Study: Lawrence’s economic impact in Fox Valley tops $70 million

Mark Burstein hugs Cathie Tierney during Tuesday's Report to the Community.
Lawrence University President Mark Burstein hugs Cathie Tierney after conferring an honorary Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree upon her at Tuesday’s Report to the Community.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A new economic and community impact study released Tuesday offers new data on just how significant Lawrence University’s ties are to the community it calls home.

The study from Appleseed, an independent economic consulting firm, 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 highlights how the liberal arts college’s contributions to the community go well beyond economics, highlighting ongoing cultural and charitable relationships.

The first-time study, commissioned by Lawrence, details those deep ties between the school and the community.

Nearly 200 leaders from Lawrence, area governments, and the business and nonprofit communities gathered on campus Tuesday for Lawrence’s annual Report to the Community, which included the rollout of the study and the granting of an honorary Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree to Cathie Tierney, president and CEO of Community First Credit Union and a longtime community leader.

“The Appleseed study is a testament to how ideally situated Lawrence is here in the Fox Cities,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said. “It speaks to how tightly woven we are into the very fabric of this community. Lawrence is proud of that, proud of our deep roots in Appleton and the economic, cultural, charitable and intellectual contributions that come from our faculty, students and staff.”

A crowd of nearly 200 people take in Tuesday's Report to the Community in the Somerset Room.
Nearly 200 leaders from Fox Valley government bodies, the business community, nonprofits and Lawrence University attended Tuesday’s Report to the Community in the Somerset Room in the Warch Campus Center.

See a copy of the full economic impact report here.

The report estimates that in fiscal year 2017, Lawrence, its students and visitors directly and indirectly accounted for 1,059 jobs in the Fox Cities region, with earnings totaling $44.1 million, and nearly $70.3 million in regional economic output.

The fortunes of Lawrence and Appleton have forever been intertwined. After all, Lawrence and Appleton have grown up together, Lawrence having been founded in 1847 and Appleton incorporated six years later. The new village — it would become a city in 1857 — was named for the wife of the school’s founder, Amos Lawrence. Her maiden name was Appleton.

The new study demonstrates just how significant those ties remain and how important the relationship is going forward.

Pastor Mahnie, executive director of B.A.B.E.S., a nonprofit child abuse prevention program, was among the speakers embracing the connections between Lawrence and the community.

Lawrence is a host site for the Funding Information Network and provides workshops for area nonprofits to help them pursue needed grants. It’s an important piece of the puzzle that allows nonprofits to do their work.

“Your willingness to not only house the Funding Information Network, but to also host free workshops to educate us on how to utilize the database and improve our grant-writing skills is invaluable,” Mahnie said.

“Thank you for the access. Access gives us knowledge. Access leads to progress. Access to the Funding Information Network is vital for the work of serving our community.

“Lawrence University, the Oshkosh Area United Way, United Way Fox Cities and the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, thank you for helping us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to rescue the lost, to give hope to the hopeless, to diaper their infants, to educate the young and inexperienced parents, to tutor their children, to supplement their household cleaning and personal hygiene items, and the list could go on and on. Because of you, because of your generosity, because of access, we, the nonprofits of the Fox Valley, we can accomplish our mission to serve.”

Economic impact studied

The economic data provided in the Appleseed report shows just how significant the Lawrence footprint is in the Fox Cities. Among the notable numbers:

  • 886 Lawrence graduates live and work in the Fox Cities (5% of area residents with a bachelor’s degree are Lawrence graduates).
  • $1.44 million in financial aid is provided to LU students from the Fox Cities.
  • 605 faculty and staff are directly employed by Lawrence, with a payroll totally nearly $29.9 million. The earnings of faculty and staff employed full-time averaged $58,240 in 2017.
  • $1.4 million was paid to contractors and vendors in the Fox Cities for various construction and renovation projects in 2017. Another $2.2 million went to contractors elsewhere in Wisconsin.

Lawrence is a residential liberal arts college with an enrollment of about 1,500. During the 2016-17 academic year, Lawrence provided $36.9 million in financial aid from its own resources.

The school’s impact on the community goes far beyond economics, the study says.

  • Faculty, staff and students have ongoing relationships with 100 agencies and organizations in the Fox Cities. Nearly 10,450 hours of community volunteer work was reported in the 2016-17 academic year.
  • Nearly 1,500 children across the Fox Cities participate in the Lawrence Academy of Music, a division of the Conservatory of Music.
  • Lawrence plays a major role in the arts community in the Fox Cities. The Conservatory features upwards of 20 performances throughout the year by internationally recognized artists. Three convocations a year bring in nationally recognized speakers. The Wriston Art Gallery presents about 10 art exhibits a year. All are open to the public.
  • The Warch Campus Center has become a popular location for booking community and corporate events, as well as weddings and other celebrations.
  • Lawrence has worked closely with local leaders in efforts to make Appleton and the Fox Cities a more welcoming and inclusive community for people of all backgrounds.

