the podcast, Lale was seen as a natural choice for his co-host. With Lale officially signed on, as well as a variety of guest contributors, the hope is that different political beliefs and varying student experiences will always be represented.

“You’re not ever hearing just one side of anything,” Lale said. “You’re always going to be hearing some contrasting views, and then there’s a lot of room for discussion. When you’re on opposite sides of an opinion, if you can have a good-faith discussion, you can find a lot of common ground.”

The hope is that this discussion format will extend beyond just the two hosts. Abel and Lale want to provide an outlet for writers to tell their stories and share their ideas, just as they did through the physical newspaper. Whether it be news, opinion, or any other format, the podcast is a space where The Lawrentian writers can continue doing what they’ve done for campus since 1884: keep the Lawrence community informed and engaged.

“I want it to feel like you’re back on campus, sitting in the dining hall, and people are stopping by the table and sitting to chat,” Abel said. “It was a blast just having people stop by the table. I got to meet them—people I never would’ve met in classes—and all of a sudden hear their life story. It’s amazing. For such a small campus, we should know each other at least a little bit. We can’t do that in person now, but I’m hoping we can do that at a distance this way.”

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

New court design unveiled, part of makeover at Alexander Gymnasium

A Viking ship is featured prominently in the new court design in Alexander Gym. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Joe Vanden Acker / Athletics

Alexander Gymnasium is already a grand, historic structure, but the home of the Vikings is getting a makeover.

The 91-year-old home of Lawrence’s Department of Athletics and the competition venue for basketball and volleyball is undergoing a transformation, which was funded through donations by alumni and friends of the University. The first phase is complete with the unveiling of the new basketball/volleyball court.

“We couldn’t be more excited and appreciative of the new floor design for Alexander Gym,” Lawrence Director of Athletics Kim Tatro said. “While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus. We appreciate those whose donations made this possible.”

The main court will retain the east/west configuration that has been in place for 35 years, but the court will look dramatically different. Designed by Art Director Matt Schmeltzer of the Lawrence Communications Office, the court features a Viking ship that stretches from the 3-point lines on either end of the floor.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the new floor design,” said men’s basketball coach Zach Filzen. “It looks phenomenal and is extremely well-designed. The new court, in addition to the other renovations, will go a long way in improving Alex Gym. We have a special facility when it comes to character and history. Being able to bring some updated aspects to our gym should make it a very fun place to play and watch high-level competition in the future.”

Cutting through the waves, the Viking ship uses as a figurehead the antelope from the Lawrence coat of arms. The shield from the same coat of arms adorns the side of the vessel. On the massive sail is the center jump circle with Lawrence’s interlocking LU logo.

“We are really excited about the new floor,” volleyball coach Kim Falkenhagen said. “It is a great upgrade to the facility that is not only eye-catching but shows our pride in Lawrence athletics. Looking forward to getting the team out there and trying it out.”

The border of the court is done in the dark blue that has been worn by Lawrence athletes for more than a century. The free throw lane, known as “the paint” in basketball parlance, wears the same dark blue paint. Each baseline features the words Lawrence University, and the sideline in front of the bleachers says Home Of The Vikings.

Workers prepare the logo on the refurbished floor in Alexander Gym.

“We are already fortunate to have one of the most unique and distinct places to play,” women’s basketball coach Riley Woldt said. “I’m really excited for our current players, all of the Viking alumni, and the entire Lawrence and Appleton communities to see and embrace the new court design, one that does an awesome job of incorporating Lawrence tradition within the comfy confines of Alexander Gymnasium. It’s going to give off a great feel on game day but will provide some wonderful energy for all those who come through the doors on a daily basis.”

This is the first phase of improvements taking place at Alexander Gymnasium during the summer of 2020. Alexander Gym, which has seen three teams win a total of 11 conference championships over the years, also gets a new set of bleachers. The old wooden bleachers, which were the original set of pull-out bleachers in the facility, had been in the gym since the mid-1960s. The new bleachers are set to be installed at the end of May.

The final piece of the renovation is a transformation of the lobby. With its terrazzo floor and high-arching ceiling, the lobby will serve as home to the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame and serve as a gathering space for fans and families of the Vikings.

