Category: Academics

Diversity award honors work Lawrence is doing to address equity, inclusion

A rise in retention and graduation rates among African American students at Lawrence speaks to focused work on equity issues across campus, says Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is being honored for its work in becoming a more diverse and inclusive campus.

INSIGHT Into Diversity, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education, announced that Lawrence is one of 90 recipients of its 2020 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award. Lawrence will be featured, along with the other recipients, in the November issue of the magazine.

It’s a notable honor because it recognizes the significant progress Lawrence has made in recent years, but it comes with the understanding that this is a work in progress, said Kimberly Barrett, who joined Lawrence as its first vice president for diversity and inclusion in 2016.

“Although much work remains to be done, this honor acknowledges the progress that has been made in both achieving equitable academic outcomes for students of all backgrounds as well as in our efforts to increase the diversity of folks working and learning at Lawrence,” Barrett said. “Like institutions around the country, we must continue to enhance the quality of these efforts.”

Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity, said the HEED Award follows a “comprehensive and rigorous” application process.

“Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus,” Pearlstein said.

Barrett pointed to retention and graduation rates at Lawrence for African American students, which have gone up significantly over the past half decade. In the most recent Diversity & Inclusion Annual Report, it’s noted that the graduation rate for African American students at Lawrence is up 56%, and the retention rate for students of color has been equal to or above white students over the past three years. That, Barrett said, speaks to progress being made in achieving racial equity on campus.

Initiatives such as the annual Cultural Competency Lecture Series, the work of the Inclusive Pedagogy Committee, the annual Diversity Planning Retreat that keeps a leadership focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion topics, and the growth and activity of various employee affinity groups have helped move efforts forward, Barrett said.

National honor spotlights Lawrence affinity group. See details here.

From 2015 to 2020, the percentage of students of color at Lawrence has increased from 19% of the student body to 26%, Barrett said. The number of faculty of color also has grown over that five-year period, going from 13% of total faculty to 17%. The number of staff who identify as people of color saw a jump of 65%.

Besides Barrett’s vice president position, other new leadership positions added since 2016 to address equity and inclusion include the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, a Title IX coordinator, a Diversity Center coordinator, and a Dean of Academic Success.

Also, through a grant from the Mellon Foundation and the work of the President’s Committee on Diversity Affairs, Lawrence has implemented training to enhance the process for recruiting diverse applicants for faculty positions. Another grant from the Mellon Foundation has led to the diversifying of curriculum and the development of new pedagogical methods.

In recent months, as a movement for social justice has elevated conversation and calls for systematic change across the country, Barrett has been leading a series of virtual workshops on antiracism for Lawrence faculty and staff. Those conversations will continue with the return of students to campus, either in person or from a distance, for Fall Term. Barrett also has stepped up as a leader with Imagine Fox Cities, a local initiative aimed at fostering conversations on a range of societal and community issues, including diversity and inclusion. That work has included, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizing virtual conferences on topics related to social justice.  

In a recent letter to the Lawrence community in advance of the start of Fall Term, President Mark Burstein pledged continued focus on issues of equity and inclusion.

“We continue to dismantle systemic racism through individual and organizational learning; through curricular, pedagogical, and policy change; and through enhanced efforts to increase the racial diversity of students, faculty, and staff,” he wrote. “We also continue to collaborate with the City of Appleton to help ensure that Lawrentians are safe and welcome here. Our goal is to create a campus climate that allows each of us to feel that we belong in this community whether we are learning on campus or at a distance.”

Lawrence wants to be a leader on these issues, both on campus and in the Fox Cities, Barrett said. The HEED Award is recognition that that hard work is being done and, despite setbacks and frustrations, progress is being made.

“Despite the work that still remains ahead,” she said, “it is important to acknowledge and celebrate the righteous work in which we have been engaged because, as Audre Lorde wrote, ‘Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Every victory must be applauded, because it is so easy not to battle at all, to just accept and call that acceptance inevitable.’”

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

Becker returns to Lawrence to teach psychology and neuroscience

Elizabeth Becker ’04

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The newest member of Lawrence University’s Psychology Department faculty is plenty familiar with what makes this place special.

Elizabeth Becker ’04 earned a double degree in psychology and music performance here before going on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“The lessons learned and relationships with faculty forged at Lawrence have been a guiding light in my own career as I sought to become the type of teacher that would make LU proud,” Becker said. “It is a true honor to be welcomed home and be part of the Lawrence community.”

Becker steps in as an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience, beginning with Monday’s launch of Fall Term.

She is one of two new faculty members, joining Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra, who begins work as an assistant professor of Spanish.

