Tag: Lawrence University

Live-streamed recital, opening of online store mark kickoff of 175th anniversary

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is launching a year-long celebration of its 175th anniversary this weekend, complete with a virtual trivia contest, a live-streamed music recital, and the opening of an online merchandise store. It comes appropriately enough on the weekend of Founders Day, Jan. 15.

The celebration that will roll out over the coming months will mark an “incredible milestone,” President Laurie A. Carter said in a message to the Lawrence community.

“Since our founding 175 years ago, Lawrence has become a nationally ranked college of liberal arts and sciences and conservatory of music that attracts students from nearly every state and 40 countries,” she said. “With an alumni community 20,000 strong and counting, Lawrentians are shining their light in communities around the world.”

Follow along: See details, updates, and LU history on 175th webpage

We got merch! Shop now at the LU 175th online store

That light will shine especially bright this weekend, as Lawrentians across campus and around the world are encouraged to share their love of Lawrence on social media with the hashtag #Lawrence175.

It was on January 15, 1847, that Lawrence Institute was granted a charter, one year before Wisconsin became a state and six years before Appleton would be incorporated as a municipality. It was founded as one of the nation’s first co-educational institutions of higher learning, and in the ensuing years would see the establishment of a world-class music conservatory, a merger with Milwaukee-Downer College, and the emergence and growth of academic programs that now annually lands Lawrence on lists of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.

The year-long celebration will be wrapped around three key weekends: A Founders Day launch on Jan. 14-15; a community celebration on May 14 that will include both the campus community and neighbors in the Fox Cities; and a culminating Blue & White Weekend on Oct. 7-8. In between, there will be a rolling series of engagement and storytelling opportunities to involve students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

“Any institution getting to be 175 years old is impressive, but I think it is especially so for Lawrence because we started when Appleton as a municipality didn’t exist yet,” said Lina Rosenberg Foley ’15, the university’s archivist. “The state of Wisconsin didn’t exist yet. But we were founded here and we have continued to grow and thrive here. Appleton grew up around Lawrence. I think that’s very powerful.”

Unlike past quarterly milestones—175 years is known as a demisemiseptcentennial—this one comes with the opportunity for Lawrentians to celebrate together virtually. In addition to in-person gatherings, the year ahead will include a mix of remote and social media engagements, something that was but a dream when the sesquicentennial was celebrated in 1997.

“So often events like this are seen as a celebration of community, but I think there is a real opportunity to build community in that celebration and to define community differently,” said Matt Baumler, executive director of alumni and constituency engagement. “To thoughtfully include and connect students with faculty and staff as well as with alumni and our Fox Cities community partners, that’s what excites me.”

This weekend’s activities are set. Details of other events will be announced as the year goes on, with information shared on the new 175th webpage. The page includes considerable content on Lawrence’s history and will grow through the year. It features the newly unveiled Lawrence 175 logo, which will become familiar across campus during 2022. Lawrentians are encouraged to visit the 175th page often during the year as updates are added.

Among 175th developments to keep an eye on:

  • The online merchandise store featuring Lawrence 175 gear is now up. A variety of merchandise featuring the 175th logo will be available for purchase — shirts, blankets, glasses, mugs, winter hats, and more. The link will be housed on the 175th webpage.
  • A Lawrence 175th Birthday Recital will be held at 8 p.m. Jan. 15 in Memorial Chapel. Because of pandemic-related protocols, there will be no live audience. But the recital will be live streamed for all to watch. It’ll feature performances from Conservatory faculty and alumni, among them Karen Leigh-Post ’79, Matthew Michelic, Anthony Padilla, and Catherine Walby ’97. It will feature music composed in the mid-1800s, about the time of Lawrence’s founding, and music composed by Lawrentians. The live stream can be found here
  • An online trivia contest that will include nuggets of Lawrence history is being held at 7 p.m. Jan. 14, hosted by the Trivia Mafia alumni group. You can register a team at this link until 5 p.m. Friday.
  • All alumni are receiving 2022 Lawrence wall calendars in the mail as a reminder of the year-long celebration. The calendars also will be made available on campus to faculty, staff, and students.
  • Students, faculty, staff, and alumni are being encouraged on Jan. 14 and 15 to wish Lawrence a happy anniversary on social media, using the hashtag #Lawrence175. Take selfies. Wear blue and white. Show your Lawrence love across all of your social channels.

“The celebration begins Founders Day weekend, which marks that historic January 15 in 1847 when the Territory of Wisconsin Legislature granted a charter to Lawrence Institute,” Carter wrote in her message to campus. “That institute evolved into the university we know and love today. After visiting his namesake institution, founder Amos A. Lawrence shared with his wife that the institution was a ‘great and good work’ of which they could be proud. These words still ring true.”

Lawrence today remains what it has been for much of its rich history —an undergraduate college of the liberal arts and sciences with a renowned conservatory of music. Situated on 84 acres on the eastern edge of Appleton’s downtown, the campus now includes 60 instructional, residential, recreational, and administrative facilities. It is built on land purchased from the Menominee tribe, the ancestral homelands of the Menominee and Ho-Chunk people. And Björklunden vid Sjön, the 441-acre estate along the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County, continues to serve as an educational retreat for Lawrence students and alumni.

With an enrollment of nearly 1,500 students, Lawrence continues to honor the vision of its founders and build on the heritage of excellence in undergraduate education. Let the celebration begin, 175 years in the making.

Note: An on-campus celebration for the campus community originally scheduled for Jan. 14 in Warch Campus Center is being rescheduled. Stay tuned for details and a new date.

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

Conversations, community highlight first six months of Laurie Carter’s presidency

President Laurie A. Carter (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

President Laurie A. Carter watched from the portico in front of Main Hall as John Holiday took the microphone to greet incoming students and their families on a beautiful September afternoon.

The annual welcome event for new students, typically held in Memorial Chapel but moved outdoors, was Carter’s first as Lawrence president, and it was a visible reminder that we are together again—students, faculty, and staff—even while adapting to pandemic protocols. The mantra that Carter and the Lawrence University staff had introduced as Fall Term arrived, “Brighter Together,” was on full display as the sun shone above Main Hall. Holiday, the celebrated countertenor who teaches in the Conservatory of Music, leaned into all that togetherness and asked those in attendance to sing along to This Little Light of Mine.

They sang. They clapped. They smiled.

And it was at that moment, Carter said, that she knew this community was ready to reconnect.

“This idea of singing together, that we were going to let our light shine; it was a moment that really embodied ‘Brighter Together’ and set the tone for how we were going to support each other as a community,” she said.

For Carter, who began her tenure at Lawrence on July 1, the new student welcome event and the Matriculation Convocation that followed later in the week served as a public introduction to the campus community. It came at a pivotal moment in Lawrence’s 174-year history, with faculty and students returning to the classroom after four terms of distance learning.

