Category: Academics

O’Connor’s arrival puts Life After Lawrence initiatives in hyperdrive

Mike O'Connor poses for a photo in the doorway to the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement.
Mike O’Connor began May 1 as the new Riaz Waraich Dean of Lawrence University’s Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement. The endowed deanship is part of new initiatives to bolster career advising and community, employer and alumni connections.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Connect. Connecting. Connectivity. Interconnected.

Spend 10 minutes with Mike O’Connor, Lawrence University’s new Riaz Waraich Dean of the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement (CLC), and he’ll drop a variation of connected into the conversation a couple dozen times.

He may even throw in team sport, collaboration and networking.

That’s not by accident.

O’Connor’s hiring to fill the newly endowed deanship is all about ramping up connections with departments across campus, with alumni and with potential employers to help students better prepare for life after Lawrence.

Being connected to the CLC and its resources, be it through internships and fellowships or employment contacts and alumni resources, is something that will be part of every student’s journey from the moment they arrive as freshmen during Welcome Week. It won’t be something to be put off until senior year.

“To me, the messaging for first-year students would be, the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement is just part of what you do as a Lawrentian,” O’Connor said. “It’s not a stand-alone entity. It’s interconnected, it’s part of the tapestry of Lawrence.”

That initiative, including the endowed deanship, is supported by a $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 that was announced last November at the public launch of Lawrence’s $220 million Be the Light! campaign.

O’Connor, who had been the director of the Career Exploration program at Williams College for the past five and a half years, sees opportunities for enhanced connections at Lawrence in every direction he looks. Many of those efforts were already under way before he got here, spurred by a Life After Lawrence Task Force that pushed for greater emphasis on preparing students for career and life opportunities after they graduate. Now, with more resources available and a renewed focus, those efforts are being supercharged.

“Life After Lawrence has a lot of moving parts,” O’Connor said. “There’s a big employer initiative and we’re building more pipelines for recruitment. More than that, though, is the potential for better integration with curricular goals and actualizing our alumni base at scale. We’ve got this amazing group of thousands and thousands of Lawrentians who want to help other Lawrentians. We’re working on tapping that power.”

For starters, career advising is being weaved into the Freshman Studies program in new ways. The Career Communities initiative has been launched and will continue to be fine-tuned and rolled out to students across all areas of study. And an interactive student-alumni mentor network is being developed.

“That will give us the ability to connect with alumni based on a certain major or career interest or geographic area, and be able to reach out to them in real time,” O’Connor said. “A student will be able to say, ‘Hey, I see you are working at Google in this data analytics role. I’ve been thinking about that as a career, can I hop on a call with you for 10 or 15 minutes to find out more about it?’ Or maybe I have this interview coming up and I need advice.

“This is something we onboarded at Williams and it was just a complete game-changer. It actualized our alums’ talents in real time in a useful way.”

The alumni relations work that’s already been done by the Alumni and Constituency Engagement Team puts Lawrence in a great position to roll out this enhanced recruiting network, O’Connor said. The recently launched Career Communities is a big step in that direction.

Read more about Career Communities here.

For alumni interested in helping Lawrentians in their career pursuits: Make yourself a Career Contact on AlumniQ”. 

Introducing an alumni affinity network to students will start during Welcome Week, although developing it and integrating it will be a work in progress.

“We’re trying to move on a lot of this very quickly,” O’Connor said.

There’s been encouraging cooperation from departments across campus as these initiatives have been explored, developed and tested.

“We’re lucky that we have a highly collaborative community with a lot of opportunities,” O’Connor said. “Not just our office but partnering with others across campus. The work of the CLC is really a team sport.

“We’re interfacing with Development and all across areas of Student Life, and we’re being increasingly intentional about how we’re working with broader alumni divisions, working with faculty and doing it in a more skilled way. If we’re all leaning into it, and I think we are, we stand a better chance to help a lot more students.”

On the personal side

O’Connor began his new duties on May 1.

He and his family — his wife, Kerrin Sendrowitz O’Connor, two daughters, Fiona Jayne, 3, and Isla Kelly, 7 months, two dogs and a cat — have embraced the move from the East Coast to Appleton, even if their move here from upstate New York in late April included a flat tire and a freak snowstorm.

“After logging over 100,000 commuter miles over the course of my Williams tenure, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to bike to work,” O’Connor said.

Now it’s time to explore their new home.

“The family and I like to consider ourselves outdoorsy,” O’Connor said. “We’ve been to 14 or 15 national parks, and love hiking, biking, and camping. … Given the age of our children, we love the park system in Appleton.”