“Lawrence and the Fox Cities are forever linked,” Burstein said. “Progress for one is progress for the other, and neither of us can afford to rest on what we’ve already accomplished. We share similar goals, including the need to attract and retain talented employees and students. That means ensuring that our communities offer people from diverse backgrounds attractive and welcoming places to study, live, work, build careers and have families. We can never relent on those efforts.”

Honorary degree to Tierney

Tierney, meanwhile, was honored for her long and distinguished leadership in the Fox Cities. She studied at Lawrence before embarking on her career.

“I’m astonished, delighted and humbled at this amazing honor,” she said.

Tierney has been with Community First Credit Union since 1976 and has held multiple executive officer positions, spending much of her career as vice president of marketing and branch operations. In 1993, Tierney graduated from the first CU Executive Leadership Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and was named president/CEO of Community First in 1994.

She had attended Lawrence for a year before leaving school for family reasons. Despite the success she would later find in the business world, she said that decision to leave school has always haunted her. But she maintained a strong relationship with Lawrence as she became a community leader.

“We all know of Lawrence’s incredible academic rigor, the quality of the faculty and the enriching experience gained through an education at Lawrence University,” she said. “As a lifelong citizen of Appleton, I have seen first-hand the significant contributions that Lawrence University, its staff and faculty and graduates have made in our community, our state, our country and our world.”

To now get an honorary degree — and to be called a Lawrentian — is humbling and moving, she said.

“Through this process I have learned, there is no right path, only your path,” she said.

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

LU Jazz Ensemble takes a top DownBeat award for second year in a row

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Link to video of Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble
Click above to see video of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble.

It’s back-to-back wins for the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble.

The ensemble has been named the winner in the undergraduate Large Jazz Ensemble category in Downbeat magazine’s 42nd annual Student Music Awards (SMAs) competition, which awards some of the highest honors in jazz education each spring. 

“The students in the Jazz Ensemble work together on music that is unique, challenging, and a joy to perform,” said Patty Darling, a music professor in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music who directs the much-lauded ensemble. “This includes a lot of contemporary jazz rep and premier works from Lawrence’s student jazz composers and arrangers.”

The honor was announced Tuesday and appears in the newly published June edition of DownBeat magazine.

This is the second consecutive year that Lawrence has won the top honor in the large ensemble category, and the fifth time in the ensemble’s history that it has been honored by DownBeat.

More on the Conservatory of Music and the LUJE here

Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble performs at Memorial Chapel.
Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble

This is not small stuff. DownBeat’s SMAs are top-tier honors in the world of jazz education. They are presented in 13 categories in five separate divisions: junior high, high school, performing high school, undergraduate college and graduate college.

Lawrence has been a major player in those awards over the past four decades. To date, students and ensembles in the Lawrence Conservatory have won 28 of these awards in various categories, including undergraduate large ensemble, small group, jazz composing, jazz arranging, solo performance, and jazz vocal group. 

This was the fifth time in its history the Jazz Ensemble has been honored by DownBeat. It was previously recognized in 1985, 2000, 2007 and 2018.

Back-to-back wins for the Jazz Ensemble is something the school, its faculty and students can take great pride in, Darling said.

“It is a privilege to work with such talented, dedicated musicians who are so receptive and have such down-to-earth attitudes,” Darling said. “We are incredibly proud of them and I am very grateful to the jazz faculty who are their mentors.”

If you want to see the LUJE in concert, you can catch them at 8 p.m. May 22 at Memorial Chapel. Admission is free.

The DownBeat Student Music Awards were launched in 1978. Judging criteria are based on musicianship, creativity, improvisation, technique, sound quality and balance, excitement, and authority. Recordings are submitted from institutions worldwide and are judged by panels of respected jazz performers and educators who determine the awards in each of the categories. 

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

It’s personal: Earth Day activities raise awareness across campus

An aerial view of the Lawrence campus shows the sustainable gardens.
The Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG) are part of the Lawrence campus. The SLUG student organization will take part in Earth Day activities between now and Tuesday.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Earth Day 2019 arrives on Monday, but Lawrence University students and staff aren’t waiting until then to celebrate the wonders of the Earth and highlight the need for good environmental stewardship.

Lawrence student groups focused on environmental causes, along with the school’s Sustainability Steering Committee, will mark Earth Day with a series of events now through Tuesday.

Highlighting the Earth Day celebration will be a gala from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday on Main Hall green, featuring live music, Frisbee games, plant sales and various student-run booths raising money and sharing information on a variety of environmental issues.

