Category: Faculty

Champion of Pride award shines light on advocacy work of Helen Boyd Kramer

Helen Boyd Kramer on hard-fought progress made on LGBTQ+ issues: “Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Helen Boyd Kramer jokes that it’s a “lifetime achievement award.”

There might be truth in that if her work was done. It is not.

Kramer, a lecturer in gender studies at Lawrence University since 2008, was named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate, a leading national voice on LGBTQ+ issues that each June honors 104 activists – two from each state and the District of Columbia.

Kramer joined Dane County’s Baltazar De Anda Santana as this year’s Wisconsin recipients.

A leading activist on transgender issues since publishing her first book, My Husband Betty, in 2003, Kramer was cited for her recent work advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in Appleton, including a successful effort earlier this year to get the Common Council to approve a ban on practicing conversion therapy on minors. That followed efforts in October to help make National Coming Out Day more visible in Appleton, resulting in a rainbow flag flying over City Hall for the first time.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Kramer said of being honored by The Advocate, but she sees it as a sign of progress in her efforts to advocate for diversity, the rights of transgender people in particular.

“When you’ve been in a movement that’s young but you were part of the original people doing it, you tend to get used to the fact that this is what you do, this is what you’ve been doing,” Kramer said. “So, this (award) kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. … The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.”

An agent of change

Kramer arrived at Lawrence in 2008, a year after publishing her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married, chronicling her experiences with transgender spouse Rachel Crowl. The move took her from New York City to Appleton, necessitating a change in her activism. Here, she got to know the elected officials she would be pushing for change.

“Being an activist in Appleton was going to be a different thing,” Kramer said. “It was going to be more about personal relationships.”

In the 12 years since, she’s been a frequent voice on LGBTQ+ education, be it in the community before city councils and school boards or on campus in gender studies classrooms, Freshman Studies workshops, or in campus-wide Cultural Competency discussions.

Appleton, Kramer said, has grown in its understanding of and support for the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps fueled by the giant leap forward that came with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down same-sex marriage bans in 2015. The Common Council has gotten noticeably more progressive. The topics Kramer and other LGBTQ+ activists speak to, including the conversion therapy ban, no longer shock.

“Instead of being reactive, we actually have council members now who are bringing legislation forward,” she said. “That’s what happened with conversion therapy.”

Read more: 10 ways Lawrence celebrates Pride Month all year long

She singled out the work of Appleton alderperson Vered Meltzer ’04, a Lawrence alum who in 2014 became the first openly trans person to hold elected office in Wisconsin, according to Fair Wisconsin, a Madison-based advocacy group.

Meltzer returns the praise, calling Kramer tenacious in her efforts to support marginalized people in the Appleton community.

“Helen’s advocacy is effective because she never stops working, whether she’s on campus or off campus,” Meltzer said. “And one of the best things about working with her is that she doesn’t give up or get discouraged, no matter how much work there is to do or how long it takes to see results. Her tireless dedication, and her personal care and support for marginalized individuals in our community, has helped bring activists throughout the community together over the years with a sense of unity and shared goals.”

Kramer sees the progress happening in Appleton as reflective of what’s happening across the country. While there is much work yet to be done, momentum has been building in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from the same-sex marriage ruling five years ago to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees from workplace discrimination.

“There has been an education of people in terms of civil rights,” Kramer said. “Poll after poll after poll say people believe that you shouldn’t be able to get fired for being gay or lesbian.”

The celebration of the Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling on workplace discrimination may have been a bit muted because of COVID-19 social restrictions, but there is little doubt it marked a major moment, one that arrived amid heightened awareness of equity issues. The ruling was delivered by a conservative-leaning court midway through Pride Month, 50 years after the Pride movement first emerged en masse.

“The movement has worked,” Kramer said. “The reason gay people started coming out and the reason gay people still feel the necessity to be out is precisely because the more straight people know them or more straight people know that they are related to someone who is LGBTQ+ the more likely it is that they would support same-sex marriage, employment discrimination rules, and such. This has been a long time coming.”

Helen Boyd Kramer on efforts to support LGBTQ+ students: “The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Education on campus

The enlightenment at Lawrence over the past decade hasn’t been quite as stark because the university has long been a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students, Kramer said. Again, it’s been a work-in-progress, but the work of inclusion has been in play here for a long time.

The dramatic change at Lawrence since she arrived a dozen years ago has come in the trans community. In 2008, it was mostly a curiosity, even on a liberal arts campus.

“It’s kind of hard to explain how much has changed in that time,” Kramer said. “The first class I introduced at Lawrence was Transgender Lives, and at that time I had one student who shyly admitted to doing drag once. I had a bunch of students who took it because trans was an interesting topic. A lot of them were future therapists, a bunch of psychology majors. Now, when I teach Trans Lives, half of the students in the class identify as LGBTQ+ as either trans or non-binary. … There’s been a giant cultural shift.”