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

Welcome to Lawrence: Making sense of the Freshman Studies reading list

Freshman Studies is an important piece of the Lawrence experience, and the required reading list is an important part of Freshman Studies.

With all first-year Lawrence University students taking Freshman Studies during their first two terms, and all sessions using the same reading list, students join together in a larger intellectual community, one that ties them not only to their fellow students across campus but also to Lawrentians from generations past.

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 coming academic year’s syllabus demonstrates the evolution of this ongoing task.

Learn a little more about Freshman Studies here.

We asked Garth Bond, associate professor of English and director of Freshman Studies, to guide us through the 2019-20 reading list.

Fall term

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard. This short collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry teaches students to recognize the fullness and precision of meaning in language. Trethewey’s poems meditate on the role that objects — photographs, monuments, diaries — play in shaping our memories and histories. She begins with the personal tragedy of her mother’s murder, then turns to the public history of American racism and the memorialization of the Civil War. The final section revisits personal experience, now reshaped in the light of that public history. All in 75 pages. (Adopted Fall 2015)

Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy. From Trethewey’s poetic reflection on ants making a home on her mother’s grave, students move to a biologist’s study of the most fascinating of social insects: the honeybee swarm. Seeley demonstrates how our understanding of honeybees’ complex communication and social decision-making has developed systematically through the application of the scientific method; but he also reveals the benefits of interdisciplinary thinking by exploring the lessons that honeybee decision-making may have as a model both for human democratic processes and for emerging systems of artificial intelligence. (Adopted Winter 2019)

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 while also exploring the human individuality—some of it troubling—that questions the lessons Seeley would draw from the more naturally communal honeybees. Robinson particularly illuminates the impact of unwritten social expectations on women who fail to conform to them, while her unreliable narrator forces students to rethink their initial views of the relationship between society and the individual in the novel. (Adopted Fall 2018)

Plato, The Republic. On the Freshman Studies syllabus since its creation in 1945, Plato’s philosophical consideration of what makes a virtuous individual and political order embodies the practice of liberal education. After discussing the proper nature of philosophical discourse, Socrates develops his arguments in dialogue with his fellows. He poses hard questions about the nature of reality and the potential dangers of democracy that challenge students’ assumptions. Our discussion of these ideas brings current students into a conversation with alumni reaching back over 70 years now, literally embodying the community-building goals of the liberal arts. (Adopted 1945).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Landscape with the Fall of Icarus. Bruegel’s 16th century painting, which places the mythical Icarus’s tragic crash — having flown too close to the sun — quietly in the background of a contemporary rural landscape, reminds students that images impose the same demands on our attention as poetry, narrative, and scientific or philosophical discourse. It too asks questions about the nature of loss and memory, and of the relationship between the individual and society, but posed in the “language” of images rather than words, helping students to develop the visual literacy required in our increasingly visual culture. (Adopted Fall 2016)

Winter term

The Bhagavad Gita. Having closed the Fall Term with examples of ancient and early modern Western thought, Winter opens by turning to other ancient and medieval traditions. Roughly contemporary with The Republic, this seminal Hindu scripture offers its own account of the good life, one focused on fulfilling one’s duty (or dharma) without attachment to the fruits of one’s actions. Its more poetic philosophical approach offers a probing challenge to the individualism often seen as central to Western thought. (Adopted Winter 2015)

The Arabian Nights. This 14th century collection of traditional Arabian stories forces students to consider the very nature and purpose of storytelling. As a new bride weaves tales each evening to keep her husband and king from killing her in the morning, as he has sworn to do with all of his wives, questions arise about the nature and purposes of storytelling: 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)

Tony Kushner, Angels in America. Set in Reagan-era Washington, D.C., this Pulitzer Prize-winning play echoes a number of the magical elements found in The Arabian Nights, but within a realistic depiction of the political and ethical conflicts of the AIDS epidemic emerging especially in the gay community at that time. While the politically diverse characters of Kushner’s script already demand careful attention to the motives and meanings of their actions, recorded versions of different productions allow students to think about the creative acts needed to move from the written page to embodied performance. (Adopted Winter 2020)

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Poor Economics. Moving from the historical AIDS epidemic to the contemporary battle with global poverty, two developmental economists offer a scientific approach to human action. They advocate putting aside big ideas, like increasing aid or freeing markets, in favor of careful research addressed to small, specific questions. Students see how answering these small questions can also give voice to the human 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? (Adopted Winter 2017)

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. Lawrence’s Conservatory of Music is a fundamental part of our university community. This most famous of albums invites all students to explore the complex relationship between planned structure and improvised action at the heart of jazz 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 freshmen: Looking for your Freshman Studies books? Domestic students should receive the first book, Native Guard, in late July or early August. International students will receive the book when they arrive on campus.  Students also may visit the online bookstore, www.lawrence.edu/academics/bookstore. Be aware, though, that Freshman Studies sections won’t appear in the bookstore (or on student schedules) until those sections have been created in mid-August.

