Tag: Lawrence faculty

Four national grants provide boost for LU faculty, bring more students into research

Julie Rana, assistant professor of mathematics, works with students in a Discrete Mathematics class in Briggs Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University faculty members—Julie Rana in Mathematics and Israel Del Toro in Biology—are the recipients of six-figure national grants that will further their research and bring more Lawrence students into the research process.

Two other faculty members—Lori Hilt ’97 in Psychology and Beth Zinsli ’02 in Art History— received five-figure national grants to enhance their work.

Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of faculty, said bringing in four national grants this fall speaks to the breadth of the high-level work being done by Lawrence’s faculty. It comes on the heels of Lawrence being named one of the best liberal arts colleges for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report.

“It’s wonderfully gratifying to see our faculty receiving national recognition for something we at Lawrence have always known—our faculty are gifted, dedicated teachers who are also engaged in ground-breaking scholarship across the full range of the liberal arts disciplines,” Kodat said. “Being able to count such accomplished individuals as colleagues is a true privilege.”

NSF math grant supports research, inclusive pedagogy

Rana, assistant professor of mathematics since 2017, was awarded a two-year grant of $192,905 through the National Science Foundation’s Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (LEAPS-MPS) program. It’s a first-time grant, awarded to pre-tenure faculty. It’s a huge accomplishment for Rana, with only 21 grants awarded across the country.

A portion of the grant will allow Rana to work on research in algebraic geometry related to moduli spaces, collaborating with math scholars in Europe, Chile, and elsewhere in the United States. The funding will allow her to hire four students in each of the next two summers to work with her on research in an area of math known as graph theory.

“The best part of this project is that students will join a community of peers working together on fun and interesting math problems,” Rana said. “Mathematics is a very collaborative discipline, and I’m just thrilled that I get to share that joy of collaboration with students over the next two summers.”

In addition, the grant will cover costs of work Rana is doing in developing math curriculum and support mechanisms aimed at making Lawrence’s mathematics, computer science, and data science programs more inclusive and accessible. She’s developing two new math courses—Mathematics and Community (developed in collaboration with senior Caitlyn Lansing), debuting in Winter Term, and Modern BIPOC Mathematicians, debuting next year—and organizing inclusive pedagogy reading groups among the faculty.

The grant is covering the costs of bringing two speakers to campus who have been significant voices in improving inclusivity in STEM fields. Both are women of color who have carved out impressive careers as math scholars and have authored or edited works aimed at widening the path into the mathematics field.

Emille Lawrence, an associate professor and chair of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of San Francisco, is expected to visit Lawrence in Winter Term, Rana said. She is the editor of the American Mathematical Society’s Math Mamas blog and co-edited Living Proof, a collection of essays featuring mathematicians of various identities sharing how they found communities and persevered through professional challenges.

Pamela E. Harris, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Williams College, is expected to visit during the 2022-23 academic year. She has been a leading voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields, math in particular. She co-founded Lathisms.org, a platform that features the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic math scholars, and co-hosts the podcast, Mathematically Uncensored. She’s the co-author of two books advocating for students of color in mathematics.

The NSF grant will allow for all of these initiatives to move forward at once.

“I worked hard to get this grant,” Rana said. “I’m really proud that I got it because there just aren’t very many of us who got it.”

Rana said the collaborations with other math scholars who are focused on algebraic geometry will take her research to another level. She’ll have the opportunity to travel to other institutions to work directly with her collaborators, and she’ll be able to bring some of them to Lawrence.

“Without this, I wouldn’t be able to go work with them in person,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to do math in person.”

Bee research focus of NSF grant

Israel Del Toro

Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology since 2016, was awarded a two-year, $199,957 EAGER grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance the research he’s doing on bee conservation. The grant will allow Del Toro to supersize his research, including bringing more students into the process.

Over the past five years, Del Toro has done extensive field work on pollinator habitats, advocating for bee conservation not only on campus but across the Fox Valley. This grant will allow him to take that work into a lab, investigating the varied reasons that bees are good pollinators. He’ll be collaborating with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, using microtomography (microCT) technology to take a closer look at the inner workings of bees.

“We are taking a look under the hood of a bee,” Del Toro said. “And really taking a peek to see why the internal parts of the bee allow them to be effective pollinators.”

Read more: Lawrence on front lines of bee advocacy

Del Toro will be using the microCT technology at UW. He and his students also will be doing experiments in the lab at Lawrence that relate to climate change.

“We’ll be doing thermal tolerance, figuring out how bees are affected as we increase and decrease temperature,” he said. “We want to see how increases and decreases in temperatures affect bee behavior and bee restoration and try to make predictions of how these populations would be affected in the future.”

Over the two years of the grant, eight Lawrence students will be able to join Del Toro in his research.

“I’m actively recruiting students who have interest in ecology or microscopy or pollinator biology,” he said. “Those are the students I’m looking to take on. We’re going to learn some really cool new things about pollinators, but also how to better protect our pollinators in light of climate change.”

Psychology grant to help build on adolescent rumination research

Lori Hilt

Hilt, an associate professor of psychology, received a subaward for more than $51,000 throughHarvard University from the National Institutes of Health. She will serve as an expert on adolescent rumination on a five-year clinical trial. It follows a three-year $368,196 grant she received from NIH in 2019 to study adolescent rumination and the development of a mobile app designed as a coping tool for young people.

Adolescent rumination refers to a mindset in which someone can’t get beyond the negative things that are happening around them. Where most kids will process something bad that has happened, react to it and then move on, an adolescent struggling with rumination will dwell on the negative information, stew on it until it consumes them, unable to let go.

Read more: 2019 NIH grant helps professor develop mental health app

“The new NIH grant is a really nice follow-up to my other NIH grant,” Hilt said. “In our previous grant research, we found that using a brief mindfulness mobile app intervention that we developed — known as the CARE app — reduced rumination and mental health symptoms relative to a mood-monitoring control condition. The new grant will similarly recruit ruminative teens and ask them to use a mindfulness mobile app, this time for one month using the Headspace app vs. a control condition.”

The primary study site is at Harvard’s McLean Hospital. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan will be done before and after the teens use the app.

“This will allow us to see whether a brief mindfulness intervention changes brain network patterns that have been associated with rumination,” Hilt said.

