Framework for a more inclusive Lawrence

Founded in 1847 as an institution open to men and women of immigrant and indigenous backgrounds, Lawrence has, from the beginning, been a forward-thinking place focused on creating a welcome and supportive community for all of its students to thrive and succeed.

We have learned, however, that—despite that auspicious start—Lawrence still has more work to do so all members of the Lawrence family feel equally at home in our intellectual community.

Like we have seen at many colleges around the country this academic year, the Lawrence community has been engaged in broad-ranging, deep and often intense conversations about race on campus.

At the end of November, right before the end of fall term, a group of students met with President Mark Burstein and our dean of students, to express their own experiences, anger, and frustrations, as well as a letter of demands and concerns for the institution, many of which are thematically similar to what we are seeing on other campuses across the country, but more pertinent to the Lawrence community and its needs.

Broadly, our students—in line with our faculty and staff—are seeking a more inclusive and racially sensitive campus climate, and a commitment from the administration to acknowledge our shortcomings on that front while addressing proactively changes to our campus culture. Many of the demands parallel projects and initiatives that different parts of the institution have been working on for some time.

However, as the president stated in a letter to the community right before students returned from break: “A defining goal for Lawrence and certainly for me is to create a learning environment in which all students, as well as faculty and staff, can thrive. This fall’s events indicate that we have not moved quickly enough towards this goal.”

Right before we returned from the winter break, President Burstein shared with the Lawrence community a “Framework for a More Inclusive Lawrence,” which resulted from the work of shared governance among students, faculty and staff in the five weeks since the fall term had ended. The framework focuses on five principal areas that will be the focus for our efforts in the coming months:

  • Learning
    • Broaden our Ethnic Studies program to include a new emphasis on the African American experience, and to free current resources to teach additional courses in Native culture and American Latino/Latina literature;
    • An assessment of the selection of works for inclusion in Freshman Studies, the foundation of the Lawrence intellectual experience;
    • Ongoing diversity and inclusion training and workshops for all employees and students;
  • Resources
    • Coinciding with a recommendation from our 2010 Strategic Plan, we will hire an additional staff person to support our Assistant Dean of Multicultural Affairs;
    • Explore new locations for our Diversity Center;
    • Hire an Associate Dean of the Faculty and Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion;
    • Increase need-based financial aid support for study abroad, which had already been approved by our board of trustees and administration;
  • Safety
    • Develop a bias-incident reporting capability to our current student safety app.
    • Develop clearer and smoother grievance procedures;
    • Coordinate with the City of Appleton—mayor’s office and police department—to ensure that bias-related incidents that occur in near- or off-campus areas are fully investigated;
  • Enhanced Diversity
    • Increase the diversity of our faculty and staff at Lawrence, which has already been fully underway. In 2013 and 2014, 8% of new hires were employees of color. In 2015, 28% of new hires were employees of color. We have already made substantial progress with gender diversity;
    • Ensure a broader representation in our Board of Trustees and Alumni Association Board;
    • Recruit and retain a diverse student population. The past ten years have seen the most significant sustained growth in enrollment of students of color in our history, but there is more work to do;
  • Dialogue Across Difference
    • Engage with organizations like The Sustained Dialogue Institute, to help us further foster an environment where students, faculty, and staff can safely and constructively explore uncomfortable and controversial subject matter together.

For three hours on Thursday evening, January 7, we held a community gathering in the Warch Campus Center with ten information stations staffed by members of the Lawrence community responsible for managing these initiatives, much like a college fair. Attendance was extraordinary as students, faculty, and staff moved from station to station asking questions, posing challenges, sparking ideas, critically problem-solving.

Media were not permitted to attend the event, as this is a matter we wanted to discuss first “among the family of Lawrentians” without the distraction of lights and cameras. We did, however, invite them in after the event was completed, so they could conduct interviews and continue their reporting on the issue. Below are links to three of the stories—one newspaper, two television—that ran January 8.

LU Campus Responds to Inclusion Plans (Post-Crescent Media)

Lawrence University students attend fair on diversity initiatives (WBAY ABC 2)

Lawrence University continues conversation on diversity (WLUK Fox 11 News)

We know we have much work to do. But with so many members of the Lawrence community committed to accelerating this important work, we know we will evolve through this process into an even better Lawrence.

We are putting the finishing touches on a new Diversity & Inclusion website that will launch next week, which will include resources for the Lawrence community and those who wish to learn more about our history and our future as it pertains to this important issue.

A Southerner’s First Wisconsin Winter: Or How I Learned To Love (or Tolerate) the Polar Vortex

On January 6 at 5:01pm, in the midst of the worst polar vortex in recent US history, a terrible thing happened: My nose-hairs froze.

If you’re reading this and originally hail from the North, this probably isn’t a foreign concept to you (albeit a little graphic, and for that, I apologize). But if you’re from where I am – a magical land of year-round beach going and endless supplies of fresh oranges – you probably think I’m nuts. And let me tell you, cotillion certainly did not provide me with a more lady-like way to express what happened to me above. (Sorry, Mom.)

When I told my parents I would be moving away from the South for the first time in my life in favor of a job in Northeast Wisconsin, they took the news with all the excitement of a root canal. (And like a bad root canal, this one seemed to come to them without enough Novocain.) Though I know they tried to be as supportive as possible, there was obvious doubt I could survive what from that day forward will forever be known to my family as The Great Frozen Tundra.

