Author: Ed Berthiaume

Rite of spring: Those pesky “river bugs” are a sign of environmental progress

Lawrence students know that surviving the annual swarm requires a sense of humor.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We love almost everything about Spring Term on the Lawrence campus.


We’re not so excited about the annual arrival of what students for years have called “river bugs.” Also known as “river flies.” Or their proper name, caddisflies.

The invasion, under way as we speak, is brief but annoying. If you find yourself in a swarm of caddisflies as you make your way across campus, remember three important things—survival requires a sense of humor; cursing will not help; and you best shut your mouth (literally).

But before Lawrentians get too down on these pesky visitors, let’s remember to celebrate what their presence means—a healthy river environment, or at least healthier than it once was. Call it a small price to pay for environmental progress. Lawrence’s picturesque location along the Fox River, after all, is among our school’s many charms, and we want to embrace the Fox’s improving health.

To find a little perspective, we sought out Bart De Stasio, the Dennis and Charlot Nelson Singleton Professor of Biological Sciences and professor of biology at Lawrence. He knows a thing or two about the river ecosystem. He teaches on topics such as evolutionary ecology, aquatic biology, and predator-prey interactions, and for a dozen years beginning in the mid-2000s he and his Lawrence students conducted annual studies of the Fox River to document native and invasive species.

First order of business: Are we cool to call them “river bugs”?

Sure. It’s not the scientific name, but it works, De Stasio said.

“This common name isn’t wrong, and they are more often called ‘river flies’ because we see them in the adult flying stage of life,” he said. “They are caddisflies, a type of insect that lays eggs in the river, and has juvenile stages—larvae—that live in the river attached to anything hard and stable. The juveniles spin a silk net that catches food particles from the flowing water.”

They’re back! (Photo by Danny Damiani)

It’s a long biological process that brings them back to parts of campus in swarms for a brief couple of weeks each spring. (A second generation arrives in late summer and early fall, but the swarms are not as pronounced.)

“The juveniles spend the entire winter feeding and growing slowly because of the low water temperatures,” De Stasio said. “In the spring they have grown large enough to become adults. When they mature into adults, they metamorphose and emerge from the water as the flying insects we see on campus.”

You may find it comforting to know that while these suckers show up like clockwork each spring, they are not really suckers. They swarm. They annoy. But they don’t bite. All in all, they’re really not that into you. Their only interest is in breeding, short-lived as it may be.

“The males and females synchronize their emergence to increase breeding success, thus the swarms,” De Stasio said. “The adults don’t feed or even have mouth parts during this time—they focus on finding a mate. The adults only live for about two weeks around here and females lay new eggs back in the river to produce the next generation.”

And, yes, all that activity is good news for our Fox River, which has had an often-unpleasant history when it comes to healthy living. The juvenile caddisflies are sensitive to poor habitat conditions in the river, especially low oxygen levels. If conditions are bleak, as they were when unregulated discharges of industrial and municipal waste polluted the river for a large portion of the 20th century, they don’t survive.

Thus, the annual invasion we see now signals good news, something that’s been building since river health became a regulated focus four decades ago.

“Big swarms of adult flies mean that the juveniles were able to survive in the river, a really strong signal that the river has good conditions for them,” De Stasio said. “The lower Fox River is a very productive habitat, with high amounts of algae coming from Lake Winnebago. This algae is a good food supply for the larvae.

“Another factor is that the river now has plenty of oxygen in the water. This was not always the case. From the mid-1900s up until the late 1970s, the unregulated discharges of waste from industries and cities along the lower Fox River caused high growth of bacteria in the river. Those bacteria consumed all the oxygen from the water, which prevented the river flies from surviving. After waste pollution was effectively regulated and reduced in the late 1970s, oxygen levels in the water increased and river fly populations increased.”

It’s also good news, of course, for humans. A healthy river adds to the joys of being river-side, from walking trails to kayak tours to beautiful vistas.

So, flail your arms if you must (and you must), but do so knowing that the swarm of “river bugs” ruining your campus walk is both a temporary nuisance and a long-term victory.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Jazz program plays through obstacles to earn another coveted Downbeat award

Matvei Mozhaev ’23 rehearses outdoors during Fall Term with other members of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of Patty Darling. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Lawrence Conservatory of Music’s jazz program has received a national honor that speaks to its ability to creatively make music amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawrence earned an Outstanding Performance award in Downbeat magazine’s annual Student Music Awards, marking the fourth consecutive year the Conservatory has been among the honored programs. The Downbeat awards, now in their 44th year, are among the highest honors in jazz education.

This year’s award, announced on May 6 and being featured in the June edition of the magazine, comes in a new undergraduate category set up specifically because of the pandemic—Asynchronous Large Jazz Ensemble. Downbeat created the new category for students in large ensembles who did not rehearse together as a full band but instead recorded remotely and asynchronously.

For information on the Conservatory of Music, see here.

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble (LUJE), under the direction of Patty Darling, submitted three recordings, Optimistic, TipToe, and St. Thomas.

“It is an honor for these outstanding students to see their hard work and musicianship be recognized on a national level,” Darling said. “With limited rehearsal time, social distancing, and the weirdness of not being together as a big band, I am grateful for not only everyone’s incredible talent and dedication but for their support of each other and their ability to create beautiful music during these challenging times.”