Becker had been teaching at Saint Joseph’s University in Pennsylvania, where she served as director of the Behavioral Neuroscience Program and was the faculty affiliate to the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support. As a faculty member of the Psychology Department, she mentored both graduate and undergraduate researchers.

“I’m very excited to bring my program of research here to Lawrence to work with our incredibly talented undergraduate students,” Becker said. “I am dedicated to providing laboratory and professional development opportunities to prepare our students for graduate study.”

It was 20 years ago that Becker landed on the Lawrence campus as a first-year student. She said a matriculation convocation address delivered by then-President Richard Warch ignited a spark, a drive to learn and excel, that continues to this day.

“Starting the term I feel the same sense of excitement and nervousness I felt then,” Becker said. “Back in 2000, when I heard President Warch’s convocation address, that nervousness I felt was replaced with passion, admiration, and inspiration. I knew I was home. Indeed, my time at Lawrence was transformative and personally defining as I was pushed and challenged to be and live greater.” 

The Warch address touched on the importance of community, something that resonates even deeper this year as Fall Term begins amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Becker said.

“Not all institutions of higher learning will address this challenge well, but I can guarantee we will,” she said. “In my preparation for fall, which will be online, I have worked hard to ensure a high level of engagement with the material as well as with each other — including social distance walks — because I espouse the philosophy of President Warch, that ‘liberal education is best conducted as a personal experience.’ I am so happy to be home.”

Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine G. Kodat said bringing Becker back to Lawrence is a huge win for a department that continues to serve one of the largest numbers of majors at Lawrence.

“As an alumna and double-degree graduate, she appreciates all the things that make Lawrence special,” Kodat said. “I am delighted to welcome her back to her alma mater.”

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

All campus buildings to remain closed to public for duration of Fall Term

Signage around campus provides reminders of the safety protocols that are in place.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

In light of ongoing efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Lawrence University buildings will remain closed to the public for the duration of Fall Term, which began Monday and runs through Nov. 24.

The campus buildings have been closed to the public since mid-March, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

For Fall Term, the Warch Campus Center, Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center, and the Seeley G. Mudd Library, among other facilities, will be available only to Lawrence students, faculty, and staff, the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team announced. No public events will be held on campus as the University focuses on protecting the health of the Lawrence community and beyond.

Library resources will continue to be accessible online.

Lawrence has about 850 students, or 60% of its student body, living on campus for Fall Term. The remaining students have opted to access the term remotely. Most classes are being delivered virtually, with select classes being held in person with physical distancing protocols in place.

All students, faculty, and staff who are on campus have signed a Lawrence Campus Community Pledge, in which they have agreed to follow protocols that have been put in place, including wearing a mask, adhering to the 6-feet distancing rule, avoiding large gatherings, and doing daily checks for symptoms.

Anyone who will be on campus also has been required to get a COVID-19 test, administered on campus by Bellin Health. Additional testing will be done throughout the term.

The protocols also apply to any approved contractors on campus.

The rise in community spread numbers in Appleton over the past few weeks adds further emphasis to the need to be vigilant about safety-minded behaviors and interactions.

For more details on Fall Term, visit Planning for Fall 2020 on the Lawrence web site.

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

These 8 Lawrentians connected their passions with summer internships

Bronwyn Earthman ’21 is studying which types of soil environments contain the highest levels of mycorrhizal fungi, a fungus that has been shown to promote plant growth.

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

This summer isn’t really going the way most of us planned.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on all aspects of our lives, we’ve been forced to adapt to the ever-changing situation—and Lawrence’s Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLC) has never been busier. With a little help from the CLC, students have taken the opportunity to step outside of their comfort zones into unconventional internships and research projects that have successfully made dramatic adjustments in real time.

Explore how these eight Lawrentians have spent the summer preparing for their futures in this dynamic work environment.


Natalie LaMonto ’22

In the midst of a global crisis, scientists are working overtime to minimize the damage, and for students wanting to pursue a career in public health, their assistance has rarely been in higher demand. In an effort to do her part this summer and prepare for her future, Natalie LaMonto, an anthropology major from Frankfort, Illinois, joined a team of interns at the Wake Forest School of Medicine to conduct vital research on the effects of COVID-19.

This public health research team, led by Sara Quandt ’73, has been studying the same group of Latinx farmworkers for over 20 years, focusing on a variety of public health issues, including access to housing and pesticide exposure, to name a few. As soon as the pandemic arrived in the U.S., the team shifted research to meet the growing need for information on how COVID-19 is impacting migrant farmworkers. As an intern, LaMonto is doing extensive work virtually, analyzing data from interviews, contributing to journal articles about their findings, and even writing policy briefs to provide recommendations for legislation.

“I want to do research in public health, but I had no clue what that really entailed,” LaMonto said. “This internship has definitely given me an idea of what I would actually be doing in the future.”

