Tag: Lawrence University

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

Lawrence partners with Bellin for COVID-19 testing as it sets plans for fall

Lawrence University

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Bellin Health will be the COVID-19 health care partner with Lawrence University during the coming academic year, part of the University’s comprehensive plan for reopening the campus for Fall Term.

Lawrence announced July 14 that its Appleton campus would open as planned for the Fall Term, which begins Sept. 14, with students, faculty, and staff having the option to be on campus or remain remote. Classes will be offered in a mix of in-person and distance learning, with physical distancing requirements in place on campus.

The partnership with Bellin will be a key piece of that strategy.

“Lawrence is fortunate to reside in a community with many talented health care organizations,” President Mark Burstein said. “The University has contracted with Bellin Health to be our health care partner as we adapt as a community to living with COVID-19. They will provide on-campus testing for all community members. Our long-term existing relationships with Ascension and ThedaCare health systems in the Fox Valley will also continue to supply essential local support.”

Planning for Fall 2020: See letter from President Burstein, details, FAQ here.

The partnership with Bellin Health includes COVID-19 testing of students, faculty, and staff when they arrive on campus. Any member of the Lawrence community living or working on campus will then need to complete a daily screening of temperature and symptoms and participate in frequent testing through the term.

Physical distancing and masks will be part of campus life when Fall Term opens.

“At Bellin Health, we understand that improving health means going beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics to serve our communities up close, working together to keep people safe and improve overall health and well-being,” said Randy Van Straten, Bellin’s vice president for business and community health. “We look forward to the opportunity to partner with Lawrence, helping this great local university coexist with COVID-19 and maintain a safe and healthy campus environment.”        

The university will continue to collaborate with the Appleton Health Department for contact tracing for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

The academic year at Lawrence will look different than any before. Physical distancing rules will be in place and all members of the community will be required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, including classrooms, as well as outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible. All members of the Lawrence community who opt to be on campus will need to sign a community pledge agreeing to an understanding of what it means to be physically on campus.

“Ensuring the health and safety of the Lawrence University community and beyond only works when everyone does their part, together,” said Christyn Abaray, assistant to the president.

Lawrence’s pandemic planning team consulted with health experts, both within Wisconsin and around the country, and with various faculty, students, staff, and trustees through the shared governance process, Burstein said.

“Our goal was to ensure that every Lawrentian will have the opportunity to learn, teach, and work as fully and safely as possible,” he said.

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

Can’t visit in person? 8 ways to experience Lawrence from your couch

Lawrence Memorial Chapel is just one stop on our virtual tour. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

Nothing beats an in-person campus visit, but if you want to experience Lawrence University without making the trip to campus, here are 8 ways you can do that – all without leaving your couch. 

1. Take the virtual tour 

If you’re anxious to see campus and check out the spaces where you’ll live, learn, and socialize, Lawrence has an excellent virtual tour available. You can click through the tour at your own pace without audio, or you can follow along with the student-narrated journey and hear facts and stories along the way. 

2. Watch YouTube playlists 

Spend a lot of time on YouTube? You can learn about Lawrence’s traditions, people, and spaces on our YouTube channel. Tour our buildings and city with the Campus and Appleton playlist. You can get to know some of your future professors with the Meet the Faculty playlist. And the Campus Life playlist will introduce you to traditions, events, and activities you’ll take part in as a student. 

3. Dive into your interests on our website 

If you’re looking for some more specific information about Lawrence’s academic programs, student life, study abroad opportunities, or just about anything else, the website has you covered. Just a few clicks and you’ll have all the details you need about life at Lawrence. 

4. Request a chat 

Some questions are best answered in-person. You can schedule a one-on-one meeting with your admissions counselor, a faculty member, or even a current student to ask all your in-depth questions and hear about Lawrence from a personal perspective. If you’re interested in the Conservatory of Music or joining one of our 22 varsity athletic teams, you also can schedule a chat to talk about those interests with Conservatory faculty or a coach

5. Listen to lectures 

As the one course all Lawrence students take, Freshman Studies is the perfect (not to mention iconic) introduction to what it means to be a Lawrentian. Featuring works from all academic areas of study, check out some of this year’s lectures for a taste of the freshman experience. 