Nurturing that re-entry was and has been priority No. 1 across campus.

Carter came to Lawrence from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, where she had served as president since 2017. Her work history includes a 25-year stint in various leadership positions at the Juilliard School in New York City and several years as an executive vice president at Eastern Kentucky University. Lawrence’s Board of Trustees selected her as the university’s 17th president following a unanimous recommendation from the Presidential Search Committee.

Carter said she’s been doing a lot of listening these first few months. She’s met with faculty from across the college and Conservatory, discussed opportunities in Athletics, began important dialogue with alumni, and has been having substantial conversations with students about everything from academics to student life to equity.

Read more: 17 things to know about Laurie Carter

Carter helps welcome incoming class

Carter delivers first Matriculation Convocation

The takeaways have been many, not the least of which is how passionate Lawrence students are to be involved—from shared governance on campus to global issues surrounding climate change and social justice.

The focus in most every conversation across campus, Carter said, has been squarely on the students and their well-being. The pandemic and the needed shift to distance learning changed things, rerouted paths, added new stressors. And it came during a time of political polarization and a social justice movement that reshaped national and local conversations. Students returned to the classroom this fall, but the world had changed. Meeting their needs in this moment has been paramount for their future and for Lawrence’s path forward.

“They felt a loss of not being able to connect with their faculty, their peers, the staff last year in the way they were accustomed to,” Carter said. “They knew this year wouldn’t be going back to what they knew because we’d still be masked, we still had to be careful, but their enthusiasm for being here and the way they embraced everything they had to do just to be together as a community has been inspiring.”

Being resilient

President Laurie A. Carter speaks to new students and their families at a welcome event that preceded the start of Fall Term.

Every campus across the country has had to adapt during the pandemic. Lawrence, Carter said, has risen to the challenge in large part because students, faculty, and staff have worked together to Honor the Pledge while maintaining a commitment to academic excellence. Seeing that resilience up close has been a comforting thing in an uncomfortable time.

“Everyone is really taking care of one another,” Carter said. “They want to be on campus, they want campus to be healthy and safe, and the community is really working together to make that happen.”

She praised the commitment of staff through it all, including in preparations for students returning in the fall and efforts to keep campus operational and safe.

“This staff has really gone above and beyond,” Carter said. “When our campus was not quite ready for our students to return, our staff really pitched in to help beautify the campus and come together. That’s one example. They are an integral part of everything we do.”

Carter has spent a lot of time meeting with faculty as she gets to know the Lawrence landscape. The depth of Lawrence’s commitment to academic excellence is admirable, she said, pointing to work being done in STEM fields as an example. The commitment from faculty has been evident as her conversations have traversed the various academic departments.

“I wouldn’t say anything has surprised me, but I am impressed by the depth of the curricular experience here,” Carter said. “And I’m really impressed by the faculty’s commitment to providing an innovative curricular approach that promotes equitable learning for all. Our faculty have worked really hard at that.”

Having spent a large portion of her career working in arts education, Carter was well acquainted with the Conservatory before coming to Lawrence. The depth of talent among faculty and students and the commitment to creativity and excellence is as advertised, she said.

“The talent is tremendous, and the energy is just fantastic,” she said. “I’ve been a fan of the Lawrence Conservatory for a long time, but being here and experiencing it really takes it up even higher. I think back to the Matriculation Convocation with the Welcome Week Choir, which literally had days to pull together a choral performance that took my breath away.”

Carter said she’s been particularly impressed with the faculty-student relationship across campus. The nimbleness of faculty to respond to student needs—a product of an 8-to-1 faculty to student ratio—is something you can’t completely grasp until you see it in action, she said.

“The faculty support for students is one of the real pieces of Lawrence that you don’t see in many other places,” she said. “The depth of that support. They’re not just in the classroom or in the lab with the students; they are really guiding students through this transformative time in the student’s life. Yes, they are academic advisors, but they’re really advisors for how the liberal arts curriculum can lift a life, how the liberal arts curriculum can inform a life, and how a liberal arts curriculum can really prepare a life for the kind of success our alumni have had.”

That’s been reflected in conversations with alumni as well, Carter said. The passion Lawrentians have for their alma mater runs deep. That has come through loud and clear.

“They are passionate about this place and its history, and they honor that in the way they live their lives and give back to the community with their time, their talents, and their treasures,” Carter said. “It really demonstrates what a special place Lawrence is. That alumni are not just connected to one another but they are also connected to the institution in a meaningful way.”

Carter expects to see that play out in numerous ways as Lawrence prepares to mark its 175th anniversary in 2022. There is much to celebrate and much to build on. There is a commitment to embracing the history of Lawrence and Milwaukee-Downer College, and Carter said she has felt that in the passionate words of alumni as they’ve talked about their own experiences and their vision for Lawrence going forward.

“It is critical that we honor the history and the traditions of Lawrence in everything we do,” she said. “At the core of an adaptive leadership model is taking the DNA of a place and building on it. That’s what we’re doing. Lawrence’s DNA is so strong, and the traditions are really an integral part of how the university operates. Being able to honor those and do it in a way that’s forward-looking and forward-thinking is actually quite wonderful because the foundation is so strong.”

That includes athletics, Carter said, calling the commitment of Lawrence’s student-athletes extraordinary. Athletes make up 30% of this year’s first-year class. A quarter of all Lawrence students participate on one of the school’s 22 varsity teams.

Carter, a standout track and field athlete during her undergraduate days at Clarion University, said support for Lawrence’s student-athletes is strong but she wants to see that grow across campus. She’s listening to ideas on how to make that happen.

“This community really knows how to support one another,” she said. “Can we deepen those connections with our athletes? Absolutely. Will we? Absolutely. We will strengthen the connections between Athletics and the rest of the campus.”

A new home

President Laurie A. Carter takes part in a drumming session that was part of Mile of Music in August.

Carter also said she’s been listening to the Appleton community as she settles into her new home. Lawrence’s relationship with Appleton and the wider Fox Cities needs to be tended to, she said.

Carter has already met with Lawrence alumnus and Appleton Mayor Jake Woodford ’13 several times. She’s been impressed with how responsive he and his staff have been. She also was excited to see the community participation in the outdoor Indigenous Peoples’ Day event on campus in early October, and she applauded the community connections being built by Lawrence’s Career Center and the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

Those are all building blocks that will help to build a stronger relationship, one fortified with mutual respect and a commitment to make sure this is and always will be a welcoming environment for everyone.

“Lawrence is right in the middle of this community,” Carter said. “We are a part of it. We want our students to understand how to be good neighbors and how to contribute to the community in which they are living.”

Carter said she quickly became a fan of the Downtown Appleton Farmers Market. She’s enjoyed Art at the Park and other community activities in Appleton’s parks, took in Mile of Music, and loves walking on trails near campus. She and her husband and son have been exploring Appleton slowly but surely, all with pandemic safety in mind.