FIND YOUR ID NYC: Hezekiah Ortiz ’21

Hezekiah Ortiz ’21

With internships going remote or getting canceled, it was hard for many students to find a company to work with this summer, but Hezekiah Ortiz would not be denied as he zeroes in on his interest in talent management. After all, this work is personal. He knows first-hand the struggle of artists to get their work out in the world, despite immense talent and “endless reservoirs of creativity.” With a career in talent management, Ortiz, a global studies major from Staten Island, New York, hopes to provide the structure for other artists to reach a broader audience.

Working this summer with Find Your ID NYC, a talent management company, has allowed Ortiz to further explore a field he has a growing interest in. His interest has developed during the past year or so, but this summer in quarantine gave him a chance to truly focus in. Through his experience helping others with their personal brands—often in the form of his weekly Instagram livestreams, in which he scouts out other artists and gives them the platform to showcase their brand and network with talent agencies—Ortiz has gained valuable skills and knowledge for his own brand.  

“I genuinely enjoy what I am doing,” Ortiz said. “It is like a perfect blend of learning how to brand myself and helping others in their artistic journey.” 


Theresa Gruber-Miller ’23

If you have to spend your summer at home during a pandemic, why not take the opportunity to offer your ever-expanding list of skills to a local organization close to your heart? As coursework and internships swiftly announced cancellations or online workloads, Theresa Gruber-Miller reached out to the community she’s belonged to since childhood — the Mount Vernon-Lisbon Community Theatre Company. Naturally, they put her right to work.

Taking her talents behind the scenes, Gruber-Miller, a Spanish and music education double major from Mount Vernon, Iowa, is experiencing the nitty-gritty that goes into making a theater run, as she organizes decades of props and costumes, conducts theater historiographies, and learns how to ask the right questions. As her biggest project of the summer, Gruber-Miller has been interviewing long-time community members about what the company has meant to them, from an old pro who’s worked with the theater for 40 years to a young theater major who she’s known since middle school. The perks of staying close to home.

“It’s really great to have art organizations that are open and willing to accept interns for summers to help out and gain experience,” Gruber-Miller said. “It’s helping me to grow in my professional development and learn about the nonprofit sector so that I can have the best chance at continuing my career path and seeing where it leads me.”


Vinzenz Mayer ’21

When Vinzenz Mayer’s summer research plans were abruptly canceled, he turned to beer. That is, he turned to McFleshman’s Brewery, an Appleton-based craft brewery co-owned by his advisor, Associate Professor of Chemistry Allison Fleshman. Taking a less theoretical approach to his chemistry research, Mayer, a biochemistry major from Germany, is spending the summer working as an assistant quality assurance manager at McFleshman’s.

Combining classic laboratory research with hands-on functional experience, Mayer oversees the entire brewing process in order to ensure that every customer has a beer of the best possible quality. From adding hops to make an IPA more fruity to continuous testing and analysis of the fermenting beer, Mayer is quickly becoming an expert in the whole scientific brewing process — both in his academics and on the ground.

“This is basically the complete opposite of working in a lab. It’s more practical, which gives me a completely different view on my research,” Mayer said. “What I’ve learned for the past weeks is that my research doesn’t really matter if the brewer can’t apply it in a brewery. It’s a different viewpoint so it’s useful in a different way.”


Ricardo Jimenez ’21

Ricardo Jimenez knew he wanted to spend his summer working in the music industry, so when Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl suggested an internship with the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, a performance and outreach group specializing in third stream jazz, Jimenez was quick to make contact with the nonprofit and line up an internship. Despite the shock of the pandemic, Jimenez’s role with the organization has only expanded.

As the philharmonic worked on the fly to set up a virtual summer camp, effective communication with the young musicians in Chicago became more complicated — and as the resident Gen Z in the room, Jimenez’s knowledge of platforms like TikTok and Fortnite made his feedback critical to many discussions. While Jimenez has become a useful asset to the team, the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic has been cognizant of ensuring Jimenez gets as much out of the internship as he puts in. Jimenez is developing critical skills for his future in the industry, including virtual marketing via his work with a viral challenge and video editing as he edits the submissions.

“It teaches the career skills that you need in order to engage in the field of music,” said Jimenez, a biology and music performance (trumpet) double major from Barrington, Illinois. “If I want to do something like this, or help someone else start something like this, or even just be involved in it in the future, I now have all those tools.”


Bronwyn Earthman ’21

Bronwyn Earthman is not the type to let anything get in the way of her academic experience. So, when her original summer research plans fell through, she took matters into her own hands — which, as it turned out, would soon be deep into the dirt.