All that progress doesn’t mean the fight is over. Far from it. Kramer points to the Trump Administration’s recent ruling that removed federal health care protections for people who identify as transgender. Protections written into the Affordable Care Act addressed sex discrimination, and in 2016, the Obama Administration interpreted that provision to include gender identity. But in early June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying it is returning to an earlier interpretation of sex discrimination, thus excluding the trans community.  

“This isn’t just for trans procedures,” Kramer said. “It’s for pneumonia or COVID. These stories are already common in the trans world, where doctors wouldn’t take what they had seriously, cancer in particular. It would just go untreated because doctors wouldn’t work with trans patients. Seeing HHS do this right now when everyone is scared of dying is particularly heartless.”

The COVID dilemma

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a cruel light on the LGBTQ+ world. Besides health care access issues, it has highlighted wealth disparities, which are particularly stark among Black LGBTQ+ people. The same systematic racism issues that have ignited nationwide protests are in play within the LGBTQ+ community, Kramer said.

“When we get to a point when we’re actually doing recovery, eventually, we’re going to have to figure out the wealth problem and the access to employment and training and education,” she said. “These are all systems that are so soaked in the same discrimination we’re talking about. It’s employment, it’s health care, it’s food on the table.”

The pandemic sent students home for spring term, put summer research and internships on pause, and infused uncertainty into almost all near-future plans. That, in turn, has heightened anxieties for LGBTQ+ students who don’t have adequate support at home. Kramer and other advocates on campus have tried to stay in frequent contact, but seeing students having to isolate in a home environment that’s toxic adds new layers of concern.

“The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common,” Kramer said.

While a growing number of families are accepting and supportive, it’s those students who aren’t feeling that love who are particularly vulnerable right now.

“Some students used to refer to Lawrence as Hogwarts because they could be gay here,” Kramer said. “And they couldn’t always be at home. Now those students are at home during the pandemic. It’s one of the reasons why there was more than one student I helped make sure they could stay on campus this spring because their home situation just isn’t good.

“How do you accept the fact that your family basically doesn’t like you so much? Sometimes they hate you. That’s a wounding you can’t really process. I think Lawrence has been amazing about that, being aware that we do provide acceptance in a way that some students are not always getting elsewhere.”

Lawrence recently introduced the LGBTQ+ Alliance House as a residential space. A Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center opened in Colman Hall late last year. Trans Rights United (TRU) became the University’s first trans student organization. Those additions are all built onto an already well-established support system.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes culturally that get reflected on the campus,” Kramer said. “I think the campus has done an amazing job for the most part in creating these spaces, and creating diversity training for everyone else. There are still pockets of education that’s needed, but I love the fact that we let students lead. They’re telling us what they need. They feel empowered, and we’re getting much better at that.”

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

National honor spotlights LU affinity group focused on socioeconomic hurdles

Rose Wasielewski, chair of LIFT UP Employee Resource Group: “I think many of us are hungry to take up the conversation about class and socioeconomic status and access.” Photo by Danny Damiani

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Rose Wasielewski recognized a need when she found herself in a conversation about stigmas and issues that affect some Lawrence University employees who feel defined by or live within the confines of low-income backgrounds.

Their voices need to be heard, their concerns validated, their successes celebrated.

In November, Wasielewski, an associate dean of students and dean of the sophomore class, helped launch LIFT UP, the newest of six employee resource groups on the Lawrence campus. It aims to provide support and resources for faculty, staff, and students who come from low-income backgrounds or were first-generation college students.

Less than a year old, the group, chaired by Wasielewski, herself the first in her family to graduate from college, already has membership surpassing 40 faculty and staff. And now others are taking notice of the group’s work.

LIFT UP, an acronym for Low-Income, First Generation Talent Unpacking Privilege, is one of 38 recipients of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2020 Inspiring Affinity Group Awards. The magazine, a resource for diversity and inclusion news and information, debuted the Inspiring Affinity Group Awards in its July/August edition, with plans to make it an annual honor.

“I think LIFT UP is being so well-received because it touches on some marginalities and intersecting identities that aren’t as apparent on the surface but can still deeply impact the person with those identities,” said Wasielewski, who chairs the group. “You cannot necessarily know someone was a first-generation student just by looking at them. I think it is also easy to make assumptions about folks working at a small liberal arts college – that even if you were low-income as a student, you probably aren’t low-income now, and that just isn’t the case.

“I think many of us are hungry to take up the conversation about class and socioeconomic status and access so that we can work to dismantle some of the systems that don’t support, or even outright harm, some of our current students who hold these identities.”

In its report on the Inspiring Affinity Group Awards, the magazine called employee resource groups (ERGs) an important part of encouraging and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the workplaces of higher education. They can have a huge impact not only on recruiting diverse faculty and staff but also on retaining those employees long-term.