Joe Vanden Acker is director of athletic media relations at Lawrence University. Email:

Theater students get creative, use Zoom to present old-school radio drama

Theater professor Kathy Privatt (center top) and some of her students work through preparations for a radio drama to be performed live on Zoom on Friday night.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

As we all are adapting to the challenges that come with distance learning, faculty and students across campus are getting creative, including those who usually showcase their talents on the theater stage.

Despite students being spread across the globe this term, Lawrence University’s Theatre Arts department has found a way to host its annual spring theater show while adhering to physical distancing.

It’ll do so through a radio drama presented live on Zoom at 8 p.m. May 15, and then an edited/produced version will be available on the Department of Theatre Arts Productions web page, under the View Streaming Video link.

Update: See unedited version of the radio drama here.

The students will tackle The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama, by Herb Meadow, a piece written in the mid-1930s that is essentially a series of vignettes embodying the effects of the Great Depression on young people.

But first, what would have been. 

“I had an entire production planned called The Domino Effect,” said Kathy Privatt, the James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and associate professor of theatre arts.

The COVID-19 pandemic scrapped that plan.

“Now, hopefully, it is going to happen next year instead,” Privatt said. “Yes, it is an interesting script, but half of it should be movement, so doing that one at a distance is not an option.” 

So, how to do a spring production when instruction and collaboration are happening via Zoom?

“I started thinking about radio drama” Privatt said. “Partly, because my colleague Tim Troy has a deep and abiding love for radio dramas. He’s done some at Lawrence, and at the end of winter term he had just done a sound recording of his production, Richard III. So, we’ve been talking about maybe we should just routinely do just a sound recording, because so many scripts stand beautifully as just a sound file.”  

That idea – to begin creating sound file versions of the plays the Theatre Arts department produces – planted a seed that would lead to Privatt’s decision to pursue a radio drama on Zoom with her theater students.

A quick history lesson: Radio dramas, dramatized acoustic performances, find their roots in the world of théàtrophone. Prior to the development of radio technology, between the 1900s and 1920s, people would set up a network of lines to listen to live performances. After the development of radio technology, A Comedy Of Danger became the first play written with the intention to be performed on the radio. It aired in 1924 on the BBC network. 

The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama is a piece written in 1937,” Privatt said. “There was part of a whole set of programing that came out of the Great Depression and the Works Progress Administration, which more specifically had a unit that was the Federal Theatre Project.” 

The National Youth Administration (NYA) was a program geared toward providing jobs and education for people ages 16-25. This radio drama was propaganda to increase support of and knowledge about the program.

When deciding what radio drama to produce with her Lawrence students, Privatt remembered the Federal Theatre Project and its radio drama sector. This set of plays was especially interesting to Privatt because of the parallels that can be drawn between this global pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout and the era in which this play was written. 

Privatt decided the radio drama was “something we can really hone in on.” And when she found the Federal Theatre Project, she knew she struck the right chord.

“When I found that script it just felt right,” she said. 

“It’s been creatively motivating”  

Learning about the connections between America shortly after the Great Depression and our present situation has also been interesting for the students involved. Unlike the spring production in years past, where Privatt would have a year to prepare the piece that students would perform, she had roughly two weeks. With this, she decided to make the show a collaborative effort, where students have the opportunity to use their research skills to learn more about life during this time. 

“I love that we’re getting to learn about this new form of theater,” Maren Dahl ’21 said. “I also really love that it’s giving me the opportunity, one that I otherwise would not have had, to use my research skills. … I think that the best part about it for me has been that feeling of people working toward a common goal they really care about; it’s been creatively motivating.”  

Dahl is double majoring in theater and psychology and will be featured in the show.  She also is using this as her Senior Experience project. Dahl has been part of a multitude of theater productions at Lawrence and has fully embraced the new avenues this show provides. 

“I think the main difference is not having the face to face contact and not staging something,” Dahl said. “But, I think that opens some doors for us where because we don’t have to stage a full production we have the time to do certain things like deeper dives into the text or do something that is more research heavy and spend a lot of time talking through that.”  