Rather than working in a lab, the biology major from Newark, Delaware, is spending her summer designing and conducting her own research project from the comfort of her home. In her efforts to determine which types of soil environments contain the highest levels of mycorrhizal fungi, a fungus that has been shown to promote plant growth, Earthman is solely in control of every aspect of the research: constructing a plan, determining potential methods, renting out laboratory equipment, extracting data, and, of course, drawing conclusions.

“I’m a pretty hands-on person. I really like getting out into the natural world and doing things and learning about my surroundings, and so I think that’s kind of what motivated me,” Earthman said. “I was like, ‘well, this is gonna be hard, but I feel like it’s going to be worth it in the end.’”


Luther Abel ’22

When Luther Abel landed the position of editorial intern for the National Review Institute, the non-profit wing of conservative news magazine National Review, it was like a dream come true — literally. During his six years in the U.S. Navy, he read the magazine each month, and he said he couldn’t help but wonder, “What if I could someday have my name there?”

Turns out the dream wasn’t as far-fetched as he’d thought. Abel, an English major from Sheboygan, has spent his summer making a name for himself as a writer for National Review online, even having one of his articles highlighted as the best of the week in his editors’ podcast. In addition to his writing, Luther is moderating the comments section of the website, editing the work of other writers, and building connections on weekly Zoom coffee calls with the higher-ups. Plus, if you ever need a Warren G. Harding emoji made on the fly, he’s your guy.

“It opens a lot of doors that otherwise would be really hard to get into,” Abel said. “Once they know who you are, it’s so much easier to get a job, even if you’re not quite as good as a random person off the street. They’ve worked with you, and they trust you.”


Nolan Ehlers ’20

Who says physically distancing diminishes personal connection? For Nolan Ehlers, a music performance (percussion) major from Appleton, an internship with the New York Jazz Academy has brought him closer to students as he hones his teaching skills in daily one-on-one lessons.

Although the New York Jazz Academy is a community music school that caters to all ages and skill levels, each summer, the organization hosts week-long intensives for students who want to truly immerse themselves in jazz music. This is where Ehlers comes in, monitoring the Zoom classes and offering 30-minute private lessons on jazz harmony and theory to every student, every day.

“I didn’t think that this summer I’d be getting to use my music degree very much, but it’s awesome that I have this time to work on my teaching abilities and keep working on music,” Ehlers said. “I’m learning stuff too from watching these intensives.”

Sounds like a great opportunity, right? The good news is you might get to do it next summer. One Lawrentian fills this internship every year.

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office. Awa Badiane ’21 contributed to this story.

Lawrence named one of nation’s “Best” colleges for 2021 by Princeton Review

Main Hall on the Lawrence University campus. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has again made the list of The Princeton Review’s best colleges.

The listing in The Best 386 Colleges for 2021, a guide produced by the education services company, comes six months after The Princeton Review named Lawrence the No. 3 Best Impact School in the country.

Only about 13% of the nearly 2,800 eligible four-year colleges make the Best book each year. Published each August and focused on undergraduate education, it has been an annual resource for prospective students since its debut in 1992. The book, released on Tuesday, does not rank the schools within the list of 386, but it does include a series of Top 20 lists in a variety of sub categories.

“As we head into another academic year, albeit one that looks different from any other in history, it’s reassuring to see that some things have remained the same,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communication. “Lawrence being recognized as one of The Princeton Review’s best colleges is one of them.”

See more on Lawrence admissions here.

Information on the application process here.

The Best Impact Schools listing is included in the new guide. It is based on both the student experience on campus and how alumni perceive their careers. It speaks to Lawrence’s liberal arts vision and that students are being prepared well for life after Lawrence.

The Princeton Review chooses the colleges for the Best book based on data it annually collects from administrators at hundreds of colleges about their institutions’ academic offerings. The Princeton Review also considers data it gathers from its surveys of college students who rate and report on various aspects of their campus and community experiences.  

Lawrence was cited for its small student-to-faculty ratio, its creative and well-rounded Freshman Studies program, its pro-active approach to mental health, and a “creative and explorative” campus environment.

“We salute Lawrence University for its outstanding academics and we are truly pleased to recommend it to prospective applicants searching for their personal ‘best-fit’ college,” said Robert Franek, The Princeton Review’s editor-in-chief and lead author of The Best 386 Colleges.  

The Princeton Review’s school profiles and ranking lists in The Best 386 Colleges are posted at where they can be searched for free with site registration.

The Best 386 Colleges is the 29th annual edition of The Princeton Review’s best colleges book.

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

2020-21 guide to Freshman Studies reading list: “Shows a remarkable range”

The books and materials for Freshman Studies laid out on a wood surface.
Material for Freshman Studies during the 2020-2021 academic year. Photo by Danny Damiani

Welcome to an updated guide to Lawrence University’s Freshman Studies reading list.

