Category: Academics

Lawrence’s John Holiday finds joy in recruiting young music talent

John Holiday works with a student in his voice studio.
John Holiday works with a student at the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

John Holiday slips comfortably into multiple roles.

There’s John Holiday the performer, considered one of the rising young countertenors on the world opera stage.

There’s John Holiday the educator, a sought-after voice instructor at Lawrence University’s Conservatory of Music.

And then there’s John Holiday the recruiter, a man on a mission to draw some of the finest student musicians in the country to Lawrence.

He’ll be wearing all those hats this week as he joins the conservatory’s Presto! tour to Houston, but perhaps none as significantly as that of recruiter.

Houston is Holiday’s hometown. His connections there are deep, meaningful and current, and he’ll spend much of this week connecting young musicians from his beloved Texas to the university 1,200 miles away that he now calls home.

Collaborations key to Presto tour to Houston: See story here

“I have significant ties to Houston because of my family and my upbringing and my church,” said Holiday, who was born in Houston and grew up in nearby Rosenberg. “Subsequently, whenever I travel home, I always make sure that I plan to visit many of the high schools in the Houston area, chiefly the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, which is a long-standing, well-known school for the creative arts, one of the best in the United States. They have won many, many awards at the national level.”

The Presto! tour, a six-day visit to Houston featuring two Lawrence music ensembles and seven faculty members, brings Holiday’s skills in performance, teaching and recruitment into almost ideal alignment. He’ll perform on March 21 along with the two ensembles in a public concert at the Midtown Arts and Theatre Center and spend considerable time teaching and recruiting at area high schools.

He usually makes the visits to the schools solo. This time he’ll have a team with him, spreading the word of the Conservatory of Music and selling high-achieving students on why a Lawrence education would make sense.

“What I do when I go home is I always make sure that I set up master classes and important meetings with the students, not only at HSPVA but other high schools and junior highs in the area as well, so they can become acquainted with me in terms of the opera singing and the jazz singing that I do, but also so they can become acquainted with what I know is an excellent, excellent place for them, which is the Conservatory of Music at Lawrence University.

“So, it’s really keeping with that that we came up with the idea to take Presto! to Houston.”

Texas is a state that’s rich with music talent. The 33-year-old Holiday, who has been teaching at Lawrence for nearly two years, already has three students from Texas studying in his voice studio. He makes no secret that he’d love to draw more.

“Texas is a huge, huge, huge arts state,” Holiday said. “As long as we’ve got football, there’s always going to be a phenomenal band and choir in Texas. And, because I’m from Houston, I think Houston has the best.

“But I also can say I’ve experienced wonderful singing and wonderful learning in the Dallas and Austin areas, San Antonio, too. They are all over.”









“It’s my endeavor wherever I go to find those students who I believe represent what I think is a good Lawrentian.”

John Holiday


Holiday has much to sell when it comes to student recruitment. First, of course, there is the world-class quality and social outreach of the Lawrence Conservatory. Then there is his own impressive resume, which includes winning the prestigious Marian Anderson Vocal Award and performing on some of the world’s most celebrated stages.

Consider his performance schedule in the coming weeks and months. In addition to his teaching duties and the Presto! tour, there’s a date with the Dallas Opera, a May 1 faculty recital here in Appleton, a recital at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, a run of performances in England, a recital in Beverly Hills, a tour to Shanghai, a performance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, performances in Switzerland and then an early 2020 run of performances at the Los Angeles Opera.

That will get the attention of any aspiring musician looking for a mentor.

“Whenever I am somewhere singing a show, I am always recruiting,” Holiday said. “So, if I am in Florida, I’m finding a high school or a group where I can go in and mentor them and do a master class. If I’m in California, I’ll try to find the same thing. I’m actively recruiting because I believe in this school. I believe that we are a phenomenal institution and I believe that we should make it possible for students to get here, so it’s my endeavor wherever I go to find those students who I believe represent what I think is a good Lawrentian.

“A lot of these students have already heard of Lawrence. Then they are able to put a face with a name, with me. And then put a face with the school. Now they say, I know this person is there, so I should totally give it a look.”

More information on Lawrence Conservatory of Music here

It’s hard to put a value on that sort of outreach and energy, said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory.

“For us, it’s been an incredible advantage having him on the faculty because he just loves the recruiting,” he said.

Doing that recruiting in your hometown? Even better.

“I’m so looking forward to it,” Holiday said of this week’s Presto! visit to Houston. “It makes my heart soar just knowing there are Texas students coming here, because I am a Texas guy through and through.”

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

Collaborations key as Lawrence Conservatory takes its social impact mantra on the road to Houston

Poster and link to information on the Presto Houston tour.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three years ago, Brian Pertl, equipped with donated funds that would allow the Lawrence Conservatory to launch an annual music tour, set forth a vision for what that might be.

Concert performances would be only one part of any touring experience, the dean of the conservatory said. Any tour would have to mesh with how the conservatory has been evolving and growing over the past decade.

“We’ve been trying very hard to redefine what a conservatory education is,” Pertl said. “Part of that vision is to really ask the question, how can music impact society in positive ways?”

It was with that mission in mind that Presto! was launched three years ago, an annual music tour that would take Lawrence musicians — students and faculty — into a chosen metro market for a mix of musical performances and community outreach, an immersion aimed at establishing relationships and community well-being as much as sharing talents and expanding the conservatory’s musical footprint.

First came a multi-day visit to Minneapolis, with outreach efforts focused on mental health awareness, in addition to public performances. The second year was a deep dive into Chicago, where concerts were supplemented with outreach efforts with groups serving underrepresented communities.

Link to video of Presto visit to Chicago in 2018.
Video: Revisit the 2018 Presto! tour to Chicago

Now comes year three, and the most ambitious Presto! excursion to date. Beginning today, the New Music Ensemble and a select jazz ensemble, along with seven faculty members, will embark on a six-day trip to Houston — hometown of rising opera star and Assistant Professor of Music John Holiday — to perform at the Midtown Arts and Theatre Center and do music outreach and education.