$2.5M gift endows new professorship to teach psychology of collaboration

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A $2.5 million gift will allow Lawrence University to create an endowed professorship to teach the psychology of collaboration, adding to the school’s efforts to better prepare Lawrentians for life after Lawrence.  

The donation from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 to create the J. Thomas Hurvis Professorship of Social and Organizational Psychology was announced at the May meeting of the Board of Trustees.

It is the latest in a long line of generous gifts to Lawrence from Hurvis, founder and chairman of Old World Industries and longtime philanthropist.

The new position, which will be based in the Psychology Department but will contribute regularly to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, will provide teaching that is focused on cross-cultural collaboration, group life, ethical thought and moral judgment. It’s the type of study usually found in business schools or as part of doctoral programs. At Lawrence, it will build on existing Lawrence strengths to allow students across disciplines to access teachings that will better prepare them to be the leaders of tomorrow, no matter their career direction.

The position is expected to be filled in time for the 2020-21 academic year.

“I am deeply grateful to Tom Hurvis for his vision and generosity in endowing the J. Thomas Hurvis Professorship in Social and Organizational Psychology,” President Mark Burstein said. “Tom’s passion for collaboration is the hallmark of his success both as a businessman and a philanthropist.  This new appointment will allow us to offer courses that will provide students access to research on group life, leadership, and social psychology, areas of increasing student interest, while also enriching and expanding interdisciplinary points of contact with our Innovation and Entrepreneurship program.”

The new professorship is an extension of efforts already under way to enhance offerings and programming to better prepare students for life after Lawrence. A year ago, Hurvis made a $2.5 million gift to create an endowed deanship, which was part of the public launch of Lawrence’s $220 million Be the Light! Campaign. Named for Hurvis’s founding partner in Old World Industries, the Riaz Waraich Dean for Career, Life, and Community Engagement position is now filled by Mike O’Connor, who is overseeing efforts in the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLC) to bolster connections and skills to make Lawrentians both job market-ready when they graduate and prepared to lead fruitful and fulfilling lives going forward.

This new professorship in Psychology and Innovation and Entrepreneurship will build on that investment to enhance skills needed in the modern world across all disciplines. 

“Through this new appointment, Lawrence will join the select handful of liberal arts colleges that provide the interdisciplinary skills fostered by a liberal arts education through programming that gives students the opportunity to develop creative, integrative approaches to real world issues,” Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Kodat said. “The curricular possibilities inherent in the Hurvis Professorship — in exploring the dynamics of effective leadership and collaboration, in partnering with co-curricular programming and off-campus internships to put classroom concepts into action — are exciting to contemplate.”

J. Thomas Hurvis '60 speaks during November's public launch of the Be the Light campaign.
J. Thomas Hurvis ’60, speaking here during the public launch of the Be the Light! campaign, says having the skills to work collaboratively is a huge key to future success.

For Hurvis, working collaboratively hits close to home, and he believes strongly that the skills tied to collaboration are critical for success in almost any field.

“Partnership has been at the core of all of my life’s success,” he said. “Collaboration requires skills and a personal inclination. I am thrilled we can now ensure every Lawrence student has the opportunity to develop these skills and better understand the importance of this work. Collaboration is easy to describe but very, very hard to do.”

The latest Hurvis grant builds on the Be the Light! campaign, which has the student journey as one of its cornerstones, a focus on educating the whole student, from classroom learning in programs of distinction to personal development through wellness, career advising and the fostering of cross-cultural skills.

To date, the Be the Light! campaign has raised $182.8 million — 83% of the goal — since the quiet phase launch in 2014. Endowed positions, in addition to the Hurvis-funded deanship and new professorship, have included the Dwight and Marjorie Peterson Professorship in Innovation, the Dennis and Charlot Nelson Singleton Professorship in Cognitive Neuroscience, the Wendy and KK Tse Professorship in East Asian Studies, and the Jean Lampert Woy and J. Richard Woy Professorship in History.