A year ago, we asked Garth Bond, associate professor of English, to guide us through the list. Now, as we prepare for the 2020-21 academic year, Timothy Spurgin, the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and associate professor of English, has taken over for Bond as director of Freshman Studies. So, we reached out to Spurgin for an update to the guide, one that addresses new additions – including the exploration of a 1935 photograph and a deep dive into the Periodic Table of Elements — and provides fresh insights.

Freshman Studies, as all Lawrentians know, is an important piece of the Lawrence experience. Since its establishment in 1945, the Freshman Studies syllabus has been continuously revised to introduce a changing student body to the intellectual challenges of a liberal arts education, and to the resulting benefits of the interdisciplinary thinking it embraces.

“The entire list shows a remarkable range and an admirable ambition,” Spurgin said of the 2020-21 edition. “Lots of schools have something like Freshman Studies. I don’t know of any other program that takes in music and art, science and literature, in the ways that we do. The addition of works like the photograph and the table offers fresh proof of our enduring commitment to wide-ranging liberal learning and teaching. This is something I always feel proud of, and I know that many of our faculty, alums, and current students feel the same way.”

Here, then, is Spurgin’s updated guide, building on what Bond began a year ago:

Fall term

A book: Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey.
Natasha Trethewey’s Native Guard

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard.  This year, as we often have done recently, we’re starting with poetry. This Pulitzer-Prize winning collection, written by the University’s most recent commencement speaker, asks students to consider how private experiences are shaped by larger historical forces. Trethewey begins with the tragedy of her mother’s murder and goes on to explore the public history of American racism and the memorialization of the Civil War.  Along the way, like all great poets, she also reminds us of the challenges and opportunities that come with reading and writing. This is a beautiful, moving, and thought-provoking book.  (Adopted Fall 2015)

Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy. From Trethewey’s poetry, we’ll move to a biologist’s study of the most fascinating of social insects: the honeybee swarm. In accounts of his own research projects, Seeley not only sharpens our sense of the scientific method, but also reveals the benefits of interdisciplinary thinking. Intellectually ambitious in all the best ways, his book explores the possibility that honeybee decision-making can serve as a model for our own democratic processes and for emerging systems of artificial intelligence. (Adopted Winter 2019)

A book: Republic by Plato.
Plato’s Republic

Plato, The Republic. There’s a reason why this book has been on the syllabus, almost continuously, for 75 years. It raises all the big questions: political questions, psychological questions, aesthetic questions, and moral questions. It’s sometimes hard to think of a major issue that doesn’t turn up somewhere in this work. The work’s presentation of its arguments in the form of a dialogue has the added benefit of helping to embody the benefits and pleasures of liberal education. By reading and discussing Plato, our new students will join a conversation begun on this campus in the 1940s. That in and of itself is a pretty amazing thing. (Adopted 1945).

Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping. The story of two young women growing up under the housekeeping of a series of female relatives following the death of their mother, Robinson’s novel revisits the themes of loss and memory raised by Trethewey. At the same time, the novel also questions some of the lessons that Seeley would draw from the perhaps more naturally communal honeybees. Robinson particularly illuminates the impact of unwritten social expectations on women and girls, while her unreliable narrator forces students to rethink their initial views of the relationship between society and the individual. (Adopted Fall 2018)

Berenice Abbott, Tri-Boro Barber School, 264 Bowery, Manhattan. Taken in 1935 as part of the WPA’s Federal Art Project, this photograph rewards close inspection. The barber-stripe column, the contrasting façade tiles, and the patterns of light and shadow evoke modernist art styles like cubism and abstraction, but the image also functions as a document of the rapidly changing city. Studying this image gives students a chance to consider the larger claims of photography.  Do photographs capture or convey an objective truth, or do they express the particular vision of the artist? If they do both, then how exactly does that happen? (Adopted Fall 2020)

Winter term

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Poor Economics.  In this fascinating work, two distinguished economists offer a scientific approach to the battle with global poverty.  Banerjee and Duflo advocate putting aside big ideas, like increasing aid or freeing markets, in favor of careful research addressed to small, specific questions.  Reading the book helps students to see how answering these small questions can also give voice to the experience of those living on $1 a day.  Can narrowly focused action, guided by the scientific method, really outperform our political beliefs and create a quiet revolution in economic and political institutions?  That’s the big question here.  (Adopted Winter 2017)