“I think what we’ve probably availed ourselves of more than anything else are the restaurants,” Carter said. “There are some really good restaurants in Appleton. Good food, good service, really nice environments. We just really love this community.”

In the end, Carter said, all of her conversations circle back to Lawrence’s students and how they can build positive connections in classrooms, across campus, and in the surrounding community. That togetherness—”Brighter Together”—will be at the heart of Lawrence’s future success.

“We have to make sure the students feel our arms around them,” Carter said.

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

Best of 2021: Eight stories show resilience, creativity of Lawrence community

A reimagined Science Learning Commons in Youngchild Hall was three years in the making. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Sure, the ongoing pandemic kept things a bit weird in 2021. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for telling the stories of Lawrence University and the Lawrentians who make this world a better place.

Today we’re going to spotlight eight Lawrence stories from the past year that speak to resilience, ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness. These stories are among our favorites of the year. If you read them the first time around, consider this a reminder of how amazing this place can be. If you missed them earlier, now is the time to catch up.

See Lawrence’s 20 most-viewed stories of 2021 here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey through 2021 as much as we have.

1. Rising to the challenge

COVID-19 testing in the Wellness Center gym was part of the routine to keep campus safe. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Lawrence had welcomed about 800 of its students back to campus in the fall of 2020 at a time when COVID outbreaks in Wisconsin were spiking. Classes remained remote and students needed to adhere to strict safety protocols, but the opportunity to resume a semblance of campus life was a big step forward. How did Lawrentians manage to keep campus safe while the surrounding community was struggling with outbreaks? We took a closer look.

“We’ve all read the stories from other places where decisions that students make really do make or break what happens,” Assistant to the President Christyn Abaray said. “We have students who get it. They’re making some of the most mature decisions that we could ask for.”

2. A need for flexibility

Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, Maria Poimenidou ’20

Diving head first into a job search upon graduation can be daunting enough in the best of times. Now do it in the midst of a pandemic when the job market is in turmoil. We caught up with three newly graduated Lawrentians, Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, and Maria Poimenidou ’20, to talk about navigating the job search in these strange days.

“There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with that and you can fall into a spiral of worries, but the way I adapted to everything was by becoming more flexible,” Poimenidou said.

3. Debut novel brings national buzz

Andrew Graff ’09

Catching up with Lawrence alumni who are doing creative things is always a pleasure. Andrew Graff ’09 leaned heavily on the lessons learned as an English student at Lawrence as he wrote his debut novel, Raft of Stars. It arrived among the spring releases with national shout-outs from the likes of the New York Times and USA Today.

“His work is a testimony to the fact that inspired, artful writing happens over time and is not the product of a flash of genius or a single good idea,” English professor David McGlynn said. “A Lawrence student might not publish a novel while a student, but our record shows that something foundational is happening here.”

4. A new sound in the Conservatory

Jando Valdez ’24 (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Jando Valdez, a sophomore at Lawrence, has had a passion for mariachi music since his freshman year at Appleton North High School. How he turned that passion into the newly launched Lawrence University Mariachi Ensemble (LUMÉ) speaks to the beauty of the Conservatory of Music and the growing flexibility built into its various degree programs.

The first time LUMÉ was able to meet in person, it felt as if a piece of myself and my family’s heritage had been reignited,” Valdez said.

5. Pandemic rock stars

Rob Neilson and Jake Frederick became the Junkyard Tornadoes. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

This was fun. When Rob Neilson, an art professor, and Jake Frederick, a history professor, had their sabbaticals canceled by the pandemic, they hunkered down in a storage garage on campus and wrote and recorded an album. Never mind that they knew very little about writing music and even less about recording it. It was new territory, but it gave them a chance to channel some energy and creativity at a time when there was nothing much to do and nowhere to go.

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

6. New visibility for Indigenous students

Otāēciah, a sculpture created by artist Chris Cornelius, is gorgeous inside and out. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The creation of a new piece of public art raises the profile of the Native community on campus to new levels. The sculpture, known as Otāēciah and located on the renamed Kaeyes Mamaceqtawuk Plaza between Mudd Library and the Wriston Art Center, was dedicated on Indigenous Peoples Day.

Once they see themselves, they kind of have that reinforcement that we’re here, and we’re always going to be here,” Taneya Garcia, a senior who is president of Lawrence University Native Americans (LUNA), said of Native students’ reaction to the sculpture.

7. Raising profile of Latin American composers

Natali Herrera-Pacheco and Horacio Contreras are leading the work of SOLA from Lawrence. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The level of talent and commitment from Lawrence faculty is always impressive. We’ve highlighted some of that through the year. The story of Horacio Contreras, a cello professor in the Conservatory, and his wife, Natali Herrera-Pacheco, a research and intern coordinator for SOLA, stands out. They launched SOLA (Strings of Latin America) to build catalogs, biographical materials, and pedagogic tools to help raise the visibility of Latin American composers in classical music. Their efforts are paying off, with catalogs for cello and viola now available, and more on the way. Lawrence students are working as SOLA interns to move the project forward.

“Society is made up of Hispanic and Black and Asian and South Asian and all these other populations,” Contreras said. “When they go to a concert, they want to see themselves represented as well.”

8. A classroom with a purpose

Students work together during an Introduction to Physics class in the remodeled Science Learning Commons in Youngchild Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Lawrence science faculty announced three years ago that they were launching an initiative to reimagine and remodel a lecture hall in Youngchild Hall to make it more inclusive and more engaging for intro-level STEM classes. With funding from donors through the Be the Light! Campaign and an assist from a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), they set out on a journey that would come to fruition at the outset of Fall Term 2021. We took a look at how this modern classroom moves STEM teaching forward and raises the bar across campus.

“We’re pushing some of our students out of their comfort zones intentionally,” chemistry professor Stefan Debbert said.

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

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2021: Arrival of a new president leads the way

President Laurie A. Carter speaks in front of Main Hall during a new student welcome event in September. Carter was named Lawrence’s 17th president in March and began her tenure July 1. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

From the early March announcement of a new president being named to Lawrentians doing amazing things on and off campus, there has been no shortage of Lawrence stories to tell in 2021.

The Lawrence community (and beyond) has been hungry to read about it every step of the way. We perused the analytics so we can share today the 20 most viewed stories of the year. The list includes new faces, creative approaches to the pandemic, and the brilliance of our students, faculty, and alumni.

If you missed a story earlier, take a look now. If you read it already, take another look as a reminder of the many reasons Lawrentians are brighter together.

