Tag: Matriculation Convocation

Burstein: Nurture a campus home that “spans geography, race, and all identities”

President Mark Burstein delivers his Matriculation Convocation address virtually from the Memorial Chapel stage.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

President Mark Burstein spoke of the need for Lawrence University to feel like home to all Lawrentians as he headlined a virtual edition of the 2020-21 Matriculation Convocation on Thursday morning.

Striving for that sense of belonging comes with additional challenges this year as the University adapts to life in a pandemic and the country continues to grapple with ongoing issues of racism and racial injustice and political divisions that grow deeper and more caustic by the day.

It’s critical, Burstein said, to make sure all members of the University feel they belong here. He called on students, faculty, staff, and alumni to be part of the conversation to help make sure that becomes reality—and is sustained.

“I look forward to hearing your ideas, reactions, and disagreements as we make Lawrence the ‘home’ we all need it to be—one that spans geography, race, and all identities,” he said. “One that helps us all to become ourselves.”

Under normal circumstances, Burstein’s address, Finding Home: Belonging During a Pandemic, would have been delivered to a full house at Memorial Chapel, per tradition. But with strict social distancing protocols in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and a portion of the campus community teaching and studying from afar, the convocation was streamed online.

Besides Burstein’s talk, the convocation included a beautiful and creative introduction of Burstein by Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Public Events Commitee, and a musical prelude by Conservatory faculty Estelí Gomez, Esther Oh Zabrowski, Stephen M. Sieck, Steven Paul Spears, and Phillip A. Swan (Show Us How to Love, Mark A. Miller). The virtual choir was individually recorded, then manually assembled for the composite performance.

Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, provided closing words, encouraging Lawrentians to rise to the challenges before us. “Together we have the ability to love each imperfect self,” she said. A postlude on piano was then delivered by Hung Phi Nguyen ’21.

The Matriculation Convocation, delivered each September to mark the launch of another academic year, will be one of three convocations to be held this year.

This marked Burstein’s final Matriculation Convocation. He announced recently that he will step away from his presidential post at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, a decision informed by the need for him and his husband, David Calle, to be closer to family on the East Coast.

“I began to think about the theme of belonging and home for this Matriculation Convocation last spring in response to the societal convulsion created by both the pandemic and the deepening recognition of systemic racism in our culture,” Burstein said. “At that moment, I had no idea how personal this topic would become for me. This summer has been a time for me to reassess my priorities and decide to prioritize family, specifically my mother and my in-laws, over a position I love.”

Burstein said he, like others, is feeling the strain of the political tenor that has gripped the country in recent years. It’s been particularly raw here in Wisconsin, a state he quickly adopted when he was named Lawrence’s 16th president in 2013.

“I expect many of you feel, as I do, the pain, the conflict, and the dislocation in our society,” he said. “The new presidential election cycle has unleashed overwhelming forces to divide us. Our country’s attempt to reckon with systemic racism brings both hope and conflicting views of an aspirational future. Environmental degradation continues to march on around the globe. And, the pandemic has curtailed ways to process all of this stress, has upended family life, and has created severe economic burdens on many of us and the institutions we serve.”

All the more reason, he said, for Lawrence to double down on its efforts to make sure inclusion and equity are part of daily life here. He cited the words of an array of writers who have addressed themes of home and belonging, among them Nira Yuval-Davis (The Politics of Belonging), Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection), Natasha Trethewey (he quotes from Theories of Time and Space), Kwame Anthony Appiah (In My Father’s House:  Africa in the Philosophy of Culture), Kath Weston (Families We Choose:  Lesbians, Gays, Kinship), and Toni Morrison (Home).

“Many theorists who have explored the concept of belonging find that one of its central aspects is the need to feel that your whole identity is recognized and affirmed,” Burstein said. “This recognition is seen as an invitation to create a deep connection. If this is true, how can belonging be created in a society in which racism and bias against minority identities continue to exist?”

That’s a challenge going forward, Burstein said, to make sure that sense of belonging is woven into this learning environment. And all of us need to play a role.

“Research has found that the smallest social belonging interventions can yield lasting positive effects on individuals,” he said.

Burstein said he will be locked into that work for the remainder of this academic year. And he pledged to remain connected to the Lawrence community and the work it’s doing after he departs in June, all the while maintaining his own sense of home and belonging here.

“Serving as your president has been the central privilege and pleasure of my professional career,” he said. “David and I want to thank all of you who have allowed us to join, to belong, and to call this university and Appleton our home. Lawrence will always be in our hearts and we will always be proud to call Appleton our home no matter where we reside.”

A replay of the Matriculation Convocation can be accessed here.

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

Burstein’s Convocation address to explore sense of home during pandemic

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A sense of belonging, something that may feel adrift in the midst of a pandemic, will be a central theme when President Mark Burstein delivers his eighth Matriculation Convocation to the Lawrence community on Sept. 24.

