Tag: Lawrence faculty

Internship put Lawrence physics student on research team that earned Nobel Prize

An image created by Professor Andrea Ghez and her research team from data sets obtained with W.M. Keck Telescopes shows stars that are in very close, very fast orbits around the Milky Way’s central black hole. It’s research that Amelia Mangian ’18 participated in during a 2017 internship. (Courtesy of UCLA Galactic Center Group – W.M. Keck Observatory Laser Team)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s Physics Department is again celebrating close connections with the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Amelia Mangian ’18, then a fourth-year physics student at Lawrence, spent an internship in the summer of 2017 working with a team of scientists at UCLA led by astronomer Andrea Ghez, who earlier this month won the Nobel for her years-long study of supermassive black holes in the universe.

“She is the model of the perfect scientist,” Mangian said of Ghez. “She persevered, she worked hard, and she proved a lot of people wrong on the way to becoming a world-class researcher and educator. I think the other thing that is remarkable about Andrea is how easily she can communicate her work to people of all ages and how much she cares about spreading her love of science.”

Ghez is one of three recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, joining Roger Penrose, a mathematician at Oxford University in England, and Reinhard Genzel, a professor at the University of California Berkeley and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. All were honored for their work advancing the study of black holes.

Amelia Mangian ’18

“Working with this team—Andrea, her collaborators, particularly Mark Morris and Tuan Do, as well as her research team, post-docs, and graduate students—has helped my career tremendously,” said Mangian, now pursuing a doctorate in astronomy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It helped me find a passion for black holes, for astronomy, and for being a role model to other young astronomers who want to be researchers, too.”

A year ago, the Nobel went to two astronomers whose breakthroughs in the 1990s led to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy, a research subject that Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department at Lawrence, has focused on for much of her career.

The 2019 Nobel announcement felt like a win for Pickett and her students. The 2020 announcement is much the same. Having a former student so closely connected to the research team is an opportunity to shine a light on undergraduate internships and research opportunities that are plentiful for Lawrence students in the sciences.

Not lost on Mangian or Pickett is that Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel in Physics, joining Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018). The Nobel adds to Ghez’s growing profile as she blazes trails as a role model for women scientists.

“One of my particular interests, long before coming to Lawrence, has been the history of women in physics and astronomy—our stories, representation, and how we can tear down barriers to success and recognition,” Pickett said. “There are a number of ways we get at this problem, but primarily it comes down to creating a sense of belonging with the department, and the discipline.”

Lawrence is part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute initiative that challenges U.S. colleges and universities to substantially and sustainably increase their capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in science. It was one of 33 schools selected in 2018 to receive a $1 million grant from HHMI through its Science Education Program to implement its Inclusive Excellence initiative. Another 24 schools were selected the year prior, part of HHMI’s push to reimagine science education to better engage students from all backgrounds.

“Our primary focus is inclusive excellence — how can we increase our successful engagement and the success of students who are under-represented in the sciences, whether first-generation college students, for example, or under-represented minorities?” Pickett said.

Megan Pickett

Seeing scientists such as Ghez be awarded a Nobel—also of note, two women won the Nobel in chemistry the following day—helps ring that bell, and having a Lawrentian so closely tied to the work adds fuel to the fire. But it also is a reminder that while great strides have been made, the work is far from finished when it comes to equity and opportunity.

“Having those role models, and being able to send our students off campus, potentially to work in a Nobel lab, is huge,” Pickett said. “Closer to home, though, we are today more diverse and more dedicated to that diversity as a department than we have ever been. In particular, the addition of professors (Tianlong) Zu and (Margaret) Koker help make our department begin to look more like our student body—and the importance of that cannot be overstated.”

Mangian, meanwhile, counts Pickett as a mentor who helped her believe in herself as a scientist. That relationship, she said, drives her to pay it forward as a mentor as she carves out her own career.

“She has guided me through rough times and helped me be the best version of myself during the good times,” she said of Pickett. “She’s the reason that I’m where I’m at today, academically and personally.”

At Illinois, Mangian is studying actively feeding supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to infer properties of the black holes such as its luminosity and mass. She’s also building on mentoring lessons she took from Pickett and others at Lawrence.

“I’ve been very active in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through the organization I run called the Society for Equity in Astronomy,” Mangian said. “We are a group focused on improving the astronomy department at Illinois and those across the country. We run a mentorship program with about 40 individuals involved and have monthly discussions about culturally significant topics such as the Strike for Black Lives, #BlackInTheIvory, and the ongoing situation with the Thirty Meter Telescope being constructed on indigenous lands on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. I am also starting up a tutoring program aimed at helping students with disproportionate educational backgrounds coming into the astronomy program at Illinois.”

Mangian’s work in 2017 with Ghez’s group came after being selected for a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, a highly competitive process. Lawrence students in recent years have gone through that program to land research posts at the University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin, Harvard, University of Rochester, and the University of Twente in the Netherlands, among others. 

“These experiences are valuable regardless of whether you end up going to graduate school or not,” Mangian said. “Having the opportunity to work in a research environment early on in your life allows you to explore areas that interest you the most, helps you build skills to prepare you for a wide variety of jobs—collaboration, computer skills, communication—and helps build your professional network. This, along with my time working with Megan, convinced me that I wanted to be an astronomer, and an educator, too.”  