6. Read profiles 

There’s no better way to get to know Lawrence than by getting to know the individuals who call it home. Learn all about your future classmates, professors, and alumni through engaging profiles at blogs.lawrence.edu/profiles/

7. Read what our student writers have to say 

Our student writers have a thing or two to say about Lawrence. From advice for incoming students to a guide to Lawrence slang, from creative final exams to treasures found on campus, articles by student writers will give you a feel for the authentic student experience.

8. Follow on social media 

For all the latest Lawrence news—plus must-see updates on the adorable presidential pup, Homer—follow @lawrenceuni on social media. With accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, it’s the best way to stay up to date on all things Lawrence. 

We look forward to when we can welcome you to campus in person, but until then, there are plenty of ways for you to explore Lawrence from anywhere in the world. So, take the virtual tour, check out our website, and schedule a chat soon. We can’t wait to meet you! 

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

Noonan selected for Lawrence’s VP for finance and administration position

Lawrence University

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Mary Alma Noonan, a financial executive who has deep leadership experience in the public and private sectors, has been hired as Lawrence University’s vice president for finance and administration.

She will join Lawrence in early August.

Mary Alma Noonan

“Her collegial approach, her deep knowledge of finance and operations, and her clear passion for a liberal arts education prepares her well to lead Lawrence forward,” President Mark Burstein said in announcing the hiring of Noonan.

She fills the position left open by the departure earlier this academic year of Christopher Lee.

Noonan is coming from Vermont, where she is the chief financial officer for the Rutland City Public Schools. She joins Lawrence at a time of worldwide angst due to the COVID-19 pandemic that forced an abrupt transition to distance learning for Spring Term and has added much financial uncertainty to the higher education landscape.

Noonan said she believes Lawrence is well-positioned to navigate through some difficult financial challenges.

“The global pandemic, which upended spring terms on college campuses everywhere, has intensified the already challenging times higher education in this country has been experiencing,” Noonan said. “In a rapidly transforming and consolidating environment, Lawrence has a number of assets that bode well for its future: solid financial footing, distinct differentiation from its peers and competitors, and enlightened leadership.”

Much of Noonan’s career has been spent in the business world, holding financial leadership posts with Sara Lee Corporation, Arrow Electronics, and Fannie Mae before shifting her career focus to more mission-driven work.

She has a bachelor of arts degree in East Asian Studies from Middlebury College and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. She is fluent in Mandarin.

Noonan’s brief tenure as vice president for finance and administration at Green Mountain College right before it closed last year returned her to her liberal arts roots, making the Lawrence position that much more appealing, she said.

She emerged from a deep field of quality candidates. Finalists went through a series of interviews with members of Lawrence’s leadership team, including faculty and staff, all done from a distance because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had a very strong group of candidates from around the country for this position,” Burstein said. “Mary Alma’s deep and wide-ranging background in finance and operations at both private international companies and educational institutions made her a perfect fit for the work we have ahead.”

The conversations with Lawrentians, even done remotely, cemented her interest in joining the Lawrence family, Noonan said, referencing “universally positive interactions I have had with administrators, faculty, staff, and board members” throughout the interview process.

“I am already feeling embraced by the Lawrence community and look forward to joining everyone in person come August,” she said.

Noonan will complete the academic year at Rutland before making the move to Wisconsin.

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

Lawrence’s Buenzli, Rosa earn President’s Award of Excellence

Erin Buenzli (left) and Ariela Rosa ’15

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University staff members who work closely with students and alumni have been honored for their tireless work and their willingness to reach across departments.

Erin Buenzli, director of wellness and recreation, and Ariela Rosa ’15, associate director of corporate, foundation, and sponsored research support, are the recipients of the 2019-20 President’s Award of Excellence.

The President’s Award of Excellence Committee and President Mark Burstein announced the honors. In past years, the awards have been announced at the annual Service Award Luncheon, but because of steps taken to protect the Lawrence community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been postponed. It’ll be rescheduled at a to-be-determined date.

Nominators cited Buenzli and Rosa for championing the staples of the President’s Award — support, stewardship, innovation, and teamwork.

To see videos about Buenzli and Rosa, and to see past President’s Award winners and this year’s service award recipients, click here.

Buenzli: Seeking wellness

While Buenzli’s work is based in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center, she is active across campus, organizing an annual wellness fair, holding pop-up wellness sessions in unexpected spaces, and even teaching an annual Spring Term wellness class.