This grant will allow Hilt and other participants to take a personalized medicine approach by examining which teens benefit from mindfulness training.

“This is something that we started looking at in our other grant, and it offers a promising new approach to mental health—being able to know if a particular intervention will work before engaging in it,” Hilt said.  

NEH grant to provide insights into preserving Teakwood Room

Teakwood Room

Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, was awarded a $10,000 Preservation Assistance Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will provide a professional assessment of the Teakwood Room and its contents so that Lawrence knows best how to steward the room going forward.

Zinsli called the room “a university treasure and a distinctive piece of global material culture” that needs careful attention.

“The recommendations from the assessment report will allow LU to steward the room and its objects responsibly and expand access to the space,” she said.

Read more: Teakwood Room among the treasures of Lawrence

The Teakwood Room, located in Chapman Hall, was originally built by American artist and architect Lockwood de Forest in Alice Chapman’s Milwaukee home. After Chapman died in 1935, the Teakwood Room was placed in Chapman Library on the Milwaukee-Downer campus and used for receptions, poetry readings, and chamber music. When Lawrence and Downer consolidated in 1964, members of the Downer community asked that the room be preserved. The room was carefully disassembled and stored in a warehouse until 1968, when it was reassembled at Lawrence.

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

Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this content are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, or the National Science Foundation.”

10 new tenure-track faculty join Lawrence University for 2021-22 academic year

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has announced the hiring of 10 new tenure-track faculty, all beginning at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

Three of the new faculty will fill positions in the Psychology department, including two newly created endowed professorships, one in cognitive neuroscience and one in collaboration and organizational psychology.

The influx of new faculty brings talent and experience across the college and the Conservatory, including in environmental studies, ethnic studies, history, philosophy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and vocal coaching.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a talented, dedicated group of scholars to the Lawrence faculty,” said Catherine Kodat, provost and dean of faculty. “Our new colleagues will fortify strengths in existing academic programs and help us develop new areas of focus.”

The new hires include:

Alperin

Brittany Alperin, assistant professor of psychology. She will be the inaugural holder of the Singleton Professorship in Cognitive Neuroscience. She comes from the University of Richmond, where she’s been a visiting assistant professor since 2019. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from Hampshire College and a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health and Science University.

Colon

Sigma Colón, assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2017, first in postdoctoral NEH fellowships in geography and history, then as a visiting assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

Culhane

Kelly Culhane, assistant professor of chemistry. She has been working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota since 2019. She joins the Chemistry department after earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University.

Dixon

Scott Dixon, assistant professor of philosophy. He has been on the faculty at Ashoka University in Haryana, India since 2015. He studied philosophy and German at the University of Montana and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Davis.

Draheim

Amanda Draheim, assistant professor of psychology. She joins the Psychology department at Lawrence after recently completing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Georgia State University. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Trinity University.

Heaton

Alex Heaton, assistant professor of mathematics. Beginning in 2019, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the Math+ Berlin Mathematics Research Center, both in Germany. He then joined the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Koker

Margaret Koker, assistant professor of physics. She has been teaching in the Physics department at Lawrence as a visiting assistant professor since 2018. She previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow, a research assistant, and an engineering lecturer at Cornell University and as a Beamline scientist at the University of Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, a master’s from the University of Illinois, and her doctor rerum naturalium from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany.

Ng

Linnea Ng, assistant professor of psychology. She will be the inaugural holder of the Hurvis Professorship in Collaboration and Organizational Psychology at Lawrence. She is completing a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology at Rice University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Davidson College.

Roach

Kristin Roach, assistant professor of music (vocal coaching). Her recent accomplishments include work as a vocal coach at the Chautauqua Opera Theatre, conductor with the Pacific Opera Project, musical director and conductor with Spotlight on Opera, and conductor with Vocal Academy of Orvieto. She earned a bachelor’s degree in applied piano and a master of music in piano performance/literature and accompanying/chamber music, both from Eastman School of Music.

Schlabach

Elizabeth Schlabach, associate professor of history. She comes to Lawrence following eight years as a member of the faculty at Earlham College. She previously worked as a visiting professor for five years at The College of William & Mary. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and theology from Valparaiso University, a master’s in American Studies from Lehigh University, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from St. Louis University. 

Endowed professorships

The hiring of Alperin as Lawrence’s first Singleton Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience and Ng as the first Hurvis Professor in Collaboration and Organizational Psychology marks a significant milestone in the Psychology department.

The two endowed positions came out of the hugely successful Be the Light! campaign that over the course of seven years raised $232.6 million and added five endowed professorships.

The Singleton professorship elevates Lawrence’s work in the area of cognitive neuroscience and the Hurvis professorship allows for the exploration of the psychology of collaboration, a growing field that has relevance across the curriculum as students prepare for life after Lawrence. 

Kodat called the filling of the two endowed positions “especially gratifying,” a tangible result of the generosity and vision seen in the Be the Light! Campaign.

“These positions—in organizational psychology and cognitive neuroscience—will help advance the curricular innovation that was one of the centerpieces of the campaign,” she said.

The 10 new faculty begin their first academic year when Fall Term opens Sept. 13.

“I look forward to a long and happy collaboration,” Kodat said.

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

Fares, Perry, Verità honored with 2021 faculty awards at Commencement

President Mark Burstein (far left) and Board of Trustees chair David Blowers (far right) pose with 2021 faculty award winners Gustavo Fares, Rebecca Perry, and Massimiliano Verità.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three Lawrence University professors were honored with 2021 faculty awards during the June 13 Commencement ceremony. The annual awards are considered to be among Lawrence’s highest faculty honors.

The Award for Excellence in Scholarship went to Gustavo Fares, professor of Spanish; the Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member went to Rebecca Perry, assistant professor of music theory; and the Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Massimiliano Verità, instructor of Arabic, Italian, and Religious Studies.

Award for Excellence in Scholarship: Gustavo Fares

Gustavo Fares

Fares has been part of the Spanish faculty at Lawrence for more than two decades.

