Category: Academics

Former U.S. ambassador brings insights to Lawrence as visiting Scarff professor

Shaun Donnelly, Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor, speaks to students earlier this week in Dylan Fitz’s Effective Altruism class in Briggs Hall. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Shaun Donnelly ’68 says his message to Lawrence University students interested in careers with an international focus is a simple one.

You’re in the right place.

“My message is that I think a good liberal arts education is about the best preparation you can have for working internationally,” Donnelly said during a break from participating in economics and government class discussions as the Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor at Lawrence. “The world is constantly changing and you’ve got to be able to adjust.”

Donnelly forged a 36-year career with the U.S. Foreign Service, retiring in 2008. He served as U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1997 to 2000, appointed by President Bill Clinton, and worked as deputy ambassador in Tunisia and Mali, among other positions. He spent 15 of those 36 years living and working abroad.

He is spending two weeks in October on the Lawrence campus, the latest in a line of distinguished public servants, professional leaders, and scholars who have shared insights and collaborated with students and faculty since the Scarff Professorship was established in 1989 by Edward and Nancy Scarff in memory of their son, Stephen. It is designed to bring civic leaders and scholars to Lawrence to provide broad perspectives on the central issues of the day.

Donnelly, who studied economics at Lawrence, worked on international economics and trade policies during much of his Foreign Service career and continues to work part-time as a consultant for the United States Council for International Business (USCIB). He said students today need to be aware that there will almost certainly be an international component to their work no matter the field they’re in.

Shaun Donnelly on liberal arts colleges preparing students to work internationally: “It’s a good training ground, I would argue.”

“They are going to be living in a world that’s going to be increasingly international,” Donnelly said. “They may think, oh, I’m going to work for a company like Kimberly-Clark or Caterpillar or something, but those are international companies. They’re competing with international companies and their markets are going to be increasingly outside of the U.S.”

He encouraged students to seek out international opportunities while in school, from studying foreign languages, to taking educational trips abroad, to attending events hosted by international students on campus.

Donnelly found his path into the U.S. Foreign Service while volunteering with the Peace Corps in Tunisia shortly after graduating from Lawrence in 1968. He took his first assignment during the administration of Richard Nixon and would work through seven presidents, retiring as George W. Bush was leaving office.

He said he leaned into his Lawrence education each step of the way as he climbed the ranks as a government servant, working in Senegal for two and a half years, Ethiopia for two years, Egypt for two years, Mali for two years, Tunisia for three years, and Sri Lanka for three years.

He quickly learned to navigate the world of government service when elections shuffle the players.

“Ninety percent of American foreign policy doesn’t change,” Donnelly said. “We’re doing visas for people coming, we’re out there trying to promote American companies, we’re looking for support at the UN for democracy. That doesn’t change. But you do see changes when a new administration comes in.”

Some administrations he worked through were more idealistic in their foreign policies, he said. Others were more pragmatic. As an employee of the government, you aren’t always going to agree with policies, but you have a job to do, he said.

“I quickly realized that I was not elected to make these policies,” Donnelly said. “We have a process. Government employees are basically paid to implement them. So, I say to young people all the time, if you are going to go work for the government—internationally or domestic—you need to know enough about yourself to know if you’re comfortable being a government servant.”

Donnelly is one of four Lawrence alumni who have been appointed U.S. ambassadors by presidents, joining Walter North ’72, U.S. ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Republic of Vanuatu from 2012 to 2016; Christopher Murray ’75, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of the Congo from 2010 to 2013; and David Mulford ’59, U.S. ambassador to India from 2004 to 2009.

“All of the traits that make someone successful in business or academia or journalism or whatever it is, you need all of those to succeed in international work,” Donnelly said. “But you also need to be culturally sensitive and be understanding and be intellectually curious about other cultures and free from quick value judgments. You have to be willing to try to understand the complexities of the international world.

“And I do think a good liberal arts college like Lawrence does that. It’s a good training ground, I would argue.”

Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, has been coordinating Donnelly’s visit to Lawrence, bringing him into courses ranging from International Law, to Intro to Political Science, to Effective Altruism. Donnelly also is meeting with students in the Career Center and talking with faculty.

He was initially due to be the Distinguished Visiting Scarff Professor in Spring 2020, but that was postponed due to the pandemic. In Spring 2021, he and Brozek worked to split the duties of the position to accommodate the times. He spent a week with Brozek’s remote-synchronous Intro to International Relations class, and in May he delivered a remote public lecture titled “America’s Trade Mess: Who Caused it, and Can Biden Fix it?”

“Thanks to the support of the Scarff family over the last three decades, we’ve been able to connect students with ambassadors, diplomats, leaders of global nonprofits, and other experts in international affairs,” Brozek said.

Scarff visiting professors have included, among others, William Sloane Coffin Jr., civil rights and peace activist; Takakazu Kuriyama, former ambassador of Japan to the United States; George Meyer, former secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; Robert Suettinger ’68, Intelligence analyst and China policy expert; Russ Feingold, former U.S. senator from Wisconsin; and Nancy Hendry, international attorney fighting sexual exploitation.

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to enrich our academic community and to make the work of international politics tangible and hands-on for multiple decades of Lawrentians,” Brozek said.

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

Four national grants provide boost for LU faculty, bring more students into research

Julie Rana, assistant professor of mathematics, works with students in a Discrete Mathematics class in Briggs Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University faculty members—Julie Rana in Mathematics and Israel Del Toro in Biology—are the recipients of six-figure national grants that will further their research and bring more Lawrence students into the research process.