“She is in every space you could possibly think of on campus and she’s always looking beyond her position description for the good of Lawrence,” said Kristi Hill, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

Leah McSorely, associate dean of students for international student services, applauded Buenzli for reaching out to all students on campus and making wellness services accessible for all.

“She makes sure Lawrence is at the forefront of providing an inclusive wellness space,” she said.

Rosa: Advocating for others

Rosa, meanwhile, drew praise not only for her stellar work on the grants team but also for her willingness to mentor others and be an advocate on and off campus for inclusiveness and fairness.

“She is someone who stands up for people whose voices aren’t heard, making sure people feel supported, making sure people know where to go when they need things, and just having a much bigger vision for what it means to be an inclusive campus community,” said Emily Bowles, coordinator for experiential funding and professional networking.

Jaime Gonzalez ’16, an assistant director of admissions with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and access, called Rosa’s mentoring skills an extension of who she is as a person.

“We kind of all go the extra mile to help and support one another,” he said of the Lawrence culture. “And Ariela is kind of the person who goes the extra, extra mile.”

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

Lawrence mourns loss of Terry Franke, a dedicated leader, mentor over five decades

Terry Franke speaks during a careers training session at Lawrence in 2015.
Terry Franke ’68 was chair of the Board of Trustees at Lawrence from 2011 to 2015. Here he speaks during a career information session in 2015.

J. Terrence (Terry) Franke ’68, an impactful leader who helped guide Lawrence University through transformative changes and served as a mentor for past and current students, passed away Tuesday, Jan. 21, at the age of 73 with his wife, Mary, his three children, and siblings at his side.

Franke, of Evanston, Illinois, served as the chair of Lawrence University’s Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2015, a capstone to five decades of service in which he provided calm and insightful leadership and mentored countless students, alumni, and fellow trustees.

As Board chair, he delivered steady guidance during a time of great transition, leading to the 2013 appointment of Mark Burstein as the University’s 16th president.

“Terry’s passion, unbounded energy, and strategic vision have carried Lawrence successfully forward,” Burstein said. “His investment in countless student interns and persistent support of many aspects of our learning community has had an extraordinary impact on the University. 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.”

Terry Franke ’68

Franke’s accomplishments as chair of the Board were preceded by his long service to the University as a trustee, beginning in 2002. He also served an earlier term as an alumni trustee from 1995 to 1998.

Among other leadership efforts, Franke led the Board’s Investment Committee, stewarding the endowment through the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

He transformed the Investment Committee shortly after becoming chair, bringing in alumni who had expertise in the areas of private equity and real estate and opening the conversation to a wider range of voices. That had never been done before, and it reinvigorated the committee, bringing change that would pay off in a big way when the markets collapsed in and around 2008.

“I can remember being in a meeting in March of 2009, which was within a few days of the market low, and the endowment had fallen from about $200 million to something in the $130 million range,” recalled David Knapp ’89, who now serves as the Investment Committee chair. “We were unsure of where we were going to go from there. And Terry was calm and had a long-term view, and helped lead the conversation in a way that kept us all from panicking. What followed was a decade of sustained growth of the endowment through appreciation and new gifts that has brought it over $350 million today. … He stewarded the endowment through the roughest financial period of our lifetimes.”

Knapp took over the lead role on the Investment Committee when Franke was named chair of the Board of Trustees in 2011.

Franke strengthened the Board of Trustees while chair, recruiting and welcoming new Board members with wide ranges of experience and diverse perspectives, expanding the depth and breadth of the Board.

“Terry always answered the call of his alma mater with talent, energy, and passion for the Lawrence community,” said David Blowers ’82, the current Board chair. “He led the Board of Trustees during a critical period in Lawrence’s history. His ability to orchestrate a seamless presidential transition put the University on the successful path it enjoys today. I know that I speak on behalf of the entire Board when I say we will greatly miss his wisdom, energy, and, above all, his loyal friendship.”

It was during Franke’s time leading the Board of Trustees that Lawrence launched its Full Speed to Full Need campaign to support student scholarships. When he stepped down as chair of the Board in 2015, Franke received a surprise announcement: The establishment of the Terry and Mary Franke Scholarship Fund, courtesy of a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor. The money was put toward the Full Speed to Full Need campaign, to be used exclusively for endowed scholarships to help meet students’ demonstrated financial needs.