Lawrence in the snow

Perhaps naively, I didn’t think it would be that hard. After all, I’m a millennial… I can do anything! (Insert generational commentary here,) I’d buy a coat, start my new career, and get on with it.

I made the brilliant (read: lucky) decision to move in August – you know, sweater weather time. I loved Lawrence instantly and proudly volunteered for Welcome Week, where I courteously provided directions (likely wrong) to other newcomers like myself.

But as time tolled on, I realized there were quite a few differences I may not have been prepared for. So, with all the wisdom that comes with exactly 5 months and 5 days of living in Wisconsin, here is a brief list of things you may be comforted to know in advance: 

  1. The Weather. It’s cold here. Don’t buy your coat in the South, because it doesn’t count. Don’t buy your jeans there either. Your nose hairs will freeze and you’ll have to carry mittens everywhere and your poor 6 pound Yorkie will fall straight through the soft snow. That all being said…
  2. No seriously, the weather! Snow is kind of a blast! People don’t actually just stop going outside here when it’s cold. (I’m looking at you, Texas.) There’s sledding and snow shoeing and snowman building – there’s even igloo building for the advanced, future civil engineer snow-architects.
  3. It’s easy to make friends. Southern hospitality is simply called “Midwestern Nice” here. Try going to a grocery store here and NOT being smiled at or greeted by 100 strangers. I dare you.
  4. How about them apples? Did you know ‘Red’ and ‘Green’ aren’t the only types of apple? And they have different flavors? This is a weird one you’ll grow to appreciate, and you’ll establish alliances based on your preferences. (Because there is a limit to how many people will edit this post, I’d like to take this opportunity to announce Honeycrisp as the Lawrence Admissions Office’s apple of choice.) Plus apples go well with…
  5. SAY CHEESE! It really is everywhere. Just accept it. Fried cheese curds may be the best thing to ever happen to you.
  6. Watch your language. If you tell someone “bless your heart,” they will think you’re being nice and not realize there’s at least a 50% chance it’s an insult. On a similar train of thought, all phrases referencing ticks, armadillos, wet towels, wet mules, and/or hot tin roofs will not be understood. Understand y’all?
  7. Predator-free aquatic recreation. Wisconsinites spend a lot of time taking advantage of our 15,000 lakes without ever worrying about a shark, crocodile, or alligator! (Ahem, I was born in Florida.) Also, Wisconsin has more lakes than Minnesota. Did I wish I knew that last tidbit ahead of time? Probably not. Is it fun to taunt Minnesotans and their 10,000 lakes about now? You betchya.

So maybe I do still wear a puffy coat when it’s a balmy 27 degrees and sometimes mistake the names of fancy apple breeds for 90s pop stars… I still maintain that when all is said and done, Lawrence makes it all worth it. And if I – and my 6 pound puppy – can do it, so can you.


Gaelyn Rose is a recent addition to the Lawrence Admissions staff. Arriving in Appleton by way of Houston, Texas, she shares her experiences dealing with the regional changes of all things weather, language, and critters. 

First snowfall

A little more than a month ago, a previous blog post focused on Mother Nature’s nastier side in the form of Hurricane Sandy and its impact on, among many things, the college application process. Today we get a glimpse of Mother Nature’s friendlier side: a 3-inch snowfall followed by a cloudless blue sky here in Appleton. Enjoy this morning’s meander around campus.

Memorial Chapel and its evergreen neighbors.
Tree near Plantz Hall, backlit by the morning sun.
Above College Avenue looking south toward Main Hall
The admissions office and its venerable partner, the giant copper beech




Another presidential candidate visits Lawrence University

Appleton rests in the heart of the swing area of a swing state, which may be one of the reasons Mitt Romney chose to pay it a visit today. By making a campaign address at Lawrence University, Romney joins a long list of candidates—Democrats and Republicans—who’ve made whistle stops at our campus, including John Kerry, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, John F. Kennedy, and William Howard Taft.

In a piece that appeared in today’s Boston Globe, Mitt Romney’s Wisconsin campaign swing takes him to ‘Harvard of the Midwest,” Globe staff writer, Glen Johnson, writes a letter to the candidate, opening with:

Dear Governor Romney:

We’ve traveled many miles together over the course of two presidential campaigns, though less this cycle than last.

Nonetheless, there’s one trip that would have been fun to make with you: your stop today at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.

It’s my alma mater, and we Lawrentians don’t get many chances to showcase our small-but-overachieving school to the rest of the country. Not that it doesn’t deserve it…

His article is as much a letter of instruction to Mitt Romney as it is a love letter to Lawrence, covering everything from famous LU alumni, to his favorite professors, to some of Lawrence football glory days. It’s a good, short read that encapsulates some of the magic of Lawrence.

While Lawrence University does not endorse presidential candidates, we wholeheartedly endorse the article.

(However, truth be told, we’ve always been under the impression that Harvard was the Lawrence of New England.)

Look up in downtown Appleton

Went downtown to Starbucks to get a Grande French Roast with a shot of espresso (admissions folks generally caffeinate aggressively at this time of year). I was reminded what a treat walking in downtown Appleton can be if you look up and check out the details above the upper floors of the College Avenue storefronts:

One of downtown Appleton's architectural layer cakes: Starbucks first level; yoga studio second level; with a cornice cherry on top.
Shops, restaurants, and groovy boutiques line College Avenue just west of campus.

So next time you’re in Appleton, remember: when you’re looking around, also look up.