Author: Ed Berthiaume

Lawrence’s Jesús Smith earns year-long Wilson Foundation Fellowship

Jesús Gregorio Smith has been awarded a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Jesús Gregorio Smith, an assistant professor of ethnic studies at Lawrence University, has been awarded a 12-month Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Fellowships – some year-long and others six-month – have been awarded to 30 tenure-track faculty and two adjunct faculty across the country.

Smith, who joined Lawrence in 2017 and helped to launch Ethnic Studies as a major, will use the sabbatical to continue his research and writing on the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality online and how they influence sexual health.

“I believe in this work and its importance,” Smith said. “This fellowship will allow me to turn all the work I have collected into a book that presents my findings to the public.”

For more on Ethnic Studies at Lawrence, see here.

Smith has taught classes on such topics as research methods in communities of color, sociology of black Americans, and sociology of Latinx. He has organized the annual Continuing Significance of Race undergraduate conference.

“The courses Jesús teaches, which are deeply informed by his research, have had a tremendously positive impact on our campus community,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat. “It’s intensely gratifying to see his important, ground-breaking work acknowledged by the prestigious Wilson Foundation, and to envision how this fellowship will allow it to have an even greater, national effect.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in sociology at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Texas A&M University. A book he contributed to and co-edited, Home and Community for Queer Men of Color: The Intersections of Race and Sexuality, was published earlier this year through Lexington Books.

The Career Enhancement Fellowship, in place since 2001, seeks to increase the presence of underrepresented junior and other faculty members in the arts and humanities by creating career development opportunities based on promising research projects. The program provides Fellows with a sabbatical stipend; a research, travel, or publication stipend; mentoring; and participation in a professional development retreat.

Earning the Fellowship is testament to the growth of the Ethnic Studies program at Lawrence and the important work being done at liberal arts colleges, Smith said.

“I believe it’s time liberal arts colleges and ethnic studies programs get this level of recognition,” he said. “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. This is the sort of work I do already in the Ethnic Studies program at Lawrence. That is built into the DNA of our program.”

He credits Ariela Rosa, associate director of corporate, foundation, and sponsored research support, for guiding him through the Fellowship application, and he applauds Carla Daughtry, associate professor of anthropology and chair of Ethnic Studies, and the professors from other departments who teach courses in Ethnic Studies for helping to make the path to this Fellowship possible.

“This win is a win for Ethnic Studies at Lawrence,” Smith said.

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

Career advising adjusts on the fly as students face an economy in distress

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Career advisors and other staff in Lawrence University’s Center of Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLC) have doubled down on personal connections as the COVID-19 pandemic has kept students at a physical distance and economies near and far have faltered amid the global lockdown.

The CLC already had significantly ramped up its Life After Lawrence initiatives over the past year, including launching Career Communities and Viking Connect, both aimed at better connecting students with career advising and opportunities of interest while facilitating conversations between students and alumni.

But the job market has suddenly shifted, as has the processes for seeking jobs, internships, and other opportunities. Students are understandably nervous about an economy in distress, with factors at play that no one has seen before.

From daily networking webinars, to funding for remote internships, to new access to Harvard Business School courses online, the CLC advisors and other staff members are adjusting on the fly to keep students in the loop, tapping into every possible resource that’s available.

More information on the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement can be found here.

For Michelle Cheney, an assistant director of the CLC who has been working daily with students who are feeling the angst that comes with so much uncertainty, it’s a time for calming words and the sharing of every bit of helpful information she and her colleagues can get their hands on.

“Even with a range of emotions being shared, I have been deeply impressed that many of our students have approached their life after Lawrence plans in a truly Lawrence way,” Cheney said. “They are reaching out for support from the LU community near and far, embracing ambiguity, asking thoughtful questions around economic impact, remaining open and flexible to new industries and roles, and leveraging their care and concern for their community to see where they can have a positive impact. The world of work is changing dramatically, and how our students are responding to self-design, redesign, and finding new experiences speaks volumes to the skills they have learned at Lawrence.”

 Mike O’Connor, the Riaz Waraich Dean of the CLC, said his staff is recruiting alumni to share job and internship opportunities, piloting new career content on a daily basis, and “coaching students to pivot quickly.” Viking Connect has been at the center of much of that. The online platform was launched in January to better connect students with alumni employed in fields of interest. It has seen an uptick in use in the seven weeks since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and now has 507 alumni and 337 students signed up.

“We put a pitch out on Viking Connect for alums to share job, internship, and short-term projects with us, which has been yielding some great job and internship opportunities, distance and otherwise,” O’Connor said.

Lawrence also has expanded its pilot program with Harvard Business School’s CORe (Credentials of Readiness) program, which offers Lawrence students the opportunity to take online Harvard Business School courses at a reduced rate. The online courses cover business analytics, economics for managers, and accounting. Lawrence is currently fully funding four students through the Lawrence Scholars in Business fund, and it has now started marketing the program more broadly as Harvard has cut the cost significantly in the wake of COVID.

In addition, new third-party partnerships have been initiated with vendors specializing in micro and distance internships, O’Connor said. These are paid, short-term, project-based opportunities with a variety of employers across the country.

And the CLC is adjusting internship funding to better support students doing remote work.