LIFT UP joined five other employee affinity groups that are active at Lawrence – Employees of Color Resource Group, Pride Resource Group, Emerging Professionals Resource Group, Global Employees of Lawrence Resource Group, and Anti-Racist White Affinity Group. All are organized through the Diversity and Inclusion office.

Kimberly Barrett, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and an associate dean of the faculty, said the affinity groups are vital in connecting with and supporting employees from a wide variety of backgrounds. She said she’s thrilled to see LIFT UP garner national attention.

“The work of the group, which focuses on understanding the marginalization that results from class privilege, is intersectional and cuts across many dimensions of identity,” Barrett said. “One of the most impactful aspects of this group is that although it is an employee affinity group, the activities that bring them together often provide direct support to students.”

Gaelyn Rose

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed some of its plans, the group hopes to put together a book read of Anthony Abraham Jack’s The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, possibly get the author to speak either on campus or virtually, and organize panel discussions on topics such as impostor syndrome or phenomenon.

The connection to current students, and the opportunity to provide support and insight, is one of the draws for LIFT UP’s members. Gaelyn Rose, an associate director of admissions who joined the group shortly after it launched in the fall, said she didn’t even think about being a first-generation college student until after she’d graduated.

“I look back and think of all the resources I could have used if only I’d known about them,” she said. “It motivates me to ensure all Lawrentians have access to the life-changing opportunities we can offer, and LIFT UP is such an innovative, amazing way to do this.”

Jaime Gonzalez

Jaime Gonzalez, director of transfer admissions and transitions and a LIFT UP member, said the issues the affinity group is connecting with resonate with both students and employees. Often the issues, sometimes subtle, are bubbling just below the surface.

“Sometimes we forget that even though we’ve graduated and our lives may be different, our experiences and family histories don’t change but they do influence us and our work,” he said. “This is why I’m part of the LIFT UP group; it recognizes that our needs and experiences are different, and whether we are supporting students or ourselves, we still foster a strong sense of community around this integral part of our identities.”

Wasielewski said she sees nothing but growth ahead for LIFT UP, both in terms of membership and in the scope of its work. The visibility to date is valuable, but there is so much more work to be done in raising awareness, connecting students with opportunities, and pushing for a more equitable world, on and off campus.

“There is a lot of conversation among members about wanting to use this group to make a lasting, tangible difference, not only for ourselves as employees but more so for our students,” Wasielewski said

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

Kuo-ming Sung selected for endowed professorship in East Asian Studies

Kuo-ming Sung

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kuo-ming Sung, a professor of Chinese and linguistics who has been teaching at Lawrence University since 1994, has been named the inaugural Wendy and K.K. Tse Professor of East Asian Studies.

The endowed professorship, established courtesy of gifts from Wendy and K.K. Tse ’81, provides ongoing support for a distinguished member of the college’s faculty who demonstrates a commitment to teaching courses that contribute to the understanding of East Asia.

The appointment was made by President Mark Burstein.

“I am truly honored to receive this endowed professorship from the University,” Sung said. “It means very much to me personally as it recognizes my scholarship in and service to East Asian Studies in the past; but, more importantly, it gives me a new sense of responsibility for the future as I look for ways that I can contribute more to East Asian Studies in general and the Chinese and Japanese programs in particular.” 

The investment will help sustain, and hopefully grow, the scope and depth of the program, Sung said. It provides needed study of a robust and significant region of the world.

“I have been working hard on this and now have high hopes for creating new courses that will bring growth to the program, an area of study that is proving increasingly significant in the global context,” he said.

Catherine G. Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty, said the endowed professorship will pay dividends for Lawrence and its students for years to come.

“I’m extremely grateful, both for Wendy and K.K. Tse’s extraordinary generosity and for Kuo-ming’s years of steadfast dedication to East Asian Studies, particularly in Chinese language instruction and advocacy for study abroad,” Kodat said. “Endowed professorships like this make it possible for the University to express its appreciation to talented faculty while maintaining important commitments in academic programming. We are fortunate, indeed.”

Sung holds a bachelor of arts degree from National Taiwan University, and Master of Arts, C.Phil, and Ph.D degrees from the University of California-Los Angeles. He was promoted to full professor at Lawrence in April.

The endowed professorship donation, part of the ongoing Be the Light! campaign, reflects the gratitude of Wendy and K.K. Tse for the education K.K. received at Lawrence. He transferred to Lawrence in 1979 and graduated magna cum laude in 1981 with an interdisciplinary science degree. While a student, he was a member of the Lawrence Christian Fellowship and Lawrence International. He later earned his M.B.A. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his M.P.A. from the University of Hong Kong. Wendy worked in higher education administration in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.  

K.K. Tse served on the Lawrence University Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2018. He has also served on the advisory committee for Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and has been a guest speaker at Lawrence. 