That was fitting because Franke’s commitment to Lawrence ran so deep, as did the respect for him among his fellow alumni. When he asked others to engage, the answer was most often a yes.

A committed mentor

Franke spent most of his professional career at Hewitt Associates, where he was a senior partner. He also served as a senior consultant for Productive Strategies Inc., a management and marketing consulting firm based in Northfield, Illinois, and Franke Associates.

He was a dedicated member of the Lawrence community from the moment he stepped on campus as a student in 1964. Since graduating in 1968, he has fostered and maintained connections, sharing his time and knowledge with alumni as well as current and future Lawrentians. Franke was ready to lend a hand as an event volunteer, admissions volunteer, and as a member of reunion committees and class leadership teams. He took particular joy in mentoring the student interns at his workplace, supported by the Franke Scholarship Fund.

A proud member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Franke connected often with past and current fraternity members.

Jake Woodford ’13, special assistant to the president at Lawrence, first connected with Franke while a student in 2010. Those connections continued, and Franke proved to be a mentor and supporter as Woodford moved into Lawrence’s administration.

“One of the hallmarks for me was how much Terry cared about people and how much he kept track of people,” Woodford said. “He knew the projects they had going on. Their relationships and their passions in many ways became his.”

Franke would meet with fraternity members whenever he was on campus for Board meetings.

“He was always mentoring,” Woodford said. “That was a really special part of who he was.”

Henry Chesnutt ’14 was among the nearly 20 Lawrence students who served as interns over the past decade in Franke’s office.

“Interning with Terry was an apprenticeship to a life of integrity and hard work,” he said.

Chesnutt recalls struggling through much of his internship, but Franke was there to guide him along and prep him for his launch into the workforce. With Franke’s gentle prodding, he eventually found his bearings, and is now thriving as a software engineer with Bain and Company.

“You might think that after his 15th intern he might have stopped, relaxed, and rested on the fruits of his altruism,” Chesnutt said of Franke. “But even up to his passing, he was still mentoring students and offering internships to do all he could to pay it forward.”

In Lawrence’s Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement, Franke long set an example of how alumni can positively impact the lives of current students. It’s those kinds of connections the office is striving to enhance.

“Terry’s efforts have helped countless students over the past decade, and have advanced the lives of individuals now working in health care, consulting, finance, and more,” said Mandy Netzel, assistant director of the CLC for employer and alumni relations.

In honor of his lifelong commitment to his alma mater and its students, Franke received Lawrence’s Presidential Award in 2018.

Details on a Lawrence gathering to celebrate Franke’s life will be announced at a later date.

New faculty hires, guide to Freshman Studies top list of most-read 2019 stories

Hoa Huynh, Jordyn Pleiseis, and Miranda Salazar pose in cap and gown in front of Memorial Chapel on Commencement morning.
The Class of 2019, including (from left) Hoa Huynh, Jordyn Pleiseis, and Miranda Salazar, helped make 2019 a special year at Lawrence.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A story announcing the hiring of five new tenure-track faculty at Lawrence University was the most-read story at lawrence.edu in 2019, followed closely by a guide to the books on the reading list for Freshman Studies.

The new faculty story, posted in May, welcomed Abhishek Chakraborty, statistics; Estelí Gomez, Conservatory of Music (voice); Vanessa D. Plumly, German; Relena Ribbons, geosciences; and Austin Segrest, English. All five started their new appointments at the start of Fall Term.

It heads our list of the top 10 most popular stories of 2019 on the Lawrence news wire, a list that includes Lawrence landing high in national rankings, a nod to tradition, the arrival of a new degree, and an embrace of the school’s commitment to the sciences.

Here, then, are the top 10 stories for 2019 at lawrence.edu, based on analytics that track readership:

  1. Lawrence announces the hiring of five new tenure-track faculty.
  2. Garth Bond, associate professor of English and director of Freshman Studies, guides us through the 2019-20 Freshman Studies reading list.
  3. Princeton Review ranks Lawrence among the best colleges in the country.
  4. Lawrence unveils its new Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) degree.
  5. Excitement builds in the sciences as Lawrence ranks high on a STEM-to-Ph.D. ranking and works to implement inclusive pedagogy in the sciences.
  6. The Rock, a boulder with history on campus dating back 124 years, gets some new attention.
  7. An anthropology professor and his students work in partnership with a historic site in Kaukauna.
  8. Lawrence ranks among “Best Value” schools in the country, places fourth on “Impact Schools” list.
  9. Getting to know Lawrence’s Class of 2023, by the numbers.
  10. We caught up with players and coaches from the men’s basketball team that made a thrilling run through March Madness 15 years ago.