A book: Angels in America by Tony Kushner.
Tony Kushner’s Angels in America

Tony Kushner, Angels in America. Set in the 1980s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play offers a searching exploration of the political and ethical conflicts of the AIDS epidemic. As its title suggests, the play also works to awaken a larger sense of possibility and wonder. Kushner’s script explores the complex motives of a politically, spiritually, and racially diverse cast. Our use of recordings from several productions of the play will take our conversation to a deeper level, as we consider the many creative acts required to move from the written page to an embodied performance. (Adopted Winter 2020)

The periodic table of elements. Many students will have used the table in high school, but few will have had the chance to explore its deeper logic. Looking closely at the table, and learning more about its history, will give students a better sense of how scientific knowledge is developed, represented, and shared. There are lots of questions to ask about this one: Who was responsible for designing the table? What other possibilities were considered, and why were they rejected? What larger arguments about the nature of the universe – that’s right, the nature of the universe! – are contained in this simple, beautiful object? (Adopted Winter 2021)

The Arabian Nights. This 14th century collection of traditional Arabian stories asks students to consider the nature and purpose of narrative. Each evening, a new bride weaves tales to keep her husband and king from killing her in the morning – as he has sworn to do with all of his wives. As she shares her remarkable stories, we are invited to consider the meaning of storytelling itself: its relationship to power and to erotic desire, the ulterior motives governing its rhetoric, and the invasive and irresistible pull of curiosity. Far from turning away, this text revels in the fruits of human action, both ripe and rotten. (Adopted Winter 2018)

A vinyl record: Kind of Blue by Miles Davis.
Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music is a fundamental part of our university community. This most famous of jazz albums invites students to explore the complex relationship between planned structure and improvised action at the heart of musical performance. As a relatively early and deeply influential LP, it further challenges students to think about the processes of memory and meaning at work in permanently recording and revisiting a “live” improvisation, as well as the cultural role and context of jazz music, especially its relationship to African-American identity. (Adopted Winter 2016)

Note to incoming students: Looking for Freshman Studies books? The first book, Native Guard, will be sent to domestic students in the US mail. Copies of the Abbott photograph and the periodic table will be made available to students later. The other works are now available from our online bookstore, Wherever you get your books, you should make sure to get the editions we’ve chosen for you. Information about editions, including ISBN numbers, can be found at

Students savor substantial, important internships amid the summer chaos

Shaun Brown ’21: Interning with Healing Minds NOLA

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Shaun Brown ’21, a fourth-year psychology and cultural anthropology double major from St. Louis, is midway through a summer internship that looks a lot different than what it might have in a pandemic-free world.

The internship with Healing Minds NOLA, a New Orleans nonprofit focused on mental health resources, was supposed to be based in the Crescent City. It shifted to a remote internship as COVID-19 became a global pandemic.

Brown, who hopes to eventually go to graduate school in pursuit of a Master in Public Health degree, took the changes in stride. His work as a mental health and justice intern is proving to be substantial, even if face-to-face work is off the table.

“I’m learning about the intersection of mental health and incarceration,” he said. “I get to attend themed webinars and Zoom meetings with various professionals like judges, researchers, mental health professionals, and community activists, all discussing various information that I knew nothing about. There are a lot of things going on and COVID-19 is not making them better, so I am taking projects off other people’s plates and assisting where I can.”

Brown is one of nearly 90 Lawrence University students who are in the midst of remote, project-based internships this summer facilitated by or funded through the school’s Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLC).

We salute them and all Lawrence students doing internships on National Intern Day, celebrated this year on July 30.

Much of the work happening this summer is the result of rapid adjustments made in the spring as COVID-19 concerns shut down many internship and research opportunities.

“When the pandemic hit, we had to move fast to meet evolving student needs,” said Mandy Netzel, assistant director of employer and alumni relations in the CLC. “While some internship sites were adjusting to remote work, others were being canceled completely.”

The CLC and other offices on campus quickly adapted to the shut-downs, identifying remote internship possibilities, adjusting the process for students to apply, and widening the funding structure to include more students in lieu of monies no longer being needed to cover housing and transportation costs.

The Employer and Alumni Relations team, in tandem with the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE), also launched the Hire a Viking Campaign, soliciting new remote opportunities from alumni and community partners. Alumni and friends of the University rose to the challenge, and in just two weeks, Hire a Viking resulted in 31 new internship and full-time opportunities. 

“We were able to grant $162,650 in funds for 87 different projects,” Netzel said. “Throughout the project, donors were even compelled to give additional funding for internships. Overall, it was a great success.”

Stephany Pichola ’21: Interning with The Commons

Stephany Pichola ’21 of Highland Park, Illinois, a triple major in economics, global studies, and Spanish, landed one of those remote internships, working in project management for The Commons, a Milwaukee nonprofit initiative aimed at enhancing work and play opportunities in the region.