1. Laurie A. Carter named 17th president of Lawrence University; begins July 1

“As a sitting president, I am well aware of the challenges facing higher education, but I know the Lawrence community is ready to work together to continue the traditions of excellence while ensuring a bright future for the students, the university, and the community.” – Laurie Carter

2. 10 new tenure-track faculty join Lawrence University for 2021-22 academic year

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

3. Lawrence debuts new athletics logo; Viking ship gives nod to school history

“The ship is the perfect illustration of our great campus, and having the antelope, shield, and LU all part of the design connects every corner of our campus. This is a logo for all who love and support LU; I believe it represents all of us.” – Tony Aker

4. Lawrence places high in value, teaching, first-year experience in U.S. News rankings

“Lawrence’s faculty are not only terrific scientists, artists, and scholars—they are also first-rate teachers. It’s extremely gratifying to see them receive this much-deserved national recognition for the extraordinary work they do with their students.” – Catherine Gunther Kodat

5. “Impressive” class welcomed to campus on busy opening day of student orientation

“This class has some of the strongest academic credentials we have seen in a long time. Considering that they have performed at such a high level while learning in the midst of a pandemic speaks volumes about the resilience and readiness of our newest Lawrentians. They are going to do great things.” – Ken Anselment

6. 17 things to know about No. 17: An introduction to President Laurie A. Carter

“I want to eat cheese curds; I want to do it all. Snowmobiling, too. I want to try that. I really just want to get a sense of the culture; the unique things about Wisconsin. I can’t wait. I’m very excited.” – Laurie A. Carter

7. Kenyon’s Robyn Bowers to join Lawrence as its new dean of admissions

“Lawrence’s rich liberal arts tradition, commitment to the arts, emphasis on diversity and inclusion, and welcoming community create an extraordinary learning environment.” – Robyn Bowers

8. Mayes joins Lawrence as vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion

“To realize the unique value of a liberal arts education, you need to have an environment where people feel welcome, where people feel supported, where people can bring their authentic self to the classroom, to campus, and their presence and contributions are welcomed, valued, and celebrated.” – Eric Mayes

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

“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.” – Catherine Gunther Kodat

10. Lawrence lands on The Princeton Review’s 2022 list of best colleges in nation

“While being considered one of the best is great, we’re even more excited that The Princeton Review continues to acknowledge the important work we do every day on behalf of our students, which is providing top-notch preparation for a meaningful life after college, and doing so in a way that families can afford.” – Ken Anselment

11. Five retiring Lawrence faculty members to be honored at 2021 Commencement

“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. 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.” – Jerald Podair

12. Great Midwest Trivia Contest carries on amid daunting obstacles, new rules

“It’s very difficult to balance the needs of the contest with this year’s restrictions, and, in some cases, we have had to make changes to trivia that go against tradition. Our main focus is making sure the contest happens this year and that it can be a positive experience for everyone.” – Grace Krueger ’21

13. Class of 2021 celebrated for courage, resilience: “You have shone brightly”

“Your responses have made you stronger, have tested your resolve, and have tempered you so that you will turn future challenges into opportunities. And you have validated the Lawrence experience as formative and essential to who you are, and who you will be.” – Dr. John Raymond

14. Lawrence’s beloved Rock is heading east, a gift to university’s departing president

OK, this one was a little bit of April’s Fools fun with departing President Mark Burstein. We were excited that people enjoyed it (if they read to the very end).

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

“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.” – Rob Neilson

16. Lighting the Way With … Tom Coben: When Kimmel calls and statues dance

“I had a lot of very cool opportunities at Lawrence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing today if my professors hadn’t given me the ability to pursue my interests with as much freedom as they did.” – Tom Coben

17. Sculpture adds visibility to journey of Indigenous people; brings new conversations, reflection

“I would hope the Indigenous community here on campus would see it as a place to gather, to have as a physical symbol that they are being acknowledged, and to open those conversations up about how land was acquired and who was Indigenous to it and how do we begin to reconcile that with one another.” – Chris Cornelius

18. Building community: A study guide to Lawrence’s 2021-22 First-Year Studies

“I would like to suggest that our experience of the pandemic has thrown a new light on the works chosen for First-Year Studies. They continue to serve as an ambitious introduction to the liberal arts, but we can now see a strong sub-theme of community that runs throughout these works.” – Martyn Smith

19. “Raft of Stars,” Lawrence alumnus’ debut novel, arrives amid growing buzz

“Without Lawrence, I wouldn’t be writing, hands down. It was an interest of mine. I loved books; I always loved reading; I loved daydreaming. But it was at Lawrence where I thought, yes, I really want to try this. I got so much guidance from professors like David McGlynn and (former Lawrence professor) Faith Barrett and others that I couldn’t have done it without those years. It was absolutely informative.” – Andrew Graff

20. Reframing of a music major adds greater flexibility for Lawrence students

“The beauty of this major is that it welcomes a much broader variety of music and music makers into the Conservatory, and that’s great news and more great music for everyone.” – Brian Pertl

Bonus story: NIH fellowship lets Lawrence alum take her neuroscience research to new levels

“It wasn’t just my science course work at Lawrence that has deeply shaped my career as a scientist today. It was that experience of being in the double-degree program, having to constantly negotiate being in two different worlds.” – Katherine Meckel (This story isn’t in our 2021 top 20 yet, but it’s been our most-viewed story during December and is definitely worth reading.)

Read more: Best of 2021: We’re highlighting 8 stories that speak to resilience, creativity at Lawrence

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

Lawrence’s beloved Rock is heading east, a gift to university’s departing president

The Rock first came to the Lawrence University campus in 1895. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

The Rock, a 2-ton boulder that has been part of Lawrence University lore for 126 years, is being gifted to departing President Mark Burstein.

In searching for the perfect gift for a leader whose rock-solid leadership has helped guide Lawrence to new heights, the university community opted to follow the lead of Burstein’s previous employer. When he left Princeton University to join the Lawrence family eight years ago, Burstein was given small honed pieces of material that were used in the many building and landscape projects constructed and renovated during his nine-year tenure there. These pieces form a small square that resides on his desk in Sampson House. 

It’s hoped he’ll proudly display The Rock in similar fashion as he leaves Lawrence and moves back east to begin a new adventure.

“I’ll need a bigger desk,” a gracious Burstein said. “Or David will have to design a garden with The Rock as a center point.”

The Rock came to Lawrence as a gift from the Class of 1895, plucked from a field during a geology trip near New London. It made the 30-mile trip east to Appleton and has since been painted, buried, hidden, and moved. But mostly revered.

Now it’ll go further east with a president who also is revered. The gift didn’t include a means of moving The Rock because of ongoing budget constraints. So, come June, volunteers, fully masked and following The Pledge, will be needed to hoist The Rock atop Burstein’s car for the 900-mile drive. A sign-up sheet can be found on the fifth floor of the Mudd Library in the Center for the Advancement and Study of Humor, Hijinx, and Fools.

Lawrence’s pandemic response has kept campus safe in midst of chaos elsewhere

Meralis Alvarez-Morales ’22 works at the COVID-19 testing site in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center gymnasium. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Christyn Abaray knew she and her Lawrence University colleagues were walking a fine line when they welcomed 800 students back to campus in early September for the start of Fall Term.