Presto! 2019 details: Houston info here

Meet LU’s John Holiday: Rising music star and talent recruiter

The outreach will include two days of music collaborations with young artists who create electronic music at Workshop Houston, a nonprofit after-school organization that recently made news when it received a $100,000 donation from rapper Travis Scott.

The Lawrence students also will spend three days in an elementary school working with third- and fourth-graders, teaching arts-integrated lesson plans.

John Holiday head and shoulders photo
John Holiday

A concert on Thursday, March 21 will showcase both of the Lawrence ensembles, featuring students and faculty members. Transitioning from one ensemble to the next will be a set by Holiday, first displaying his talents with a classical repertoire, then pivoting to jazz, where his talents are equally lauded.

Faculty members and Lawrence students also will pay visits to Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The school is a hotbed for the kind of smart, talented musicians Lawrence covets. Pertl said he would love to see more HSPVA students choose to come to Appleton.

“Texas has probably the most astounding public-school music programs in the country,” Pertl said. “It’s phenomenal, the musicians coming out of Texas and the number of musicians coming out of Texas.

“So, for us, if we’re looking at recruiting, anywhere in Texas is a big deal — the fact that John Holiday is from Houston, the fact that John has already created this really amazing relationship with the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, makes Houston a logical choice for the tour. We already have several students from Texas at our conservatory, and we would love to see more.”

Holiday was honored a year ago as the winner of the prestigious Marian Anderson Vocal Award and is considered one of the rising stars of the opera world, a countertenor who got a hometown welcome in November when he sang the National Anthem at a Houston Rockets game.

“He is quickly becoming one of the top operatic countertenors in the world, and his hometown of Houston is embracing their hometown hero,” Pertl said.

Featuring Holiday on the Houston trip, both in recruiting young talent and being showcased at the concert, ties everything together. In the case of the concert, that tie is literal, with the two ensembles and their distinctly different repertoires bookending the set from Holiday.

“Since John does both classical music at the highest level and jazz at the highest level, it seemed like a great idea to have him as the pivot point between the New Music Ensemble and the jazz,” Pertl said.










Brian Pertl: “It’s really an amazing thing, and it changes our students.”

Music Tour With a Mission

The underlying tone of the Presto! Houston tour — music with a purpose — speaks to the direction the conservatory has taken since Pertl arrived in 2008. From the Music for All series that takes live performances into spaces that rarely experience such things to ongoing ensemble performances in a nearby prison, the conservatory has put an emphasis on community outreach and positivity.

The Lawrence Conservatory education is deep, focused on bringing students to the highest level of musicianship, but the education doesn’t stop there. Lawrence is also focused on how music can positively impact society. That’s something that separates Lawrence from other conservatories, and people are taking notice.

“A blog that came out last year on musicschoolcentral.com was all about Lawrence and it was titled, ‘Is this the world’s most socially conscious music school?’” Pertl said. “Yes, we are. I’ll take that headline any day.”

More on ensembles on Presto tour: New MusicJazz

When monies donated three years ago by Lawrence alumnus Tom Hurvis ’60 and his foundation made the annual tour possible — the original commitment was for three years but that has now been extended to at least five — Pertl and his faculty set out to create a touring experience that would be substantive and heartfelt for not only the students but the community to which they would be reaching out.

“The vision we wanted to explore, which nobody really had done, is integrating high-level performance experiences with deeply meaningful community collaborations,” Pertl said. “How can a tour impact a place positively? How can we form meaningful collaborations with organizations so both parties feel like it’s an incredible, positive experience?”

Getting creative in Houston

The Lawrence contingent will try to do just that in Houston, most notably with Workshop Houston, an after-school organization that has programs in Houston’s Third Ward that range from fashion design to dance to music. The students who gather in the music spaces work on computers to create electronic beats.

Workshop Houston officials have been sending tracks their students created to Lawrence. Conservatory professors Jose Encarnacion and Patty Darling and their jazz students have been listening to them and are preparing to collaborate with the young artists when they get to Houston, mixing live playing with the electronic beats to create new music.

“So, improvisation, creating riffs and music over the top, and then at the end of the two days there will be a concert featuring the students from Workshop Houston and Lawrence,” Pertl said.

The key is the collaboration — honing and developing skills and finding the joy in creating something together, said Betsy Kowal, who is helping to facilitate the trip for Lawrence.

Workshop Houston originally opened as a bike repair shop where kids could go after school to work on their bikes. It has evolved over the past 15 years into a multi-tiered program drawing students between sixth and 12th grades interested in a range of arts and academic activities.

Deidra Motton, the community liaison at Workshop Houston, said there are 25 to 30 students who regularly work on music in the organization’s Beat Shop. The five or six students who are the most deeply involved in exploring electronic music will be the ones partnering with the Lawrence contingent in creating new music that melds the computer-generated beats with the live performance.

“This is very new to us,” Motton said. “I just love to see these two worlds collide. It seems like Lawrence is very focused on the classical aspects of music composition and performance, and our students are really digging into the whole programming aspect. I’ve never seen a program merge those two worlds quite like this, so I’m really excited.”

Meanwhile, the outreach with students at Scarborough Elementary School is being facilitated, in part, by Craig Hauschildt, a Lawrence alumnus who is an arts integration specialist in Houston. The goal during the three-day residency in the school is to use music to teach skills that can be used long after the Lawrence students have departed, including preparing the young students for success in their state standardized testing.

“When we design our community engagement residencies, we’re always asking ourselves, how can this residency serve the mission of our partner and benefit their organization in the long run?” Kowal said.

Lessons learned in Minneapolis and Chicago will be applied to Houston. That includes a focus on those lasting impacts. Appleton is 1,200 miles from Houston, so a return visit isn’t realistic. But how can the work being done on this tour pay dividends going forward?

“Each year brings a new understanding of how this project can grow and develop,” Kowal said. “We’re constantly learning as we go, and it’s an ever-evolving understanding.”

