Author: Ed Berthiaume

“Transformative impact:” Six Lawrence faculty members earn tenure promotions

From top left: Deanna Donohoue, José L. Encarnación, Dylan Fitz, Jonathan Lhost, Lavanya Murali, and Melissa Range.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Six members of the Lawrence University faculty, spread across numerous academic departments, have been granted 2020 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 Deanna Donohoue (chemistry), José L. Encarnación (music), Dylan Fitz (economics), Jonathan Lhost (economics), Lavanya Murali (anthropology), and Melissa Range (English). All six have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.

“Since their arrivals at Lawrence, Deanna, Jose, Dylan, Jonathan, Lavanya, and Melissa have made fabulous contributions to the University — inspiring our students, bringing fresh vision to our mission, and having transformative impact in our programs in Chemistry, Jazz, Economics, Anthropology, and English/Creative Writing,” Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat said. “I’m absolutely delighted that their contributions are being recognized through the awarding of tenure and promotion, and look forward to continuing together our rich, rewarding work for years to come.”

To get to know them better, we asked each of the six to answer three questions.

Deanna Donohoue, chemistry


She has been at Lawrence since 2013, much of her time spent teaching via ARTEMIS (Atmospheric Research Trailer for Environmental Monitoring and Interactive Science), a mobile laboratory for atmospheric measurements. She earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric chemistry from Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in chemistry?

I have been lucky to have amazing mentors in my life. I think my interest in chemistry was first sparked in high school. I had a high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Thomas, who took us to the Colorado School of Mines to mine for gold and silver. We got to help prepare the rock for blasting and then collect samples. We then brought those samples back to school and performed purity assays. It was at this moment that I discovered how chemistry was the perfect balance between practicality and creativity, and I could see myself pursuing a career.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

I would hope that every student is taking the new challenge of learning in different ways as a chance to grow. I know that in my classes, I can see students gaining skills and experiences they would never gain on campus. We are asking you all to work on your own, and often work through ideas without professors and classmates, helping you see what is essential along the way. This independent work means students are finding where they have misunderstanding or misconceptions faster and more often.

 What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope that my classroom would be known as a place you are pushed to meet your full potential while you are supported – sometimes by tough love – through the hard days. I think I am known for asking tough questions, having high expectations, and pushing students outside their comfort zone. I am the professor who gives extra credit for failure and someone who will help you with whatever you need. I do not expect or even want perfection. Instead, I expect and want each individual to push themselves into uncomfortable spaces so that they grow as a scholar and as a person.

José L. Encarnación, music


Lawrence’s director of Jazz Studies studied saxophone, flute and clarinet at the Free School of Music in San Juan, Puerto Rico, completed his bachelor of music degree at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, and received his master’s in music from the Eastman School of Music, where he later taught as a professor of jazz saxophone.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in music?

My initial inspiration was my family and culture, since music in a Puerto Rican family has a strong presence. I grew up listening to music, in recordings as well as seeing family members, including my father, playing a combination of Latin percussion instruments at family gatherings, church and community. As I got older, I started to explore other music besides my folkloric roots. It was at this time I heard jazz, specifically saxophonist Dexter Gordon. From that moment I knew I wanted to do nothing else but be a professional musician. 

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

This is a challenging time for all humanity, and as an educator I commend students for living out these uncertain times with grace and maturity. My approach to the new challenges of distance learning is with love, compassion, and flexibility. I’m assessing every student’s needs, then adapting to what is possible, understanding that there will be limitations under the circumstances. The most important thing is that they are mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy and in a safe environment.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope my students would say that my teaching style is individualized. I want to really know my students so that I may inspire them to grow as musicians as well as individuals. Truly knowing them will give me the sense of how to best prepare them for success and how to go about being their best selves. My goal for my students is for them to leave Lawrence with the skills, tools, and confidence to succeed when times are great, but also for times such as now.

Dylan Fitz, economics


A member of the economics faculty since 2017, he has done research and taught in the areas of development economics, social policy, and effective altruism, and has studied economies in Latin America and Brazil.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in economics?

As an undergraduate politics major, I was interested in how different countries design social policies to fight poverty. As I learned more, I realized that I was mainly interested in economic research and I was drawn to empirical evaluations of the effectiveness of programs. I’ve continued pursuing this interest, using empirical methods to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-poverty programs on different social groups. Most people agree that we should reduce poverty, but deep disagreements arise over how to best accomplish this. I like the economic research that helps us design more effective and broadly-supported policies.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

Fortunately for me, I’m teaching our intermediate macroeconomics course, which has a wealth of online resources that I am taking advantage of. Aside from adjusting how I teach with distance-learning, I’m developing a lot of new materials to help my students understand the effects of coronavirus through the use of macroeconomic models and current health and economic data. For example, we will develop a model of infectious disease growth and use it to learn about flattening the curve and herd immunity while tracking current health statistics. We will discuss how this crisis might impact long-run growth and explore how economies recover from crises.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope that students find my classes to be challenging, fair, and fun. I try to push students to learn a lot while maintaining clear standards and offering plenty of support. Economics provides an interesting framework that allows us to better understand and improve the world, and it’s easy to motivate the content with relevant contemporary and historical examples.

Jonathan Lhost, economics


He joined the Lawrence faculty in 2014 and has pursued interests in industrial organization, game theory, and microeconomics, among others. He has a bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Texas.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in economics?

