Category: Alumni

Connections, resiliency pay off as new grads navigate job searches in pandemic

Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, Maria Poimenidou ’20 (submitted photos)

Three recent Lawrence grads talk about
anxieties, changed plans, delayed successes
as they job-hunted in the time of COVID

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Launching into a post-college career is no easy thing in the best of times. Now do it amid a global pandemic, the job market suddenly fractured, travel frowned upon, interviews only by Zoom, the family’s basement turned into a makeshift workspace.

“There are six of us in the house working or studying,” said De Andre King ’20, who pursued software engineering jobs from the basement of his family’s New York City home in the months following his June 2020 graduation from Lawrence University. “It meant stuffing a towel under the door to make sure no noise was coming into the room while I was doing the interview. I had to position my table to where the water meter behind me wasn’t showing. It took a lot of planning.”

King is far from alone, of course. We’re closing in on a year since COVID-19 complicated things for new and soon-to-be graduates, adding urgency to the work of Lawrence’s Career Center and importance to connections forged with the school’s alumni.

In some ways, strange as it might sound, the pandemic has lowered the temperature a bit on the pressure to land that perfect job out of school, said Grace Kutney, associate director of the Career Center.

“What I hear from a lot of students, and one of the reasons their shoulders are so tense, is that they feel like they are doing something wrong if they give themselves permission to explore during that first year or two after graduation,” she said. “But I think because of the pandemic, people kind of knew things were going to be weird. I think their families understood that things were going to be weird. And there was the anticipation of bracing themselves for it. … So, it takes a pandemic to be, ‘Oh, it’s OK to find something that is maybe short term.’ But if you look at the statistics nationally, taking a position for a year or two and then shifting to something else is normal; it’s totally normal.”

With that backdrop, we caught up with three recent Lawrence graduates, all of whom leaned heavily on the Career Center and other campus resources as they navigated these uncertain days before landing jobs. Their journeys are all different, but with some shared threads.

^ ^ ^

De Andre King ’20

De Andre King ’20: “It took me a little while to pick myself back up”

King was in Atlanta in early March for the fourth and final round of interviews for an internship with a music company, a software engineering position the computer science major believed would set him on his post-college path.

He nailed the interview. Then everything came crashing down.

The recruiter pulled him aside with a warning. The spread of COVID-19, having recently arrived in the United States, was exploding. The internship was about to be nixed.

“Literally, that world for me was ending,” King said. “And then to check back into reality and see that the world as we know it was possibly ending as well, it was really tough. I was really, really banking on that opportunity. In all of my job-searching experiences, it was something down to the T what I wanted to do.”

He returned to Appleton just as Lawrence was announcing that it would be going to remote classes for Spring Term, and King joined his fellow seniors in scrambling to say goodbyes and honor their college experiences while taking finals amid chaos and tears.

“I wasn’t even able to be fully present for those moments because I was so worried about what was going to happen next,” King said. “Once that opportunity in Atlanta fell through, I was down and out. I’m not going to lie; I was really disappointed and it took me a little while to pick myself back up and keep going. I think I took two or three weeks off before starting back on my job search.”

After going home to New York, he reconnected with the team at Lawrence’s Career Center. Kutney would help guide him through an all-out blitz of job applications, making new connections with alumni, updating application materials, and identifying opportunities that were shifting by the day as companies tried to make sense of life in the pandemic.

“It wasn’t starting from the ground up again, but more so making a pivot and seeing what worked and what didn’t work up to that point,” King said.

He worked through his resume and application letters with Kutney. He circled back with Michelle Cheney, his former advisor in the Career Center who had moved to a position in the Annual Giving office. He reconnected with Cory Nettles ’92, a Lawrence trustee who had been a mentor to him, picking his brain on networking and other skills. He talked with Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, who had been an important conduit to the Atlanta interviews.

“In the earlier search, I was more specifically looking toward the music industry and the music tech industry,” King said. “But after that opportunity fell through, I widened my scope of industries to look into.

“Michelle and then Grace, they were amazing. They took the time to really review each of my materials — my cover letter, my resume, my LinkedIn, my Handshake profile. They also provided me with the tools that helped me manage my time better.”

In all, King sent out about 200 applications.

His efforts eventually led him to Bloomberg LP, where he landed a job in October as a software engineer with the media company’s Princeton, New Jersey office. In November, the Wall Street Journal featured him in a story about the hard work of job searches in the pandemic.

King, still working from the family’s basement, has yet to set foot in the Bloomberg office, but he hopes it’ll happen soon.

“I drove past it one day but I haven’t been inside yet,” he said. “Yea, I’m looking forward to going into the office.”

^ ^ ^

Maria Poimenidou ’20

Maria Poimenidou ’20: “You can fall into a spiral of worries”

Poimenidou has been in Houston since mid-September, working as a research assistant for the Experimental Therapeutics Department in Cancer Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Like King, the pandemic not only added new levels of stress to the job search, it also delayed the process.

“While I was hoping that by graduation I would know exactly where I would be, my interviews and job offers were all pushed back until after graduation,” Poimenidou said. “There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with that and you can fall into a spiral of worries, but the way I adapted to everything was by becoming more flexible.”

She leaned even harder into her Lawrence experience and the resources in the Career Center. 

“One of the most valuable lessons you get out of Lawrence is learning how to be flexible and open-minded,” said Poimenidou, a biochemistry and economics double major. “While I waited for my job offers to come back, I reached out to alumni and applied for different unpaid internships that were not directly tied to the job sector I was interested in. I was fortunate to be able to take on an unpaid internship and grateful to receive two job offers by the end of the summer, one in Chicago and one in Houston.” 

Advice from Kutney and Cheney was helpful, she said, keeping her focused on her priorities while letting go of things she couldn’t control.

“Both Michelle and Grace were more than just career advisors, they were life coaches,” Poimenidou said.

Her job interviews were all virtual, which Poimenidou said she found oddly comforting.

“To be honest, I enjoyed the virtual aspect of the application process because in a way it felt more personable,” she said. “I had interviews with people that were in their homes and I was in mine, where I could hear their dog bark or some commotion in the background. It felt less intimidating and I actually had amazing, easy-going conversations.” 

^ ^ ^

Hoa Huynh ’19

Hoa Huynh ’19: “I’ve become much more comfortable in networking”

Huynh is set to begin a new job as a finance trainee with ING in the Netherlands in April. It follows a just-concluded internship with a small U.S. company based in Amsterdam, an internship she landed after the pandemic put her post-Lawrence plans in disarray.

An economics major at Lawrence, she had wanted to add another internship to her resume. She began looking to large companies, exploring data analytics, finance, and marketing opportunities. That all changed as the pandemic arrived, shutting down hiring at many companies.

“I did a lot of reflection about myself and talked to many people, including peers who were also struggling in the pandemic and those who already succeeded in job applications,” Huynh said.

She reconnected with the Career Center and zeroed in on the finance field, where she already had some experience.

“I diversified the types of companies and applied to smaller businesses and startups,” she said. “After changing strategy, I finally got the internship.”

That led to the opportunity at ING, a multinational banking and finance company. Without the internship and the added experience, it would not have happened, she said, noting that she’d been rebuffed by ING prior to the internship.

“I think the pandemic has definitely made the job search more competitive than before, especially at the beginning when companies were also struggling with changes the pandemic posed,” Huynh said. “I had to adjust my goals.

“More importantly, I had to be even more active in networking to build connections and gain more insights, to make sure that I could prepare the best resume and cover letters. Thanks to networking skills that Grace taught me during my time at Lawrence, I’ve become much more comfortable in networking and reaching out to people, and that hugely helped me land the traineeship at ING.”