“You came to Lawrence University in 2000 with rich and varied training in a variety of fields, with degrees in law, painting, and printmaking, in addition to your Ph.D. in Latin American literature,” President Mark Burstein said in a citation he read at Commencement. “In fact, your first faculty appointment, in Buenos Aires, was as a professor of painting and drawing. This ability to grasp the multiple, complex interconnections among the arts and a society—and, in particular, your interest in the self-representation of minoritized American communities—has produced a rich body of distinctive scholarship that I am pleased to recognize today.”

Fares’ research has focused on such topics as Latin American cultural studies, legal studies, visual arts, and border studies. In 2004, he was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, in Mendoza, Argentina. He also has been an active partner with the College Board for more than two decades, assisting high school Advance Placement students studying Spanish. He was among three Lawrence faculty members who contributed instructional videos to the College Board’s AP Daily project during the pandemic.

His latest book, Domingo F. Sarmiento’s Argirópolis. A Critical Translation (New York: Palgrave), was released earlier this year. Kodat applauded Fares for collaborating with Lawrence students in writing the book, which provides a critical translation of Sarmiento’s 1850 essay.

“I am happy to note that you were assisted in this work of translation by four of our Spanish majors, who explored the text with you in a series of independent studies and whose assistance you acknowledge in the book,” Burstein said.

Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member: Rebecca Perry

Rebecca Perry

A member of the Conservatory of Music faculty since 2017, Perry has quickly established herself as an integral part of the learning community for Lawrence students studying music.

“For many young musicians, music theory is a bit like spinach: there’s no question that it’s good for you, but while some immediately take a liking to it, others need time, and a bit of culinary creativity, to appreciate its virtues,” Burstein said in the citation for Perry. “Becky, since coming to Lawrence in 2017, you have excelled in helping students to develop a taste for the often challenging, but always nourishing, work of theoretical musical analysis.”

Perry came to Lawrence after receiving her doctor of philosophy, master of arts, and master of philosophy degrees in music history from Yale University. Her research has focused on early 20th century adaptations of sonata form, as well as film music, Russian formalism, and the intersections between literary theory and music analysis.

Burstein said Perry’s impact in the Conservatory can be felt in how students have reacted to her teaching.

“Students express profound gratitude for your patience and willingness to meet them where they are and travel with them on the road to understanding,” Burstein said in the citation.

He also noted that Perry’s students have praised her for caring about them as individuals and respecting them in the classroom.

Award for Excellence in Teaching: Massimiliano Verità

Massimiliano Verità

Verità has been part of the Lawrence faculty since 2005. He began as an instructor for Freshman Studies (now called First-Year Studies) and began teaching tutorials in Modern Standard Arabic a year later. Before coming to Lawrence, he had written on the novels of Naguib Mahfouz for his master’s thesis while studying at the University of Bologna.

“Student interest grew rapidly, so much so that, by 2008, you were offering instruction in Arabic as a six-unit, three-course sequence, which you have offered every year since,” Burstein said in the citation to Verità.

He would go on to earn a second master’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in African languages and literatures with a specialization in contemporary Arabic literature and Arabic and African cinema.

“For more than a dozen years, you have single-handedly managed our curriculum in Arabic language instruction, supplementing regular coursework with tutorials, directed studies, and independent studies in second-, third-, and fourth-year Arabic, Media Arabic, and Arabic Linguistics—all in response to student interest,” Burstein said. “As if this weren’t enough, you added Italian to your teaching portfolio in 2015, earning heartfelt gratitude and appreciation from scores of students along the way.”

Burstein said students have praised Verità for his “patience, kindness, enthusiasm—and sense of fun.”

“But your pedagogical gifts extend beyond the ability to make learning a new language fun,” Burstein continued. “Students appreciate your friendly availability in office hours, your eagerness to help them learn, and your compassion. As one of your students puts it, you are ‘one of the most accommodating and humble instructors I’ve met.’”

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

Five retiring Lawrence faculty members to be honored at 2021 Commencement

Lawrence University’s Main Hall (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University will honor five retiring faculty members at the June 13 Commencement.

Terry Gottfried, a professor of psychology since 1986, Gerald Metalsky, a professor of psychology since 1992, Alan Parks, a professor of mathematics since 1985, Jerald Podair, a professor of history since 1998, and Bruce Pourciau, a professor of mathematics since 1976, are stepping into retirement after long and distinguished careers at Lawrence.

They each will be presented with a citation at Commencement and will be awarded a Master of Arts, ad eundem, degree.

2021 Lawrence Commencement preview: 9 things to know. See story here.

Terry Gottfried

Terry Gottfried: “In the midst of these challenges, however, I also think we might remember to treat ourselves and others with kindness and generosity of spirit.”

Gottfried has taught a wide array of psychology courses and has played key roles in the growth of interdisciplinary academic programs over the last three and a half decades, including Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Gender Studies; he’s been an active participant in First-Year Studies; and he’s developed and frequently taught the psychology of music course for students in the Conservatory of Music and the college, exploring musical structure and expression and their implications for human experience.

“I think Lawrence is stronger and more responsive to intellectual and social challenges by these [interdisciplinary] programs, and I look forward to Lawrence expanding its traditions of excellence into new fields of discovery and understanding,” he said.

Gottfried, who earned both a bachelor’s degree in French and psychology and a doctoral degree in experimental psychology at the University of Minnesota, has twice been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in the Fulbright Scholar Program. In 2001, the fellowship was for a teaching and research position in the English department at Aarhus University in Denmark, where he taught a seminar on the psychology of language for English language students and conducted research comparing Danish and American English listeners’ perception of American English vowels. In 2014, he spent five months as the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Brain, Language and Music at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, continuing his research into the relation between music and speech processing.

Gottfried said he walks away from his teaching duties at Lawrence continually amazed at students’ desire to be challenged and their willingness to support each other. He said he recalls early in his tenure having psychology students ask to read historical text written by early psychologists to get a better understanding of their theories.

“It was good advice, and I wisely took it,” he said.

It speaks to a thread that runs through Lawrentians, whether 35 years ago when he came to Lawrence or today, Gottfried said.

“Students at Lawrence have consistently shown themselves to be engaged, hard-working, and curious; in that way, from my earliest experiences to today, students have put forth effort in the classes but have also asked for more challenges,” he said.

The pandemic of the past 15 months has certainly posed new challenges, and has been a stark reminder of the importance of caring for our mental health, Gottfried said. That is a message he leaves with this year’s graduates.

