Category: Academics

Navigating Lawrence’s three 10-week terms: Plan ahead, stay organized, relax

Plan ahead as you make your way through Lawrence’s 10-week terms. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

One thing I was nervous about while coming into my first year of college was Lawrence’s trimester system. Even though I had experienced a similar academic structure in high school, I knew that college would be different. I was worried about what the workload would be like, how to manage my time, and how to prepare for classes.

So, for any incoming first-year who has those same concerns, or for sophomores who are wondering what to expect from an academic year with fewer COVID restrictions, look no further. I’m a senior now, and I’m happy to share some insights to hopefully help you best traverse the weeks of each term.

What’s a trimester, again?

Lawrence is split into three terms: Fall, Winter and Spring, with students taking three classes per term. They’re all 10 weeks long with midterms held about the midpoint of the term and finals after the last week of classes. Ten weeks will fly by fast, so be ready.

As you start your journey as a Lawrentian, one thing you’ll learn is that both students and professors reference things by weeks. For example: I can’t believe it’s third week already. Students also say it to convey their stress level or indicate their workload. Naturally, the deeper you are in the term, the more work you will have and the more in depth your learning material will be, so some weeks carry more weight than others.

A general guide to how the weeks go are as follows: weeks 1-3 of any term are typically less stressful because everyone is adjusting to their new classes and course materials, including the professors. Weeks 4-6 are a little heavier in the workload because you are past the learning curve of knowing how your classes are structured and what’s expected of you. Midterms are generally held during this time so you’ll find students burying their noses in books or writing papers. Weeks 7-10 make up the final stretch to the term and it’s where students are usually at their busiest. Students will be working on presentations, final projects or papers, and then finals are right around the corner after 10th week.

I’m generalizing, of course, as the rhythms of any term will vary depending on your classes, including for those students in the Conservatory who might have recitals and other performances to account for. But you get the idea. The workload—and accompanying stress—tends to ramp up as the term goes on.

Fear not, this is doable

This might sound like a lot, but don’t panic. As a first-year, I was comforted in knowing that each term you only need to take three classes; a standard class is six units (we use units instead of credits) and in order to be a full-time student, you need 18 units. I always liked bragging to my college friends back home that I only had to take three classes at a time while they had to take five or more.

A chance to de-stress comes with the mid-term Reading Period. It’s essentially a four-day weekend at the end of sixth week, a break built into each term. Traditionally, it was intended for students to use to study for their midterms the following week, but it more often plays out as a needed breather. A lot of professors schedule their midterms before Reading Period, so many students go home during this long weekend; others, like me, will take this opportunity to catch up on sleep, relax, hang out with friends, and generally get refreshed. What I’m saying is, unless you’ve been slacking in your studies, there’s not much reading involved, despite its name.

Advice from someone who has been there

OK, advice time! I have five tips to help you best navigate the 10-week terms. I had to learn these the hard way.

1. Order your books with plenty of time to spare. Like I said, most professors are pretty lenient the first three weeks and understand that mishaps occur with the mail system, but it’s still a little embarrassing not having your books on the first day of class. So I recommend ordering your books at least two weeks before the term starts and sending them to your SPC box at Lawrence; that way they’ll be there when you arrive on campus. There are cheaper purchasing options than buying brand new editions; you can buy used versions, rent your books or see if any upperclassmen will lend or give you theirs.

2. Be organized from the get-go. This means investing in a planner or calendar of some kind and becoming best friends with it. You’ll want to write down your class schedule and times, and once you get your syllabus, write down the due dates of assignments. Being organized also means checking your school email daily. Almost every professor will email you with information about class, whether it’s changing an assignment or extending a due date or maybe canceling class—trust me, you don’t want to show up to a class that’s been cancelled and find out you could’ve slept in.

3. Don’t procrastinate. I know, easier said than done. My rule of thumb is if you can get it done in five minutes, do it now. Make a list of the assignments you have to do for the day or upcoming week and order them from which ones have to get done first, or from easiest to hardest. That way you’re not spending more time on something that’s due in a week versus something that’s due tomorrow. It also helps to set up a study schedule and block out chunks of time that you dedicate to finishing certain assignments.

4. Find your study spot. If you work best inside your room, then great! But sometimes your roommate will need to take a call or maybe they chew loudly and you can’t focus. It’s always good to have a backup or two that you can call your own. A good place to study, of course, is the library because the level of quietness goes up the higher the floor you’re on. Other nice indoor spots to study are the fourth floor of the Warch Campus Center, the Steitz Atrium, the Café or in the large venue rooms on the backside of Warch. When the weather is nice, some outdoor spots would be on the Main Hall Green, the Sage patio, or the tables outside both the library and the Café.