Huynh said she now hears herself echoing the lessons she learned via Kutney and the Career Center as she talks with peers who are launching job searches during the pandemic.

“Try to build connections, deepen the connections, and don’t be afraid to show that you’re vulnerable,” Huynh said. “For those who are intimidated by networking, like I was in college, think of it simply as asking about other people’s experiences and information; they would love to share that with you.”

Lessons learned

The pandemic is hammering home the important connections Lawrence students and recent graduates have in the Career Center, where Career Communities, Viking Connect and other recent innovations have improved life after Lawrence planning.

Numbers from Lawrence’s 2020 class are not in yet, but Kutney said of the 2019 graduates, 95% are employed or continuing in their education. That is just shy of the 97% average over the past five years, which is good news in a pandemic that started eight months after that class graduated.

Mike O’Connor, the Riaz Waraich Dean for the Career Center & Center for Community Engagement and Social Change, said he was seeing an influx of student interaction even before the pandemic hit. It continues to grow. In September, more than 250 first-year students attended a Career Center orientation, and 150 first-year students paid follow-up visits, an all-time high.

The Career Center’s Instagram account, where important career planning and job search information is shared, has seen an increase of nearly 700 student followers since fall 2019.

“What I say to students in the pandemic is, be prepared to pivot to industries that are hiring,” O’Connor said. “Many are surging. Think tech, health care, even education. Related to that is skill-building for those opportunities. There are tons of ways to approach this, including remote opportunities and internships. And build your network; that is so key. Colleges with ready-to-tap alumni mentors and contacts are super valuable.”

Those conversations are becoming more frequent in the pandemic, Kutney said. The message is often about staying calm and focusing on the next steps.

She talks to students about not stressing over the perfect job. Is the short-term need to earn a certain amount of money? Is the need to gain experience in a particular area? Is the need to be in a particular geographic area?

“In an ideal world, the position would fill all of those things,” Kutney said. “But right now, in a pandemic, that might not be the case. So, we’re really encouraging them to give themselves permission to go, ‘This is what I’m focusing on for this season of time, and then I can shift.’ That’s part of releasing from their shoulders this burden that they have to have it all figured out before June.”

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

Great Midwest Trivia Contest results: “We are so proud of what we pulled off”

Grace Krueger ’21 (center) led her team of trivia masters through a very challenging but successful Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The 56th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest thrived over the weekend in its first all-digital edition.

Forced to make changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of trivia masters led by Head Master Grace Krueger ’21 stayed true to many of the weird and beloved traditions that have been part of the contest for five and a half decades. Bizarre questions that focus on information searches, useless prizes, nods to the contest’s history, and interactions between players and trivia masters all lived on.

“All in all, the weekend went fantastically well,” Krueger said. “Despite some hiccups that are always going to happen with the adaption of new technology and the restrictions we were under this year, the contest was a complete success and we are so proud of what we pulled off.”

For a wider sampling of the 2021 trivia contest, see this playlist.

With the WLFM studio unavailable and trivia masters socially distanced, the contest was held on Twitch. The action questions were all virtual and players called in answers via a virtual phone line on a Discord server.

“Teams adapted to all the changes this year so well, and we want to thank them for learning with us,” Krueger said.

What, if any, changes will be rolled into the traditional format next year will be at the direction of Riley Newton ’22, who was announced as the head master for the 2022 contest.

Despite going all-digital and teams not being able to gather together per usual, this year’s contest remained a big draw. It drew 77 off-campus teams and 14 on-campus teams, featuring a total of 551  players.

Here are the winning teams (yes, the tradition of long and strange names continued):

ON CAMPUS:

1: Team 3, At this point, Why not trust an Aquarius Microwaving and Peeling and why IS [REDACTED] ON FIRE-oh yes, YES, Flambéing and society of bones and pyromaniacs (owo) cinematic Universe (TM). The previous name has burst into flames; like a phoenix from the ashes has risen as a virgo: 1,650

2: Team 1, The Gaming House Special Featuring the Nipples of Knowledge: 1,415

3: Team 6, joe and ethan funtime bonanza team: 1,315

OFF CAMPUS:

1: Team 135, Delguigi: 1,710

2: Team 112, are you the onesie #comfycrew: 1,665

3: Team 106, Hobgoblin of Little Minds: This One is for Sheila: 1,650

The Super Garuda was among the traditions that continued. The Super Garuda is annually a weirdly obscure question that serves as the final question of the weekend and then as the first question of the following year’s contest. Here’s your head start for 2022:

Q: The person who installed Pepsi machines on set played a Prohibition agent in a black-and-white film where Peter sets out to prove that he isn’t a boob. The title of this silent comedy is a featured comical word in a 2018 linguistics paper published by Canadian university researchers. A building at this university is named after a man whose last name is the first name of an actor who played a one-eyed man in a movie once described as having “all the appeal of a seaweed sandwich.” In this building, there is a large room on the mechanical floor directly below 2A2. In the southwest corner of the room, a red, graffiti-covered beam crosses the path near a door. A message is written on the wall next to the beam informing the reader of their odor. What, according to the author, do you smell like?

A: Cabbage

(It was answered correctly by Team 142: Beedough Beedough Beedough.)

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

Lighting the Way With … Tom Coben: When Kimmel calls and statues dance

Tom Coben ’12

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Tom Coben ’12, a motion graphics artist whose work in the past week has been viewed more than 5 million times.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Nearly a decade after leaving Lawrence University with a growing portfolio of 3D graphics and other visual effects, Tom Coben ’12 has gone viral.

Well, his creative skills have gone viral, if not his name.

A freelance motion graphics and visual effects artist in the Twin Cities, Coben hooked up earlier this month with the creative team of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! They were looking for an artist who could animate statues dancing and singing for a video they were making to mark the end of the Trump presidency.

Coben delivered 14 shots of statues, monuments, and paintings that became the heart of the video – the Statue of Liberty, the faces on Mt. Rushmore, the statue of Martin Luther King Jr., among them – all in full celebration mode. Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the late-night talk show, posted the video late last week, and it quickly bounced around social media, racking up more than 5 million views on YouTube in the first four days.

See the Jimmy Kimmel video here.

“I sent a sample video of the Statue of Liberty dancing as a proof-of-concept on spec and they hired me for the bit,” Coben said. “We used a type of motion-capture technique where they filmed an actor with facial tracking markers and I used that information to apply the facial motions to the different sculptures and paintings.”

From there, he watched the final product roll out, and the social media shares and video views quickly grow, all in the days following the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Between social media and TV views, it’s the widest his work has been seen. But Coben said he did have one other brush with the power of the internet when Will Smith shared on his Instagram account an animation Coben made of a robot bowling. That got him a ton of exposure and some new freelance work, which is always a good thing.

“But this Kimmel video is definitely the most amount of attention any of my work has had,” he said.

It started at Lawrence

Coben first got a taste for motion graphics and 3D visual effects while studying at Lawrence.

An environmental studies major, Coben developed an interest in animation and 3D artistry. Lawrence’s Film Studies program was launching just as Coben was graduating. He was able to put together a self-directed film/animation-related minor.

“One of my favorite experiences at Lawrence was during the summer after my sophomore year when I got the opportunity to travel to the Philippines for five weeks with my advisor, (Associate Professor of Biology) Jodi Sedlock,” Coben said. “She knew I was interested in film production and asked if I would come and produce a short documentary about cave-roosting bat species and conservation of cave ecosystems on the island of Siquijor. Besides just being rad as hell, that experience helped me get a job the following summer at the Smithsonian National Zoo making promotional videos for their YouTube channel, filming the different exhibits.”

