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

Volunteer, service opportunities offer students a path into community

Students talk about the VITAL program during the Community Engagement Bazaar held in the Wellness Center during Welcome Week.
Welcome Week included the Community Engagement Bazaar on Thursday, introducing Lawrence students to all sorts of volunteer and service opportunities. It was held in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center gym.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Getting involved in the Appleton community can sometimes be imposing for students new to Lawrence. Volunteering just might be the path you’re looking for.

The school’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) notes in its recently released annual report that 782 students contributed 6,659 hours of volunteer service during the 2018-19 academic year, and 75 percent of the graduating seniors said they had volunteered during their time at Lawrence.

The CCE, now working within the Center for Career Life and Community Engagement (CLC), is looking to keep that momentum going in the new academic year, making it as easy as possible for students to get involved and to follow their passions.

The center, located in the Seeley G. Mudd Library, was previously known as Volunteer and Community Service Center. It rebranded itself to better reflect the wide array of service opportunities available on and off campus.

“We wanted to be more true to our mission, which is not just volunteering,” said Kristi Hill, director of the CCE. “We’re really trying to educate Lawrentians on their civic responsibility as citizens of this world. And to not just serve, but to inform them on social justice issues that could be of importance to them. So, the name better reflects what we do.”

Being part of the retooled and reenergized CLC also provides new paths, as well as better efficiency in connecting service work with resume building.

“The benefits have been, we’re now with a department that is really focused on the experiential education or journey of Lawrence students,” said Hill. “Focused on volunteerism and internships and networking and creating your own community, those are kind of like-minded things our office shares with the CLC.”

Even with the rebranding, the CCE still serves as a resource on campus for students who would like to volunteer. CCE staffers help students with everything from getting connected with nonprofits they can volunteer with to hosting volunteer opportunities on campus. 

Last year, the CCE implemented a new program called Viking Ambassadors in Service and Engagement (VASE), a program focused on first-year students to help them make connections and learn about issues in the community. It drew 33 first-year students, spread across five VASE programs — greater access to the arts, supporting fair housing and hunger, advocating and care for elders, protecting and sustaining the environment and allied health care.

“Certificate programs are tailored to each service area,” said Papo Morales ’21 , equal access to education coordinator at the CCE. “Students, preferably first-years, are really involved and engage in this one specific service area. Last year, they did service trips, they did events, it was an amazing thing.”  

The CCE will continue the VASE program this year, with increased funding that will allow more opportunities. 

Alongside the VASE program, the CCE provides Lawrence students with lots of opportunities to serve.  

Lawrence students pick vegetables in the SLUG Garden during Welcome Week.
Lawrence students volunteer in the Sustainable LU Gardens during Welcome Week.

One program is Service Corps, run by students on the CCE staff.  Each Service Corps enclave is geared toward addressing social justice issues in the Fox Cities. The student in charge of the group partners with community agencies. There are seven Service Corps groups: Access to Education, Child Advocacy, Elder Advocacy, Environment and Sustainability, Arts Advocacy, Fair Housing and Hunger, and, starting this year, Animal Welfare.  

Tutoring in area schools has been a big draw for Lawrence students through the CCE’s Volunteers in Tutoring at Lawrence (VITAL) program. During the 2018-19 school year, the CCE was able to connect 41 Lawrence students with 83 Appleton school district students who requested torturing. 

Nine programs were offered by the CCE to support environment and sustainability needs. Overall, 62 volunteers served 1,134 hours toward those causes.

There were 19 programs geared toward the support of elders at Brewster Village, the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), and the Thompson Community Center on Lourdes. This allowed 57 Lawrence volunteers to serve 333 hours to support elder rights and care. 

In addition to individual service opportunities available to students, the CCE offers assistance to Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) student organizations that do volunteer work. Many of these organizations had CCE staff as advisors, and all of them had access to the resources the CCE provides, including the GivePulse software used by the CCE, financial support, and service 101 training.

“The CCE really, really, really tries to connect with our service organizations,” said Morales. “We support them in any way that we can. If students are interested in starting a service organization, we are more than happy to help them. Last year, some athletes had come in and said, ‘Hey, we want to start a service organization.’ They came in with just an idea and by the end of last year, they were fund-raising for stuff. So, if you’re passionate about starting a service organization, all you have to do is come in and we will help.”  

Morales even started a service organization of his own through his connection with the CCE. It’s called Brother to Brother, a men-of-color empowerment organization aimed at cultivating leadership and brotherhood and providing service and advocacy in the community.

“I really wanted to have service be a part of our messaging,” said Morales. “So, our pillars are brotherhood, leadership, and service.”  

Last year, Brother to Brother was able to serve a multitude of organizations, including Edison Elementary School. This gave the students in the organization the chance to explore parts of the Appleton community they were not familiar with. 

“Things they wouldn’t do before, like they wouldn’t know they loved working with kids,” said Morales. “And when we took them to this recess, they fell in love.”

When students volunteer, it not only positively impacts the students they’re serving, but it also greatly benefits the organizations.

“The teachers there have shared, there’s too much for them to do in the time they have provided,” said Hill. “So, when Lawrence students can spend time with individual students who need extra support, the teachers are relieved and able to focus on instruction and looking for funding and other things to grow the school. They openly talk about it, that Lawrence students allow them to do more. So that’s been a really cool thing to see at Edison Elementary School.”  

The CCE will continue to provide Lawrence students with resources as the school year ramps up.

“We really do encourage people to just walk in and say, ‘Hey, I want to volunteer,’” said Morales. “We have a revamped space, so we really encourage students to come in … someone is always on staff here to answer questions and to help you volunteer. But if you don’t have the time and your schedule is really busy, we encourage all student just to go to GivePulse. You can go on the Lawrence web site and type in GivePulse on the search bar. That is where we house all of our volunteer opportunities.”  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

President’s Matriculation Convocation kicks off new year; circle these key dates

President Mark Burstein poses for a photo on the Lawrence campus.
President Mark Burstein will deliver the Matriculation Convocation at 11:10 a.m. Thursday.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Welcome to the 2019-20 academic year. As classes begin today, students are kicking off a journey filled with performances, events and activities, and amid all the fun, they must stay in control of exams and deadlines. We couldn’t include everything, but we chose some important dates you should remember — the indispensable Lawrence traditions and crucial academic deadlines — so you can make the most of this year at Lawrence.