“Our plan is to allocate a significant portion of our $150,000 in annual experiential learning funds toward short-term, project-based, remote research, internships, and broader experiential learning opportunities,” O’Connor said. “We’re still thinking through the format, structure, reflective components, and how to easily leverage our employer and alumni partners, but we’ll be moving forward with new offerings in the weeks to come.”

A chance to talk

Daily webinars are being offered to help students get information and advice, from CLC staff as well as employers the university has forged partnerships with.

Gary Vaughan, Lawrence’s coordinator of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and a lecturer of economics, collaborated on an online student session with The Commons, a Milwaukee-based employment initiative that seeks to develop and assist young business talent. It drew 41 participants.

A support group through Viking Connect, focused on COVID-19-related job and career issues, has been formed, giving students and alumni additional opportunities to connect.

And the Viking Athletics Advisory Council has worked with the CLC to accelerate career connections between current and former Lawrence athletes. They recently built a series of Zoom calls, dubbed #LUVikes4Life Lunches, via Viking Connect. Nearly two dozen LU athletes have already dialed in to talk with former LU athletes, said Andrew Borresen ’15, assistant director of athletics giving.

“The Lawrence education, the transformative learning that begins on campus as a student, does not stop at graduation,” he said, noting how enthusiastic alumni have been to help in this crisis. “It is only the beginning. … These calls are evidence of our culture — once someone dons the blue and white, they become a member of the Viking family for life and enter an altruistic cycle of support that spans generations.”

It’s all part of a full-on blitz to make sure Lawrence students aren’t feeling stranded as they explore career paths and navigate in these suddenly chaotic economic waters.

“We’re not changing our lofty or ambitious goals for Life After Lawrence, but we’re evolving our tactics quickly,” O’Connor said. “We’re pushing hard on every front; leaning on our alums to share opportunities and intel, pushing opportunities and content out aggressively, partnering in new spaces.”

It’s all hands on deck, from the CLC and other staff to faculty and alumni, all focused on helping students through a quagmire no one could have envisioned when the academic year began seven months ago.

“We’ve taken advantage of our virtual resources to connect with more students on social media, do more direct outreach, and check in often with the students we’re working with,” Cheney said. “My message to students has been, be positive, patient, and persistent, and reminding them we are here for them through this journey.”

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

Three in a row: LU Jazz Band continues Conservatory’s DownBeat success

The Lawrence University Jazz Band earned a 2020 DownBeat Award in the Latin Group category for a performance it did featuring Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban music, led by Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s jazz program has earned a prestigious DownBeat award for the third consecutive year, this time in the Latin Group category.

The LU Jazz Band, performing as a Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban ensemble, earned a Latin Group award in DownBeat’s 43rd annual Student Music Awards, announced April 28.

DownBeat’s student awards, released each spring, are among the highest honors in jazz education. The 2020 honors will appear in the June edition of DownBeat magazine.

The Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban endeavor started out as a bit of an exploration last year for the LU Jazz Band. A number of Conservatory of Music students expressed interest in expanding their knowledge and skills in Afro-Cuban music. Jose Encarnacion, an assistant professor of music and director of Jazz Studies, and two students from the percussion studio, Alex Quade and Nolan Ehlers, just so happened to be in the process of learning to play Bata music, sacred African music of the Yoruba people of Nigeria, Africa.

“Nolan had been in Cuba studying abroad, learning about Afro-Cuban rhythms and traditions,” Encarnacion said. “I found these conditions to be perfect timing for converting Jazz Band into a Latin Jazz/Afro-Cuban ensemble. In collaboration with Nolan, we put a concert together. Nolan, as co-director, would teach some of the traditional rhythms and songs as I worked with the style and feel of the music.”

For more on the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, see here.

It was the performance from that concert, Afro-Cuban Roots and Traditions, which included Afro-Cuban rhythms such as Rumba, Guiro, Bata and Salsa, that garnered the Jazz Band the DownBeat Award.

“These students really embraced diversity, opening themselves to new cultural and musical concepts,” Encarnacion said.

In the previous two years, the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble took home the prize in the large ensemble category.

DownBeat’s SMAs are presented in five separate divisions: junior high, high school, high school honor ensemble, undergraduate college, and graduate college. Lawrence has fared well in those undergraduate awards over the past four decades. Students and ensembles in the Lawrence Conservatory have won 29 awards in various categories, including large ensemble, small group, jazz composing, jazz arranging, solo performance, and jazz vocal group. They now can add Latin Group to the list.

Seeing the Conservatory take home a top prize for the third year in a row is a huge honor, Encarnacion said. It’s not something the jazz faculty or students take for granted.

“Every year the students push themselves to rise to new heights,” Encarnacion said.

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

Trip to Ghana combines experiential learning with deep alumni connections

A hike through a rainforest and photo beneath a massive waterfall were among the experiences for Lawrence alumni on a trip to Ghana earlier this year. (Photos by Jonathan Rubin ’19).

By Jonathan Rubin ’19

Earlier this year, before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic and much of the world shut down, more than 20 Lawrentians and friends gathered in Accra, the capital of Ghana, to embark upon nearly two weeks of experiential learning, tours, wonderful food, and beautiful scenery.

It was led by Claudena Skran, Lawrence University’s Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government, and Stacy Mara, associate vice president of development. We traveled to almost all corners of Ghana, which is about a third as big as Texas but with two and a half million more people.