After going fully remote during Spring Term, the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team (LPPT)—a campus leadership group led by Abaray, assistant to the president—spent late spring and much of the summer sifting COVID-19 data, studying options, consulting with experts on and off campus, and eventually drafting a multi-layered strategy that would allow for a mix of in-person and remote study.

But as Fall Term neared, with roughly 60% of the school’s nearly 1,500 students opting to return to the Appleton campus, news reports were painting a bleak picture. Wisconsin was the No. 1 hot spot in the country for new COVID cases, with Appleton being one of eight Wisconsin cities making the New York Times’ top 10 list.

Christyn Abaray

Abaray watched those reports with understandable concern. LPPT members began fielding queries from concerned students and parents about how safe it was to return to Appleton.

But Abaray and her team stayed confident in the strategic plan they had put together, which included the initial testing of all students, faculty, and staff on campus, weekly random testing throughout the term, ample space for quarantining and isolation, and strict requirements to Honor the Pledge, including wearing a mask and adhering to physical distancing.

As the COVID test results came in through September and into October, the difference between what was happening in the Fox Valley—and, really, most of Wisconsin—and what was happening on the Lawrence campus could not have been more stark. While Appleton case numbers blew up, the campus emerged as arguably the safest place in the city.

“We were regularly just in awe of what the testing was showing,” Abaray said. “We were just blown away.”

Positive cases on campus through Fall Term stayed below 1% even while cases surged in the surrounding community. And while reports of bars and restaurants filling with unmasked patrons were frequent in the Fox Valley and across Wisconsin, Lawrence students overwhelmingly stayed true to the pledge they signed to follow safety protocols.

Campus buildings were closed to the public. Signage reminded all to wear masks anytime on campus. Students were asked to socialize mask-less only in their pods, with all other interactions requiring masks and distancing.

Now, midway through Winter Term, with six months of experience to lean on and protocols still in place, Lawrence continues to have success in limiting the spread of the virus on campus, with cases detailed weekly on its digital dashboard. There have been slight upticks, but nothing that has been sustained.

At its most problematic point during Fall Term, Lawrence counted 20 positive COVID cases among its students. That number fell back to two a few weeks later and never went above 10 the rest of the term.

In Winter Term, which began with the return to campus of about 900 students the first week of January, there was a quick increase, with 30 students testing positive and going into isolation during the week of Jan. 11. It was a potential tipping point, Abaray said, and the LPPT quickly communicated concerns, reminding the Lawrence community how precarious the situation was and how important it remained to adhere to safety protocols.

The message hit home. The feared spread never happened, with positive tests and needed isolation quickly dropping again into single figures. As of mid-February, there was one active student case.

Abaray and her team know this is not a victory lap. There remains a long way to go. New COVID variants spreading across the U.S. pose new threats, and losing focus on what got Lawrence to this point could send things south quickly. But they also know the strategy they adopted last summer works.

Testing, testing, testing

D’Andre Weaver ’21 (left) and Sterling Ambrosius ’22 wear protective gear as they work at the testing site. Fifteen students were hired to help staff the site each week.

Despite a hefty price tag, Lawrence committed to testing early and often and has stayed with it. The LPPT, which consulted frequently with Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO Dr. John Raymond and ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi, identified testing as key to keeping the plan on track.

Everything else would fall in place based on what the testing numbers told them, Abaray said. If they could mitigate the spread of the virus, then they could launch academic programs as envisioned in various modalities and they could take steps to make the student experience as robust as possible despite the obvious limitations that come with safety protocols.

“The big piece of making all that happen was testing,” Abaray said.

Every student and employee who planned to set foot on campus at any point during the term was required to be tested before the term began. After that initial round, at least one-third of the campus population was tested weekly.

During Fall Term, that meant nasal swabs administered by Bellin Health. For Winter Term, the LPPT opted to switch to saliva-based PCR tests that could be administered by Lawrence staff in partnership with Concentric.

Richard Jazdzewski

“This allows us to be much more efficient and able to scale our staffing patterns to match the testing numbers for the given week,” said Richard Jazdzewski, dean of Wellness Services and an LPPT member. “This has resulted in less time waiting in line on site for our LU community.”

It’s also allowed Lawrence students to work as part of the testing team. Meralis Alvarez-Morales ’22 jumped at the chance to don protective gear and go to work. She’s now working between four and five hours a week, gathering needed information on site from Lawrentians being tested.

“I choose to work as a testing assistant not only because of the opportunity to be paid, but also because I wanted to do my part in giving back to my community,” Alvarez-Morales said. “We are still in a global pandemic after all, and many hands do make light work.”

The testing, which is set up in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center gymnasium, will continue in Spring Term, Abaray said. The cooperation to date from students and employees has been stellar. The push to stay the course will continue even as COVID numbers in the surrounding community continue to go down and a growing number of people are being vaccinated.

“The only way our testing strategy works is because we have a group of students, faculty, and staff who are adhering to all it means to be in the Pledge,” Abaray said. “It’s an interwoven group of things that all have to be happening for us to be where we are right now. Holding each other accountable is a big piece to that.”

The Pledge

Wearing a mask on campus is part of Honor the Pledge.

Honor the Pledge, launched before Fall Term began, is a pact between the University and all students, faculty, and staff who opted to or needed to be on campus. It lays out 10 promises tied to safety protocols, from mask-wearing to social distancing to testing.

Violations of the Pledge have been addressed on an individual basis, Abaray said. And while there have been occasional violations among students, the vast majority of Lawrentians on campus have stayed true to the Pledge. That, more than any other factor, is why Lawrence has had success mitigating the spread while some universities across the country have struggled.

“Student adherence to what we’re asking them to do, for the most part, is what’s making this possible,” Abaray said. “We’ve all read the stories from other places where decisions that students make really do make or break what happens. We have students who get it. They’re making some of the most mature decisions that we could ask for.”

Being a small campus certainly helps. Abaray and the rest of the LPPT know it’s easier to get that buy-in from a student body of 1,500 than it is for a campus with 50,000 students. But it’s still impressive. And the work continues.

A new incentive program launched through Wellness Services, called #VIKINGSCARE, gives Lawrence community members an opportunity to recognize their peers for behavior that keeps the campus community safe.

“Students who have been nominated can win weekly prizes, including free dinner with five friends from a local restaurant, an Apple watch, a Bluetooth speaker, LU gear, and more,” Jazdzewski said.

Alvarez-Morales, a Global Studies and Spanish double major, speaks with pride about her fellow students. She said students’ willingness to adhere to the Pledge, as limiting as it is, is what has separated Lawrence’s success in mitigating virus spread from what’s happened off campus.

“Lawrence overall has done a great job enforcing safety protocols and guidelines on campus,” Alvarez-Morales said. “Lawrence has also done a great job of providing students with the resources to obtain masks, reusable dinner bags, food, and sanitizing products to clean their spaces.”