Matriculation Convocation

Thursday, Sept. 19, 11:10 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Memorial Chapel

At the start of each academic year, the president welcomes the Lawrence community back to campus with the Matriculation Convocation. The speech lays the foundation for a collaborative, engaging year. This Thursday, President Mark Burstein will address students, faculty and members of the Appleton community with “Is Our Future Too Hot to Handle?” He’ll examine how human activities are impacting our natural environment and speak to how higher education institutions can better educate and inform on the topic. The convocation is open to the public. Admission is free.

Last day to make class changes

OK, this one has several dates to mark on the calendar. Fall Term: Friday, Sept. 20 | D-Term: Monday, Dec. 2 | Winter Term: Friday, Jan. 10 | Spring Term: Friday, April 3.

Some students miss their registration time or are waitlisted for a class. That’s what late class change deadlines are there for. When you get into that class you were waitlisted for, or you decide on the second day of the term that a course isn’t for you, your schedule is still in your hands. Remember, failing to finalize your schedule by these dates will earn you a late registration fee.

Involvement Fair

Friday, Sept. 20, 7-8 p.m., Somerset Room

Do you want to get involved on campus? This is the place to go. The Involvement Fair gives students the chance to explore more than 100 clubs and organizations at Lawrence, from the Baking and Cooking Club to the Society of Physics Students. Tour the booths and chat with club representatives to explore all of your extracurricular options. Who knows, you might find the group you stick with for the rest of your Lawrence journey.

“The Involvement Fair is a great way for student organizations to recruit new members and spread the word about their purpose,” says Assistant Director of Student Organizations Charity Rasmussen. “Or just have a great time welcoming new or returning students to campus.”

To learn about student organizations before the fair, visit the directory of student organizations.

Mid-term reading period and D-Term registration deadline

Thursday, Oct. 24 to Saturday, Oct. 27

This long weekend is designated for students to prepare for midterm exams. Some students use this free time to take a trip home; the winter and spring reading periods only last two days. In the meantime, maybe you’ve been considering a supplemental academic experience during your winter break. If so, in the midst of studying, don’t forget to register for D-Term. Lawrence’s optional two-week term runs Dec. 2-13. Registration can be completed on Voyager. Find information on D-Term and the course list here.

Convocation Series: “The Parallel Polis”

Thursday, Jan. 16, 11:10 a.m., Memorial Chapel

Russian-American journalist, author, translator and activist Masha Gessen will give a speech, “The Parallel Polis,” as part of the 2019-20 Convocation Series. These convocations are free and open to the community.

Cultural Expressions

Saturday, Feb. 29, Warch Campus Center

Cultural Expressions is an evening of performances in music, dance and poetry that showcase the talents of students of color on campus. This free event serves to celebrate and educate about cultures at the close of Black History Month. Cultural Expressions also punctuates the end of POC Empowerment Week (Feb. 23-29), highlighting the amazing contributions of people of color on our campus.

Cabaret

Saturday, April 11 and Sunday, April 12, Stansbury Theatre

Lawrence International presents Cabaret, an evening of impressive student talent and a whirlwind of cultures. Members of Lawrence’s diverse student body – approximately 13 percent of which are international students – take the stage and treat the audience to cultural performances with the goal of cultural education. This annual spring showcase has taken the stage for 43 years and counting.

Zoo Days

Saturday, May 16, Main Hall Green

By mid-May, the weather is warming up and the school year is winding down. In true Ormsby Hall spirit of tradition, members of the Ormsby community host this event to showcase activities from student organizations, Greek Life and other residence halls at booths and tables. Zoo Days is distinguished from other campus affairs by the classic carnival booths that are brought to Main Hall Green. Try your hand at the dunk tank and enjoy live music, snow cones, cotton candy and popcorn.

LUaroo

Saturday, May 23 and Sunday, May 24, Quad Green

Every Memorial Day weekend, students gather on the quad in the final days of Spring Term for Lawrence’s own student-run music festival. The lineup consists of student musicians and exciting headliners, with past performances from The Tallest Man on Earth and Empress Of. This always much-anticipated Lawrence tradition is one last hurrah before finals arrive.

Georgia Greenberg ’20, co-chair of the Band Booking Committee and co-director of LUaroo, says the festival strikes a special chord with students.

“(Students) should feel like they can take time to relax and celebrate how far they’ve come in the school year,” she says. “It’s usually about two weeks from finals, and while that can be a stressful time, Lawrentians like to set time aside to party with their friends and have an awesome and fun-filled weekend.”

Honors Convocation

Thursday, May 28, Memorial Chapel, 11:10 a.m.

The 2019-20 Convocation Series closes with the Honors Convocation, which highlights academic and extracurricular achievements of students. Amy Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and Associate Professor of Film Studies, was selected for this year’s honor. Her speech is “The Importance of Failure.”

Final exams

Again, several dates to be aware of here. Fall: Sunday, Nov. 24 to Tuesday, Nov. 26 | D-Term: Friday, Dec. 13 | Winter: Monday, March 16 to Wednesday, March 18 | Spring: Monday, June 8 to Wednesday, June 10.

Final exams are perhaps the most important dates for a student to mark on the calendar. Know the dates well ahead of time so you can give yourself enough time to prepare and ace those tests. Professors give reminders as the exams approach, but they can still sneak up on you.

Commencement

Sunday, June 14, Main Hall Green

Residence halls close for underclassman three days prior, but the year’s festivities aren’t over yet. Graduating seniors stay on campus for Commencement, which signifies their move into life after Lawrence. It’s a time for family, friends and the future. There will be a number of events during the weekend for the graduates, culminating with Sunday’s Commencement.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

By the numbers: Getting to know Lawrence’s Class of 2023

Members of the Lawrence Class of 2023 get situated before having their class photo taken in front of Memorial Chapel.
First-year students get situated earlier this week for the annual class photo in front of Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The photo shoot is a Welcome Week tradition.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Lawrentians come from all reaches of the United States, and from all over the world.

The Class of 2023 is no different. Members of the class — 390 strong — have their own experiences to weave into the deep and vibrant Lawrence tapestry.

 “For those of us who have been recruiting the class of 2023, Welcome Week is one of our favorite weeks of the year because it’s the first time we all get to see, for the first time together, all of our new first-year, transfer, visiting and exchange students,” says Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communication and dean of admissions. “It’s a time of joy, promise and great expectations, and it’s truly a privilege that we get to experience it with them.”

President Mark Burstein greeted each and every incoming student with a handshake during Welcome Week. It’s become a tradition. We caught ’em all. Check it out:

As we conclude Welcome Week and prepare for Monday’s start to the Fall Term, we thought it would be fun to get know our new students … by the numbers. Who is the Class of 2023? Well, with the help of the Admissions office, we collected some data to introduce you to the students who just embarked on their Lawrence journey.