It also gave her the chance to get to know and learn from a future Nobel Prize winner, something she reflected on when she heard the Ghez announcement from the Nobel Committee for Physics, relayed to her by her mother.

“My excitement grew throughout the day as I came to terms with the fact that I not only worked for a Nobel laureate, but I’d been to her house, too, for wine and cheese. I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to win the award.”

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

Lawrence mourns passing of former anthropology professor George Saunders

George R. Saunders, 1946-2020

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

George R. Saunders, a Lawrence University anthropology professor for more than two decades before a serious brain injury took him from the classroom in 2001, passed away on Sept. 17.

He died at his Appleton home with his wife, Bickley Bauer-Saunders, and family at his side. He was 74.

Saunders, who held a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of California-San Diego, joined the Lawrence faculty in 1977. He spent many years as chair of the Anthropology Department and is being remembered by colleagues for his mentoring skills, his commitment to his students, and his anthropology scholarship in the areas of language, religion, and Mediterranean Europe.

“George was a well-respected scholar of religious movements in contemporary Italy,” said Peter N. Peregrine, a professor of anthropology who worked with Saunders beginning in 1995. “He focused on Pentecostalism among rural communities and the interesting relationships and conflicts between Pentecostals and Catholics within that strongly Catholic nation.”

Saunders helped found the Society for the Anthropology of Europe in 1986, served on the group’s first Executive Committee, and was the group’s treasurer from 1996 to 2000.

Four years after arriving at Lawrence, Saunders earned the school’s Young Teacher Award (today known as the award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member), one of numerous honors he’d receive for his teaching and scholarship. Then-President Richard Warch said Saunders brought to the classroom “an infectious enthusiasm for learning, a solid grounding in theory, and a wealth of field experience, and has, in the process, made the study of anthropology both intellectually challenging and humanely rewarding.”

Saunders suffered a serious brain injury in 2001 as a consequence of a brain tumor. Almost two decades later, his presence continues to be felt in and beyond the Anthropology Department.

The university funded an anthropology library in his honor shortly after he left the faculty. It still resides in the anthropology seminar room, Briggs 305, and has been used by generations of students for classes and research projects.

Peregrine called Saunders “a calming influence across the campus” and said his leadership helped build a strong Anthropology Department.

“Within the department he was a strong leader and tireless promoter of anthropology’s central role in developing a better appreciation for diversity among our students,” he said. “He was a wonderful, caring, and supportive mentor to me. … He was universally loved by his students, and was known as one of the most talented teachers at the University.”

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

Lawrence remembers talents, kindness of retired music professor Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks (Lawrence University archive photo, 1993)

Dan Sparks, a professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music from 1962 to 1994, is being remembered for his deep contributions to the Lawrence and Appleton communities, from his musical talents to his willingness to share his wisdom and creativity with others.

He passed away Sept. 4 at age 89.

Sparks was a vital part of the Conservatory for three decades, teaching, mentoring, and, for a time, overseeing Conservatory admissions.

After completing military service in the 29th Army Band as the principal clarinetist and assistant conductor, Sparks started his college teaching career at Jackson State University in Alabama. He then made his way to Lawrence in 1962.

It proved to be an ideal fit, and he would call Lawrence home for the next 32 years.

In addition to teaching clarinet, he taught music theory, form and analysis, and music history. He was a member of the Lawrence Faculty Woodwind Quintet and a founding member of the Fox Valley Symphony. 

“All my memories of Dan, whether in department meetings, casual hallway encounters, or performing chamber works together, are filled with his kindness, his non-judgmental character, his ego-less professionalism, and his thoughtfulness toward everyone around him,” said percussion professor Dane Richeson, who joined the Conservatory faculty in 1984.

Kenneth Bozeman, professor emeritus of voice, said Sparks brought warmth to every interaction.

“Dan was a gentle, patient man, a lovely clarinetist,” Bozeman said. “I never saw Dan riled about anything, though like all of us, he probably had opportunities for that. He was a soothing presence.”

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1931, Sparks fell in love with music and went on to attend the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, where he received both his Bachelor of Music Degree in clarinet performance and his Master of Music Degree in clarinet performance and form and analysis. He continued his studies at the Juilliard School of Music, and finished all of the coursework for a Ph.D. in Musicology at the Eastman School of Music. 

Besides being a stellar music instructor, Sparks was known to be an excellent chef and entertainer. His dinner parties were legendary, as were his yearly recitals, billed as Dan Sparks and Friends.

“Dan positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students and colleagues,” said Brian G. Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. “He helped our Conservatory become what it is today.”

Becker returns to Lawrence to teach psychology and neuroscience

Elizabeth Becker ’04

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The newest member of Lawrence University’s Psychology Department faculty is plenty familiar with what makes this place special.

Elizabeth Becker ’04 earned a double degree in psychology and music performance here before going on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The lessons learned and relationships with faculty forged at Lawrence have been a guiding light in my own career as I sought to become the type of teacher that would make LU proud,” Becker said. “It is a true honor to be welcomed home and be part of the Lawrence community.”

Becker steps in as an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, beginning with Monday’s launch of Fall Term.

She is one of two new faculty members, joining Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra, who begins work as an assistant professor of Spanish.

Becker had been teaching at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania, where she served as director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program and was the faculty affiliate to the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. As a faculty member of the Psychology Department, she mentored both graduate and undergraduate researchers.