More: Eight alums, eight stories: Shining a light on amazing, inspiring experiences

19 superlatives: As 2019 closes, we celebrate a year of Lawrence brilliance

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

19 superlatives: As 2019 closes, we celebrate a year of Lawrence brilliance

Patty Darling leads the Lawrence Studio Orchestra during Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend at Memorial Chapel..
Patty Darling leads the Lawrence Studio Orchestra during Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekend at Memorial Chapel. The success of the jazz program provides the foundation for a new Bachelor of Musical Arts degree introduced at Lawrence in 2019. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We’ve had a lot of fun on the Lawrence news wire during 2019, getting to know students and faculty, catching up with alumni, and showcasing the innovative work being done in classrooms, performance spaces, and athletic venues across campus.

As we bid adieu to the year and prepare to welcome 2020, we’ve pulled together some of our favorite moments of the past 12 months, superlative style. (Also look in the coming days for favorite alumni moments and our top 10 most-read stories.)

Let’s start with the superlatives — 19 strong, with story links — in no particular order:

1 … Most boastful moments of the year

Main Hall is reflected during the first snow fall of the season.
Lawrence University reflected nicely in 2019. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Rankings continue to put Lawrence in elite national company. In the Princeton Review’s “Best Value Schools,” Lawrence came in at No. 4 in the category of best schools for making an impact. It also put Lawrence on its list of the best 385 colleges in the country. Only about 13% of eligible four-year schools make that list. With five recent graduates teaching abroad on Fulbright awards, Lawrence landed on a prestigious list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students. And Lawrence landed at No. 26 in Forbes’ 2019 edition of the Grateful Graduates Index, which follows the money in terms of alumni giving at private, not-for-profit colleges.

— — —

2 … Most emphatic reminder of bonds between Lawrence, Appleton

The bonds between Lawrence and the Appleton community are deep and important. A Report to the Community in April highlighted a study that shows Lawrence’s annual impact on Appleton and the greater Fox Cities totals nearly $70.3 million — from employee earnings, goods and services, construction projects, off-campus spending and visitor spending. It also showed contributions to the community go well beyond economics, highlighting ongoing cultural and charitable relationships, including work on Mile of Music.

— — —

3 … Most likely weekend to be filled with sleeplessness

Group photo of trivia masters in advance of 2019 Great Midwest Trivia Contest.
Miranda Salazar ’19 (center) led the Great Midwest Trivia Contest team.

When we talk about traditions that continue to engage and amuse, it’s hard to beat Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest. For the 54th edition, we gave you 37 reasons to love trivia weekend, the 37 being a nod to the very specific start time of 37 seconds past 10 p.m., the kickoff to 50 hours of madness that is annually a highlight of winter term.

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4 … Brightest lights of Lawrentian generosity

There are many such examples. It’s tough to narrow it down. But we highlighted a few that were particularly notable in 2019, from the Be the Light campaign (continuing after being launched in late 2018), to an endowed position to teach the psychology of collaboration, to a record-setting Giving Day. There is much to be thankful for.

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5 … Newest degree on the block

Daniel Green '20 records during a session in Houston on the Presto tour.
Daniel Green ’20 was part of the Presto! tour to Houston. (Photo by Garrett Katerzynske)

The unveiling of a new degree program is no small thing. The Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) degree was introduced this year, opening the Conservatory of Music to a more expansive group of student musicians. With a foundation in jazz and contemporary improvisation, the degree is built to accommodate a wider range of music making. The possibilities are many, and the excitement is palpable.

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6 … Favorite hometown connection on a Presto! tour

Voice professor John Holiday returned to Houston as part of the Lawrence Conservatory’s annual Presto! tour, a spring outing that embraces both performance and community outreach. For Holiday, doing so in his hometown made it all the more special and presented opportunities to share his love of Lawrence with prospective students. For the Conservatory, it was one more opportunity to showcase its mantra of music with a mission.