“To call post-graduation activities the ‘great unknown’ is spot-on—we’ve learned that much of what we’ve taken for granted may not be certain,” he said. “I think we’d all be well served by openness to both the new opportunities and especially to the challenges posed by these opportunities. In the midst of these challenges, however, I also think we might remember to treat ourselves and others with kindness and generosity of spirit.”  

Gerald Metalsky

Gerald Metalsky: “Individualized learning is at the core of a Lawrence education. It was true of Lawrence when I first arrived in 1992 and remains true today.”

Metalsky joined the Lawrence faculty after spending five years in the psychology department at the University of Texas.

He has specialized in depression, stress, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and general psychotherapy. He also worked for 35 years as a practicing clinical psychologist.

He is a former associate editor and consulting editor of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the flagship publication of the American Psychological Association for research on psychopathology. In 2005, he became the first and only Lawrence psychologist to serve on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Psychological Association. He has been a fellow of the American Psychological Society since 2009.

Metalsky earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California-Berkeley and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

For 34 consecutive years—five at UT and 29 at Lawrence—he has taught a series of three courses, known as the “clinical sequence,” for every student who is looking to pursue a career in clinical psychology or in allied mental health professions. The third step in the sequence involves students working at mental health residential treatment facilities.

“I am particularly proud of the large number of students who took the ‘clinical sequence’ and subsequently went on to pursue careers as mental health practitioners and/or psychology professors,” Metalsky said. “Over the years, most of these students reached out to express their appreciation and tell me they did not realize until starting their program just how well-prepared they were due to taking the clinical sequence.”

Metalsky said he was astonished when he arrived at Lawrence to find such a small student-to-faculty ratio. It remains one of the best attributes of the Lawrence experience.

“Individualized learning is at the core of a Lawrence education,” he said. “It was true of Lawrence when I first arrived in 1992 and remains true today. Indeed, the thought of teaching such small classes on a regular basis was a central factor that went into my decision to … come to Lawrence. It was one of the best decisions of my entire career.”

Metalsky said his words of wisdom to this year’s seniors echoes his advice to Lawrentians over the past three decades.

“My message to graduating seniors has not changed over the years, though I believe it is even more relevant today than when I first arrived at Lawrence,” he said. “My message to this year’s graduating seniors is this, ‘Always be mindful of your mental health.’”

Alan Parks

Alan Parks: He became the first holder of the Pieper Family Servant-Leader Professorship at Lawrence.

Parks has taught mathematics and computer science since joining the Lawrence faculty in 1985.

Besides excelling in the classroom, he has written text material for multiple upper- and lower-level courses, among them applied calculus, optimization, foundations of analysis, and theory of computation, and he provided leadership in the Mathematics Department and beyond.

A member of the American Mathematical Society, Parks’ research interests in applied mathematics include dynamical systems, differential equations, and error correcting codes, among others.

Two years after arriving at Lawrence, Parks was honored with the university’s then-named Young Teacher Award.

“You have waged a vigorous assault on math anxiety, transforming mathophobes into mathophiles, even as you have given previously dedicated students of mathematics a heightened appreciation for the discipline,” the citation reads. “These attainments derive, in equal measure, from the strength of your scholarship and from your keen sense of the teacher’s craft.”

Parks continued to excel in the classroom for the next three and a half decades, being a fixture in a Mathematics Department that has seen robust changes through the years.

In 2003, he served as the Science Semester Resident Director at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He has had papers published in the American Mathematics Monthly, the Journal of Algebra, the Canadian Journal of Mathematics, and the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society.

From 2007 to 2010, he was the first holder of the Pieper Family Servant-Leader Professorship. The endowed position included responsibilities for enhancing Lawrence’s involvement in courses that feature community-based learning. He received the then-named Freshman Studies Teaching Award in 2007 and the Mortar Board Honorary Award in 2010.

Parks earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Jerald Podair

Jerald Podair: “You have to ask the question ‘why?’ over and over, in every class you take. And that goes for the professors, too.”

Podair, the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history, steps aside after 23 years of teaching, much of it focused on United States history.

He has taught with a passion, has been oft-quoted in local and national media on topics of American politics, and has written books that have dug into the histories of everything from controversial politicians to baseball’s impact on a city to civil rights icons.

A native of New York, he came to Lawrence mid-career in 1998 after deciding to pursue his love of history and teaching. He had earned a bachelor’s degree at New York University, a law degree from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and had spent more than a decade as a practicing attorney in New York.

He quickly became a deeply respected history scholar, twice being honored with Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship (2010 and 2018), as well as earning its Faculty Convocation Award in 2012.

Podair co-authored 2019’s Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America (University of Virginia Press). That followed his award-winning 2017 book that explored slices of both baseball and political history, City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles (Princeton University Press). Among his other books are The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis and Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer, a biography of the civil rights leader who planned the 1963 March on Washington.

As he heads into retirement, Podair is writing a new book, Promised Lands: A History of the American People in the Twentieth Century, which, as the title implies, is a massive undertaking and is the reason he’s chosen to retire now.

“Most history books involve learning a lot about a little, but this one has forced me to learn a little about a lot,” he said. “Thanks to the book, I now know about subjects as diverse as the arrangements of lifeboats on the Lusitania, the ballistics evidence in the Sacco-Vanzetti case, and the details of Woodrow Wilson’s love life. I have about 100,000 words drafted so far but miles and miles to go before I sleep.”

Podair said he takes great pride in contributions he’s made at Lawrence toward First-Year Studies, Bjorklunden, and tutorial and independent study, all part of what makes up the “Lawrence difference.”

“What was true when I arrived in 1998 is still true today—you have to ask the question ‘why?’ over and over, in every class you take,” he said. “And that goes for the professors, too. The ‘why?’ question is the central one in critical thinking, which is the essence of the Lawrence experience. The great philosopher Yogi Berra once said that, ‘if you don’t got a bullpen, you got nothing.’ Yogi’s grammar errors notwithstanding, the same goes for critical thinking in a liberal arts education. If you don’t have it, you have nothing.”

Bruce Pourciau

Bruce Pourciau: “If my courses have helped to rekindle that child-like awe, not just for mathematics, but for all the magic and mystery that surround us, I will be happy.”