Two other faculty members—Lori Hilt ’97 in Psychology and Beth Zinsli ’02 in Art History— received five-figure national grants to enhance their work.

Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of faculty, said bringing in four national grants this fall speaks to the breadth of the high-level work being done by Lawrence’s faculty. It comes on the heels of Lawrence being named one of the best liberal arts colleges for undergraduate teaching by U.S. News and World Report.

“It’s wonderfully gratifying to see our faculty receiving national recognition for something we at Lawrence have always known—our faculty are gifted, dedicated teachers who are also engaged in ground-breaking scholarship across the full range of the liberal arts disciplines,” Kodat said. “Being able to count such accomplished individuals as colleagues is a true privilege.”

NSF math grant supports research, inclusive pedagogy

Rana, assistant professor of mathematics since 2017, was awarded a two-year grant of $192,905 through the National Science Foundation’s Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences (LEAPS-MPS) program. It’s a first-time grant, awarded to pre-tenure faculty. It’s a huge accomplishment for Rana, with only 21 grants awarded across the country.

A portion of the grant will allow Rana to work on research in algebraic geometry related to moduli spaces, collaborating with math scholars in Europe, Chile, and elsewhere in the United States. The funding will allow her to hire four students in each of the next two summers to work with her on research in an area of math known as graph theory.

“The best part of this project is that students will join a community of peers working together on fun and interesting math problems,” Rana said. “Mathematics is a very collaborative discipline, and I’m just thrilled that I get to share that joy of collaboration with students over the next two summers.”

In addition, the grant will cover costs of work Rana is doing in developing math curriculum and support mechanisms aimed at making Lawrence’s mathematics, computer science, and data science programs more inclusive and accessible. She’s developing two new math courses—Mathematics and Community (developed in collaboration with senior Caitlyn Lansing), debuting in Winter Term, and Modern BIPOC Mathematicians, debuting next year—and organizing inclusive pedagogy reading groups among the faculty.

The grant is covering the costs of bringing two speakers to campus who have been significant voices in improving inclusivity in STEM fields. Both are women of color who have carved out impressive careers as math scholars and have authored or edited works aimed at widening the path into the mathematics field.

Emille Lawrence, an associate professor and chair of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of San Francisco, is expected to visit Lawrence in Winter Term, Rana said. She is the editor of the American Mathematical Society’s Math Mamas blog and co-edited Living Proof, a collection of essays featuring mathematicians of various identities sharing how they found communities and persevered through professional challenges.

Pamela E. Harris, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics at Williams College, is expected to visit during the 2022-23 academic year. She has been a leading voice for diversity, equity, and inclusion in the STEM fields, math in particular. She co-founded Lathisms.org, a platform that features the contributions of Latinx and Hispanic math scholars, and co-hosts the podcast, Mathematically Uncensored. She’s the co-author of two books advocating for students of color in mathematics.

The NSF grant will allow for all of these initiatives to move forward at once.

“I worked hard to get this grant,” Rana said. “I’m really proud that I got it because there just aren’t very many of us who got it.”

Rana said the collaborations with other math scholars who are focused on algebraic geometry will take her research to another level. She’ll have the opportunity to travel to other institutions to work directly with her collaborators, and she’ll be able to bring some of them to Lawrence.

“Without this, I wouldn’t be able to go work with them in person,” she said. “It’s a lot easier to do math in person.”

Bee research focus of NSF grant

Israel Del Toro

Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology since 2016, was awarded a two-year, $199,957 EAGER grant from the National Science Foundation to enhance the research he’s doing on bee conservation. The grant will allow Del Toro to supersize his research, including bringing more students into the process.

Over the past five years, Del Toro has done extensive field work on pollinator habitats, advocating for bee conservation not only on campus but across the Fox Valley. This grant will allow him to take that work into a lab, investigating the varied reasons that bees are good pollinators. He’ll be collaborating with colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, using microtomography (microCT) technology to take a closer look at the inner workings of bees.

“We are taking a look under the hood of a bee,” Del Toro said. “And really taking a peek to see why the internal parts of the bee allow them to be effective pollinators.”

Read more: Lawrence on front lines of bee advocacy

Del Toro will be using the microCT technology at UW. He and his students also will be doing experiments in the lab at Lawrence that relate to climate change.

“We’ll be doing thermal tolerance, figuring out how bees are affected as we increase and decrease temperature,” he said. “We want to see how increases and decreases in temperatures affect bee behavior and bee restoration and try to make predictions of how these populations would be affected in the future.”

Over the two years of the grant, eight Lawrence students will be able to join Del Toro in his research.

“I’m actively recruiting students who have interest in ecology or microscopy or pollinator biology,” he said. “Those are the students I’m looking to take on. We’re going to learn some really cool new things about pollinators, but also how to better protect our pollinators in light of climate change.”

Psychology grant to help build on adolescent rumination research

Lori Hilt

Hilt, an associate professor of psychology, received a subaward for more than $51,000 throughHarvard University from the National Institutes of Health. She will serve as an expert on adolescent rumination on a five-year clinical trial. It follows a three-year $368,196 grant she received from NIH in 2019 to study adolescent rumination and the development of a mobile app designed as a coping tool for young people.

Adolescent rumination refers to a mindset in which someone can’t get beyond the negative things that are happening around them. Where most kids will process something bad that has happened, react to it and then move on, an adolescent struggling with rumination will dwell on the negative information, stew on it until it consumes them, unable to let go.