Our group was fortunate to have Sarah Ehlinger Affotey ’11 with us to help plan, coordinate, and engage the group. Sarah, who earned her first master’s degree from the University of Ghana and whose husband is Ghanaian, worked to ensure everything was set. Her insight and knowledge were invaluable.

Many of my travel companions are retired or decades deep into their careers. As a new Lawrence graduate (religious studies, 2019), it was fascinating to hear the perspectives and reactions of people far more experienced than my peer group. The adventures and discussions we shared will be with me forever.

For information on Lawrence alumni travel opportunities, see here.

I also was thrilled to find out that I would be traveling with my old friend and mentor, Wes Varughese ’16, who now lives and works in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Wes was the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) president when I first arrived at Lawrence. He helped me get my footing at Lawrence, and, most importantly, persuaded me to join a field experience in Sierra Leone.

Wes Varughese ’16 (left) and Jonathan Rubin ’19 reconnected on the Ghana trip.

Thanks to Wes’s guidance — as well as life-changing advising from Professor Skran (and from Professor Martyn Smith in Religious Studies) — I found myself traveling around the world, first with professors from Lawrence, then through Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) programs, and even as a U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholar in Indonesia. To share the Ghana trip with Wes gave me the sense of a circle brought around and completed.

Our exploration of Ghana was a rare opportunity to gather together as learners and thinkers from varied disciplines, industries, and career paths, and enjoy adventurous experiential education. As lifelong learners, Lawrentians know that these new experiences work their way into the fabric of our understanding, helping us to grow and connect with one another and with the world in new ways.

While Ghana might seem far from the banks of the Fox River in Appleton, Lawrence has deep connections to the first independent democratic nation in West Africa. Our trip followed in the footsteps of the December 2018 student field experience to Ghana.

Dr. Augustine Fosu ‘73 and his wife, Helen, hosted the Lawrence alumni group in Ghana.

One of our group’s first stops was to visit one of the first Ghanaian Lawrentians: Dr. Augustine Fosu ‘73. In 1968, as a young Ghanaian American Field Service (AFS) student in Milwaukee, he wrote to a Lawrence dean who happened to be coordinating the Peace Corps program in Ghana. A year later he would begin his undergraduate work at Lawrence. He would go on to receive his Ph.D. in economics from Northwestern, and today is one of the most decorated development economics professors in Ghana, while also holding positions at the University of Pretoria in South Africa and Oxford University in the UK.

Dr. Fosu invited us to the weekly graduate seminar at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research at the University of Ghana Legon. He gave a fascinating and challenging presentation about Ghana’s history and development, and about the paths and challenges ahead: education vs. infrastructure, foreign interest vs. development goals. The presentation provided a strong framework for understanding the country we would explore over the course of our stay.

That evening, Dr. Fosu and his wife, Helen, hosted our group and guests from around the world at a dinner party at their home. We sat outside on a warm, clear night at a dozen tables and enjoyed a traditional Ghanaian meal.

“It was a great experience at Lawrence … so much so that 40 years later, I encouraged my son to go to Lawrence, despite being admitted to other top universities in the U.S.,” Dr. Fosu said, addressing the group that evening. “I so valued my experience, and so I sent my son as well.” His son, Kofi, graduated from Lawrence in 2013.

After a few days in Accra, we made our way to the Cape Coast Slave Castle, and had the privilege to bear witness to difficult history. Facing the dehumanization of Africans so viscerally in the halls of a dungeon or staring from battlements across the ocean toward the United States, the Caribbean, and South America, we were left with lasting impressions. The group presented a gift to the site, a plaque from Lawrence, dedicated as Susan Goldsmith ’65 read Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I Rise.” 

After touring another castle in Elmina, we continued on to the rainforest at Kakum National Park. After learning a bit about the environment, we walked across rope bridges suspended dizzyingly high above the rainforest floor. It was exhilarating to see the jungle from this perspective. While the swing and sway of the bridges made us all a bit nervous, everyone finished the canopy walk and we were on our way to our next stop: the City of Kumasi.

Rope bridges at Kakum National Park posed their own challenges.

After a good number of engaging tours, museums, and markets, we had the pleasure of a private dance performance from a popular local traditional dance troupe. The evening of drumming, dancing, and local club beer was a delight.

From Kumasi, we went on to the Volta River region and stayed at a wonderful riverfront eco-lodge hotel. Electricity for the entire country is generated by the Akosombo Dam and hydroelectric facility on the Volta River.

Our group was lucky to be joined for this part of our tour by another Lawrence alumnus, Momodu Maligi ’04. Maligi was appointed by former Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma as the first Minister for Water Resources in his home country of Sierra Leone. Maligi outlined for our group the stark realities around access to clean water and to other utilities, and issues surrounding government intervention and foreign cooperation.

After a long and bumpy bus ride, we hiked through the rainforest and swam beneath a massive waterfall. Just as we had all changed back into our dry clothes, it began to pour. Ever resilient, we marched our way out of the rainforest and back to our vehicles. Despite being thoroughly soaked, it was a favorite moment.

From the Volta region, we made our way back to Accra and really began to feel the weight and value of our experience together. Since I graduated only last year, I was the youngest alumnus on the trip. I was moved by the strong connections I witnessed between Lawrentians, and saw our shared Lawrentian values put to work in real time — lifelong, joyful learning, meaningful and ethical engagement with the world, and intercultural learning.