390 …

Total number of first-year students. Class of 2023 is one of the 10 largest classes ever at Lawrence.

32 …

Number of states represented. Students have come from all over the country to make their home away from home at Lawrence, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

26 …

Number of citizenships represented. The diversity of the student body at Lawrence is no secret, and that includes the array of citizens and dual citizens represented in this class: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, China, El Salvador, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Philippines, Russia, Rwanda, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam — in addition to, of course, the United States.

80 …

Number of first-year students from Wisconsin. Just like in previous years, more incoming Lawrentians hail from Wisconsin than any other single state. “The Wisconsin high school population has been shrinking and will continue to do so,” says Anselment. “Even as we continue to recruit a nationally and internationally diverse pool of applicants, we expect Wisconsin to have the largest cohort in each class, even though it is likely to be a little smaller.”

57 …

The number of first-year students from Illinois. That makes our neighbor to the south the leading state not named Wisconsin. Minnesota and Michigan are not far behind. The influx of students from our neighbor states means you’ll find Midwestern hospitality all over campus. Following Illinois, the most U.S. students in the Class of 2023 come from, in order, Minnesota, California, Texas, New York, Michigan, Colorado, and Washington.

3.67 …

The average high school GPA of our incoming students. Classes haven’t even started yet and these new students are already setting the bar high.

14 …

Number of class valedictorians. And those are just the ones from schools that provide class rank. Many more students come from non-ranking high schools but have GPAs at or above the 4.0 mark.

23 …

Number of students who have a parent, sibling, grandparent or other relative who attended (or is attending) Lawrence. Members of the Class of 2023 are beginning their own Lawrence journeys. Some just happen to have a little more Lawrentian family history than others.  

98 …

Students in at least one studio in the Conservatory of Music. The incoming class has its share of musicians who have come from all reaches of the music world to be a part of the Conservatory, some pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree and some tapping into the newly launched Bachelor of Musical Arts degree.

40 …

Number of students planning to pursue degrees in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory of Music. Splitting time between the Conservatory and other areas of study can be a big commitment, but these incoming students have found their passions in multiple areas and will experience the full range of academics at Lawrence.

7 …

Number of first-year students who share a first name. That would be Emma. Yes, Emmas make up 1.8 percent of the Class of 2023. Hopefully they have different last initials in case they all end up in the same class.

19 …

Number of transfer students coming in. These students arrive from two-year or other four-year institutions from all over the country and the globe.

As Christopher Card, vice president for Student Life, told the incoming students during Monday’s Welcome Week gathering in Memorial Chapel, “Hello, and welcome.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Grateful Grads Index highlights generosity, commitment of Lawrence alumni

A graduate stands and applauds during Lawrence's 2019 commencement ceremony in June.
Rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Lawrence University graduates at the 2019 commencement ceremony. Lawrence alumni have a long history of staying connected to their alma mater.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The bonds between Lawrence University and its graduates are among the strongest and most enduring of any across the higher education landscape, according to a newly released report from Forbes magazine.

Lawrence landed at No. 26 on Forbes’ 2019 edition of the Grateful Graduates Index, which follows the money in terms of alumni giving at private, not-for-profit colleges. Lawrence is the only Wisconsin school to place in the top 70.

“When I meet with alumni and ask them why they give, two strong themes emerge,” said Cal Husmann, vice president for alumni and development. “The alumni reference the impact faculty members have had on their educations and lives — specifically, the strong relationships they’ve formed with faculty. Another theme is gratitude for the financial assistance they received as students and wanting to pay it forward.” 

Lawrence ranks high on U.S. News’ Best Value Schools list. Details here.

The Grateful Graduates Index takes a couple of factors into account — the seven-year median gifts per full-time enrolled student and the average percentage of alumni who give back, regardless of the amount.

“We boil down the analysis to a single factor,” Forbes says in its report. “Does your alma mater ‘spark joy’ in your heart, enough to cause you to reach into your wallet and show your gratitude in the form of a donation?”

This marks the seventh consecutive year Lawrence has made the Grateful Grads ranking. It has placed in the top 70 in each of those years, with this year’s No. 26 slot being the highest ranking yet.

From support of current and future students to partnerships with faculty and staff to enhancements of the university’s infrastructure, the generosity of alumni is critical to the ongoing financial health of any private college.

Lawrence has seen that generosity play out in multiple ways. The school’s recent 2018-19 fiscal report showed support topping $24.4 million, the fourth highest year to date.

The $220 million Be the Light! Campaign, which launched quietly in January 2014 and had its public launch in November 2018, has surpassed $184 million in gifts and pledges.

The Lawrence Fund, which plays a significant role in supporting the campus’s operation, from scholarships and study abroad opportunities to athletics and campus upkeep, is coming off a particularly strong year. Support reached $3.9 million in the last fiscal year, second only to the 2015-16 year. Without the fund, it’s estimated each student’s tuition would increase by more than $10,000 per year.

The Be the Light! Campaign includes the Lawrence Fund as one of its four cornerstones, along with the Full Speed to Full Need initiative to make Lawrence accessible and affordable to all academically qualifying students, the Student Journey, which has welcomed numerous endowed positions aimed at supporting cutting edge programs and course offerings, and Campus Renewal, targeting facility and infrastructure upgrade projects on campus.

Meanwhile, the recent $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 to create an endowed professorship to teach the psychology of collaboration marked the latest in a string of endowed positions, supported by Lawrence alumni, that have boosted and diversified the school’s academic offerings.

Mike O’Connor is entering his first full academic year as Lawrence’s Riaz Waraich Dean of the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLC), a recently endowed position that aims to better prepare students for life after Lawrence by, in part, enhancing connections with alumni in the students’ fields of interest.

The Forbes’ report comes one month before Lawrence’s sixth annual Giving Day, set for Oct. 10.

“Lawrence’s relationship with its alumni continues to be special,” Husmann said. “It’s a point of pride that those bonds don’t end when a student graduates. The ongoing support of current and future Lawrentians is critical, and our alumni rise to the occasion time after time.”

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

Academic quality, access to financial aid put Lawrence on ‘Best Value’ list

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is ranked among the Best Value Schools in the country in a report released Monday by U.S. News & World Report.

Citing a combination of academic quality and the availability of need-based financial aid, the annual Best Value Schools rankings placed Lawrence at No. 37 among national liberal arts colleges.

Lawrence also placed in a tie at No. 58 for Best Liberal Arts Colleges and No. 60 for Best Undergraduate Teaching.

“Our focus at Lawrence has always been on providing an educational experience that doesn’t just push students, but lifts them,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communication. “And that means investing in the quality of our academic and co-curricular offerings as well as student financial aid.