The opportunities to explore has not been limited to the director and actors in the show.  

“I thought that this show was especially interesting because of the limitations we’re under,” said Grace Krueger ’21, a theater major who is working as the dramaturg, compiling historical background for the audience. “We’re able to create theater in a new way, and it’s something that hasn’t been done before on this campus, so I am glad to be a part of it.”  

Not staging a spring production wasn’t an option.

“It’s what we do,” Privatt said. “It’s one of the great joys of my job. Once a year I gather with a team of artists and we find a way to share a story with an audience that lets us be one big community for a while.”

Not even a global pandemic is going to keep Privatt and her students from making that magic happen.

If you want to see the production live: The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday on Zoom. To obtain a “ticket” (the Zoom meeting link and password), email Privatt at A limited number of people will be allowed in. It’ll later be shared on YouTube and on the Department of Theatre Arts Productions web page.

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

One family’s generosity nurtures four new Lawrentian student journeys

Lawrence photographer Danny Damiani paid a visit to the Kaukauna front porches of each of the Paulson Scholars: From left top: Bailey Underwood ’20, Isaac Wippich ’21, Molly Ruffing ’22, and Enna Krnecin ’23.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Bailey Underwood ’20, Isaac Wippich ’21, Molly Ruffing ’22, and Enna Krnecin ’23 have a few things in common when it comes to their college paths.

All four are proud Lawrentians. All four hail from Kaukauna, a 10-minute drive east of the Lawrence University campus. All four are distance learning from their Kaukauna homes during spring term. And all four can point to a generous Kaukauna family as an impetus to their Lawrence journeys.

Four years ago, when Tom ’93 and Mary Paulson and their three children, Sarah, Nick ’14, and Erik ’16, committed $2.5 million to create a Lawrence scholarship fund, the dream was for four Kaukauna students to be attending Lawrence as Paulson Scholars year in and year out.

That dream has been building since 2016, one scholarship at a time. This marks the first year Paulson Scholars can be found in each of the four classes at Lawrence.

Underwood, the first recipient, is a fourth-year biology major. Wippich is a philosophy and psychology double major who was a visiting student at the University of Oxford in England before the COVID-19 pandemic brought him home. When he graduates next year, he will be the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Ruffing is a second-year student pursuing a psychology and English double major. And Krnecin is part way through her first year with her options wide open.

Bailey Underwood ’20

“Not only did the Paulsons make it financially feasible for me to attend college, they shared genuine compassion and support every step along the way,” Wippich said. “They brought us Scholars out to dinner and engaged with us about our passions with sincere curiosity.”

Similar thoughts are echoed by each of the Paulson Scholars, each of whom say the Paulsons helped them realize a dream of attending Lawrence. The annual scholarship provides the full demonstrated financial need for four years to a Kaukauna High School graduate attending Lawrence. If no Kaukauna students are eligible or interested, the scholarship expands to other Fox Cities students. It focuses on high-need applicants.

Tom Paulson said he and his family, so grateful for how Lawrence has impacted their lives, made the decision to create a scholarship fund after Lawrence launched its Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) financial aid initiative as part of the Be the Light! campaign. The $85 million FSFN target has been reached, the university announced Monday.

The timing was right, the need was there, and the chance to support students in their Kaukauna hometown just felt right, Tom Paulson said.

“It just seemed like a great opportunity, and almost a responsibility to pay it forward.”

The commitment has been more than financial. The Paulsons annually invite the Paulson Scholars to dinner. They stay in touch, and offer advice, solace, and mentoring as needed.

Isaac Wippich ’21

Tom Paulson graduated from Lawrence in 1993 at age 32, completing a winding path that included going to school while working full-time and supporting a growing family. Two of his children, Nick and Erik, would later graduate from Lawrence.

“The Paulsons are genuinely interested in how to continue to improve Lawrence and also how we are all doing as individuals,” Ruffing said. “They remember who we are and what we’re passionate about and urge us to continue to reach our full potential.”