This marks the 30th time Lawrence has earned a Downbeat award, coming in categories that have included large ensemble, small group, jazz composing, jazz arranging, solo performance, jazz vocal group, and Latin group. The annual awards are presented in five separate divisions: junior high, high school, high school honor ensemble, undergraduate college, and graduate college.

The Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble used outdoor spaces to rehearse whenever possible.

The challenges the past year have been unlike anything the Lawrence jazz program has faced in its nearly five decades of music-making. Some LUJE members were on campus, rehearsing at times outdoors or physically distanced in various settings. Others were connecting virtually. Creativity and patience were at a premium.

“Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to record bass and drums separately on TipToe and St. Thomas at different times—the groove between bass and drums is such a critical foundation for the rest of the group, and we didn’t want to use a click track,” Darling said. 

She credits Ali Remondini ’21, Clay Knoll ’20, and Liam Fisher ’21 with finding a workable solution that didn’t compromise the music.

Another challenge came when students recorded their parts for Optimistic with cell phones. They were then synced and mixed using Logic Pro X software. 

“Liam was instrumental in recording an awesome drum track with just one overhead mic,” Darling said. 

The recordings were done over the course of two terms—last year’s Spring Term in which all 15 student musicians were remote and this year’s Fall Term in which there was a mix of remote and in-person among the 19 students.

The recordings found life and engagement thanks to “great improvisational solos” by multiple students in the band, Darling said. The musicians rose to the occasion despite obstacles at almost every turn.

“We haven’t played as a full ensemble since last March—new LUJE students have not even met everyone in the band in person yet,” Darling said. “We can’t wait to start outdoor full ensemble rehearsals in mid-May.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Wise words: An A-to-Z guide to faculty appreciation through the pandemic

Geology professor Marcia Bjornerud works with Madeline Taylor ’23 during a Hot Rocks class in Youngchild Hall of Science. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We are heading into Teacher Appreciation Week, giving us an opportunity to shine a light on the Lawrence University faculty, which has innovated, adjusted, readjusted, inspired, and experimented over the past 14 months, all while helping guide students through steep and ever-changing pandemic challenges.

Through it all—and it’s not over yet—the faculty has kept Lawrence’s academics robust and transformational.

Many of our faculty members have shared words of wisdom along the way. Or showed their ongoing commitment in the face of uncertainty. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-8), we’ve dug into our story library to share some of those wise words and actions in this A-to-Z guide. This is just a sampling, of course. Many others have responded in amazing ways.

A: AP assist

Rosa Tapia

“The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency.” / Rosa Tapia, professor of Spanish, on joining colleagues Gustavo Fares (Spanish) and Beth De Stasio (biology) in contributing virtual video lectures to College Board’s AP Daily, a YouTube series aimed at helping high school Advanced Placement (AP) students during the pandemic.

B: Brainstorming the music

Tim Albright

“Most of these folks are gigging, working musicians on the cutting edge of performance today, so for my students to get to interact with them in their living rooms is a huge opportunity that we wouldn’t have normally.” / Tim Albright, trombone professor, on bringing professional musicians from around the world into classes via Zoom.

C: Costumes to de-stress

Alyssa Hakes

“The Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student.” / Alyssa Hakes, associate professor of biology, on wearing pop culture-inspired costumes for her Zoom lectures.

D: Disasters in real time

Jake Frederick

“I think in any class, whether it’s history or English lit or physics, when students see what they’re studying unfolding in the world they’re living in, they always find that very stimulating.” / Jake Frederick, professor of history, on incorporating pandemic developments into his Disasters that Made the Americas class.

E: Ethnic Studies win

Jesús Gregorio Smith

“I believe it’s time liberal arts colleges and Ethnic Studies programs get this level of recognition. This fellowship is really about aiding teachers who are dedicated to diversity and racial justice in conducting and finishing their research so that their work is taken seriously in the academic community and so that their dedication to racial justice is amplified.” / Jesús Gregorio Smith, assistant professor of ethnic studies, on receiving a 12-month Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

F: Fresh take

Celia Barnes

“I recognized that there was a beauty and weirdness to the literature—and that women and people of color, and not just bewigged white men, were writing it. I was hooked; the rest is history. When I tell this story to my students, I insist that they will be hooked, too, after a novel or two. And many of them are.” / Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, on the joys of teaching 18th-century literature in a 21st-century world.

G: Global thinking

Marcia Bjornerud

“Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.” / Marcia Bjornerud, Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology, on the value of Lawrence’s new environmental science major.

H: Holiday time

John Holiday

“One of the things I wanted to do in doing this show is to show my students what’s possible when you stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible. There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” / John Holiday, voice professor, on his successful journey through NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice.

I: Inspired to help

Andrew Crooks

“There is extreme anxiety in the arts community, and we wanted to offer a little help, a little hope, and as much sense of community and solidarity as we could possibly muster.” / Andrew Crooks, assistant professor of music, on helping to organize the Artist Relief Tree fundraiser to assist artists put out of work by the pandemic.

J: Journey through a crisis

David Gerard

“We followed along with the economics and policy scholarship that was emerging in real time, and we also surveyed the social science and historical scholarship on how epidemics and pandemics have shaped the arc of history. There are elements of that material in just about every course I will teach going forward.” / David Gerard, John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, on teaching economics during the pandemic.