Read more: 2019 NIH grant helps professor develop mental health app

“The new NIH grant is a really nice follow-up to my other NIH grant,” Hilt said. “In our previous grant research, we found that using a brief mindfulness mobile app intervention that we developed — known as the CARE app — reduced rumination and mental health symptoms relative to a mood-monitoring control condition. The new grant will similarly recruit ruminative teens and ask them to use a mindfulness mobile app, this time for one month using the Headspace app vs. a control condition.”

The primary study site is at Harvard’s McLean Hospital. A functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan will be done before and after the teens use the app.

“This will allow us to see whether a brief mindfulness intervention changes brain network patterns that have been associated with rumination,” Hilt said.

This grant will allow Hilt and other participants to take a personalized medicine approach by examining which teens benefit from mindfulness training.

“This is something that we started looking at in our other grant, and it offers a promising new approach to mental health—being able to know if a particular intervention will work before engaging in it,” Hilt said.  

NEH grant to provide insights into preserving Teakwood Room

Teakwood Room

Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, was awarded a $10,000 Preservation Assistance Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The grant will provide a professional assessment of the Teakwood Room and its contents so that Lawrence knows best how to steward the room going forward.

Zinsli called the room “a university treasure and a distinctive piece of global material culture” that needs careful attention.

“The recommendations from the assessment report will allow LU to steward the room and its objects responsibly and expand access to the space,” she said.

Read more: Teakwood Room among the treasures of Lawrence

The Teakwood Room, located in Chapman Hall, was originally built by American artist and architect Lockwood de Forest in Alice Chapman’s Milwaukee home. After Chapman died in 1935, the Teakwood Room was placed in Chapman Library on the Milwaukee-Downer campus and used for receptions, poetry readings, and chamber music. When Lawrence and Downer consolidated in 1964, members of the Downer community asked that the room be preserved. The room was carefully disassembled and stored in a warehouse until 1968, when it was reassembled at Lawrence.

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

Note: Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this content are solely the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, or the National Science Foundation.”

B.M.A. degree opens path for Conservatory students with a passion for bluegrass

Tashi Litch performs during LUaroo in May 2021. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University sophomore Tashi Litch is a mandolin player with a passion for bluegrass music and a deep curiosity about the world.

So, when the Orcas Island, Washington, native set out to select a college, he had two priorities in mind. He sought a music conservatory willing to nurture his bluegrass skills, and he sought a college that would allow him to explore academic subjects across the liberal arts. He found what he was looking for in Lawrence’s Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) degree, launched three years ago with a focus on jazz and improvisational music but open to almost any genre of music. Its 50-50 split between music courses in the Conservatory and non-music courses in the college gave him what he needed.

Litch is now one of more than 30 students who have come to Lawrence via the B.M.A. program since it launched in 2019.

“Lawrence was one of the few that has a college and a conservatory and allows students to participate in both,” he said. “That was pretty important to me, to be able to study music at a high level and also be able to take liberal arts college courses. That’s what drew me in.”

Lawrence students dance at LUaroo to the bluegrass sounds of the foursome now known as The Woebegones.

A love of bluegrass

Since arriving at Lawrence, Litch has found his interest in bluegrass nurtured, embraced alongside the classical and jazz repertoire that has long been the Conservatory’s calling card.

He connected almost immediately with a fellow B.M.A. student from Washington state, Evan Snoey, a fiddle player who shares his deep love of bluegrass.

“We knew each other from out in Washington,” Litch said. “He is a year ahead of me and he had felt out the scene here and knew a few players. When I got here, I said, ‘We have to do something, we’ve got to play some bluegrass.’”

That led them to Dominic LaCalamita, a B.M.A. student from Naperville, Illinois, and Ian Harvey, a music and philosophy double major from Seattle. Together they became The Woebegones (they were earlier known as Highcliff).

Evan Snoey

Coached by Matt Turner, a music instructor in the Conservatory, the foursome has been pushing the boundaries, turning a Billie Eilish song into a bluegrass tune, covering a song by The Strokes, and embracing the progressive bluegrass sounds of the Punch Brothers. They’re also playing some bluegrass standards and have a couple of originals in their set.

They’re getting a chance to show their skills on a big stage during the first weekend of October. The foursome has been invited to perform at the annual IBMA World of Bluegrass Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina. They’ll be performing as the Lawrence University Bluegrass Band as part of Saturday’s College Band Showcase.

Litch had connections with some of the festival organizers after having played the festival in his youth as part of a Kids on Bluegrass collective.

“I thought it might be cool to put our names in and see if we can go out there to play,” Litch said. “And here we are. We’re going to be doing an hour-long set on one of the big stages.”

Litch said he grew up playing the fiddle and then the mandolin. He tagged along to jam sessions with his musical family and spent much of his free time trying to emulate the skills of mandolinist Chris Thile. He hit the road during recent summers to play at bluegrass festivals as a duo with his brother.

Now studying at Lawrence and playing in a quartet with other talented music students is raising his game, he said.

“I’m used to playing with a duo, so having the four-piece band was a really different dynamic for me,” he said. “It’s really exciting. There are so many more possibilities and directions we can go with that. I love the more high-energy type of bluegrass that you can do with four of us.”

A beautiful fit with B.M.A.

That’s sweet music to Turner, who has worked closely with the bluegrass foursome while also welcoming B.M.A. students focused on jazz, electronic music, punk, mariachi, global music, and songwriting. They are students looking for high-level music and theory instruction but through a lens of their own choosing.

“I think I can safely say that most of these students would not have come to Lawrence if the B.M.A had not been here,” Turner said. “We’re very excited about all of these students. They’re really good musicians and they’re great scholars, which is an important part of the B.M.A. because it’s a 50-50 split between non-music and music courses.”