Pourciau has been a mainstay in the Mathematics Department for four and a half decades, bringing scholarly insight across the landscape of mathematics. He has been an expert on the work of Isaac Newton, earning national and international recognition. Other areas of expertise have included optimization theory, global analysis, topology, and philosophy of mathematics.

Pourciau was honored in 2000 with Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and again in 2009 with the Award for Excellence in Scholarship. “The breadth and depth of your work are outstanding, and establish you as a person of great intellectual achievement,” the latter citation reads. He has twice won the Halmos-Ford Award given by the Mathematical Association of America for expository excellence.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a Ph.D. from the University of California—San Diego.

Early in his career at Lawrence, Pourciau began to wonder why he and his colleagues were teaching calculus to so many students who would never need a single calculus technique in their lives.

“The answer was shockingly obvious—because all students, whatever their career paths, benefit from wrestling with and absorbing the ‘mathematical way of thinking,’” he said. “Each discipline—economics, philosophy, psychology—has its own way of forming, asking, answering, and judging questions, and the particular definitions, theorems, proofs, and applications of calculus, taught in the right way, could convey not only the beauty, spirit, and imagination of mathematics, but its particular modes of thought as well, ways of thinking fundamental in mathematics and often fundamental in life.”

This led Pourciau to develop a list of proverbs, each capturing some aspect of the “mathematical way of thinking.” These were proverbs for any mathematics class, not just calculus. Some were proverbs for life. Among them: “Be awed, like a child; Put meaning before truth; Choose to live honoring your gifts; and Be moved by mystery.”

“These are four of the many proverbs I have chalked on the blackboard for generations of students,” he said. “And if I had a big enough blackboard for the graduating students this year, I would chalk the same advice.

“If my courses have helped to rekindle that child-like awe, not just for mathematics, but for all the magic and mystery that surround us, I will be happy.”

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

Pandemic canceled their sabbaticals; they channeled their rock star dreams instead

Rob Neilson (left) and Jake Frederick play music during a weekly jam session in a Lawrence University storage garage they turned into a makeshift recording studio. Dubbed the storm shelter, the garage provided refuge for the two professors during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It is not a stretch to say music is being made on the Lawrence University campus at almost every hour of every day. When you are home to a world-class conservatory, music is part of the campus heartbeat.

So, why wouldn’t a history professor and an art professor, staring at a suddenly wide-open calendar when the pandemic shut down their planned spring 2020 sabbaticals, throw themselves into the writing and recording of an album? Why wouldn’t they hole up inside a storage garage that doubles as an art studio, purchase recording equipment they have no idea how to use, break out guitars the history professor built himself, and start writing songs—lots of songs—most of them tinged with a doomsday vibe to match the moment?

And why wouldn’t they title that album Songs from the End of the World?

No reason at all. Hence, we give you the Junkyard Tornadoes, the musical mix of Jake Frederick, professor of history, and Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, with a 12-song album all their own; now available on the digital music service Bandcamp.

Both had big plans for their sabbaticals. Neilson was heading to Scotland for an art fellowship; Frederick to the Newberry Library in Chicago for a research fellowship. All of that was put on hold as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March, sending students home for remote learning and halting all non-essential travel. With no classes to teach until fall, they suddenly had time on their hands and nowhere to go.

“We were in shock about how crazy the world had suddenly become,” Frederick said.

The two professors have long dabbled in music as a hobby. They regularly gather in the art garage—“the storm shelter, as I’ve begun calling it,” Frederick said—to play together, occasionally thinking about recording their songs or playing in public or both. They have one public performance as a duo under their belts. And before the pandemic hit, they submitted three original songs (an EP, Three Minute Average) to Mile of Music organizers, hoping to get on the 2020 festival lineup. It was canceled before they got an answer. And, yes, Frederick builds his own guitars, four of them to date.

They saw an opportunity in the unexpected pandemic pause, one that would nurture a secret (or not-so-secret) longing to be rock stars. Or at least allow them to stretch themselves a bit musically and in the process find some refuge from the COVID storm.

They headed into quarantine with a pact—they and their wives would form their own biome of sorts, isolated from the rest of the world. From March through the end of summer, the two professors experimented with their music. They wrote and rewrote songs. Neilson purchased recording equipment and started playing around with software, teaching himself the basics of being an audio engineer.

“I knew nothing about how to record an album,” he said. “I just started looking into it. What do I need? I got myself a little bit of equipment. And then literally just started plugging things in and recording it and seeing what worked, how would this sound; learning as we went.”

It was all music all the time in the art garage as spring rolled into summer.

“We started writing some songs that night,” Frederick said of the night in March 2020 when faculty were told the campus was going remote for Spring Term and university travel was being shut down. “Just started writing about the bizarre world we were living in. I think the first thing we wrote was I Got a Virus. We wrote a song called Quarantine Me. This is all the first night. I think we wrote four songs that night, and it occurred to us that we don’t think we’re any good (as musicians) but we think some of the songs we write are pretty good.”

None of the songs they wrote that first night ended up on the album. But it kick-started something that would consume them over the next eight months of quarantine.

“We figured we might be dead by the end of the summer, so maybe we should get these things recorded so the archaeologists can maybe play the songs someday,” Frederick said with a laugh.

Learn more about Jake Frederick: Teaching about disasters.

Learn more about Rob Neilson: Adding artistic flair to Fox Cities.

He and Neilson bring self-deprecating humor to every conversation about their music. They know they are on a campus surrounded by faculty and students overflowing with music talent. Many of those students will go on to make, perform, and teach music for a living.

For them, though, it’s simply a hobby, a chance to enjoy their friendship while channeling some creative energies.

“Writing songs for us pre-dates the pandemic,” Neilson said. “But really sitting down and recording an album, that was the bit. It became clear, we’re not going anywhere. The university stopped all travel. I was going to Scotland; Jake was going to Chicago. I also had a public art project that got canceled. My gallery shut down. The whole world shut down. That was the moment we realized, well, maybe we should record these tunes. We don’t have anything else to do.”

When they returned to teaching in the fall, the music continued but time grew tight. They set a hard deadline to finish the album.