The results thus far have been positive, Pertl said, if for no other reason than showing conservatory students in a very real way the power of music and how it can change someone’s world. In a survey following last year’s Chicago tour, 65 percent of the students who participated said their vision of what they wanted to do with music changed because of their Presto! experience.

“It’s really an amazing thing, and it changes our students,” Pertl said. “I love to see that. That’s a lot better than just going on tour and the thing you remember is going out to Denny’s at 1 in the morning.”

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

Murphy wins a Watson Fellowship, eyes violin-inspired exploration

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Meghan Murphy has an opportunity to take her violin on the road.

The Lawrence University senior from Wauwatosa was notified Friday that she is one of 41 national recipients of a Watson Fellowship for a year-long wanderjahr of independent travel and exploration. Like all applicants, she has a grace period to decide if she will accept it.

Head shot of Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy ’19

Based on her Watson application, she would head to India, Norway, Azerbaijan, Ireland and Mexico to explore musical traditions that incorporate violins and violin-like instruments.

“From the Azerbaijani kamancha to the Norwegian fiddle, similar physical tools express vastly contrasting styles of music,” Murphy said in her Watson statement. “Whether for dance or lullabies, these instruments allow people to create community and speak their souls. The violin is deeply ingrained in my own cultural and emotional experience.

“During my Watson, I will immerse myself in violin traditions, learning the nuances that allow this versatile instrument to slip between cultures.”

Murphy, who has been a recipient of the Kim Hiett Jordan Scholarship at Lawrence, is the 66th Lawrentian to win a Watson fellowship since 1969.

“I am extremely grateful to all the professors, staff, and students at Lawrence — particularly my advisors — who have invested their time and energy to help me see the best in myself,” Murphy said Friday after getting the news of her Watson selection. “I would not be in the position, and much less have the confidence, to apply for and receive the Watson without this incredible community.” 

Murphy is studying violin performance and religious studies at Lawrence.

She is part of the 51st class of Thomas J. Watson Fellows. The Watson provides funding for a year of purposeful international discovery for graduating college seniors in any discipline. This year’s class hails from six countries and 18 states, and fellows will travel to 76 countries exploring a wide range of topics.

Brian Pertl, dean of the Lawrence Conservatory of Music, said Murphy’s curiosity of music and of the world around her would serve her well on a year-long Watson journey.

“Meghan has everything it takes to make the very most of her dream to study violin traditions from around the globe,” Pertl said. “She is a wonderful violinist who brings with her infinite curiosity, and a gift for picking up her violin and jumping into any music setting you can possibly imagine.”

For information on applying for a Watson Fellowship, click here

Murphy admits she had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the violin during childhood. But by the time she reached high school, she was fully hooked on what she calls the “emotional messiness of music.” And during a year of study in China between high school and enrolling at Lawrence, she had a moment that spoke to the power of the music she is so drawn to.

“I think about the time when I was homesick in southern China and began playing Bach’s Chaconne in my room,” Murphy wrote in her personal statement, part of the Watson application. “An old woman from a nearby village heard and came to listen. I did not understand her village’s language and she could not read or write, but she showed me pictures of the beautiful Batik art she creates and I played for her. It was an incredibly meaningful moment of shared humanity.

“We still sometimes send pictures or recordings to each other, even though we have no way to communicate through words.”

Murphy anticipates more emotional connections via music as she prepares for a year of study that would take her around the globe.

According to her project proposal, she plans to first head to Norway in September, where she would study the hardanger fiddle. She’d be there for about three months, and would be seeking opportunities to perform with local music groups.

“When I was young, I used to attend barn dances and was enchanted by the echoing sound of this fiddle,” she said.

She would then head to Pune, India, located on the western side of India, where she’d study the Hindustani violin.

Then it would be on to Mexico, where she’d study violin techniques with a professor of music at the Conservatorio de las Rosas in Morelia. The professor, Julian Vazquez, “collaborates with four different styles of traditional music ensembles from musically significant regions in Mexico,” Murphy said. “These include Son huasteco, Purepecha music and ensembles from Michoacan and Guerrero.”

Next would be a visit to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, where she would study the kamancha, an instrument similar to the Chinese erhu.

Her last stop would be in Ireland, where, among other things, she would learn traditional Irish fiddling and to better connect her violin to dance.

“Learning new styles of music will expose me to the histories, languages, values, and cultures of many countries,” Murphy said. “As I continue my path in pursuit of failure and growth, I will also improve skills like improvising, learning by ear, and collaborative composing.

“Most importantly, however, I will continue the long process of learning how to make people dance or cry through the voice of the violin.”

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

Fleshman, Hakes, Piasecki earn 2019 tenure appointments at Lawrence

Aerial photo of Main Hall and Steitz Hall of Science
Lawrence University

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty — all teaching in the sciences — have been granted 2019 tenure appointments.

The college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment and Equal Employment Opportunity, and President Mark Burstein, granted tenure to Allison Fleshman (chemistry), Alyssa Hakes (biology) and Brian Piasecki (biology). All three have been promoted to associate professor, effective Sept. 1.

“Lawrence has some of the best faculty in the world; I can say that with certainty because I get the immense pleasure of seeing direct evidence testifying to that fact every year in reviewing the accomplishments of faculty who stand for tenure,” said Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty. “This year’s tenure class had the unique aspect of really showing off faculty talent in the sciences. Alyssa, Brian, and Allison are not only doing stellar work in their labs, they are true teacher-scholars, who meaningfully involve their students deeply in their own research.

“I am delighted that they have chosen Lawrence as their intellectual home, and look forward to applauding their accomplishments in the future.”

To help you get to know the three new tenure appointments a little better, we gave them each four questions to answer:

Allison Fleshman

Portrait of Allison Fleshman
Allison Fleshman

Promoted to associate professor of chemistry. Joined Lawrence in 2013. Fleshman has a bachelor of science degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma.

What or who inspired you to pursue chemistry?

“I’ve always been in awe of nature, and trying to unlock her secrets is the job of a scientist. My particular science, physical chemistry, is about understanding how nature’s building blocks — atoms and molecules — interact and move about.