“I’m very excited to bring my program of research here to Lawrence to work with our incredibly talented undergraduate students,” Becker said. “I am dedicated to providing laboratory and professional development opportunities to prepare our students for graduate study.”

It was 20 years ago that Becker landed on the Lawrence campus as a first-year student. She said a matriculation convocation address delivered by then-President Richard Warch ignited a spark, a drive to learn and excel, that continues to this day.

“Starting the term I feel the same sense of excitement and nervousness I felt then,” Becker said. “Back in 2000, when I heard President Warch’s convocation address, that nervousness I felt was replaced with passion, admiration, and inspiration. I knew I was home. Indeed, my time at Lawrence was transformative and personally defining as I was pushed and challenged to be and live greater.” 

The Warch address touched on the importance of community, something that resonates even deeper this year as Fall Term begins amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Becker said.

“Not all institutions of higher learning will address this challenge well, but I can guarantee we will,” she said. “In my preparation for fall, which will be online, I have worked hard to ensure a high level of engagement with the material as well as with each other — including social distance walks — because I espouse the philosophy of President Warch, that ‘liberal education is best conducted as a personal experience.’ I am so happy to be home.”

Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine G. Kodat said bringing Becker back to Lawrence is a huge win for a department that continues to serve one of the largest numbers of majors at Lawrence.

“As an alumna and double-degree graduate, she appreciates all the things that make Lawrence special,” Kodat said. “I am delighted to welcome her back to her alma mater.”

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

Makerspace provides huge assist as it builds needed PPE inventory for campus

Angela Vanden Elzen models one of the face shields built with 3D printers in Lawrence University’s Makerspace, located in the Mudd Library. “It turned into this awesome community effort,” she said. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

In the scramble for an adequate supply of PPEs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawrence University is getting a needed boost from its own Makerspace.

Using 3D printing technology, Reference and Learning Technologies Librarian Angela Vanden Elzen and student intern Kelvin Maestre ’21 have led efforts this summer to 3D print 200 plastic face shields and 150 ear savers in the Makerspace lab inside the Mudd Library.

The Makerspace’s personal protective equipment (PPEs), as well as cloth face masks made by students through the Conservatory’s costume shop, are now being distributed on campus through Wellness Services. The face shields provide another layer of protection beyond masks and the ear savers offer a more comfortable way of securely wearing a mask.

“This work began on a more exploratory level at the start of the summer,” Vanden Elzen said of the Makerspace efforts. “We found 3D printable files for both the ear savers and the face shield visors on the NIH (National Institutes of Health) 3D print exchange. They’ve created a special COVID-19 response collection of objects that have either been tested for clinical use or community use. It was important for us to find designs that were created by scientists and professionals in the medical field.”

Kelvin Maestre ’21 joined Angela Vanden Elzen in the Makerspace this summer in the building of face shields and ear savers, adding to needed PPE inventory on the Lawrence University campus.

Vanden Elzen and Maestre went to work prepping the Makerspace technology to make large batches on the 3D printers. That proved to be pretty easy for the ear savers, where they could print five at a time using two printers. Additional parts or modifications weren’t needed.

The face shields production, meanwhile, was a different story. Initially, only two would fit on a printer at a time, so Maestre, an anthropology major from Revere, Massachusetts, explored ways to modify the process. When he was done, they were able to print 16 at a time, using all three of the 3D printers.

Read more about Makerspace possibilities here.

“After doing some research, I learned how to print the shields in stacks of 16,” Maestre said. “All you need is the right amount of gap between each shield that would allow you to separate them. In our case, the shield was 5 millimeters tall and we used a .2 millimeter layer height to print, so we used a gap of .21 millimeter between each shield to make them separable.”

After Maestre’s ingenuity got production rolling, it was time to recruit some help for the visor construction, which came enthusiastically from other workers in the library.

“It takes a bit of time to carefully separate the visors and sand any rough edges or bumps from the printing process to make them comfortable to wear,” Vanden Elzen said. “The shields then need the actual shield part. We ordered plastic folder covers that each need to be 3-hole punched. The finishing piece is two looped-together rubber bands to hold the visor on the wearer’s head.”

In all, 200 plastic face shields and 150 ear savers were created in Makerspace.

When she asked other library staff members if they might be willing to help if they had any extra time, the response was immediate. And enthusiastic.

Vanden Elzen and Maestre then set up four stations in front of the Makerspace to allow for social distancing. They filled the tables with the tools and supplies needed to make the visors, along with a container of sanitizing wipes. 

“I absolutely love what this project has turned into,” Vanden Elzen said. “It started with Erin Buenzli (director of wellness and recreation) reaching out to Kelvin and me in the Makerspace to see if we could help provide PPEs, and then it turned into this awesome community effort.”

The Makerspace-produced PPEs will benefit the Lawrence community without drawing down the supply elsewhere in the Fox Valley. Wellness Services has the growing inventory of ear savers, masks, and face shields. Department supervisors, employees, and students on campus can request them by using the mask-request web form or by e-mailing Buenzli.

“I’m excited to be using our resources so that we don’t use PPE supplies that are needed elsewhere,” Buenzli said. “The PPEs will help protect our essential workers, and the ear savers will create a better fitting and more comfortable mask.”

Vanden Elzen said the Makerspace is also ready to lend a hand if anyone on campus is in need of custom-built PPEs.