“At some point Jake and I decided that we would be done and out by Christmas,” Neilson said. “The Beatles always released an album right before Christmas, and look what happened to those guys. We were going to release our album by Christmas no matter what.”

And they did. Songs from the End of the World was a wrap by mid-December. They cut a couple dozen CDs for family and friends. A former student suggested they make the album available for download on Bandcamp.

“We wanted to put it out there for free because we didn’t think it was deserving of anyone’s money,” Frederick joked. “But to host it on a server, we had to charge something because they need to make their money.”

It’s now on Bandcamp for $5, available here.

We’d like to tell you the album has become a pandemic sensation and is now on the Billboard Hot 100. It is not (at least not yet). But the Junkyard Tornadoes did sell a few downloads.

“We’ve gotten a check,” Neilson said. “So, Jake and I are at this point professional musicians.”

“It was $24,” Frederick added. “I can now say definitively that I’ve made more money as a professional musician than I did on my first book.”

Songs from the End of the World, which has a sort of gritty Warren Zevon’s The Wind feel to it, isn’t explicitly about the pandemic or the anxieties and rage that consumed 2020. But there’s no missing it.

“It’s in there because it’s inescapable,” Neilson said. “There was no way not to. That was our whole lives. It was everybody’s lives.”

Now what?

Well, they’re already working on album No. 2. Other than that, the focus is squarely on their teaching jobs. Music remains the hobby that helps them find new energy. Maybe one day they’ll take the music out of the art garage. Perhaps they’ll make another run at Mile of Music.

“The first thing we’d have to do is put together a band,” Neilson said. “At this point, it’s Jake and me playing all the guitars, bass, keyboards, harmonica, percussion.” (They did get a rhythm section assist from colleague Tony Conrad.)

Frederick and Neilson know they wouldn’t have to look far to find other capable musicians. But, they joked, the musicians in the Conservatory might have better options.

“This whole thing feels like a very Lawrence-y thing to do,” Frederick said of the album. “You have an art professor and a history professor who don’t know how to engineer and really don’t know how to write songs and don’t know how to read music; don’t qualify as musicians. Of course, we’ll write an album. But at the same time, this place is richly populated with people who actually have some idea what they’re doing making music. There were moments recording this album where we were trying to figure out our timing or we were trying to figure out a key change or something that would just take us hours, and you know that this is stuff that first-year students across the street can do in their sleep. … If anyone in the Con feels like their music is somehow threatened by us, I’m going to get a tattoo that says that.”

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

Wise words: An A-to-Z guide to faculty appreciation through the pandemic

Geology professor Marcia Bjornerud works with Madeline Taylor ’23 during a Hot Rocks class in Youngchild Hall of Science. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We are heading into Teacher Appreciation Week, giving us an opportunity to shine a light on the Lawrence University faculty, which has innovated, adjusted, readjusted, inspired, and experimented over the past 14 months, all while helping guide students through steep and ever-changing pandemic challenges.

Through it all—and it’s not over yet—the faculty has kept Lawrence’s academics robust and transformational.

Many of our faculty members have shared words of wisdom along the way. Or showed their ongoing commitment in the face of uncertainty. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-8), we’ve dug into our story library to share some of those wise words and actions in this A-to-Z guide. This is just a sampling, of course. Many others have responded in amazing ways.

A: AP assist

Rosa Tapia

“The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency.” / Rosa Tapia, professor of Spanish, on joining colleagues Gustavo Fares (Spanish) and Beth De Stasio (biology) in contributing virtual video lectures to College Board’s AP Daily, a YouTube series aimed at helping high school Advanced Placement (AP) students during the pandemic.

B: Brainstorming the music

Tim Albright

“Most of these folks are gigging, working musicians on the cutting edge of performance today, so for my students to get to interact with them in their living rooms is a huge opportunity that we wouldn’t have normally.” / Tim Albright, trombone professor, on bringing professional musicians from around the world into classes via Zoom.

C: Costumes to de-stress

Alyssa Hakes

“The Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student.” / Alyssa Hakes, associate professor of biology, on wearing pop culture-inspired costumes for her Zoom lectures.

D: Disasters in real time

Jake Frederick

“I think in any class, whether it’s history or English lit or physics, when students see what they’re studying unfolding in the world they’re living in, they always find that very stimulating.” / Jake Frederick, professor of history, on incorporating pandemic developments into his Disasters that Made the Americas class.

E: Ethnic Studies win

Jesús Gregorio Smith

“I believe it’s time liberal arts colleges and Ethnic Studies programs get this level of recognition. This fellowship is really about aiding teachers who are dedicated to diversity and racial justice in conducting and finishing their research so that their work is taken seriously in the academic community and so that their dedication to racial justice is amplified.” / Jesús Gregorio Smith, assistant professor of ethnic studies, on receiving a 12-month Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

F: Fresh take

Celia Barnes

“I recognized that there was a beauty and weirdness to the literature—and that women and people of color, and not just bewigged white men, were writing it. I was hooked; the rest is history. When I tell this story to my students, I insist that they will be hooked, too, after a novel or two. And many of them are.” / Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, on the joys of teaching 18th-century literature in a 21st-century world.

G: Global thinking

Marcia Bjornerud

“Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.” / Marcia Bjornerud, Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology, on the value of Lawrence’s new environmental science major.

H: Holiday time

John Holiday

“One of the things I wanted to do in doing this show is to show my students what’s possible when you stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible. There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” / John Holiday, voice professor, on his successful journey through NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice.

I: Inspired to help

Andrew Crooks

“There is extreme anxiety in the arts community, and we wanted to offer a little help, a little hope, and as much sense of community and solidarity as we could possibly muster.” / Andrew Crooks, assistant professor of music, on helping to organize the Artist Relief Tree fundraiser to assist artists put out of work by the pandemic.

J: Journey through a crisis

David Gerard

“We followed along with the economics and policy scholarship that was emerging in real time, and we also surveyed the social science and historical scholarship on how epidemics and pandemics have shaped the arc of history. There are elements of that material in just about every course I will teach going forward.” / David Gerard, John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, on teaching economics during the pandemic.

K: Know what’s coming

Jerald Podair

“Watch how voting by mail plays out across the country. Will there be delays? Fraud? Chaos? For better or worse, there will be no going back; mail voting is our future. In a decade, in-person voting will be considered as outmoded as manual typewriters.” / Jerald Podair, Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history, predicting what would follow the November 2020 election.