5. Take breaks. Even though these other tips are geared toward helping you with your studies, my last piece of advice would be to not let your work consume you. It’s important to take a breather every now and then. College life is stressful but it’s also a great time to meet new people and try new things. Also, remember to get involved with activities on campus. Each term has its own traditions and events that you don’t want to miss. Always keep an eye on the campus calendar for details.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

Summer research grows more robust across an array of academic departments

Tyler Scott ’23 adjusts a drone as part of a summer research project at Two Creeks Buried State Forest Natural Area on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Scott and several other students are working this summer with geosciences professor Jeff Clark. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

From mapping bluff erosion along the shores of Lake Michigan to translating theatrical works from French to English, Lawrence University students are diving deep into a wide range of research this summer.

The Lawrence University Summer Research Fellows Program has come roaring back following a year in which summer research was either limited or strictly remote because of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 100 students—most of them on campus but some still remote—are taking part in summer research, funded through Lawrence and its supporting partners and encompassing 17 academic departments across the college and the conservatory, all in collaboration with Lawrence faculty.

Elliott Marsh ’22, an environmental sciences and geosciences double major who is working with a team of students alongside geosciences professor Jeff Clark on the Lake Michigan bluff erosion project, said he loves the hands-on approach to summer research.

“In my case, I am learning a lot about drones, remote sensing, and GIS, which are very good skills to have in the job market these days,” he said. “Also, research is all about problem-solving, and being immersed in trying to answer a handful of questions in 10 weeks is a very different experience.”

Student participation in the summer research program has grown by 50% over the last six years, jumping from 70 students in 2015 to 105 this year. The number of academic departments taking part has grown from 11 to 17.

Through numerous grants, donations, and other funding, more than $350,000 was available for this year’s summer research. Faculty members applied for funding to support their research; students then applied to join faculty projects that interested them.

“Despite the pandemic, summer research at Lawrence continues to grow and flourish—we have more students participating in summer research with more faculty across more programs than ever before,” said Peter Blitstein, associate dean of the faculty.

The natural sciences continue to lead the way, but there is now more consistent participation year in and year out from the arts, humanities, and social sciences. That, combined with greater flexibility in how available stipends are used, has helped increase participation each of the past six years, with the exception of last summer.  

Relena Ribbons, an assistant professor of geosciences who is leading students in climate-based research in SLUG (Sustainable Lawrence University Garden), called the skill-development that comes with hands-on research a valuable piece of life-after-Lawrence preparations. Seeing it return this summer with such enthusiasm has been a welcome sight.

From left: Katie Mahorney ’22, Gillian Buckardt ’22, Relena Ribbons, assistant professor of geosciences, and Ella Lemley-Fry ‘23 work in SLUG as part of a summer research project.

“Summer research fellowships here at Lawrence provide students with the opportunity to fully engage with the entire research process, which is both a valuable stepping stone for connecting more deeply with academic research and a meaningful and enjoyable way to spend the summer months,” Ribbons said.

The work provides students with important insights into graduate school and allows them to explore career possibilities on a deeper level. In the process, it adds skills and experiences to their resumes.

“These experiences are especially valuable in helping students figure out if they might want a career in research, and if so, the work they do over the summer is an important part of their application for graduate school,” said Lori Hilt, associate professor of psychology. “The skills they gain—in data collection and analysis, communication, etc.—will help them in their lives after Lawrence, whether or not they decide to go to graduate school.”

BY THE NUMBERS: A CLOSER LOOK

To give you a look at the breadth of the research being done this summer by Lawrence students in collaboration with faculty across the college and conservatory, we’ve pulled together a “by the numbers” guide.

105: Number of students participating in summer research

Blitstein said the growth in the program stems from the diversity and creativity of the research projects and the influx of available funds over the past several years to support the students during the summer.

“I am delighted to see the range of projects our faculty and students are collaborating on this summer,” he said. “From the ceramics studio, to the biology laboratory, to the university archives, Lawrentians are engaged in hands-on learning, developing their skills, and supporting faculty in achieving their scholarly and creative goals.”

53: Total number of research projects under way

The program was renamed the Lawrence University Research Fellows Program in 2017, and with it came a greater emphasis in participation beyond the natural sciences, Blitstein said. That is playing out in a big way this summer.

“Overall, it has become more visible as a university-wide program in recent years,” he said.

46: Number of Lawrence faculty overseeing summer research projects

Hilt has been part of the research program every summer since joining the Lawrence faculty in 2011. She’s working with students this year on multiple projects that touch on mindfulness, rumination, and suicide prevention among school-age children and adolescents.

“I find it to be a rewarding opportunity to mentor students and have them contribute to my scholarship in a meaningful way,” Hilt said. “Many of my summer research students have been co-authors on published papers and have gone on to graduate school and careers in psychology.”

Jeff Clark, professor of geosciences, works with Itai Bojdak-Yates ’23 on research at Two Creeks Buried State Forest Natural Area in east-central Wisconsin. Clark is one of 46 Lawrence faculty members working with students on summer research.

17: Number of academic departments working with students on summer research

The departments involved touch almost every corner of Lawrence. In addition to the natural sciences, participation comes from Anthropology, the Archives, Art & Art History, the Conservatory, Economics, English, Film Studies, French & Francophone Studies, Government, History, Mathematics, Psychology, and Russian, plus outside partnerships with the Associated Colleges of the Midwest.