A Law & Economics course I took at Amherst College first sparked my interest in pursuing a career in economics. I enjoyed the application of economic theory to legal issues. The course’s professor inspired me to become a professor at a liberal arts college as well.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

Remote learning during a global pandemic is unprecedented. I have students all over the world, in different time zones, and in a wide range of circumstances. I know some students will be in some pretty difficult situations. My main goal is to do what I can to help all students make it through the term successfully. I’ve structured my courses in a way such that students can learn the material but without the added stress and fear of failing the class due to circumstances beyond our control. Flexibility will be important for everyone.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

It is my hope that students leave my courses believing they can accomplish things they previously didn’t believe they could do and with the confidence to tackle interesting problems. I hope that students will look back years after graduation and find what we’ve done together at Lawrence useful as they put their liberal arts skills to the test.

Lavanya Murali, anthropology


A member of the Lawrence faculty since 2010, her areas of study have been in linguistic anthropology, sociolinguistics, and gender and sexuality, among others. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Delhi and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in anthropology?

There are two people who are largely responsible, I’d say. One was my high school sociology teacher, Dr. Madhu Sharan, who was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. Sociology in India draws a lot on social anthropology; they’re pretty closely taught. I loved her classes, and I absolutely fell in love with social anthropology and sociology. I haven’t looked back from that, really. The other was my father, S. Murali. He loved people, he loved culture and history, he loved a good argument. He’d drag us to museums, ruins, exhibits, and so on constantly—I suppose we’d either have come out of it hating that sort of thing or loving it, and I loved it.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

My goal, as an anthropologist, is to inculcate in my students empathy and compassionate observation and analysis. That means I have to be empathetic and compassionate myself. These are stressful times, and my classes don’t need to be an additional source of stress. As I told them, we’re going to acknowledge that these are not normal times in the ways in which we teach and learn from each other. But I also want some things to stay normal, in terms of Lawrence culture — fun, community, closeness, flexibility, and care for each other. My goal has always been for learning to be hands-on, student work to be expressive and meaningful to them, and for my classroom to be a low-stress zone. This changes none of that — it only strengthens those commitments.

 What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

Ha! They have a lot to say about it, and they’re definitely not shy about sharing it with me. But I hope that they would say it was fun, relaxed, and real. It’s possible to be approachable and fun and still pedagogically comprehensive, and that’s what I shoot for. I care deeply about my students, about their well-being, and about their intellectual growth.

Melissa Range, English


An award-winning writer and poet, she has been on the Lawrence faculty since 2014. Much of her academic focus has been in poetry and creative writing, including contemporary American poetry and 19th century poetry. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Tennessee, her master’s degree in creative writing from Old Dominion University and also holds a master’s of theological studies from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. She earned her Ph.D. in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in English/poetry/creative writing?

I knew I wanted to be a writer from an early age. I didn’t know anyone who was a writer. Actually, I’m pretty sure for a long time I thought only dead people could be writers, but still the desire was there. I think it must’ve come from reading. As soon as I learned to read, that’s what you’d find me doing — in my room, on the porch, at the supper table, in the hayloft of the barn, in the top of a pine tree I had climbed. I liked books not only for their stories; I liked them for their sentences, and their images, and the words themselves. The library was my natural habitat. As soon as I learned to write, I was always scribbling, not necessarily to make anything finished, just to explore my thoughts and emotions and to play around with language.

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

It’s a stressful time, and we need to take care of ourselves and one another, so I’m proceeding with flexibility, kindness, humor, and collaboration as my watchwords. We’re all new at doing this, and I hope we can try everything with a light touch. This term is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity for creativity, so I’m looking forward to trying lots of things I’ve never tried before in the classroom.

What do you hope your students would say about your teaching style?

I hope they would say that most of my jokes are funny . . . though you never know. I think they might mention my energy and enthusiasm, my high standards (true), and my particularly Appalachian brand of tough love (also true). I think they would say that my classes offer many elements of surprise, and that as a teacher I’m rigorous, yet playful, and often just plain wacky. There’s a bit of running around the room, and sometimes there are props like puppets and bonnets, as the occasion dictates. I hope they would say that while I expect a lot from my students, I am also prepared to give a lot. 

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

New court design unveiled, part of makeover at Alexander Gymnasium

A Viking ship is featured prominently in the new court design in Alexander Gym. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Joe Vanden Acker / Athletics

Alexander Gymnasium is already a grand, historic structure, but the home of the Vikings is getting a makeover.

The 91-year-old home of Lawrence’s Department of Athletics and the competition venue for basketball and volleyball is undergoing a transformation, which was funded through donations by alumni and friends of the University. The first phase is complete with the unveiling of the new basketball/volleyball court.

“We couldn’t be more excited and appreciative of the new floor design for Alexander Gym,” Lawrence Director of Athletics Kim Tatro said. “While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus. We appreciate those whose donations made this possible.”

The main court will retain the east/west configuration that has been in place for 35 years, but the court will look dramatically different. Designed by Art Director Matt Schmeltzer of the Lawrence Communications Office, the court features a Viking ship that stretches from the 3-point lines on either end of the floor.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the new floor design,” said men’s basketball coach Zach Filzen. “It looks phenomenal and is extremely well-designed. The new court, in addition to the other renovations, will go a long way in improving Alex Gym. We have a special facility when it comes to character and history. Being able to bring some updated aspects to our gym should make it a very fun place to play and watch high-level competition in the future.”