“The generosity of the Lawrence community is extraordinary,” said Charlot Singleton ’67, one of the tri-chairs of the Be the Light! campaign. “Members of our community have invested in initiatives that will enhance the education the college offers for generations. We have made excellent progress toward our goals.”

The campaign progress thus far during 2019 has been strong, with $25.3 million in new campaign commitments outpacing the $22.5 million at this time last year.

Fundraising efforts continue for a number of special projects within the Be the Light! campaign — Full Speed to Full Need has reached $81.6 million (toward a goal of $85 million); the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement is at $1.7 million (toward a goal of $2.5 million that was in response to Hurvis’ challenge when he established the endowed Riaz Waraich Deanship last year); and the Center for Academic Success has reached $735,550 (toward a goal of $1 million).

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


Four newcomers join Lawrence University’s Board of Trustees

Four new members have joined the Lawrence University Board of Trustees, including two alumni.

Mei Xian Gong ’11, a former Posse Foundation scholar who now works as a market manager for Mettler-Toledo, will serve on the board as a Recent Graduate Trustee, a position established in 2014 exclusively for Lawrence alumni within 2-10 years of graduation. She will serve one non-renewable, three-year term. She’s joined by new term trustees Frederick Fisher, an accomplished architect, Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72, a longtime K-12 education leader, and Jon M. Stellmacher, whose work as a top executive at Thrivent Financial spanned more than three decades.

“We are delighted to add four fantastic new trustees to Lawrence’s board who bring tremendous expertise in higher education dynamics, board governance, fundraising, and buildings and grounds,” said Board Chair David Blowers. “I couldn’t be more appreciative of the overall support of the college’s Board of Trustees and the quality of individuals we continue to attract to serve the college in this important and valuable way.”

The new trustees, elected at the May board meeting:

Head shot of Mei Xian Gong
Mei Xian Gong ’11

Mei Xian Gong ’11: A member of the first group of Posse Foundation scholars at Lawrence, Gong has worked for Mettler-Toledo in Columbus, Ohio, as a market manager since 2016. She has served as a class agent since 2012 and has continued her involvement and support of Lawrence in various volunteer roles in recent years. While a student, Gong served on the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors and was a member of the LUAA Connecting to Campus Committee. She majored in chemistry and interdisciplinary chemistry/biology, later earning an MBA at Ohio State University. She serves on the board of the Pedal-With-Pete Foundation, an internationally recognized nonprofit dedicated to raising money for cerebral palsy research.

Head shot of Frederick Fisher
Frederick Fisher

Frederick Fisher: A registered architect since 1978, Fisher is the founder of Frederick Fisher and Partners. His focus has been on designing spaces for the practice and exhibition of art as well as interdisciplinary study. He was a 2013 Gold Medal recipient of the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, which supports innovative artists, writers, and scholars. Fisher received his bachelor of arts degree from Oberlin College in art and art history and his masters of architecture from UCLA. He is chair of the Otis College Board of Governors and is a board member for both the Board of Councilors at the USC School of Architecture and the Board of Visitors at the UCLA School of the Arts.

Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72

Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72: Wilson Kopecky worked for 35 years in K-12 school districts as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent, and has taught undergraduate and graduate classes in curriculum and instruction. She earned a bachelor of music degree from Lawrence in 1972. She later worked for a time as a major and planned giving officer in Lawrence’s Development Office. She has been a member of the President’s Advisory Council at Lawrence since 2015, serving as co-chair since 2016. She served as a liaison for her 40th Reunion Committee and a co-chair for her 45th Reunion, and has been a member of the Bjorklunden Advisory Committee since 2017. She also provides leadership for several nonprofit organizations. She received her master’s degree and a doctorate in education from Northern Illinois University.

Head shot of Jon Stellmacher
Jon Stellmacher

Jon M. Stellmacher: Stellmacher spent more than three decades at Thrivent Financial, retiring in 2010 as senior vice president and chief of staff and administration. He also has been heavily involved in education through the years. He was a member of the Wisconsin Governor’s Advisory Council on Early Childhood Education and Care and was chair of the board and founding director of the Community Early Learning Center (CELC) of the Fox Valley. In 2016, he received the Thomas G. Scullen Leadership Award from the Appleton Education Foundation in recognition of his work helping create the CELC. Stellmacher also serves on the Board of Directors for the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, on the LSS Foundation Board for Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, and is a member of Lawrence’s Advisory Committee on Public Affairs.

In addition to the election of trustees, the following officers were elected to one-year terms: David C. Blowers, chair; Cory L. Nettles, vice chair; Dale R. Schuh, secretary; Julia H. Messitte, assistant secretary; Alice O. Boeckers, assistant secretary; Christopher S. Lee, treasurer; and Amy Price, assistant treasurer.