Then on Tuesday, Equal Justice Works Fellow Jacklyn Bryan will present “Water and Wisconsin Tribal Communities: Past, Present and Future” at 7:30 p.m. in Steitz Hall. A member of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of Owens Valley in California and a 2017 Vermont Law School graduate, Bryan will discuss her work to assist in statewide collaborations to assess and address outside risks to clean water on tribal lands.

Sunday’s gala is being organized by the Lawrence student group Greenfire, in cooperation with other student organizations and the Sustainability Committee.

“All of it will have some sort of relation to sustainability, environmental practices and just getting people outside,” said Alyssa Ayen ’19, co-president of Greenfire, a student environmental group with roots dating back to the early 1990s.

Like many of those involved, Ayen’s interest in environmental advocacy is personal. The environmental science major from Madison watched as urban sprawl began to erode wetlands in her grandparents’ neighborhood in Verona, her favorite childhood hangout.

Wall along Drew Street is painted for Earth Week.
Earth Week signage is courtesy of Greenfire.

“I would spend all of my time outside as a child, playing games, going on hikes and bike rides,” she said. “I enjoyed my childhood so much. But as I got older, I started realizing more and more that Madison, like so many cities, has urban sprawl. There is a ton of development, and I saw it near my grandparents’ house. I think I was probably 13 at the time and I realized it really bothered me a lot.

“I developed almost a relationship with the beings that lived there, the different animals that interacted there, that I saw on a daily basis. It was really hard for me to see that habitat diminished, and I think that’s really where it started for me. I knew I had to go out and make my career about it because it mattered to me so much, to at least be part of a change in mindset that has to happen in order for us to limit more environmental degradation.”

Ayen, who will go to work for the nonprofit advocacy group Impact following graduation, said Greenfire students are focused mostly on environmental justice issues and environmental education.

Eight students from Greenfire attended the Wild Things Conference in Chicago earlier this year, taking in a range of sessions on environmental concerns and initiatives, mostly focused on the Midwest.

“It was a really good learning opportunity,” Ayen said of the biennial conference. “There were a lot of nonprofits there, and organizations such as Sierra Club that are involved in environmental policy.”

Earth Day provides an opportunity to raise the visibility of some of those efforts here on campus.

“The Sustainability Committee really pushed for a bigger Earth Day event, and Greenfire wanted to go that way too,” Ayen said.

Kelsey McCormick, a project specialist at Lawrence and co-chair of the Sustainability Steering Committee, said there was a concerted effort to better organize Earth Day activities this year and set a framework for future endeavors.

Eight Lawrence University students from Greenfire pose for a photo at the Wild Things Conference in Chicago earlier this year.
Lawrence University students from Greenfire took part in the Wild Things Conference in Chicago.

The committee set out to make sure there was at least one significant activity a day in the lead-up to Earth Day.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the number of student organizations that have decided to put on events and take advantage of the hype that Earth Week has kind of created,” McCormick said. “We had hoped to get one big event each day. Now on some days we have multiple events because those student groups have decided to put things on on their own. And that’s wonderful. That’s what we really want Earth Day to be about, for as many groups as possible to show their commitment to the environment through what they’re doing.”

The events in the coming days include:

7 p.m. Wednesday: Showing of “Awake — A Dream from Standing Rock,” a documentary, in the Warch Campus Center Cinema.

7:30 p.m. Thursday: Sustainability Bingo, hosted by SOUP, in Mead Witter in the Warch Campus Center.

4:30 p.m. Friday: Plant Identification, hosted by the Bird and Nature Club, in Briggs greenhouse.

9 p.m. Friday: Sustainable Menstruation Ball, co-hosted by the Outdoor Recreation Club (ORC) and Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens (SLUG), at Pullmans Restaurant, 619 Olde Oneida St., Appleton. Shuttle pickup from Wriston every 15 minutes from 9 p.m. to midnight.

3-5 p.m. Saturday: DIY Natural Self Care Products, hosted by Greenfire in the loft at Colman Hall.

1-4 p.m. Sunday: Earth Day Gala, Main Hall green. Rain location will be Esch Hurvis in Warch Campus Center.

6:30 p.m. Tuesday: ENSTfest, an Environmental Studies poster session, Steitz atrium.

7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Jacklyn Bryan presentation on “Water and Wisconsin Tribal Communities: Past, Present and Future,” Steitz Hall 102.

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

Lawrence student finishes a strong second in third annual Pitch competition

Hamza Ehsan '20 delivers his pitch for EVSmart at Thursday's The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.
Hamza Ehsan ’20 delivers his pitch for EVSmart at Thursday’s The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Eleven teams of college students came to The Pitch at Titletown Tech in Green Bay on Thursday with entrepreneurial dreams. Three, including one from Lawrence University, walked away with cash and a pledge of in-kind services to help launch those dreams.