“Being rated a Best Value is a welcome by-product of our focus on these priorities at Lawrence.”

To be considered for U.S. News’ Best Value Schools listing, a school first had to be ranked among the Best Colleges. Those qualifying schools were then examined on the basis of net cost of attendance for a student who received the average level of need-based financial aid.

“Only schools ranked in or near the top half of their categories are included because U.S. News considers the most significant values to be among colleges that are above average academically,” the U.S. News report stated. 

Lawrence’s Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) fund, part of the overarching $220 million Be the Light! Campaign, is a key effort in the university’s commitment to make sure the doors are open to students of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The FSFN fund, which has surpassed $82 million to date, has already delivered direct financial aid assistance to 250 students, and another 100 incoming students are expected to benefit in the 2019-20 academic year.

The U.S. News rankings come on the heels of similar plaudits from The Princeton Review, which last month ranked Lawrence as the No. 4 Impact School in the country, included LU on its list of the best 385 colleges and hailed it as one of the 200 Best Value Schools.

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

Welcome, Class of 2023: Student-to-student advice for those new to Lawrence

Story by Awa Badiane ’21 and Isabella Mariani ’21

Hey, incoming students! We know transitioning to independent living at college is a big leap, and you’re going to get plenty of information during Welcome Week. But we’re here to talk student to student. While a successful life at Lawrence can’t be boiled down to a simple set of rules, we’ve learned a few important things in our first two years here. We hope it’s helpful as you navigate your new surroundings.

Communicate openly with your roommate. And do it from the start.

Isabella: As they say, you don’t have to be best friends, but you have to at least be able to talk to each other about boundaries, and you need to show them respect. In my first year, my roommate and I never really spoke to each other about anything. The result was that I avoided being in my room, and that was not a good feeling.

Awa: I agree 100 percent, communication with your roommate is key. No matter what, at some point you have to go back to your room. You wouldn’t want your room to be a space that you don’t feel comfortable in. I got really lucky and had great relationships with both roommates that I’ve had. I think the reason my roommates and I worked well together is because we were not afraid to talk to each other.

Isabella: Wow, that’s ideal. Simply talking to each other right off the bat can prevent any discomfort as the year goes on. Everybody is nervous about their roommate. That’s normal. You have to be open, up front and honest in order to have the best possible roommate experience.

Curious about Andrew Commons and the food offerings? In this video, Awa Badiane ’21 takes you on a mini-tour of the dining hall in the Warch Campus Center:

Keep up with your assignments. That’s now, not later.

Awa: I remember this one time at 3 a.m., while opening a second Monster, I thought to myself, “Why do professors assign assignments so early if they know we’re going to just wait until the last minute?” Then I realized there are students who don’t wait until the last minute. This is not how assignments are supposed to be done. And it was like a portal to another realm opened for me and I realized I’m doing this all wrong. I still procrastinate, but not to the extent that energy drinks have to be involved.

Isabella: You’re so right. It’s great that you realized that and you’re aware of your procrastinating, because a lot of people realize it too late. My experience is different. Since coming to Lawrence I’ve become pretty vigilant about starting assignments early and getting them done. But I’ve seen those good habits get out of control and make me really high-strung. I got so obsessive about making sure I got assignments done early that I’d panic if I took an afternoon to myself where I wasn’t working on anything. Basically, yes, please be proactive with your assignments, but work in the balance between academics and your personal life. I’m still trying to find it.

Can we agree we all need to be healthy?

Isabella: If you have two 100-page readings and a paper due and you feel like you’re going to explode, drop everything you’re doing and talk to someone about it. A friend, a family member, maybe a professor. Try not to let stress break you down. There are always resources for you. You just need to reach out.

Awa: Going to talk to a professor if you’re feeling overwhelmed was the best advice I have ever received. Professors are not evil; they understand we are trying and sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew. When this happens, just talking to your professor about what you are going through helps a lot. Chances are they’ll understand.

Isabella: Definitely. Teachers are so accessible in college. And Campus Life has all sorts of resources to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.

See Welcome Week schedule here.

Students carry their things into Ormsby Hall.
It’s Welcome Week. Incoming students began moving into residence halls on Monday.

Go to your classes. All of them. Well, most of them. Really.

Awa: I remember the first time I skipped a class. It was a really nice day spring term my first year. It was Friday and it was probably one of the first days during spring term where it was REALLY spring. I threw on a dress, curled my hair, and I even wore sunglasses. I got ready expecting to go to class, but the second I stepped outside, that glorious spring sun hit me and I didn’t want to go to class. I convinced myself that I didn’t have to go to class because it was just too nice out and I deserved to spend that time outside. So, rather than going to class I went to the café, got a buffalo chicken wrap, and sat outside to eat it. I am not going to lie. Despite feeling a little guilty, I really enjoyed my “ditched day outside.” That was until I went to class on Monday. It turns out, my professor also thought it was too nice to be inside a classroom and she decided to have class outside that day, and they learned about 40 new vocab words that the whole class then knew, except for me. I was lost in class and I ended being lost for that entire week. I had to spend the next weekend learning the vocab words they learned on that Friday and trying to piece together what was taught during the week. I never deliberately skipped another class after that day; it’s not worth it.

Isabella: It’s true that sometimes you don’t know what the next class will bring, so you shouldn’t miss it. And skipping classes can quickly become a bad habit, that’s for sure. Once I skipped one of my winter term classes, it was hard not to do it every day. I wish I was like you and could control my urge to skip. Here’s the other thing I’ll say. Every professor has their own attendance policy, and I’ve had a lot of them who offer a few free absences to use in the term. If that’s the case, I believe in using some of those for those spring days at the end of the year when you’re needing a break. Just saying. Mental health is important. But be smart about it.

Go to those office hours. They can be useful.

Awa: The first time I went to office hours was not by choice. My Freshman Studies professor made it a requirement. In order to turn in our first essay, we had to go to his office hours and discuss our essays with him. I was so scared at first. The idea of sitting in an office and having my first college professor critique my work was the scariest thing I could think of. In the time leading up to the one-on-one, I think I re-read that essay at least 80 times. But when I got there, I forgot I was nervous. My professor talked to me about my essay for about 10 minutes. He told me I was going in the right direction and he helped me organize my thoughts so that my essay had a better flow. We had an hour blocked off for it, so we spent the rest of the time just talking. He was asking me about my adjustment to Appleton from New York and he was telling me how he had spent some time in New York. I created a bond with my professor that made me more comfortable in his classroom, and when I had questions about my work, I wasn’t afraid to talk to him.