Then during his senior year, Coben took an intermediate sculpture class with Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, and was given the green light to focus on using 3D software to create digital sculptures that he would incorporate into footage taken around campus.

It got wonderfully weird. There was a supersized octopus clinging to the cupola atop Main Hall. And snow goons waging a battle on the snow-covered campus green.

Neilson said he recalls Coben taking to heart the prompt he gave to the class at the outset of the term: “Construct a sculptural piece in any medium you choose that somehow closes — or exists within — the gap between art and life and addresses sculpture as a ‘thing’ in all its ‘objectness’.” Coben chose to use 3D modeling and video, and Neilson said he was all in.

“My approach to teaching art has always been: Sculpture can be anything we, the students and I, collaboratively decide it is,” Neilson said. “While I certainly love to ‘make things;’ to me sculpture is more about ideas than objects. Indeed, this is the fundamental beauty of sculpture; its ability to carry and convey meaning through material — even if the material is bits and bytes in a computer. Otherwise, it’s just an object.”

Coben took that approach and ran with it. He’s still running with it.

“After I graduated, I used some of those animations along with some other personal work to put together a reel, which got me my first few freelance jobs out of college,” Coben said. “After that I worked at a small video production company for about three years before deciding to get back into freelance animation, which I have been doing for the past five years.”

Much of his work is with local clients in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, doing 3D product renderings, motion graphics for commercials and online marketing videos, and visual effects for music videos.

He’s also designing custom 3D-printed sculptures, selling them on Etsy under the name Tomforgery3D. 

“They’re based on the classics but I’ve screwed with them to make them more absurd,” he said.

It might not draw the 5 million views of a Kimmel video, but it’s interesting, challenging, and creative work, Coben said.

“I had a lot of very cool opportunities at Lawrence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing today if my professors hadn’t given me the ability to pursue my interests with as much freedom as they did,” he said.

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

Eight alumni, eight stories: Endurance, vision, and brilliance show the way

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

One of the great joys in the Communications office is being able to catch up with Lawrence alumni who are shining their light brightly along whatever paths their journeys have taken them.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have canceled our 2020 Reunion weekend, but over the course of the year we had the chance to talk with and write about many amazing Lawrentians, graduating as far back as 1954 and as recently as 2019.

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2020: Read here.

Here are eight who caught our attention in our second annual Eight Alumni, Eight Stories end-of-year feature.

If you haven’t read these stories, we invite you to do so now. See story links below.

_ _ _

Jack Nilles ’54

Jack Nilles ’54: “We’re still in the middle of a giant experiment.”

Living amidst Los Angeles’ traffic congestion, Nilles floated the wild idea that employees could be productive working from home or in neighborhood offices instead of commuting to corporate headquarters. This was in the early 1970s. He studied it. He wrote books about it. He was called the father of telecommuting. But corporate America mostly shrugged. Then, in 2020, when the pandemic sent employees en masse to home offices, people started paying attention. “I keep saying lately, ‘after 48 years, I’m an overnight success,’” Nilles said.

_ _ _

Jim Miller ’80

Jim Miller ’80: “I felt a sense of urgency.”

The one-time Lawrence cross-country star has been running marathons ever since he caught the bug while an undergrad here in the late 1970s. It turns out he was pretty good at it, qualifying for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon in both 1980 and 1984. He hasn’t stopped running. In August, just days before turning 62, Miller ran a marathon in 2 hours, 53 minutes, 59 seconds. That’s significant because it made him just the fourth runner in the world known to have run marathons in under 3 hours in six different decades.

_ _ _

Katy Hopkins ’85

Katy Hopkins ’85: “I said I’d love to help out, but I can’t keep up.”

Like many in the arts world, Hopkins found her livelihood at a standstill when the pandemic hit in the spring. The operator of Yahara River Woodwinds, an instrument-repair shop in Stoughton, Wisconsin, Hopkins quickly learned that musicians don’t need instruments repaired when much of the music world has shut down. She quickly pivoted and began making masks, which led to requests for specially made masks that music students could wear while practicing and performing. When her alma mater reached out, Hopkins, already overwhelmed with orders from around the country, agreed to teach students in the Theater Department Costume Shop to create the masks. Those masks are now being worn by students across the Conservatory.

_ _ _

Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05

Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05: “I’d say the victories are bittersweet.”

As a student at Lawrence, Lewis Hartung knew she wanted to go to law school. She just hadn’t quite centered on what path she would take in law. She eventually landed at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, where she worked as a student in the school’s Center on Wrongful Convictions. It’s there that she found her passion in post-conviction work. She would eventually join the faculty at Northwestern and now spends her days both teaching and working cases for clients believed to have been wrongfully convicted.

_ _ _

Dr. Ben Weston ’05

Dr. Ben Weston ’05: “Our public health infrastructure is not designed for this.”

A biology major while at Lawrence, Weston credits his work in the classroom and as a leader in Student Life with preparing him for the lead role he’s taken in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides teaching at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, working two shifts a week in the emergency department at Froedtert Hospital, and serving as the Office of Emergency Management’s director of medical services for Milwaukee County, Weston has taken on the temporary role of medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center. To say the least, he’s had a busy year.

_ _ _

Alex Damisch ’16

Alex Damisch ’16: “For Jeopardy!, you make it work.”

While at Lawrence, Damisch was a regular in the Quizbowl student club. She also was a trivia master for the Great Midwest Trivia Contest. If there was a brain game to play, she was in. It turns out that was great training. It paid off when she finally got her shot at Jeopardy!. For three straight days, she was on a roll, winning more than $35,000 along the way. “After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.”

_ _ _

Spencer Tweedy ’19

Spencer Tweedy ’19: “Thankfully, we all get along really well.” (Photo by David Zoubek)

When you grow up a Tweedy, singing around the house is just the way life happens. So, when the pandemic hit and Spencer and his brother, Sam, were homebound with their famous father, Jeff Tweedy, founder, singer, and guitarist of Wilco, and their mother, Susan, entertainment ensued. A bathroom rendition of Jeff Tweedy’s Evergreen featuring Jeff, Spencer, and Sam ended up on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tweedy Show debuted on Instagram.

_ _ _

Kir-Sey Fam ’19

Kir-Sey Fam ’19: “There was a bit of firefighting going on in different areas during launch.”

Even before he graduated from Lawrence in June 2019, Fam had himself a job offer as a software engineer at Disney+. The streaming service hadn’t yet launched, but the buzz was huge. It’s not often you step from the stage at Commencement and immediately land in the midst of one of the most talked about media developments in the world. When it launched, Disney+ had 10 million sign-ups the first day, 29 million in the first three months, and a new bankable star in Baby Yoda. Fam was part of the team that made it all happen.

See 2019 edition of Eight Alumni, Eight Stories here.

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

Most-viewed Lawrence stories of 2020: Bright lights in midst of a daunting year

The President’s Handshake, a tradition of Welcome Week, was reimagined at the outset of Fall Term, one of many adjustments made to keep campus safe during the pandemic. President Mark Burstein met each incoming student and presented them with a luminary to be displayed. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

It’s been a different sort of year. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly altered life on the Lawrence campus.

But one thing proved true. Lawrentians (and future Lawrentians and friends of Lawrence) are hungry to read about Lawrence and their fellow Lawrentians. We’ve dived into the analytics to share today the most viewed stories of 2020 on the Lawrence news site. (A few of the stories that placed in the top 20 are partnered here because they are so closely related.)