Students from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Lawrence University and St. Norbert College took the winning slots in the third annual “Shark Tank”-type competition. Other schools represented at The Pitch included the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

This marked the third straight year Lawrence had a team finish among the prize winners. In the previous two years, Lawrence students took first place.

Entrepreneurial spirit alive and well at Lawrence. See more here

Innovation & Entrepreneurship as an interdisciplinary concentration at LU: Details here

Hamza Ehsan ’20, a computer science student from Lawrence, took second place, walking away with $7,500 in cash, plus in-kind services. His pitch before a panel of judges and an audience of mostly business executives was for EVSmart, an app that would be a resource for drivers of electric cars, creating a network of shared charging stations.

Ehsan said his electric car initiative is going to happen, hopefully by fall. He and two partners are hoping to raise at least $35,000 by September. The $7,500 from The Pitch will help, as will monies coming from similar competitions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Massachusetts.

“We’ve been through a couple of these,” Ehsan said. “At MIT, we got to the finals, and we’re currently in the finals at the University of Massachusetts. I think we’ve grown up as a company. We’ve grown up as entrepreneurs.”

Among other things, EVSmart would foster a community of electric car users who would market their charging stations similar to how living spaces are marketed via Airbnb.

“This is definitely happening,” Ehsan said of the planned business launch.

This was the third year of The Pitch, a collaborative effort organized by the participating schools and supported in part through an array of business sponsorships. Each of the schools held their own competitions to determine who would compete in The Pitch. Five of the schools sent two teams, while Moraine Park entered just one.

Besides the panel of judges, the students were pitching in front of a live audience, mostly regional business executives on hand to scout both business ideas and talent. That’s a win for the students and a win for local businesses.

“It’s highlighting innovation, but it’s also highlighting students in the Midwest,” said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and a lecturer of economics. “It says, ‘hey, we’ve got some bright students in our market here, and we’d like to keep them in our market.'”

Katie Kitzinger '20, left, and Emma Liu '19 present Jetsetter's Closet to a panel of judges and an audience at the third-annual The Pitch, held at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.
Katie Kitzinger ’20, left, and Emma Liu ’19 present Jetsetter’s Closet on Thursday to a panel of judges and an audience at the third-annual The Pitch, held at Titletown Tech in Green Bay.

Lawrence’s second team at The Pitch featured Emma Liu ’19, studying ethics and public policy, and Katie Kitzinger ’20, studying chemistry. They pitched Jetsetter’s Closet, a company that would rent fashionable, brand name clothing to female travelers. It would begin in Paris and possibly expand to other destination cities.

Liu said the idea stemmed from her frustration with having to lug around so many bags when traveling internationally. With Jetsetter’s Closet, a fashion-conscious client would arrive at her hotel with a week’s worth of stylish clothes already there.

“We wanted to find a very niche market where we could get started,” she said of the decision to focus on women in Paris.

They didn’t win, but the experience of The Pitch was invaluable, Liu and Kitzinger said.

“This is really interesting for me because until this fall I wasn’t even thinking about doing anything entrepreneurial,” Kitzinger said. “And then we got together and started talking about the Jetsetter’s Closet idea and The Pitch. This has been such a great way to get experience, just getting up in front of people and telling them about an idea.”

Daniel Salazar, a sophomore business management student from UW-Oshkosh, took first place and a prize of $10,000 in cash and $15,000 of in-kind services. His pitch was for a product called Pack-It, a small circular package holding plastic bags for disposing of dirty diapers or a dog’s messes. The package is designed to be small enough to be carried in a purse, backpack or coat pocket.

Salazar, who is from Appleton, said he joined a couple of partners who already have a patent and are preparing to launch a business.

“They showed me the idea for Pack-It, and I said, ‘Oh, that’s a huge opportunity,’” Salazar said. “I said, ‘I don’t want to work for you, I want to work with you.’ So, that’s where the relationship started, and I joined the team.”

Third place went to Breena Hansen, a business administration student from St. Norbert. Her pitch was for Clean Comfort Food Delivery, a business that would prepare and deliver healthy meals to clients. She won $5,000, plus in-kind services.

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

Mural unveiled as Project 562 creator hails the artwork as ‘a huge step’

Native students gather in front of mural

Update from Brigetta Miller: Due to unexpected inclement weather, this Project 562 Indigenous Land Project mural was unable to properly cure during its installation. Members of LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) and UWGB’s Intertribal Student Organization will be working closely with the Project 562 artistic team to repair the mural in the coming weeks once temperatures warm.  Our campus community is deeply committed to caring for the mural and all that it represents. Thank you for your patience.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The weather didn’t cooperate, but the work got done. And the results are beautiful.

A large mural featuring the faces of three generations of Native Americans was unveiled on the Lawrence University campus Thursday following a convocation address by Matika Wilbur, the creator and director of Project 562.