Professor Claudena Skran (center) and Stacy Mara (front left) led the alumni trip to Ghana.

Professor Skran’s experiential learning model for her students adapted beautifully to our tour. Not only were we able to see the sites, taste the food, and shop in the colorful markets, we were able to contextualize all our experiences through the prism of what we were learning and discussing. Most importantly, we had a number of talented guides and local contacts who allowed us to connect to the people in the places we were visiting.

“Rarely does one get the opportunity to collaborate with someone so passionate and knowledgeable about their field of work,” Wes said of Professor Skran. “Her resourceful nature, holistic approach in her academic work, but most importantly her respect and inclusion of her students is the reason why so many Lawrentians have and continue to take field experience courses with Professor Skran, for over 15 years now. … She’s been extremely influential in my career thus far.”

Like Wes, these experiences and opportunities as a student changed my life. This trip to Ghana with these amazing Lawrentians affirmed for me the value of my Lawrence education and my pride in membership in our community.

As we said our goodbyes and headed to our respective homes, COVID-19 was becoming a grave new reality for our world. Our group has stayed in touch — we have all remained well, and I feel somehow sustained by the connections we forged.

Jonathan Rubin ’19 is a writer and consultant based in Long Beach, California. Since graduating, he has used his liberal arts education to work on projects ranging from digital marketing to international development.

Ingenuity, energy, commitment mark transitions to distance learning at LU

Students in Allison Fleshman’s Chemistry of Art class show their paper cranes during a virtual classroom session.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Physics students in Margaret Koker and Doug Martin’s Advanced Lab class received a package at their homes just before Lawrence University’s Spring Term began, complete with an Arduino electronics kit and oscilloscopes, tools to take part in a range of physics experiments.

Students in Jason Brozek’s Intro to Environmental Policy class are using the locations of their homes as part of studies on topics ranging from EPA Superfund sites and pollution data to climate change and wind energy.

Chemistry professor Allison Fleshman is teaching a Chemistry of Art course that will lead up to a virtual art exhibit titled Art and Chemistry Inspired by COVID, where students will highlight the chemistry of the art they’ve created over the course of the term.

Tim Albright is among the Conservatory of Music professors tapping into the expertise of professional musicians around the country who find themselves in lockdown at home, with time and energy to interact with his students via virtual masterclasses.

Art professor Ben Rinehart has created a library of how-to videos as part of an art book-making class.

Those are just a handful of examples of Lawrence professors shifting gears as they’ve taken Spring Term instruction virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has colleges and universities across the country using distance learning to mitigate the spread of a virus that has put much of the world on lockdown.

Keeping instruction in depth and relevant while maintaining close faculty-student collaboration has been key as Lawrence faculty have transitioned on the fly to a new reality.

Teaching through this pandemic is a challenge that all faculty can rise up to meet, said Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department. Students need that to happen. The world needs that to happen. And she likes the response she’s seeing from her colleagues, whether in the sciences or the humanities or the arts.

“We believe, now more than ever, that this is our time to shine,” Pickett said. “The circumstances aren’t ideal, but then (Isaac) Newton changed the world when he was at home in quarantine in 1665.”

On that note, here are five examples of Lawrence ingenuity at play, starting with Pickett and her physics colleagues.

1. A physics community

Providing students with some needed equipment was just one step in helping physics students stay connected during this strange time, Pickett said. Communication has been constant, starting well before the term began and continuing throughout. A “Virtual Zoom Commons” has been set up for physics students, an effort to keep the community together virtually despite the physical distance.

Physics faculty members are working in sync even more so than usual, collaborating and sharing across virtual classrooms so they’re ready to step in to assist if needed.

“The changes my colleagues and I have made are significant and a testament to their commitment to physics instruction, and, more importantly, how much we care about our students,” Pickett said. “Our introductory course has two lab sections, which include video demonstrations of the lab that the students then analyze, as well as a host of virtual lab experiences culled from respected online sources. Ahead of the term, we made sure each professor was provided an iPad and Apple Pencil, in order to more easily use as a digital white board in our lecture classes. We’re also exploring different ways to use phones as sensors in case we need to do more remote labs in the future.”

Physics faculty meet via Zoom before the start of Spring Term to prepare teaching strategies.

Zoom office hours and the virtual commons have kept the student-faculty connections tight and have allowed the students to study together in a virtual space.

“Ultimately, it comes down to how much we cherish the community we’ve created in physics, and how much we miss our students,” Pickett said. “We have been working for some time on inclusive excellence in physics pedagogy, which has shaped our view of hidden inequities and costs in our classes—so important now as we rely on technology in a way we haven’t before.”

2. A matter of geography

Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, said he looked for ways to use his students’ varied locations as an advantage, or at least a teaching tool, during a Spring Term of distance learning. He set up class projects in his Intro to Environmental Policy class, for example, to allow students to do research and analysis that is connected directly to their home regions.

Each student has to choose two of three options for study, all tied to where they are living: Explore and interpret home region climate change data from Yale’s Climate Change Communication Program, which breaks down data all the way to the county level; use the EPA’s interactive Superfund map and Toxic Release Inventory data to dive into pollution in the student’s home region; and study wind turbine costs and policies and how that might play out in the student’s home area.