Midushi Ghimire ’24 is a biochemistry major spending her summer working with Mark Jenike, associate professor of anthropology, on research into the human biology of diabetes. The research is expected to contribute to a new course to be offered in 2022-23.

“The best part is that in order to understand the concepts, I have to sometimes revisit and refresh what I learned during my academic year,” Ghimire said of the work. “I feel that I have a stronger grasp on the topics I learned and am applying them to new areas. I am expanding my knowledge horizon and relating biology through a larger scope.”

50: Number of students taking part in science research (biology, chemistry, geosciences, and physics)

The Lake Michigan shoreline research that Clark is leading is part of an innovative NASA project that gives students the opportunity to conduct earth-observing experiments using remote sensing techniques. It ties in nicely with Lawrence’s newly launched environmental science major.

“We are using drones to map bluff erosion on the bluffs along Lake Michigan near Two Creeks,” Marsh said. “To do this, we are using not only a visual sensor but also a thermal sensor. That area is known for its distinct layers, and the sand layer is the weakest layer where the bluff is most likely to fail. So, with the thermal sensor, we are able to identify how saturated the sand layer is because the different moisture levels in the sand will yield different temperatures than 100 percent dry sand would.”

The students will analyze the collected data and by the end of summer prepare a paper on their findings.

13: Number of students taking part in Conservatory of Music summer research

Projects range from research into Brazilian drumming (with percussion professor Dane Richeson) to preparing arrangements for horn and mixed ensemble for publication (with horn professor Ann Ellsworth).

Claire Chamberlin ’23, a global studies major, is working with Eilene Hoft-March, the Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French, in the translating of short theatrical works from French to English. Kathy Privatt, the James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and associate professor of theater arts, and her theater students will then take some of those short plays to performance during Winter Term.

“I’m translating short contemporary retellings of four plays by Molière—who was essentially the French Shakespeare—from French into English,” Chamberlin said. “It’s valuable because it’s making art accessible to a new audience. All four plays are funny and incisive, and adapting them into English allows more people to enjoy them. For me, it’s a fantastic opportunity because I get to build my literary translation skills while learning more about Francophone cultures and the French language, especially its idiomatic use.”

7: Number of students involved with research that explores foreign languages and/or cultures

Parker Elkins ’22, a Russian Studies major, is one of three students working with Peter Thomas, associate professor of Russian Studies, to build assignments for Lawrence’s first-year Russian curriculum, including both written and video exercises.

“While I’m still unsure whether I intend to pursue higher education after Lawrence and teach Russian, this work is certainly helping me get a better understanding of some of what that job would entail,” Elkins said.

Researching the Russian text and breaking it down for possible use in future courses has not only proved beneficial in providing insight into possible career paths, it’s also helped give direction to a separate project, his senior capstone.

“I can say that for mine—a scholarly retranslation of Venedikt Erofeev’s novel, Moscow to the End of the Line—working on these (texts) has been immensely helpful,” Elkins said. “Erofeev’s prose shares very, very few similarities to these texts, but at the same time there’s been large parts of the process that I’ve been able to take from working on these first-year Russian assignments and apply to retranslating this novel.” 

23: Number of students taking part in psychology research, much of it focused on youth and adolescent mindfulness

John Berg ’22, an English and psychology double major, is working with Hilt in a study of mental health screening and suicide prevention among school-age children and adolescents in the Fox Valley. They’re partnering with community groups as they examine local screening data from the prior school year and look to develop new or improved screening instruments that can better identify students in need of help.

“I personally love doing this work,” Berg said. “I think that it is relevant and has the ability to help students who are at risk of self-harm and/or suicide.”

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

Anxiety over registering for classes? Here are 11 tips from a student who’s been there

Thelma B. Jimenez-Anglada, assistant professor of Spanish, teaches a Spring Term Spanish class. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

Planning your schedule is the first step in setting the tone for the academic year and there’s always plenty of course options for your first year at Lawrence. But registration can be daunting if you’ve never done it before. Don’t worry, though. There are people to help, and once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy, and these 11 tips will help ensure you get off on the right foot.

1. Think about your schedule OUTSIDE of classes. Are you leaving yourself time to stop by Andrew Commons for lunch? Do you plan to have a job that will impact your schedule? Make sure your class times don’t conflict with your life outside of academics.

2. Know yourself and how you learn best. Do you work best early in the morning? Do you want periodic breaks throughout the day or back-to-back classes? And no matter what, don’t forget to consider your sleep schedule.

3. Remember that classes are usually offered multiple times. Especially as a first year, even if a class isn’t offered every term or even every year, you’ll likely have multiple opportunities to take a course if you are trying to choose between two classes offered at the same time.

Tyler Scott ’23 takes notes during a Hot Rocks geology class. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

4. If you really want to take a class that is full, immediately get on the waitlist and reach out to the professor to let them know how excited you are about their course. There might be a bit of wiggle room in class capacity or someone else might drop the class, which will make room for you.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask any questions when you meet with your summer advisor. That’s what your advisor is there for. They know the whole process is new to you, and they want to help you and share their expertise.