Sung said he is grateful to the Tses for the opportunity that the endowed gift presents in growing East Asian Studies at Lawrence.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to President Mark Burstein, Provost Katie Kodat, and my tremendously supportive colleagues in the Chinese and Japanese Department and the East Asian Studies and Linguistics programs,” Sung said.  

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

Lesser debuts new music as part of Library of Congress COVID-19 project

Erin Lesser

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Erin Lesser has been yearning to create.

The music instructor and flutist with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music has drawn wide acclaim for her work with Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, among other ensembles. While she continued to teach via distance learning during Lawrence University’s Spring Term, her performance schedule has been on lockdown since COVID-19 was deemed a global pandemic in mid-March.

That made a recent outreach from the Library of Congress all the sweeter. Lesser was asked to participate in The Boccaccio Project, an artistic collaboration in which 10 commissions of new music would be shared with the world. Each composer would be paired with a home-bound performer, with the 10 pieces being debuted over the span of 12 days on the library’s website and social media channels.

Lesser, representing Wet Ink, was partnered with Erin Rogers, a Canadian-American composer from Astoria, New York, with Lesser recording the newly crafted piece for solo flute, Hello World, at her Appleton home in late May.

Rogers

“She wrote the piece specifically for me and with the intention that it be recorded from home,” Lesser said. “The Library of Congress selected 10 pairs of performers and composers and asked them to work together on a one- to three-minute work reflecting on the pandemic and our current environment.”

Rogers describes the piece this way: “Orbiting a sonic portal to the outer world, a flutist self-arranges within a mirrored video frame. The face-to-face encounter sets the scene for introduction, reintroduction, and exploration.”

That, Lesser said, captures the past three months of video conferencing, collaborating, and socializing beautifully.

“At a time when so much work has disappeared for artists and we are searching for new ways to come together as collaborators and community, it was particularly heartening to hear about this initiative from the Library of Congress and be asked to participate,” she said. “My initial conversations with Erin centered around topics such as our new collective relationship to technology, Zoom in particular, and having to find ways to make music in confined spaces. The piece she wrote uses small sounds amplified through a microphone, and video filters that alter my perception of seeing my image looking back at me from the screen.”

We all can relate, whether we’re making or teaching music or otherwise trying to live our lives in quarantine.

“With an infant son who has spent more than half of his life in a pandemic, I have thought a lot about his earliest relationships to people being filtered through technology and wondered how this may affect him,” Lesser said.

The Library of Congress began premiering The Boccaccio Project pieces on Monday, June 15, the commissions debuting nightly at 7 p.m. CST. The Rogers-Lesser collaboration is on tap for Friday, June 19. The series, skipping Saturday and Sunday, runs through Friday, June 26.

The project is inspired by another literary effort in the midst of a public health crisis, this one in the mid-14th century by Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote the Decameron, a collection of 100 stories shared among a group of 10 acquaintances who had removed themselves from society during a plague. Library of Congress said this early artistic response to an outbreak provided context and a means of expression, something we’ve been tapping into in this age of social distancing.

The new commissions will premiere on the Library of Congress’s website and social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The commission manuscripts will become part of the Library of Congress’s music collections.

Lesser, who earned Lawrence University’s 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been on the Lawrence Conservatory faculty since 2011. Her work with Wet Ink and other ensembles has taken her to some of the grandest concert stages in the world and she’s commissioned and debuted numerous new works.

The full schedule for The Boccaccio Project includes:

Monday, June 15: Jeremy Jordan (piano) and Damien Sneed (composer)

Tuesday, June 16: Andrew Nogal (oboe) of the Grossman Ensemble and Richard Drehoff, Jr. (composer)

Wednesday, June 17: Kathryn Bates (cello) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Miya Masaoka (composer)

Thursday, June 18: Jenny Lin (piano) and Cliff Eidelman (composer)

Friday, June 19: Erin Lesser (flute) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Erin Rogers (composer)

Monday, June 22: Charlton Lee (viola) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Luciano Chessa (composer)

Tuesday, June 23: Daniel Pesca (piano) of the Grossman Ensemble and Aaron Travers (composer)

Wednesday, June 24: Mariel Roberts (cello) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Ashkan Behzadi (composer)

Thursday, June 25: Jannina Norpoth (violin) of PUBLIQuartet and Niloufar Nourbakhsh (composer)

Friday, June 26: Nathalie Joachim (flute) and Allison Loggins-Hull (composer), both of Flutronix

If you miss any of the premieres, no worries. You can watch any time on each event page or on the Library of Congress’s YouTube channel.

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

Barnes, Neilson, Vance honored for teaching, scholarship excellence

From left: Celia Barnes, Rob Neilson, and Brigid Vance

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty are being honored for academic excellence.

Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, is the recipient of the University Award for Excellence in Teaching; Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, is receiving the Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity; and Brigid Vance, assistant professor of history, has earned the Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member.