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7 … Strongest embrace of a Wisconsin winter

A view from above shows the ice rink in the Appleton yard of Chuck and Lesley McKee.
Chuck and Lesley McKee ’68 share their ice rink. (Photo by Garrett Katerzynske)

Have you seen the ice rink that is the annual handiwork of Chuck McKee ’68? It’s a sight to behold. He and his wife, Lesley McKee ’68, have deep bonds with Lawrence that continue to this day. They live a couple blocks north of campus. Each winter for the past 25 years, Chuck, a retired doctor and Lawrence Hall of Fame football player, has turned their yard into an elaborate skating rink, drawing a bevy of friends and acquaintances for pickup hockey games (and from time to time Lawrence hockey players looking for ice time). They’ve also been known to throw a party or two on the ice, one of which landed their rink in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

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8 … Most eye-opening testimonial to Lawrence’s strength in STEM

A report from the Council for Independent Colleges put Lawrence in some pretty notable company regarding the number of students earning degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields on their way to successful completion of doctoral degrees. In a national ranking that measures the percentage of a school’s STEM graduates from 2007 to 2016 who eventually earned a Ph.D., Lawrence comes in at No. 17, sandwiched between Harvard at 16 and Princeton at 18.  

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9 … Best use of a camera in a garden setting

A goat chews weeds in the SLUG garden.
Students brought goats to the SLUG garden for weed control. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

There’s nothing like a midsummer arrival of goats to liven up one of the quietest stretches of the campus calendar. When the students tending to the SLUG garden garnered a sustainability grant to bring in 10 goats to do some weeding, well, we turned a GoPro camera into our very own Goat Cam. The goat initiative was just one of numerous sustainability projects on campus, and played a part in Lawrence’s upgraded sustainability rating.

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10 … Most madness-filled athletics flashback

In the college basketball world, March Madness shouldn’t ever be taken for granted. Fifteen years ago, the Lawrence men’s team went where no Vikings had gone before, winning an NCAA tournament game (and then some) for the first time in the program’s 101 years. We revisited the magical run to the NCAA D-III Elite Eight on the 15th anniversary, catching up with that 2003-04 team that had Lawrence dancing like never before.

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11 … Biggest artful addition to campus

Native students pose in front of the indigenous education mural on the side of the Buchanen Kiewit Wellness Center.
Native students highlight indigenous education. (Photo by Liz Boutelle)

When Matika Wilbur of Project 562 came to campus to share a journey that has taken her to tribal lands across the country (and beyond), she was looking to redirect the narrative on indigenous people. In addition to a convocation address on her work with photography and art installations, she led Native students in the creation of a gorgeous mural on the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

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12 … Most toast-worthy Lawrence tradition

A lot was happening back in 1969. Among the changes at Lawrence was the transition of the Viking Room from an alcohol-free student hangout to a full-fledged campus bar. The popular spot in the lower level of Memorial Hall marked its 50th anniversary as a bar.

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13 … Funkiest alumni celebration of Lawrence roots

Porky's Groove Machine performs in downtown Appleton.
Porky’s Groove Machine keeps it quirky. (Photo by Ken Cobb)

We love it when Lawrence alumni stay connected, return to campus, and share their passion for this place that helped shape them in their adult lives. If it gets a little quirky, so be it. Members of Porky’s Groove Machine, a funk band that started at Lawrence and is now based in Minneapolis, wear their quirkiness like badges of honor. The Porky’s crew — seven Lawrentians strong — returns often, and we are forever thankful.

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14 … Best use of a swimming pool in a non-traditional way

The opera presented at Lawrence in late March was probably a bit different than any you’ve experienced before. For starters, the musicians — and some instruments — were in the water. Held in the pool at the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center, the opera included violins and cellos and keyboards and fancy attire — and water. Lots and lots of water. We chatted with the creative artists behind Breathe.

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15 … Newsiest inspirations in the sciences

Megan Pickett poses in front of physics equations on a white board.
Megan Pickett tapped into Nobel inspirations. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

When the Nobel Prizes were announced this fall, there were some scientists and economists at Lawrence nodding in agreement. Research being done by faculty members Megan Pickett, Allison Fleshman, Dylan Fitz, and Hillary Caruthers — and their students — is closely tied to or inspired by the work of Nobel winners in chemistry, physics, and economics. A book that is part of Freshman Studies also got Nobel attention.