Isabella: Yeah, being comfortable with your professors is super important. Office hours is definitely a great place to build those relationships. I’ve honestly only been to office hours a couple of times in those mandatory one-on-one meetings. But they were similar situations to yours, I think, where I sort of realized that professors are real people who want to get to know you and help you succeed. It’s one of my goals going forward to make more use of office hours.

A little food in your room goes a long way.

Isabella: You should always have a little food in your room for when you’re short on time and can’t get to the café or the commons. Especially at the end of a term when things are hectic.

Awa: My first year, my dad bought me a 96-pack of Nature Valley granola bars. At first I thought it was ridiculous. What am I going to do with 96 granola bars? But by the end of the term, I ended up finishing them all. Whether it was because I woke up late and missed breakfast or if I was staying up late and got hungry, having some good snacks in my room came in handy.

Isabella: Having bulk snacks like that in your room is the way to go, I think. Especially stuff that’s easy to take to class with you, like a granola bar. I would say, make sure it’s not super unhealthy stuff, otherwise you might get stuck in a rut of eating junk food in your room instead of a real meal in the commons.

Resources like the writing center and career center can be helpful right from the start.

Isabella: They’re there for you all the time, at any stage of the process, not just when you’re struggling at the last minute. I was glad it was mandatory for my Freshman Studies class to go to the writing center in the Center for Academic Success for our papers. I had never received that kind of assistance before, and it made me open to going again on my own time.

Awa: Don’t think that because you are a first-year it is too early to go to the career center, known as the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement. They have lots of resources available for all years. Plus, it is important to have someone in the career center who knows you. When opportunities you have expressed interest in come along, you will be one of the first to know.

Isabella: That’s something I recently realized. I’ve met with the same person in the career center twice; once at the start of my first year and once this summer before my junior year. When I met with them recently, they remembered what kind of music I liked back then and how I brought my stereo system up to school with me. That small personal detail made me a lot more comfortable with coming back if I ever needed anything, because I know they just want to get to know you and guide you on the path that’s right for you. Give them the opportunity to do that.

The Con is pretty cool. Attend some plays, musicals, concerts.

Isabella: You should definitely go to some Conservatory performances, even if you’re not involved in the production. It’s a great way to spend an evening, alone or with friends, and it feels good to support your peers. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve been to. For me, going to a performance in the Con has always felt like taking a little break from the term for a night.

Awa: The performances on campus are actually really good, and they are free! I went to my first show on campus because it was a requirement for class, but I loved the first show so much that I kept going back.

Athletic events also are a fun part of campus life.

Awa: If theater or music productions are not your thing, games and matches are just as fun. Football and soccer games at the Banta Bowl, basketball and volleyball games at Alexander Gym, baseball and softball games at Whiting Field all can be a blast, not to mention hockey, track and the other sports. And it’s all free.

Isabella: That’s true. I’m not a big sports fan, but one of my goals during the next two years is to do more of that. It’s really the same idea as supporting the Con productions. You’re having a great time while also supporting the talents and efforts of other students.

Get off campus once in a while. It’ll feel good.

Isabella: In the fall and spring, I like to take walks to get groceries or personal items. Or going to some of the coffee places to do assignments instead of my room or the library. It’s refreshing.

Awa: I try to get off campus at least once every two weeks. I don’t know how to drive yet because I’m from New York, so it helps having things to do off campus that are walkable. Appleton has a lot of things to do downtown that are just a few blocks away from campus. There also is a shuttle on campus that can take you to things that are not walking distance.

Isabella: That’s true, you do not have to have a car here. Even though you’ll feel like you’re in a bubble, Lawrence’s location promotes integration with the surrounding community. And Lawrence gives you resources like the shuttle to make that possible when it gets too cold to walk or you’re going somewhere that’s too far to walk.

Awa Badiane ’21 and Isabella Mariani ’21 are student writers in the Communications office.

Speaking Lawrentian: A helpful guide to talking the talk on the Lawrence campus

Alexander Gym is
often referred
to as Alex.
What other Lawrence
phrases, words
or nicknames
do you need to know?

Story by Awa Badiane ’21 and Isabella Mariani ’21

There are two commonly used phrases on Lawrence’s campus. One, the Lawrence bubble, and two, the Lawrence difference.

The Lawrence bubble refers to the Lawrence campus, which is nestled in the heart of downtown Appleton, and the culture Lawrentians all share. The Lawrence difference, meanwhile, refers to the often interesting, creative, wacky, unpredictable, quirky things that happen in the bubble. And life in the bubble can sometimes be a little confusing if you are not aware of “the difference.”

Thus, as an assist to incoming students, we have created this list of 15 additional words or phrases you will most likely come across while at Lawrence. It might just help ease your transition into life in the Lawrence bubble.

Honoring the Honor Code:
Yes, there’s an acronym for that.

1: IHRTLUHC (i-hart-luke): This is the acronym used to reaffirm the Lawrence University Honor Code: “No Lawrence student will unfairly advance their own academic performance or in any way limit or impede the academic pursuits of other students of the Lawrence community.” Students are required to reaffirm the honor code on all assignments and exams by writing IHRTLUHC, or “I hereby reaffirm the Lawrence University Honor Code.” Don’t worry about forgetting the acronym, it’s too catchy.

Ex. “Don’t forget to reaffirm the Honor Code before you submit that assignment.”

2: Café (ka-fey): Refers to Kaplan’s Café and Coffee Shop, the casual dining establishment near the entrance of the Warch Campus Center. Here students can use “cul cash” to purchase an array of foods and beverages, including sandwiches, coffee, juice, pasta bowls and ice cream. A lot of ice cream.

Ex. “What did you get for lunch?” “I just got a bowl from the café”

3: Corner store (Kawr-ner stohr): Also known as C Store, Kate’s, or Kate’s Corner. All referring to Kate’s Corner Store located on the second level of the Warch Campus Center. This is where students can purchase bulk food, fresh fruits and vegetables, snacks, sack lunches, beverages and various personal items. This also is where you can get your Lawrence spirit gear. Think sweatshirts, hats, and mugs. It’s a one-stop shop.

Ex. “I’m going to grab some pretzels from the corner store before we go.”

4: Turnaround (turn uh-round): Also called the Wriston Art Center Turnaround, located adjacent to the Wriston Art Center. The turnaround is a common pickup spot for campus shuttle services. So, if you want to get to the grocery store or the mall, or you want to catch a ride to the Banta Bowl or Alexander Gym, you’ll want to know where this is.

Ex. “They’re picking us up at the turnaround.”

Meet me at Banta: The Banta Bowl
is home to Lawrence football and soccer.