“I would never have dreamed this as I was daring to dream as a young girl,” Wilbur told a nearly full Memorial Chapel during the spring convocation.

“I’m so proud of you,” Wilbur said, addressing the more than a dozen Native American students from Lawrence and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who helped create the mural over the past five days. “And I’m proud of Lawrence for taking this huge step. This is a huge step to have indigenous representation on a college campus.”

The timeline for finishing the mural on the north-facing exterior wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center was accelerated early in Wilbur’s week-long artist-in-residency because of the snow and rain that had been expected Wednesday night into Thursday morning. She worked long days with the Native students to finish the mural before the snow arrived.

The non-permanent mural, made with wheat paste, is expected to last two to five years before it begins to fade. How long an outdoor wheat paste installation lasts depends on weather conditions.

Following her convocation address, Wilbur led a walk from Memorial Chapel to the Wellness Center for a showing of the mural. A reception was held in the Steitz Hall atrium, where some of the participating students thanked Wilbur and her team for dedicating themselves to a project that reassures Native communities, especially young people, that they matter, that their faces should be seen and their voices should be heard.

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country as part of Project 562, using photography and art installations to connect with tribal communities and help redirect the narrative on indigenous people. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

Wilbur sold most of her belongings, loaded her cameras into an RV and set out to document lives in tribal communities across all 50 states. It’s gone even beyond that, she said.

Matika Wilbur convocation speech
Matika Wilbur delivers her Convocation address, “Changing the Way We See Native America,” in Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

“I’ve also gone into urban Indian communities, also to Arctic communities, north of the border and south of the border and into the Caribbean islands,” she said. “So when, or if, this project is ever complete, I will have been to something like 900 tribal communities.”

Wilbur, a celebrated photographer, is expecting the travel to wrap up in about six months. After that, Project 562 will play out in books, exhibitions, lecture series, web sites, new curriculum and podcasts.

She talked about her long and winding journey during Thursday’s convocation, which included a performance by traditional Menominee flutist Wade Fernandez, an Oneida drum/dance group and an opening invocation spoken in the Menominee language by Dennis Kenote, chairman of the Menominee Nation Language and Culture Commission.

Brigetta Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation, introduced Wilbur. Miller is a 1989 Lawrence graduate who teaches ethnic studies courses in Native identity, history, and culture and works with Native American students on campus as a faculty advisor to the LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) student organization. She hailed Wilbur’s convocation and mural project as a historic moment for Lawrence, the Native students who are here and area tribes.

“Matika has a magical way of giving our Native students and their allies permission to acknowledge and be proud of their own cultural traditions, families and indigenous ways, even in spaces that may have not been historically designed for us,” she said.

During the week of activities, students could be heard speaking to one another in their Native languages, Miller said, calling that a reflection of the pride that emanates from this project.

“This work is more than making art for the sake of social justice,” Miller said. “It’s a way to truthfully show who we are. It’s a way for us to tell our own story.”

Telling that story, and giving young people an opportunity to embrace their own story, is what first ignited Project 562, Wilbur said. She had been asked to teach at a tribal school in the northwest, and at first hestitated.

“It turns out I loved working with kids,” she said. “It did something special for me. It recentered me in my community and helped me to realize my purpose and realign me with what I am meant to do. It taught me that I have this role where I’m supposed to feed the people, I’m supposed to participate in making my community a healthier, happier place.”

That experience teaching led her to her next revelation, one that would put her on the road to Project 562. She said she finally fully realized that the true Native American story wasn’t being told or taught.

“It was while I was teaching, I saw over and over and over again that the American dream did not include us,” Wilbur said. “I realized that when Lincoln said, ‘For the people,’ he did not mean Native American people. I came to understand that the core of our curriculum is not based in truth. It does not cultivate our indigenous intelligence.”

So she set out to change that, one photograph and one art installation at a time.

The large mural now visible at the center of the Lawrence campus speaks to that — a new mindset, a new message about respect and truth and inclusion that needs to reverberate long after the Project 562 team has left Appleton.

“As a Native professor here on this campus, this project gives me hope for the future generations,” Miller said. “It’s history unfolding before our eyes.”

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

Photo gallery: Cabaret performances take audiences on Odyssey of Cultures

Dynamic dancing, singing and fashions were on display over the weekend as the 43rd annual Cabaret took visitors to Stansbury Theatre on a journey around the world.

Cabaret, presented by Lawrence International, is a highlight of spring term on the Lawrence University campus. This year’s theme was Odyssey of Cultures.

More than 80 international students took part, showcasing elements of their history and culture in two performances.

Below is a sampling of photos from the big weekend. You can find a larger photo gallery here.