Mariachi Ensemble finds a home in the Conservatory

Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, said it’s no coincidence that three of the four members of the bluegrass band are seeking B.M.A. degrees. They are following a path that was envisioned when the program was first rolled out.

“Although the specific track in the B.M.A. degree is called Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation, the program welcomes students interested in a broad range of contemporary music styles,” Pertl said. “The common thread is that all of our students, no matter their primary focus, are musically curious, collaborative, and boundary-crossing. These students have brought bluegrass in as another prominent voice in our multi-faceted musical community, so they really are a perfect fit for Lawrence and the B.M.A. program.”

Litch said he has felt that love since the day he brought his mandolin to campus.

“I’ve been able to improve my skills as a musician technically, but also my theory understanding, especially with jazz theory, which complements bluegrass and makes me a more well-rounded musician,” he said.

“The whole ethos of the B.M.A. program is that anyone is welcome,” Litch added. “So, for me, with bluegrass, it’s been great. It’s been really supported.”

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

Lawrence places high in value, teaching, first-year experience in U.S. News rankings

Four days of New Student Orientation led into today’s opening of the Fall Term at Lawrence University. U.S. News and World Report lists Lawrence among the best schools in the nation for first-year experiences. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is once again ranked among the best colleges in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

In addition to being included in the 2022 Best Colleges report, placing No. 62 among the Best National Liberal Arts Colleges, Lawrence placed high on four other lists that are part of the annual rankings:

No. 36: Best Value

No. 44: Best Undergraduate Teaching

No. 54: Best First-Year Experiences

No. 167: Top Performers on Social Mobility

Released today, the rankings come as Lawrence opens its 2021-22 academic year amid the excitement of having all of its students back on campus.

Class of 2025 welcomed as new academic year begins

“We are, of course, happy to be recognized once again among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications. “That US News bestowed upon Lawrence a bouquet of additional rankings about the quality of our educational environment makes this year’s ranking season that much sweeter.”

Lawrence moved up one spot in the ranking of liberal arts colleges and maintained its No. 36 ranking for Best Value among liberal arts colleges. The latter speaks to Lawrence’s push to make more need-based aid available in the form of grants and scholarships, bolstered by a Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) campaign that has now raised more than $91 million.

To be considered for U.S. News’ Best Value Schools listing, a school first had to be ranked among the Best Colleges in the nation. Those qualifying schools were then examined on the basis of net cost of attendance and available need-based financial aid.

Placement on the other lists, meanwhile, is particularly gratifying because they each reflect ongoing efforts to make Lawrence more inclusive and to provide a broad, holistic student experience.

Being on the list for Best Undergraduate Teaching is heartening because it speaks to the relationship-building that comes with Lawrence’s 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and the expansion of key academic programs.

“Lawrence’s faculty are not only terrific scientists, artists, and scholars—they are also first-rate teachers,” said Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of faculty. “It’s extremely gratifying to see them receive this much-deserved national recognition for the extraordinary work they do with their students.”

Lawrence has added or strengthened academic programs in, among other areas, music, data science, computer science, creative writing, neuroscience, psychology, environmental science, and global studies. In some cases, majors or minors were launched. In other instances, endowed professorships were added as part of the recently concluded Be the Light! Campaign.

The First-Year Experiences ranking is new for Lawrence this year. It follows efforts across campus to enhance the student life experience in a holistic way, including more coordinated health and wellness outreach, the launch and growth of the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life, the expansion of the Center for Academic Success, and the more intentional focus of the Career Center in connecting with students in their first year on campus. That has all played into first-year students having positive experiences as they transition to college life.

“You join a community of scholars who are ready to engage you, befriend you, teach you, and learn from you,” Christopher Card, vice president for student life, said last week as Lawrence welcomed the Class of 2025 to campus. “We are a community that’s interested in the whole person, not just the academics. … Fundamentally, all of us are here to learn—with each other and from each other.”

The Top Performers on Social Mobility list speaks to the success of a college advancing social mobility by enrolling and graduating economically disadvantaged students who are awarded Pell Grants. The majority of those federal grants are awarded to students whose adjusted gross family incomes are below $50,000.

The U.S. News announcement marks the second significant national college ranking that Lawrence has landed on in the past two weeks. On Aug. 31, The Princeton Review listed Lawrence as one of the best colleges in the nation, including the university in its annual Best 387 Colleges for 2022 guide. Lawrence was included on several separate lists within the Princeton Review ranking—Best Value Colleges, Best Green Colleges, and Best Midwestern Colleges.

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

Lawrence lands on The Princeton Review’s 2022 list of best colleges in nation

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is again listed as one of the best colleges in the nation by The Princeton Review. It’s also included in several separate lists within the ranking—Best Value Colleges, Best Green Colleges, and Best Midwestern Colleges.

The Best 387 Colleges for 2022 highlights the top colleges based on data and feedback the education services company annually collects on everything from academic offerings to financial aid to student experiences. The book was released Aug. 31.

“At a time when students are searching for institutional strength and quality, we appreciate that The Princeton Review has once again recognized Lawrence University as one of the best colleges in the country,” said Ken Anselment, vice president for enrollment and communications.

Only about 14% of the nearly 2,800 eligible four-year colleges make the Best book each year. Published each August and focused on undergraduate education, it has been an annual resource for prospective students since its debut in 1992. The book does not rank the schools within the list of 387.

See more on Lawrence admissions here.

Information on Lawrence application process here.

The Green College ranking speaks to the work Lawrence has done on sustainability and reducing the school’s carbon footprint.