Meanwhile, Michael Cisler ’78 and Steven Mech ’93 were appointed to two-year terms as non-trustee committee members of the Building and Grounds Subcommittee.

LU’s Bee Campus designation OK’d; pollination-themed picnic set for Sunday

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The bee advocacy work is paying dividends.

Lawrence University has been certified as an affiliate of the Bee Campus USA program, making it the 71st campus in the nation to earn the bee-friendly designation — and only the second one in Wisconsin.

To celebrate, a pollination-themed picnic will be held on the Main Hall green from 10:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, June 16. It will follow a 10 a.m. public unveiling of the honey bee observation hive that is now visible from the fourth floor of the Warch Campus Center. The picnic will feature coffee from Tempest Coffee Collective, fruit pies, berry shakes, smoothies, and honey pizza from Harmony Cafe. All are invited.

Bee City USA and Bee Campus USA are initiatives of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a Portland-based nonprofit that encourages communities to develop practices that help sustain pollinators by providing them with healthy habitat rich in native plants and free of pesticides.

Israel Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology, has led efforts at Lawrence to not only make the campus bee-friendly but to turn the campus into a living lab of sorts to study ways to keep bee populations healthy in an urban environment. The new Bee Campus USA designation comes after a formal application was submitted in the spring.

It’s one step in a larger journey, Del Toro said.

“With the designation of Lawrence as a Bee Campus, we are one of only two universities in Wisconsin to publicly commit to improving our campus for native biodiversity and pollinators,” he said. “This is a small but significant victory that keeps us moving toward a campus ethos of sustainability and stewardship of our natural resources.

“Over the next five years our campus will experiment with various approaches and bee-friendly management activities like altered mowing habits, reduced use of pesticides and removal of invasive species.”

Read more: Lawrence University on the front lines of bee advocacy

For more on Lawrence’s sustainability efforts, click here

The only other Wisconsin school with the bee-friendly designation is Northland College in Ashland.

Del Toro also is working with the city of Appleton to help it qualify for a Bee City USA designation.

“The program aspires to make people more PC — pollinator conscious, that is,” said Scott Hoffman Black, Xerces’ executive director. “If lots of individuals and communities begin planting native, pesticide-free flowering trees, shrubs and perennials, it will help to sustain many, many species of pollinators.”

Pollinators such as bumble bees, sweat bees, mason bees, honey bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies, and hummingbirds are responsible for the reproduction of almost 90 percent of the world’s flowering plant species and a third of the food we consume, Hoffman Black said.

Lawrence will need to continue to work to maintain its status as a Bee Campus. Certification needs to be renewed each year. Details can be found at beecityusa.org.         

Among the bee-inspired efforts, Del Toro and his team launched the Appleton Pollinator Project to turn area homeowners and gardeners into citizen scientists, helped install and study pollination sites across the Fox Cities, and pushed students in the biology lab and campus environmental clubs to work to improve the on-campus habitat for bees.

The observation hive installed last month at Warch is the latest step in the on-campus efforts. There also are hexagon-shaped pollination boxes just southeast of Main Hall and in the S.L.U.G. (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens) gardens on campus.

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

Lawrence celebrates Class of 2019: “Don’t let fear of failure kill your joy”

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Well done, Lawrence University Class of 2019.

More than 330 graduates received their diplomas Sunday morning in a Commencement ceremony on the Main Hall green.

Faculty Marshal Kathy Privatt led the march across College Avenue for an outdoor ceremony replete with pomp, circumstance and tradition, along with a colorful assortment of umbrellas and rain gear. A light but steady rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of what David Blowers ’82, chair of the Board of Trustees, called the “high point of the academic year.”

President Mark Burstein praised the senior class for a myriad of contributions to Lawrence, for setting a tone of compassion and empathy on campus and always exhibiting a desire to learn and grow.

“In a time when community is such a scarce commodity and people of different backgrounds and views are likely to argue, compete, or ignore each other, you came together to learn, to celebrate, and to struggle, as one community, with the issues that face Lawrence, this country, and the world,” he said.

See a livestream replay of the Lawrence Commencement ceremony and other 2019 Commencement Weekend events here.

Jordyn Pleiseis delivers her senior class speech during Commencement.
Jordyn Pleiseis delivers her senior class speech during Commencement.

Burstein said the heart and drive of the Class of 2019 is wonderfully represented in Jordyn Pleiseis, who the graduates chose to be their senior class speaker.