Innovation alive and well at Lawrence as students eye a three-peat in The Pitch

Lawrence students participate in The Pitch in 2018.
A team from Lawrence University won The Pitch in 2018 for the second straight year.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

There is an entrepreneurial spirit at Lawrence University, weaved into the liberal arts education in everything from science programs to music instruction.

So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lawrence students have come away with the title — and the money — in each of the first two installments of The Pitch, a “Shark Tank”-styled competition involving colleges and universities in east-central Wisconsin.

On Thursday, Lawrence will aim for a three-peat.

Students from six schools will deliver their pitches for innovative product ideas to a panel of judges — and in front of a live audience — at 4 p.m. at Titletown Tech in Green Bay. Joining Lawrence students will be entrants from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, St. Norbert College, Fox Valley Technical College and Moraine Park Technical College.

Each school will have two entries. For Lawrence, Hamza Ehsan ’20 will pitch EVSmart while Emma Liu ’19 and Katie Kitzinger ’20 will pitch Jetsetter’s Closet.

EVSmart involves the creation of an app that would identify and facilitate the use of charging stations for electric cars. Jetsetter’s Closet would facilitate the rental of stylish clothing for world travelers.

They emerged as Lawrence finalists following a round of competition on campus. Similar competitions were held at each of the participating schools. The students who advanced will work with a judge in the lead-up to Thursday’s regional competition to better hone their presentations.

Lawrence students have come out on top each of the past two years. First it was a trio of 2017 graduates, Ryan Eardley, Felix Henriksson and Mattias Soederqvist, who successfully pitched their idea for Tracr, a forensic accounting software product. Then last year, Ayomide Akinyosoye, Alejandra Alarcon, Nikki Payne and Alfiza Urmanova took top honors with their idea for WellBell, an innovative wristband device with an S.O.S. button that can be used to send notifications for help, be it an assault or other point of danger or a medical crisis.

The WellBell students, all LU seniors now, are actively developing their product and working with mentors, while the Tracr project is on hold but could be reactivated in the future, said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program and a lecturer of economics. The finalists behind Tracr have graduated and now have jobs in finance around the globe — Eardley was hired as director of innovation at Nicolet Bank, a primary sponsor of The Pitch, while Henriksson is working as an analyst with the international markets arm of a bank and Soederqvist is in management consulting.

This year’s contestants will be competing for more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind services — with first place receiving $10,000 cash and $15,000 worth of in-kind services, second place getting $7,500 cash plus in-kind services and third place earning $5,000 cash plus in-kind services.

The panel of judges come from the business community across the region.

Lawrence’s deep and successful dive into The Pitch competition comes in large part because of the investment the university has made in its Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. While Lawrence doesn’t have a business school, it does provide an I&E concentration, which spans all disciplines and can be an important piece of any student’s transcript. In addition to a myriad of class offerings, Lawrence has a student club — LUCIE (Lawrence University Club of Innovation and Entrepreneurship) — that fosters the innovation mentality. And students across multiple disciplines get hands-on entrepreneurial experience with such community projects as Startup Theater, the Rabbit Gallery, Entrepreneurial Musician and KidsGive.

“About half of the students studying I&E are from economics, but the other half are from all over,” said Claudena Skran, the Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government. “They’re from art, they’re from music, they’re from government.”

She and other faculty members across the disciplines work closely with Vaughan to facilitate that entrepreneurial mindset as students make their way toward graduation and the job market.

More details on Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program here

While the I&E program has shown its mettle on a daily basis in recent years, the school’s early success in The Pitch has put an exclamation point on that, Vaughan said.  

“We pitch against MBA students, and we’ve done really, really well,” he said.

Developing skills in The Pitch isn’t just about launching a new product idea. It’s also about learning how to present yourself when you jump into the job market for the first time after graduation.

“That is its own pitch,” Vaughan said.

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

Roomful of Teeth’s Estelí Gomez to join Lawrence Conservatory

Head shot of Esteli Gomez
Estelí Gomez

Estelí Gomez will join Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music in the fall as the newest addition to the voice department.

The Roomful of Teeth vocalist has been part of two Grammy Award wins and was nominated in 2017 for the prestigious Gramophone Award as a soprano soloist. She’s also an accomplished voice instructor, holding a master of music degree from the McGill Schulich School of Music and a bachelor of arts degree in music from Yale.

“She is the rare professional vocalist who can sing at the highest level in practically any style,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory. “She is intellectually curious and loves to push the boundaries of classical music, and she is a passionate teacher. Estelí is the perfect fit for Lawrence and we are thrilled to welcome her to our faculty.”

Learn more about our award-winning Conservatory of Music!

Gomez, who performed at Lawrence with Roomful of Teeth in 2014 and 2017, said she’s thrilled to be joining Lawrence.