“If it’s something we can 3D print, sew, or laser cut, we’re happy to help,” she said.

The PPE project, Vanden Elzen said, is further evidence of what the Makerspace can become as technologies advance and more students embrace the possibilities.

“It seems like we’re learning new things all the time about what these tools can do,” she said.

“Making 200 shields has been a long process, but I already feel good knowing that our work will be directly helping other students stay safe,” Maestre said.

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

Lawrence mourning the loss of musician and teacher Stephen McCardell

Stephen H. McCardell

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Stephen H. McCardell, a longtime faculty member in Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music, is being remembered by colleagues and former students for his devotion to music and love of teaching.

He passed away on July 29. He was 61.

A native of Houston, McCardell was a lifelong musician, composer, and teacher. He joined the Lawrence faculty in 1999, teaching music theory.

Through the years, he played in multiple bands, explored both classical and nonclassical music, worked closely with youth groups, and shared his love of music with anyone who would listen, all in partnership with his wife, Susan Lawrence McCardell ’80, whom he met while they were students at Lawrence in the 1970s.

McCardell would later earn Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in composition from Mannes School of Music-The New School in New York City before returning to teach at Lawrence. He taught music theory for 20 years and taught various tutorials and independent studies on a wide range of music topics. His improvisational skills on the electric guitar were legendary, and his home recording studio often drew up-and-coming bands looking for his expertise.

Julie McQuinn, an associate professor of music in the Conservatory, was a colleague and friend to McCardell. She said his work with and respect for his students and fellow musicians was “transformative” for all those he shared time with, in and out of the classroom.

“Stephen respected and valued his students,” McQuinn said. “He laughed with his students. He supported his students in a multitude of ways, within and beyond the music theory classroom.”

His deep passion for music drew people to him, she said. They wanted to listen to him, to learn from him.

“He was interested in everything and anything related to music that anyone brought to him,” McQuinn said. “He was always willing to listen and think and talk, always willing to help.”

Pianist Ann Boeckman, an instructor of music in the Conservatory, said of McCardell: “He was many things — soft-spoken, humorous, concerned, an excellent listener and thoughtful colleague. Team teaching with him at Bjorklunden was a special joy; from his sharing of knowledge I learned right along with the students.”

McCardell was diagnosed with cancer in 2006 and again in 2007. He returned to teaching in 2008 and remained cancer free until a recurrence in 2019.

“Stephen showed how to face both the good times and the bad with grace and equanimity,” said colleague and friend Gene Biringer, associate professor of music in the Conservatory.

Students affectionately referred to their professor by just his last name. He instilled in them not only a deep love of music but also an enduring belief in compassion, humor, hard work, and empathy.

“McCardell was whip-smart, funny, and above all, a kind and patient teacher,” said Carl Johnson ’19. “I remember so clearly going to his house for dinner and just being struck by how rare and special that was. He showed me, proudly, his guitars and his Fender Bassman with that mischievous look.”

Milou de Meij ’19, also a former student, said: “He was the kindest person and a truly wonderful teacher. I have to admit theory was one of the hardest and most frustrating subjects for me. … Finally getting an A in my last theory class was one of the proudest moments of my life, and I could never have done it without him.”

Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl said it is important to remember and celebrate all that McCardell brought to Lawrence over the past 21 years.

“Stephen didn’t just teach theory; he taught his students how to believe in themselves,” Pertl said.

Virtual gathering planned Nov. 7: Please join the Lawrence Community as we gather to celebrate Stephen McCardell’s life and legacy among us. We will gather virtually on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020 at 2 p.m. for a time of music and memories. To protect the gathering from disruption, we are asking for RSVPs so that we can send you the Zoom information. Please RSVP to Spiritual.religious.life@lawrence.edu before noon on Friday, Nov. 6 and you will be sent a link. If you have questions, email Brian Pertl at brian.g.pertl@lawrence.edu or Linda Morgan-Clement at linda.morgan-clement@lawrence.edu

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

Barnes, Neilson, Vance honored for teaching, scholarship excellence

From left: Celia Barnes, Rob Neilson, and Brigid Vance

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty are being honored for academic excellence.

Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, is the recipient of the University Award for Excellence in Teaching; Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, is receiving the Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity; and Brigid Vance, assistant professor of history, has earned the Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member.

While the annual awards are typically announced during the Commencement ceremony, the 2020 announcement is coming early this year because the June 14 Commencement will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celia Barnes: “Relatable, approachable”

Barnes, a specialist in 18th-century British literature who was recently inducted into the Johnsonian Society, an eminent assembly of scholars, lexicographers, and collectors, was described by a student as “one of those relatable, approachable professors that you really only find at Lawrence,” according to a citation in her honor from Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat.

Students have praised her ability to deepen the learning experience with insightful engagement. One student said of Barnes: “She is unapologetic (in a good way), brazen, and encourages students to ask questions, challenge each other and pre-conceived notions, and step out of their comfort zones to expand their knowledge and horizons.”

Her ability to seamlessly reach across departments is not lost on her colleagues, Kodat said.

“Over the course of your 10 years at Lawrence, you have partnered with faculty colleagues in Philosophy and Physics to offer courses that help students understand the range and importance of 18th century art and thought, from Newton’s theories to the thinking of the Enlightenment,” the citation reads. “You are an eminent scholar, a generous colleague, and a dedicated, superb teacher.”