Eight alumni, eight stories: See 2020 edition here.

From voice professor John Holiday’s success on NBC’s The Voice to Lawrence again being hailed as a world-class school to adjustments made to campus life in the midst of a pandemic, there was no shortage of Lawrence news that drew a lot of interest. We provide here links to those most popular stories. Check out what you missed or take another look at stories that remind us of what makes Lawrence shine.

1. John Holiday hits big on NBC’s The Voice.

“There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” See stories here and here.

2. Princeton Review names Lawrence one of nation’s Best Impact schools.

“I see it and hear it when I meet with our alumni around the world. They point back to their time at Lawrence as unlocking something for them, discovering an interest or talent they didn’t know they had until they started working with professors here who helped guide them in that discovery.” See story here.

3. We say farewell to beloved Lawrentians.

“I will always remember Lifongo as the warmest, kindest, and most generous, joyful, and magnanimous of colleagues and friends.” … “I know many Lawrentians join me in remembering moments when Terry’s advice provided exactly what you needed to hear to be the best version of yourself.” See stories here and here.

4. Campus life changes amid COVID-19 pandemic.

“All of us living, learning, and working on campus this fall need to understand and to honor the responsibilities outlined by the Pledge.” See stories here and here.

5. A professor’s guide offers look at Freshman Studies.

“The entire list shows a remarkable range and an admirable ambition.” See story here.

6. New trestle trail adds to trails, parks near campus.

“The abandoned railroad trestle has been transformed into a 10-foot-wide trail that spans the Fox River at the southern edge of campus.” See story here.

7. Bidding good-bye for now to retiring faculty.

“You have served as a steadying force, stepping into a host of academic leadership positions that have lent stability in moments of uncertainty and grace in times of worry.” See story here.

8. Six faculty earn tenure.

“I’m absolutely delighted that their contributions are being recognized through the awarding of tenure and promotion, and look forward to continuing together our rich, rewarding work for years to come.” See story here.

 9. Jake Woodford ’13 elected mayor of Appleton.

“It has been a pleasure to watch Jake’s energy turn toward the city he loves.” See story here.

10. Princeton Review names Lawrence to Best Colleges list.

“As we head into another academic year, albeit one that looks different from any other in history, it’s reassuring to see that some things have remained the same.” See story here.

11. President Mark Burstein announces plans to leave Lawrence.

“During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded.” See story here.

12. Lawrence offers assistance during pandemic.

“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity.” See story here.

13. Conservatory named ‘hidden gem,’ adapts to life in pandemic.

“It’s beautiful, creative flexibility. We’re working with our students all the time to say, ‘This is what you’re going to need out there in the world, and this is what’s going to be exciting about being a musician in the world today.’” See story here.

14. Natasha Tretheway named 2020 Commencement speaker.

“Our journeys have been intertwined since I visited Lawrence four years ago, and I am delighted and honored to be able to reconnect with this class in such a meaningful way.” See story here.

15. Spencer Tweedy ’19 enjoys Kimmel appearance, Instagram show.

“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable.” See story here.

16. Lawrence adds major in Creative Writing, minor in Statistics and Data Science.

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing.” … “Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science.” See story here.

17. Four alumni added to Board of Trustees.

“At this critical moment for higher education, I couldn’t be more appreciative for the diverse group of individuals who are giving so much of their time and talent as trustees to ensure that the college continues to distinguish and differentiate itself.” See story here.

18. Alexander Gym court gets a redesign.

“While resurfacing was certainly a maintenance requirement, the fresh new design work is an added bonus.” See story here.

19. Our 2020 Alumni Awards are announced.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic has shut down the annual Reunion celebration, this year’s recipients are still being celebrated for their contributions to both the Lawrence community and the world.” See story here.

20. Alex Damisch ’16 cherishes her Jeopardy experience.

“After I taped the shows, I thought to myself, ‘Man, it went by so fast, and I was always so focused on my next move, I hope I remembered to smile.’ Spoiler alert: I did not.” See story here.

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

Celebrating 50 years of London Centre adventures: “It changed my life”

This group of Lawrence University students spent the 2019-20 Winter Term at London Centre. It was the final group before the in-person program temporarily paused during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been 50 years since Lawrence launched London Centre.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The words read like heartfelt letters to an old friend.

For 50 years, Lawrence University students have been trekking to the London Centre for a term or two of study in one of the world’s most iconic cities. Launched in 1970, it has stood as part of the Lawrence experience for five decades, an extension of the Appleton campus that continues to make London the No. 1 destination for the university’s study abroad program. Lawrentians have studied at London Centre with British and visiting professors, soaked in London’s rich history, forged new friendships, and explored Europe in a myriad of ways.

So, we wondered aloud if that London experience — 50 years ago or as recently as last year or any of the years between — continues to impact and inform the lives of our alumni. Does the love endure? Spoiler alert: It does.

“I fell in love with everything the museums, the people, and the classes that introduced me to famous monuments and hidden gems,” said Nicole Witmer ’19, who spent the spring terms of 2018 and 2019 in London. “I loved it so much that I decided to spend my last term at Lawrence at the London Centre, this time pursuing an internship at a publishing house. That internship led me to my first career out of school, and now I’m back in London pursuing my master’s.”

Sounds familiar, say those who came before. Digging through memories from five decades earlier, the first of the Lawrentians to study at London Centre, now in their 70s and mostly retired, speak with similar reverence.

It was, they said, love at first sight.

“Was not sure what to expect,” said Doug Kohrt ’71, who studied in Arden Hotel with the first cadre of London Centre students in the summer and fall of 1970. “It was hotel living with a shared bath down the hall and no eating facilities in the room. We were furnished breakfast but we were otherwise on our own. This was the time before computers and we had to rent typewriters to write term papers. But travel was inexpensive and student airline tickets were used for weekend trips throughout Europe. Many of our group spent nights taking in West End plays, musicals, concerts and days studying or exploring London. … My London experience was a life-changing event.”

Same for Kevin Fenner ’72, who went a year later, spending the summer and fall of 1971 at the London Centre, the first time he had left the United States. “It was the best experience of my young life,” he said. “It was an experience that could never be repeated. The London Centre changed my life.”

Photo flashback: Clockwise from top left: Professor F. Theodore Cloak is seen in the Fall of 1970 at Arden Hotel, the first home of London Centre (photo courtesy of Dave Mitchell ’71); Julie Panke ‘71 and Virginia Danielson ’71, among the first students at London Centre in 1970, settle in on a ferry from Harwich en route to Amsterdam. (Photo courtesy of Julie Panke ’71); Jim Bode ’71, Jim Geiser ’71, and Dave Mitchell ’71 were among the first Lawrentians to study at London Centre in 1970. (Photo courtesy of Dave Mitchell); a picnic is enjoyed in Kensington Gardens in spring of 1980 (photo courtesy of Alison Ames Galstad ’82).

_ _ _ 

Sense a theme?

The dozens of alumni who responded to our effort to mark the 50th anniversary of London Centre spoke of following the trails of literary heroes and theater icons, of visiting grand museums and historic halls, of studying European history on the very streets where it all happened, of exploring British cuisine and taste, of chasing adventures across Europe, and of redirecting in so many ways their global focus.

Many spoke of their London memories, no matter how distant, as being among the fondest of their lifetimes, whether their London home was in Arden Hotel (1970-80) or 7 Brechin Place (1994-2009) or the current location on Great Russell Street in the heart of Bloomsbury (2018 to present) or any of a number of other locations that housed the London Centre through the years.