While the annual awards are typically announced during the Commencement ceremony, the 2020 announcement is coming early this year because the June 14 Commencement will be held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Celia Barnes: “Relatable, approachable”

Barnes, a specialist in 18th-century British literature who was recently inducted into the Johnsonian Society, an eminent assembly of scholars, lexicographers, and collectors, was described by a student as “one of those relatable, approachable professors that you really only find at Lawrence,” according to a citation in her honor from Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat.

Students have praised her ability to deepen the learning experience with insightful engagement. One student said of Barnes: “She is unapologetic (in a good way), brazen, and encourages students to ask questions, challenge each other and pre-conceived notions, and step out of their comfort zones to expand their knowledge and horizons.”

Her ability to seamlessly reach across departments is not lost on her colleagues, Kodat said.

“Over the course of your 10 years at Lawrence, you have partnered with faculty colleagues in Philosophy and Physics to offer courses that help students understand the range and importance of 18th century art and thought, from Newton’s theories to the thinking of the Enlightenment,” the citation reads. “You are an eminent scholar, a generous colleague, and a dedicated, superb teacher.”

Rob Neilson: “The beauty of shared experience”

Neilson, meanwhile, was praised for his public art projects. In the 17 years since he arrived at Lawrence, Neilson has completed 14 public art commissions across the country. Five of those have been in Appleton.

“Most recently, you have contributed two elegant pieces to the new Fox Cities Exhibition Center,” reads Kodat’s citation to Neilson. “You Are Here evokes a large map of Wisconsin with a red push-pin denoting Appleton. The 10 dramatic, outsized images of We Are Here are comprised of some 10,000 photographs of Appleton community members, combined in mosaic fashion to represent a moving, composite portrait of human togetherness and community.”

The citation notes that Neilson’s work speaks to shared history, culture, and humanity and asks all of us to contemplate more directly the physical world.

“By your own admission, you did not set out to be an artist known for creating public work,” Kodat notes. “But you have clearly been called to make your aesthetic contributions to the world in ways that heighten our sense of the beauty of shared experience, to the benefit of us all.”

Brigid Vance: “Balance rigor with flexibility”

A member of the History department for five years, Vance is a specialist in late imperial China. She has quickly built a reputation for creativity that has resonated with students.

“We have seen a steady increase in the number of students who have discovered your courses and concluded that you are, indeed, exactly the kind of professor they would love to take more classes with,” Kodat writes in the citation to Vance. “Impartial faculty observers describe your almost magical effect on History 105, the department’s entry-level course. ‘Since Professor Vance began to teach that course,’ one colleague observed, ‘department enrollments and majors have climbed noticeably.’”

Kodat praises Vance for her attention to detail and her ability to engage with her students.

“Students appreciate your ability to balance rigor with flexibility, your skill in cultivating energetic classroom discussion, your detailed attention to their writing, and—above all—the warmth and respect with which you approach each and every one of them.”

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

Lawrence bids farewell to four faculty members with impactful contributions

Retiring faculty include (from left, above) David Burrows, Ruth Lunt, (below) Thomas Ryckman, and Richard Sanerib.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Four Lawrence University faculty members who excelled in the classroom and provided significant leadership out of the classroom are being honored as they retire at the conclusion of Spring Term.

David Burrows, who served 12 years as Lawrence’s provost and dean of the faculty before retiring from that post in 2017 to return full-time to the classroom as a professor of psychology, is among the retirees, joined by Ruth Lunt (German), Tom Ryckman (philosophy), and Richard Sanerib (mathematics). Lunt served in numerous faculty leadership positions, including a five-year stint as associate dean of the faculty. Ryckman served at various times as Freshman Studies director and as Senior Experience director. Sanerib was the recipient of multiple teaching awards.

Lunt, Ryckman, and Sanerib are being awarded a Master of Arts, ad eundem. Burrows was awarded the honorary degree in 2017.

David Burrows

Burrows

Joining Lawrence in 2005 as provost and dean of the faculty, Burrows led Lawrence’s academic side for a dozen years. He previously served as vice president of academic affairs at Beloit College and had faculty leadership positions at Skidmore College and the State University of New York College at Brockport.

“Over the course of your 12 years as Lawrence’s provost, you served under two presidents and distinguished yourself as a kind, steady, and thoughtful leader,” reads a citation from Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine G. Kodat. “Academic initiatives that you helped create include the Senior Experience program and the Mellon-funded Inclusive Pedagogy project.”

Burrows called launching the Senior Experience program one of the definitive achievements of his time at Lawrence because of the way it wraps up the student journey in such an emphatic way.

“Having students do a Senior Experience project creates an important arc that defines their development as liberally educated persons,” Burrows said. “It is an important point that represents a transition to life after Lawrence, just as Freshman Studies represents a transition from high school to Lawrence.”