Rob Neilson: “The beauty of shared experience”

Neilson, meanwhile, was praised for his public art projects. In the 17 years since he arrived at Lawrence, Neilson has completed 14 public art commissions across the country. Five of those have been in Appleton.

“Most recently, you have contributed two elegant pieces to the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center,” reads Kodat’s citation to Neilson. “You Are Here evokes a large map of Wisconsin with a red push-pin denoting Appleton. The 10 dramatic, outsized images of We Are Here are comprised of some 10,000 photographs of Appleton community members, combined in mosaic fashion to represent a moving, composite portrait of human togetherness and community.”

The citation notes that Neilson’s work speaks to shared history, culture, and humanity and asks all of us to contemplate more directly the physical world.

“By your own admission, you did not set out to be an artist known for creating public work,” Kodat notes. “But you have clearly been called to make your aesthetic contributions to the world in ways that heighten our sense of the beauty of shared experience, to the benefit of us all.”

Brigid Vance: “Balance rigor with flexibility”

A member of the History department for five years, Vance is a specialist in late imperial China. She has quickly built a reputation for creativity that has resonated with students.

“We have seen a steady increase in the number of students who have discovered your courses and concluded that you are, indeed, exactly the kind of professor they would love to take more classes with,” Kodat writes in the citation to Vance. “Impartial faculty observers describe your almost magical effect on History 105, the department’s entry-level course. ‘Since Professor Vance began to teach that course,’ one colleague observed, ‘department enrollments and majors have climbed noticeably.’”

Kodat praises Vance for her attention to detail and her ability to engage with her students.

“Students appreciate your ability to balance rigor with flexibility, your skill in cultivating energetic classroom discussion, your detailed attention to their writing, and—above all—the warmth and respect with which you approach each and every one of them.”

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

Lawrence bids farewell to four faculty members with impactful contributions

Retiring faculty include (from left, above) David Burrows, Ruth Lunt, (below) Thomas Ryckman, and Richard Sanerib.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Four Lawrence University faculty members who excelled in the classroom and provided significant leadership out of the classroom are being honored as they retire at the conclusion of Spring Term.

David Burrows, who served 12 years as Lawrence’s provost and dean of the faculty before retiring from that post in 2017 to return full-time to the classroom as a professor of psychology, is among the retirees, joined by Ruth Lunt (German), Tom Ryckman (philosophy), and Richard Sanerib (mathematics). Lunt served in numerous faculty leadership positions, including a five-year stint as associate dean of the faculty. Ryckman served at various times as Freshman Studies director and as Senior Experience director. Sanerib was the recipient of multiple teaching awards.

Lunt, Ryckman, and Sanerib are being awarded a Master of Arts, ad eundem. Burrows was awarded the honorary degree in 2017.

David Burrows

Burrows

Joining Lawrence in 2005 as provost and dean of the faculty, Burrows led Lawrence’s academic side for a dozen years. He previously served as vice president of academic affairs at Beloit College and had faculty leadership positions at Skidmore College and the State University of New York College at Brockport.

“Over the course of your 12 years as Lawrence’s provost, you served under two presidents and distinguished yourself as a kind, steady, and thoughtful leader,” reads a citation from Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine G. Kodat. “Academic initiatives that you helped create include the Senior Experience program and the Mellon-funded Inclusive Pedagogy project.”

Burrows called launching the Senior Experience program one of the definitive achievements of his time at Lawrence because of the way it wraps up the student journey in such an emphatic way.

“Having students do a Senior Experience project creates an important arc that defines their development as liberally educated persons,” Burrows said. “It is an important point that represents a transition to life after Lawrence, just as Freshman Studies represents a transition from high school to Lawrence.”

Whether in the role of provost or in the classroom, Burrows said he stands in awe of the student-faculty relationship at Lawrence. The willingness of faculty to go the extra mile for students – and to see that play out year after year even as the students come and go and new faculty arrive – is a beautiful thing to witness.

“That this group continues to value the development of students is a tribute to the mentorship and leadership of the faculty already here,” he said.

Burrows said his message to this year’s graduates is to hone in on intellectual, emotional, and action-oriented connections, and understand that they don’t exist in isolation. Take the ideas you’ve developed as Lawrentians and connect them with others and connect them with action.

“For example, understanding that suffering is a difficult thing to endure should be connected to the knowledge that others are suffering,” he said. “This lack of connection starts with a failure of seeing connections among ideas, extends to a failure to see that ideas can lead to effective action, and that connecting with others is a crucial part of making a difference.”

Ruth Lunt

Lunt

The associate professor of German has been part of the Lawrence faculty for 28 years. Her contributions have had an impact across campus.

“You have served as a steadying force, stepping into a host of academic leadership positions that have lent stability in moments of uncertainty and grace in times of worry,” her citation reads. “Your patience, kindness, and good humor are admired and appreciated, and will be missed.”

After joining the German faculty in 1992, Lunt would become director of the Linguistics Program in 1996. She would go on to chair or co-chair Spanish, Russian, and German departments and took on other faculty leadership posts. From 2010 to 2015, she served as associate dean of the faculty.