“I wanted to find a way to take advantage of our geographic distribution while also encouraging my students to engage in their local communities — safely,” Brozek said. “The course is already designed around concrete case studies that are deeply grounded in specific places — PCB pollution on the Fox River, for instance — so asking students to investigate their own communities was a natural fit.”

In his International Law class, meanwhile, Brozek is using the virtual format of Spring Term to zero in on digital topics. He has his students analyzing existing podcasts that range in topic from the Paris Climate Deal to LGBTQ asylum seekers to the International Criminal Court, then collaborating to create discussion guides for those podcasts that can be shared and used.

He said he aims to “help students have a bigger sense of purpose and connection” by having them collaborate on a virtual project that will result in useful content.

“The goal is to make all the episode links and guides publicly available at the end of the term,” Brozek said.

3. Musicians sharing knowledge

In the Conservatory, trombone professor Tim Albright is but one of numerous faculty members reaching out to fellow musicians to give students a bit of a bonus during this pandemic. With tours and venues locked down across the country, professional musicians and other artists who normally would be navigating busy schedules find themselves quarantined at home with plenty of time on their hands.

In that, Albright saw an opportunity. A former New York musician, he’s deeply connected to the NYC music scene, so he set out to invite some of those musicians into class sessions as special guests, providing his students with insights into the lives of working musicians.

The likes of bass trombonist Jennifer Wharton, jazz trombonist and composer Alan Ferber, and Carnegie Hall archivist (and LU alum) Rob Hudson ’87 said yes.

“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,” Albright said. “We’re turning lemons into lemonade. With no live performances happening around the world, their schedules are free and they’re jumping at the chance to connect with fellow musicians.” 

4. Art by design

When word came down that the world was going into lockdown and Lawrence’s Spring Term would happen via distance learning, art professor Ben Rinehart, a printmaker and book artist, went into tech hyperdrive. He quickly schooled himself on iMovie and Adobe Premiere software and began creating how-to videos for his students in intermediate and advanced artist book classes.

He sent each student a kit prior to the start of the term with tools and materials to complete each project. He also scheduled two virtual studio visits with colleagues in Florida and Washington.

“They are demonstrations to engage the students while we are all distance learning,” Rinehart said of his videos, which take the students step by step through various techniques in creating art books.

The first Rinehart video was on iMovie, the next 11 on Adobe Premiere, all done in the two weeks before classes started.

“Pretty proud of myself for never having worked with either program before,” he said.

For a sample of Rinehart demonstrating the Jacob’s ladder technique, see here.

5. Mixing science and art

Allison Fleshman is an associate professor of chemistry, and she’s a believer that there is plenty of room for creativity in the sciences. Hence, her Chemistry of Art, a lab science course for non-chemistry majors.

She pondered ways to teach lab in a virtual space.

“Well, the main take-away from a lab science is to practice the scientific method,” she said. “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.”

The creation of paper cranes was part of the first two weeks of the term, with each student then venturing onto their individual art projects. The Art and Chemistry Inspired by COVID virtual exhibition will be part of their final exam.

“The lab will also include many online simulations where they engage with the chemical concepts more rigorously,” Fleshman said. “But in the spirit of liberal arts, the Paper Crane Project, with a scientific flair, has connected the students using a symbol of hope known the world over.”

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

Sustainability is personal: Let’s all embrace 50th anniversary of Earth Day

Kelsey McCormick, Lawrence’s sustainability coordinator, poses for a photo overlooking the SLUG garden. To honor Earth Day, Lawrence’s Sustainability Steering Committee will host a live documentary screening of Once Was Water at 6 p.m. CDT April 22. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

By Kelsey McCormick / Sustainability Coordinator

When I was young, my siblings and I spent many weekend mornings on walks or bike rides with our dad. I assume it was to get us out of the house and burn off energy. I never would have guessed that years later I would be able to so clearly remember Dad picking up a leaf or a pine cone and telling us which tree it came from. I would be awestruck. He taught me that each tree had its own identity and purpose. There was something I deeply respected about that.

Wednesday (April 22) is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Earth Day marks the birth of the modern environmental movement and is usually a day for people to gather together to show appreciation for the planet and demand that we treat it with care. As I was lamenting the loss of our on-campus Earth Day celebration, I asked myself, “How can I take advantage of this opportunity and encourage Lawrentians to celebrate Earth Day at home?” Then I thought, maybe celebrating Earth Day at home was meant to be.

Sustainability conferences often begin with the same ice-breaker question. “How did you become interested in sustainability?” Many responses follow a similar theme to mine. Summers in a little fishing boat with Grandpa, helping Mom plant the backyard garden, late nights catching fireflies with neighborhood friends. Maybe it’s corny, but many of us seem to have strong emotional connections to the natural spaces where we live or have created fond memories. Sustainability is local. Sustainability is personal. 

This made me perk up. Even though we cannot celebrate together, maybe we can still celebrate Earth Day in a way that is personal and meaningful to each of us.

In a nod to Earth Day, we also share this video that showcases the Fox River and trails near the Lawrence campus:

If you aren’t sure where to start, here are seven ways that you can celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day from wherever you call home. 

