To say Lawrence University is Katie Kumbalek’s “family school” is akin to saying the Green Bay Packers are kind of popular in Wisconsin, Donald Trump has an ego and Yo Yo Ma can play a little cello.
A member of Lawrence’s incoming class of 2019, Kumbalek, a freshman from Houston, Texas, will be the 29th member of her extended family to attend Lawrence when classes for the college’s 167th academic year begin Sept. 14.
Spanning 114 years and including virtually every branch on her genealogical tree from a brother, parents and grandparents to uncles, aunts and second cousins, Kumbalek is extending a family tradition that began at the turn of the century — the 20th century — when her cousin Lois Casson graduated in 1901.
While others institutions of higher learning bravely vied for Kumbalek’s attention, little did they know she had her mind made up as to where she would continue her education nearly 10 years ago.
“I’ve been coming here since I was about nine years old and I’ve always liked the campus,” said Kumbalek, who is leaning toward a major in film studies at the moment. “So, there’s really never been any doubt about where I was going to go to college.”
Having a grandparent as well as an uncle and aunt living in the area provided ample excuses for Kumbalek to check out the campus over the years. Her brother Michael’s graduation in 2013 and her mother Betsy’s distinguished alumni award that same year were just the latest reasons to get a feel for Lawrence and Appleton.
Despite the lengthy tradition, Kumbalek says her decision to continue the family’s legacy at Lawrence came without any prodding.
“There was no pressure at all. My entire family told me, ‘If you want to go to Lawrence, that’s great, but if not, there’s a bunch of other options out there,” said Kumbalek, who is a defensive specialist on the Vikings’ volleyball team. “I just always liked it here. I like the academics and Appleton just seems really nice.”
Family connections aside, Kumbalek said there were plenty of other selling points she found appealing.
“Lawrence is very diverse compared to other schools. I think they’re very open and welcoming to any type of person,” said Kumbalek, whose cousin Teddy Kortenhof is a current sophomore at Lawrence. “I thought a liberal arts college would be the best option for me. The smaller class sizes, the diversity, the fact they are accepting of any type of person and are very open with everybody were all factors in what attracted me to Lawrence.”
“I’ve been coming here since I was about nine years old and I’ve always liked the campus. There’s really never been any doubt about where I was going to go to college.”
— Katie Kumbalek ’19
While Kumbalek hasn’t met her roommate in person yet, she knows she is from St. Louis, where her mother grew up.
“My mom actually knows the street my roommate lives on, which is kinda creepy, but whatever,” Kumbalek added with a laugh.
Kumbalek is among 400 freshmen, drawn from a school-record applicant pool of 3,015 — a 10 percent increase over the previous year — who will participate in a week of new student orientation activities beginning Tuesday, Sept. 8 before classes start the following Monday. In addition to freshmen, Lawrence also welcomes 50 other new students: 32 transfer students and 18 visiting exchange students from Tokyo’s Waseda University.
A closer peek at this year’s incoming freshmen reveal:
• Geographically, they hail from 35 states, plus Washington, D.C. Fifteen percent of the freshmen are citizens of 29 foreign countries.
• Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota were the top three Lawrentian-producing states. While Wisconsin once accounted for 50 percent of new students, this year only one-quarter of the freshmen are home grown.
• 15 percent of the freshmen are domestic students of color.
• With 22 students, China is sending more freshmen to Lawrence this fall than all but three states. Vietnam accounted for the second-most international students with 11.
• Academically, 40 percent of the freshmen ranked in the top 10 percent of their graduating class. Seventeen were their high school’s valedictorian.
• The average ACT score was 29 among all students and 30 among those who submitted test scores for consideration for admission. Lawrence has been test optional since 2006.
Ken Anselment, dean of admission and financial aid, smiles when he thinks about the end result of the efforts of his staff.
“Our academic quality is up and our global diversity is up,” said Anselment. “Lawrence continues to be a place where the world’s brightest and hardest working kids want to spend their formative college years.”
Anselment was especially pleased with the return on investment from a first-ever spring recruiting trip he, the director of international admission, and a Lawrence student took to China and Vietnam this past spring where they met with 40 admitted students in Shanghai, Chengdu, Beijing, and Hanoi. More than half of the students they met decided to matriculate to Lawrence.
“It was exciting taking Lawrence across the Pacific and meeting with families who want to send their children to the United States to further their education,” said Anselment. “The fact so many of those we met chose to send them to Appleton and entrust them with us is that much more gratifying.”
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 book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.