Find more information on Lawrence’s London Centre here.

Lezlie Weber, director of off-campus programs at Lawrence, said reaching the 50-year milestone is no small thing. It speaks to Lawrence’s commitment to international study.

“Study abroad tends to be a transformative part of a student’s experience at Lawrence,” she said. “Alumni mention the London Centre as a defining part of their undergraduate years, building their confidence and contributing to their career paths. The London Centre allows students to use London itself as a classroom for experiential learning and academic coursework.”

On average, the London Centre draws between 30 and 50 Lawrence students per year spread over three terms, some spending one term there and others two terms. It operates as a closed academic program for Lawrence, much of it focused on the history and culture of England. Lawrence students in their second year and beyond are eligible for the London program, and in recent years internship opportunities have become plentiful.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put in-person studies at London Centre temporarily on pause, although five courses were offered virtually during Fall Term. The most recent group of students were there in Winter Term, when concerns about the spread of the virus in Europe resulted in hectic exits in early March.  

London Centre instructor Christine Hoenigs taught two virtual theater courses, Diversity on the London Stage and Shakespeare in London. While theater students would normally visit a theater and see a production each week, she used high quality recordings of shows in London and Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as Q&As and interviews, to bring students closer to the vibrant London theater scene.

“I thoroughly enjoy working with students in smaller groups this term,” Hoenigs said. “Although, like all of my colleagues, we miss having students in London and wish we could work with them here. But I am hopeful that students will be returning to the London Centre next year and we can show them what this beautiful, indestructible city has to offer.”

FRIENDSHIP AND COMMUNITY

The current London Centre location encompasses several buildings in the Bloomsbury neighborhood, with easy access to Covent Garden, the West End, and Soho. The living quarters, equipped with modern amenities and shared spaces, may be a bit more spacious then some early London Centre students recall, but the communal nature of the experience remains the same — friendships and adventures will happen here.

“I grew very close to the other Lawrence students at the Centre as all seven of us lived in one flat,” said Sarah Wells ’20, who spent the spring of 2019 in London. “Some days we would be teaching each other how to cook. Other days we would go exploring for food together in the Bloomsbury neighborhood or at a street market.”

“The faculty and staff at the London Centre really encouraged a strong sense of community in the house, and living in London with its diverse history and culture was a positive way to get a new perspective on life,” said Katie Brown ’04, who arrived in London in need of a new outlook and found it at 7 Brechin Place. “This experience really helped me through a difficult time and was very influential on who I have become.”

Lawrence announced in late 1969 the coming launch of London Centre. A news release hailed it as an expansion of the Lawrence experience. Lawrence students were all in from the get-go, and the momentum quickly grew.  

No matter which location housed London Centre at the time, the alumni spoke of the value that comes with experiencing the surroundings. The original location was literally in a hotel. Located in the Earls Court neighborhood, Arden Hotel included a private classroom but residential spaces had students mingled amid the hotel guests. Despite its limitations, it proved to be a worthy home for the program’s first 10 years.

“A terrific group of students, many of whom are among my closest friends today,” recalled Dave Mitchell ’71, who was part of the first wave in the summer and fall of 1970. “Vivid memories of our group huddled in front of the black and white TV on Sunday evenings watching ‘Monty Python’s Flying Circus.’ … Shepherd’s pie and warm ale for lunch at the Devonshire Arms.”

“The semester was packed with things to do,” said George Stalle ’75, who studied in London in Fall Term of 1974. “Concerts at the South Bank Concert Halls, a Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall and singing ‘God Save the Queen.’ … Not enough time in the day to enjoy everything.”

CHASING HISTORY, DROPPING NAMES

For many Lawrentians, the London experience means crossing paths with historical figures in a way that can’t be replicated in books or in Google searches. It’s being immersed in a theater scene that brings you inside historic performance spaces and lets you soak in the wonder and power of the arts in Europe. It’s seeing and touching traditions that date back centuries.

Lawrence faculty come to London as visiting professors, providing a chance to teach in a new locale, immerse themselves in the London experience, and forge bonds with students that resonate well beyond the classroom. Alumni decades removed from their London studies still speak glowingly of those relationships.

“One of our assignments in Professor (William) Chaney’s London class was to pick a town and try to write up the history of it, but without going to a library,” said Christopher Lynch ’89, who studied in London in fall 1986. “Chaney said if one really wanted to learn the history of a place, then talk with the ladies that put the flowers on the altar of the local church. Of course, he was right. … Chaney’s genius was to get students out into the community, meeting English people and experiencing their society.”

With legendary performance spaces aplenty, name dropping is not out of the question. Alumni recalling special moments referenced performers they saw live in London who either were or would go on to become household names — Anthony Hopkins, Elton John, Geraldine James, Aaron Copland, and Dustin Hoffman, among them.

It’s the opportunity to experience it all in a very sensory way that resonates, the alumni said.

“I encountered my literary heroes both in London and on super cheap Ryanair weekend excursions,” said Melody Moberg ’10, an English and religious studies major who studied at the London Centre in the fall of 2009. “Sometimes I sought out sacred English literature sights, such as the Keats-Shelley house in Rome, which brims with the looping script of Romantic poets, first editions, and creepy relics. More often, I stumbled upon sacred sites. For example, the church in London where my internship’s fundraiser was held happened to be William Blake’s congregation. In London, deep history is woven into the fabric of the city. I loved wandering through the city and discovering treasures everywhere.”

Susan Carter Ruskell ’91 studied in London in spring 1989 and came away awed by what was so close and available. “Twenty-one theatrical productions in 10 weeks, including performances by Geraldine James, Alec Guiness, Anthony Hopkins, Dustin Hoffman, and many others,” she said.

“Fringe Theatre of London was a highlight for me,” said Chuck Demler ’11, who spent Winter Term 2009 at London Centre. “It was just two of us, Emily May ’10 and me in the class with Ginny Schiele. We would attend a play each week and then review it. Ginny would give us free tickets or tell us about other performances in the city. I think I ended up seeing 25 plays during that term. It really changed the way that I think about theater and art of all kinds.”

For Charlie Seraphin ’72, it was the show he missed during Winter Term 1970 that still haunts. He passed on joining his fellow students at a small venue near London Centre. “After the show, they raved about the small venue less than 200 people and the awesome performance by a soon-to-be-superstar Elton John. Oops!”

Cheryl Wilson Kopecky ’72 still looks at the journal she kept during a Summer Term in 1971. “I’m amazed at the number music and theater ‘starts’ we saw in just one term. Traveling around Great Britain and other countries, finding a B&B when arriving in a new village or city, and researching a history topic where it happened (Battle of Stamford Bridge, 1066) were all new accomplishments. I recall thinking at the time, ‘This is one of the highpoints of my life,’ and that sentiment still remains true.”

A TASTE FOR LONDON AND THE WORLD

Food and drink also land on the front burner when alumni talk of their London Centre adventures. As does travel. No surprise there. Exploring not only England but elsewhere in Europe has long been part of the draw.

Richard Zimman ’73 took a liking to London in the winter and spring of 1971 and never looked back. “Life at the London Centre changed my life by introducing me to three passions that continue to this day international travel, live theater, and British beer,” he said.

“My London term was one of my best memories from college and the experiences I had there have helped fuel a lifetime of travel, curiosity, and adventure,” said Kurtiss Wolf ’93, who studied in London in Winter Term 1993. “… Having that sort of immersive international experience early in life has definitely made me a better global citizen.”