K: Know what’s coming

Jerald Podair

“Watch how voting by mail plays out across the country. Will there be delays? Fraud? Chaos? For better or worse, there will be no going back; mail voting is our future. In a decade, in-person voting will be considered as outmoded as manual typewriters.” / Jerald Podair, Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history, predicting what would follow the November 2020 election.

L: Labs go virtual

Allison Fleshman

“Well, the main take-away from a lab science is to practice the scientific method. So, all of my students will make a piece of art or collection of art that inspires them, and the catch is that they must document their work—hypothesizing, observations, detailing the chemistry involved, and documenting the procedure—in a detailed laboratory notebook maintaining the highest level of scientific rigor.” / Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry, on getting creative in remote classes.

M: Music won’t be stopped

Patty Darling

“While the way we are creating music is different and sometimes awkward right now, it still gives us the chance to share this experience, work toward common goals, and be together.” / Patty Darling, director of the LU Jazz Ensemble, on keeping music ensembles together during the pandemic.

N: Novel ideas

David McGlynn

“A Lawrence student might not publish a novel while a student, but our record shows that something foundational is happening here. They begin the long journey toward the larger goal.” / David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the department that recently launched a creative writing major, on his former student, Andrew Graff ’09, getting national attention for his newly released Raft of Stars debut novel.

O: Ongiri convocation

Amy Ongiri

“As a culture, we have tended to value winning over all other experiences, but we are all going to fail a lot in life, and we need to learn early on what it means and how to think about it.” / Amy Ongiri, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, on the importance of embracing and learning from our failures.

P: Pride, Champion of

Helen Boyd Kramer

“The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” / Helen Boyd Kramer, lecturer in gender studies, on the work that led to her being named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate.

Q: Quest for knowledge

Beth Zinsli

“I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. … In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever. / Beth Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, on teaching from a distance.

R: Remote but in tune

Ann Ellsworth

“I tell them they can hang out or not and that I’ll be back in 20 minutes, and I’ll come back and they are still there, hanging out, talking about student stuff. We had a prospective student join one meeting and I left them there to get acquainted because they can’t come to visit the campus. It’s super productive.” / Ann Ellsworth, assistant professor of music, on using Zoom to help her horn students stay connected despite the distance.

S: Songs of unity

Stephen Sieck

“This is not the way we would have imagined a celebrated conservatory choral program working a year ago, but our students are making it work. Lawrence students need to sing.” / Stephen Sieck, associate professor of music and director of Concert Choir, on Conservatory students adapting during the pandemic

T: Together, always

Matthew Arau

“My biggest concern was there would be two independent streams; there would be the online students and the in-person students and they would feel so separate from each other, and possibly doing totally different things. So, it was important to find a way that the students who are online still feel connected to Lawrence and particularly to the ensembles.” / Matthew Arau, associate professor of music, on using technology and other innovations to help music students learn and play together during the pandemic.

U: Universe, we got this

Megan Pickett

“We believe, now more than ever, that this is our time to shine. The circumstances aren’t ideal, but then [Isaac] Newton changed the world when he was at home in quarantine in 1665.” / Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, on rising to the challenge of teaching and learning physics during the pandemic.

V: Virtual engagement

Leila Ramagopal Pertl

“This pandemic has given us an opportunity to think differently. What are the ways in which we can think about online engagement? Can we use our screens creatively, can we get to every child in a way that allows them to not only perform music but make their own music?” / Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87, music education instructor, on Lawrence students creating virtual music workshops to reach area elementary students who were learning remotely.

W: World in need of care

Jason Brozek

“I think all of us do feel the urgency of the climate crisis, and we see that in our students who are looking for the sort of hands-on, experiential learning that can help them become more effective environmental advocates, experts, and leaders.” / Jason Brozek, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, on the Environmental Studies program expanding to incorporate an environmental science major.

X: X factor

Israel Del Toro

“The biological sciences are increasingly using big data and novel computational technologies to tackle big questions about ecology, evolution, and health, just to name a few examples. By offering a data science minor to our students, we are preparing them with a marketable skill set that is broadly applicable regardless of what biological sub-discipline they choose to pursue.” / Israel Del Toro, assistant professor of biology, on the interdisciplinary nature of the statistics and data science minor, which launched this year.

Y: Your journey

Eilene Hoft-March

“The mistakes we make—and I include myself—the questions we ask, and the challenges we encounter all give distinctive worth to the whole enterprise. The more we dig in, the more our work becomes part of our personal strategies for dealing with what’s beyond the classroom.” / Eilene Hoft-March, Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French, on helping to guide students through the intellectual journey.

Z: Zoom, Zooming, Zoomed

Brian Pertl

“I’m excited that we’re actually looking at technology and its possibilities and not just focusing on what we can’t do. Instead, we’re saying, ‘What can we do?’ I think that’s a very Lawrencey thing. We’re trying to teach our students to be creative and innovative and be problem-solvers.” / Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, on infusing an attitude of resilience and opportunity.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

17 things to know about No. 17: An introduction to President Laurie A. Carter

Laurie A. Carter will become Lawrence University’s 17th president on July 1. She sat down recently with President Mark Burstein for a conversation that will be shared with the Lawrence community on May 4. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It’s time to get to know Laurie A. Carter just a little better.