5: Banta (baahn-ta): Short for the Banta Bowl, home of Ron Roberts Field. It’s the stadium where Lawrence football and soccer teams play. Also, students who have cars but don’t have a campus parking spot can park in the Banta Bowl parking lot. Pro tip: If you’re at the Banta Bowl and don’t want to walk across the E. College Avenue bridge to get back to the main part of campus, there’s a beautiful bike trail that goes past the parking lot that will take you near campus. It’s a little longer hike, but much more scenic.

Ex. “I can drive us to the store; my car is at Banta.”

6: Bjork (be-york): Our affectionate name for Björklunden, Lawrence’s 441-acre estate on the shore of Lake Michigan. The property boasts a 37,000-square-foot lodge where Lawrence students stay for weekend seminars in their areas of study. The scenery is gorgeous. Oh, and it’s in Door County. It’s like you’re on vacation.

Ex. “I can’t wait to go to Björk this weekend.”      

7: Viking Gold  (vahy-king gohld): Viking gold is currency in a debit account that students can use at the corner store, most vending machines and to do their laundry. Students can replenish Viking Gold through their Voyager account, at the ID office in the Warch Campus Center, and at the cashier window in Brokaw Central using a cash or check.

Ex. “Come with me to Warch, I need to add Viking Gold so I can do laundry later.” “You know you can add Viking Gold on your phone, right?”

8: SLUG Hill (sluhg hil): The steep hill behind Memorial Hall, at the base of which lies the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden, known as SLUG. It’s a tradition to go sledding down this hill in the winter months.

Ex. “It’s snowed last night. Let’s meet up at SLUG Hill.”

9: Alex (al-iks): Short for Alexander Gym, located across the Fox River from the main part of campus. It’s the home of Lawrence basketball and volleyball teams, and houses the athletic offices. Go Vikes!

Ex. “Are you going to Alex to watch the game tonight?”

10: Culinary Cash (kul-i-nary kash)

Culinary cash, or cul cash, is used to purchase fare from Kaplan’s Café and food items from Kate’s Corner Store. Students have a set balance of cul cash for each term.

Ex. “I need to budget my cul cash so I don’t run short.”

Andrew Commons is better
known as the Commons.
Here you’ll learn
to use swipes.

11: Commons (kom-uhns): Short for Andrew Commons, this is the all-you-can-eat buffet-style eating establishment located in Warch Campus Center. Whether you’re there for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, the Commons offers a variety of specialty food stations. They also host the ever-popular weekend brunch at 10:30 a.m. Get there early to beat the lines and grab a table.

Ex. “Are you going to the Commons for breakfast?”

12: Swipes (swahyps): Swipes, or meal swipes, are used to get meals at Andrew Commons. The swipe refers to the action of swiping your student ID card to pay for the meal.

Ex. “I still have two swipes left to use.”

13: The Con (th-uh kon): This is what everybody calls the Conservatory of Music. Performance spaces and classrooms for the Conservatory are mostly located on the north side of College Avenue in the Music-Drama Center and Memorial Chapel.

Ex. “We’ll catch up later, he’s at the Con practicing.”

14: Voyager (voi-uh-jer): Voyager is the online system Lawrence students use to access important personal and academic information. It’s really the nucleus of life as a student. Here you register for classes, see your class schedule, request transcripts, change your meal plan, view housing assignments, view financial aid statements and much more.

Ex. “How do I check my financial aid for spring term?” “It’s on Voyager, let me show you.”

15: Senior Experience (seen-yer ex-peer-e-ince): Also called a capstone, the Chandler Senior Experience is the culminating project that completes a student’s major. Capstones range in nature and requirements depending on the area of study. From research projects to art exhibitions, the projects are all about demonstrating what you’ve learned on your Lawrence journey.

Ex. “I can’t go out tonight, I have to work on my capstone paper.” Or, “She’s giving her Senior Experience presentation in Warch in 10 minutes.”

Awa Badiane ’21 and Isabella Mariani ’21 are student writers in the Communications office.

From podcast to escape rooms, final exams at Lawrence can get creative

Students look through clues in an escape room in the Mudd Library.
Students work to solve an escape room set up in the Mudd Library during spring term finals. For Lavanya Murali, the teaching approach was all about experiential learning.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Professors at Lawrence are continuously tapping into new and creative ways to assess how well students comprehend the information taught in their classrooms.

We caught up with two classes at the end of spring term where new approaches were being used, setting aside the traditional final exam or research paper — Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology 531 Semiotics course, where students were asked to build escape rooms, and Brigid Vance’s History 101 course, where students created a Lawrence history-focused podcast.

Sharing the history

History 101 is an introductory course, meaning there is a different professor teaching the course each year. When it was Vance’s turn to teach the course, she decided to incorporate a more interactive element for both her and her students to engage with. Rather than assigning a research paper, which is typically the final assessment for the course, Vance assigned her students to work together to create a podcast. 

“You hone the same kinds of skills, you still write the script, you still do the research, but the tone is a little different” Vance said.  

Throughout the term, students learned how to conduct research and explored the techniques historians use to do their work. With that knowledge in place, the students began doing research on Lawrentians from the past.

“I met with the university archivist and asked if this was a possibility, and she was totally on board,” Vance said. “We worked together a few months in advance of the class, figuring out what would be possible for students in the class to complete given the 10-week term.”

Using a list of noteworthy Lawrentians compiled by the archivist, techniques on research they learned in class, and a podcast they listened to in class as a reference, the students set out to create their own podcast on notable Lawrentians through the years. Listen to a few examples below:

“Tell ’Em That It’s Human Nature: Nathan Pusey’s Defense of the Liberal Arts”
by Holly McDonald
“The Teacher Who Died in Class” by William Kertzman
“Emma Kate Corkhill: A Private Life” by Anna Johnston
“Western Learning and Patriotism: Was It a Paradox?” by Angel Li and May Li
“Ye Yun-Ho: Lawrence Through the Eyes of a Korean Minister” by Ressa Crubaugh

“I care a lot about the way the class feels,” Vance said. “And that’s not something I think you can control, but I think you can try to help create a space where people can connect with one another.”    

Vance called her new approach to assessment “very successful” — not only through the positive reaction from her students to the more engaging assignment, but also to creating something that could then be shared. They placed posters in the Mudd Library near the end of spring term to direct people to the podcast.

“The posters with the QR codes that linked to the podcast were up through reunion weekend (in mid-June),” Vance said. “So, all the alums coming in could learn something about the history of this place, too.”  