“The thing that I am most proud of is the growth of the Linguistics program,” Lunt said. “When I arrived in 1992, there were only a handful of courses. … Because we regularly had students doing self-designed majors, Kuo-ming Sung and I decided that we needed to propose a major and a minor. We spent a lot of time doing research and putting together a proposal, and once it was passed, Linguistics really took off. The program has continued to grow and thrive. Right now, we have 20 majors and a dozen minors, a weekly Linguistics tea, and a strong curriculum.”

Much of that progress has happened because of Lawrence faculty being willing to collaborate across departments, Lunt said.

As she closes her teaching career, she implores her students not to shy away from the unknown. A Lawrence education prepares you to adapt and thrive in a myriad of settings.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new, perhaps something that does not seem to be associated with your major,” Lunt said. “And don’t worry about that first choice you make. You will have the opportunity to re-imagine and remake yourself down the road, if you decide that you want to.”

Thomas Ryckman

Ryckman

The professor of philosophy has been part of the Lawrence faculty since 1984.

“You have served as a linchpin in the Philosophy department, offering courses in symbolic logic, epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of language,” his citation reads. “For many years you offered the Freshman Studies lecture on Plato’s theory of forms, introducing hundreds of students through one of the University’s quintessentially Lawrentian experiences and inducting them into our extended intellectual community.”

Ryckman received the University’s Outstanding Young Teacher Award, Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Mortar Board Honorary Award. He served as director of Freshman Studies in the late 1980s and again in 1995. From 2008 to 2010, he served as director of the Senior Experience program. And he regularly served on major committees of the faculty.

He walks away from the classroom knowing he helped to develop something that is an important piece of Lawrence’s liberal arts curriculum.

“I have helped to build and maintain a robust and well-respected Department of Philosophy,” Ryckman said. “In addition, I have helped in small ways to increase gender diversity in philosophy. Two of our department’s current tenure or tenure-track members are women, and three of my former advisees are women with tenured or tenure-track positions in philosophy.”

For 36 years, Ryckman has taught students as they sought to find their academic footing, to be inquisitive and open-minded in search of answers to life’s questions.

“Although the demographic profile of our students might have changed, the students are markedly consistent,” Ryckman said. “So many of them are pleasant, polite, responsible, and capable. Yes, today’s students carry smartphones, and clothing styles have changed, but they are still, in all their variety, very much like they’ve ever been.”

To those students, Ryckman’s message is simple: Lean into that Lawrence education.

“Be confident that your time at Lawrence has prepared you for life’s challenges,” he said. “Also, understand that for most of us, life is long, and, so, you need not panic if things get tough and you experience setbacks. You’ll have plenty of time to reach your goals, or to modify them in light of your experiences.”

Richard Sanerib

Sanerib

The associate professor of mathematics taught for more than 40 years in mathematics. Along the way, he earned three of Lawrence’s top teaching honors – the Young Teacher Award, the Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Mortar Board Honorary Award.

“You were first recognized for your excellence in the classroom in 1979, receiving what was then called the Young Teacher Award,” the citation reads. “In presenting this award, then-President Richard Warch noted your impressive pedagogical range, praising your ability to allay ‘math anxiety’ among some students while heightening mathematical competence among others. Twenty-four years later, on the occasion of presenting you with the Excellence in Teaching Award, President Warch termed you ‘the type of teacher parents hope their children will encounter in college,’ someone who fills ‘the classroom with infectious passion for mathematics and then fills office hours with the sage and thoughtful advice of a caring mentor.’”

Sanerib said he steps away from his teaching duties after four decades with deep pride in and respect for the students who have shared his classroom.

“The four young women in the ’90s with whom I worked with over the summer before their sophomore year preparing for the rigors of a mathematics major,” he said. “Two went on to become the first African American math and math-econ majors at Lawrence. Bright, talented, resilient women in a difficult environment whom I am proud to have taught, advised, and mentored.  

“Then there are the many international students who leave their family, home, and country to come to a strange environment in the name of education. Almost universally I have admired these students and their commitment to learning, and have valued the bonds we have established through advising, teaching, talking, and sharing. 

“There are the intellectual renegades who blaze their own trail after Lawrence, and the talented students who can do almost anything they choose but come to Lawrence with a commitment, be it teaching, or physical therapy, or working to solve a problem that has plagued either their family or our society.  Of course, too, there are the academic underachievers at Lawrence who later grow into citizens we never imagined, those who built upon the foundation they established while here, and emerged from their Lawrence bubble to blossom in life after Lawrence.”

Sanerib said his students helped him become a better teacher and mentor.

“They taught me the value of being open, caring, honest, supportive, challenging, and passionate about mathematics,” he said. 

The Lawrence experience doesn’t stop at learning the content of the course, Sanerib said. It’s the liberal arts education that prepares students to be lifelong learners that brings him the most joy.

“It is about teaching them how to learn and think critically, inspiring them to be better, encouraging them to find something they are passionate about and to reach, explore, and not fear failure,” he said. 

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

“Transformative impact:” Six Lawrence faculty members earn tenure promotions

From top left: Deanna Donohoue, José L. Encarnación, Dylan Fitz, Jonathan Lhost, Lavanya Murali, and Melissa Range.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Six members of the Lawrence University faculty, spread across numerous academic departments, have been granted 2020 tenure appointments.

President Mark Burstein and the college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Employment Opportunity, granted tenure to Deanna Donohoue (chemistry), José L. Encarnación (music), Dylan Fitz (economics), Jonathan Lhost (economics), Lavanya Murali (anthropology), and Melissa Range (English). All six have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.