Carter will join Lawrence University as its 17th president on July 1. Currently the president of Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, her professional career also includes 25 years in key leadership positions at The Juilliard School in New York City and four years at Eastern Kentucky University. She has spoken in media interviews about her excitement in coming to Wisconsin—yes to cheese curds and ice fishing—and becoming part of the Lawrence and Appleton communities.

“Lawrentians are the light because of the commitment that faculty and staff make to ensure that students have every opportunity to lead a life of success,” Carter said.

Coming May 4: A Conversation with Presidents Laurie A. Carter & Mark Burstein. Lawrence’s 16th and 17th presidents recently had the opportunity to spend time together on campus. They discussed everything from their hopes for Lawrence, their respect for presidential history and their personal and professional journeys, to Meatless Mondays. They also answered questions from Lawrentians. Watch this engaging conversation between Presidents Carter and Burstein at 6:30 p.m. May 4 at

In the meantime, we’ve compiled a list of 17 things to know about No. 17 as we await her arrival.

No. 1

Carter got her start working in higher education via student life. She served as a residence hall director at William Paterson College and then as director of residence life at Fairleigh Dickinson College. “I fell into higher education by accident,” she told The Lawrentian. “I worked as a residence hall director to help fund my master’s degree. I never left the profession after that.”

No. 2

Her first position at Juilliard, beginning in 1988, was as director of student affairs. Among other things, she helped alter the NYC skyline—well, sort of—as she oversaw construction of the school’s first dormitory.

No. 3

She is a lawyer. Carter was already working at Juilliard when she began taking classes at Rutgers School of Law in Newark, N.J. When she graduated with her JD in 1993, Juilliard asked her to stay at the school to establish an in-house legal department. She became the school’s first chief legal officer. ABA Journal, the flagship publication of the American Bar Association, recently featured Carter in a story about why lawyers bring strong skills to the role of a college president. “Having a good view of higher education and the role of the president really let me know I was prepared to take on the role and to be effective in it,” she told the magazine.

No. 4

Her work at Juilliard went well beyond legal matters. She co-created the jazz program at Juilliard and served as executive director of the Jazz Studies Department. “Creating that program from scratch was really one of the highlights of my career,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio. In all, she held five different leadership positions during 25 years at the school.

No. 5

No, Carter doesn’t play a musical instrument, but she taught on the faculty while at Juilliard, focused first on diversity issues and later on legal and business matters related to the arts. “I have a real passion for liberal arts and the skills that students gain through that experience, but I have a passion for the arts as well,” she told The Lawrentian.

No. 6

She spent a year (2013-14) leading arts education at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, among the largest performing arts centers in the country, before returning to higher education with Eastern Kentucky.

No. 7

She was both the first woman and first African American to serve as president of Shippensburg University. She will now be the first BIPOC president at Lawrence. “It’s very meaningful to me,” she told Madison365. “And I know that it’s meaningful to the community; I know it’s meaningful to the campus community as well.”

No. 8

She initiated a program for first-generation college students at both Eastern Kentucky and Shippensburg and said she’s impressed with the Full Speed to Full Need initiative at Lawrence that is making the university more accessible for all. “This is a long-term commitment for the university,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio.

No. 9

Carter created an Anti-Racism Institute to foster racial understanding across the State of Pennsylvania while at Shippensburg and likewise wants to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion work beyond the borders of the Lawrence campus. “I look forward to spending time listening to folks with where they are and where they think Lawrence can go in this regard, as well as connecting with the broader Appleton community,” she told The Lawrentian.

No. 10

She was named one of 25 outstanding women in higher education by the magazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education earlier this year.

No. 11

As an undergrad, she was a standout track and field athlete at Clarion University, elected to the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018. Carter placed second at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships in the 100 and 400 hurdles and qualified for the 1981 AIAW Division II National Championships.

No. 12

She and her sister, Taryn Carter Wyche, made track and field a family affair at Clarion. Carter ran a school record 1:05.43 in the 400 hurdles, setting a record that lasted for 26 years. She also ran a 14.5 in the 100 hurdles—second only to her sister.  Carter Wyche was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2014.  At the time of Carter’s induction four years later, the Carter sisters were the only siblings in Clarion’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

No. 13

Carter will move into the President’s House at Lawrence with her husband, Gary Robinson. Their son, Carter, is graduating from a liberal arts college in New England next month and will be a regular visitor to Appleton.

No. 14

The family dog, Pepper, is not shy about being on camera. The dog starred in Shippensburg’s annual holiday videos since 2017.

No. 15

Carter has vowed to be an enthusiastic newcomer to all things Wisconsin. “Every person I talk to about Wisconsin, I tell them about the fact that I want to go ice fishing,” she told The Post-Crescent. “I want to eat cheese curds; I want to do it all. Snowmobiling, too. I want to try that. I really just want to get a sense of the culture; the unique things about Wisconsin. I can’t wait. I’m very excited.”

No. 16

She wants to embrace the important traditions of her new home. “I’ve heard that I am a Packers fan now, and I’m good with that,” she told Wisconsin Public Radio.