Check out all episodes of the podcast here

Vance has gone the more traditional route for assessing her students in the past, but she has found that when taking a more creative approach, learning is a lot more enjoyable for both her and her students.  

“At least for me, I get very excited when doing something creative and collaborative,” Vance said. “So that’s something that I feel is really authentic and honest, and if I am honest with myself, it allows for others to be honest with themselves. Ultimately, I think it makes for a better learning environment.”

Vance would like to thank the following people who helped make the project possible: David Berk, Gretchen Revie, Erin Dix, Debra Walker, her History Department colleagues, and all of her Spring 2019 History 101 students.

Reading the signs

In Murali’s anthropology course, students learned about the different ways in which signs can be expressed, shown throughout the world, and how to make meaning of them.  

“A sign can be anything from a street sign to the clothes someone wears,” said Joseph Wetzel ’20, a student who took Murali’s course. “So, anything that signifies something else is a sign.”  

Throughout the spring term, the class built on this idea of signs being more than we typically think of. 

“A lot of understanding of how information is translated through signs is thinking about shared cultural knowledge,” Wetzel said. 

All of the work they did throughout the term led to students breaking into groups and creating their own escape rooms in various places around campus. 

“The students spent all term drawing on the semiotic theory they were learning in class to understand how clues work as signs, and how escape rooms are semiotic spaces,” Murali said. “They then applied this knowledge to creating their own escape rooms.”  

During class, they looked at different escape rooms online to familiarize themselves with them. At the end of the course, they used all the knowledge they gained about signs having deeper meanings based on cultural knowledge to create the escape rooms, and opened them to others on campus to solve. 

“There are clues that refer to different buildings on campus, and we have clues (that refer to) Lawrentians,” Wetzel said. 

It was a fun way to also explore Lawrence culture.   

Students work to solve the escape room set up in the Mudd Library.
“Escape Room: Library” was created by a group of students in Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology 531 Semiotics course. “I think it went well,” Murali said of the hands-on approach.

One of the escape rooms, created by Amy Courter ’21, Hayoung Seo ’19, and Wetzel and titled Escape Room: Library, was based on a concept that students could identify with. “It’s based on a student waking up from her dream, because they fell asleep while studying for finals,” Seo said.

Murali has been incorporating innovative learning methods into her classroom and has seen it have a positive impact on the way her students react to learning. 

“I have increasingly been focusing on engaged, hands-on assignments as a way to help students understand and apply what they learn in class, and this assignment follows that pedagogic strategy,” Murali said. “I think it went well, and I’m very proud of my students.”   

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Roots of collaboration: Lawrence, Refuge Foundation nurture deeper connections

Students from the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class record a song in the main performance space at the Refuge in Appleton.
Lawrence students work on a recording last fall at the Refuge in Appleton. The students in the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class created their own roots music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Get Cory Chisel talking about American roots music and the floodgates open.

The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter who is forging new partnerships with Lawrence University — including venturing into the classroom — will tell you about wisdom gained from working alongside genre-defining singers such as Rosanne Cash and Emmylou Harris.

He’ll tell you about learning to look deeply inward, needing to embrace his own journey before the music could come out.

And he’ll tell you about an eclectic collection of family members who influenced his musical psyche from early on, instilling in him a passion for early American roots music from the likes of Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson — survival music, he calls it.

“My uncle took me to a record player and we sat down, and with no explanation whatsoever he made me lay on the floor and let the music come into my body,” the Appleton-raised Chisel said. “Not just into my ears, but vibrationally into my body. He taught me how to receive music as a medicine. I learned about that style of music with my toes and my fingers and my back and my bones.”

If you think that sounds a little like Deep Listening, the practice espoused by and taught via Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music, you’re not wrong. Call it a reflection of the deepening connections between Lawrence, Chisel and his Refuge Foundation for the Arts, a nonprofit artistic haven operated out of a converted monastery just two miles up the road from the Appleton liberal arts college.

When Lawrence’s fall term begins, Chisel will return to the classroom, co-teaching Sound Lab: American Roots Music with Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory, and Leila Ramagopal Pertl, a class they first launched a year ago. Lawrence students will again have opportunities to create their own music, record at the Refuge, talk with visiting musicians and hear from music industry professionals who periodically make their way to Appleton for sessions with Chisel and his rotating menagerie of artists.

The bonds began nearly seven years ago, when Chisel was co-founding Mile of Music with marketing executive Dave Willems and reached out to Pertl for advice on infusing music education into the all-original music festival. That led to a meeting with Ramagopal Pertl, a music education instructor at Lawrence who would become the music education curator for the annual downtown Appleton festival.

“It was like talking to the soul brother I never had,” Ramagopal Pertl said of those first meetings with Chisel.

Lawrence widens musical path with new B.M.A. degree: See announcement here

Cory Chisel works with five Lawrence students on a song as part of the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class.
Cory Chisel (wearing hat) works with students as part of last fall’s Sound Lab: American Roots Music class. He’ll return to the classroom for fall term in a co-teaching role.

Three years later, Chisel and his partner, Adriel Denae, founded the Refuge Foundation for the Arts and moved into the former Monte Alverno retreat, a monastery overlooking Riverside Cemetery that once served as a sanctuary for the monks of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph Order.

It’s become a gathering place for musicians, some local, some coming in from places across the country and even around the world. They come to record, to find their artistic bearings, often staying for extended stretches of time, sleeping among the dozens of tiny guest rooms that once housed the monks.

For Pertl, the mere existence of the Refuge in Appleton is a gift to the conservatory. That Chisel and Denae share the philosophies of Lawrence and the passions of creative music-making, all the better.

“Our vision and our hope is that this partnership grows, it becomes porous, that what the Refuge can offer can flow into Lawrence and the conservatory, and what the conservatory and Lawrence can offer can flow into the Refuge,” Pertl said.

Classroom connections

What the Refuge can offer became abundantly clear to Pertl as he and Chisel ventured into the Sound Lab class last fall. They asked the 13 students to explore their own musical journeys, the influences that shaped them, and then partner with classmates to create their own roots music.

Listen to one of the student-created songs below.

It was a different approach than anything the conservatory has done, but something that might become more familiar with the launch of the new Bachelor of Musical Arts degree that aims to open the doors of the conservatory to a wider breadth of musical interests and styles.

The students in last fall’s class made numerous visits to the Refuge. They met with members of the Lumineers. They met with a record label executive who had signed Chisel to a recording contract more than a decade earlier. They laid down tracks as the songs they crafted in class came to fruition, eight of them later shared in a public performance. Similar experiences are on tap for this fall’s class.