Cutting through the waves, the Viking ship uses as a figurehead the antelope from the Lawrence coat of arms. The shield from the same coat of arms adorns the side of the vessel. On the massive sail is the center jump circle with Lawrence’s interlocking LU logo.

“We are really excited about the new floor,” volleyball coach Kim Falkenhagen said. “It is a great upgrade to the facility that is not only eye-catching but shows our pride in Lawrence athletics. Looking forward to getting the team out there and trying it out.”

The border of the court is done in the dark blue that has been worn by Lawrence athletes for more than a century. The free throw lane, known as “the paint” in basketball parlance, wears the same dark blue paint. Each baseline features the words Lawrence University, and the sideline in front of the bleachers says Home Of The Vikings.

Workers prepare the logo on the refurbished floor in Alexander Gym.

“We are already fortunate to have one of the most unique and distinct places to play,” women’s basketball coach Riley Woldt said. “I’m really excited for our current players, all of the Viking alumni, and the entire Lawrence and Appleton communities to see and embrace the new court design, one that does an awesome job of incorporating Lawrence tradition within the comfy confines of Alexander Gymnasium. It’s going to give off a great feel on game day but will provide some wonderful energy for all those who come through the doors on a daily basis.”

This is the first phase of improvements taking place at Alexander Gymnasium during the summer of 2020. Alexander Gym, which has seen three teams win a total of 11 conference championships over the years, also gets a new set of bleachers. The old wooden bleachers, which were the original set of pull-out bleachers in the facility, had been in the gym since the mid-1960s. The new bleachers are set to be installed at the end of May.

The final piece of the renovation is a transformation of the lobby. With its terrazzo floor and high-arching ceiling, the lobby will serve as home to the Lawrence Intercollegiate Athletic Hall of Fame and serve as a gathering space for fans and families of the Vikings.

Joe Vanden Acker is director of athletic media relations at Lawrence University. Email:

Theater students get creative, use Zoom to present old-school radio drama

Theater professor Kathy Privatt (center top) and some of her students work through preparations for a radio drama to be performed live on Zoom on Friday night.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

As we all are adapting to the challenges that come with distance learning, faculty and students across campus are getting creative, including those who usually showcase their talents on the theater stage.

Despite students being spread across the globe this term, Lawrence University’s Theatre Arts department has found a way to host its annual spring theater show while adhering to physical distancing.

It’ll do so through a radio drama presented live on Zoom at 8 p.m. May 15, and then an edited/produced version will be available on the Department of Theatre Arts Productions web page, under the View Streaming Video link.

Update: See unedited version of the radio drama here.

The students will tackle The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama, by Herb Meadow, a piece written in the mid-1930s that is essentially a series of vignettes embodying the effects of the Great Depression on young people.

But first, what would have been. 

“I had an entire production planned called The Domino Effect,” said Kathy Privatt, the James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and associate professor of theatre arts.

The COVID-19 pandemic scrapped that plan.

“Now, hopefully, it is going to happen next year instead,” Privatt said. “Yes, it is an interesting script, but half of it should be movement, so doing that one at a distance is not an option.” 

So, how to do a spring production when instruction and collaboration are happening via Zoom?

“I started thinking about radio drama” Privatt said. “Partly, because my colleague Tim Troy has a deep and abiding love for radio dramas. He’s done some at Lawrence, and at the end of winter term he had just done a sound recording of his production, Richard III. So, we’ve been talking about maybe we should just routinely do just a sound recording, because so many scripts stand beautifully as just a sound file.”  

That idea – to begin creating sound file versions of the plays the Theatre Arts department produces – planted a seed that would lead to Privatt’s decision to pursue a radio drama on Zoom with her theater students.

A quick history lesson: Radio dramas, dramatized acoustic performances, find their roots in the world of théàtrophone. Prior to the development of radio technology, between the 1900s and 1920s, people would set up a network of lines to listen to live performances. After the development of radio technology, A Comedy Of Danger became the first play written with the intention to be performed on the radio. It aired in 1924 on the BBC network. 

The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama is a piece written in 1937,” Privatt said. “There was part of a whole set of programing that came out of the Great Depression and the Works Progress Administration, which more specifically had a unit that was the Federal Theatre Project.” 

The National Youth Administration (NYA) was a program geared toward providing jobs and education for people ages 16-25. This radio drama was propaganda to increase support of and knowledge about the program.

When deciding what radio drama to produce with her Lawrence students, Privatt remembered the Federal Theatre Project and its radio drama sector. This set of plays was especially interesting to Privatt because of the parallels that can be drawn between this global pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout and the era in which this play was written. 

Privatt decided the radio drama was “something we can really hone in on.” And when she found the Federal Theatre Project, she knew she struck the right chord.

“When I found that script it just felt right,” she said. 

“It’s been creatively motivating”  

Learning about the connections between America shortly after the Great Depression and our present situation has also been interesting for the students involved. Unlike the spring production in years past, where Privatt would have a year to prepare the piece that students would perform, she had roughly two weeks. With this, she decided to make the show a collaborative effort, where students have the opportunity to use their research skills to learn more about life during this time. 

“I love that we’re getting to learn about this new form of theater,” Maren Dahl ’21 said. “I also really love that it’s giving me the opportunity, one that I otherwise would not have had, to use my research skills. … I think that the best part about it for me has been that feeling of people working toward a common goal they really care about; it’s been creatively motivating.”  

Dahl is double majoring in theater and psychology and will be featured in the show.  She also is using this as her Senior Experience project. Dahl has been part of a multitude of theater productions at Lawrence and has fully embraced the new avenues this show provides. 