“As an undergraduate, I couldn’t decide between physics and chemistry, so what a delight when I worked as an undergraduate summer researcher with physical chemist Roger Frech (who later became my doctoral advisor) and learned I could do both. It’s incredible to look at a chemical problem as a physicist and see the mathematical interworkings unfold. 

“I also love to teach and share my passion for this subject, so working at Lawrence allows me to share physical chemistry with students in class sizes that are small enough that we can really dive deep into the material. I often joke that I get paid to read a textbook and share my findings with a captive audience — I absolutely love it.”

What about the work you’re doing at Lawrence has you the most excited?

“My research looks into what makes liquids flow, which seems like something we should understand. But as we learn more about materials on the molecular level we discover that our understanding is incomplete. What excites me most about this work is that it is rewriting what is in the textbooks.

“My students often take the textbook as absolute truth, but this work helps them see that even our most agreed upon understanding still has room for improvement. In addition, the liquids I study are called ionic liquids — salts in the liquid form — and they are showing great promise as materials for carbon sequestration, and could help revolutionize industrial processes that emit greenhouse gases. It is essential that we all act to combat global climate change, and this research lets me fight it both in the lab and in the classroom.”

How do you think your students would describe your teaching style?

“My students probably wouldn’t argue that I love my subject more than humanly possible and think physical chemistry is one of the most beautiful disciplines to study. That enthusiasm also seeps into my teaching. ‘Go Team’ is a phrase I say quite often, and I think my students would liken me to their cheerleader/coach, encouraging them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and embrace the challenging path.” 

What’s something you do outside of work that gives you joy?

“I practice yoga on a daily basis and find peace and serenity in that daily ritual. I am also a co-owner of a local brewery located in downtown Appleton with my husband and his family called McFleshman’s Brewing Co. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m in the taproom supporting the family’s efforts to make traditional English and German beers. My chemistry skills help us bridge the art of brewing with fermentation science and those efforts yield some delicious pints. Cheers!” 

Alyssa Hakes

Portrait of Alyssa Hakes
Alyssa Hakes

Promoted to associate professor of biology. Joined Lawrence in 2012. Hakes holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

What or who inspired you to pursue biology?

“I wanted to be an ecologist since I was a kid. I fell in love with nature reading Ranger Rick magazines and through hiking and camping with my family and Girl Scouts. I first became interested in insects during the 17-year periodical cicada emergence of 1990 in the Chicago area. I collected a bunch and brought them to ‘show and tell.’

“My interest in plants started when I made a wildflower trail for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, and then continued in college when I went on a research trip to Panama to study rainforest plants. Because of that experience, I know how important faculty-mentored undergraduate research opportunities are to the development of a young scientist. By specializing in ecological interactions between plants and insects, I was able to combine all of my interests in botany, entomology, and ecology into one research program.”

What about the work you’re doing at Lawrence has you the most excited?

“My lab has been doing an exciting project in Door County involving a rare plant and invasive insect. The federally-threatened Pitcher’s thistle is a native plant that is found only in sand dune habitats of the Great Lakes. Recently, an ‘evil weevil’ has invaded the sand dunes and is eating the seeds of the plant, which is bad news.

“My students and I take summer research trips to the Lake Michigan field site and have discovered areas of the dune where weevil damage is more intense and less intense. Our data show that dune elevation and neighboring plant community influence weevil dispersal and damage. We are now using this knowledge to develop methods for controlling the insect and conserving the plant. The proximity of our field site to Bjorklunden has been key to our success. And it’s fun to have a beach as a summer office.”     

How do you think your students would describe your teaching style?

“I hope that my passion for the content comes through in my lectures. I like finding creative ways to demonstrate biological concepts in class, whether it’s making insect mouthpart puppets, throwing cut-out paper ‘seeds’ off the atrium balcony to study dispersal, anaesthetizing a touch-sensitive plant in class, or baking horrible-tasting cookies for students to demonstrate ‘Batesian Mimicry.’

“I like to be a little goofy and rarely pass on an opportunity to make a lame pun, adapt a meme to a class topic for a laugh, or tell stories that connect students with the material and make class more enjoyable. Through course evaluations, students have called me helpful, caring, and approachable. I don’t think I’ve been described as ‘hilarious’ on a course evaluation yet, but that’s secretly the dream.

What’s something you do outside of work that gives you joy?

“I enjoy spending time with my spouse and two kids. It’s fun seeing our kids develop their personalities and watching them try new things for the first time. We try to spend time with both sets of their grandparents as often as we can, which is a real privilege. 

“I am active in my Appleton church, and I love being invited to talk about the science of evolution with my congregation. Evolution was something I once misunderstood as a teenager, but has become an exciting and integral part of my scientific career. It brings me joy to share my passion for evolutionary biology with others in my faith community. I also teach Sunday School.

“To relax, I like watching baseball and Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes.”

Brian Piasecki

Portrait of Brian Piasecki
Brian Piasecki

Promoted to associate professor of biology. Joined Lawrence in 2011. Piasecki holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas, a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

What or who inspired you to pursue biology?

“Growing up my two biggest hobbies were building and taking things apart and experiencing nature through a variety of activities like camping, hiking, and climbing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the type of cell biology I do merges both of these interests. I now study how the individual molecular constituents of cells affect the function of organisms as a whole, and because I focus on evolutionarily conserved processes, this allows for me to simultaneously understand how organisms function and to more broadly experience the awesomeness of life.”

What about the work you’re doing at Lawrence has you the most excited?

“The old cliché that says a picture represents a thousand words works at both the macro and microscopic level, so biological imaging is what excites me most. I am enamored by visualizing cellular processes and sharing this passion with students by showing them how to use a variety of different microscopes. To me there is nothing more rewarding than watching a student grasp a biological concept by visualizing it with their own eyes.”

How do you think your students would describe your teaching style?

“I think students would describe me as highly engaged. I equally love biology and trying to make biology relevant to others.”

What’s something you do outside of work that gives you joy?