The vast majority of students have taken the virus seriously. They understand that masking up and following protocols are selfless acts aimed at keeping others safe and the campus functioning. Alvarez-Morales said she wishes that was the case everywhere.

“In short, yes, I feel safer on campus now than I did when I first thought of returning to campus. But I do not feel safe in the surrounding community.”

Isolation and Quarantine Space

Kohler Hall was set aside as isolation and quarantine space as part of the strategic plan to mitigate virus spread on campus.

Lawrence limited the number of students who could live on campus – roughly 800 opted in for Fall Term and about 900 for Winter Term – so adequate housing space could be dedicated to isolation and quarantine.

Kohler Hall has been that space, with students being moved into the hall for isolation if they test positive and for quarantine if they have had close contact with someone who tested positive.

Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life and chaplain to the University, Terra Winston, associate dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, and Curt Lauderdale, dean of students, have been instrumental in creating a responsive and caring space for students entering Kohler. Bon Appetit, Lawrence’s on-site provider of campus meals, has been essential in providing food delivery.

Abaray praised Morgan-Clement and Winston for their ability to provide comfort—physical and emotional—for students going through isolation or quarantine. And she called Bon Appetit employees unsung heroes for their willingness to adapt in ways that serve those students.

“Their planning and their ability to adjust their planning for our students who are in Kohler in quarantine or isolation has been phenomenal to watch,” Abaray said. “We had a plan going in, and that wasn’t providing the best experience for the students, so they pivoted. It illustrates how much adjusting you need to do. It’s OK to adjust. You don’t have to have all the answers on the front end. You won’t. Adjusting is part of that.”

The making of the LPPT

Leadership and communication via the LPPT have been critical from the beginning. The group includes President Mark Burstein and most of his cabinet, as well as key personnel from Wellness Services, the faculty, and other points across campus. In all, more than 50 voices have been part of that team, including a number of student leaders.

“We figured out very quickly that we needed to have a lot of stakeholders around the table if we were going to do this the right way,” Abaray said.

The group met twice weekly through the spring and summer as it drafted a strategy to, if at all possible, bring students back to campus. It split into five subgroups to explore in detail various aspects of that challenge—a group focused on the campus calendar and curricular issues; a co-curricular group focused on student life, housing, meals, and student engagement; a group focused on visitors to campus; a health group that included faculty members with expertise in the biomedical field; and an employee group that explored potential workplace issues.

Those subgroups met regularly, then reported back to the LPPT as the strategy slowly evolved.

“All of it needed to come together by the middle of summer to have an idea of what direction we wanted to go for the fall,” Abaray said. “That was the first big decision that needed to be made.”

Once the decision was made to proceed with at least a portion of the student body on campus, the LPPT went to work drafting particulars, communicating the plan in detail to students, families, faculty, and staff, and answering an onslaught of questions.

That work is ongoing, with the LPPT continuing to meet weekly.

“We feel somewhat comfortable with where we are,” Abaray said.

But as it was nearly a year ago when the pandemic first arrived, there are more questions than answers. LPPT members know they must continue to listen, learn, respond, and adjust.

“Everything changes by the day,” Abaray said. “It’s that level of living in the gray. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that to people. You hear, ‘You all said this on this day and now you’re saying this.’ Yes, we did. We learned something. It’s not that we were wrong. It’s that we’ve learned something, and that’s moving us forward. We are making decisions with the best information we have at that particular moment, and the moment we have more information we are going to adjust. I know that’s not comfortable and it’s not ideal. For the control freak in me, it’s unnerving. But you have to be able to be in that space right now if you’re going to be productive.”

What’s next?

Vaccines are on the horizon. Jazdzewski said Lawrence will continue to work with city and county health officials in efforts to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines on campus, but how and when has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, preparations are under way to launch a Spring Term that will look very much like Winter Term. Students are again being given the option of living on campus or staying remote. If living on or visiting campus, adherence to the Pledge will remain a must. Adjustments in protocols will be made as conditions dictate.

Confidence in the strategy that has gotten Lawrence to this point is strong, Abaray said. But she and others on the LPPT know there will be more hurdles and more questions as winter turns to spring and impatience grows. The finish line remains murky at best.

“Every day we doubt everything because we just don’t know,” Abaray said. “We still don’t know what’s going on with this virus; still don’t know a lot of things. But I trust and I have confidence in our protocols and our strategy.”

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

2020 in focus: Photographer shares 10 favorite Lawrence images of the year

By Danny Damiani / Communications

At the end of a year that included more than 1,000 edited photos taken in and around the Lawrence University campus, I was tasked with selecting my top 10 images of 2020. Narrowing this rather unusual year down to 10 photos was a difficult task, but below you will find my favorites, along with notes on how and why. A huge thank you to all the students, faculty, and staff who allow me to step into their world both digitally and in person to make all of my photos happen.

1. Aerial Landscape, the Wellness Center, and Sampson House reflected just before sundown on Aug. 6. One of my goals this year was to try to show campus in new ways. I spent many hours this summer looking for different angles to reflect this beautiful campus. It wasn’t until I spotted a portion of Aerial Landscape reflected in nearby glass that I stopped and worked the angle of the reflection to get this result.

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2. Students dance during the Feb. 1 President’s Ball in Warch Campus Center. Thinking back to winter term, a favorite memory is the smiling faces at the President’s Ball. Covering the event was a bit of a technical challenge because of the low light, but like many assignments, it’s all about waiting in the right place for the right moment.

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3. Ryan Erdmann ’22 wears a mask while taking part in a Chamber Music class in City Park on Oct. 7. Mask-wearing quickly became a vital aspect of 2020, so I always kept an eye out for students who were using their masks to show off a little of their personality. It took nearly the entire class before I was able to get the light to fall in just the right spot for this photo.

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4. Kelvin Maestre ’21, a Makerspace assistant, watches as a laser cutter starts its work on a piece of wood on Jan. 22 in the Seeley G. Mudd Library. Having the chance to document the interesting work that students do is a highlight of my job. That often goes hand in hand with our 2 Minutes With series of student features. I knew the Makerspace would have lots of interesting light sources, so I went in looking to take an image that utilized one of them.

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5. Ghania Imran ’21 poses for a May 22 portrait in her Chicago home via Zoom. Speaking of our 2 Minutes With series, many of the photos I take for those stories are portraits. Spring Term brought new challenges for taking portraits of students. For this photo, I decided to try a portrait through Zoom. It involved lighting the laptop with two separate lights, help from Ghania to find a good spot in her home, and finally positioning the laptop for the right angle.

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6. Sonja Klusman plays the piano with Matt Turner, instructor of music, during an Applied Musicianship II class on Feb. 17 in Shattuck Hall. I always take into account the amount of time that’s available to me when I get to an assignment. Do I need to get a photo within five minutes or, in the case of this image, do I have the time to really explore different angles?