“I can vividly remember the Earls Court tube stop, the Hot Pot restaurant, Kensington Gardens, the double-decker buses, and exploring the streets and shops,” said Rick Chandler ’74. “I loved the opportunities to travel. I met lots of interesting people and learned that markets, pubs, youth hostels, footpaths, trains, and bicycle trips are more memorable than castles and cathedrals.”

“Still remember studying in the round pond at Hyde Park, as our residence was very close,” said K K (Brian) Tse ’81, a London Centre student in Fall Term 1980. “Watching many plays and going to so many good museums, hitchhiking by myself to Ireland; what a memorable term at the age of 20.”

Chris Porter ’74, who spent the Winter and Spring terms of 1972 at London Centre, continues to return time and again. “Many years after the fact, I told my dad that my six months in London had been life-changing due to the exposure we had to other peoples and cultures and the travel opportunities it provided,” he said. “… I’ve been back to London at least 60 times since 1972; every time I go, I go in search of the London of 1972, which has largely disappeared, mostly for the better, but some for the worse.”

Alison Ames Galstad ’82 was there in Spring Term 1980. “Where to start? The iconic Arden Hotel, favorite pub Devonshire Arms, travels to Germany and a trip down the Rhine with my dear friend and roommate Elizabeth Carter Wills, hitchhiking to Dover and camping on the White Cliffs with my friend Greg Zlevor, travels through Wales and a hike up Mt. Snowdon with my dear and forever friend Catherine Biggs Dempsey, seeing Yul Brynner not once but twice in ‘The King and I’ at the London Palladium and getting his autograph backstage. … And there was the hostage crisis, the Iranian Embassy siege in London, and the failed hostage rescue in Iran — tensions were high, and there were a few days through which we all were certain we’d be sent home given the political climate. Living and studying abroad was an immensely enriching experience for all of us.”

For 50 years, London Centre has been home to academic adventures and life-defining experiences for Lawrence students. Here’s to 50 more.

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

Lighting the Way With … Dr. Ben Weston: On the COVID-19 front lines

Dr. Ben Weston ’05 (Photo courtesy of Medical College of Wisconsin)

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Dr. Ben Weston ’05, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin who has been a leader in the Milwaukee area in the COVID-19 pandemic battle.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When Dr. Ben Weston ’05 tells you “it’s been an interesting year,” know that is his understated way of saying it’s been an emotionally draining, frustrating, holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened, gut-wrenching, exhausting, pants-on-fire sort of a year.

So, yes, interesting.

The Lawrence University alumnus is among the army of front-line health care workers who have been living the COVID-19 pandemic up close and personal on a daily basis, and he’s done it wearing three important but vastly different hats.

For two shifts a week, Weston works as an emergency department physician at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, part of his role as associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s here where he sees COVID patients fighting for their lives, where the latest surge threatens to overwhelm staff and space, where he and colleagues have to wear the same protective masks for multiple days for fear of resources running short.

He also lives it in his role as director of medical services for Milwaukee County, working through the Office of Emergency Management to coordinate 14 fire departments, ambulances, and other first responders in providing emergency medical care for a region with a population of nearly 1 million people.

For more Lawrence alumni features, see here.

And he lives it in his role as medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center, working with the city of Milwaukee, the county, and a bevy of municipalities to coordinate responses to the pandemic and provide consistent messaging to residents.

Three hats, three perspectives of a pandemic that has shown no signs of abating, and a day-to-day schedule that has been dominated by the coronavirus since the earliest days of 2020.

And when Weston’s work day is over and he settles in with his wife and three young kids, can he move away from the brutal realities of the health care crisis? Well, not completely. His wife, Dr. Michelle Buelow, is a physician with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers on the south side of Milwaukee, treating a heavily Hispanic population that has been hit hard by COVID-19.

“She’s been right in the thick of it as well,” Weston said. “So, the evenings usually start with a little pandemic conversation, and then we try purposely to shift to other things.”

Beyond the imaginable

Weston knew his world was about to change in January as the virus began its spread. What he didn’t know was that nearly a year later we would be staring into what could be a very dark winter as cases surge across the United States, hospitals are stretched to capacity and beyond, and the death toll nears 275,000.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the longevity or the extreme impact that COVID would have,” Weston said of those early days before the virus landed in the U.S. “We would talk through scenarios about if long-term care facilities were hit or if there were outbreaks in regions of the community. I think it was certainly hard to imagine back then that we would be having this widespread outbreak everywhere like we have now. Every county in Wisconsin, every state in the United States, every country in the world is having these surges in cases right now, along with hospitalizations and deaths. We would have been naïve to think it wasn’t going to affect us at all, but I don’t think anyone anticipated this.”

Weston has been front and center in messaging to the public about the spread of the virus, the significance of the threat, and the need for personal responsibility. He’s spoken at news conferences and done dozens of interviews with media, locally and nationally. He’s done so while fighting conflicting messages coming from the national level.

“There have been a lot of novel aspects to the virus that makes it very challenging to control,” Weston said. “Biologic aspects of the virus, the incubation period, the asymptomatic spread. Things like that make it very hard to control, and difficult to message from a disease perspective. And then you compound that with messaging at the highest level and the national response that a lot of times is contradictory to the local response and the local messaging and you have a pretty difficult situation.”

There are consequences that come with that lack of a unified national response. One, of course, is the accelerated spread of the virus when segments of the population refuse to take it seriously, continuing to gather in confined spaces and refusing to wear masks. Another is the emotional toll it’s taking on health care workers. They not only face burnout because of the workload, but they also have to deal with backlash from people who see the pandemic as politics, Weston said.

“Everyone is really strained from a work standpoint,” he said. “Our public health infrastructure is not designed for this, nor is it funded, nor is it staffed in a way to manage something like this.”

To then receive hateful messages from someone taking exception to the daily news cycle adds to an already overwhelming burden, Weston said.

“It’s disheartening for public health practitioners when they are working these 60-, 70-, 80-, 100-hour weeks, and then at the end of the week when they feel like they’ve done something positive, they open up their email or listen to their voice mail and that’s what they hear.”

Through it all, though, there are opportunities to smile, Weston said. Health care workers need to cling to those moments. For him, it’s a kind email from a woman who opted to skip an indoor Thanksgiving gathering after hearing him speak on the dangers of such behavior. Or seeing multiple health care organizations across the state come together to share data and strategies, something that would have been unheard of a year ago.

“They come in somewhat small victories,” Weston said.

A path forged at Lawrence

Before Weston earned his medical and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Wisconsin, he was a biology major at Lawrence. The classroom instruction prepared him well for medical school. But he points to campus experiences outside of the classroom that helped him develop the leadership and collaboration skills that are in play now. He worked his final three years at Lawrence in residence hall leadership positions, first in Plantz Hall and then in Hiett Hall, and chaired the Lawrence University Community Council’s Judicial Board.

“I loved my Lawrence experience,” Weston said. “I had the privilege of having leadership opportunities at Lawrence that I think helped to develop and hone my ability to be in these positions I’m in now.”

He cites then-Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell and current Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale as mentors who helped guide his journey.

“They were great mentors, and I saw great examples of principled leadership and steadfast collaboration from both of them that have certainly carried forward to my career,” Weston said. “Those were critical building blocks for me.”

Those lessons, he said, will be close at hand as the calendar flips to 2021 and he looks to help colleagues weather at least a few more months of distress before a vaccine hopefully brings some relief.

“It’s been hard the last few weeks to see the surges going up, knowing that no hospital can keep up with those sorts of numbers,” Weston said.