“I think the main difference is not having the face to face contact and not staging something,” Dahl said. “But, I think that opens some doors for us where because we don’t have to stage a full production we have the time to do certain things like deeper dives into the text or do something that is more research heavy and spend a lot of time talking through that.”  

The opportunities to explore has not been limited to the director and actors in the show.  

“I thought that this show was especially interesting because of the limitations we’re under,” said Grace Krueger ’21, a theater major who is working as the dramaturg, compiling historical background for the audience. “We’re able to create theater in a new way, and it’s something that hasn’t been done before on this campus, so I am glad to be a part of it.”  

Not staging a spring production wasn’t an option.

“It’s what we do,” Privatt said. “It’s one of the great joys of my job. Once a year I gather with a team of artists and we find a way to share a story with an audience that lets us be one big community for a while.”

Not even a global pandemic is going to keep Privatt and her students from making that magic happen.

If you want to see the production live: The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday on Zoom. To obtain a “ticket” (the Zoom meeting link and password), email Privatt at A limited number of people will be allowed in. It’ll later be shared on YouTube and on the Department of Theatre Arts Productions web page.

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

One family’s generosity nurtures four new Lawrentian student journeys

Lawrence photographer Danny Damiani paid a visit to the Kaukauna front porches of each of the Paulson Scholars: From left top: Bailey Underwood ’20, Isaac Wippich ’21, Molly Ruffing ’22, and Enna Krnecin ’23.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Bailey Underwood ’20, Isaac Wippich ’21, Molly Ruffing ’22, and Enna Krnecin ’23 have a few things in common when it comes to their college paths.

All four are proud Lawrentians. All four hail from Kaukauna, a 10-minute drive east of the Lawrence University campus. All four are distance learning from their Kaukauna homes during spring term. And all four can point to a generous Kaukauna family as an impetus to their Lawrence journeys.

Four years ago, when Tom ’93 and Mary Paulson and their three children, Sarah, Nick ’14, and Erik ’16, committed $2.5 million to create a Lawrence scholarship fund, the dream was for four Kaukauna students to be attending Lawrence as Paulson Scholars year in and year out.

That dream has been building since 2016, one scholarship at a time. This marks the first year Paulson Scholars can be found in each of the four classes at Lawrence.

Underwood, the first recipient, is a fourth-year biology major. Wippich is a philosophy and psychology double major who was a visiting student at the University of Oxford in England before the COVID-19 pandemic brought him home. When he graduates next year, he will be the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree. Ruffing is a second-year student pursuing a psychology and English double major. And Krnecin is part way through her first year with her options wide open.

Bailey Underwood ’20

“Not only did the Paulsons make it financially feasible for me to attend college, they shared genuine compassion and support every step along the way,” Wippich said. “They brought us Scholars out to dinner and engaged with us about our passions with sincere curiosity.”

Similar thoughts are echoed by each of the Paulson Scholars, each of whom say the Paulsons helped them realize a dream of attending Lawrence. The annual scholarship provides the full demonstrated financial need for four years to a Kaukauna High School graduate attending Lawrence. If no Kaukauna students are eligible or interested, the scholarship expands to other Fox Cities students. It focuses on high-need applicants.

Tom Paulson said he and his family, so grateful for how Lawrence has impacted their lives, made the decision to create a scholarship fund after Lawrence launched its Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) financial aid initiative as part of the Be the Light! campaign. The $85 million FSFN target has been reached, the university announced Monday.

The timing was right, the need was there, and the chance to support students in their Kaukauna hometown just felt right, Tom Paulson said.

“It just seemed like a great opportunity, and almost a responsibility to pay it forward.”

The commitment has been more than financial. The Paulsons annually invite the Paulson Scholars to dinner. They stay in touch, and offer advice, solace, and mentoring as needed.

Isaac Wippich ’21

Tom Paulson graduated from Lawrence in 1993 at age 32, completing a winding path that included going to school while working full-time and supporting a growing family. Two of his children, Nick and Erik, would later graduate from Lawrence.

“The Paulsons are genuinely interested in how to continue to improve Lawrence and also how we are all doing as individuals,” Ruffing said. “They remember who we are and what we’re passionate about and urge us to continue to reach our full potential.”

For Underwood, the opportunities she’s had at Lawrence go well beyond the classroom. The research she’s been able to do within the biology department is just the start.

“I was lucky enough to pursue my own research and experience the scientific process truly from beginning to end, and I’m seeing it in my Senior Experience project,” she said. “This would not have been possible had I gone to another school and had I not had the Paulson family supporting me. They have truly become a second support system, for which I am so thankful. Because of Lawrence, I can truly say I’m a scientist, but also a flautist, a Francophile, a psychology geek, and so many other things because the education Lawrence provides allows me to be all of those things.”

Krnecin, meanwhile, said attending college would have been “much more difficult and complicated” if not for the Paulson support. “Without their help, I would not be at Lawrence,” she said.

Molly Ruffing ’22

Tom Paulson’s unlikely path through Lawrence

Tom Paulson’s own Lawrence journey came about in a non-traditional way. He was working full-time at the Institute of Paper Chemistry, then located in Appleton, and took advantage of a tuition agreement between the Institute and Lawrence, whereas he could take a course per term on the dime of the Institute. He did that for six years, starting in the mid-1980s. But when the Institute relocated to Atlanta, the tuition agreement ceased.