6. Trust your instincts. It can be overwhelming to look at the full course catalog and narrow it down to three classes (or two since you take First-Year Studies your first two terms) especially after years of having your schedule basically decided for you. Whatever classes stand out to you are probably going to be the best fit.

Danielle Joyner, assistant professor of art history, works with Maren Stone ’22 and Izzy Thompson ’22 during a Spring Term class in the Wriston Art Center. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

7. But at the same time … remember where you are in your studies. During your first year, you’ll mostly be taking 100- and 200-level courses as you accumulate the knowledge you’ll need to excel in more upper-level classes. That 400-level seminar will still be there when you’re a senior.

8. Try to have a good balance of subjects. Three lab courses or three writing-intensive courses within one term probably isn’t the best idea.

9. If you don’t have the necessary prerequisites for a class you want to take, reach out to the professor to ask if you might qualify in a different way. Sometimes, classes you took in high school or unique experiences you’ve had can be substituted for the pre-req. But remember that those pre-reqs are about making sure you have the background and experience necessary to succeed in the course, so really think about (and maybe check with your advisor) whether the class is a fit for where you are in your academic journey.

10. It’s OK if you don’t know your major yet. Explore a variety of different subjects! Even if you think you know your major, first year is a great time to dip your toe into other interests as you start to figure out your own college path.

11. There are lots of resources to help you. I’ve already talked about your advisor, but there are more people who can help. The Registar’s Office is a great place to ask questions about the ins and outs of registration. And if you need help with anything related to academics, from academic counseling to procedures, the Center for Academic Success is your one-stop shop.

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

A: AP assist

Rosa Tapia

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

B: Brainstorming the music

Tim Albright

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

C: Costumes to de-stress

Alyssa Hakes

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

D: Disasters in real time

Jake Frederick

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

E: Ethnic Studies win

Jesús Gregorio Smith

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

F: Fresh take

Celia Barnes

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

G: Global thinking

Marcia Bjornerud

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

H: Holiday time

John Holiday

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

I: Inspired to help

Andrew Crooks

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

J: Journey through a crisis

David Gerard

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

K: Know what’s coming

Jerald Podair

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

L: Labs go virtual

Allison Fleshman

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

M: Music won’t be stopped

Patty Darling

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

N: Novel ideas

David McGlynn

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

O: Ongiri convocation

Amy Ongiri

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

P: Pride, Champion of

Helen Boyd Kramer

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

Q: Quest for knowledge

Beth Zinsli

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

R: Remote but in tune

Ann Ellsworth

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

S: Songs of unity

Stephen Sieck

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

T: Together, always

Matthew Arau

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

U: Universe, we got this

Megan Pickett

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

V: Virtual engagement

Leila Ramagopal Pertl

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

W: World in need of care

Jason Brozek

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

X: X factor

Israel Del Toro

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

Y: Your journey

Eilene Hoft-March

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

Z: Zoom, Zooming, Zoomed

Brian Pertl

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newly renovated Center for Academic Success better serves student needs

The Center for Academic Success can be found on the second floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

The Center for Academic Success (CAS), a staple of student learning at Lawrence in recent years, is newly relocated and renovated and is ready to host more students as soon as pandemic protocols allow.

The second floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library has been remade courtesy of a $1.5 million investment that was part of the recently concluded Be the Light! Campaign. Even though most staff continue to work remotely, a peek inside shows the possibilities ahead. The renovations have added nine offices, a classroom, a testing room, a conference room, a general tutoring area, a remodeled Help Desk, and a computer lab. The center offers support in areas that range from tutoring to accessibility services to academic counseling.

CAS staff have been working with students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but much of that has been virtual or by appointment. When the free flow of students returns, the users of the CAS are going to find a space that is more efficient, flexible, and accessible than the former Briggs Hall location.

Above: Explore the CAS in this 360 video. Click and drag on the video to tour the new space.

Since its opening in the mid-2010s, the CAS has been focused on tailoring services to the needs of students. That isn’t changing. The center will continue to act as a one-stop shop for students’ academic needs, helping students to reach their academic goals, said Monita Mohammadian Gray ’92, dean of academic success.

Shortly after it opened in its original location, conversations turned to the need for a larger space that would make more sense for students,

“The past space on the first floor of Briggs evolved in segments, and you could feel that when you were in the space,” Gray said. “Several staff members had offices on the external hallway, intermingled with the Education Department, and the internal space was developed as department needs emerged. It was hard for students to see and understand that we were all connected in the same unit.”

As CAS and university leaders were planning a new space, they wanted to ensure the office would be better connected and visible, centering the needs of students. They also recognized that they had outgrown the space in Briggs. They set their sights on the library.

“One of the primary purposes of moving to the library was to gain more visibility and access for students,” Gray said.