But the recent news of a vaccine that could be coming soon has buoyed spirits among health care workers, even though they know things will be difficult between now and spring.

“What changes is the perspective,” Weston said. “If we had talked back in July, August, September, we didn’t know when the end point was. We hoped it would be maybe in the spring, but we didn’t know. We had no evidence to point to, to say there’s an end to this, it’s coming. There was talk that this could go on for years.

“And now we see promising signs that there is an end point. We see the vaccine trials and we see this news and we start talking about how we’re going to distribute it. And I think that’s great news and we should celebrate it. But we also should recognize that the vaccination campaign isn’t going to take off and get everyone vaccinated this winter. We have to get through what’s going to be a really hard winter. So, the message has to be that we can celebrate the vaccine, but for the next few months we really need to buckle down. We have winter coming. It’s going to be a challenging time. But we know an end is in sight.”

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

Holiday Gift Guide: Shopping ideas courtesy of your fellow Lawrentians

Compiled by Communications

Do you want to support a fellow Lawrentian as you do your holiday shopping? We’ve pulled together a gift guide courtesy of those who shared with us products or services they’ve created and have available online. It might be a business they’ve founded or crafts they make or art they’ve created or a book they’ve written.

This list only includes Lawrentians who responded to our ask, and only those who have a web presence, whether it’s their primary money-maker or a side hustle. All links here are active. Happy shopping.

Art, music, photography, design

  • Tanya Harsch ’05, www.tanyaharsch.com/shop.html … Paintings, prints, etchings, postcards, children’s books, art merch, illustrations, arty socks, clocks, and more.
  • Lizzie Aldag ’05, Liz Aldag Ceramics; www.lizaldagceramics.com … A small-batch ceramic artist creating functional, wheel-thrown pottery in Durham, North Carolina.
  • Claudia Kuhn ’86, Claudia Kuhn Photography; https://claudia-kuhn.pixels.com … Gorgeous photography from around the world available as canvas print, framed print, metal print, and more.
  • Isabel Dammann ’17, Sprig of That; https://sprigofthat.bandcamp.com … Acoustic folk music, soap, socks, prints, posters, stickers. Sprig of That is an acoustic folk trio with violinist Isabel Dammann ’17, guitarist Ilan Blanck ’17, and tabla player Krissy Bergmark.
  • Andy Bauman ’11, Cogito Prints; www.cogitoprints.com … Handmade linoleum relief prints to challenge and inspire.
  • Erika Rand ’95, Erika Rand Fine Art Prints; www.erikarand.com … Inspirational fine art photography. Current project is a rare collaboration with members of the Hopi tribe.

Food

  • Yaw Asare ’96, Sharay’s Ghana Style Brittle; https://www.sharaysgsb.com … Peanut brittle made with more nuts and less brittle.
  • Victoria Rakowski ’06, Treats by Torie LLC; www.treatsbytorie.com … Custom cookies, DIY cookie kits, holiday cookies, fudge, and caramel corn.
  • Zain Ali ’15, IndiFix; www.indifix.com … An Indian snack subscription box that delivers India’s most loved snacks and treats straight to your doorstep.

Clothing, hats, shoes, blankets

Books

  • Spencer Tweedy ’19, Mirror Sound: A Look into the People and Processes Behind Self-Recorded Music; https://mirrorsoundbook.com … A photo book of DIY music-making.
  • Kathleen Krull ’74, children’s books; www.kathleenkrull.com … Illustrated nonfiction books for young readers.

Crafts, jewelry, beauty, antiques, other

  • Kyle Simon ’12, The Clear Cut; www.theclearcut.co … A DTC diamond jewelry company co-founded by Kyle.
  • Ken Melchert ’73, The Harp Gallery; www.harpgallery.com … Antique and vintage furniture outlet.
  • Brenna Decker ’14, Brenna Lynn Studio; www.brennalynnphoto.com … Hand-made and custom paper bead and wire tree jewelry, and photographic cards/prints.
  • Chelsea Wagner ’07, Community Homestead; https://app.barn2door.com/e/QBGP5/all … Wooden puzzles, ceramics, cards, fabrics, rugs, felted figures, paintings, baked goods by adults with and without special needs.
  • Jeanne Loehnis ’81, Songs for Your Spirit LLC; www.songsforyourspirit.com/purchase-cards … Personal life coaching without the coach. Sturdy 4×6 cards inspire out-of-the-box, magical thinking and deep reflection.

All items on the holiday shopping guide were submitted by third party members of the Lawrence community. The entries are provided for general informational purposes and do not imply endorsement by Lawrence University of the linked site or its contents. For more information, email communications@lawrence.edu.

Internship put Lawrence physics student on research team that earned Nobel Prize

An image created by Professor Andrea Ghez and her research team from data sets obtained with W.M. Keck Telescopes shows stars that are in very close, very fast orbits around the Milky Way’s central black hole. It’s research that Amelia Mangian ’18 participated in during a 2017 internship. (Courtesy of UCLA Galactic Center Group – W.M. Keck Observatory Laser Team)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s Physics Department is again celebrating close connections with the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Amelia Mangian ’18, then a fourth-year physics student at Lawrence, spent an internship in the summer of 2017 working with a team of scientists at UCLA led by astronomer Andrea Ghez, who earlier this month won the Nobel for her years-long study of supermassive black holes in the universe.

“She is the model of the perfect scientist,” Mangian said of Ghez. “She persevered, she worked hard, and she proved a lot of people wrong on the way to becoming a world-class researcher and educator. I think the other thing that is remarkable about Andrea is how easily she can communicate her work to people of all ages and how much she cares about spreading her love of science.”

Ghez is one of three recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, joining Roger Penrose, a mathematician at Oxford University in England, and Reinhard Genzel, a professor at the University of California Berkeley and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. All were honored for their work advancing the study of black holes.

Amelia Mangian ’18

“Working with this team—Andrea, her collaborators, particularly Mark Morris and Tuan Do, as well as her research team, post-docs, and graduate students—has helped my career tremendously,” said Mangian, now pursuing a doctorate in astronomy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It helped me find a passion for black holes, for astronomy, and for being a role model to other young astronomers who want to be researchers, too.”

A year ago, the Nobel went to two astronomers whose breakthroughs in the 1990s led to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy, a research subject that Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department at Lawrence, has focused on for much of her career.

The 2019 Nobel announcement felt like a win for Pickett and her students. The 2020 announcement is much the same. Having a former student so closely connected to the research team is an opportunity to shine a light on undergraduate internships and research opportunities that are plentiful for Lawrence students in the sciences.

Not lost on Mangian or Pickett is that Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel in Physics, joining Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018). The Nobel adds to Ghez’s growing profile as she blazes trails as a role model for women scientists.

“One of my particular interests, long before coming to Lawrence, has been the history of women in physics and astronomy—our stories, representation, and how we can tear down barriers to success and recognition,” Pickett said. “There are a number of ways we get at this problem, but primarily it comes down to creating a sense of belonging with the department, and the discipline.”

Lawrence is part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute initiative that challenges U.S. colleges and universities to substantially and sustainably increase their capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in science. It was one of 33 schools selected in 2018 to receive a $1 million grant from HHMI through its Science Education Program to implement its Inclusive Excellence initiative. Another 24 schools were selected the year prior, part of HHMI’s push to reimagine science education to better engage students from all backgrounds.

“Our primary focus is inclusive excellence — how can we increase our successful engagement and the success of students who are under-represented in the sciences, whether first-generation college students, for example, or under-represented minorities?” Pickett said.