“In my musical travels over the last decade, having visited nearly 80 institutions of higher learning, no school has better exemplified my ideals for a multi-faceted, holistic approach to music education than Lawrence,” Gomez said. “As an undergraduate at Yale, I benefitted so deeply from my liberal arts education, while also exploring courses and ensembles offered through the graduate School of Music and Institute of Sacred Music. I believe wholeheartedly in access to interdisciplinary resources, and know that such access allowed me to become the adaptable, multi-genre, self-managed musician I am today.”

More details will be released at a later date.

Annual Cabaret to showcase music, dance, fashion from around the world

A performance of Thousand-hand Guan Yin at 2018 Cabaret.
A performance of Thousand-hand Guan Yin at 2018 Cabaret.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Cabaret, one of Lawrence University’s most cherished traditions, will take visitors on a journey of discovery this weekend.

With the theme Odyssey of Cultures, the 43rd annual celebration presented by Lawrence International will feature music, dance and fashion from places near and far, embracing our differences and joyously holding up our diversity as a point of light.

It’s a chance to not only soak in some beautiful performances on the Stansbury Theatre stage but also to learn a little something along the way, said Yidi Zhang ’20, president of Lawrence International (LI), the student organization that presents the annual extravaganza.

“Most of the feedback I get is really positive and encouraging, but sometimes I don’t think people are focusing on the educational part of Cabaret,” Zhang said. “That’s what I’m trying to emphasize this year. I started collecting information from all of the performers on their cultural background and which part of their culture they’re drawing from in their performance.”

To that end, posters will be displayed outside of Stansbury providing background on the songs being sung, the dances being performed and the fashions being displayed.

Cabaret will include 11 performance groups featuring 80 international students from Lawrence.

Performances are set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6 and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7 in Stansbury Theatre. A free reception with cultural dishes in the Warch Campus Center’s Somerset room will follow Sunday’s performance

A performance of Tong Que Fu at 2018 Cabaret.
A performance of Tong Que Fu at 2018 Cabaret.

For Zhang, a junior from China majoring in music management, the educational component that comes with Cabaret is valuable on multiple levels. Taking an interest in and understanding other cultures is an important part of being an informed, enlightened, educated citizen of the world.

“Cabaret is only a starting point to encourage people to know the cultures, to get to know the people of other cultures,” Zhang said.

Photo gallery: See images from last year’s Cabaret

When Cabaret marked its 40th anniversary three years ago, our video cameras went behind the scenes: See it here

That goes for audience members coming to watch Cabaret as well as those participating in the production.

“We have more international students on campus now, so it’s not only for the international students to show what they have, it’s also for those international students to learn from each other,” Zhang said.

The number of international students at Lawrence — foreign nationals and those with dual citizenship — has jumped from about 50 a decade ago to more than 270 today. They come from 63 countries.

Lawrence International gives those students a chance to connect with other international students both academically and socially. While the annual Cabaret performance is the group’s most visible activity, it’s far from its only benefit, said Leah McSorely, associate dean of students for International Student Services.

“At LI, we talk about it as a family, a home away from home, so the students can really build a strong bond with each other and can support each other as they transition into this new culture. Cabaret is a chance to share just a little piece of their cultures, and hopefully get people interested in learning more.”

Zhang will be part of the entertainment lineup. She’s a singer-songwriter who has rounded up three other music students to perform a song that has deep roots in Chinese culture.

She’s a big believer in music’s ability to bring people together.

“I really do think that working with different artists to incorporate different aspects of the world together is a beautiful thing,” Zhang said. “Bringing the whole world together is my personal, ideal view of how the world should be, and music is doing that.”

Going to Cabaret

What: Cabaret, with the theme An Odyssey of Cultures

Where: Stansbury Theatre in the Music-Drama Center, Lawrence University

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (free reception with cultural dishes in the Warch Campus Center’s Somerset room will follow Sunday’s performance)

Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for students and free for children under 4. For Lawrence students, the $5 will be donated to the LI Grant fund or, if requested, refunded. Tickets are available at the LU box office at 920-832-6749 or www.lawrence.edu/conservatory/box_office. For more information, contact li@lawrence.edu.

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

Project 562 creator’s convocation, art installation looks to reshape the narrative of Native communities

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Brigetta Miller calls it a historic moment for Lawrence University, a big step forward in the understanding of Native communities and the need to embrace and value the knowledge, history and contributions of indigenous people.

When Matika Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, arrives on campus on Friday, April 5 for a week-long artist-in-residency — including the creation of a contemporary mural celebrating area tribal communities — and an April 11 convocation address at Memorial Chapel, it will be significant.

Significant for Native students and alumni. Significant for the 11 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin. And significant for the university.

“I see this spring convocation as history unfolding before our eyes since it’s the first Native American woman who has been chosen as a university convocation speaker since the opening of the institution in 1847,” said Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation.