The work, Pichola said, connects with her innovation and entrepreneurship interests.

“In the process of each project, there is a lot of research and data analysis involved, as well as creating real-world solutions to certain issues found within the Milwaukee area,” she said.

Doing the work remotely brings significant hurdles. Navigating a Zoom call with 100 participants, for example, is daunting, Pichola said. But she said she’s using the internship to build skills and connections that will pay off as she prepares for life after Lawrence.

Meanwhile, Emilia Ciotti Hernández ’22 of New York, a government major with a focus on international relations, and Eli Ferrell ’22 of Mill Valley, California, a government major with plans to pursue law school, both landed remote internships with Safe Passage Project, a national nonprofit that provides free legal counsel to immigrant children facing deportation.

They’ve helped to screen families for representation, served as interpreters for attorneys who are working pro bono, translated birth certificates and other documents, helped young people apply for work permits, and assisted in the drafting of affidavits, all done remotely.

“I got to hear the stories of these young people and see all they went through in their lives, and often it was heartbreaking,” Hernández said. “When they would tell me these stories, it was hard because I would want to comfort them, but that’s not an easy task over Zoom.”

Ferrell called the work important preparation for law school and said it has helped focus his attention on immigration issues. If federal policies rolled out during the Trump Administration continue, “lawyers trained in immigration law will be more important than ever,” Ferrell said.

For each of the students, the shift to remote internships hasn’t been ideal. But to still be able to work with these organizations, to be able to do important work in a summer internship while in the throes of a global pandemic, has been a huge positive.

“I know that after Lawrence, I want to work as a community health worker,” Brown said. “I would primarily work in various underserved communities to educate, coach, and empower people, as well as connect individuals and families to community-based resources.”

Healing Minds NOLA, he said, is giving him a taste of that this summer.

“I’m getting a preview of some of the work that I’ll be doing very soon once I graduate from Lawrence,” Brown said.

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

Class of 2020 celebrated with virtual Commencement: Don’t lose the joy

(Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Lawrence University community gathered virtually on Sunday for a Commencement celebration unlike any other in the school’s 171-year history.

Held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic that moved Spring Term classes to distance learning, the ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of nearly 270 Lawrentians in the Class of 2020.

“We are at a time like no other, when both far too much—and not nearly enough—has changed,” President Mark Burstein told the graduates and their families, all looking in from locations around the world.

Watch the 2020 Lawrence University Commencement webcast in its entirety here.

Congratulatory messages from faculty and staff, shared via video and an online chat, were mixed with the traditional speeches and the conferring of degrees.

Commencement speaker Natasha Trethewey, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose book, Native Guard, has been on the Freshman Studies reading list at Lawrence for five years, implored the graduates to find inspiration in the arts as they make sense of a world that has changed mightily since they first stepped on campus four years ago.


Divisive politics, a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in 100 years, and racial injustice protests that are shining new light on systematic inequalities have rocked the world. Find your voice, Trethewey urged the graduates. Seek inspiration in poetry, music, and other arts as a means to process and navigate these times.

“Art allows us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition, to see ourselves in others, evoking in us our noblest trait, the ability to empathize,” she said. “Art has always been a necessary part of our collective survival.”

Trethewey said she turned to poetry and other art in the aftermath of the murder of her mother, citing W.H. Auden’s poem, Musée des Beaux Arts, and Pieter Bruegel’s painting, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, as being particularly enlightening.

“It was the first time I understood that art could speak to me intimately about my own experience, that the language of a poem or a painting could save me from the feeling of overwhelming isolation brought on by trauma and grief,” she said. “In the midst of my despair, I suddenly felt part of something communal—ancient and ongoing.”

Cling to such beacons as you set out to make your mark in the world, Trethewey said. This moment in time isn’t an easy one, but it’s one that is ripe for change. And with it comes a need for compassion and empathy, and this generation is positioned to embrace each other wholly like none before.

“We are in a moment of shared national and international mourning and we are reminded of what links us to every other human being on this planet: our mortality, our need for justice, shelter, sustenance, sanctuary, air to breathe,” Trethewey said.

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20, selected as the senior class speaker, asked her classmates not to lose sight of the great accomplishment of graduating from Lawrence despite the global pandemic short-circuiting their final term on campus, not allowing for proper good-byes and celebrations. As a first-generation college student, a daughter of immigrants, missing out on an in-person Commencement has been painful, she said.

Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20 delivers a Commencement address to her classmates.