The Best Value designation, meanwhile, is based on stellar academics, affordable cost with financial aid factored in, and strong career prospects for graduates, according to Princeton Review editors.

Showing up on the Best Value list is particularly heartening, Anselment said. It not only speaks to the academic offerings that make Lawrence such a draw, but it also highlights two huge, ongoing investments—the launch of the Full Speed to Full Need (FSFN) campaign to make the school more accessible and the retooling of the Career Center as part of a Life After Lawrence initiative.

While average student loan debt has continued to rise across the country, Lawrence’s numbers have been going down, fueled by the $91 million that has been raised in the FSFN campaign. Those funds have augmented other available financial aid and scholarships. The average student debt for Lawrence graduates has dropped to $29,118, its lowest mark in 10 years. It hit a high mark of $34,573 in 2015–16 and has dropped steadily each year since. The percentage of Lawrence’s students graduating with debt has dropped to 56%, well below the 75% a decade ago.

“While being considered one of the best is great, we’re even more excited that The Princeton Review continues to acknowledge the important work we do every day on behalf of our students, which is providing top-notch preparation for a meaningful life after college, and doing so in a way that families can afford,” Anselment said.

The Princeton Review report lauded Lawrence for its “stunning 8-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio, which means students have access to their professors at all times.” It also praised Lawrence for its robust international student population, its impressive First-Year Studies program, and its “holistic approach to the admissions game.”

The Princeton Review’s school profiles and ranking lists in The Best 387 Colleges are posted at www.princetonreview.com/best387 where they can be searched for free with site registration.

The Best 387 Colleges is the 30th annual edition of The Princeton Review’s best colleges book.

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

Lawrence launches new Health and Society minor, with focus on health disparities

The Health and Society minor will dig deep into issues and complexities that shape individual and public health, from food sourcing to social inequities.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has introduced a new Health and Society minor that will explore the intersection of human health and global social inequities.

The program, drawing on faculty expertise from social, cultural, biological, and environmental fields across campus, will be available to students beginning in Fall Term. It can be paired with any major and will provide important preparation for students eyeing health- or social justice-related careers or graduate school programs, said Beth De Stasio, the Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and professor of biology.

The minor isn’t only about health care; rather, it’s focused on all of the complex issues that shape individual and population health.

“It brings together courses from across the humanities, social and natural sciences to give students a more holistic understanding of the origins of health, illness, and disability, including origins of the disparities in health and health outcomes we see in this country and across the globe,” De Stasio said.

More on the Health and Society minor can be found here

Students pursuing the Health and Society minor will take classes across fields such as anthropology, ethnic studies, and philosophy. They will examine their own experiences working with vulnerable populations and explore career paths that empower them to make a difference in people’s lives.

The minor will include one course that places health in a global or community setting; two courses covering cultural and psychosocial aspects of health and illness or disability; two courses focused on the biological, biochemical, or environmental aspect of human health; one course that facilitates career exploration and self-reflection; and an option for 100 hours of engaged learning.

It will allow students the space to learn about the complexities and complications tied to health and the varied factors at play—from privilege and discrimination to food systems and infrastructure.

The new minor represents a liberal arts approach to a complicated, important area of study, said Mark Jenike, associate professor of anthropology.

“They often seek out and demand rich, complicated understandings of outcomes using tools from across the curriculum,” he said of Lawrence students. “The Health and Society minor gives them an opportunity to do so specifically in the realm of health. We hope that the broader and deeper understanding of why health disparities exist, both locally and globally, that they gain from the minor will help to make them more empathetic, critical, and ultimately more effective health care providers in their chosen field.”

One newly developed course brings it all together with a focus on career exploration tied to health. Alumni who are working in related fields will be integrated into the teaching of the course to share their wisdom and experiences with students, De Stasio said.

“It will allow students the time and intention to undertake exploration of the wide variety of career paths within the field of health care, as well as provide a facilitated discernment process in which their values and skills can be matched against various types of career paths,” she said.

In addition to the classroom work, faculty will work with students in pursuit of internships, paid employment, or volunteer work related to health care delivery, health care policy, or related work with vulnerable populations.

“I think health-interested students will be drawn to the minor because it is distinctive,” Jenike said. “And that’s the point of coming to Lawrence in the first place, right?”

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

10 new tenure-track faculty join Lawrence University for 2021-22 academic year

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has announced the hiring of 10 new tenure-track faculty, all beginning at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.

Three of the new faculty will fill positions in the Psychology department, including two newly created endowed professorships, one in cognitive neuroscience and one in collaboration and organizational psychology.

The influx of new faculty brings talent and experience across the college and the Conservatory, including in environmental studies, ethnic studies, history, philosophy, chemistry, physics, mathematics, and vocal coaching.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a talented, dedicated group of scholars to the Lawrence faculty,” said Catherine Kodat, provost and dean of faculty. “Our new colleagues will fortify strengths in existing academic programs and help us develop new areas of focus.”

The new hires include:

Alperin

Brittany Alperin, assistant professor of psychology. She will be the inaugural holder of the Singleton Professorship in Cognitive Neuroscience. She comes from the University of Richmond, where she’s been a visiting assistant professor since 2019. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and neuroscience from Hampshire College and a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience from Oregon Health and Science University.

Colon

Sigma Colón, assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2017, first in postdoctoral NEH fellowships in geography and history, then as a visiting assistant professor of environmental and ethnic studies. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in history from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University.

Culhane

Kelly Culhane, assistant professor of chemistry. She has been working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Minnesota since 2019. She joins the Chemistry department after earning a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from St. Olaf College and a Ph.D. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry from Yale University.