1. Participate in a remote Earth Day documentary screening with the LU community

With assistance from Bullfrog Films, Lawrence’s Sustainability Steering Committee will be hosting a live documentary screening of Once was Water at 6 p.m. CDT on April 22. Tune in to watch the film along with the committee members and fellow Lawrentians. A live chat feature will be available during the film. The film will be available for 24 hours after the initial screening for those who are unable to watch at that time. We hope the film will inspire and spark conversation about resource use in your own community. The link to the screening is here: The video password is 0wW2!21U

(Here’s a message from Bullfrog Films: To watch the film, viewers must sign up with email (and sign in) or just sign in with Facebook or Twitter to access the screening room, and then enter the video password. If signing up with email, we recommend that viewers do this in advance of the screening. See our How To for details. We also recommend copying and pasting the password. We will open the screening room 30 minutes before screen time so viewers can chat.)

2. Follow Lawrence’s green-living guidelines at home

Many of the credits in the Green Room Certification from Lawrence’s Office of Residential Education and Housing can be applied at home. See how many of these green-living strategies you can add to your regular routine. Bonus points if you can get your family members or roommates to play along. Access to the Green Room Certification is here (a Lawrence login is required to access the link).

3. Refine your SLUG skills in a backyard garden

The produce grown in SLUG is sold to Bon Appetit to be served in Andrew Commons. If you can’t tinker in the campus garden, try growing your own fruits or veggies and serving them in your own meals. If you don’t have a yard, that’s OK. Tomatoes, sweet peppers, spinach, lettuce, and many others will do well in pots on a balcony or patio. 

4. Become an ally for pollinators

Pollinators play an especially important role in welcoming spring. Did you know 90% of flowering plants depend on pollinators to reproduce? Lawrence is recognized as a Bee Campus USA and demonstrates its commitment to bees and pollinators by including native plantings and “bee hotels” on campus. You can create your own little refuge for bees by planting native flowering plants at home. No yard space necessary. Try installing a window box and enjoy the buzz of activity you will see outside.

5. Pick up one of Lawrence’s sustainability must-reads

Read what the faculty in this year’s Sustainability Institute are reading. Try Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World by Marcia Bjornerud, the Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology at Lawrence. Or check out The Two-Mile Time Machine by Richard Alley. Interested in trying a thought-provoking novel? The Overstory by Richard Powers will spark conversation. Looking for something more philosophical? A Sand County Almanac details Aldo Leopold’s observations and feelings regarding wildlife conservation based on his personal restoration project in southwest Wisconsin.

6. Support your local economy 

Many of the small businesses that make your community special are likely closed or operating in limited capacities amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Support those businesses by placing carry-out orders or purchasing gift cards to use later. Non-financial options of support include leaving a positive review online or sharing their business page on social media.

7. Reduce personal waste

Be conscious of product packaging and be aware of single-use items. Have you ever noticed that many of the items in your trash or recycling bin are just the containers your items came in? Take a peek. … Both bar soap and shampoo bars can be found in simple cardboard packaging as opposed to plastic. Consider investing in reusable snack bags as opposed to the single-use film ones. Some of these options may even save you money in the long run.

Kelsey McCormick is a project specialist/sustainability coordinator on the president’s staff at Lawrence University.

Lawrence adds major in Creative Writing, minor in Statistics and Data Science

Offerings in statistics and data science (left) and creative writing will be ramped up beginning in the fall.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is launching a new Creative Writing major and a new Statistics and Data Science minor, both beginning in the fall.

They both mark significant additions to the school’s liberal arts curriculum.

Creative Writing: Students in the English program now have two curricular tracks to choose from, one leading to a major in Creative Writing and the other to a major in Literature.

David McGlynn, chair of the English department, worked with colleagues to get the new Creative Writing: English major launched in time for Fall Term. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing,” said David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the English department. “More current and prospective students are seeking graduate-school and career opportunities in writing. We believe the new track system will allow students more flexibility to pursue their goals.”

Lawrence has offered a minor in creative writing for nearly a decade. New courses are being added, including an introductory creative writing course designed for first-year students and a senior seminar in creative writing for graduating seniors.

For a full story on the launch of the new Creative Writing: English major, go here; find a web page with more detail here.

Andrew Sage, working here with students during Winter Term, has helped to launch Statistics and Data Science as a minor, beginning in Fall Term. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Statistics and Data Science: The new Statistics and Data Science minor will be housed in the Mathematics department and will strengthen offerings in an area that is increasingly in demand. The use of statistics and data analysis has grown in fields across the liberal arts spectrum, making it a sought-after minor in a lot of disciplines.

“Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science,” said Andrew Sage, an assistant professor of statistics who came on board a year ago and has helped bring the new minor to fruition.

Sage was hired in 2018 and Abhishek Chakraborty joined the faculty in 2019, giving Lawrence two professors deeply invested in statistics and data and allowing for the addition of numerous courses and the development of the minor.

For a full story on the launch of the Statistics and Data Science minor, go here; find a web page with more detail here.

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

Creative Writing major adds new path in English for Lawrence students

David McGlynn, professor of English, teaches an Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction class during Winter Term. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Students looking to major in Creative Writing can now do so at Lawrence University, marking a significant shift in how the school’s English curriculum is structured.

Beginning in the fall, students in the English program will have two curricular tracks to choose from, one leading to a major in Creative Writing and the other to a major in Literature.

“The new ‘track’ system in the English department—essentially two majors, one in literary analysis and the other in creative writing—beautifully showcases the range of talent within our faculty while giving students the opportunity to explore their passions as readers, critics, and writers to the fullest range of their ability,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat.

See details on the new Creative Writing: English major here.