In the new space, they were able to “reconfigure” in a way that allows for more efficiency and effectiveness between CAS staff. Some of the staff have yet to physically be in the renovated space because of the pandemic, but there is a collective excitement, Gray said.

The new space has plenty of added amenities for students.

“We have a large, flexible tutoring space for students to study individually, in small groups or work with our tutors,” Gray said. “We also have more dedicated testing space for students who need reduced distraction, isolated space or extra time for a test because of a disability.”

The new space includes a classroom for use by CAS staff.

CAS moved into the library during Fall Term following construction last summer. Because of the pandemic, most students have not been able to use the new space, making it difficult to gauge student response. But Gray and her staff trust that this move will be a welcomed improvement for students.

“We’re now part of the library space, where students frequently pursue their academic research,” Gray said. “We have an integrated academic learning center. The synergy of these resources—innovative library services, information technology, academic technology, and the Makerspace—is going to be incredibly helpful to all students, and for future academic collaboration.”

Gray called the larger and more efficient CAS a reflection of how the university’s relationship with its students is always evolving.

“When I was a student here, most of the services offered by the CAS were nonexistent,” Gray said. “We [students] had to support each other. Now we have a full suite of services and professional staff who are ready to support students academically.

“At the heart of our work, we take a holistic approach to consider other factors and challenges individual students could be facing that hinder them academically. We then help students work through what is holding them back from maximizing their success.”

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

Changes aim to improve student access to Experiential Learning Funds

Thinking about summer plans? Then you should be thinking about applying for Experiential Learning Funds. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A record number of Lawrence University students received funding over the past year through the school’s Experiential Learning Funds (ELF) program, designed to support students pursuing summer internships, self-directed research, and volunteer work.

Ninety student projects were financially supported, more than double the usual amount, an increase due in part to changing needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said Emily Bowles, Experiential Learning Funds coordinator.

Now the deadline for 2021 applicants is straight ahead—it’s set for March 5 but flexibility is being built in because of ongoing pandemic uncertainties—and administrators are expecting another robust year.

The Career Center has streamlined the application process in an effort to make it easier for students with qualifying projects to access the funding. Students are being asked to submit a common application, leaving the ELF committee to match it with the most appropriate of the more than two dozen donor-supported funds that make up ELF. That removes the need for students to seek out specific funds, and it provides flexibility to match a request with a fund that has like-minded intentions.

“We’re hoping we can dismantle some barriers students may have faced in the past, increase awareness of funding opportunities, and ensure we help donors—many of whom are our alumni—match their dollars to projects that align with their values,” Bowles said.

The ELF committee is expected to issue decisions on each request by the end of March.

Student uses Experiential Learning Funds for computer science simulation. See more here.

Career Center here to help as pandemic affects job searches. See more here.

The funds cover expenses for students doing internships, job shadowing, research, or volunteer work. Some of the funds are broad in nature, giving the committee flexibility in how to disperse the monies. Other funds are specific to a particular field of study. The payments might help defray a student’s transportation costs, purchase needed resources, or cover living expenses.

The maximum outlay is $5,000, although the average is usually between $1,000 to $2,000.

The record 90 projects last year were supported to the tune of more than $160,000. The increase in the number of approved requests, Bowles said, was driven by the pandemic, which took many internship and research projects virtual, removing or lowering travel and housing expenses.

A new fund in the ELF program, the Equal Opportunity Fund for Career Exploration and Development, was launched to support Black, Latino, and/or first-generation students in new ways. And new attention was paid to using ELF funds to get students experience in social justice initiatives or with nonprofits that offer only unpaid internships, Bowles said.

“We were able to support more projects specifically designed by BIPOC and/or first-generation students thanks to the Equal Opportunity Fund,” she said. “In the midst of COVID, this fund source let us meet students where they were and alleviate some financial pressures so they could pursue projects based on their passions and personal or professional goals, even with so many factors conspiring to make pursuing internships or unpaid opportunities untenable for many people.”

A wide breadth of work

Among the 90 projects funded in the past year: a virtual internship at a psychology clinic working on social skills with middle school students; immersion in a public health research study; a data science internship; research into creating biographies for a catalog of Latin-American cello works; exploration of the barriers the arts present to artists of color; research into food insecurity issues across multiple continents; work in the offices of local elected officials; and many more.

Natalie LaMonto ’22

Natalie LaMonto ’22, an anthropology major from Frankfort, Illinois, was among the students who tapped into ELF funds after the pandemic shifted summer plans. She had planned on traveling to New Zealand, but that was no longer doable. The Sara A. Quandt and Thomas A. Arcury Endowment for Experiential Learning and Research in Public Health, one of the available ELF funds, gave her a viable plan B.

“This was not the summer I was imagining back in March, but I am glad that it turned out this way,” LaMonto said in a Career Center report on ELF impact.

She took on a virtual internship researching public health issues in vulnerable communities in North Carolina. She worked closely with Lawrence alumna Sara Quandt ’73, a professor of epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest University who does extensive research in public health.