“Given the fact that our campus is on sacred Menominee ancestral homelands, I believe our ancestors are truly smiling down on this event. It’s a very big deal for us to be visibly represented in this way.”

Stories to tell

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip peoples of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country as part of Project 562, using photography and art installations to connect with tribal communities and help redirect the narrative of their history, their present and their future. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

Wilbur sold most of her belongings, loaded her cameras into an RV and set out to document lives in tribal communities across all 50 states. Connecting to college campuses along the way has been a big part of her journey.

“We are in a very critical time that requires educators, administrators and college communities to create a more inclusive environment for Native American students,” Wilbur says in her Project 562 plan. “By engaging in this social art project, students will have the opportunity to, a) organize, b) have their voices heard on campus, and c) elevate the consciousness and encourage the social paradigm shift to acknowledge the contemporary indigenous reality.”

That’s music to the ears of Miller, a 1989 Lawrence graduate who teaches ethnic studies courses in Native identity, history, and culture and works with Native American students on campus as a faculty advisor to the LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) student organization.

This community — on campus and beyond — needs to know that Native culture is alive, vibrant, intelligent, resilient, and moving forward, she said.

“I learned of her work a few years ago,” Miller said of Wilbur. “I saw her mission. I’ve been an educator for many years, and when I saw the beauty of what she was doing, substituting the historical distortions and fixed images of the past for the truth about our people, raising visibility for the historic erasure that has happened, sharing the many parts of our culture that often don’t make it into the history books, that inspired me.

“Her message is that we are resilient and we are strong and that we’re reclaiming our own narrative. She’s really aiming to share that part of our story, as opposed to one that popular American culture often believes is dead or invisible. As indigenous people, we are interrupting the settler narrative of the past, embracing our present and ensuring the future for our children. We are moving, we are shaking, we are scholars, we are artists — the sky is the limit for us.”

Wilbur recently teamed with Adrienne Keene, a member of the Cherokee Nation, to launch a new podcast, All My Relations, now live on iTunes, Spotify and Googleplay. It’s an extension of Project 562 in many ways, aimed at exploring relationships and issues important to Native people.

“I see her as a change agent,” Miller said. “Heads are turning.”

A reflection of who we are

At Lawrence, in the week leading up to the convocation address, Wilbur will work closely with Native students and allies to bring the outdoor mural to fruition. They’ll start with a workshop on photography and the important role of art in social justice, focused on how they can document the lives of indigenous people ethically and respectfully.

A group of students will then join Wilbur on visits to nearby reservation lands, where they’ll meet with tribal members, take photos, and participate in a seasonal longhouse ceremony. They’ll use the photos in the creation of a collage that will form the core of a mural to be installed using wheat paste on the outside north wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

The mural, a non-permanent installation expected to remain visible for two to five years, will be unveiled following the 11:10 a.m. convocation on April 11.

“It means a lot to me that this convocation and art installation will show the beauty and forward-thinking of our culture,” Miller said. “It means more than one can imagine for our current Native students. It’ll be the first time we’ve had contemporary Native American artwork on the side of one of our buildings. Our indigenous students will see themselves reflected back for the first time ever.”

In her convocation address, Wilbur will discuss Project 562 and takeaways from her interactions with Lawrence students, the visits to area tribal lands and the creation of the mural.

Beth Zinsli, an assistant professor of art history who chaired this year’s Public Events Committee, said the invitation to Wilbur is part of a rethinking of convocation.

“In addition to our excitement about bringing an indigenous woman to campus for this honor, the Public Events Committee was interested in expanding what Lawrence’s convocation series could be — does a convo have to be a single, stand-alone lecture, or can its significance extend beyond the speaker’s visit and have a more lasting and visible impact?” she said. “I think Matika’s residency and the mural will be an excellent example of this.” 

The convocation will include a traditional Menominee flutist and an Oneida drum/dance group. There also will be an opening invocation spoken in the Menominee language by Dennis Kenote, chairman of the Menominee Nation Language and Culture Commission. That, too, is hopeful, a reflection of understanding and acceptance that hasn’t always been felt by Native communities on college campuses, Miller said.

“I hope this entire experience opens up the door to further meaningful conversations between cultures,” Miller said. “And I hope it attracts more Native students, faculty, and staff to our campus. I hope it raises visibility about the importance of the deeper cultural knowledge that indigenous people inherently bring to a college campus.

“I want Lawrence to be perceived as a welcoming place for Native students, families, and communities. We do welcome an indigenous presence here — students, faculty, local tribal members. Our doors are open to you. I want our people to know that.”

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

Spring Convocation

What: Convocation featuring Matika Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, Changing the Way We See Native America

When: 11:10 a.m. April 11; unveiling of mural on campus to follow.

Where: Lawrence Memorial Chapel

Cost: Free