No. 17

Carter collaborated with community leaders in Shippensburg to create a downtown location for the university’s Centers of Excellence. She said enhancing the relationship between a college and its surrounding community is important work, and it will be a priority in Appleton. “I have had discussions with the mayor already and he and I are excited to work together to do just that,” she told The Post-Crescent. “He is a Lawrence alum and he’s a fourth-generation Appletonian, so I think this is the perfect opportunity for us to strengthen those relationships and really make a difference both on campus and in the community in meaningful ways.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Student-led AAPI Heritage Month events bring timely conversations to campus

Reese Lavajo ’23

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A series of virtual events celebrating Asian American culture and addressing the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes across the United States will be presented to the Lawrence University community in the coming days and weeks.

The events, honoring May as Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, are being organized by Lawrence’s Pan-Asian Organization (PAO).

Reese Lavajo ’23, a biology major from Ingleside, Illinois, is a PAO event organizer who has taken the lead in putting together the virtual events. These are conversations that are more important than ever as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been subjected to growing discrimination and abuse.

“As Asian Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders, obviously this is a huge problem and it’s very prevalent, especially in these times,” Lavajo said. “We are taking on the responsibility of bringing it to the forefront and saying, ‘Hey, this is a problem; we need to fix it and listen to these voices that are being offended and hurt. This is coming from our own experiences living in America and identifying as Asian or Pacific Islander. It’s a way to uplift voices that are often put to the side.”

The PAO’s AAPI Heritage Month events, all at 5 p.m. and lasting one hour, include:

April 29: What is AAPI Heritage Month?

May 6: Asian American History Screening

May 13: Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Discussion

May 20: Culture & Identity Discussion

May 27: AAPI Cultural Dinner Night

All events will be hosted through Zoom. To get the Zoom link, email

Lavajo said the events are the latest outreach for a student organization that is looking to grow its presence on the Lawrence campus.

For Lavajo personally, PAO has provided a needed outlet, and they want others who identify as Asian to feel that connection.

“Coming to Lawrence, I really needed that sense of belonging, and to have a support system of people who share my experiences being Asian living in America,” Lavajo said. “That’s really important to me. That’s why I Joined PAO, and I’ve made a lot of friends because of that.”

Lavajo, who is Filipino, said they grew up in a predominantly white community and only had a handful of Asian American friends through high school. Getting involved in Lawrence’s PAO was a chance to widen that path while also stepping forward as an advocate for others.

“As an event coordinator, I saw an opportunity to broaden not only other people’s horizons and bring awareness and support for Asian identities, but I also wanted to broaden my own horizons,” Lavajo said. “Most of my friends are Filipino like me. Through PAO, I really diversified my friend group. There are people from Nepal, from Vietnam that I’ve met. I had my first encounters with Hmong people through PAO. It’s really exciting to get these new experiences and learn about other cultures and traditions other than my own, and just have a safe space for all these different voices.”

PAO members meet regularly, sometimes for social events, sometimes to share and celebrate cultures, sometimes for wellness purposes. Guest speakers have addressed topics ranging from cultural identities to mental health to the dynamics of international relationships.

“We want to make sure there’s an educational and learning aspect in every event we have,” Lavajo said. “We’re a fairly small org, but we’re trying to grow as a club. We’ve got quite a few first-years joining this year, which is really exciting to me.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

On any given day: April 22 is packed, offering glimpse of campus life to come

Tai chi sessions began in the fall on Main Hall Green. They continue indoors in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

April 22 is shaping up as a day to remind us of the breadth and depth of the Lawrence experience.

It’s often been said that on any given day Lawrentians have at their fingertips a richly satisfying array of academic, arts, athletic, recreational, and social opportunities. When paired with the school’s small size and close community connections, it speaks to the transformational experience that has long defined Lawrence.

That has been tested at times during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But April 22 provides a hint that campus activity, all done with Honor the Pledge protocols in place, is again becoming robust.

This is just one day; a moment in time. But it has us remembering what’s to come when we return to something resembling normalcy on campus.

Let’s take a guided walk to see what April 22 has in store, in addition to classes.

11:15 a.m.

Yoga, anyone? Physically distanced, of course. Yoga sessions are a regular thing on campus, adapted this year for Honor the Pledge protocols. They’ve been held outdoors on campus when the weather has made that doable; otherwise in the gym in the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center.

“We know that movement and experiences that are not on screen are beneficial to the overall health and well-being of our students,” said Erin Buenzli, director of wellness and recreation. “Not only can physical activities help us connect socially, it helps improve our sleep, our mood, energy, and, most of all, should be fun.”

12:30 p.m.

Let’s move on to tai chi, which follows yoga in the Wellness Center. It also has been held outdoors at times. It’s organized by Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, and this term is being led by fencing coach Eric Momberg.

Upwards of 40 students have turned out for sessions that Morgan-Clement calls socially distanced and physically present.

“Tai chi is internal awareness, opening energy, and connecting beyond oneself,” she said. “This year, tai chi has made us aware of our connections even when we are not able to be together, of our bodies in motion through opening and grounding, and of gratitude for breath and the possibilities in each inhale and exhale.”

3 p.m.

Here’s a chance to support Lawrence athletics on a beautiful spring day. The softball team plays a doubleheader against St. Norbert College at Whiting Field. Lawrence is now allowing two guests per LU student-athlete at spring sporting events. There are some rules. Guests will be checked in on a pass list, masks are required, and spectators will need to bring their own chairs. Go Vikings!