“This past year, after taking Nutritional Anthropology, I had realized that I wanted to pursue a career in public health, but I did not know exactly what that meant,” LaMonto said. “When I was chosen for this internship, I knew that I wanted to research vulnerable communities, like the Latinx migrant farmworker community in North Carolina, but I did not know exactly what that meant either. Through this internship, I have grasped what it means, what it is like, to be a researcher in public health.”

Gabriel Chambers ’22

Gabriel Chambers ’22, a government major from Queens, New York, took on a self-directed research project on food insecurity, funded in part by the Equal Opportunity Fund.

“We see that some populations have lack of access to safe and nutritious food whereas some don’t,” Chambers said in the ELF report. “In the current pandemic, this threat leaves at-risk individuals vulnerable to malnutrition while simultaneously trying to protect themselves from a virus. This project identifies what is food insecurity, why is this an issue, who is affected by this crisis, where in the world are these conditions prevalent, and my personal insight on my story with food insecurity.”

Besides helping to center his career ambitions, Chambers said the summer experience helped him develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and networking skills. 

“In a time of need, the Equal Opportunity Fund provided me with resources to build a foundation to a path I want to follow upon leaving Lawrence,” he said. 

Funds to fill in the gaps

Bowles said those types of student experiences are at the heart of the Experiential Learning Funds program. It’s what motivates donors to participate and what drives students to seek out such opportunities.

“Experiential learning projects over the summer can help students harness their theoretical knowledge to practical, hands-on experiences,” Bowles said. “I know when I was in grad school, I struggled with a sense of disconnect—I was talking about feminist and queer theory without having opportunities for advocacy or activism—and I think for Lawrentians, these funds can help fill in that space.”

For students eyeing law school or medical school or seeking additional business training, the funds can provide opportunities to build important connections. The funds, for example, can assist students in accessing online Harvard Business School courses in partnership with Lawrence.  

“Some of these projects have direct connections to classroom learning, and others let them try out things as interns with alumni or on the job so they can start to think about what possibilities their degrees hold for them,” Bowles said. “With the funds, it’s also possible for students to try out things that Lawrence doesn’t offer without having to do that during an academic year, when the work might conflict with their ability to show up fully for their courses.” 

Bowles said students looking to apply for ELF funds should consult with their advisors, be creative in what they envision, and be realistic in their budget projections.

“One of my favorite things about working with Lawrentians is seeing the myriad ways in which imagination, passion, ambition, and critical thinking become the foundation for such different experiences in the short and long term,” Bowles said. 

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

“What are we going to do about it?”: An MLK Day call to fight structural injustices

Dr. Bettina L. Love

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Embrace a radical imagination.

Take the fight against structural racism beyond well-meaning committees and studies.

Don’t just speak out against crowded prisons and low-performing schools; commit to the work to end the conditions that result in crowded prisons and low-performing schools.

That is the hard message behind Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream, said Dr. Bettina L. Love, the keynote speaker Monday at the 30th annual Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, co-hosted by African Heritage Inc. and the Lawrence University Diversity and Intercultural Center.

“What structural changes are you willing to make?” said Love, author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and an endowed professor at the University of Georgia. “You got all the reports, you got all the directors of initiatives and all this, and you know racism is in the system, and you know racism is stopping children from living and seeing their full potential, so what structural change are we going to make? Are we just going to keep having policies? Are we going to keep reporting out that the very places we work are racist? What are we going to do about it?”

The MLK Day Celebration is typically held in Lawrence’s Memorial Chapel, but the community event moved online this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Brittany Bell, assistant dean of students and director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence and co-chair of the Fox Cities Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Committee, helped take the event virtual.

“This is a time for us to come together in unity,” Bell said. “Let us remember Dr. King’s legacy. Together we can be the light that illuminates the darkness in our world and our communities and make a difference.”

At Lawrence, with no classes being held, the event followed a series of MLK Day virtual conversations, including a book talk focused on Heavy: An American Memoir, the powerful and emotional 2018 book by Kiese Laymon, discussions on anti-racist strategies and disability advocacy, and a Music for All concert. The sessions were organized and led by campus volunteers through the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

The evening event took the King remembrances beyond campus, with community-focused messages of fighting the very injustices that King gave his life for while also embracing and celebrating Black joy.

The pandemic, Love said, has only exacerbated and magnified the deeply ingrained racism in this country. As did the killing of George Floyd. As did the marches of white supremacists.

“To be a person of color in this country today is a state of exhaustion,” Love said. “To always be trying to figure out ways we can survive this place. I know the Creator did not put me here to survive, to merely survive. I was put here to thrive. So that’s why I wrote the book. We want to do more than survive. That is not living. Living in a world where you are constantly in survival mode is what’s killing us more than anything — white supremacy that puts us in a place where we are constantly just trying to make it, spiritually, physically, mentally, economically. We deserve more.”

Love reminded the audience that at the time of his death in 1968, King was focused on the ills of poverty. He was fighting for workers’ rights, living wages, affordable housing, and economic opportunities for all. He was waging a battle on behalf of the poor that has yet to come to fruition.