“I was kind of out on my own, wondering how I was going to find my way through the rest of my degree,” Paulson said. “I had senior status but I would still have probably three-plus years of part-time schooling. It was incredibly expensive doing it that way.

“I had a growing family. We were a family of four at that time. That really wasn’t feasible and it looked like I maybe wasn’t going to make it.”

That’s when then-chemistry professor Jerry Lokensgard stepped up and said he and others would work with Paulson to see him through to graduation.

“I think the operable word was ‘we’,” Paulson said. “He was invested in this, which is really amazing to me. He had already talked to the financial aid department and talked to professors and looked my schedule over and did a lot of leg work on his own.”

They found a path where Paulson could juggle full-time work and school to complete his degree in a year.

Enna Krnecin ’23

“I just don’t think this could have happened anywhere else,” Paulson said. “It was incredibly humbling that he did all this. So, we ended up doing exactly that, enrolling full time for a year. And I had to continue working. My wife and I had just had our son, Nick, so we were struggling financially, as young couples do, but the financial aid that came through and the generosity of complete strangers really made it happen.”

Paulson would get that degree, setting him on a career trajectory that would include two successful business start-ups.

“It was really the most transformative, humbling, busy, crazy year of my life,” Paulson said of that 1992-93 academic year. “But, not only the financial support, but support from my professors was amazing. If I needed to miss a lab because I was traveling with my work schedule, they’d allow me to do it at night or on weekends. It seemed like a team effort to get me through this. To me, that’s the Lawrence difference.”

Seeds had been planted

Tom Paulson said he and Mary had talked for years about giving back to Lawrence when the time was right. When Nick and then Erik attended Lawrence, they both had transformative experiences that further solidified the family’s commitment to the long-term health of Lawrence.

“When Nick and Erik were both at Lawrence, we started talking as a family about this idea,” Tom Paulson said of making a financial commitment to the school.

They settled on the idea of an ongoing scholarship fund to support students from Kaukauna. It became part of the Be the Light! campaign, which to date has raised more than $208 million toward the $220 million goal.

For more information on the Be the Light! campaign, see here.

Tom Paulson speaks during a Be the Light! campaign event held during winter term in the Warch Campus Center. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

“It was a great thing for us as a family,” Tom Paulson said. “The kids know this is money that is somehow coming out of their pockets down the road. That was a real powerful motivator for us. The ability to sit down as a family and openly discuss this.

“Everything came together as a real magical moment. A match came in, the Be the Light! campaign was here, and everything just flowed together. I am overwhelmed at the response to the campaign, and I love the fact that we’re involved.”

For the four students now benefiting from the Paulson decision, the generosity is not taken lightly.

“It’s a wonderful experience having donor support from such caring people, and I honestly cannot imagine my Lawrence experience without the Paulson family,” Ruffing said. “It has made me truly feel valued and part of a community greater than just the current student body.”

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

The Paulson family (from left): Tom ’93, Sarah, Nick ’14, Mary, and Erik ’16.

Lawrence’s Full Speed to Full Need campaign surpasses $85M milestone

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) campaign has reached a historic milestone, passing the $85 million goal set six years ago.

Nearly 1,200 donors have contributed gifts and pledges along the way, pushing the tally to $86.8 million, University leaders announced Monday.

“When we began the campaign, our goal was to ensure Lawrence remained affordable to all students no matter family income. Thanks to the support of the university community, this goal has now been achieved,” President Mark Burstein said. “I am so grateful to every donor whose investment guarantees hundreds of students can attend Lawrence every year in perpetuity.” 

The University is working to reach full-need status, meaning it will have the resources to cover 100% of every student’s demonstrated need after other financial aid packages are factored in. Launched in 2014, the ambitious effort would make Lawrence one of fewer than 70 universities nationwide designated as full-need institutions.

Meeting, and then surpassing, the $85 million goal is a huge step forward. More than 300 students have received full-need scholarships to date. The average debt of Lawrence’s graduating seniors has declined by $5,000 since the campaign began even as the University’s comprehensive fee has increased. This lower average debt at graduation is in contrast to the rising debt numbers nationally.

Hitting the campaign goal is welcome news in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, said Cal Husmann, vice president for alumni and development.

“During uncertain times, many of us seek out things that help give us hope for the future—FSFN represents that hopeful future as an investment in our students today and for years to come,” he said.

The Full Speed to Full Need initiative, one of the key strategic priorities of the Be the Light! campaign, was jump-started by a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor. Support has flowed in since as alumni and other supporters have responded to the need to make a Lawrence education attainable for all students who qualify academically.

“The way in which this community has rallied around that strategic priority to provide more financial resources for students has been breathtaking in terms of the number of donors, the amounts of gifts, the pace in which we’ve been raising money,” Husmann said. “It has resonated with this constituency unlike any other philanthropic priority.”

FSFN scholarships are aimed at covering the gap between the full ticket price of enrollment and a student’s demonstrated ability to pay, meaning more students are taking out fewer loans to cover that gap. It is leveling the playing field for families with limited resources.

The average student debt for new Lawrence graduates has dropped to $29,504, 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 Full Speed to Full Need campaign launched. The percentage of Lawrence students graduating with debt dropped to 54.7% in 2018-19, also the lowest mark in a decade.

About 70% of Lawrence students receive some level of need-based aid.

Of the Full Speed to Full Need scholarships that have been awarded to date, 61% of the recipients have been students of color and 45% have been first-generation college students.