Dixon

Scott Dixon, assistant professor of philosophy. He has been on the faculty at Ashoka University in Haryana, India since 2015. He studied philosophy and German at the University of Montana and earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of California, Davis.

Draheim

Amanda Draheim, assistant professor of psychology. She joins the Psychology department at Lawrence after recently completing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at Georgia State University. She previously earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Trinity University.

Heaton

Alex Heaton, assistant professor of mathematics. Beginning in 2019, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the Math+ Berlin Mathematics Research Center, both in Germany. He then joined the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences in Toronto as a postdoctoral fellow. He earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Koker

Margaret Koker, assistant professor of physics. She has been teaching in the Physics department at Lawrence as a visiting assistant professor since 2018. She previously worked as a postdoctoral research fellow, a research assistant, and an engineering lecturer at Cornell University and as a Beamline scientist at the University of Chicago. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University, a master’s from the University of Illinois, and her doctor rerum naturalium from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Germany.

Ng

Linnea Ng, assistant professor of psychology. She will be the inaugural holder of the Hurvis Professorship in Collaboration and Organizational Psychology at Lawrence. She is completing a Ph.D. in industrial organizational psychology at Rice University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Davidson College.

Roach

Kristin Roach, assistant professor of music (vocal coaching). Her recent accomplishments include work as a vocal coach at the Chautauqua Opera Theatre, conductor with the Pacific Opera Project, musical director and conductor with Spotlight on Opera, and conductor with Vocal Academy of Orvieto. She earned a bachelor’s degree in applied piano and a master of music in piano performance/literature and accompanying/chamber music, both from Eastman School of Music.

Schlabach

Elizabeth Schlabach, associate professor of history. She comes to Lawrence following eight years as a member of the faculty at Earlham College. She previously worked as a visiting professor for five years at The College of William & Mary. She earned a bachelor’s degree in history and theology from Valparaiso University, a master’s in American Studies from Lehigh University, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from St. Louis University. 

Endowed professorships

The hiring of Alperin as Lawrence’s first Singleton Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience and Ng as the first Hurvis Professor in Collaboration and Organizational Psychology marks a significant milestone in the Psychology department.

The two endowed positions came out of the hugely successful Be the Light! campaign that over the course of seven years raised $232.6 million and added five endowed professorships.

The Singleton professorship elevates Lawrence’s work in the area of cognitive neuroscience and the Hurvis professorship allows for the exploration of the psychology of collaboration, a growing field that has relevance across the curriculum as students prepare for life after Lawrence. 

Kodat called the filling of the two endowed positions “especially gratifying,” a tangible result of the generosity and vision seen in the Be the Light! Campaign.

“These positions—in organizational psychology and cognitive neuroscience—will help advance the curricular innovation that was one of the centerpieces of the campaign,” she said.

The 10 new faculty begin their first academic year when Fall Term opens Sept. 13.

“I look forward to a long and happy collaboration,” Kodat said.

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

Work with economics faculty leads 2021 grad to EPA-funded research program

Doan Thu Thuy Nguyen ’21 at her June commencement at Lawrence University.

By Karina Herrera ’22

It was in an environmental economics class at Lawrence University that Doan Thu Thuy Nguyen ’21 realized her interest in economics and her passion for the environment could co-exist.

The experience in that class, taught by David Gerard, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor in the American Economic System and an associate professor of economics, led Nguyen to two summers at Lawrence spent on environment-related research tied to her home country of Vietnam. And that work has now led the economics and mathematics double major to her next academic adventure—acceptance into Carnegie Mellon University in the doctorate program in Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) as a graduate research assistant. She will join a group of Carnegie Mellon researchers this fall.

Reflecting on her undergraduate experience, Nguyen said her time at Lawrence could not have had a more positive or fruitful impact on her academic interests, pointing to her collaborations with Gerard and other economics faculty as key to getting into the Carnegie Mellon research program.

Find more on Lawrence’s economics program here

Get to know economics professor David Gerard here

The Carnegie Mellon team, led by Nicholas Z. Muller, the Lester and Judith Lave Professor of Economics, Engineering and Public Policy, secured an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) grant to fund the research, which will explore environmental impacts of certain manufacturing processes. Among other things, the funding provides for financial assistantships for graduate students. For Nguyen, this means that she will be given full tuition and a stipend for the initial academic year.

Although a little nervous, Nguyen said she is ready to begin. She’s excited to work with Muller and his team in part because she’s read academic papers of his and admires his work. She’ll also be working with people from different STEM fields and expects to be challenged.

“I expect it to be very intense but I also like that environment,” Nguyen said.

However, making the decision to apply to the Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. program in EPP was not an easy one, Nguyen said. She had offers from numerous economic Ph.D. programs and was hesitant at first to consider Carnegie Mellon because it was the only program that she applied to that was not solely focused in economics. She explained that what drew her in at the end was that the EPP program is exceptionally strong in areas regarding energy and environment, which are her main interests surrounding economics.

“It was clear that it was such a great place to be and I’ll be working with a lot of people who are really pioneering areas in research,” Nguyen said.

When asked how she found her passion for environmental economics and energy, she explained that it was initially through taking the environmental economics class with Gerard. Nguyen has since worked closely with Gerard and associate professor of economics Jonathan Lhost. They and other faculty have helped facilitate and augment her academic interests, she said.

She spent two summers at Lawrence conducting research—one summer focusing on the cost of decarbonizing Vietnam and the other on the air quality and public health in Vietnam. Both professors recommended that she apply to present her research at professional academic conferences and helped her to prepare and practice for her presentation.