David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the English department, said the newly launched Creative Writing: English major will allow students who want to focus on writing to do so with more depth and purpose. It will build on—not replace—an English major with deep roots, one that has produced a wide range of novelists, journalists, technical writers, poets, and book editors through the years.

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing,” McGlynn said. “More current and prospective students are seeking graduate-school and career opportunities in writing. We believe the new track system will allow students more flexibility to pursue their goals.”

Lawrence has offered a minor in creative writing for nearly a decade. Many of the writing courses — taught mostly by McGlynn and colleagues Melissa Range and Austin Segrest — are already in place. But new offerings will be added, including an introductory creative writing course designed for first-year students as well as a senior seminar in creative writing for graduating seniors.

Meanwhile, the Literature: English major also will see new classes added, including one that focuses on academic writing at the advanced level and expanded offerings in the study of historically underrepresented writers.

“Both tracks will allow students more opportunities to focus on what they want to do with the English major,” McGlynn said.

As chair of the English department, David McGlynn has led efforts to launch a Creative Writing major within the English offerings, beginning this fall.

Lawrence has had no shortage of successful writers coming out of its English department through the years. Most recently, Madhuri Vijay ’09 had her debut novel, The Far Field, longlisted for the 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

“Creative writing students learn how to work hard and to have faith in themselves over the long haul,” McGlynn said. “Developing as a creative writer takes years and the process can’t be cut short. But when we, as professors, find students who love to write, we do our best to encourage them to go big, to go for it.”

In addition to those who have become novelists or published authors, English graduates from Lawrence have found success in dozens of other fields where the ability to write and think analytically is so important.

“The skills learned in English classes, such as writing, communication, analysis, critical thinking, have applications far beyond studying literature,” McGlynn said. “Along with the writing comes the ability to look into the perspectives of other people, to consider things through someone else’s point of view. That turns out to be pretty good training for fields like social work, counseling, psychology; we’ve had students go on to study medicine, law, business, and library science. The possibilities really are endless.

“And when they get those opportunities, the writing, the thinking, the ability to sympathize and analyze simultaneously comes in really, really handy.”

English is often a popular option for a double major. The new Creative Writing major adds new possibilities across campus that has Kodat excited.

“In particular, it will be exciting to see what kinds of collaborative student projects the new track in Creative Writing unleashes at Lawrence, with its depth of course offerings in music and visual art,” Kodat said. “Expect to be dazzled and astonished.”

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

Lawrence unveils Data Science minor beginning in 2020-21 academic year

Andrew Sage, assistant professor of statistics, works with Erin Lengel in a Data-Scientific Programming class during Winter Term. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is introducing a new Statistics and Data Science minor in the fall, strengthening the school’s offerings in an academic area that is increasingly in demand in today’s job market.

While the minor is housed in the mathematics department, it will be evident very quickly that this is not just for math and computer science majors. Departments all over campus have been tapping into emerging trends in statistics and data analysis in recent years, spotlighting the interdisciplinary strengths of data science and its role in a liberal arts curriculum.

“Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science,” said Andrew Sage, an assistant professor of statistics who came on board a year ago and has helped bring the new minor to fruition.

See details on new statistics and data science minor here.

The hiring of Sage in the fall of 2018 was followed by the hiring of Abhishek Chakraborty, another assistant professor of statistics, in the fall of 2019. That put the faculty pieces in place to add key new courses in machine learning, Bayesian statistics, and advanced statistical modeling, among others, elevating the program significantly. The new minor recently got faculty approval, setting up a launch in the 2020-21 academic year.

“There’s really an interest across campus in using data to draw conclusions and make decisions,” Sage said. “By bringing in a second statistician and allowing us to really grow our program and teach more classes specifically to that area is really going to open up a lot of opportunities for collaboration across departments, and help us to better prepare students to apply statistical analysis and data analysis in their own areas.”

A 2019 report from LinkedIn showed a 56% year-to-year jump in data science job openings in the United States. listed data scientist as the No. 1 tech-related job in terms of openings and potential for advancement. All indications point toward continued growth as data scientists are sought in a wide range of fields.

At Lawrence, growing the statistics and data science offerings adds an important layer to the curriculum for students looking at options in a fast-changing job market, said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat. Practical and pragmatic learning intersects here with the power of a liberal arts education.

“The new minor gives our students the unparalleled opportunity to connect modes of quantitative analysis with the distinctively thoughtful, broad-based approach to learning that is characteristic of a Lawrence education,” she said. “Bringing together the training in critical thinking and effective communication fundamental to liberal learning with the keen numerical acumen that is foundational to so many 21st-century careers makes for a uniquely flexible set of skills that will leave our students well-equipped for life after Lawrence.”

Chakraborty said the potential to grow such a program was what drew him to Lawrence. The demand from students, in and out of the math program, has been evident since the day he stepped on campus.

“I have had students asking me about the minor, and it’s really encouraging to see their interest,” he said.

Two new courses were launched this year with the arrival of Chakraborty, and two additional courses will launch next year. Other courses—some in the math department and some in other departments—will be developed in the coming years. All that has the two new statistics professors grinning ear to ear.

“Our new courses filled up very quickly,” Sage said. “I think there’s definitely a demand, so the chance to come in here and contribute to that was a really big draw for me.”