“Jordyn has left her mark on Lawrence in ways both physical, like the mural that adorns the Wellness Center that she helped install as an ally of native students, and ineffable, like the connections and supportive environment she fosters,” Burstein said. “Jordyn also speaks of the wonderful dynamic among Lawrence students both inside and outside of the classroom. You are friends, sharing fun and support, and you are also colleagues, learning from one another’s insight and experiences.”

Commencement speaker Lee Shallat Chemel ’65, a longtime theater and television director who worked behind the scenes on some of the most beloved TV shows of the past 35 years, implored the graduates to embrace their liberal arts education, to be OK with uncertainty and to never let the fear of failure zap their creative energies. Her Lawrence education, she told them, has been a guiding light for more than four decades of beautiful chaos.

“You chose a liberal arts education; you chose to keep your horizon wide, to explore a broad range of cultural and intellectual content,” she said. “You can adapt, improvise, synthesize. You can handle a world that is a bit chaotic.”

Pleiseis, an anthropology major, told her classmates they are deserving of today’s accolades, a four-year journey full of hard work and perseverance finally coming to fruition.

“We made our mark on this place, just as much as this place made its mark on us,” she said.

Watch a replay of Jordyn Pleiseis’ Commencement speech here.

Chemel’s story

Lee Shallat Chemel, on stage, addresses the Lawrence graduates during her Commencement speech.
Lee Shallat Chemel addresses the Lawrence graduates during her Commencement speech.

Chemel, whose directing credits include stints with Murphy Brown, Northern Exposure, Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, Hannah Montana, and The Middle, among many others, told the graduates she made bold leaps of faith along her journey, jumping from teaching to acting to theater directing to TV sitcoms and dramas. There was never a promise of success at any step in the process, only the prospect of a worthy challenge and the knowledge that she had a strong liberal arts education to lean on.

She never stopped learning.

Chemel said some of her most profound life lessons came from her darkest days. She said firings and failures at one point had her so focused on not screwing up that she could no longer find joy in her work. Her creativity quickly waned.

She told the story of working on an episode of Gilmore Girls that was going so badly that production came to a halt — so badly that she and star Lauren Graham laughed until they cried.

“Then I suddenly stopped myself,” Chemel said. “I shouldn’t be laughing. The scene isn’t working. … Lauren said, ‘What’s up?’ I looked at her and said, ‘Oh, I just got caught off-guard being happy.’ … And from there we laughed our way back into rehearsing; the scene started to unlock itself. It got funny.

“I’d been painting myself into a corner of seriousness in order to keep failure at bay. Don’t do that. Let joy and spontaneity exist side by side. … Don’t let fear of failure kill your joy.”

Burstein encouraged the graduates to take Chemel’s message of perseverance and career nimbleness to heart as they take that next step, embracing life after Lawrence with a mixture of promise and uncertainty.

“Perhaps her example will help as you, the Class of 2019, set out on the path that begins today,” he said. “You have already raised our expectations for what is possible. We count on your talent, your work, your leadership to move us forward.”

Watch a replay of Lee Chemel’s Commencement speech here.

Lawrence University Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat announces the faculty award for Marcia Bjornerud (left) during Sunday’s Commencement ceremony on the Main Hall green.

Awards and farewells

Two long-serving tenured faculty members — psychology professor Bruce Hetlzer and voice professor Kenneth Bozeman — were honored during the ceremony as they retire, each having taught at Lawrence for more than four decades. See details here.

Three faculty awards were announced during the ceremony. Music professor Erin Lesser received the Excellence in Teaching Award, Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion received the Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member Award, and geology professor Marcia Bjornerud received the Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity Award. See details here.

For more photos from Sunday’s 2019 Commencement, click here.

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

Three Lawrence faculty honored with teaching, scholarship awards at 2019 Commencement

Jose Encarnacion smiles from the stage as he accepts applause for his faculty award at Commencement.
Jose Encarnacion is greeted by applause as he accepts his faculty award at Commencement.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty — two key music talents in the Conservatory of Music and one highly acclaimed geologist — were honored Sunday, June 9 for their academic and scholarly achievements.

The awards, announced during the 2019 Commencement ceremony and considered to be among Lawrence’s highest faculty honors, went to gifted instrumentalist and music instructor Erin Lesser, jazz musician and instructor Jose Encarnacion and highly lauded geology scholar and author Marcia Bjornerud.

For more coverage of Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement, click here.