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7. Nicholas Jatta ’21 kicks a soccer ball with friends Oct. 6 on the Quad. During Fall Term, I spent a good deal of time looking to document what students were up to in this Honor the Pledge environment. Finding Nicholas kicking the soccer ball with friends was a pleasant surprise. Not only was the afternoon light falling beautifully on the Quad, but it had been a long time since I had the chance to photograph anything related to sports.

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8. The moon rises above Main Hall on Jan. 7. This image came together as I was nearing the end of a workday. While walking to Brokaw Hall from the Warch Campus Center, I noticed the moon was bright, and close enough the cupola to capture a photo.

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9. Nathan Graff ’22 and Daniel Johnson ’23 rehearse outdoors with the Jazz Ensemble on Oct. 7. After taking photos of an outdoor music class in City Park (see earlier entry), I decided to edit the images on Main Hall Green. Not long into my edit I heard the sounds of brass behind me. After getting a few images of the Jazz Ensemble students as they practiced, I noticed the shadows against the white chapel, so I reset myself and took this photo.

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10. Sophia Driessen ’22 transplants leafy greens while working on a hydroponics research project on Dec. 10 in the Briggs Hall greenhouse. This was the first time I took photos in the greenhouse. The purples and greens are what pull this image together for me.

Danny Damiani is a multimedia specialist in the Communications office. Email: daniel.t.damiani@lawrence.edu

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2020: Bright lights in midst of a daunting year

The President’s Handshake, a tradition of Welcome Week, was reimagined at the outset of Fall Term, one of many adjustments made to keep campus safe during the pandemic. President Mark Burstein met each incoming student and presented them with a luminary to be displayed. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It’s been a different sort of year. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly altered life on the Lawrence campus.

But one thing proved true. Lawrentians (and future Lawrentians and friends of Lawrence) are hungry to read about Lawrence and their fellow Lawrentians. We’ve dived into the analytics to share today the most viewed stories of 2020 on the Lawrence news site. (A few of the stories that placed in the top 20 are partnered here because they are so closely related.)

Eight alumni, eight stories: See 2020 edition here.

From voice professor John Holiday’s success on NBC’s The Voice to Lawrence again being hailed as a world-class school to adjustments made to campus life in the midst of a pandemic, there was no shortage of Lawrence news that drew a lot of interest. We provide here links to those most popular stories. Check out what you missed or take another look at stories that remind us of what makes Lawrence shine.

1. John Holiday hits big on NBC’s The Voice.

“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.” See stories here and here.

2. Princeton Review names Lawrence one of nation’s Best Impact schools.

“I see it and hear it when I meet with our alumni around the world. They point back to their time at Lawrence as unlocking something for them, discovering an interest or talent they didn’t know they had until they started working with professors here who helped guide them in that discovery.” See story here.

3. We say farewell to beloved Lawrentians.

“I will always remember Lifongo as the warmest, kindest, and most generous, joyful, and magnanimous of colleagues and friends.” … “I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.” See stories here and here.

4. Campus life changes amid COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of us living, learning, and working on campus this fall need to understand and to honor the responsibilities outlined by the Pledge.” See stories here and here.

5. A professor’s guide offers look at Freshman Studies.

“The entire list shows a remarkable range and an admirable ambition.” See story here.

6. New trestle trail adds to trails, parks near campus.

“The abandoned railroad trestle has been transformed into a 10-foot-wide trail that spans the Fox River at the southern edge of campus.” See story here.

7. Bidding good-bye for now to retiring faculty.

“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.” See story here.

8. Six faculty earn tenure.

“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.” See story here.

 9. Jake Woodford ’13 elected mayor of Appleton.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Jake’s energy turn toward the city he loves.” See story here.

10. Princeton Review names Lawrence to Best Colleges list.

“As we head into another academic year, albeit one that looks different from any other in history, it’s reassuring to see that some things have remained the same.” See story here.

11. President Mark Burstein announces plans to leave Lawrence.

“During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded.” See story here.

12. Lawrence offers assistance during pandemic.

“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity.” See story here.

13. Conservatory named ‘hidden gem,’ adapts to life in pandemic.

“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility. We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’” See story here.

14. Natasha Tretheway named 2020 Commencement speaker.

“Our journeys have been intertwined since I visited Lawrence four years ago, and I am delighted and honored to be able to reconnect with this class in such a meaningful way.” See story here.

15. Spencer Tweedy ’19 enjoys Kimmel appearance, Instagram show.

“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable.” See story here.

16. Lawrence adds major in Creative Writing, minor in Statistics and Data Science.

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing.” … “Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science.” See story here.

17. Four alumni added to Board of Trustees.

“At this critical moment for higher education, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the diverse group of individuals who are giving so much of their time and talent as trustees to ensure that the college continues to distinguish and differentiate itself.” See story here.

18. Alexander Gym court gets a redesign.

“While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus.” See story here.

19. Our 2020 Alumni Awards are announced.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the annual Reunion celebration, this year’s recipients are still being celebrated for their contributions to both the Lawrence community and the world.” See story here.

20. Alex Damisch ’16 cherishes her Jeopardy experience.

“After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.” See story here.

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

Noonan puts focus on balancing short-term challenges, long-term strength

Mary Alma Noonan is Lawrence University’s new vice president for finance and administration.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Mary Alma Noonan will tell you that interviewing for and landing a new job in the midst of a pandemic can be a bit disconcerting.

Lawrence University’s new vice president for finance and administration came on board in early August after going through a lengthy interview process, all without ever leaving her home in Vermont. Thus, Appleton became her new home sight unseen.

“The hardest part was wrapping my head around coming to Appleton when I had never set foot here, had not really spent any time in Wisconsin at all,” she said.

Six weeks in, so far so good. The campus is gorgeous, the weather has been beautiful, and the Lawrentians she’s met – masked up and at a distance or via Zoom – have been helpful, collaborative, and committed. In other words, as advertised.

“Because of the pandemic, I haven’t been exploring as much as I might have otherwise,” she said of Appleton. “But I’ve been doing a lot of walking, getting a sense of the geography.”

Noonan also has dived into Lawrence’s finances, which, like those of most every institution of higher learning across the country, are being stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She arrives on campus at a particularly difficult time, with much of the instruction taking place virtually and a little more than 60% of students living on campus for Fall Term.

Noonan said she and other members of the Lawrence leadership team will need to work closely with shared governance committees to make decisions with an eye on both the short-term financial realities and the long-term health of the University.

“It’s difficult, but that also makes it interesting and challenging,” Noonan said of her new role. “If it were just a job that I stepped into and it was just clicking through the steps and checking the boxes, I probably wouldn’t be as interested in it. There are challenges out there. I feel I have some ideas that can be helpful, looking at strategies going forward. Right now, we are so focused on the here and the now and getting through this crisis that the strategic part is a little bit on the back burner. But I know that that is going to pop into the foreground before too long. That’s really an interesting part of this to me, to think about how to make the institution stronger, how to ensure the best possible experience for the students we have now and those in the future.”