Whether in the role of provost or in the classroom, Burrows said he stands in awe of the student-faculty relationship at Lawrence. The willingness of faculty to go the extra mile for students – and to see that play out year after year even as the students come and go and new faculty arrive – is a beautiful thing to witness.

“That this group continues to value the development of students is a tribute to the mentorship and leadership of the faculty already here,” he said.

Burrows said his message to this year’s graduates is to hone in on intellectual, emotional, and action-oriented connections, and understand that they don’t exist in isolation. Take the ideas you’ve developed as Lawrentians and connect them with others and connect them with action.

“For example, understanding that suffering is a difficult thing to endure should be connected to the knowledge that others are suffering,” he said. “This lack of connection starts with a failure of seeing connections among ideas, extends to a failure to see that ideas can lead to effective action, and that connecting with others is a crucial part of making a difference.”

Ruth Lunt

Lunt

The associate professor of German has been part of the Lawrence faculty for 28 years. Her contributions have had an impact across campus.

“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,” her citation reads. “Your patience, kindness, and good humor are admired and appreciated, and will be missed.”

After joining the German faculty in 1992, Lunt would become director of the Linguistics Program in 1996. She would go on to chair or co-chair Spanish, Russian, and German departments and took on other faculty leadership posts. From 2010 to 2015, she served as associate dean of the faculty.

“The thing that I am most proud of is the growth of the Linguistics program,” Lunt said. “When I arrived in 1992, there were only a handful of courses. … Because we regularly had students doing self-designed majors, Kuo-ming Sung and I decided that we needed to propose a major and a minor. We spent a lot of time doing research and putting together a proposal, and once it was passed, Linguistics really took off. The program has continued to grow and thrive. Right now, we have 20 majors and a dozen minors, a weekly Linguistics tea, and a strong curriculum.”

Much of that progress has happened because of Lawrence faculty being willing to collaborate across departments, Lunt said.

As she closes her teaching career, she implores her students not to shy away from the unknown. A Lawrence education prepares you to adapt and thrive in a myriad of settings.

“Don’t be afraid to try something new, perhaps something that does not seem to be associated with your major,” Lunt said. “And don’t worry about that first choice you make. You will have the opportunity to re-imagine and remake yourself down the road, if you decide that you want to.”

Thomas Ryckman

Ryckman

The professor of philosophy has been part of the Lawrence faculty since 1984.

“You have served as a linchpin in the Philosophy department, offering courses in symbolic logic, epistemology, metaphysics, the philosophy of art, and the philosophy of language,” his citation reads. “For many years you offered the Freshman Studies lecture on Plato’s theory of forms, introducing hundreds of students through one of the University’s quintessentially Lawrentian experiences and inducting them into our extended intellectual community.”

Ryckman received the University’s Outstanding Young Teacher Award, Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Mortar Board Honorary Award. He served as director of Freshman Studies in the late 1980s and again in 1995. From 2008 to 2010, he served as director of the Senior Experience program. And he regularly served on major committees of the faculty.

He walks away from the classroom knowing he helped to develop something that is an important piece of Lawrence’s liberal arts curriculum.

“I have helped to build and maintain a robust and well-respected Department of Philosophy,” Ryckman said. “In addition, I have helped in small ways to increase gender diversity in philosophy. Two of our department’s current tenure or tenure-track members are women, and three of my former advisees are women with tenured or tenure-track positions in philosophy.”

For 36 years, Ryckman has taught students as they sought to find their academic footing, to be inquisitive and open-minded in search of answers to life’s questions.

“Although the demographic profile of our students might have changed, the students are markedly consistent,” Ryckman said. “So many of them are pleasant, polite, responsible, and capable. Yes, today’s students carry smartphones, and clothing styles have changed, but they are still, in all their variety, very much like they’ve ever been.”

To those students, Ryckman’s message is simple: Lean into that Lawrence education.

“Be confident that your time at Lawrence has prepared you for life’s challenges,” he said. “Also, understand that for most of us, life is long, and, so, you need not panic if things get tough and you experience setbacks. You’ll have plenty of time to reach your goals, or to modify them in light of your experiences.”

Richard Sanerib

Sanerib

The associate professor of mathematics taught for more than 40 years in mathematics. Along the way, he earned three of Lawrence’s top teaching honors – the Young Teacher Award, the Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Mortar Board Honorary Award.

“You were first recognized for your excellence in the classroom in 1979, receiving what was then called the Young Teacher Award,” the citation reads. “In presenting this award, then-President Richard Warch noted your impressive pedagogical range, praising your ability to allay ‘math anxiety’ among some students while heightening mathematical competence among others. Twenty-four years later, on the occasion of presenting you with the Excellence in Teaching Award, President Warch termed you ‘the type of teacher parents hope their children will encounter in college,’ someone who fills ‘the classroom with infectious passion for mathematics and then fills office hours with the sage and thoughtful advice of a caring mentor.’”