“Since their arrivals at Lawrence, Deanna, Jose, Dylan, Jonathan, Lavanya, and Melissa have made fabulous contributions to the University — inspiring our students, bringing fresh vision to our mission, and having transformative impact in our programs in Chemistry, Jazz, Economics, Anthropology, and English/Creative Writing,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat said. “I’m absolutely delighted that their contributions are being recognized through the awarding of tenure and promotion, and look forward to continuing together our rich, rewarding work for years to come.”

To get to know them better, we asked each of the six to answer three questions.

Deanna Donohoue, chemistry

Donohoue

She has been at Lawrence since 2013, much of her time spent teaching via ARTEMIS (Atmospheric Research Trailer for Environmental Monitoring and Interactive Science), a mobile laboratory for atmospheric measurements. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric chemistry from Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in chemistry?

I have been lucky to have amazing mentors in my life. I think my interest in chemistry was first sparked in high school. I had a high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Thomas, who took us to the Colorado School of Mines to mine for gold and silver. We got to help prepare the rock for blasting and then collect samples. We then brought those samples back to school and performed purity assays. It was at this moment that I discovered how chemistry was the perfect balance between practicality and creativity, and I could see myself pursuing a career.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

I would hope that every student is taking the new challenge of learning in different ways as a chance to grow. I know that in my classes, I can see students gaining skills and experiences they would never gain on campus. We are asking you all to work on your own, and often work through ideas without professors and classmates, helping you see what is essential along the way. This independent work means students are finding where they have misunderstanding or misconceptions faster and more often.

 What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope that my classroom would be known as a place you are pushed to meet your full potential while you are supported – sometimes by tough love – through the hard days. I think I am known for asking tough questions, having high expectations, and pushing students outside their comfort zone. I am the professor who gives extra credit for failure and someone who will help you with whatever you need. I do not expect or even want perfection. Instead, I expect and want each individual to push themselves into uncomfortable spaces so that they grow as a scholar and as a person.

José L. Encarnación, music

Encarnacion

Lawrence’s director of Jazz Studies studied saxophone, flute and clarinet at the Free School of Music in San Juan, Puerto Rico, completed his bachelor of music degree at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and received his master’s in music from the Eastman School of Music, where he later taught as a professor of jazz saxophone.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My initial inspiration was my family and culture, since music in a Puerto Rican family has a strong presence. I grew up listening to music, in recordings as well as seeing family members, including my father, playing a combination of Latin percussion instruments at family gatherings, church and community. As I got older, I started to explore other music besides my folkloric roots. It was at this time I heard jazz, specifically saxophonist Dexter Gordon. From that moment I knew I wanted to do nothing else but be a professional musician. 

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

This is a challenging time for all humanity, and as an educator I commend students for living out these uncertain times with grace and maturity. My approach to the new challenges of distance learning is with love, compassion, and flexibility. I’m assessing every student’s needs, then adapting to what is possible, understanding that there will be limitations under the circumstances. The most important thing is that they are mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy and in a safe environment.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope my students would say that my teaching style is individualized. I want to really know my students so that I may inspire them to grow as musicians as well as individuals. Truly knowing them will give me the sense of how to best prepare them for success and how to go about being their best selves. My goal for my students is for them to leave Lawrence with the skills, tools, and confidence to succeed when times are great, but also for times such as now.

Dylan Fitz, economics

Fitz

A member of the economics faculty since 2017, he has done research and taught in the areas of development economics, social policy, and effective altruism, and has studied economies in Latin America and Brazil.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in economics?

As an undergraduate politics major, I was interested in how different countries design social policies to fight poverty. As I learned more, I realized that I was mainly interested in economic research and I was drawn to empirical evaluations of the effectiveness of programs. I’ve continued pursuing this interest, using empirical methods to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs on different social groups. Most people agree that we should reduce poverty, but deep disagreements arise over how to best accomplish this. I like the economic research that helps us design more effective and broadly-supported policies.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

Fortunately for me, I’m teaching our intermediate macroeconomics course, which has a wealth of online resources that I am taking advantage of. Aside from adjusting how I teach with distance-learning, I’m developing a lot of new materials to help my students understand the effects of coronavirus through the use of macroeconomic models and current health and economic data. For example, we will develop a model of infectious disease growth and use it to learn about flattening the curve and herd immunity while tracking current health statistics. We will discuss how this crisis might impact long-run growth and explore how economies recover from crises.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope that students find my classes to be challenging, fair, and fun. I try to push students to learn a lot while maintaining clear standards and offering plenty of support. Economics provides an interesting framework that allows us to better understand and improve the world, and it’s easy to motivate the content with relevant contemporary and historical examples.

Jonathan Lhost, economics

Lhost

He joined the Lawrence faculty in 2014 and has pursued interests in industrial organization, game theory, and microeconomics, among others. He has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Texas.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in economics?