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16 … Most savvy change in study abroad opportunities

Lawrence students continue to thrive with study abroad opportunities. A change in how financial aid is tied to studying abroad has eased the path for some students, resulting in an uptick in numbers over the past year. Students continue to share how the experiences abroad have enriched their lives and their college experience.

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17 … Newest on-stage effort to embrace inclusivity

American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgin Signed English (PSE) are used during a Lawrence Opera Theatre Ensemble performance of "Mass."
Lawrence Opera Theatre utilizes sign language in “Mass.” (Photo by Ken Cobb)

When Lawrence reimagined Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in early 2019, it came with a significant twist that drew in a slice of the population that often feels left out. The production by Lawrence’s Opera Theatre Ensemble, led by Copeland Woodruff, incorporated a Deaf character played by a professional Deaf actor. The students in the production spent considerable time learning American Sign Language (ASL) and Pidgin Signed English (PSE), used throughout the live performances.

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18 … Rockiest tradition that endures

The Rock has been part of Lawrence since the class of 1895 first hauled the big boulder to campus and carved their signature into it 124 years ago. While the traditions and squabbles that have been part of that history haven’t always been embraced by school administrators, that history was finally recognized with signage that went up this summer. With it came this rock-solid history lesson.

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19 … Most buzz-worthy research on campus

Biology professor Israel Del Toro ramped up Lawrence’s efforts in bee advocacy, securing a bee-friendly campus designation via the Bee City USA initiative. His research work includes assists from students and outreach to the Fox Cities community.

Bonus: We’ve connected with a lot of fascinating alumni over the past year. Here are eight who caught our attention.

Lawrence’s top 10 most-read stories of 2019

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

Podcasting evolves into increasingly popular teaching tool at Lawrence

Fallon Sellers and Georgia Greenberg sit at a table with a microphone as they record a podcast for their War and Pop Culture class.
Fallon Sellers ’20 (left) and Georgia Greenberg ’20 record a podcast for their War and Pop Culture class. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Eyes got a little wide when Jason Brozek told his Government 425: War & Pop Culture students they’d be researching, scripting, and recording a series of podcasts during fall term.

Fallon Sellers ’20 just smiled and nodded.

The Lawrence University senior, one of about 20 students in the class, knew the drill, having done a podcast in the spring in Brozek’s Environmental Justice class and already being deep into a podcast in Linnet Ramos’ fall term Psychopharmacology & Behavior class.

“I was able to be a little reassuring to everybody else,” Sellers said.

Welcome to the world of classroom podcasting.

As the popularity of podcasts has exploded over the past few years and the technology for recording and sharing podcasts has been streamlined, professors have increasingly turned to the format as an alternate means of research and study in their classes. Instead of an end-of-term paper being due, students are showcasing what they’ve learned by creating episodes of podcasts that will in many cases be accessible to anyone who wants to listen.

At Lawrence, the creation of podcasts as part of coursework is becoming more frequent. Brozek and Ramos are the latest, but they are far from alone. Marcia Bjornerud in geosciences, Brigid Vance in history, and Israel Del Toro in biology, among others, have all experimented with podcasting in their classes.

“First, the barrier to entry is low,” Jedidiah Rex, a designer on Lawrence’s Instructional Technology staff, said of the increase in podcast usage as a teaching strategy. “The tools necessary to create podcasts are easy to use. Second, podcasting makes use of writing skills but offers an opportunity for students to express creativity. There is a pedagogical value in students doing this work.”

Podcast numbers keep growing

According to a survey from Edison Research and Triton Digital, released earlier this year, the percentage of U.S. residents 12 and older who have listened to a podcast at least once surpassed 50% for the first time. That milestone marks a “watershed moment” for podcasting, Edison Senior Vice President Tom Webster wrote in a blog entry about the report.

“With over half of Americans 12+ saying that they have listened to a podcast, the medium has firmly crossed into the mainstream,” he wrote.

Brozek said he was intrigued to incorporate podcasts into his teaching in part because it gives his students a chance to create something that can be shared much wider. Topics his students are exploring in the areas of environmental justice and war and pop culture have potential audiences across the globe.

“They’re out there,” Brozek said of the eight episodes on environmental justice his students did in spring term. “When I go through my podcast app, they are just in my list of podcasts along with the other things I listen to. I like the idea that they’re available for a much wider community.”