“As much as I enjoy working with others and having a family, I am actually a little more introverted by nature. Therefore, I really enjoy hobbies that allow for me to disconnect for a while, like woodworking. A few years ago, I discovered the ‘pocket hole,’ which is a really easy method for making rock-solid wood joints. Some might consider it cheating, but to me it provides an easy way to build my own durable and functional things around the house. In the past few years I have built a bathroom vanity, a couple of cabinets, and a combined shoe rack/bench.”

Mellon report: Liberal arts education prepares students for today’s job market

Aerial photo showing the Warch Center and the quad on the Lawrence University campus.
Lawrence University

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Liberal arts college students, take heart. That education you are pursuing will not only provide you with critical thinking skills and a rich array of experiences to prepare you for an engaged life, it also preps you for economic success in today’s rapidly changing job market.

That message comes through loud and clear in a newly released report by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that debunks the notion that students are better served pursuing pre-professional programs that are hailed as being more market-ready.

At Lawrence University, the liberal arts education is paired tightly with newly enhanced career counseling, a focus on entrepreneurship and a desire to stay connected with students long after they’ve graduated. It’s a formula that provides the best of both worlds — a broad, deeply diverse and enriching educational experience and an infrastructure designed to prepare students for the workforce through career advising, internships, fellowships and other opportunities administered via the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLCE).

Anne Jones, the interim director of the CLCE who has overseen the recent implementation of enhanced career advisory tools, said preparation for a rapidly changing job market is a key part of the liberal arts education at Lawrence.

“It’s limiting to be trained during college for a specific role because of how quickly the environment and the industries are changing,” she said. “So, we try to teach students to learn to learn, so that they are better able to react as the jobs change.”

The CLCE is in the process of rolling out the first phase of its new initiatives aimed at making sure no student falls through the cracks when it comes to honing career-building skills. Newly built “career communities” that bring together Lawrence students with related career interests will put resources, experts, contacts and opportunities at their fingertips. The new tools will be publicly rolled out when students return to campus for spring term.

Connect to Career Communities here

Information on Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLCE) here

Mixing those enhanced career-building opportunities with the critical-thinking mantra of a liberal arts education is the Lawrence way. The Mellon Foundation report affirms the value of that investment of time, energy and money.

The Mellon report acknowledges that the choice of a career field will certainly affect a student’s long-term economic prospects — yes, engineers will make more than elementary school teachers — but it argues that that is the case no matter what type of institution you enroll in. And the idea that liberal arts colleges are not offering majors in many of the in-demand STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — is pure fallacy.

“Critics claim that a liberal arts education is worth less than the alternatives, and perhaps, not even worth the investment at all,” the report states. “They argue that increasing costs and low future earnings limit the value of a liberal arts education, especially compared to alternative options such as pre-professional programs that appear to be better rewarded in the current labor market.”

Not true, says the Mellon report.

“Existing evidence does not support these conclusions, when other student and institutional characteristics are controlled for,” the report continues.

The report was authored by Catharine B. Hill and Elizabeth Davidson Pisacreta, both economists with Ithaka S+R.

See full Mellon Foundation report here

They call the perception that liberal arts colleges are not graduating students in math and science a myth. While many liberal arts colleges, including Lawrence, do not offer an engineering degree, their offerings are robust in other STEM fields.

Lawrence, for example, has long had sought-after programs in biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics and mathematics, to name a few.

And, the report says, it’s important to acknowledge that not every student wants to be an engineer or a scientist. The income gap has more to do with career choices than whether you pursue a liberal arts education.

But it’s still important, the Mellon report authors state, for liberal arts colleges to be in front of the argument that there isn’t an adequate payoff for the investment. Don’t hide from the naysayers. Instead, show prospective students and their families where the value is and what you’re doing to prepare students to be job market-ready when they graduate and for future career growth.

“It therefore behooves liberal arts defenders to recognize and validate these concerns and provide evidence of the pecuniary benefits to a liberal education so that students and families can take them into account in their decision-making,” the report states.

Head shot of Lawrence President Mark Burstein
Mark Burstein

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein, a history major while an undergraduate at Vassar College, said he can proudly raise his hand when it comes to seeing first-hand the value of a liberal arts education and its ability to prepare students for a wide range of opportunities.

“I took a circuitous path to a college presidency with positions at a Wall Street investment bank, an organizational development consulting firm, and New York City government, followed by leadership positions at Columbia and Princeton universities,” Burstein said. “This career would not have been possible without the skills I learned as a history major at a liberal arts college. There I learned how to present complex topics, lead in a diverse community, and critically analyze the central issues that face society.

“It is nice to see that Hill and Pisacreta’s research underlines what I have experienced, that a liberal arts degree prepares us for career success.”

The Mellon report acknowledges that it’s difficult to define a liberal arts education because factors and practices vary from institution to institution. But at its core it includes a broad array of experiences and opportunities, infused with subject matter across a wide swath of educational terrain, all with an emphasis on critical thinking. 

“A liberal education therefore may be characterized not only by what is taught, but how it is taught and the skills that it develops as a result,” the report states.

The liberal arts approach prepares a student for career mobility and nimbleness, the CLCE’s Jones said.

“Many of the roles that will be out there might not even exist today,” she said. “The liberal arts do a really good job of teaching people the intellectual strength to think and learn, which should prepare them well.”

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

Richard Yatzeck, longtime professor of Russian at Lawrence, dies

Richard Yatzeck, professor emeritus of Russian, passed away on March 7, at the age of 86.

Yatzeck had one of the longest tenures in Lawrence University’s history. He joined the faculty in 1966, retiring in 2014 after a distinguished 48-year career at Lawrence that included leading students on multiple summer-long treks through Eastern Europe.

Richard Yatzeck

He was in his element teaching Russian literature and leading those biennial expeditions to Russia and Eastern Europe.

Upon his retirement nearly five years ago, Yatzeck noted that he wasn’t much of a fan of the modern world, preferring instead to savor the wonders of the 19th Century and the writings of Tolstoy, Pushkin and Dostoevsky.