Dave Blowers ’82, chair of the Board of Trustees and co-chair of the capital campaign, called the support for FSFN inspiring.

“As a first-generation college student at Lawrence who had a financial need and received a significant financial aid package, I personally understand the importance of scholarship support,” he said. “This investment in the future of Lawrence and our students will pay dividends for years to come. I especially want to thank the anonymous donor family that started us on this journey. Their foresight has changed the trajectory of hundreds of students’ lives.”

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

Dungeons and Dragons game play via Twitch keeps these students connected

Charles Brailovsky ’23 runs an episode of Blame the Dice with Lawrence classmates on Twitch.

Story by Alex Freeman ’23


The screeching comes from an insect-human hybrid creature (voiced by Dungeon Master Charles Brailovsky ’23) as it takes eight points of damage from the new staff that Melimion (played by Daniel Crook ’23) just had custom-made.

Brailovsky, switching out of monster voice, turns to Crook.

“It seems to have noticed that you hit it with one of its own legs and it’s both confused, shocked, and almost a little offended.”

Acting out their characters is just part of the job for these two—they’re in the middle of recording an episode of Blame the Dice, the WLFM radio show that’s become a Twitch livestream during Lawrence University’s spring term.

Airing every Saturday at 4 p.m. on the @lu_dandd Twitch channel, Blame the Dice follows an ongoing campaign in Dungeons and Dragons, a role-playing fantasy adventure game. As the dungeon master, Brailovsky creates the plot and situations that confront the five players, Crook, Ethan Perlow ’23, Lea Brownlee ’23, Matt Balfe ’23 and Liam McQuade ’22.

Collaborative storytelling

Blame the Dice is more than just a game—it’s an interactive story.

Although Brailovsky is the one who spent 20 hours planning out the adventures before the group began and still spends two to five hours between each session working out the details, he attributes much of the story to collaboration with the players.

Utilizing the player-created character backstories to develop the overarching plot of the adventure, Brailovsky plans out each session before it starts—but sometimes those plans go completely awry. It’s up to the players to decide how they’ll interact with Brailovksy’s world.

This, of course, is a responsibility they all take very seriously.

“We’re working together to create something magical,” Crook said. “It’s really truly a great world Charles made, and by taking on these characters, we’ve taken Charles’ trust in us to really make this into something special and we’re running with it.”

For the players, that means getting immersed into their characters: mimicking their voices, figuring out how they would think, remembering where they came from.

To build their complex, engaging story, this immersion has to run deep. For Brownlee and Balfe, one playing an ex-mob boss and the other a logical thinker who grew up in poverty, it means butting heads, even when they’re not in a combat scene. For Perlow, it means acting out a panic attack when his character, a former monk, is being interrogated. For Crook, it means channeling his inner London Tipton (of Suite Life of Zack and Cody fame) to recite the slam poetry he has written for his character, a wealthy and egotistical bard.

Though they manifest it in different ways, the team has a shared goal: collaborate to tell an epic story.

“It’s my world, but it’s their story,” Brailovsky said.

Keeping a connection

Since spring term was moved to distance learning, the weekly stream has taken on the additional role of bringing the friends together, even though they’re hundreds of miles apart.

“When you’re just having a conversation completely improvised back and forth between two characters, you can almost forget that you’re sitting at home, in front of a computer screen,” Brailovsky said. “You can sort of picture the environment they’re in, you can think about what they look like, and you can start to sort of feel more like you’re face-to-face with the person.”

With some of the group still on campus due to travel restrictions and others home alone, they can still connect for a few hours every week—interacting almost face-to-face, goofing around, and being creative with each other. Even if they’re not in the same place physically, no one is going through this alone.

“At the risk of sounding like a Boomer, social media just isn’t the same as in person,” Brownlee said. “You are kind of missing that human part to it. Doing something where you are actively trying to engage with not just another person but with another person playing a character, that’s kind of raising the level of engagement that you have to give. It’s a lot closer to what I tend to feel is the natural give and take of life.”

Link to first nine episodes (from WLFM):

Link to Twitch episodes:

A sense of stability

Spring term brought many changes to the personal lives of the group, but the way they see it, the weekly Dungeons and Dragons sessions didn’t have to change—at least not too much.

“It helps distract from problems that might be going on in the real world, of which there are many right now,” Crook said. “It helps us just kind of forget things here and go to a place where, ‘Oh, the real problem is there’s a dragon terrorizing this farmstead, and we’ve got to help.’”

Whether it’s a sense of purpose to wake up before 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon or merely an excuse to spend some time laughing with friends, Blame the Dice, in its own way, provides some sense of normalcy. Despite everything else, this group of six knows that they can get together and play a game that they love for two to three hours, just like they did before.

This group formed back when life was a bit more “normal”—and as far as they’re concerned, there’s no reason to let some uncertainty get in the way of their weekly adventures.

“We all just love it,” Brownlee said. “It’s something to do with people we love, a game we love, characters we’ve gotten attached to. … You don’t want to let some pesky little plague get in the way of that. We can still do it, and so we’re just going to do it in a way that we won’t get sick.”

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.

“Courageous” opera that featured LU’s Acon wins Pulitzer Prize in music

Derrell Acon ’10 (center) starred in The Central Park Five when it debuted last summer with Long Beach Opera.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Central Park Five, an opera that featured Derrell Acon ’10 in a leading role when it debuted last summer in southern California, has won a Pulitzer Prize for music.