In the process, the students are learning technical skills, writing strategies, script creation, interviewing techniques, and copyright laws, all valuable things no matter what career path they might be eyeing.

“I thought this was a way we could keep expanding the quiver of professional skills that we’re trying to help students learn,” Brozek said.

They’re also learning and discussing privacy topics — putting yourself in the public conversation, and what that means. That’s an issue professors using podcast technology need to navigate.

“One of the challenges of doing public-facing scholarship in classes is that students have reasonable privacy concerns, but we can always find a way to work within those boundaries,” Brozek said. (To that end, the release of some or all of the podcasts created in the War and Pop Culture class will be held until early in winter term to make sure all participants are comfortable with the process).

While most of the students in the Brozek and Ramos classes were new to creating their own podcasts, most had long been consumers of the format.

“Podcasts are ubiquitous, consumed by this generation, and it’s a genre that they largely already understand,” said Andrew McSorely, a reference and digital librarian in Lawrence’s Seeley G. Mudd Library. “It’s not a huge leap to apply it to the classroom, and, generally speaking, it’s as easy to set up and get students to engage with as a blog. Because of that, it’s hard to say how many classrooms are utilizing podcast assignments, but there’s no question that more instructors have asked about this technology in the library the past few years.”

From left: Fallon Sellers ’20, Georgia Greenberg ’20, and Basil Eastman-Kiesow ’20 record a podcast for their War and Pop Culture class taught by government professor Jason Brozek.

Finding an audience

The appeal comes as podcasts have transitioned from the domain of sports and pop culture to something that can find niche audiences in almost any sector.

“Where once it was distinctly for entertainment purposes, it now can hold scholarship and be taken seriously,” McSorely said. “For content creators in the academy, this serves as a way to engage with new audiences, and for undergraduates, it’s a means of expression that can seem more natural than a traditional essay.”

In Ramos’ psychopharmacology course, the students, working in groups of three to five, are recording video podcasts where they explain, critique, and discuss research articles on a specific drug. The episodes are being made available on the class’s new YouTube channel.

“Often times in classes, students read an article, create a PowerPoint presentation that describes it and mention a couple of ideas on how it can be improved,” Ramos said. “But rarely do I get to hear how students felt after reading the article or get to hear their opinions on why it matters, what they learned from it, how it can impact other sciences or society.”

In Brozek’s War & Pop Culture class, the students have dug into topics ranging from post-nuclear apocalypse to how terrorism is depicted in the media to the use of propaganda to influence audiences during wartime. Doing that in a podcast allows not only for substantial research but also thorough discussion.

“Part of what they’re required to do in the podcast is bring in academic scholarship,” Brozek said as the fall term course got rolling. “This new course is designed around thinking about the way political science scholars write about and think about issues related to war, like terrorism, extraordinary, exceptional circumstances, torture, things like that. Think about the way political science crafts narratives and asks and answers questions and the way pop culture crafts those narratives — where they may have some overlap, where there are differences, what those differences mean, how concerned we ought to be about the differences.

“If (pop culture) is where most people are getting their perspective on terrorism, what does it look like and how consistent is it with the political science literature? So, those are the kind of questions we’re asking in this course.”

For the students, that kind of scholarship isn’t out of the ordinary. Academic work is almost always question-driven. But channeling that work through a podcast takes it in a different direction. That is where excitement meets anxiety, Sellers said.

“Most of the anxiety comes with just learning the technical stuff,” she said. “A podcast is essentially just a conversation. You’re talking through something with your peers. That’s pretty natural to do. I don’t think that’s the hard part. The daunting part was I didn’t have any experience with the computer-related things, the audio techniques, and learning how to use Audacity and how to navigate that.”

Learning those technical skills and related communication skills will pay off later as students enter the job market with a wider breadth of knowledge and know-how. For Sellers, a government major, that’s no small thing.

“Media is so pertinent in our society, and I think it’s so important that higher education is also moving along with that, and we’re learning how to adapt,” she said. “Being able to go into a job and say, ‘Hey, I’m able to produce a podcast, I know how to use these techniques,’ I think people are generally pretty excited about that.

“By the end of my Lawrence career, I will have done podcasts on the dairy industry, on pedagogy and propaganda in pop culture and on opioids and how they impact social behavior,” Sellers said. “So, it’s very Lawrence, and very well-rounded.”

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