“This is just one example of how professors at Lawrence go above and beyond for their students,” Nguyen said. “My professors really didn’t have to do any of those things, but they did because they care.”

Gerard also encouraged her to consider the EPP program at Carnegie Mellon and wrote her a letter of recommendation. He saw Carnegie Mellon as a great fit for her in part because of his own experiences there; he was on the faculty for eight years prior to coming to Lawrence in 2009, serving as executive director of the Center for the Study & Improvement of Regulation. He continues to serve as an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy.

Although he knows it was a tough decision for Nguyen, he doesn’t doubt she’ll exceed expectations.

“She was certainly an extraordinary student,” Gerard said.

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

Building community: A study guide to Lawrence’s 2021-22 First-Year Studies

Stranger in the Shogun’s City and The Harm in Hate Speech are new additions to this year’s First-Year Studies reading list. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Communications

Our annual guide—updated—to Lawrence University’s First-Year Studies reading list has arrived.

Martyn Smith, associate professor of religious studies, has taken the baton as this year’s director of First-Year Studies (previously known as Freshman Studies).

Smith generously agreed to update the guide and offer new insights as we approach the launch of the 2021-22 academic year. Two new works have been added to the list, one for Fall Term, one for Winter Term.

First-Year Studies, as all Lawrentians know, is an important piece of the Lawrence experience. Since its establishment in 1945, the First-Year 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.

While adjustments will be made as needed, Smith said he remains hopeful all First-Year Studies courses will be in person this year.

“I would like to suggest that our experience of the pandemic has thrown a new light on the works chosen for First-Year Studies,” he said. “They continue to serve as an ambitious introduction to the liberal arts, but we can now see a strong sub-theme of community that runs throughout these works.”

Fall Term

Natasha Trethewey, Native Guard.  We are again starting off the year with poetry. This collection of poems asks students to see a relationship between private experience and the larger narratives of history. This work sets the tone for thinking about racism in America, demonstrating to students that one part of a liberal arts education is learning to talk about the pressing issues of our time. Reading these poems, we begin to see the threat to community when stories are suppressed or erased. At the same time, we see through these poems the importance of memory and memorials in establishing a flourishing community. (Adopted Fall 2015)

Thomas Seeley, Honeybee Democracy. From Trethewey’s poetry, we move to a biologist’s study of the most fascinating of social insects: the honeybee. Seeley demonstrates that we now know a surprising amount about collective decision-making in the hive. It turns out that something like an argument can take place in the hive as they consider where they should move, and that there are mechanisms for resolving that difference. But while the honeybees are a fascinating look at another form of community, we also come to see how scholars have built on each other’s work and collaborated as a unit to learn about honeybees. (Adopted Winter 2019)

Plato, The Republic. There’s a reason why this book has been on the syllabus, almost continuously, for 75 years. It raises big questions that can be worked through in class discussions. Since the work itself is in the form of a dialogue, it serves as a model for these discussions that are at the core of First-Year Studies. It’s hard to think of a major issue that doesn’t turn up somewhere in this work, but at its core is a question about the ideal city. No students or instructors will today wholly agree with the prescriptions for community given by Plato (through his character Socrates), but his wide-ranging questions prompt us to think about what an ideal community would look like.

Berenice Abbott, Tri-Boro Barber School, 264 Bowery, Manhattan. Taken in 1935 as part of the WPA’s Federal Art Project, this photograph rewards close inspection. The barber-stripe column, the contrasting façade tiles, and the patterns of light and shadow evoke modernist art styles like cubism and abstraction. As we continue to examine the photo, economic issues begin to stand out: questions about advertising and who is inside and who is outside of the “world’s up-to-date system.” (Adopted Fall 2020)

Amy Stanley, Stranger in the Shogun’s City. This work of history is one of the new works for First Year Studies. It is a biography of a woman named Tsuneno who lived in the first half of the 19th century in Edo, Japan (which would become Tokyo). On the strength of its storytelling this work has been awarded the 2021 PEN and National Book Critics Circle awards for biography. The book takes a sympathetic look at the life of a woman who made her way from a village to the big city. After having read about Plato’s ideal vision for a city in The Republic, this work of history will sketch for us the reality of life in a growing modern city, and give us a look at the demands such a city makes on individuals. (Adopted Fall 2021)

Winter Term

The Harm in Hate Speech, Jeremy Waldron. We begin the term with the second new work for First-Year Studies. This is a book that provides a philosophical and legal framework for understanding the contemporary question of hate speech. One of the goals of a liberal arts education is to gain facility entering into close written argumentation about contemporary issues, and this work is a model of argument building. It also marks a turn in our approach to thinking about community. In this book, we examine a direct threat to any ideal community, and consider how words sometimes act more like bricks than as reasoned statements. (Adopted Winter 2022)

Tony Kushner, Angels in America. Set in the 1980s, this Pulitzer Prize-winning play offers a searching exploration of the political and ethical conflicts of the AIDS epidemic. We find ourselves in the midst of a community whose sense of meaning is threatened by a deadly virus. As its title suggests, the play works to awaken a larger sense of possibility and wonder. Kushner’s script explores the complex motives of a politically, spiritually, and racially diverse cast as they struggle to find meaning in the midst of a tragedy. (Adopted Winter 2020)

The periodic table of elements. Many students will have used the table in high school, but few will have had the chance to explore it as a created object. Students will be asked to think about the table not as a passive container for information, but as an innovative visual representation of scientific knowledge. This approach will remind us that our shared ideas about the world are built by finding ways to share and disseminate them. There are lots of questions to ask about this iconic image: Who was responsible for designing it? What other possibilities were there for presenting this information? What is the argument made by the table about the nature of the universe? (Adopted Winter 2021)

Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo, Poor Economics. Two distinguished economists offer a scientific approach to the battle with global poverty. Their conclusions are sometimes counterintuitive. Banerjee and Duflo advocate putting aside big ideas, like increasing aid or freeing markets, in favor of careful research addressed to small, specific questions. Reading the book helps students to see how answering these small questions can also give voice to the experience of those living on $1 a day. This book also brings students into contact with a way of thinking about global problem-solving that is highly influential in our time. (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 jazz albums invites students to explore the complex relationship between planned structure and improvised action at the heart of musical performance. If many of the works in First-Year Studies have taken us to questions about community, this final work reminds us of the place of human creativity. This deeply influential LP challenges students to think about the process of memory and the creation of meaning. (Adopted Winter 2016)

Note to incoming students:

Looking for First-Year Studies books? The first book, Native Guard, will be sent to domestic students in the U.S. mail or they will receive a copy in their mailbox. Copies of the Abbott photograph will be made available to students later. The other works are now available from our online bookstore, www.lawrence.edu/academics/bookstore. Wherever you get your books, you should make sure to get the editions we’ve chosen for you. Information about editions, including ISBN numbers, can be found at https://www.lawrence.edu/academics/study/freshman_studies/current_works.

As student-athletes, embrace balance between academics, sports, self care

Karina Herrera ’22 is a captain on Lawrence’s 2020-21 women’s basketball team.

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

If you’re a student-athlete, like me, you know that balancing the demands of academics and athletics can sometimes be overwhelming.

It’s hard, and it’s not for everyone. But finding that healthy balance is doable and necessary. Drawing on my experience—heading into my fourth year at Lawrence, I’m an English (literature) major and a captain on the women’s basketball team—I’ve compiled a list of six tips to help you maintain your equilibrium while being a student-athlete. No matter which of Lawrence’s 22 varsity sports you’re playing, keep these things in mind:

1. Be health-minded

This means eating well and getting enough sleep. I know that our schedules can get really crazy and sometimes we just don’t have time to sit down in the Commons for an entire meal, but that doesn’t mean you should skip out on food. I recommend stocking your residence hall room with snacks and fruit—think protein or granola bars, apples, crackers, muffins and yogurt (if you have a fridge). You also can grab a to-go meal from the Café or a paper bag lunch from the Corner Store and eat it on the go. Most professors will let you eat in class, so you don’t have to worry about not finishing your food in time—as long as you’re not disturbing the class, of course.

You also need to make sure that you’re getting ample amounts of sleep—at least seven hours. This is something I struggled with my first and second years, so I know that it’s easier said than done. For some reason, I would leave a bulk of my homework to finish after practice, and then I’d stay up as long as necessary to finish my assignments, which would sometimes take until well after midnight. Don’t do that. It might be hard, but pick a reasonable time to stop doing homework—no matter how much you have left—and just go to bed; your body needs that rest. 

2. Be proactive with your studies

When you’re in season, it might seem like there’s no time to complete assignments. Between practices, lifts, traveling, and every other team activity, getting your work done is challenging. What helps me to stay on top of my work is really just knowing my schedule and committing blocks of time to work on assignments. Get a routine going. If you know that you have an hour or two between classes, use that time to get easy assignments out of the way. If you have an away game, bring your work with you, find a seat on the bus with an outlet and take advantage of the free WiFi to get some work done. Wake up early at the hotel and chip away at your workload. Don’t wait to do assignments until after you’ve come back from games or practices—it’ll just cause you more stress and, in the end, you’ll have less time to get it done right.  

3. Rely on teammates for support

More often than not, one of your teammates will have taken the same class as you or had the same professor. Use them as a resource. They can give you insider tips on how to do well in the class. Or maybe one of your teammates is a tutor and can help you with a paper or they know how to help you solve a problem. Also, sometimes your teammates will know some resources to help you that you hadn’t thought about. A lot of the time, my teammates and I will study together even if we’re working on different assignments. Ask your teammates to do the same because just being around that kind of atmosphere can help put you in that homework mindset.

4. Take study breaks

Sometimes your mind can’t focus and you need to give your eyes a break from looking at screens or books. Ask a teammate if they want to go to the gym and get a small workout in, go for a walk along the river or just stroll down College Avenue for food or beverages. Balancing the student-athlete life also means incorporating time for activities that don’t involve either. I know that I can’t sit for hours on end trying to complete one assignment, so taking breaks to reset my mind helps me to be more productive.

5. Be honest with coaches

It’s important to remember that you’re a person first, then student and then an athlete. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with something in your personal life, talk to your coaches and let them know that you’re not at your best. Your mental health is important and should not be overlooked. The coaches at Lawrence also understand that the classes are challenging and stressful, so if you’re falling behind on an assignment or you have a big test coming up, discuss your concerns with them to see how you can come to a solution so that you’re not sacrificing one over the other. And if you get injured, no matter how insignificant you think it is, let your athletic trainer and coaches know. Not communicating these things with your coaches can affect your performance in the classroom and in games or meets.  

6. Why so serious?

Speaking as a senior captain, my last piece of advice is to simply have fun. Don’t be too serious about it all. Give your best effort, of course, but don’t burn yourself out trying to do everything perfectly. You’re not going to remember all the shots you miss or the pitches you didn’t swing at. It’s the memories from team dinners, karaoke bus rides, inside jokes, and the friends you make that you’ll take with you after you graduate. Not to sound cheesy, but enjoy it while it lasts.

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