“Basically, the only way to amuse yourself was to read and that’s what I’ve done all my life, and so in some ways I feel as if I still live in the 19th Century,” Yatzeck said just before his retirement in the summer of 2014 at the age of 81. He noted that he never owned a television.

“Part of being happy teaching at Lawrence is a lot of my work is spent reading and preparing for classes and the thinking that goes along with it,” he said. “When you read a book, you have to make your own pictures so that you’re exercising your imagination. What is this guy saying, what would it look like?”

To see obituary in The Post-Crescent, click here

Yatzeck began organizing every-other-year trips to Russia and Eastern Europe with former professor George Smalley shortly after he joined the faculty in 1966. Traveling in seven Volkswagen buses, as many as 35 students would participate in the trips throughout the continent.

“The (Lawrence) authorities at that time thought it would be a good idea. I’m not sure why they did because everybody else asked us if we’d get back alive,” said Yatzeck, who called the trips the highlight of his teaching career. “They were certainly good for my oral Russian.”

Those trips — as well as two stints (1991, 1997) as director of the ACM’s study-abroad program in Krasnodar — inspired him to chronicle his experiences in the 2012 book, “Russia in Private,” a collection of his observations of Russian life.

Yatzeck was also an avid hunter and fisherman.

“They are quite different things,” he said of teaching and his outdoor pursuits. “The business about hunting is you switch off your intellect and you listen to your senses. Something smells or you hear or taste something and your intellectual powers are in abeyance, and that’s a nice rest. But that isn’t how you teach.”

Yatzeck’s scholarly work included a dozen published poems, but he also wrote extensively about the outdoors, including 11 articles for Gray’s “Sporting Journal,” the “New Yorker” of outdoor literature. His first book was 1999’s “Hunting the Edges,” a collection of his musings about the philosophical, not the practical, aspects of the outdoors.

An on-campus memorial for Yatzeck is being planned for Reunion Weekend. It’s schedule for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. June 15 in Strange Commons in Main Hall.

Details will be included in the Reunion Weekend schedule.

Use of VR tech now reality in classrooms; FaCE grant to ramp up pace

Christopher Gore-Gammon wears VR headset in photo linking to video.

“One of the reasons I did that project was not only to explore my interest in it but also to give Lawrence the chance to pioneer in an art medium and form that not many schools are doing yet.”

Christopher Gore-Gammon ’17, on creating with virtual reality

— — —

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When students in Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology of South Asia class explored a Bangladesh refugee camp via a documentary, they did much more than just watch the narrated video.

Without leaving campus, the Lawrence University students walked the paths of the camp housing Rohingya Muslims who had fled violence in Myanmar.

Virtual Reality (VR) technology allowed the students to take the walking tour, with a 360-degree view. Not only could they walk with and listen to the “I Am Rohingya” tour guide discuss the camp, they could veer off on their own, wander inside the makeshift housing at the camp, explore the edges.

“For me, the object was to humanize something that is such a huge crisis,” Murali said, “and to have my students understand how refugees were living and the conditions in which they were living and to understand the magnitude of the refugee crisis.

“And I think the VR experience did that because it’s immersive. It does a better job of that than just watching the documentary would have.”

The experience of the Murali class, using Google Cardboard headsets with smartphones during winter term 2018, is an early example of VR technology being integrated into the classroom at Lawrence.

Constance Kassor, an assistant professor of religious studies, followed suit this term, using the Google Cardboard headsets for students to explore religious sites in India and Tibet. Martyn Smith, associate professor of religious studies, has been dabbling in other uses of the technology in class.

More is on the way, be it VR, Augmented Reality (AR) or 3D technology.

The Makerspace wing of the Seeley G. Mudd Library, housing the early investments in that technology, has already been expanded and reconfigured since its launch three years ago.

EXPLORE MORE: See Film Studies and Seeley G. Mudd Library

The next step will come this summer when faculty representatives from Lawrence will join with other Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) schools for a conference on blending immersive technologies with liberal arts classrooms.

Lawrence, led by Reference and Learning Technologies Librarian Angela Vanden Elzen, and other ACM schools successfully sought a Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) grant to fund a two-day workshop in July aimed at kick-starting new collaborative efforts to share, promote and develop best practices for growing the use of VR, AR and 3D technologies in classrooms at 11 ACM schools.

The workshop will be held at Grinnell College and will be a jumping off point for collaboration that will be ongoing, Vanden Elzen said.

They’ll share not only the classroom potential of VR and AR but also some of the low-cost options that make the technology accessible without major blows to the budget. Murali, for example, is among the Lawrence professors already using Google Cardboard, a VR platform adaptable to a smartphone, available for as little as $10 each.

“At a lot of these campuses, there is a small handful of people, in some cases maybe only one, who are doing this kind of stuff with their students,” Vanden Elzen said. “It’s going to provide a great opportunity for a bunch of people interested in VR and AR and 3D visualizations to share what we’ve learned.”

Pioneers in VR tech

Lawrence has had a handful of students dive into VR for their Chandler Senior Experience, including two this year under the guidance of Anne Haydock, assistant professor of film studies.

Two years ago, Christopher Gore-Gammon ’17 and Noah Gunther ’17 were pioneers of sorts, the first two Lawrence students to use VR in their Senior Experience projects.

Gore-Gammon, now a videographer with Lawrence after graduating with a degree in film/cinema/video studies, said helping Lawrence push forward on the use of VR and AR technologies was a big motivator for him.

“One of the reasons I did that project was not only to explore my interest in it but also to give Lawrence the chance to pioneer in an art medium and form that not many schools are doing yet,” he said. “You have your art schools here and there that are doing it, but liberal arts schools of this size aren’t even venturing close to it. So, to integrate VR and AR into not only the projects that students do but into the classroom itself gives Lawrence a unique opportunity to change how we approach pedagogy, and how we approach not only teaching the students that come in but also teaching each other.”

Piquing the interest of faculty

Getting faculty buy-in across campus is the next hurdle for many schools. Some schools have jumped into VR and AR technology with more enthusiasm than others. Some have faculty members already experienced in the new technologies. Others do not. Lawrence has made significant progress over the past couple of years but there is room to grow.