The Pulitzer announcement came Monday, with the Pulitzer jury calling Anthony Davis’ jazz-infused opera a “courageous operatic work.”

The production was presented by Long Beach Opera, with Lawrence University alumnus Acon playing one of five black or Latino men wrongly convicted in the 1989 rape and beating of a white woman in New York’s Central Park. The real-life case drew national attention then and again 13 years later when DNA evidence exonerated the men, bringing renewed cries of injustice and a lawsuit that would eventually cost New York City $41 million.

The Pulitzer for Davis is a crowning honor for a production that Acon says was both fulfilling and emotional.

“Portraying the character of Antron McCray was the most moving experience of my operatic career,” Acon said Tuesday. “My colleagues and I all felt a sense of honor and duty to share this deeply tragic story, which is unfortunately all too familiar for many black folks in American society.”

Acon talked about the emotions of The Central Park Five just after the production debuted in Long Beach last June.

“I wasn’t really anticipating any particular response,” he said after getting an enthusiastic welcome on opening night. “I was more aware of my own responses, understanding that it would be a very emotional process for me. As a young black man in America, you know, a lot of these topics are very close to my own experience, and these struggles are very mirrored in my own life.

“I think a lot about the rehearsal process, tending to all of these emotions, letting them out, having a lot of beautiful discussions with my colleagues, especially the five of us in the lead roles.”

Acon graduated summa cum laude from Lawrence in 2010 as a double major in voice performance and government. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in 19th-century opera history and performance from the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music.

Acon, who serves on the Lawrence Board of Trustees as a Recent Graduate Trustee — a position established for alumni within two to 10 years of their graduation — earned multiple regional and national honors as a student and already has more than two dozen operatic roles on his resume.

In 2018, he relocated to southern California and began working with Long Beach Opera, landing the role in The Central Park Five. He also facilitated public conversations about the Central Park Five case and other issues of injustice and now serves as the opera house’s director of engagement and equity. 

Last summer’s opera was led by Davis, who had attempted to stage an earlier version in New Jersey with little success. This time, the reworked production drew national attention.

In announcing the Pulitzer, the jury said Davis’ opera, with libretto by Richard Wesley, is “marked by powerful vocal writing and sensitive orchestration that skillfully transforms a notorious example of contemporary injustice into something empathetic and hopeful.”

Acon is the second Lawrentian involved in a Pulitzer-winning opera in the last decade. Eric Simonson ’82 directed the original production of Silent Night, which won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for music.

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

Meet LU’s Willard: This service-dog-in-training is having a birthday

Photo gallery of Anna White ’22 and Willard

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We’re wishing a happy birthday to a dog that was a familiar face on campus during fall and winter terms.

Willard is a service-dog-in-training, and he has been a constant companion of Anna White ’22, who is working as a volunteer to train the dog for the nonprofit Custom Canines Service Dog Academy (CCSDA) of Madison. He lived with her on campus, attended classes, and accompanied her as she went about the business of being a Lawrence student.

Willard is now with Anna at her family’s home in Baraboo because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the move to distance learning. Anna, a biology major, assures us the training continues, just a bit different as she no longer has nearly 1,500 Lawrentians to share Willard with.

Willard, who turns 1 today (May 5), is being trained to most likely serve a military veteran dealing with PTSD.

Anna answered a few questions about life with Willard, just in time to share on his birthday.

On training the dog on campus: “College is a great place to train a service dog because they get a ton of exposure to different situations. He’s exposed to all types of people, including people on skateboards, bikes, or moving carts. He also goes through lots of active in-public training, such as going to the cafeteria with me, as well as training where he has to learn patience, such as sitting through class with me.”

On training at home: “Unfortunately, he can’t do any public training right now, so we are working on more direct-association behaviors, particularly interruption behaviors. These involve training him to recognize certain anxious habits and interrupting them with his body. For example, if I am shaking my leg excessively, he will come and rest his head on it, or if I lean over and pretend to cry, he will come hop onto my lap. He absolutely loves these exercises because he is the most-cuddly dog I’ve ever met.”

On how long the training will last: “Dogs typically train until they are about 2 years old, so I will have Willard for about another year. After a little final specialized training, he will then go on and get placed with his permanent handler.”

On how she will handle letting him go: “Yes, I will be extremely sad. However, I went into this knowing that everything I do is so that after me he can change someone’s life for the better, so with that knowledge I’ll be satisfied at the end of the day.”

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

Lawrence joins community partners in promoting safe COVID-19 practices

All students, faculty, staff and visitors on the Lawrence University campus are asked to wear a mask when in public spaces during the COVID-19 crisis. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has joined 20 community partners in an effort to promote safe practices during the fight against the spread of COVID-19.

Be Safe Wisconsin, launched by health care providers in northeast Wisconsin, is a public campaign aimed at providing a unified voice in staying committed to healthy and safe behaviors during the pandemic. Lawrence is among the community partners who have signed on to the program, which includes sharing information and resources on the recently launched web site. Subscribers also can opt in for Be Safe Wisconsin e-newsletters.

Area residents are asked to take the Be Safe pledge on the web site, stating they’ll stay home and abide by safe practices during the state’s safer-at-home orders.

You can follow Be Safe Wisconsin on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Lawrence is sharing COVID-19 news here.