Noonan spent the past year as the chief financial officer for the Rutland City Public Schools in Vermont. Prior to that, she spent a year and a half as the vice president for finance and administration at Green Mountain College, a struggling liberal arts college in Poultney, Vermont. She came on board well aware that Green Mountain was trying to dig out of serious financial difficulties. Efforts to reverse the slide were not successful and the school closed its doors after the 2018-19 academic year.

The experience gave Noonan insights into the hurdles facing higher education. And furthered a desire to work in the world of liberal arts education.

“Lawrence is in a relatively fortunate position vis-à-vis some of its peers in that we’ve got a pretty solid financial footing supported by a good endowment,” she said.

That endowment is being significantly bolstered by the $220 million Be the Light! Campaign that launched six years ago and is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2020, providing long-term sustainability.

The endowment isn’t “luxurious” when compared to the handful of other schools with similar faculty-student ratios to Lawrence and that count their endowments in the billions, Noonan said, but it’s strong enough to provide stability that some schools just don’t have right now.

“The higher education sector is going through some tough times, but Lawrence will get through it,” Noonan said. “We just need to be good conservators of the resources that we have. We need to put in the work and make sure that we’re using those resources as effectively as possible to ensure the longevity of what we do.”

Ultimately, identifying ways to generate higher levels of revenue while maintaining a commitment to Lawrence’s mission and values will be key going forward, Noonan said.

A new career path

Entering the world of higher education was no accident. Noonan, who has a bachelor of arts degree in East Asian Studies from Middlebury College and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and speaks fluent Mandarin, spent the bulk of her career in the business world, holding financial leadership posts with Sara Lee Corporation, Arrow Electronics, and Fannie Mae.

But after she took some time off to help see her mother through a health crisis, she shifted her focus toward more mission-driven work.

“When I started to go back to look for my next step, I realized my heart really wasn’t into continuing with a lot of the private sector functions I had been doing,” Noonan said. “It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of purpose or mission behind that work.”

She had long been doing pro bono work on the side for a variety of nonprofits. That, she said, is where she was finding joy.

“I felt, particularly when I was in Washington, that I was getting more fulfilment out of some of the nonprofit work I was doing than in my day job,” she said.

She started to explore career opportunities in the nonprofit world. And that led to her connecting with Green Mountain, which put her on a path that would eventually lead to Lawrence.

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

Library project leads list of renovations happening across campus this summer

The second floor of Mudd Library is being transformed this summer into the Center for Academic Success. The revamped space is expected to be open by the time Fall Term begins in September. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Maintenance and infrastructure upgrade projects are proceeding at Lawrence University this summer, with COVID-19 safety precautions in place.

In addition to the recently announced upgrades in lighting and heating and air conditioning infrastructure by Johnson Controls Inc., the campus projects include the renovation of the second floor of Mudd Library into the Center for Academic Success, the installation of new bleachers as part of an Alexander Gym revamp, and a new outdoor stairway leading from Briggs Hall to the trail along the Fox River.

Much of the work is donor funded.

Here are seven notable projects taking place across campus this summer (and seven more that were recently finished):

1. Mudd Library second floor transformed into Center for Academic Success

Center for Academic Success, second floor of Mudd Library

This work is ongoing through summer, with the new Center for Academic Success scheduled for occupancy by the beginning of September. It will feature nine private offices, a classroom, a testing room, a conference room, a general tutoring area, two new restrooms, and a remodeled Help Desk and computer lab. It’s a major investment for an academic initiative that was launched in 2016 to help support Lawrence students on their academic journeys. The library renovation was made possible by a $1.5 million fundraising campaign. The center offers support in areas that range from tutoring to accessibility services and more.

2. New hardscape in front of Wellness Center

Hardscape in front of Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center

The replacement of concrete from Sampson House to Memorial Hall is under way. This hardscape repair helps beautify the area directly in front of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center. It also helps improve safety, as the concrete in that area was in disrepair.

3. Outdoor stairway at Briggs Hall

Outdoor stairs along west side of Briggs Hall

The installation of the new metal stairway and adjoining landscaping next to Briggs Hall are nearing completion. The stairs provide an easy and safe route to the trail along the Fox River and the SLUG Garden, not to mention easy access to the City of Appleton’s new Lawe Street Trestle Trail, which is set to open later this summer. The stairs replace the old wooden steps, which had been closed off because of safety concerns.

4. Alexander Gym revamp

Alexander Gym floor

New bleachers in Alexander Gym are being installed this summer. That follows a new wall that was constructed to hold the bleachers. Earlier, the gym floor was refinished and now features a large Viking ship logo. It should enhance the playing and viewing experience for basketball games, volleyball games, and other athletic events at Alex.

5. Memorial Chapel upgrades

Memorial Chapel

A large projection screen is being mounted above the stage in Memorial Chapel to enable the space to be used as a classroom and to enhance certain productions. Additionally, stained-glass window repairs will happen this summer courtesy of a donor fund that supports annual upkeep work on the Chapel windows. Also, a section of the Chapel roof is being repaired.

6. Warch Campus Center flooring

Andrew Commons (before construction) in Warch Campus Center

A planned Warch dining area renovation project, funded by Bon Appetit, is on hold for a year; however, the replacement of the flooring in both Andrew Commons and The Cafe is still a go for this summer. The new terrazzo flooring takes 12 weeks to install. Doing it this summer will reduce the construction time to complete the remainder of the project next year. The flooring is expected to be completed by the end of August. 

7. Plantz Hall Wi-Fi and new paint

Plantz Hall

Technology Services staff are completing copper data wiring infrastructure upgrades in Plantz Hall, preparing the residence hall for the next generation of Wi-Fi. Also, the lounge and lobby at Plantz are being painted and two new murals added.

And more: Here are seven other projects that have been completed since most Lawrentians left campus in March:

Briggs Hall 223:  This classroom was remodeled in June, complete with new flooring, furniture, and paint.

Women’s hockey locker room remodel: The women’s hockey locker room, located at the Appleton Family Ice Center in Memorial Park, was remodeled in April, part of the preparation for the debut of Lawrence’s women’s hockey team. The refurbishment included adding an additional stall, new fixtures, rubber flooring, benching, and shelving.

Steam line repair: Two steam line repairs were completed during the spring and early summer.

Parking lot of Big and Little Exec: The lot surface has been repaired.

Install of METASYS metering system: This is an HVAC control system upgrade at Warch Campus Center.

Community Music School roof replacement: The Lawrence Community Music School (formerly known as the Academy of Music) received a new roof in March.

Alexander Gym transformer: A new transformer was installed at Alex Gym courtesy of WE Energies

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