In an address to be presented virtually at 11:15 a.m. (access it here), Burstein will push Lawrentians to work in unison to assure that all students, faculty, and staff feel they have a home at Lawrence. The speech, Finding Home: Belonging During a Pandemic, will address the emotions of a campus community strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, with some students studying on campus amid new safety protocols and others spread across the globe as Fall Term gets rolling with most classes being taught remotely.

The Matriculation Convocation address, delivered by the University president each September to mark the launch of another academic year, will be one of three convocations held this year. Alumni are encouraged to access the stream to watch.

This will be Burstein’s final Matriculation Convocation. He announced on Friday that he will step away from his presidential post at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. That decision itself ties in with the theme of the talk, as Burstein has said he and his husband, David Calle, are drawn to return to the East Coast to be closer to family.

In his talk, Burstein will explore the pain and conflicts that have gripped the nation this year, from the ongoing pandemic that has dramatically changed life as we know it, to the systematic racism that has led to ongoing, emotional public demonstrations, to the political divisions that have become increasingly strident as the presidential election draws closer. And he’ll discuss how that pain adds to the anxieties about home and belonging, and how it adds urgency to efforts to make sure Lawrence is truly a home for all who choose to study, teach, and work here.

A musical prelude will be presented by Conservatory faculty Esteli Gomez, Esther Oh Zabrowski, Stephen M. Sieck, Steven Paul Spears, and Phillip A. Swan. Hung Phi Nguyen ’21 will present the postlude on piano.

Jessica Hopkins ’22 will present the traditional land acknowledgement and Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Public Events Committee, will introduce this year’s Convocation series.

The Matriculation Convocation details and information on other convocations can be accessed through the Speakers and Convocations page on the Lawrence website.

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

Burstein calls for thoughtful, impactful leadership on global climate crisis

President Mark Burstein speaks at the podium from the stage of Memorial Chapel during Thursday's Matriculation Convocation.
Lawrence University President Mark Burstein speaks during Thursday’s Matriculation Convocation in Memorial Chapel.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein, speaking Thursday at the Matriculation Convocation to launch the school’s 2019-20 academic year, encouraged members of the Lawrence community to provide constructive leadership on the growing global climate crisis, and to bridge political differences along the way.

Burstein called the climate crisis “the central challenge facing society today,” and said it is the university’s responsibility to teach climate science to its students, to raise awareness of the issues and challenges and to converse respectfully with people who dismiss the science.

“It is crucial that we engage with those who dismiss the findings of 97% of climate scientists who now confirm that a climate crisis has begun, and that human activity is a root cause,” Burstein said as he addressed faculty, students and staff in Memorial Chapel on the fourth day of the fall term. “We need to continue to broaden the learning opportunities we offer and to avoid partisan framing of the climate crisis if we aim to reach all of our students, faculty, and staff. Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Studies program, we offer a wide array of learning opportunities for students to consider how human activity impacts the natural world.”

The convocation, the first of three to be held during the academic year, included the traditional march of faculty, adorned in their academic dress, and music from students of the entering class. But it was Burstein’s call for climate crisis leadership that took center stage.

Faculty members, adorned in their academic dress, proceed from the Music-Drama Center to Memorial Chapel on Thursday.
Lawrence University faculty move their procession toward Memorial Chapel for Thursday morning’s annual Matriculation Convocation.

He encouraged those in attendance to draw on their own experiences with nature, to consider deeply how human activity is affecting resources we interact with close to home and on our travels.

“Experiences can sensitize us to the deep and far-reaching effect that the climate crisis will have,” Burstein said. “My year as a farmer during a break between high school and college changed my views and established conservation as central to my personal values. Living directly in the cycle of a dairy farm significantly influenced the way I thought about the natural world.

“I’m sure you have your own connections to nature. Could we find ways to encourage all of us to explore the rich natural resources of northeastern Wisconsin and Door County? Could this be a way to reach students who might otherwise avoid enrolling in an Environmental Studies course or joining an environmental organization? Are there ways we can more closely tie the prodigious natural world that surrounds us into our curriculum?”

Burstein highlighted the fires that are threatening the Amazon, the extreme conditions affecting areas from Alaska and the Arctic to the Canary Islands and California, and the increasingly extreme weather patterns being experienced here in the Midwest.

He noted statistics from the World Bank that show an average of 24 million people per year since 2008 being displaced by weather events, and projections that those numbers will rise dramatically.

Lawrence has initiatives in place and established programs available to teach about environmental issues, be it from economic, policy, cultural, biological, chemical, or geoscience perspectives. Impressive gains in recent years have been guided by faculty members such as Jeff Clark, Marcia Bjornerud, and David Gerard, and sustainability coordinator Kelsey McCormick. But, Burstein said, there’s more work to be done all across campus to better inform and engage on the challenges we face now and those we’ll be handing off to future generations.