Sanerib said he steps away from his teaching duties after four decades with deep pride in and respect for the students who have shared his classroom.

“The four young women in the ’90s with whom I worked with over the summer before their sophomore year preparing for the rigors of a mathematics major,” he said. “Two went on to become the first African American math and math-econ majors at Lawrence. Bright, talented, resilient women in a difficult environment whom I am proud to have taught, advised, and mentored.  

“Then there are the many international students who leave their family, home, and country to come to a strange environment in the name of education. Almost universally I have admired these students and their commitment to learning, and have valued the bonds we have established through advising, teaching, talking, and sharing. 

“There are the intellectual renegades who blaze their own trail after Lawrence, and the talented students who can do almost anything they choose but come to Lawrence with a commitment, be it teaching, or physical therapy, or working to solve a problem that has plagued either their family or our society.  Of course, too, there are the academic underachievers at Lawrence who later grow into citizens we never imagined, those who built upon the foundation they established while here, and emerged from their Lawrence bubble to blossom in life after Lawrence.”

Sanerib said his students helped him become a better teacher and mentor.

“They taught me the value of being open, caring, honest, supportive, challenging, and passionate about mathematics,” he said. 

The Lawrence experience doesn’t stop at learning the content of the course, Sanerib said. It’s the liberal arts education that prepares students to be lifelong learners that brings him the most joy.

“It is about teaching them how to learn and think critically, inspiring them to be better, encouraging them to find something they are passionate about and to reach, explore, and not fear failure,” he said. 

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As a culture, we have tended to value winning over all other experiences but we are all going to fail a lot in life, and we need to learn early on what it means and how to think about it,” Ongiri said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

Deanna Donohoue, chemistry

Donohoue

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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

José L. Encarnación, music

Encarnacion

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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Dylan Fitz, economics

Fitz

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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Jonathan Lhost, economics

Lhost

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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Lavanya Murali, anthropology

Murali

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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

Melissa Range, English

Range

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

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

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

How are you approaching the new challenges of distance learning?

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

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

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

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

Theater students get creative, use Zoom to present old-school radio drama

Theater professor Kathy Privatt (center top) and some of her students work through preparations for a radio drama to be performed live on Zoom on Friday night.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

As we all are adapting to the challenges that come with distance learning, faculty and students across campus are getting creative, including those who usually showcase their talents on the theater stage.

Despite students being spread across the globe this term, Lawrence University’s Theatre Arts department has found a way to host its annual spring theater show while adhering to physical distancing.

It’ll do so through a radio drama presented live on Zoom at 8 p.m. May 15, and then an edited/produced version will be available on the Department of Theatre Arts Productions web page, under the View Streaming Video link.

Update: See unedited version of the radio drama here.

The students will tackle The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama, by Herb Meadow, a piece written in the mid-1930s that is essentially a series of vignettes embodying the effects of the Great Depression on young people.

But first, what would have been. 

“I had an entire production planned called The Domino Effect,” said Kathy Privatt, the James G. and Ethel M. Barber Professor of Theatre and Drama and associate professor of theatre arts.

The COVID-19 pandemic scrapped that plan.

“Now, hopefully, it is going to happen next year instead,” Privatt said. “Yes, it is an interesting script, but half of it should be movement, so doing that one at a distance is not an option.” 

So, how to do a spring production when instruction and collaboration are happening via Zoom?

“I started thinking about radio drama” Privatt said. “Partly, because my colleague Tim Troy has a deep and abiding love for radio dramas. He’s done some at Lawrence, and at the end of winter term he had just done a sound recording of his production, Richard III. So, we’ve been talking about maybe we should just routinely do just a sound recording, because so many scripts stand beautifully as just a sound file.”  

That idea – to begin creating sound file versions of the plays the Theatre Arts department produces – planted a seed that would lead to Privatt’s decision to pursue a radio drama on Zoom with her theater students.

A quick history lesson: Radio dramas, dramatized acoustic performances, find their roots in the world of théàtrophone. Prior to the development of radio technology, between the 1900s and 1920s, people would set up a network of lines to listen to live performances. After the development of radio technology, A Comedy Of Danger became the first play written with the intention to be performed on the radio. It aired in 1924 on the BBC network. 

The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama is a piece written in 1937,” Privatt said. “There was part of a whole set of programing that came out of the Great Depression and the Works Progress Administration, which more specifically had a unit that was the Federal Theatre Project.” 

The National Youth Administration (NYA) was a program geared toward providing jobs and education for people ages 16-25. This radio drama was propaganda to increase support of and knowledge about the program.

When deciding what radio drama to produce with her Lawrence students, Privatt remembered the Federal Theatre Project and its radio drama sector. This set of plays was especially interesting to Privatt because of the parallels that can be drawn between this global pandemic and the ensuing economic fallout and the era in which this play was written. 