Abhishek Chakraborty came on board this academic year as an assistant professor of statistics. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Current Lawrence students can switch into the new minor depending on where they are in their academic journey and which courses they’ve already taken. A handful of students could arrive at their 2021 graduation with a data science minor in hand. The number is expected to grow significantly in the years to follow.

“The field of data science is changing so rapidly that I expect this will be a minor that will continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of the students,” Sage said.

That brings us back to its fit in a liberal arts curriculum. Professors from departments across campus provided input to the creation of the new minor because of the prospects it holds for so many students.

Israel Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology, was among those actively working with the mathematics faculty to create the minor. Giving biology students stronger quantitative skills does nothing but widen their career opportunities.

“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,” Del Toro said. “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 subdiscipline they choose to pursue.”

Gathering data is only one part of the equation, of course. A good data scientist needs to be equipped with the ability to analyze that data, to communicate its significance, to understand the context of the data, to work as part of a team, and to make ethical decisions of how and when that data is shared, Sage said.

“Data numbers by themselves are meaningless if you don’t have an understanding of the context and the domain,” he said.

“I think this is the perfect place to be introducing data science as a minor,” Sage said. “It really does incorporate so much, and you really do need to be able to think in so many different ways. I don’t see any better place to engage in that kind of thinking than in a liberal arts environment.”

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

Woodford’s path to Appleton’s City Hall paved with lessons from Lawrence

Jake Woodford ’13 will be sworn in as Appleton’s mayor on April 21.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lessons in leadership have been plentiful over the last 11 years for Jake Woodford ’13, Appleton’s mayor-elect.

From his time as president of the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) as an undergraduate to his work at Lawrence the past seven years as secretary to the Board of Trustees and assistant to the president, Woodford has been a voice of insight, intellect, and reason on a myriad of issues impacting Lawrence and the city.

When the ballots in the Appleton mayoral race were counted Monday, nearly a week after the April 7 election, the 29-year-old Woodford was elected to a four-year term, garnering 54% of the vote. He will be sworn in April 21 and will succeed Tim Hanna, who has served as Appleton’s mayor for 24 years.

“I’m so grateful for the incredible support my campaign has had from not only the Appleton community but also members of the Lawrence community,” Woodford said.

It was in the fall of 2009 that Woodford, who grew up in Appleton, walked onto the Lawrence campus as a first-year student. He declared government as his major and never looked back.

“It was an area of passion for me,” he said.

It’s a passion that would grow over the next four years, blossoming in many ways as he forged his own academic path and worked to strengthen and enhance the Lawrence experience for his classmates and those to come. In addition to his classroom work, he would serve in multiple student leadership roles and would be elected president of the LUCC, a student governing organization that’s an integral part of shared governance at Lawrence.

“It really was a living lab for me in terms of leadership — elected leadership and also in terms of management,” Woodford said of his undergrad experience.

He would walk off the Commencement stage in 2013 and into an important role in the president’s office, one that had him in frequent collaborations with the City of Appleton and other regional government bodies on issues ranging from mobility studies to infrastructure development. It would all prove to be preparation for his entry into elected office.

Woodford delivered a letter of resignation to Lawrence President Mark Burstein on Tuesday morning, 10 hours after being declared the mayoral victor. He called it a “bittersweet moment.” For Burstein, it was a moment of deep Lawrentian pride.

“Many Lawrentians are called to public service and to roles that have direct impact on their communities,” Burstein said. “It has been a pleasure to watch Jake’s energy turn toward the city he loves. I know the mayor-elect will lead us into a great future.”

Woodford will assume Appleton’s top leadership position at a time of great uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic. His Monday night victory came amid the state’s safer-at-home orders and pleas for social distancing, leaving him to do media interviews in his driveway instead of at a packed victory party.

What comes next for Appleton and other communities navigating the fallout from the pandemic has yet to be written. But Woodford is confident the lessons learned at Lawrence over the past 11 years will serve him well.

“This is a complicated time to be taking office, but I feel well prepared for this work,” he said. “I feel well prepared for adjusting to the times and facing the challenges we face, and I credit a lot of that to the Lawrence education that I have, this education that has prepared me to think critically and to be able to adjust to the situations that I face and the circumstances as they change. And to be grounded in values, values of community and of building a community that can be home for all people.”

Appleton and Lawrence have long had a collaborative relationship. Their histories are closely intertwined and the health of one is critical to the health of the other. Burstein noted those ties as he applauded the passing of the city’s leadership torch from Hanna to Woodford.

“I also want to thank Mayor Hanna for his efforts to foster a more inclusive Appleton with a vibrant economic base, safe environment, and bustling downtown,” Burstein said. “Even though our aims have differed at times, we have always found a way to work together to improve the quality of life for the people we serve. I hope to have the same relationship with Mayor Woodford.”

As Woodford prepares to become the top elected official in the city that Lawrence calls home, he points to mentorship from Burstein and other campus leaders as key to his preparation for a leap into public office. Those are lessons he’ll lean into as he manages a city with more than 74,000 residents.

“The thing I’ve always been struck by about Lawrence is that it’s a place where people are treated with respect and trusted to do their work, trusted to lead,” Woodford said. “I went from being a student at the university to being a colleague, and to being a senior leader at the institution, and I always felt respected and supported and mentored by my colleagues, by the faculty, and that’s been such an important part of my Lawrence experience.”

Next stop, City Hall.

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