What schools are finding, Vanden Elzen said, is that students are often ahead of their instructors in this technology and are pushing for it to be used in the classroom.

Kassor called the new technology an innovative tool to get students engaged in exploration on a deeper level. In early February, 10 students in her class on Buddhism in India and Tibet used VR headsets to go on a virtual scavenger hunt, seeking and exploring monasteries, temples, statues and murals.

“I gave students a basic orientation in how to use the VR viewers and some apps they might want to look at on their phones,” Kassor said. “Then I kind of turned them loose and gave them time to explore, and then we had a kind of show-and-tell after they found things.

“The value of that for me was really just to give students another opportunity to explore things on their own rather than me curating content for them. It was really encouraging them to do something a little bit more than just a Google image search.”

The students’ enthusiasm reflected the growing interest in the technology, and the classroom possibilities, Kassor said.

At Lawrence, that growth in student interest can be seen in the Senior Experience projects as well as the daily traffic coming in and out of Makerspace.

“Students have been really embracing this,” Vanden Elzen said. “At first there were just a few students who would use this space. Now we’ve seen a lot of students embrace the space independently. So, it’s kind of come the other way around where the students are telling their professors what they’ve been making in the Makerspace.”

Meanwhile, Film Studies just got approval to create a high-end VR station just outside of Makerspace in the library. While the impetus came from Film Studies, it’ll be available to students across all majors, perhaps as early as the start of next term.

Film students “will use it to develop their own VR content to be used with the campus HTC Vive VR headsets,” Vanden Elzen said. “They’ll be using Unreal 4, a game-design program, and a 3D modeling program, probably Blendr, to create their content. … We’re hoping that by having this resource in the library, students from all majors will feel like this is available for them to use.”

That’s part of the VR momentum that’s building on campus, Gore-Gammon said.

“There are already multiple students who are interested,” he said. “They don’t have to be experts, but they’re interested. And soon we will go from the two people — me and this other student — two years ago to these students this year to eventually there will be 50 students who will want to do it, and that will be amazing.”

When Kassor and some of her students return to Nepal next year — a biennual trip — she hopes to have students create VR content that students back in Appleton can then access. That’s the next step in this VR journey, she said.

“We can bring some of that back and some of the students who don’t have the opportunity to travel can experience some of the same things the students who are traveling get to experience.”

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

Dean selected to lead Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement

Michael O’Connor has been selected as the new Riaz Waraich Dean of Lawrence University’s Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement.

Currently the Director of Career Exploration at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, O’Connor will fill the newly endowed deanship. It’s supported by a $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 that was announced in November at the launch of Lawrence’s $220 million Be the Light! Campaign.

Portrait of Michael O'Connor
Michael O’Connor

O’Connor will begin his new role May 1, overseeing a revamped and reenergized office that prepares students for life after Lawrence, develops and sustains networking connections with alumni near and far, assists in fellowship opportunities and enhances career connections in the community. He will report to Christopher Card, Vice President for Student Life.

For O’Connor, the opportunity to put into play the recommendations that came from the Task Force on Life After Lawrence – the final report was released in May 2018 – was too good to pass up. He praised President Mark Burstein’s leadership, saying the enhanced commitment to career services for all Lawrence students ties in well with other initiatives designed to make Lawrence more accessible and increasingly responsive to student needs.

“I love the strategic direction the school is going under Mark’s leadership,” O’Connor said. “I love how the college is smart for investing in its core strengths, and raising its national profile while increasing affordability/accessibility and leveraging its unique learning environment.

“I love the integration of fellowships, community engagements, and career services under CLCE, and see limitless potential for connecting our broader mission to both the broader Lawrence and Appleton communities.”

Card said O’Connor’s appointment “is the culmination of a national search for a distinguished professional to lead the center.”

O’Connor comes to the Riaz Waraich Deanship following more than five years as director of the Career Exploration program that is part of the Career Center at Williams College. He is second in command at the Career Center, and spent seven months as its interim director in 2015-16.

He previously served as director of the Office of Career Planning at Sage Colleges in New York, and worked in career services at Union College in New York and Hiram College in Ohio.

He has a bachelor’s of arts degree with a major in psychology from the University of Connecticut and a master’s of arts and social sciences degree from Binghamton University with a concentration in student affairs and diversity.

Associate Professor of History Monica Rico, who was a member of the Lawrence search committee, said she was impressed not only with O’Connor’s wide-ranging work with students but also his collaborations with faculty.

“Mike has a proven record of developing, implementing, and refining approaches to post-graduate life that connect with students at all phases of their college experience,” Rico said. “He’s emerging as a nationally known expert on career planning for liberal arts students.”

Anne Jones, who has served as the interim dean of the CLCE for the past year, will continue in that role until O’Connor arrives in May.

“I want to acknowledge the amazing work by Anne Jones, who has led that department with distinction since February of last year,” Card said.

The deanship is named after Hurvis’ business partner, Riaz Waraich, as recognition of how quality partnerships are often key to career success.

That’s a theme O’Connor is looking to build on in his new role.

“I loved the thoughtful design of the position and fabulous work by the Life After Lawrence Task Force,” he said. “I think the CLCE team is poised for big things.”

Lawrence University on list of schools producing most Fulbright recipients

With five recent graduates teaching abroad on Fulbright awards, Lawrence University landed on a prestigious list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students this year.

Fulbright logoEach year the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces the top-producing institutions for the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

The 2018-19 list that features Lawrence  was published Monday in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Five students from Lawrence received Fulbright awards through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program for academic year 2018-19, tying a school record previously set in 2014-15. Lawrence has had at least one Fulbright student recipient every year since 2006-07. The school has had multiple recipients in nine of the past 11 years.

“The designation as a top-producing institution reaffirms that our students continue to excel at the highest levels and that a Lawrence education is well recognized as rigorous, competitive and influential,” Vice President for Student Life Christopher Card said. “That we have earned this distinction is cause for celebration for the whole institution, in part because it is a collective, institutional effort to prepare our students to ‘be the light’ for all to see.