Cory Chisel listens as students in the Sound Lab: American Roots Music class work on a song.
“We are on a parallel path,” Cory Chisel, seen here during a classroom session, says of the Refuge Foundation for the Arts and the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Having this resource so readily available provides another layer to the Lawrence education, allowing music students to interact with musicians and music industry people who are navigating the world of music-making in a very real way. They’re not talking about it. They’re doing it.

“The Refuge and all of the connections that it offers into the greater world of commercial music-making gives Lawrence this incredible pathway into learning about the music world that is rare among America’s top conservatories,” Pertl said. “The whole class came over and hung out with the Lumineers. They heard the Head and the Heart in a recording session. They were talking to one of the head execs at RCA Records. When the class came over here, most of them didn’t know this building existed. They were just walking around with their jaws open.”

A project is born

Sam Taylor ’19 was one of those students. The Sound Lab class inspired his Lullaby Project, an effort to work through Lawrence, the Refuge, Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs and New York’s Carnegie Hall to teach mothers at the Appleton shelter to write lullabies for their children. Carnegie Hall, where Taylor interned this summer, originally began the Lullaby Project with unwed mothers. It now provides guidance for related projects across the country.

Even though he graduated in spring, Taylor will be back in Appleton this fall — splitting his time between here and Madison — to see the project through, working with Chisel and Denae, Lawrence students, and Harbor House staff to bring the lullabies to fruition and get them recorded at the Refuge.

That’s just one slice of the value that came from the Sound Lab class, Taylor said.

“The Roots class came at the perfect time in my Lawrence career,” he said. “I was reflecting a lot on my time as a student, musician, and person. This course not only allowed us but also encouraged us to explore our individual journeys and music. … Who inspired us? Where our sound comes from. It gave me time to place myself on a larger timeline, to find specific moments that have led me to this exact time and space.”

New adventure, a shared vision

For Chisel, the opportunity to teach at Lawrence, to share his passion for roots music, is something he didn’t envision earlier in his life. He doesn’t hide his history of once shunning school. But now he has something that’s drawing him to the classroom, and a receptive audience ready and willing to listen and respond.

“When people found out I was being welcomed to teach at Lawrence University, I had teachers calling me, saying, ‘I have to say, I never saw this one coming,’” Chisel said. “I’d be lying if I said I did. But that’s not really what it’s about. The idea that through effort and maybe this emphasis on approach, which is on the individual and the elevation of the consciousness, that really might be what we’re on to.

“I think when you spend your whole life not wanting to go to class, you get a good idea of what it might look like when there’s a class you want to go to.”

Cory Chisel speaks at the podium during Lawrence's 2015 Report to the Community. He received a collaboration award for Mile of Music.
Cory Chisel accepted a collaboration award for Mile of Music from Lawrence University in 2015. The relationship with Lawrence has continued to grow since then.

That elevated consciousness, the looking inward to discover your own musical roots and then pouring that into song, was front and center when Pertl first broached the idea of jointly teaching a class with Chisel on American roots music, in the process emphatically cementing a relationship between Lawrence and the Refuge that had already been quietly blossoming.

“We are on a parallel path,” Chisel said. “That’s been the beauty of this. We’ve bounced off of each other’s ideas, but in certain ways we were really plowing the same field. Eventually, it was, ‘Let’s line this all up and get organized.’”

A new classroom approach

How to co-teach the course was the question that needed a fresh answer.

“This was not going to be a standard musicology class,” Pertl said. “I have taught that class dozens of times at other institutions. Here’s the history of American roots music. I’ve done that. It’s a fine approach. We did not want to do that here at Lawrence. We wanted to blow that paradigm out of the water and say, ‘Why can’t musicology be performative? And why can’t performances be influenced by history?’ That’s about as liberal arts as you can get.”

The class took the students by surprise, Pertl said.

“In a traditional conservatory education, we have brilliant musicians who can play anything,” he said. “But often you are so focused on getting all those notes right to play Chopin or Liszt that you forget that you have a voice, too. You are used to always channeling someone else’s voice. All of a sudden in this class, two or three weeks in, we say, ‘OK, so your assignment is to write about your musical roots. Who are you musically?’

“All of a sudden the class pivots to be about them instead of about dead people. All of a sudden roots isn’t about something that happened in the ’20s, it’s now. All of a sudden they’re reading their roots to each other and it’s like, ‘Oh my god, our roots are similar because our musical roots both came out of church traditions, completely different church traditions.’

“And then the next pivot was, ‘OK, now we’re going to create together, you’re going to use your roots collaboratively to create music.’ And to me that is where the magic of the class really took off.”

The students would go on to create eight original songs together and record them at the Refuge. They then performed those songs for a live audience at The Draw.

“Once the roots music became real to them, and once it became about their story, at that point they could see the way in and see what its use is,” Chisel said. “And then you just get excited. And then we couldn’t keep up.”

A mutual respect

The lessons learned don’t go just one way. While Pertl and Ramagopal Pertl call the Refuge an unbelievably valuable resource, Chisel is quick to praise Lawrence, the intelligence and vibrancy of its students and faculty and its deep history.

“We look at Lawrence with a great deal of respect, just the reverence that we haven’t had around here that really exists within that institution,” Chisel said. “As time goes on, we’re going to remain our own identities, but I think respectfully we at the Refuge are learning how to walk a walk of sustainability and longevity. We really want to be a place like Lawrence. When people say they’re from Appleton, Wisconsin, people are like, ‘Oh yea, Lawrence University.’ We want to be one of those places.”

Pertl paints the connections with the Refuge as a relationship not bound by a contract. It’s fluid, and it dovetails nicely with the conservatory’s efforts to help prepare 21st century students to live their best musical lives, to be a light both in and out of the traditional corridors of the music world.

“We want to hold open possibilities, but we know if we can make this relationship closer and closer and integrate it more and more, it’s going to benefit both institutions in ways that we probably can’t completely imagine,” Pertl said. “We definitely think it’ll benefit the B.M.A. in beautiful ways as more contemporary singers come in and more singer-songwriters come in, more people trending toward that side of the music business. The basis of the B.M.A. is jazz and improvisation, but from that foundation you can go anywhere.

“As a university, if you stagnate, you’re going backwards. If you are treading water, you are going downstream. Unless you’re absolutely thinking about what’s next, you’re probably not going to have long-term viability. And I never say that as if change itself is the thing. You have to pursue thoughtful change and insightful change and forward-thinking change.

“We’re doing this because our partnership will better prepare our students for the world they’re going to be launching into after graduation,” Pertl continued. “And this place, the Refuge, Cory, Adriel, everyone here can help our students better prepare for the unknowns of that world.”

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