Privatt decided the radio drama was “something we can really hone in on.” And when she found the Federal Theatre Project, she knew she struck the right chord.

“When I found that script it just felt right,” she said. 

“It’s been creatively motivating”  

Learning about the connections between America shortly after the Great Depression and our present situation has also been interesting for the students involved. Unlike the spring production in years past, where Privatt would have a year to prepare the piece that students would perform, she had roughly two weeks. With this, she decided to make the show a collaborative effort, where students have the opportunity to use their research skills to learn more about life during this time. 

“I love that we’re getting to learn about this new form of theater,” Maren Dahl ’21 said. “I also really love that it’s giving me the opportunity, one that I otherwise would not have had, to use my research skills. … I think that the best part about it for me has been that feeling of people working toward a common goal they really care about; it’s been creatively motivating.”  

Dahl is double majoring in theater and psychology and will be featured in the show.  She also is using this as her Senior Experience project. Dahl has been part of a multitude of theater productions at Lawrence and has fully embraced the new avenues this show provides. 

“I think the main difference is not having the face to face contact and not staging something,” Dahl said. “But, I think that opens some doors for us where because we don’t have to stage a full production we have the time to do certain things like deeper dives into the text or do something that is more research heavy and spend a lot of time talking through that.”  

The opportunities to explore has not been limited to the director and actors in the show.  

“I thought that this show was especially interesting because of the limitations we’re under,” said Grace Krueger ’21, a theater major who is working as the dramaturg, compiling historical background for the audience. “We’re able to create theater in a new way, and it’s something that hasn’t been done before on this campus, so I am glad to be a part of it.”  

Not staging a spring production wasn’t an option.

“It’s what we do,” Privatt said. “It’s one of the great joys of my job. Once a year I gather with a team of artists and we find a way to share a story with an audience that lets us be one big community for a while.”

Not even a global pandemic is going to keep Privatt and her students from making that magic happen.

If you want to see the production live: The National Youth Administration: A Radio Drama will be presented at 8 p.m. Friday on Zoom. To obtain a “ticket” (the Zoom meeting link and password), email Privatt at kathy.privatt@lawrence.edu. A limited number of people will be allowed in. It’ll later be shared on YouTube and on the Department of Theatre Arts Productions web page.

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Lawrence’s Jesús Smith earns year-long Wilson Foundation Fellowship

Jesús Gregorio Smith has been awarded a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Fellowship. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Jesús Gregorio Smith, an assistant professor of ethnic studies at Lawrence University, has been awarded a 12-month Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, the Fellowships – some year-long and others six-month – have been awarded to 30 tenure-track faculty and two adjunct faculty across the country.

Smith, who joined Lawrence in 2017 and helped to launch Ethnic Studies as a major, will use the sabbatical to continue his research and writing on the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality online and how they influence sexual health.

“I believe in this work and its importance,” Smith said. “This fellowship will allow me to turn all the work I have collected into a book that presents my findings to the public.”

For more on Ethnic Studies at Lawrence, see here.

Smith has taught classes on such topics as research methods in communities of color, sociology of black Americans, and sociology of Latinx. He has organized the annual Continuing Significance of Race undergraduate conference.

“The courses Jesús teaches, which are deeply informed by his research, have had a tremendously positive impact on our campus community,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat. “It’s intensely gratifying to see his important, ground-breaking work acknowledged by the prestigious Wilson Foundation, and to envision how this fellowship will allow it to have an even greater, national effect.”

A native of El Paso, Texas, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in sociology at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Texas A&M University. A book he contributed to and co-edited, Home and Community for Queer Men of Color: The Intersections of Race and Sexuality, was published earlier this year through Lexington Books.

The Career Enhancement Fellowship, in place since 2001, seeks to increase the presence of underrepresented junior and other faculty members in the arts and humanities by creating career development opportunities based on promising research projects. The program provides Fellows with a sabbatical stipend; a research, travel, or publication stipend; mentoring; and participation in a professional development retreat.

Earning the Fellowship is testament to the growth of the Ethnic Studies program at Lawrence and the important work being done at liberal arts colleges, Smith said.

“I believe it’s time liberal arts colleges and ethnic studies programs get this level of recognition,” he said. “This fellowship is really about aiding teachers who are dedicated to diversity and racial justice in conducting and finishing their research so that their work is taken seriously in the academic community and so that their dedication to racial justice is amplified. This is the sort of work I do already in the Ethnic Studies program at Lawrence. That is built into the DNA of our program.”

He credits Ariela Rosa, associate director of corporate, foundation, and sponsored research support, for guiding him through the Fellowship application, and he applauds Carla Daughtry, associate professor of anthropology and chair of Ethnic Studies, and the professors from other departments who teach courses in Ethnic Studies for helping to make the path to this Fellowship possible.

“This win is a win for Ethnic Studies at Lawrence,” Smith said.

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