For Underwood, the opportunities she’s had at Lawrence go well beyond the classroom. The research she’s been able to do within the biology department is just the start.

“I was lucky enough to pursue my own research and experience the scientific process truly from beginning to end, and I’m seeing it in my Senior Experience project,” she said. “This would not have been possible had I gone to another school and had I not had the Paulson family supporting me. They have truly become a second support system, for which I am so thankful. Because of Lawrence, I can truly say I’m a scientist, but also a flautist, a Francophile, a psychology geek, and so many other things because the education Lawrence provides allows me to be all of those things.”

Krnecin, meanwhile, said attending college would have been “much more difficult and complicated” if not for the Paulson support. “Without their help, I would not be at Lawrence,” she said.

Molly Ruffing ’22

Tom Paulson’s unlikely path through Lawrence

Tom Paulson’s own Lawrence journey came about in a non-traditional way. He was working full-time at the Institute of Paper Chemistry, then located in Appleton, and took advantage of a tuition agreement between the Institute and Lawrence, whereas he could take a course per term on the dime of the Institute. He did that for six years, starting in the mid-1980s. But when the Institute relocated to Atlanta, the tuition agreement ceased.

“I was kind of out on my own, wondering how I was going to find my way through the rest of my degree,” Paulson said. “I had senior status but I would still have probably three-plus years of part-time schooling. It was incredibly expensive doing it that way.

“I had a growing family. We were a family of four at that time. That really wasn’t feasible and it looked like I maybe wasn’t going to make it.”

That’s when then-chemistry professor Jerry Lokensgard stepped up and said he and others would work with Paulson to see him through to graduation.

“I think the operable word was ‘we’,” Paulson said. “He was invested in this, which is really amazing to me. He had already talked to the financial aid department and talked to professors and looked my schedule over and did a lot of leg work on his own.”

They found a path where Paulson could juggle full-time work and school to complete his degree in a year.

Enna Krnecin ’23

“I just don’t think this could have happened anywhere else,” Paulson said. “It was incredibly humbling that he did all this. So, we ended up doing exactly that, enrolling full time for a year. And I had to continue working. My wife and I had just had our son, Nick, so we were struggling financially, as young couples do, but the financial aid that came through and the generosity of complete strangers really made it happen.”

Paulson would get that degree, setting him on a career trajectory that would include two successful business start-ups.

“It was really the most transformative, humbling, busy, crazy year of my life,” Paulson said of that 1992-93 academic year. “But, not only the financial support, but support from my professors was amazing. If I needed to miss a lab because I was traveling with my work schedule, they’d allow me to do it at night or on weekends. It seemed like a team effort to get me through this. To me, that’s the Lawrence difference.”

Seeds had been planted

Tom Paulson said he and Mary had talked for years about giving back to Lawrence when the time was right. When Nick and then Erik attended Lawrence, they both had transformative experiences that further solidified the family’s commitment to the long-term health of Lawrence.

“When Nick and Erik were both at Lawrence, we started talking as a family about this idea,” Tom Paulson said of making a financial commitment to the school.

They settled on the idea of an ongoing scholarship fund to support students from Kaukauna. It became part of the Be the Light! campaign, which to date has raised more than $208 million toward the $220 million goal.

For more information on the Be the Light! campaign, see here.

Tom Paulson speaks during a Be the Light! campaign event held during winter term in the Warch Campus Center. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

“It was a great thing for us as a family,” Tom Paulson said. “The kids know this is money that is somehow coming out of their pockets down the road. That was a real powerful motivator for us. The ability to sit down as a family and openly discuss this.

“Everything came together as a real magical moment. A match came in, the Be the Light! campaign was here, and everything just flowed together. I am overwhelmed at the response to the campaign, and I love the fact that we’re involved.”

For the four students now benefiting from the Paulson decision, the generosity is not taken lightly.

“It’s a wonderful experience having donor support from such caring people, and I honestly cannot imagine my Lawrence experience without the Paulson family,” Ruffing said. “It has made me truly feel valued and part of a community greater than just the current student body.”

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

The Paulson family (from left): Tom ’93, Sarah, Nick ’14, Mary, and Erik ’16.