“We are grateful to the scholars, their faculty supporters and fellowship staff for their hard work and dedicated energies – they have made us proud and deserve our gratitude.”

The five Lawrence Fulbright recipients this year:

Nalee Douangvilay ’18, who studied English, is spending her Fulbright year teaching in South Korea.

Augusta Finzel ’18, who studied biology and Russian studies, is teaching in Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland, and studying the effects of climate change on the local population.

William Gill ’18, who studied German and government, is teaching in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

Elena Hudacek ’18, who studied Spanish and linguistics, is teaching and leading conversation circles at the National University of Colombia in Bogota.

Emilio Salvia ’17, who studied biology and German, is teaching at a gesamtschule, a comprehensive school in Harsewinkel, Germany.

Kia Thao, Coordinator of Pre-Professional Advising and Major Fellowships at Lawrence, said the Fulbright honor highlights the numerous opportunities students have to pursue fellowships and scholarships.

“Getting recognized as one of the top-producing institutions is an acknowledgement of the great things Lawrence students can achieve,” she said. “I would like to encourage Lawrence students to dream big dreams and to apply to as many fellowships and scholarships as they are eligible. In addition to receiving the grant, the benefits of applying to scholarships and fellowships are also valuable.  The process of applying to any scholarship will help students develop a clear sense of their career goals, enhance their writing and interviewing skills, and personal growth.”

Being on the list of top-producing schools is notable and speaks to Lawrence’s world view, officials with the Fulbright program said.

“We thank the colleges and universities across the United States that we are recognizing as Fulbright top-producing institutions for their role in increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” said Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Fulbright competition is administered at Lawrence through the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 390,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns, according to a statement released by the Fulbright program. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English, and conduct research abroad each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries.

Lawrence has had 57 student recipients since 1976.

The annual application process requires a commitment from the students, faculty and staff, Thao said.

“I would like to acknowledge the faculty who were part of the interviewing committee in this application cycle, Ruth Lunt, Alison Guenther-Pal and Matt Stoneking. I would especially like to thank Bob Williams and Pa Lee Moua for their continued support with the 2018-2019 application cycle.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education.

The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. scholars, teachers and faculty to conduct research and teach overseas.

Eleven Lawrence faculty members have earned Fulbright awards since 1995.

In addition, some 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit eca.state.gov/fulbright.

New Diversity Center director provides guidance on academic, social transition

Dr. Brittany Bell believes strongly in the need for universities to provide support to help first-year students in the often anxiety-filled transition to college life.

Portrait of Brittany Bell
Brittany Bell

The reward is seeing them come back for a second year.

For students from underrepresented backgrounds, that transition to college can be fraught with even more potential bumps in the road.

In her new role as assistant dean of students and director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence University, Bell is putting new focus on smoothing the edges for students making that transition.

Bell began her new duties in mid-January, coming to Lawrence after six and half years on the staff at St. Norbert College, where she served as assistant director of multicultural student services and then student success librarian.

At St. Norbert, she was involved in improving first- and second-year student persistence rates, developing programs that help with the college adjustment and increase the likelihood of a student returning for their sophomore year.

“I’ve done a lot of research in first- and second-year persistence and in student success, so being able to … put something like that into practice was something I knew I could do here,” Bell said.

Lawrence launched its Leadership and Mentoring Program (LAMP) several years ago to provide that added assist to students from underrepresented backgrounds. Much of that has focused on the social end of college life, Bell said. She’s looking to expand the program with new emphasis on the academic side, improving interaction with faculty and staff and nurturing leadership skills.

Bell said having a background that has included both academic programming and student life administration gives her insight into navigating both sides of the student experience. If one side of the equation is out of sync, the student will struggle.

“I can see how they connect to their academics but I also can see how they need to connect to student services,” she said.

Bell has been impressed with what she’s seen so far of the students utilizing the Diversity and Intercultural Center, located on the first floor of Memorial Hall.

“There are definitely leaders here,” she said. “There are a lot of leaders. They are already doing programs, and a lot of these things they are doing on their own. … Usually (faculty and staff) are the drivers. But the students here are the drivers.”

The Rev. Linda Morgan-Clement, Lawrence’s Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, led the search to fill the assistant dean position. She said Bell’s work involving a variety of student experiences was impressive.

“The faculty, staff and students who served on the search committee were impressed with Brittany’s genuine interest in Lawrence and the strong background she brings to the position,” Morgan-Clement said. “Her research and practical background situate her well to vision and lead the move toward (growing) a Diversity and Intercultural Center that will serve our increasingly diverse campus.”

Bell, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a master’s from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a doctorate from Edgewood College, previously worked in student life positions at Kearney and then Carroll University before joining St. Norbert in 2012.

She had her eye on Lawrence long before January.

“I had been connecting with Lawrence quite often through my other role with multicultural students at St. Norbert,” she said. “I knew a lot about Lawrence University and I knew all about the programs here and I knew that if I ever was going to continue on in student services that a position like this would be something that would be appealing.

“So, when the opening came, I was like, yep, this is where I want to be.”

Business and volunteer spirit

Off campus, Bell is on a mission to serve.

She and her partner, Chris, and their two children, own and operate an apparel line called God’s Purpose Apparel, creating and selling clothing featuring inspirational messages such as “I dream big,” Love thy neighbor” and “Blessed.” Much of their apparel is sold through their web site, godspurposeapparel.com, but they also set up shop occasionally at vendor fairs and other nearby events.

They spin that apparel venture into regular volunteer gigs at Green Bay area homeless shelters, donating time, some of the proceeds from sales and even some of the apparel. They run a weekly Alpha Group at St. John’s Homeless Shelter in Green Bay, providing a meal and engaging visitors to the shelter with discussions of faith and life.

Lessons learned during nights at the shelter provide interesting insights to her work on campus, Bell said.

“Sometimes our students are going through similar struggles and we don’t see the signs,” she said. “My work there has helped me identify different things that I can see within our students.”