Lawrence has posted signs throughout campus asking anyone on its grounds to wear a mask and abide by social distancing protocols while in public spaces. The University has produced or acquired enough masks to be distributed to all of its students, faculty, and staff who need to be on campus. While the majority of students have returned to their home communities, more than 100 students remain on campus because of an inability to get home or because of other extenuating circumstances. All classes during Spring Term are being taught via distance learning.

Trever Hall on loan to city, PPEs donated

Lawrence has been actively partnering with local communities and agencies in the battle to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. As announced earlier, the university has loaned one of its residence halls to the City of Appleton for use by city personnel.

Lawrence is donating the use of Trever Hall for the next four months. It will not be used as a medical facility and will not house COVID-19 patients, but rather will be a space the city can utilize for its personnel who are working on the front lines.

“All of us are in this fight together,” said Christyn Abaray, assistant to the Lawrence president. “Providing Trever Hall to our city is a natural step we at Lawrence could take to support our community in this effort.”

No Lawrence students or staff will be in the building. The university has cleaned and prepped the hall and made key-access available to city personnel. The city will provide its own bedding and will be responsible for the ongoing cleaning of the facility. City personnel staying in the hall will have access to the kitchen and laundry facilities, and free wi-fi is being provided.

Trever is well removed from where students on campus during spring term are being housed.

“We purposefully chose a residence hall where there would be limited interaction with our own campus community,” Abaray said.

Lawrence also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to the city last month. More than 25 boxes of supplies were delivered to the city for use by health care workers and first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The supplies, which would normally be used by Lawrence students in science labs, came from the school’s Chemistry and Biology departments and included protective gowns, lab coats, goggles, and gloves, Abaray said.

“During these uncertain times around the world, communities are working together in intentional and deliberate ways,” she said. “As an entrenched, established member of the Fox Valley community, we at Lawrence readily mobilized to donate the on-campus PPE supplies for our Fox Valley community’s front line. The only way we will persevere is in partnership with each other.”

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

Coach Kleiber ready to lead new women’s ice hockey program at Lawrence

Jocey Kleiber on launching a new women’s hockey program: “I’m just trying to get [the players] to buy into being the first players to wear our jersey next season, which is a pretty unique experience.” (Photo by Danny Damiani)

By Alex Freeman ’23

Lawrence University is launching a brand-new athletics program: Get ready for women’s hockey!

It will be the 22nd varsity sports program at Lawrence, bringing the roster of varsity sports to 11 women’s and 11 men’s teams. The Vikings will join the men’s hockey program in the competitive Northern Collegiate Hockey Association and play at the Appleton Family Ice Center. Lawrence will be the 10th women’s squad in the NCHA and one of 67 teams competing in NCAA Division III.

“We are excited to bring intercollegiate NCAA women’s ice hockey to Lawrence University with a competitive start date of the 2020–21 academic year,” says Director of Athletics Christyn Abaray. “The time is right. We can grow our regional footprint, increase the athletics opportunities for women student-athletes and enhance the overall experience of athletics at Lawrence. It truly is an exciting time to be a Viking.”

After an extensive search, Jocelyn “Jocey” Kleiber has been chosen to lead the new Lawrence University women’s ice hockey program as it prepares to embark on its inaugural season.

Kleiber was an assistant coach at the North American Hockey Academy in 2015 and 2016. She also served as a graduate assistant coach at Robert Morris University (Pa.) from 2013 through 2015. Prior to joining Lawrence, she spent three years as an assistant coach at Stevenson University in Maryland, helping to coach them to the Middle Atlantic Conference championship in 2018. A 2012 graduate of Niagara University, Kleiber was a standout defensive player for the Purple Eagles. She earned a bachelor’s degree in sports management in 2012 and went on to earn a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Robert Morris in 2015.

“What made Jocey stand apart was her detailed plan of growing a program from the beginning and her enthusiasm to become part of the community, here on campus, in the Fox Valley and the Upper Midwest,” says Abaray.

We sat down to talk to Kleiber about taking the helm of this exciting new program.

On Kleiber’s first day on the Lawrence campus as the new women’s ice hockey head coach, she did not yet have access to her email. By day two, she had 25 emails in her inbox from possible new recruits. From there, the recruitment process took off.

By the beginning of the 2020–21 school year, Lawrence will have formed its inaugural women’s ice hockey team—the first new Lawrence NCAA program since the 1980s. And Kleiber is building it from the ground up.

“I have a lot of friends that are coaches too, so they’ve inherited programs that have been around for 10-20-30 years,” Kleiber said. “So they have to try and change a culture, whereas here, you actually get to start the culture. … I’m just trying to get [the players] to buy into being the first players to wear our jersey next season, which is a pretty unique experience.”

With three years of experience as an assistant coach under her belt, Kleiber is excited to take on the challenge of being a head coach. For now, that means focusing most of her energy on recruitment.

Before the COVID-19 safer-at-home lockdown, Kleiber’s year consisted of traveling around the U.S. to watch women’s hockey tournaments, reaching out to coaches and potential recruits and helping to facilitate campus visits. Through this process, 30 recruits have already applied to Lawrence.

Kleiber hopes Lawrence can win 10 games in its first season. She acknowledges that the goal is optimistic, but she is confident that it is attainable as long as the players embrace the systems and strategies she presents.

From there, the team can start working to achieve a more long-term goal: a spot in the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) championship. Eventually, Kleiber hopes they might even earn a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s going to take maybe some baby steps at first, but we’ll get there,” Kleiber said. “It’s just a process of [getting the team to] buy in. It’s getting everyone to be on the same page and getting it to work.”

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.