Erin Lesser

Portrait of Erin Lesser at Commencement.
Erin Lesser

Lesser took home the 2019 University Award for Excellence in Teaching. A member of the acclaimed ensembles Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, she is both a highly regarded performer and an accomplished instructor. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2011.

In her award citation, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat praised Lesser for her ability to balance the demands of being a touring artist with those of the classroom.

“Your brilliance in the concert hall finds its bright reflection in the Lawrence Conservatory studio, where your grateful students grow as musicians and thinkers in their own right, thanks to your thoughtful, attentive efforts to meet them where they are and then give them the tools and support that helps them realize their artistic goals.”

Jose Encarnacion

Portrait of Jose Encarnacion at Commencement.
Jose Encarnacion

Encarnacion was given the 2019 Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member.

While Encarnacion has been an assistant professor at Lawrence for just five years, his ties to the Conservatory date back to 2002, when he came here shortly after receiving his master’s of jazz and contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music. He would leave for a six-year stint as director of jazz and band ensembles at Eastman before returning to Lawrence in 2011 as a lecturer. He became a tenure-track faculty member in 2014 and now leads a jazz program that is regularly lauded in national music education circles.

“Your return has had a measurable effect — since 2015, the excellence of Lawrence’s jazz program has been recognized by no less an authority than DownBeat magazine, which has presented the university with four awards in four years,” Kodat said.

Marcia Bjornerud

Portrait of Marcia Bjornerud at Commencement.
Marcia Bjornerud

Bjornerud, who came to Lawrence in 1995, is the recipient of the 2019 Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity. She has been among the college’s most honored faculty members. The Walter Schober Professor in Environmental Studies and founder of the Environmental Studies major has earned two Fulbright Senior Scholar awards, was named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Women Geoscientists and was named a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.

The faculty scholarship honor comes after her 2018 book, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, was widely praised for making complex geological concepts — and their importance in the ongoing debate over how we care for the Earth — both accessible and substantial. It was long-listed for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing, was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and received the PROSE Award in Popular Science and Popular Mathematics from the American Association of Publishers.

“In Timefulness, you draw on your research into the physics of earthquakes and mountain formation to show how an understanding of the multiple, overlapping temporalities of the Earth’s deep past can help us gain the perspective we need if we are to confront and address the environmental challenges that face us,” Kodat said.

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

Lawrence University students earn national, regional fellowships

National fellowship award recipients from Lawrence University include (clockwise from top left) Hayoung Seo, Margot (Margaret) Wulfsberg, Willa Dworschack, Milou (Emmylou) de Meji, and Meghan Murphy.

Five Lawrence University students have earned nationally competitive fellowships for the 2019-20 academic year.

Two others have earned notable regional fellowship awards.

The national fellowships include:

Milou (Emmylou) de Meij ’19: The Fulbright U.S. Student Program. She will work as an English teaching assistant in Latvia.

Margot (Margaret) Wulfsberg ’19: She was awarded a Critical Language Scholarship to study Chinese in Changchun, China.

Willa Dworschack ’20: She is the recipient of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation award in physics and astronomy.

Meghan Murphy ’19: She was awarded the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, and will be doing music explorations with violins and violin-like instruments in five different countries.

Hayoung Seo ’19: The Yenching Academy Fellowship covers a full year of graduate study at Yenching Academy of Peking University in China. She will be pursuing a master’s degree in China Studies, with a focus on Confucianism.

The regional fellowship winners include:

Alex Medina ’21 and Nero Dejno ’21: They received the Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF) that provides awards for undergraduates at ACM (Associated Colleges of the Midwest) schools, with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It provides undergraduates with mentoring and career development in their junior and senior years, along with an experiential research opportunity with one of the Big 10 research universities courtesy of the Big 10 Academic Alliance.

For more on fellowship and scholarship opportunities, click here.

Three for three: France teaching assignments a sign of growth for Francophone program

Cosette Bardawil ’19 is one of three Lawrence students earning teaching assignments in France.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Three Lawrence seniors have been awarded competitive assistant teaching positions through TAPIF (Teaching Assistant Program in France), a program that gives American citizens the opportunity to teach English in public schools in France, as well as in other Francophone locations such as French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion.

This is Lawrence’s most successful year with TAPIF yet; the highest number of applicants and a 100 percent acceptance rate. This year’s recipients — Kendra L. Van Duine ’19, Christian Lee Messier ’18 and Cosette Bardawil ’19 — will spend seven months of the next academic year in France in an immersive teaching and learning experience.

Lawrence students have been awarded assistant teaching positions through TAPIF in the past, but this year’s success shows the strides that have been made in Francophone Studies.