“Before Dr. King died, he was building one of the world’s most robust coalitions of poor folks, black folks, white folks, Asian folks, Latino folks, you name it, he was building a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-generational coalition … to think very deeply about how we make sure people living in the United States had a guaranteed income, a living wage, housing,” Love said. “That was what he was on at the end of his life.”

Continuing that fight is what being an Abolitionist is all about, said Love, who titled her talk, Abolitionist Life: Resistance, Creativity, Hip Hop Civics Ed, Intersectionality, & Black Joy.

“More than anything, King understood this,” she said. “The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical distribution of political and economic power. That was his dream. We cannot sanitize it; we cannot water down King’s dream. His dream was to abolish poverty. His dream was to unite black folks and white folks and Latinx folks and indigenous folks, and everybody to create a world that understood if you want racial justice you better want economic justice. And we’re talking about a redistribution of wealth.

“King was about the abolishment of poverty. He was not trying to just give people a dollar here, a dollar there. He was trying to create structure that would ensure that nobody went hungry ever again. That is what abolition is about. It’s not about reform or reimagining. It’s about uprooting oppression.”

Love encouraged all to join that fight, to take it beyond good thoughts and supportive words.

“We do this work not wanting allies but wanting co-conspirators,” she said. “What have you done? What’s your work? That’s what a co-conspirator does. Put something on the line.”

To get there is a journey. Embrace that journey. Have a “radical imagination” and celebrate who you are, Love said.

“We have to do this work with joy,” she said. “We have to want to see Black folks win. It has to be more than just anger. There’s righteous rage, don’t get me wrong. But we also have to find the Black joy in this world. The work that says I want to be well, I want to work to be well.”

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

Three LU professors part of video series reaching out to high school AP students

Rosa Tapia, Gustavo Fares, and Beth De Stasio

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three Lawrence University professors will be featured in AP Daily, a new series of video lectures aimed at supporting high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the midst of the pandemic.

The College Board launched the ongoing virtual series on YouTube when the COVID-19 pandemic forced high schools to go to remote learning. The free series features college professors lecturing on topics of their choice tied to AP course material.

Lawrence’s Beth De Stasio, the Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and professor of biology, and Gustavo Fares and Rosa Tapia, both professors of Spanish, were invited to join the series. All three jumped at the chance.

“Each lecturer is asked to speak on material that extends the content of a particular unit of the course,” De Stasio said. “I immediately said, ‘Yes,’ because, frankly, I just love to teach and to facilitate learning.”

By the time they’re all launched, more than 200 videos will be included, providing support and flexibility to AP students studying remotely. The release dates are staggered to coincide with each curricular unit during the school year. De Stasio, Fares, and Tapia expect their videos to post in the coming weeks.

More than 8.5 million students have already watched the AP Daily videos, said Cathy Brigham, senior director of academic outreach at the College Board.

“These videos are available both behind a password-protected site called AP Classroom, which AP students and teachers manage in their in-class interactions,” she said. “But the videos are also available to the public on YouTube. On YouTube alone, the videos from higher education faculty have been viewed over 34,500 times for the first four units of AP courses. We are launching videos in sequence with when students are experiencing that content live in their classrooms, and so the number of videos will grow over time.”

De Stasio and Tapia chair their respective AP test development committees, and Fares has done so in the past, so they are plenty familiar with the work of the College Board and the AP process. De Stasio also is on the Science Advisory Committee for the College Board.

Tapia has been actively involved with the AP Spanish Language and Culture program since 2007. As a leading expert on the AP Spanish exam, she has been invited to give talks and workshops to university educators and administrators across the country, most recently at a February symposium at Stanford University.

She is one of seven lecturers speaking in the Spanish Literature and Culture portion of the AP Daily video series. The subject of her lecture is the Spanish writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936).

“An independent and bold thinker, Unamuno’s life and works continue to spark a passionate cultural and social debate almost a century after his death,” Tapia said. “In the last two years alone, a series of books and two high-profile films have been dedicated to the writer and his legacy. The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency. His powerful works and unresolved dilemmas during a controversial and violent time in Spanish history—the prelude to a civil war—provide important lessons for today’s students anywhere in the world.”

Fares, meanwhile, is one of six lecturers for the Spanish Language and Culture portion of the series. He also has a long history of involvement with the College Board dating back two decades and knows the significance of keeping that program healthy and functional during the pandemic.

“The AP students tend to be the most interested in the disciplines they decide to pursue though the AP Program, and they tend to carry over that interest to their college education,” Fares said. “As such, they are students Lawrence would want to recruit.”

Fares delivered his video lecture on Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949), a Uruguayan artist he covers in his Latin American Visual Arts course.

De Stasio is one of seven video lecturers in Biology. She chose to talk about how genes are “turned on” and “turned off” by different environmental conditions.