4:30 p.m.

OK, as we make our way deeper into the afternoon, we’ve got some decisions to make. Several options are on tap—one is the return of a notable lecture series from the Government Department, one is a chance to connect with classmates, one encourages you to connect with yourself, and one will deliver some knowledge courtesy of an accomplished mathematician.

Option 1: The Povolny Lecture Series will be held in Wriston Art Center. Lt. General William Troy will present “Three Challenges for the U.S. Military: The Rising Importance of Soft Power; Urbanization; and The State of Civil-Military Relations.” Open in person to Lawrence students, faculty, and staff (socially distanced), it is part of a Povolny Lecture Series that’s named in honor of former government professor Mojmir Povolny. It promotes interest and discussion on issues of moral significance and ethical dimensions. Troy was an Army officer for 38 years; he rose to the rank of lieutenant general (three-star) and went on to become a CEO in the private sector. His talk also is available via Zoom:

Option 2: The Mudd Library staff will host a one-hour Zoom chat focused on fiber arts. Work on your knitting, needle point, cross stitch, or any other art or craft activity while enjoying connection with others. Join here:

Option 3: Gather outdoors at the Esch Hurvis Center for Spiritual and Religious Life for guided meditation.

Option 4: A McDougal Lecture features Lillian B. Pierce, a Duke University math professor whose research connects number theory with harmonic analysis. She’ll speak on, “What we talk about when we talk about math.” It’ll be presented via Zoom: The McDougal Lecture is in honor of alumnus Kevin F. McDougal ’79, a leading math scholar before his death in 2004.

6:30 p.m.

All campus community members will have the opportunity to join a two-hour virtual Courageous Conversations Workshop for skill-building and discussion toward being an antiracist, equity-minded institution and community. A Zoom link will be sent to community members earlier that day. Simon Greer, founder of Bridging the Gap, a Courageous Conversation at The Neighborhood Project, will facilitate the workshop. It will launch Courageous Conversations at Lawrence, to be followed by a four-week boot camp for Lawrentians who want to take on leadership roles in ongoing antiracism efforts.

“Recognizing that engaging in these dialogues is much easier said than done, we sought out a program that would equip our campus community with the skills and tools necessary to have these often intense and emotion-inducing conversations,” the Office of the President and Public Events Committee said in an invitation sent to all students, faculty, and staff.

7 p.m.

Intramural sports offer chances to get some exercise, connect with other students, and scratch that competition itch. The Wellness Center gym will feature intramural volleyball on this night.

“We have been able to safely operate the Wellness Center since last summer,” Buenzli said, noting that that includes personal training programs for students, all with health and safety protocols in place. “Offering a place where students can get out of their rooms, concentrate on their wellness, and see others has been important.”

8 p.m.

We’re all well aware of the richness of arts opportunities available at Lawrence because of the Conservatory of Music. Nothing speaks to the Conservatory experience quite like a student recital, putting into practice all that has been learned in classroom and studio spaces. This night’s recital, available via livestream, will feature Ben Hiles ’22 and Melanie Shefchik ’23, both on saxophone. Among the works they will perform is one composed by a Lawrentian who came before them, Evan Williams ’10.

“Having a joint recital during the pandemic comes with obvious logistical challenges in working with each other and other musicians, but we have found a way to make it work,” Hiles said. “This opportunity to work on a recital with one of my closest friends has been so rewarding.”

Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl notes that this will be one of 73 student recitals taking place during Spring Term.

“Some students will play live recitals with limited audiences—no more than 10 people in Harper Hall—but also webcast; others webcast their recitals from home; others use the opportunity to create feature-length films that incorporate their recital repertoire. They provide a portal from the upside-down world of the pandemic into a space of music and magic and community.”

8:30 p.m.

LU Earth Hour in celebration of Earth Day will bring students to Main Hall Green after dark. Sponsored by Greenfire, a student organization dedicated to environmentally-conscious initiatives, Earth Hour aims to be a global energy-saving activity in response to climate change. For this hour, all of Lawrence’s nonessential lights will go dark around campus. Students are encouraged to turn out their lights and come together on Main Hall Green to watch the stars and learn about astronomy with associate professor of physics Megan Pickett. Glow sticks will be provided.

“We need to use less energy to combat climate change, and this event will allow students to do that while still having a good time together,” said Grace Subat, sustainability and special projects fellow in the president’s office. “Even unplugging your electronics and turning off your lights for one hour can make a difference.”

Need more motivation? “There also will be free stuff for all who attend,” Subat said.

That’s a full day.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public events at Lawrence University. Email:

Lawrence ranked by Princeton Review among “Best Value” colleges in nation

Lawrence University

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is ranked as one of the “Best Value Colleges” in the country by The Princeton Review.

The 2021 Best Value list, released Tuesday, includes Lawrence as one of the top 200 private colleges across the country based on academics, costs, financial aid, debt, graduation rates, and alumni career and salary data.

“We are happy that, after they evaluated some 650 colleges on more than 40 data points, The Princeton Review has determined Lawrence University provides one of the nation’s best returns on investment,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications. “For students and families who are making the decision to invest in a Lawrence experience, this is welcome news.”