L: Labs go virtual

Allison Fleshman

“Well, the main take-away from a lab science is to practice the scientific method. So, all of my students will make a piece of art or collection of art that inspires them, and the catch is that they must document their work—hypothesizing, observations, detailing the chemistry involved, and documenting the procedure—in a detailed laboratory notebook maintaining the highest level of scientific rigor.” / Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry, on getting creative in remote classes.

M: Music won’t be stopped

Patty Darling

“While the way we are creating music is different and sometimes awkward right now, it still gives us the chance to share this experience, work toward common goals, and be together.” / Patty Darling, director of the LU Jazz Ensemble, on keeping music ensembles together during the pandemic.

N: Novel ideas

David McGlynn

“A Lawrence student might not publish a novel while a student, but our record shows that something foundational is happening here. They begin the long journey toward the larger goal.” / David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the department that recently launched a creative writing major, on his former student, Andrew Graff ’09, getting national attention for his newly released Raft of Stars debut novel.

O: Ongiri convocation

Amy Ongiri

“As a culture, we have tended to value winning over all other experiences, but we are all going to fail a lot in life, and we need to learn early on what it means and how to think about it.” / Amy Ongiri, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, on the importance of embracing and learning from our failures.

P: Pride, Champion of

Helen Boyd Kramer

“The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” / Helen Boyd Kramer, lecturer in gender studies, on the work that led to her being named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate.

Q: Quest for knowledge

Beth Zinsli

“I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. … In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever. / Beth Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, on teaching from a distance.

R: Remote but in tune

Ann Ellsworth

“I tell them they can hang out or not and that I’ll be back in 20 minutes, and I’ll come back and they are still there, hanging out, talking about student stuff. We had a prospective student join one meeting and I left them there to get acquainted because they can’t come to visit the campus. It’s super productive.” / Ann Ellsworth, assistant professor of music, on using Zoom to help her horn students stay connected despite the distance.

S: Songs of unity

Stephen Sieck

“This is not the way we would have imagined a celebrated conservatory choral program working a year ago, but our students are making it work. Lawrence students need to sing.” / Stephen Sieck, associate professor of music and director of Concert Choir, on Conservatory students adapting during the pandemic

T: Together, always

Matthew Arau

“My biggest concern was there would be two independent streams; there would be the online students and the in-person students and they would feel so separate from each other, and possibly doing totally different things. So, it was important to find a way that the students who are online still feel connected to Lawrence and particularly to the ensembles.” / Matthew Arau, associate professor of music, on using technology and other innovations to help music students learn and play together during the pandemic.

U: Universe, we got this

Megan Pickett

“We believe, now more than ever, that this is our time to shine. The circumstances aren’t ideal, but then [Isaac] Newton changed the world when he was at home in quarantine in 1665.” / Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, on rising to the challenge of teaching and learning physics during the pandemic.

V: Virtual engagement

Leila Ramagopal Pertl

“This pandemic has given us an opportunity to think differently. What are the ways in which we can think about online engagement? Can we use our screens creatively, can we get to every child in a way that allows them to not only perform music but make their own music?” / Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87, music education instructor, on Lawrence students creating virtual music workshops to reach area elementary students who were learning remotely.

W: World in need of care

Jason Brozek

“I think all of us do feel the urgency of the climate crisis, and we see that in our students who are looking for the sort of hands-on, experiential learning that can help them become more effective environmental advocates, experts, and leaders.” / Jason Brozek, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, on the Environmental Studies program expanding to incorporate an environmental science major.

X: X factor

Israel Del Toro

“The biological sciences are increasingly using big data and novel computational technologies to tackle big questions about ecology, evolution, and health, just to name a few examples. By offering a data science minor to our students, we are preparing them with a marketable skill set that is broadly applicable regardless of what biological sub-discipline they choose to pursue.” / Israel Del Toro, assistant professor of biology, on the interdisciplinary nature of the statistics and data science minor, which launched this year.

Y: Your journey

Eilene Hoft-March

“The mistakes we make—and I include myself—the questions we ask, and the challenges we encounter all give distinctive worth to the whole enterprise. The more we dig in, the more our work becomes part of our personal strategies for dealing with what’s beyond the classroom.” / Eilene Hoft-March, Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French, on helping to guide students through the intellectual journey.

Z: Zoom, Zooming, Zoomed

Brian Pertl

“I’m excited that we’re actually looking at technology and its possibilities and not just focusing on what we can’t do. Instead, we’re saying, ‘What can we do?’ I think that’s a very Lawrencey thing. We’re trying to teach our students to be creative and innovative and be problem-solvers.” / Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, on infusing an attitude of resilience and opportunity.

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

Biology prof gets creative with costumes to ease stress of remote learning

Alyssa Hakes in some of her favorite virtual attire, with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Alyssa Hakes turned to goofy costumes early in the pandemic to add some fun to classes she was teaching via Zoom. It went over so well she has kept it going for a year.

The Lawrence University associate professor of biology said she was struggling during the first week of teaching virtually in March 2020.

“I felt isolated from my students and it was incredibly awkward recording lecture videos in an empty bedroom,” Hakes said.

Enter a pirate hat borrowed from one of her kids.

“I hadn’t quite leaned into the full Zoom costume thing yet, but I felt a spark of that teaching joy again,” she said of putting on that pirate hat. “I surveyed our household collection of dress-up clothes and Halloween costumes and I realized that I could make this a regular thing. Strangely, I found that dressing up in ridiculous costumes made me feel less awkward on camera, and thinking about next week’s costume was a welcome distraction from the anxiety of teaching during a pandemic.”

Hakes’ costumes have ranged from pirates and horror movie monsters to space creatures and video game heroes, all with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.

“Because my Zoom costumes are mostly put together with things I already have in my house—Professor Fleshman also loaned me a few costume items—they don’t necessarily match with the course material,” Hakes said. “Although, when I taught First-Year Studies in the Fall, I had a few costumes that fit with the works—Socrates, honeybee, and cave.”

When her online classes allowed for more interaction with students, she wore costumes at the start to set a fun tone, then switched to more professional attire.