“I wanted to show how scientists model genes and interactions of the proteins that turn genes on or off,” De Stasio said. “So, a ruler was DNA, and binder clips represented proteins that bind to DNA to change accessibility of that DNA. I encouraged students to make models with things they have at home and to practice what will happen when the environment changes. What happens to particular genes in humans when we are stressed, for example? How does that stress signal get received and transduced all the way to the level of a gene? I wanted to demonstrate that these academic details are connected to our lives every day and that it is fun and exciting to figure out how it all works.”

The professors were asked to simulate as best they could a classroom lecture.

Being invited to participate in the series was an honor, and having three faculty members on the select invite list speaks well of Lawrence.

“As a subject matter expert, professors Tapia, De Stasio, and Fares will be able to share the depth and breadth of their knowledge with high school students who are up for the challenge,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president AP and Instruction for the College Board. “We are thrilled to partner with Lawrence and their faculty to help prepare these students for the opportunities provided by higher education.” 

For Lawrence, the series also provides a great connection with prospective students and their AP teachers.

“The site is free and open to the public, so teachers and students can use the lectures in their courses at no cost to them, the school, or the district,” Fares said. “By them accessing these resources, Lawrence becomes familiar to those educators and students, and these resources can become powerful recruitment tools for the university.”

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

December research projects expand across disciplines for faculty, students

Sophia Driessen ’22 transplants leafy greens from their sponge starters to new soil growth media while working Dec. 10 on a hydroponics research project in the Briggs Hall greenhouse at Lawrence University. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

While much of the Lawrence University campus has been quiet since Fall Term ended, there has been a bustle of activity happening in and around academic research projects.

In Briggs Hall, you can find Sophia Driessen ’21, Erin Szablewski ’21, and Catherine Wagoner ’22 working daily with Relena Ribbons, assistant professor of geosciences, on new hydroponics research. With work both in the lab and in Briggs’ small greenhouse, the students are getting a chance to do hands-on research that both boosts their resumes for graduate school and gives them insights into possible career paths.

“This work is valuable to me because it allows me to strengthen my independent learning and working skills,” Szablewski said. “Additionally, it is helping me to learn and grow in the research process, helping me in my graduate school application process. I was drawn to it because of its hands-on, interdisciplinary nature.”

They’re not alone. In all, 26 Lawrence University students—15 on campus and 11 remote—are working during December with 18 faculty members on research in disciplines stretching across campus. Each student applied for and received a $1,200 stipend for three weeks of work between the Fall and Winter terms.

“This is the third year for December research, but with a significant innovation,” said Peter Blitstein, associate dean of the faculty and associate professor of history. “For the first time, we are using internal funds to support projects in the social sciences, humanities, and fine arts, in addition to using funds from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation grant for work in the natural sciences.”

The December program began in 2018 with funding from Sherman Fairchild for physics, biology, chemistry, geosciences, and neuroscience research. This year, faculty in economics, the Conservatory of Music, English, mathematics, religious studies, and Mudd Library are participating.

The University is investing more than $37,000 in the expanded program, covering the students’ stipends as well as room and board for those on campus.

“This is the greatest number of students we have supported for December research in the three years we have had this program,” Blitstein said.

Elizabeth Becker, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, and Elsa Hammerdahl ’22 are collaborating with a St. Joseph’s University graduate student in researching mating habits of the monogamous California mouse. This species is notable because it’s believed that fewer than 5% of mammals are exclusive, an affinity known in animal behavior research as “pair-bond,” Becker said.

“While in some species, these pair-bonds are thought to form within 24 hours of cohabitation, other studies indicate that this process may take up to a week,” she said. 

This project continues research that Becker started at St. Joseph’s, the Pennsylvania school where she taught and led the Behavioral Neuroscience Program before joining the Lawrence faculty earlier this year.

“By manipulating the cohabitation period and then measuring a range of affiliative and aggressive behaviors in partners, we aim to establish an accurate timeline and create a formal operationalization for pair-bond formation in this species that can be used in future studies,” Becker said.

Ribbons and her three students, meanwhile, are doing hydroponics research that is supported by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) and the Lawrence University Research Fellows (LURF) program.

“The chief aim is to test out and pilot this new experimental setup with an eye toward future experiments to examine microbial communities that grow in the soil growth media,” Ribbons said of the research. “Students have been experimenting with what types of plants we will grow, starting within the leafy greens category to test out Swiss chard, Russian kale, and buttercrunch lettuce. Currently we are growing about 300 baby leafy greens in three replicates of the hydroponics manifolds.”

Wagoner, a geoscience and environmental studies major, said the work ties in nicely with her interests and career ambitions.

“As an avid science and nature enthusiast, I was naturally drawn to this research project,” she said. “These past few weeks have offered unparalleled experiences and knowledge that might be difficult to obtain in a typical classroom setting.”

An added bonus, she said, is working alongside other women with a shared passion for science.

“Aside from the inherent educational value of our project, it feels very empowering to be working and learning alongside three other women in a field largely dominated by men,” Wagoner said.

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

Note regarding WSGC: 1) this material is based upon work supported by NASA under Award No. RIP20_11.0 issued through Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, and 2) any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.