The schools listed are not ranked in order.

“The 200 schools we chose are those we recommend as offering the best ROI (return on investment),” The Princeton Review said in announcing the rankings. “Our ROI rating tallies considered more than 40 data points, broadly covering academics, affordability, and career preparation.”

Lawrence recently marked the close of its Be the Light! Campaign, which raised $232.6 million. That includes more than $91 million for Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN), an ongoing initiative that provides endowed scholarships to help bridge the difference between a student’s financial aid and their demonstrated need.

The impact of the FSFN efforts can be seen in the lessening of the average debt for Lawrence graduates over the past five years. The average student debt has dropped to $29,118, its lowest mark in 10 years. It hit a high mark of $34,573 in 2015-16 and has dropped steadily each year since. The percentage of Lawrence’s students graduating with debt dropped to 56% in 2019-20, well below the 75% of a decade earlier.

“The schools we name as our Best Value Colleges for 2021 comprise only just over 1% of the nation’s four-year colleges,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief. “They are distinctive in their programs, size, region, and type, yet they are similar in three areas. Every school we selected offers outstanding academics, generous financial aid and/or a relative low cost of attendance, and stellar career services.”

The Princeton Review is a tutoring, test prep, and college admission services company.

In August, The Princeton Review included Lawrence in The Best 386 Colleges guide, which came months after the organization named Lawrence the No. 3 Best Impact School in the country.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Biology prof gets creative with costumes to ease stress of remote learning

Alyssa Hakes in some of her favorite virtual attire, with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Alyssa Hakes turned to goofy costumes early in the pandemic to add some fun to classes she was teaching via Zoom. It went over so well she has kept it going for a year.

The Lawrence University associate professor of biology said she was struggling during the first week of teaching virtually in March 2020.

“I felt isolated from my students and it was incredibly awkward recording lecture videos in an empty bedroom,” Hakes said.

Enter a pirate hat borrowed from one of her kids.

“I hadn’t quite leaned into the full Zoom costume thing yet, but I felt a spark of that teaching joy again,” she said of putting on that pirate hat. “I surveyed our household collection of dress-up clothes and Halloween costumes and I realized that I could make this a regular thing. Strangely, I found that dressing up in ridiculous costumes made me feel less awkward on camera, and thinking about next week’s costume was a welcome distraction from the anxiety of teaching during a pandemic.”

Hakes’ costumes have ranged from pirates and horror movie monsters to space creatures and video game heroes, all with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.

“Because my Zoom costumes are mostly put together with things I already have in my house—Professor Fleshman also loaned me a few costume items—they don’t necessarily match with the course material,” Hakes said. “Although, when I taught First-Year Studies in the Fall, I had a few costumes that fit with the works—Socrates, honeybee, and cave.”

When her online classes allowed for more interaction with students, she wore costumes at the start to set a fun tone, then switched to more professional attire.

“Some of my costumes are outdated references to ’80s and ’90s pop culture, or reflect more of my kids’ tastes in cartoons and video games, but the Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student,” Hakes said. “It just makes my day when I hear from a student that the Zoom costume and the accompanying lame joke or silly dance is making their remote learning experience a little more fun and engaging.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

“Dedicated and richly talented:” 10 Lawrence University faculty earn tenure

Main Hall

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Ten members of the Lawrence University faculty have been granted 2021 tenure appointments.

President Mark Burstein and the college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Employment Opportunity, granted tenure to Ingrid Albrecht (philosophy), Matthew Arau (music education), Chloe Armstrong (philosophy), Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd (education), Horacio Contreras (music), John Holiday (music), Danielle Joyner (art history), Victoria Kononova (Russian), Nora Lewis (music), and Brigid Vance (history). All 10 have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.

The appointments span multiple disciplines across the college and conservatory.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a dedicated and richly talented group of faculty into the tenured ranks,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine G. Kodat. “The breadth of ability and skill represented in this year’s tenure ‘class’ is truly extraordinary, both in terms of individual achievement and in how those achievements support our broader efforts to expand and enhance our curriculum to support diversity, inclusion, and excellence.”

The 10 newly tenured faculty:


Ingrid Albrecht: A specialist in ethics and moral philosophy, she joined the Lawrence philosophy department in 2013. Her courses have ranged from existentialism and ethics to feminism and philosophy and biomedical ethics.


Matthew Arau ’97: A Lawrence alumnus, he joined the Lawrence Conservatory’s music education faculty in 2014 and serves as the associate director of bands. His efforts on and off campus to teach a positive mindset in music education have drawn a strong following.


Chloe Armstrong: A specialist in early modern philosophy, she joined Lawrence’s philosophy department in 2015. Her teaching ranges from the works of Margaret Cavendish and Gottfried Leibniz to courses on food ethics and ancient Greek philosophy.


Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd: A specialist in early childhood education, she joined the education department in 2015. She played a big role in launching the new teacher certification program in early childhood education and provides leadership for students going through teaching residencies.


Horacio Contreras: A professor of cello, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017. He taught for 10 years at Universidad de Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela, before receiving his DMA in cello performance from the University of Michigan in 2016. He performs regularly nationally and internationally.