“Some of my costumes are outdated references to ’80s and ’90s pop culture, or reflect more of my kids’ tastes in cartoons and video games, but the Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student,” Hakes said. “It just makes my day when I hear from a student that the Zoom costume and the accompanying lame joke or silly dance is making their remote learning experience a little more fun and engaging.”

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

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

Main Hall

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

The appointments span multiple disciplines across the college and conservatory.

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

The 10 newly tenured faculty:

Albrecht

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

Arau

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

Armstrong

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

Burdick-Shepherd

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

Contreras

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

Holiday

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

Joyner

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

Kononova

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

Lewis

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

Vance

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

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

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

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

Celebrating the life of John Koopman, founder of Lawrence’s opera program

John Koopman, 1989 (Lawrence University Archives)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is mourning the death of John Koopman, the founder of Lawrence’s opera program and a longtime voice professor in the Conservatory of Music.

Koopman joined the faculty in 1960 and continued to teach until his retirement in 1994. He died Dec. 22 in Appleton at age 88.

“Professor John Koopman influenced generations of Lawrentians and created our wonderful opera program,” said Kenneth Bozeman, emeritus professor of music who worked with Koopman for more than a dozen years and maintained a friendship through the years. “We are so grateful for the immense impact he had on our Conservatory.”

Koopman served for many years as chair of the Voice Department.

He forged a second career following retirement, becoming a widely published opera journalist, with his writings appearing in publications around the world.

It was his deep love of opera that brought him to Lawrence more than 60 years ago and set him on his journey to create an opera program within the Conservatory, an endeavor that has since grown into the robust and renowned program it is today, led for the past seven years by Copeland Woodruff, the first director of opera studies in the program’s history.

“In the pioneering spirit of John Koopman and his legacy at Lawrence University, especially in founding an opera ensemble, we are dedicating this academic year’s productions to his memory,” Woodruff said. “Having to invent the wheel, again, because of the pandemic, by delving into film techniques, we can only imagine what it must have taken to forge a new theatrical ensemble when Mr. Koopman started the journey. Opera Studies at Lawrence stands on the shoulders of this passionate, kind, and talented maverick.”

Koopman was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth Jane (Hayes) Koopman, who, after retiring from public education, ran Lawrence’s sight-singing program for many years as an adjunct faculty member. He also was preceded in death by his daughter, Ann Koopman. He is survived by two sons, William and James, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Nancy Marsh Stowe ’61, a beloved companion of recent years, said Koopman cherished his enduring relationship with Lawrence and the hundreds of students he taught and mentored through the years.

“Teaching was paramount for John, and he had a remarkable ability to connect with students, both personally and with regard to their voice development and potential,” she said. “He did not impose on them his vision for them, but encouraged them to find that for themselves and supported their choices.”

For those who worked with Koopman in the halls of the Conservatory, the memories are indelible. Bozeman called him “broadly educated, literate, erudite, and witty” and said sharing the stage with him was a joy.

“As a performer, John was a solid, stylish, serious singer, but also a hilarious comedic actor,” Bozeman said. “I both thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from performing with him in recital and concert. The prioritized attention he gave to expression, elegant diction, and compelling communication were exemplary for us all. His friendship, humanity, and wit will be fondly remembered and dearly missed.”

The family expects to hold a memorial celebration in Appleton later in 2021 and asks that if you wish to make a gift in John Koopman’s memory, please make it to the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

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

Celebrating the life of piano professor Robert Below; he had “virtuosic abilities”

Robert Below, 1990 (Lawrence University Archives)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is celebrating the many artistic and academic contributions of Robert Below, a retired piano professor who taught in the Conservatory of Music for 32 years before retiring in 1996.

He died Dec. 16 at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 86.

Besides being a force in the classroom, Below is being remembered as a prolific performer and composer.

“Robert’s virtuosic abilities as both a performer and educator inspired generations of Lawrentians,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.

In the classroom, Below taught nearly 1,200 Lawrence students. His teaching included piano studio work and classes in music history, literature of music, theory-analysis, and chamber music, among others.

His son, Andy Buelow ’84, now the executive director of the West Michigan Symphony, was among the Lawrence students Below inspired. He said his father found a welcoming home when he arrived at Lawrence in 1964, something he never took for granted.

“The university’s commitment to liberal arts was something in which he believed strongly, both for himself and his students,” Buelow said. “He felt that broader studies that included art, literature, history, theater, and the sciences would help them become better musicians and well-rounded human beings. He encouraged them not to spend their entire four years holed up in the music building.”

Buelow said he twice took classes taught by his father, both in music history.

“This is a memory I will always treasure — the opportunity to experience first-hand his amazing skills as a classroom teacher,” he said. “We, of course, spent a lot of time listening to recorded musical samples, but I still remember the day we were exploring 20th century piano literature and he sat down at the piano, without preamble or warm-up, and played the Copland Piano Sonata for the class. It was an unforgettable moment for us all.”

In addition to teaching, Below performed on stages in Appleton and across the United States, as well as in Europe and Latin America. He performed often with Lawrence colleagues and appeared as a concerto soloist with numerous orchestras, among them the Fox Valley Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony.

He also composed more than 50 works, many of which have been performed through the years by Lawrence ensembles.

His numerous anthems, hymns, and other sacred works were used at his beloved All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton. His choral music has been performed at his alma mater, the University of Louisville, as well as by the Lawrence University Concert Choir.

He was selected as the winner of the 1990 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Wisconsin Composers Fanfare Competition and he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the School of Music at the University of Louisville.

In his obituary, former student Priscilla Peterson Weaver ’68 spoke glowingly of Below’s commitment to music education.

“The combination of grace and artistry and humanity that lived in Robert and that he passed on in his trademark forceful manner to all his students was a joy to witness,” she said. “For those of us privileged enough to have Robert as a mentor, and not just an occasional teacher, the experience was a blessing of immeasurable worth.”

Below reveled in the arts, at Lawrence and elsewhere, the family said. Poetry, ballet, classical music, and jazz were sources of inspiration during and after his time at Lawrence, and he continued to play the piano into his final days.

He and his wife, Barbara, relocated to Albuquerque shortly after his retirement. She preceded him in death in May. Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Alison, of Albuquerque.

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