A Law & Economics course I took at Amherst College first sparked my interest in pursuing a career in economics. I enjoyed the application of economic theory to legal issues. The course’s professor inspired me to become a professor at a liberal arts college as well.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

Remote learning during a global pandemic is unprecedented. I have students all over the world, in different time zones, and in a wide range of circumstances. I know some students will be in some pretty difficult situations. My main goal is to do what I can to help all students make it through the term successfully. I’ve structured my courses in a way such that students can learn the material but without the added stress and fear of failing the class due to circumstances beyond our control. Flexibility will be important for everyone.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

It is my hope that students leave my courses believing they can accomplish things they previously didn’t believe they could do and with the confidence to tackle interesting problems. I hope that students will look back years after graduation and find what we’ve done together at Lawrence useful as they put their liberal arts skills to the test.

Lavanya Murali, anthropology

Murali

A member of the Lawrence faculty since 2010, her areas of study have been in linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, and gender and sexuality, among others. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delhi and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in anthropology?

There are two people who are largely responsible, I’d say. One was my high school sociology teacher, Dr. Madhu Sharan, who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Sociology in India draws a lot on social anthropology; they’re pretty closely taught. I loved her classes, and I absolutely fell in love with social anthropology and sociology. I haven’t looked back from that, really. The other was my father, S. Murali. He loved people, he loved culture and history, he loved a good argument. He’d drag us to museums, ruins, exhibits, and so on constantly—I suppose we’d either have come out of it hating that sort of thing or loving it, and I loved it.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

My goal, as an anthropologist, is to inculcate in my students empathy and compassionate observation and analysis. That means I have to be empathetic and compassionate myself. These are stressful times, and my classes don’t need to be an additional source of stress. As I told them, we’re going to acknowledge that these are not normal times in the ways in which we teach and learn from each other. But I also want some things to stay normal, in terms of Lawrence culture — fun, community, closeness, flexibility, and care for each other. My goal has always been for learning to be hands-on, student work to be expressive and meaningful to them, and for my classroom to be a low-stress zone. This changes none of that — it only strengthens those commitments.

 What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

Ha! They have a lot to say about it, and they’re definitely not shy about sharing it with me. But I hope that they would say it was fun, relaxed, and real. It’s possible to be approachable and fun and still pedagogically comprehensive, and that’s what I shoot for. I care deeply about my students, about their well-being, and about their intellectual growth.

Melissa Range, English

Range

An award-winning writer and poet, she has been on the Lawrence faculty since 2014. Much of her academic focus has been in poetry and creative writing, including contemporary American poetry and 19th century poetry. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Tennessee, her master’s degree in creative writing from Old Dominion University and also holds a master’s of theological studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She earned her Ph.D. in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in English/poetry/creative writing?

I knew I wanted to be a writer from an early age. I didn’t know anyone who was a writer. Actually, I’m pretty sure for a long time I thought only dead people could be writers, but still the desire was there. I think it must’ve come from reading. As soon as I learned to read, that’s what you’d find me doing — in my room, on the porch, at the supper table, in the hayloft of the barn, in the top of a pine tree I had climbed. I liked books not only for their stories; I liked them for their sentences, and their images, and the words themselves. The library was my natural habitat. As soon as I learned to write, I was always scribbling, not necessarily to make anything finished, just to explore my thoughts and emotions and to play around with language.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

It’s a stressful time, and we need to take care of ourselves and one another, so I’m proceeding with flexibility, kindness, humor, and collaboration as my watchwords. We’re all new at doing this, and I hope we can try everything with a light touch. This term is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for creativity, so I’m looking forward to trying lots of things I’ve never tried before in the classroom.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope they would say that most of my jokes are funny . . . though you never know. I think they might mention my energy and enthusiasm, my high standards (true), and my particularly Appalachian brand of tough love (also true). I think they would say that my classes offer many elements of surprise, and that as a teacher I’m rigorous, yet playful, and often just plain wacky. There’s a bit of running around the room, and sometimes there are props like puppets and bonnets, as the occasion dictates. I hope they would say that while I expect a lot from my students, I am also prepared to give a lot. 

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

Lawrence to add new faculty member in Spanish department for 2020-21

Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A new tenure-track faculty member will join Lawrence University in the Spanish department beginning this fall, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat announced.

Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra comes to Lawrence from the University of Arizona, where she is completing her Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics with an emphasis on phonology.

Madera Allan, chair of Lawrence’s Spanish department and a member of the search committee, said Rodriguez-Guerra brings background and teaching skills that will benefit students in and out of the classroom.

“Miriam is a dynamic scholar and teacher, with vast and varied experience and interests that will allow her to contribute to a number of programs across campus,” Allan said. “She studies bilingualism from multiple perspectives—phonological, cultural, and philosophical. We are thrilled to welcome a sage and enthusiastic new colleague to the Spanish department.”

Rodriguez-Guerra’s emphasis at Arizona has been in the areas of speech, language and hearing sciences, phonology, and sociolinguistics. For her dissertation, she has done extensive language and phonology studies with young Latinx children in Tucson, Arizona, focused significantly on the speech benefits of growing up bilingual.

“My dissertation contributes to the fields of Hispanic linguistics and speech and hearing sciences as it provides a bilingual approach of analyzing substitution patterns and it contributes to the description of growing up bilingual in the U.S.,” Rodriguez-Guerra said in a letter to Lawrence. “The results of this study give back to the community as this project provides speech and hearing clinicians new resources to better understand sound development for bilingual preschoolers in Tucson, Arizona.”

Rodriguez-Guerra holds a bachelor’s degree in English philology from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain), a master’s degree in phonetics and phonology from the Spanish National Research Council (Spain), and a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona.

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