Megan Pickett

Seeing scientists such as Ghez be awarded a Nobel—also of note, two women won the Nobel in chemistry the following day—helps ring that bell, and having a Lawrentian so closely tied to the work adds fuel to the fire. But it also is a reminder that while great strides have been made, the work is far from finished when it comes to equity and opportunity.

“Having those role models, and being able to send our students off campus, potentially to work in a Nobel lab, is huge,” Pickett said. “Closer to home, though, we are today more diverse and more dedicated to that diversity as a department than we have ever been. In particular, the addition of professors (Tianlong) Zu and (Margaret) Koker help make our department begin to look more like our student body—and the importance of that cannot be overstated.”

Mangian, meanwhile, counts Pickett as a mentor who helped her believe in herself as a scientist. That relationship, she said, drives her to pay it forward as a mentor as she carves out her own career.

“She has guided me through rough times and helped me be the best version of myself during the good times,” she said of Pickett. “She’s the reason that I’m where I’m at today, academically and personally.”

At Illinois, Mangian is studying actively feeding supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to infer properties of the black holes such as its luminosity and mass. She’s also building on mentoring lessons she took from Pickett and others at Lawrence.

“I’ve been very active in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through the organization I run called the Society for Equity in Astronomy,” Mangian said. “We are a group focused on improving the astronomy department at Illinois and those across the country. We run a mentorship program with about 40 individuals involved and have monthly discussions about culturally significant topics such as the Strike for Black Lives, #BlackInTheIvory, and the ongoing situation with the Thirty Meter Telescope being constructed on indigenous lands on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. I am also starting up a tutoring program aimed at helping students with disproportionate educational backgrounds coming into the astronomy program at Illinois.”

Mangian’s work in 2017 with Ghez’s group came after being selected for a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, a highly competitive process. Lawrence students in recent years have gone through that program to land research posts at the University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin, Harvard, University of Rochester, and the University of Twente in the Netherlands, among others. 

“These experiences are valuable regardless of whether you end up going to graduate school or not,” Mangian said. “Having the opportunity to work in a research environment early on in your life allows you to explore areas that interest you the most, helps you build skills to prepare you for a wide variety of jobs—collaboration, computer skills, communication—and helps build your professional network. This, along with my time working with Megan, convinced me that I wanted to be an astronomer, and an educator, too.”  

It also gave her the chance to get to know and learn from a future Nobel Prize winner, something she reflected on when she heard the Ghez announcement from the Nobel Committee for Physics, relayed to her by her mother.

“My excitement grew throughout the day as I came to terms with the fact that I not only worked for a Nobel laureate, but I’d been to her house, too, for wine and cheese. I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to win the award.”

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

Creativity, ingenuity will allow mask-wearing musicians to perform together

Isabel Kelly ’21 works on a flute mask in the Lawrence University costume shop. Seven Lawrence students are creating masks to be worn by musicians in the Conservatory of Music. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University music students will soon be getting specially made face masks suitable for their music-making needs.

The music, after all, must go on even though life in the Conservatory of Music has been altered in almost every conceivable way in this pandemic. Every student, whether playing a brass or woodwind instrument, will have an appropriately designed mask so they can safely partake in ensemble practices or performances.

That’s the short story.

The deeper story is about alumni connections and Lawrence ingenuity, all leading to students in the Theatre Department’s costume shop, fresh off a master class from the alumna who designed the masks, creating more than 100 of the face coverings for their fellow Lawrentians. Masks and music-making are not easy partners.

“The Conservatory has been wrestling with how to get their large ensembles together this term,” said Karin Simonson Kopischke ’80, instructor of theatre arts and costume shop supervisor. “Just trying to figure out a safe way to do it.”

Katy Hopkins ’85

Enter Katy Hopkins ’85, who operates Yahara River Woodwinds, an instrument-repair shop in Stoughton, Wisconsin. With much of her business curtailed because of the pandemic—out-of-work musicians are less likely to need instruments repaired—she began making and selling face masks, including three specialty models she designed and developed for musicians, one for playing brass instruments, one for playing the flute, and one for playing other woodwinds.

“It took a long time for me to design these masks because there’s just a different set of issues,” Hopkins said. “If you’re playing a reed instrument, you have to have a mask that’s not going to interfere with your mouth, and you don’t want the reed to break. You have to be very careful about the kind of material you use. For flutes, when they blow across the instrument, a lot of their air goes out into the room. You have to figure out how to contain that air.

“You also need to find the right material that will still stay on your face when pulling a mouthpiece in and out,” she said. “It still has to contain your air when you’re not playing. The material has to be lightweight enough that the poor musician doesn’t die from heat exhaustion. Most wind players, they get pretty warm when they play anyway. To have something over your face and mouth can exacerbate that feeling of being flushed. There are just a lot of things to consider when you’re designing these.”

Students pitch in to make cloth masks for campus. Read more here.

When Hopkins, an oboe player who majored in music performance at Lawrence, landed on workable designs this summer, she shared them on Etsy. The response was immediate. She has been flooded with orders from around the country, to the point where she’s had to turn down sales because she can’t keep up.

Among those who came calling was her alma mater. After flute professor Erin Lesser gave one of the Yahara masks a thumbs up, Dean of Conservatory Brian Pertl, a Lawrence classmate of Hopkins in the early ’80s, reached out for a large order, perhaps 100 or more.

“At that point I was already overwhelmed by orders,” Hopkins said. “I said I’d love to help out, but I can’t keep up.”

Lilly Kuipers ’23 holds a finished woodwind mask in the costume shop.

Pertl then floated the idea of Hopkins teaching her design to the costume shop students, under the direction of Simonson Kopischke. Funds were allocated for a contingent sale of the design and for a master class that involved Hopkins coming to campus to teach the particulars of her design.

It’s a win-win, Simonson Kopischke said. The musicians get their masks and the students in the costume shop, who had been looking for a project to take the place of theatre costume work that has been partially sidelined by the pandemic, get a chance to put their creative skills to work.

“It’s a chance to use their hands and use their creativity and release the stress,” Simonson Kopischke said. “And it’s a work-study program, so a lot of them depend on the money they make.”

Hopkins delivered the master class to seven students in the costume shop on the lower level of the Music-Drama Center, reconfigured with sewing machines now spaced eight feet apart.

The masks will be black, suitable for concerts. The Conservatory purchased the black fabric, but other material, from the thread to the elastic, was already on hand.

“We’re set up pretty much like a professional costume shop,” Simonson Kopischke said.

Work stations in the costume shop have been adjusted keep student workers safe. Here, Isabel Kelly ’21 works on a flute mask at one of the sewing machines.

For Hopkins, the mask work is a satisfying detour for an instrument repair business that just launched a year ago.

“I was a lifelong sewer and I started just making regular masks for friends and family,” she said of the early days of the pandemic. “And they all said, ‘Hey, these are really nice, you should sell them.’ I needed extra income and I needed something to do and I’m a very creative person, so I started making masks and selling them on Etsy.

“In mid- to late summer, I started getting requests from my music educator colleagues and friends saying, ‘Have you thought about developing masks for musicians? We all have to go back to school and our administrators are requiring us to have something that’s going to work and protect us and our musicians.”

She went into her lab and started tinkering with designs, finally settling on three that are distinct and functional.

Hopkins is hopeful this is but a brief rerouting of her business.

“I hope for all of us that COVID is short-lived and we can go back to normal,” she said. “I expect this is a short-term business venture. But I’ve enjoyed the creative process, and I’m very excited about working with Lawrence students again.”

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