“Maybe five years ago we had probably one or two (applicants) and now we’re having more people apply … and everybody’s getting in,” said Eilene Hoft-March, Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and French professor. “Not everybody we nominated (in the past) got in, and I can’t remember that we had three and four people applying at one time, and now we do.”

But the success is no surprise to Hoft-March because the quality of the applicant pool is now so good.

“I think our applicants have been very serious,” she said. “When you look at the three people who’ve won, they’re very good students, they’ve applied themselves, and it’s not surprising to me at all that they’ve been placed.”

Perhaps this year’s success will herald more applicants and awardees in the future. Hoft-March sees it as a sign of growing appreciation for the academic excellence at Lawrence.

“I think that Lawrence may have risen in terms of being recognized for the quality of students we have, and I think that’s a really good thing,” she said.

For more on the French and Francophone Studies program, click here.

And the recipients are . . .

Kendra L. Van Duine ’19

Kendra L. Van Duine ’19 will be teaching in Rouen, France. Linguistic and cultural immersion through TAPIF will be valuable experience toward her goal of becoming a foreign language interpreter, translating French, Spanish, and Chinese into English. This will be her first time traveling abroad alone, and for such a long period of time. But she’s looking ahead with eagerness.

“I am very excited to have this opportunity and hope it will help me gain confidence in myself by helping other students with their foreign language skills,” Van Duine said. “I’m looking forward to getting out on my own and exploring France and the neighboring countries, as well as exploring who I am as an individual.”

Van Duine is a double-major in French and Spanish. In addition to being an RLA in Small Exec and an on-campus events coordinator for the LU People for Animal Welfare (PAW) club, she works as a research assistant in the French and Francophone Studies department.

Christian Messier ’18

Christian Messier ’18 double majored in French and music. He will be teaching at the primary school level in Tours-Orléans. For three summers he has worked at Concordia Language Villages, an immersive language summer camp, and was a French tutor at Lawrence. While assistant teaching in France, he hopes to explore other languages and expand his teaching into the realm of music.

“I’m really looking forward to working with new language learners, and hopefully I’ll be able to also teach music lessons at nearby schools,” Messier said. “I’m planning on reading a lot and traveling to various cities in France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy to work on developing my abilities in those respective languages.”

Cosette Bardawil ’19

Cosette Bardawil ’19 will teach at the Académie de Rennes. The French and flute performance major is a French tutor and a LARY Buddy. She plays in the orchestra and in chamber groups, and aims to pursue music and self-exploration along with sharpening her language skills.

“My hopes for this upcoming adventure are to improve my French, help students as much as possible, explore different ways of teaching, play in some music ensembles and discover more about myself, others, and France,” Bardawil said.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Project 562 mural returns to exterior wall of Wellness Center

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The mural is back.

Members of Matika Wilbur’s Project 562 team returned to Lawrence University in recent days to work with Native American students to restore a mural on the side of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center that was first created as part of a mid-April convocation.

Due to harsh weather in April, the Project 562 Indigenous Land Project mural was unable to properly cure during its installation. Members of LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) and UWGB’s Intertribal Student Organization continued to work closely with the Project 562 artistic team to repair the mural once weather conditions improved.

That work has now paid off. The large mural, featuring the faces of three generations of Native Americans, is back in place. It includes the words Indigenize Education.

The mural was not created to be a permanent installation. The wheat paste project is expected to last two to five years, depending in part on weather conditions.

Wilbur, creator and director of Project 562, has used photography and art installations to tell the story of Native American communities.

“I’m so proud of you,” Wilbur said at the time of the April convocation, addressing the more than a dozen Native American students from Lawrence and UWGB who helped create the mural. “And I’m proud of Lawrence for taking this huge step. This is a huge step to have indigenous representation on a college campus.”

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country — and beyond — as part of Project 562, visiting close to 900 tribal communities in all. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

After her travels are done, Project 562 is expected to live on in books, exhibitions, lecture series, web sites, new curriculum and podcasts, Wilbur said.

“Matika has a magical way of giving our Native students and their allies permission to acknowledge and be proud of their own cultural traditions, families and indigenous ways, even in spaces that may have not been historically designed for us,” Brigetta Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation, said at the convocation.

“This work is more than making art for the sake of social justice,” she said. “It’s a way to truthfully show who we are. It’s a way for us to tell our own story.”

Wilbur’s April convocation address speaks to the heart of Project 562

Project 562’s creator looks to reshape narrative on Native communities

For more on LUNA student organization, click here.

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