“Like many of you, I am still grieving this loss. The act of physically walking across that stage to receive a hard-earned diploma is one of the pinnacle moments for first-generation families and our most marginalized students. Lawrence is not easy for us. It was never meant to be. But signing up for that challenge, whether that meant leaving home a mile away or a continent away, demonstrates the strength and audacity it took to make Lawrence your own. I implore you to recognize the sheer amount of work, dedication and heart you’ve poured into yourselves and this Lawrence community over the past four years. You may be tired, overworked, or even burnt out. Relish this moment and all you’ve accomplished. Recognize the sacrifices you and your families have made and remember the great joy you’ve experienced here.”

Torres, a Posse scholar from New York City, praised her classmates for raising their voices over the past four years on issues ranging from divisive politics and immigration to LGBTQ rights and Black Lives Matter protests.

“We followed in the steps of our ancestors and of the great Lawrentians who have paved the way for us to continue making Lawrence a safe haven for all identities to be embraced and celebrated,” she said.

Continue that work no matter where your journey takes you, she said. It’s a responsibility that comes with being a Lawrentian.

“When the world tries to dim your light, shine bright,” Torres said. “No matter what comes next, anxieties and all, shine your light as fiercely as you can.”

Burstein told the graduates that a virtual Commencement does not diminish in any way the celebration of their accomplishments. But he said he has agonized over the prospect of not celebrating in person, unable to shake the hands of each graduate as they cross the stage.

“Even harder,” he said, “is knowing that Lawrence graduates you today into a world more uncertain than many generations before you. As someone who graduated from college and graduate school in another moment of economic and societal stress, I have a sense of what you may feel as you face the future. I am confident saying that regardless of what happens next, I know you have all acquired the skills necessary to succeed in this increasingly complex world.  Your future homes and workplaces will benefit from your passion and skill. Your leadership will strengthen the world in which we live.”

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

Ongiri to address “Importance of Failure” in May 28 virtual Honors Convocation

Amy A. Ongiri will deliver her Honors Convocation address virtually.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Amy A. Ongiri isn’t shy about telling you she’s failed at various things in life.

But, then, so have you. So has everyone. And yet we are reticent to speak of it, to examine it, to embrace it.

Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies at Lawrence University, calls that a missed opportunity. She’ll delve into the idea of embracing failure when she delivers the school’s annual Honors Convocation address, “The Importance of Failure.”

The Honors Convocation, which publicly recognizes students and faculty recipients of awards and prizes for excellence in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, languages, music, athletics, and service to others, was to be held in Memorial Chapel. But due to campus facilities being closed and physical distancing practices being in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the event will instead be pre-recorded and presented here at 11:10 a.m. May 28.

Yes, at an event to honor great successes, failure will take center stage.

Ongiri will tell the audience that we grow from failure, and we need to be comfortable talking about that. That’s a particularly appropriate message for young people to hear as they set out on journeys full of uncertainty. Take chances. Be willing to fail.

“There’s a lot of stigma around failure and it is especially hard to fail as a young person because you are just learning about it as an experience,” Ongiri said.

What students will discover, Ongiri said, is that there is no road map for understanding or negotiating that experience. Some failures are big and bold. Others are slight and nuanced. All are part of the jagged, crooked, unpredictable path of life.

“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,” Ongiri said.

As we mature, understanding failure and the strength that can come from it begins to make more sense. But that doesn’t mean we’re any more eager to speak of it.

“By the time you’re in your 50s, as I am, you have probably failed a lot at a wide variety of things,” Ongiri said. “But we don’t tend to value or talk about our failures as much as we do our successes.”

Ongiri, who joined the Lawrence faculty in 2014 after more than a decade on the English faculty at the University of Florida, holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree from the University of Texas, and a Ph.D. from Cornell University. Her scholarship interests have focused on African American literature and culture, film studies, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of the 2009 book, Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic.

She points to scholars such Judith Halberstam, Timothy DuWhite, and Scott Sandage as sources of insight and reflection on the topic of failure and the cultural dynamic at play. That sort of guidance is valuable at any time, but perhaps even more so as we navigate through the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The global pandemic has not only provided a case study in notable failures around health care and public infrastructure, it has given us the time to reflect on what it all means,” Ongiri said. “It has also given us the chance to reconsider what states of being associated with failure, such as loneliness, mean to us individually and collectively as a culture.”

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Six members of the Lawrence University faculty, spread across numerous academic departments, have been granted 2020 tenure appointments.

President Mark Burstein and the college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Employment Opportunity, granted tenure to Deanna Donohoue (chemistry), José L. Encarnación (music), Dylan Fitz (economics), Jonathan Lhost (economics), Lavanya Murali (anthropology), and Melissa Range (English). All six have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.

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

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

Deanna Donohoue, chemistry


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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

José L. Encarnación, music


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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Dylan Fitz, economics


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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Jonathan Lhost, economics


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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Lavanya Murali, anthropology


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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Melissa Range, English


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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

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