He pointed to the polarizing effect politics is having on the climate crisis debate, and implored those in the Lawrence community to stay attentive no matter how frustrating it might get.

“Even those who agree that a climate crisis is real approach the issue now with an incapacitating fatigue,” Burstein said.

“No amount of improved communication seems to weaken the feeling that this crisis is inevitable, that nothing we do can change the course of this unfolding natural disaster,” he added. “This attitude prevents important interventions.”

President Mark Burstein speaks during Thursday's convocation in Memorial Chapel.
Memorial Chapel drew faculty, students and staff on Thursday for the Matriculation Convocation. It was the first of three convocations that will be held this academic year.

Protecting the environment and prepping the Earth for future generations hasn’t always been embedded in a political chasm. When the leaders of 12 national environmental organizations were asked to rank the “greenest” U.S. presidents, they chose Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama, in that order, Burstein said.

“Two Republicans and two Democrats,” he said. “Conservation was central to Teddy Roosevelt’s vision for America’s future. He preserved land and natural beauty at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and hundreds of other locations across the country. Richard Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT, and created the regulatory infrastructure that continues to this day. But this public consensus is disappearing.”

It’s time to reclaim the conversation, Burstein said, challenging college campuses to lead the way, to infuse climate science across the curriculum and to foster intelligent and productive conversation, all the while prepping tomorrow’s leaders to be environmentally astute and informed no matter their political affiliations.

“For us, now, to engage our entire community, we must provide a learning environment in which we can all participate without criticism or rejection,” Burstein said.

“I hope you will commit yourselves, with me, to making sure that this generation of Lawrentians will graduate with the knowledge, the tools, and the energy to provide leadership on the most important challenge that faces all of us in this century.”

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

President’s Matriculation Convocation Opens Lawrence University’s 165th Academic Year

First-year President Mark Burstein officially opens Lawrence University’s 165th academic year as well as the 2013-14 convocation series Thursday, Sept. 19 with the annual matriculation address.

Mark-Burstein_newsblog
President Mark Burstein

Burstein presents “Crossing the Threshold: Community as Curriculum” at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public. He will discuss Lawrence’s strengths as a residential learning community and explore opportunities to improve what the college provides.

Named Lawrence’s 16th president last December, Burstein began his tenure in July after nine years as executive vice president at Princeton University. Prior to that, he spent five years as vice president of facilities management at Columbia University.

A native of Cedar Grove, N.J., Burstein earned a bachelor’s degree in history and independent studies from Vassar College and a master of business administration degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Other speakers on Lawrence’s 2013-14 convocation series include:

• Oct. 15, 2013Alison Bechdel, “Drawing Lessons: The Comics of Everyday Life.” Bechdel is the creator of the self-syndicated cartoon strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” and author of the graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” which Time magazine named its Best Book of 2006.

• Jan. 23, 2014Morgan Spurlock, filmmaker, humorist and political activist, best known for his documentary film “Super Size Me,” which chronicled a 30-day experiment in which he only ate food from McDonald’s while examining the balance between corporate responsibility and nutritional education.

• May 29, 2014 — Annual Honors Convocation featuring Catherine Kautsky, professor of music at Lawrence.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

 

Lawrence University President Richard Warch Opens Academic year with Examination of Community Diversity in Annual Matriculation Convocation

Richard Warch begins his 25th, and final, year as Lawrence University president by officially opening the college’s 154th academic year Thursday, Sept. 25 with his annual matriculation convocation.

Warch, who will retire in June, 2004 as the second-longest serving president in Lawrence history, presents, “The Lawrence Difference: Difference at Lawrence” at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The event is free and open to the public.

In his address, Warch will discuss the notion of community and the challenges posed by the diversity of that community, including an examination of the recent University of Michigan court cases and racial diversity.

Named Lawrence’s 14th president in 1979, Warch earned his bachelor of arts degree from Williams College and his doctorate in American Studies from Yale University.

An ordained minister in the United Presbyterian Church, Warch spent 10 years at Yale in a variety of positions, including associate dean of the college and director of the National Humanities Institute program. He came to Lawrence in 1977 as vice president of academic affairs before being named president two years later.

In the 1987 study, “The Effective College President,” a two-year project funded by the Exxon Education Foundation, Warch was named one of the nation’s top 100 college presidents. In June, 1999, Warch was appointed to the executive committee of the Annapolis Group, an association of more than 100 of America’s leading liberal arts colleges.

He is the author of the book “School of the Prophets: Yale College 1710-1740” and co-edited “John Brown” in the Great Lives Observed Series published by Prentice-Hall.