John Holiday: A professor of voice, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017 after teaching for two years at Ithaca College. He has been hailed as a rising star in the opera world and performs frequently on some of opera’s biggest stages. He gained national attention as a crossover artist in late 2020 when he advanced to the finals on NBC’s The Voice.


Danielle Joyner: A medieval art historian, she joined the art history faculty in 2018. She teaches courses on medieval and gothic art and is part of a faculty research and teaching collective on ancient and pre-modern societies.


Victoria Kononova: A specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature and theater, she joined the Russian department in 2015. She teaches advanced Russian language classes and courses in English translation that include Russia’s Golden Age, women and gender in Russian culture, and Slavic science fiction.


Nora Lewis ’99: A professor of oboe and an alumna of Lawrence, she joined the Conservatory faculty in 2018 after teaching stints at Austin Peay, Kansas State, and Western Michigan. She has performed extensively and presents master classes nationally and internationally.


Brigid Vance: A historian of late imperial China, she joined the history department in 2015. A regular contributor to First-Year Studies, she teaches courses that range from Chinese women’s history and the West’s view of China to the history of Chinese medicine and modern East Asian civilization.

The high level of achievement across the group speaks well of Lawrence’s ongoing commitment to academic excellence, Kodat said.

“It’s such a pleasure seeing their many past accomplishments rewarded with tenure, and I look forward to many years of rewarding partnership,” she said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Environmental Science major launches; adds path to climate-focused research

Catherine Wagoner ’22 sifts soil during hydroponics research in December. She was among the Lawrence students doing research with geosciences professor Relena Ribbons, who is part of the faculty group that built the new Environmental Science major. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has launched a new Environmental Science major, giving science-minded students with an interest in environmental research a more concentrated path.

The major, running parallel with Lawrence’s long-established Environmental Studies major, taps into deep expertise in Lawrence’s science faculty on topics ranging from urban ecology and tectonics to soil biology and atmospheric chemistry. Approved in a recent faculty vote following two years of study, the new major will be available beginning in Fall Term, said Environmental Studies chair Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government.

The new major speaks to the growing interest and career paths tied to the climate crisis and the desire by students to do hands-on research in environmental protection. For some students, it will provide a clearer path to graduate school.

“Environmental Studies has always evolved to fit the needs of students, and we see this as a step that builds on our strengths and makes our long-standing program even more robust,” Brozek said. “One of the goals is to help students feel prepared for graduate programs and careers in the environmental sciences—without sacrificing the interdisciplinary perspective that our Environmental Studies program has been built on for more than two decades.”

Lawrence continues to excel in STEM fields. Read more here.

The particulars of the major came out of a working faculty group that involved numerous science professors—Marcia Bjornerud, Jeff Clark, Andrew Knudsen, and Relena Ribbons from the Geology Department, Israel Del Toro from Biology, and Deanna Donohoue from Chemistry.

As has been done elsewhere on campus, this was an opportunity to create space for more than one major under the same umbrella. The Environmental Studies program remains, but under that banner students will be able to major in Environmental Studies or Environmental Science.

“Both are interdisciplinary majors made up of courses from a wide range of different disciplines, and both will guide students from early exploration through advanced independent research,” Brozek said

The Environmental Studies major will continue to explore environmental issues through a multitude of lenses—scientific, political, economic, and cultural. The Environmental Science major, meanwhile, will focus more on hands-on scientific research.

The annual BioFest: Senior Symposium allows biology students to showcase their research. (Photo by Ellie Younger)

There are opportunities here in Appleton and in the surrounding northeast Wisconsin region for students to engage more broadly in authentic, meaningful, and focused environmental science research, Clark said. The research not only provides valuable hands-on learning experiences for the students but also serves important public service functions.

“Our students want to be engaged in real-world problem-solving, and the Environmental Science major provides the background to tackle these problems,” Clark said.

Attention to the climate crisis is growing as evidence of distress becomes increasingly perilous. Employment opportunities are following suit, with career paths expanding in everything from climate modeling and environmental engineering to water resource management and sustainability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an 8% growth in employment of environmental scientists and specialists over the course of this decade. 

For some students with an eye on the environment, the interest is in the political, policy, or economic realm. For a growing number of others, it’s in the science. Thus, Lawrence providing a new path of study that focuses squarely on environmental science is reflective of what more and more students are asking for, Brozek said.

“I think all of us do feel the urgency of the climate crisis, and we see that in our students who are looking for the sort of hands-on, experiential learning that can help them become more effective environmental advocates, experts, and leaders,” he said.

Bjornerud, the Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology and the author of the 2018 book, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, said the makeup of the new major shows how environmental study has evolved since Lawrence launched its Environmental Studies program more than 20 years ago.

“In that time, scientific understanding of climate, ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and human interaction with these complex natural phenomena has become far deeper and more nuanced,” she said. “Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.”

Current students interested in switching to the Environmental Science major can do so, but they’ll want to consult with their advisor first to see how the major’s requirements mesh with courses they’ve already taken, Brozek said.

For prospective or incoming students, it’s one more option to consider if they’re exploring the rapidly expanding career paths tied to the environment and climate change.

“Whether students picture a career in environmental justice or hydrology or policy analysis—or all three—we hope they see Lawrence as a good fit for them,” Brozek said. “Environmental Science is another springboard for the next generation of environmental leaders.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: