Three Lawrence University professors were honored with 2021 faculty awards during the June 13 Commencement ceremony. The annual awards are considered to be among Lawrence’s highest faculty honors.
The Award for Excellence in Scholarship went to Gustavo Fares, professor of Spanish; the Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member went to Rebecca Perry, assistant professor of music theory; and the Award for Excellence in Teaching went to Massimiliano Verità, instructor of Arabic, Italian, and Religious Studies.
Award for Excellence in Scholarship: Gustavo Fares
Fares has been part of the Spanish faculty at Lawrence for more than two decades.
“You came to Lawrence University in 2000 with rich and varied training in a variety of fields, with degrees in law, painting, and printmaking, in addition to your Ph.D. in Latin American literature,” President Mark Burstein said in a citation he read at Commencement. “In fact, your first faculty appointment, in Buenos Aires, was as a professor of painting and drawing. This ability to grasp the multiple, complex interconnections among the arts and a society—and, in particular, your interest in the self-representation of minoritized American communities—has produced a rich body of distinctive scholarship that I am pleased to recognize today.”
Fares’ research has focused on such topics as Latin American cultural studies, legal studies, visual arts, and border studies. In 2004, he was a Fulbright Visiting Professor at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, in Mendoza, Argentina. He also has been an active partner with the College Board for more than two decades, assisting high school Advance Placement students studying Spanish. He was among three Lawrence faculty members who contributed instructional videos to the College Board’s AP Daily project during the pandemic.
His latest book, Domingo F. Sarmiento’s Argirópolis. A Critical Translation (New York: Palgrave), was released earlier this year. Kodat applauded Fares for collaborating with Lawrence students in writing the book, which provides a critical translation of Sarmiento’s 1850 essay.
“I am happy to note that you were assisted in this work of translation by four of our Spanish majors, who explored the text with you in a series of independent studies and whose assistance you acknowledge in the book,” Burstein said.
Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member: Rebecca Perry
A member of the Conservatory of Music faculty since 2017, Perry has quickly established herself as an integral part of the learning community for Lawrence students studying music.
“For many young musicians, music theory is a bit like spinach: there’s no question that it’s good for you, but while some immediately take a liking to it, others need time, and a bit of culinary creativity, to appreciate its virtues,” Burstein said in the citation for Perry. “Becky, since coming to Lawrence in 2017, you have excelled in helping students to develop a taste for the often challenging, but always nourishing, work of theoretical musical analysis.”
Perry came to Lawrence after receiving her doctor of philosophy, master of arts, and master of philosophy degrees in music history from Yale University. Her research has focused on early 20th century adaptations of sonata form, as well as film music, Russian formalism, and the intersections between literary theory and music analysis.
Burstein said Perry’s impact in the Conservatory can be felt in how students have reacted to her teaching.
“Students express profound gratitude for your patience and willingness to meet them where they are and travel with them on the road to understanding,” Burstein said in the citation.
He also noted that Perry’s students have praised her for caring about them as individuals and respecting them in the classroom.
Award for Excellence in Teaching: Massimiliano Verità
Verità has been part of the Lawrence faculty since 2005. He began as an instructor for Freshman Studies (now called First-Year Studies) and began teaching tutorials in Modern Standard Arabic a year later. Before coming to Lawrence, he had written on the novels of Naguib Mahfouz for his master’s thesis while studying at the University of Bologna.
“Student interest grew rapidly, so much so that, by 2008, you were offering instruction in Arabic as a six-unit, three-course sequence, which you have offered every year since,” Burstein said in the citation to Verità.
He would go on to earn a second master’s at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in African languages and literatures with a specialization in contemporary Arabic literature and Arabic and African cinema.
“For more than a dozen years, you have single-handedly managed our curriculum in Arabic language instruction, supplementing regular coursework with tutorials, directed studies, and independent studies in second-, third-, and fourth-year Arabic, Media Arabic, and Arabic Linguistics—all in response to student interest,” Burstein said. “As if this weren’t enough, you added Italian to your teaching portfolio in 2015, earning heartfelt gratitude and appreciation from scores of students along the way.”
Burstein said students have praised Verità for his “patience, kindness, enthusiasm—and sense of fun.”
“But your pedagogical gifts extend beyond the ability to make learning a new language fun,” Burstein continued. “Students appreciate your friendly availability in office hours, your eagerness to help them learn, and your compassion. As one of your students puts it, you are ‘one of the most accommodating and humble instructors I’ve met.’”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lawrence University will honor five retiring faculty members at the June 13 Commencement.
Terry Gottfried, a professor of psychology since 1986, Gerald Metalsky, a professor of psychology since 1992, Alan Parks, a professor of mathematics since 1985, Jerald Podair, a professor of history since 1998, and Bruce Pourciau, a professor of mathematics since 1976, are stepping into retirement after long and distinguished careers at Lawrence.
They each will be presented with a citation at Commencement and will be awarded a Master of Arts, ad eundem, degree.
Gottfried has taught a wide array of psychology courses and has played key roles in the growth of interdisciplinary academic programs over the last three and a half decades, including Linguistics, Cognitive Science, and Gender Studies; he’s been an active participant in First-Year Studies; and he’s developed and frequently taught the psychology of music course for students in the Conservatory of Music and the college, exploring musical structure and expression and their implications for human experience.
“I think Lawrence is stronger and more responsive to intellectual and social challenges by these [interdisciplinary] programs, and I look forward to Lawrence expanding its traditions of excellence into new fields of discovery and understanding,” he said.
Gottfried, who earned both a bachelor’s degree in French and psychology and a doctoral degree in experimental psychology at the University of Minnesota, has twice been awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in the Fulbright Scholar Program. In 2001, the fellowship was for a teaching and research position in the English department at Aarhus University in Denmark, where he taught a seminar on the psychology of language for English language students and conducted research comparing Danish and American English listeners’ perception of American English vowels. In 2014, he spent five months as the Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Brain, Language and Music at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, continuing his research into the relation between music and speech processing.
Gottfried said he walks away from his teaching duties at Lawrence continually amazed at students’ desire to be challenged and their willingness to support each other. He said he recalls early in his tenure having psychology students ask to read historical text written by early psychologists to get a better understanding of their theories.
“It was good advice, and I wisely took it,” he said.
It speaks to a thread that runs through Lawrentians, whether 35 years ago when he came to Lawrence or today, Gottfried said.
“Students at Lawrence have consistently shown themselves to be engaged, hard-working, and curious; in that way, from my earliest experiences to today, students have put forth effort in the classes but have also asked for more challenges,” he said.
The pandemic of the past 15 months has certainly posed new challenges, and has been a stark reminder of the importance of caring for our mental health, Gottfried said. That is a message he leaves with this year’s graduates.
“To call post-graduation activities the ‘great unknown’ is spot-on—we’ve learned that much of what we’ve taken for granted may not be certain,” he said. “I think we’d all be well served by openness to both the new opportunities and especially to the challenges posed by these opportunities. In the midst of these challenges, however, I also think we might remember to treat ourselves and others with kindness and generosity of spirit.”
Metalsky joined the Lawrence faculty after spending five years in the psychology department at the University of Texas.
He has specialized in depression, stress, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and general psychotherapy. He also worked for 35 years as a practicing clinical psychologist.
He is a former associate editor and consulting editor of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the flagship publication of the American Psychological Association for research on psychopathology. In 2005, he became the first and only Lawrence psychologist to serve on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Psychological Association. He has been a fellow of the American Psychological Society since 2009.
Metalsky earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of California-Berkeley and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
For 34 consecutive years—five at UT and 29 at Lawrence—he has taught a series of three courses, known as the “clinical sequence,” for every student who is looking to pursue a career in clinical psychology or in allied mental health professions. The third step in the sequence involves students working at mental health residential treatment facilities.
“I am particularly proud of the large number of students who took the ‘clinical sequence’ and subsequently went on to pursue careers as mental health practitioners and/or psychology professors,” Metalsky said. “Over the years, most of these students reached out to express their appreciation and tell me they did not realize until starting their program just how well-prepared they were due to taking the clinical sequence.”
Metalsky said he was astonished when he arrived at Lawrence to find such a small student-to-faculty ratio. It remains one of the best attributes of the Lawrence experience.
“Individualized learning is at the core of a Lawrence education,” he said. “It was true of Lawrence when I first arrived in 1992 and remains true today. Indeed, the thought of teaching such small classes on a regular basis was a central factor that went into my decision to … come to Lawrence. It was one of the best decisions of my entire career.”
Metalsky said his words of wisdom to this year’s seniors echoes his advice to Lawrentians over the past three decades.
“My message to graduating seniors has not changed over the years, though I believe it is even more relevant today than when I first arrived at Lawrence,” he said. “My message to this year’s graduating seniors is this, ‘Always be mindful of your mental health.’”
Parks has taught mathematics and computer science since joining the Lawrence faculty in 1985.
Besides excelling in the classroom, he has written text material for multiple upper- and lower-level courses, among them applied calculus, optimization, foundations of analysis, and theory of computation, and he provided leadership in the Mathematics Department and beyond.
A member of the American Mathematical Society, Parks’ research interests in applied mathematics include dynamical systems, differential equations, and error correcting codes, among others.
Two years after arriving at Lawrence, Parks was honored with the university’s then-named Young Teacher Award.
“You have waged a vigorous assault on math anxiety, transforming mathophobes into mathophiles, even as you have given previously dedicated students of mathematics a heightened appreciation for the discipline,” the citation reads. “These attainments derive, in equal measure, from the strength of your scholarship and from your keen sense of the teacher’s craft.”
Parks continued to excel in the classroom for the next three and a half decades, being a fixture in a Mathematics Department that has seen robust changes through the years.
In 2003, he served as the Science Semester Resident Director at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. He has had papers published in the American Mathematics Monthly, the Journal of Algebra, the Canadian Journal of Mathematics, and the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society.
From 2007 to 2010, he was the first holder of the Pieper Family Servant-Leader Professorship. The endowed position included responsibilities for enhancing Lawrence’s involvement in courses that feature community-based learning. He received the then-named Freshman Studies Teaching Award in 2007 and the Mortar Board Honorary Award in 2010.
Parks earned bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Podair, the Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history, steps aside after 23 years of teaching, much of it focused on United States history.
He has taught with a passion, has been oft-quoted in local and national media on topics of American politics, and has written books that have dug into the histories of everything from controversial politicians to baseball’s impact on a city to civil rights icons.
A native of New York, he came to Lawrence mid-career in 1998 after deciding to pursue his love of history and teaching. He had earned a bachelor’s degree at New York University, a law degree from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. from Princeton University, and had spent more than a decade as a practicing attorney in New York.
He quickly became a deeply respected history scholar, twice being honored with Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship (2010 and 2018), as well as earning its Faculty Convocation Award in 2012.
As he heads into retirement, Podair is writing a new book, Promised Lands: A History of the American People in the Twentieth Century, which, as the title implies, is a massive undertaking and is the reason he’s chosen to retire now.
“Most history books involve learning a lot about a little, but this one has forced me to learn a little about a lot,” he said. “Thanks to the book, I now know about subjects as diverse as the arrangements of lifeboats on the Lusitania, the ballistics evidence in the Sacco-Vanzetti case, and the details of Woodrow Wilson’s love life. I have about 100,000 words drafted so far but miles and miles to go before I sleep.”
Podair said he takes great pride in contributions he’s made at Lawrence toward First-Year Studies, Bjorklunden, and tutorial and independent study, all part of what makes up the “Lawrence difference.”
“What was true when I arrived in 1998 is still true today—you have to ask the question ‘why?’ over and over, in every class you take,” he said. “And that goes for the professors, too. The ‘why?’ question is the central one in critical thinking, which is the essence of the Lawrence experience. The great philosopher Yogi Berra once said that, ‘if you don’t got a bullpen, you got nothing.’ Yogi’s grammar errors notwithstanding, the same goes for critical thinking in a liberal arts education. If you don’t have it, you have nothing.”
Pourciau has been a mainstay in the Mathematics Department for four and a half decades, bringing scholarly insight across the landscape of mathematics. He has been an expert on the work of Isaac Newton, earning national and international recognition. Other areas of expertise have included optimization theory, global analysis, topology, and philosophy of mathematics.
Pourciau was honored in 2000 with Lawrence’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and again in 2009 with the Award for Excellence in Scholarship. “The breadth and depth of your work are outstanding, and establish you as a person of great intellectual achievement,” the latter citation reads. He has twice won the Halmos-Ford Award given by the Mathematical Association of America for expository excellence.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a Ph.D. from the University of California—San Diego.
Early in his career at Lawrence, Pourciau began to wonder why he and his colleagues were teaching calculus to so many students who would never need a single calculus technique in their lives.
“The answer was shockingly obvious—because all students, whatever their career paths, benefit from wrestling with and absorbing the ‘mathematical way of thinking,’” he said. “Each discipline—economics, philosophy, psychology—has its own way of forming, asking, answering, and judging questions, and the particular definitions, theorems, proofs, and applications of calculus, taught in the right way, could convey not only the beauty, spirit, and imagination of mathematics, but its particular modes of thought as well, ways of thinking fundamental in mathematics and often fundamental in life.”
This led Pourciau to develop a list of proverbs, each capturing some aspect of the “mathematical way of thinking.” These were proverbs for any mathematics class, not just calculus. Some were proverbs for life. Among them: “Be awed, like a child; Put meaning before truth; Choose to live honoring your gifts; and Be moved by mystery.”
“These are four of the many proverbs I have chalked on the blackboard for generations of students,” he said. “And if I had a big enough blackboard for the graduating students this year, I would chalk the same advice.
“If my courses have helped to rekindle that child-like awe, not just for mathematics, but for all the magic and mystery that surround us, I will be happy.”
The 2021 recipients of Lawrence University’s Diversity & Inclusion Champion Awards were celebrated May 25 in a virtual event that highlighted their contributions to the campus.
Recipients include Shaun Brown ’21, Student Award; LUDWiG (Lawrence University Disability Working Group), chaired by Alex Chand ’22, Student Organization Award; Jaime Gonzalez ’16, Staff Award; Horacio Contreras, assistant professor of music, Faculty Award; and the Kaukauna Area School District First of Many program, Community Partner Award.
“These impressive individuals have used their many talents, resources, influence, and privilege to help make Lawrence University more inclusive,” Kimberly Barrett, vice president for diversity and inclusion and associate dean of the faculty, said in announcing this year’s recipients. “While excelling in their individual roles of faculty, student, staff or community leader, they have also helped us become a more diverse and equitable university that supports all associated with the institution reach their unique potential. Whether through service, activism or teaching, they have all helped to make Lawrence a better place in which to work and learn.”
Shaun Brown ’21
A psychology and cultural anthropology double major, Brown has been involved in numerous initiatives, including working as an Admissions senior intern on the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) Student Recruitment Team and serving as one of two student representatives on the recent Presidential Search Committee.
“As an admissions counselor, he has effectively modeled what an antiracist admissions process can look like through his culturally informed information sessions, compassionate interviewing, and careful reviewing of applications,” his nomination stated.
Brown also has shown leadership within Sankofa House and Black Student Union and has helped nurture cross-cultural connections via All is One, LU Native Americans (LUNA), Brother to Brother, and Alianza.
LUDWiG, chaired by Alex Chand ‘22
LUDWiG is a new student organization, launched in February through the leadership of Chand, that brings together students, faculty, and staff with a mission to foster inclusion and equity of disabled individuals at Lawrence. It does so through mentorship, education, and a commitment to equitable access.
The nomination for the group applauded Chand, a double major in physics and English, for her persistent efforts to bring the organization to fruition.
“Identifying as a person with a disability and as a person of color, these intersectional identities developed her insight and awareness,” the nomination stated. “Frustrated by challenges disabled students face at Lawrence, Alex worked to promote intergroup and cross-cultural understanding through her event programming and cross-organization collaborations.”
Among other efforts, LUDWiG members are working on a Know Your Rights brochure that will highlight disabled students’ rights and resources on campus and will be distributed to incoming first-year students.
Jaime Gonzalez ’16
Gonzalez serves as director of transfer and transitions in the Admissions office, a position he moved into in April 2020. Prior to that he served as a diversity, inclusion, and access specialist.
He has made significant contributions to diversity recruitment and transfer recruitment strategies since returning to Lawrence in 2019.
“Leading efforts to increase access to Lawrence for underrepresented prospective students, he maintained and strengthened relationships with community-based organizations and provided diversity, inclusion, and access training for our admissions staff to further support our goals of becoming an anti-racist office,” his nomination stated.
“In addition to his current role and his support of many other groups on campus, his day-to-day actions exemplify what being an anti-racist person means. He is forever learning and encouraging others to do the same. The changes he’s created at Lawrence have made us a more anti-racist institution and will leave a legacy for decades to come.”
A professor of cello, Contreras was applauded in the nomination for his long commitment to dismantling bias in music. He co-authored the Sphinx Catalog of Latin-American Cello Works, a free database containing information about works for cello by Latin American composers.
“He is making accessible long-unheard voices, increasing representation, dismantling stereotypes, and creating new ways into cello music’s history and future,” the nomination stated.
Contreras has created opportunities for underrepresented students to pursue high-level professional research, and he frequently helps students who face barriers locate funding for summer experiences, giving them opportunities that will help them pursue graduate work or professional careers.
“By acknowledging and dismantling bias, Professor Contreras demonstrates to his students that they can be both gifted musicians and anti-racists,” the nomination stated. “He achieves all of this in ways that foster greater diversity on campus and beyond through his research, teaching, professional service and mentoring students.”
Kaukauna’s First of Many Program
Molly Ruffing ’22, the Equal Access to Education Service Corps leader in the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE), led the charge to create this mentorship program in her hometown. It matches first-generation Lawrence students with potential first-generation students at Kaukauna High School.
Ruffing worked closely with Principal Corey Baumgartner, counselor Matt Binsfeld, and other officials at the high school to make the program a reality.
The Lawrence mentors meet weekly with their mentees to talk through a range of topics that range from financial aid to the application process to potential barriers.
“With six Lawrence mentors and five Kaukauna juniors, the program was successfully piloted in Winter Term 2021,” the nomination stated. “Due to positive feedback from students, plans are in the works to continue the program in the 2021-22 academic year.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: email@example.com
The beauty of the night sky, the stories it can tell, and the “light pollution” that is increasingly hindering our view will be the topic of Lawrence University’s May 27 Honors Convocation.
Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, will deliver the Convocation address, The Stars: Mansions Made by Nature’s Hand, at 11:15 a.m. It will be delivered virtually and is available to the public on the Honors Convocation page at lawrence.edu.
In her address, Pickett will share why light pollution, the ever-increasing brightening of the sky by artificial lighting, is a concern that has long-term economic, health, and biological costs.
“The stars tell our stories, guide our way, and quietly mark time,” Pickett said in preparation for the Convocation. “They inspire artists and compel scientists. The shared heritage of the night sky is a universal natural resource—and we are losing it, one star at a time.”
The annual 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, is traditionally held in Memorial Chapel. But due to campus facilities being closed to the public and physical distancing practices being in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this marks the second year it is being held virtually.
Pickett said she remembers being 12 years old and holding a copy of H.A. Rey’s book, The Stars, as she stared at the night sky in her suburban Detroit neighborhood.
“I truly saw for the first time the hidden treasure suspended above,” she said of that night. “I knew then, standing in a palpably spiritual awe, that my life’s work would be to share that joy and wonder.”
Pickett would go on to become an astrophysicist, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Indiana University. She joined the Lawrence physics department in 2006 after six years on the faculty at Purdue University. Before that, she spent four years as a research associate at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.
Much of her research through the years has focused on the formation of solar systems.
Now she wants to share some of that work and her passions for protecting the night sky with the Lawrence community.
“I will discuss the problems of light pollution, and the solutions that I and other astronomers advocate—simple, cost effective changes that can give us back our nights,” she said. “I will also explore what we are losing, from the soaring spirit of exploration the sky inspires to the traditions of so many peoples—often overlooked—that are celebrated in the stars themselves. My work in understanding our home in the cosmos has given me a deep appreciation for how we all come to see that home, and a sense of urgency to save the night for all those 12-year-olds who step out in the cold and look up.”
Pickett said more than 80% of the world, and 99% of America, lives under a polluted sky.
“Fully one-third of the world can no longer see the Milky Way, our home galaxy, including more than half of Europe and three-quarters of America,” she said. “In the few enclaves of pristine sky, you can see 5,000 stars on a clear night, but if you live in suburban America, only a tenth of that number; in a city, less than 50.”
Don’t take it for granted, Pickett said. There is joy in those stars, and generations to come may be hard-pressed to find it.
“The night sky is at once a visible and an ephemeral natural resource,” she said. “Its loss, and the increase in unnecessary sky-brightness come with economic, medical, and biological costs. As important, we lose something of ourselves, and our history, as each generation sees less of the wondrous night.”
Ami Hatori ’23 will perform the Convocation’s prelude, Jupiter’s Moons, on piano. The postlude, On a Clear Day, will feature Courtney Wilmington ’22, soprano vocals; Samara Morris ’21, alto vocals; Jack Murphy ’21, tenor vocals; David Womack ’22, bass vocals; Nick Muellner ’20, alto and tenor saxophones; Alyssa Kuss ’22, baritone saxophone; Jack Benedict ’21, trumpet; Allie Goldman ’21, trombone; Carson Bell ’22, guitar; Rowan Barcham, keyboard; Ali Remondini ’21, double bass; and Daniel Green ’21, drum set.
It is not a stretch to say music is being made on the Lawrence University campus at almost every hour of every day. When you are home to a world-class conservatory, music is part of the campus heartbeat.
So, why wouldn’t a history professor and an art professor, staring at a suddenly wide-open calendar when the pandemic shut down their planned spring 2020 sabbaticals, throw themselves into the writing and recording of an album? Why wouldn’t they hole up inside a storage garage that doubles as an art studio, purchase recording equipment they have no idea how to use, break out guitars the history professor built himself, and start writing songs—lots of songs—most of them tinged with a doomsday vibe to match the moment?
And why wouldn’t they title that album Songs from the End of the World?
No reason at all. Hence, we give you the Junkyard Tornadoes, the musical mix of Jake Frederick, professor of history, and Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, with a 12-song album all their own; now available on the digital music service Bandcamp.
Both had big plans for their sabbaticals. Neilson was heading to Scotland for an art fellowship; Frederick to the Newberry Library in Chicago for a research fellowship. All of that was put on hold as COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March, sending students home for remote learning and halting all non-essential travel. With no classes to teach until fall, they suddenly had time on their hands and nowhere to go.
“We were in shock about how crazy the world had suddenly become,” Frederick said.
The two professors have long dabbled in music as a hobby. They regularly gather in the art garage—“the storm shelter, as I’ve begun calling it,” Frederick said—to play together, occasionally thinking about recording their songs or playing in public or both. They have one public performance as a duo under their belts. And before the pandemic hit, they submitted three original songs (an EP, Three Minute Average) to Mile of Music organizers, hoping to get on the 2020 festival lineup. It was canceled before they got an answer. And, yes, Frederick builds his own guitars, four of them to date.
They saw an opportunity in the unexpected pandemic pause, one that would nurture a secret (or not-so-secret) longing to be rock stars. Or at least allow them to stretch themselves a bit musically and in the process find some refuge from the COVID storm.
They headed into quarantine with a pact—they and their wives would form their own biome of sorts, isolated from the rest of the world. From March through the end of summer, the two professors experimented with their music. They wrote and rewrote songs. Neilson purchased recording equipment and started playing around with software, teaching himself the basics of being an audio engineer.
“I knew nothing about how to record an album,” he said. “I just started looking into it. What do I need? I got myself a little bit of equipment. And then literally just started plugging things in and recording it and seeing what worked, how would this sound; learning as we went.”
It was all music all the time in the art garage as spring rolled into summer.
“We started writing some songs that night,” Frederick said of the night in March 2020 when faculty were told the campus was going remote for Spring Term and university travel was being shut down. “Just started writing about the bizarre world we were living in. I think the first thing we wrote was I Got a Virus. We wrote a song called Quarantine Me. This is all the first night. I think we wrote four songs that night, and it occurred to us that we don’t think we’re any good (as musicians) but we think some of the songs we write are pretty good.”
None of the songs they wrote that first night ended up on the album. But it kick-started something that would consume them over the next eight months of quarantine.
“We figured we might be dead by the end of the summer, so maybe we should get these things recorded so the archaeologists can maybe play the songs someday,” Frederick said with a laugh.
He and Neilson bring self-deprecating humor to every conversation about their music. They know they are on a campus surrounded by faculty and students overflowing with music talent. Many of those students will go on to make, perform, and teach music for a living.
For them, though, it’s simply a hobby, a chance to enjoy their friendship while channeling some creative energies.
“Writing songs for us pre-dates the pandemic,” Neilson said. “But really sitting down and recording an album, that was the bit. It became clear, we’re not going anywhere. The university stopped all travel. I was going to Scotland; Jake was going to Chicago. I also had a public art project that got canceled. My gallery shut down. The whole world shut down. That was the moment we realized, well, maybe we should record these tunes. We don’t have anything else to do.”
When they returned to teaching in the fall, the music continued but time grew tight. They set a hard deadline to finish the album.
“At some point Jake and I decided that we would be done and out by Christmas,” Neilson said. “The Beatles always released an album right before Christmas, and look what happened to those guys. We were going to release our album by Christmas no matter what.”
And they did. Songs from the End of the World was a wrap by mid-December. They cut a couple dozen CDs for family and friends. A former student suggested they make the album available for download on Bandcamp.
“We wanted to put it out there for free because we didn’t think it was deserving of anyone’s money,” Frederick joked. “But to host it on a server, we had to charge something because they need to make their money.”
We’d like to tell you the album has become a pandemic sensation and is now on the Billboard Hot 100. It is not (at least not yet). But the Junkyard Tornadoes did sell a few downloads.
“We’ve gotten a check,” Neilson said. “So, Jake and I are at this point professional musicians.”
“It was $24,” Frederick added. “I can now say definitively that I’ve made more money as a professional musician than I did on my first book.”
Songs from the End of the World, which has a sort of gritty Warren Zevon’s The Wind feel to it, isn’t explicitly about the pandemic or the anxieties and rage that consumed 2020. But there’s no missing it.
“It’s in there because it’s inescapable,” Neilson said. “There was no way not to. That was our whole lives. It was everybody’s lives.”
Well, they’re already working on album No. 2. Other than that, the focus is squarely on their teaching jobs. Music remains the hobby that helps them find new energy. Maybe one day they’ll take the music out of the art garage. Perhaps they’ll make another run at Mile of Music.
“The first thing we’d have to do is put together a band,” Neilson said. “At this point, it’s Jake and me playing all the guitars, bass, keyboards, harmonica, percussion.” (They did get a rhythm section assist from colleague Tony Conrad.)
Frederick and Neilson know they wouldn’t have to look far to find other capable musicians. But, they joked, the musicians in the Conservatory might have better options.
“This whole thing feels like a very Lawrence-y thing to do,” Frederick said of the album. “You have an art professor and a history professor who don’t know how to engineer and really don’t know how to write songs and don’t know how to read music; don’t qualify as musicians. Of course, we’ll write an album. But at the same time, this place is richly populated with people who actually have some idea what they’re doing making music. There were moments recording this album where we were trying to figure out our timing or we were trying to figure out a key change or something that would just take us hours, and you know that this is stuff that first-year students across the street can do in their sleep. … If anyone in the Con feels like their music is somehow threatened by us, I’m going to get a tattoo that says that.”
We are heading into Teacher Appreciation Week, giving us an opportunity to shine a light on the Lawrence University faculty, which has innovated, adjusted, readjusted, inspired, and experimented over the past 14 months, all while helping guide students through steep and ever-changing pandemic challenges.
Through it all—and it’s not over yet—the faculty has kept Lawrence’s academics robust and transformational.
Many of our faculty members have shared words of wisdom along the way. Or showed their ongoing commitment in the face of uncertainty. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-8), we’ve dug into our story library to share some of those wise words and actions in this A-to-Z guide. This is just a sampling, of course. Many others have responded in amazing ways.
A: AP assist
“The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency.” / Rosa Tapia, professor of Spanish, on joining colleagues Gustavo Fares (Spanish) and Beth De Stasio (biology) in contributing virtual video lectures to College Board’s AP Daily, a YouTube series aimed at helping high school Advanced Placement (AP) students during the pandemic.
“I recognized that there was a beauty and weirdness to the literature—and that women and people of color, and not just bewigged white men, were writing it. I was hooked; the rest is history. When I tell this story to my students, I insist that they will be hooked, too, after a novel or two. And many of them are.” / Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, on the joys of teaching 18th-century literature in a 21st-century world.
G: Global thinking
“Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.” / Marcia Bjornerud, Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology, on the value of Lawrence’s new environmental science major.
H: Holiday time
“One of the things I wanted to do in doing this show is to show my students what’s possible when you stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible. 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.” / John Holiday, voice professor, on his successful journey through NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice.
“We followed along with the economics and policy scholarship that was emerging in real time, and we also surveyed the social science and historical scholarship on how epidemics and pandemics have shaped the arc of history. There are elements of that material in just about every course I will teach going forward.” / David Gerard, John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, on teaching economics during the pandemic.
K: Know what’s coming
“Watch how voting by mail plays out across the country. Will there be delays? Fraud? Chaos? For better or worse, there will be no going back; mail voting is our future. In a decade, in-person voting will be considered as outmoded as manual typewriters.” / Jerald Podair, Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history, predicting what would follow the November 2020 election.
L: Labs go virtual
“Well, the main take-away from a lab science is to practice the scientific method. So, all of my students will make a piece of art or collection of art that inspires them, and the catch is that they must document their work—hypothesizing, observations, detailing the chemistry involved, and documenting the procedure—in a detailed laboratory notebook maintaining the highest level of scientific rigor.” / Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry, on getting creative in remote classes.
M: Music won’t be stopped
“While the way we are creating music is different and sometimes awkward right now, it still gives us the chance to share this experience, work toward common goals, and be together.” / Patty Darling, director of the LU Jazz Ensemble, on keeping music ensembles together during the pandemic.
“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.” / Amy Ongiri, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, on the importance of embracing and learning from our failures.
“I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. … In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever. / Beth Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, on teaching from a distance.
R: Remote but in tune
“I tell them they can hang out or not and that I’ll be back in 20 minutes, and I’ll come back and they are still there, hanging out, talking about student stuff. We had a prospective student join one meeting and I left them there to get acquainted because they can’t come to visit the campus. It’s super productive.” / Ann Ellsworth, assistant professor of music, on using Zoom to help her horn students stay connected despite the distance.
S: Songs of unity
“This is not the way we would have imagined a celebrated conservatory choral program working a year ago, but our students are making it work. Lawrence students need to sing.” / Stephen Sieck, associate professor of music and director of Concert Choir, on Conservatory students adapting during the pandemic.
T: Together, always
“My biggest concern was there would be two independent streams; there would be the online students and the in-person students and they would feel so separate from each other, and possibly doing totally different things. So, it was important to find a way that the students who are online still feel connected to Lawrence and particularly to the ensembles.” / Matthew Arau, associate professor of music, on using technology and other innovations to help music students learn and play together during the pandemic.
“The biological sciences are increasingly using big data and novel computational technologies to tackle big questions about ecology, evolution, and health, just to name a few examples. By offering a data science minor to our students, we are preparing them with a marketable skill set that is broadly applicable regardless of what biological sub-discipline they choose to pursue.” / Israel Del Toro, assistant professor of biology, on the interdisciplinary nature of the statistics and data science minor, which launched this year.
Y: Your journey
“The mistakes we make—and I include myself—the questions we ask, and the challenges we encounter all give distinctive worth to the whole enterprise. The more we dig in, the more our work becomes part of our personal strategies for dealing with what’s beyond the classroom.” / Eilene Hoft-March, Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French, on helping to guide students through the intellectual journey.
Z: Zoom, Zooming, Zoomed
“I’m excited that we’re actually looking at technology and its possibilities and not just focusing on what we can’t do. Instead, we’re saying, ‘What can we do?’ I think that’s a very Lawrencey thing. We’re trying to teach our students to be creative and innovative and be problem-solvers.” / Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, on infusing an attitude of resilience and opportunity.
Alyssa Hakes turned to goofy costumes early in the pandemic to add some fun to classes she was teaching via Zoom. It went over so well she has kept it going for a year.
The Lawrence University associate professor of biology said she was struggling during the first week of teaching virtually in March 2020.
“I felt isolated from my students and it was incredibly awkward recording lecture videos in an empty bedroom,” Hakes said.
Enter a pirate hat borrowed from one of her kids.
“I hadn’t quite leaned into the full Zoom costume thing yet, but I felt a spark of that teaching joy again,” she said of putting on that pirate hat. “I surveyed our household collection of dress-up clothes and Halloween costumes and I realized that I could make this a regular thing. Strangely, I found that dressing up in ridiculous costumes made me feel less awkward on camera, and thinking about next week’s costume was a welcome distraction from the anxiety of teaching during a pandemic.”
Hakes’ costumes have ranged from pirates and horror movie monsters to space creatures and video game heroes, all with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.
“Because my Zoom costumes are mostly put together with things I already have in my house—Professor Fleshman also loaned me a few costume items—they don’t necessarily match with the course material,” Hakes said. “Although, when I taught First-Year Studies in the Fall, I had a few costumes that fit with the works—Socrates, honeybee, and cave.”
When her online classes allowed for more interaction with students, she wore costumes at the start to set a fun tone, then switched to more professional attire.
“Some of my costumes are outdated references to ’80s and ’90s pop culture, or reflect more of my kids’ tastes in cartoons and video games, but the Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student,” Hakes said. “It just makes my day when I hear from a student that the Zoom costume and the accompanying lame joke or silly dance is making their remote learning experience a little more fun and engaging.”
Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ten members of the Lawrence University faculty have been granted 2021 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 Ingrid Albrecht (philosophy), Matthew Arau (music education), Chloe Armstrong (philosophy), Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd (education), Horacio Contreras (music), John Holiday (music), Danielle Joyner (art history), Victoria Kononova (Russian), Nora Lewis (music), and Brigid Vance (history). All 10 have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.
The appointments span multiple disciplines across the college and conservatory.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a dedicated and richly talented group of faculty into the tenured ranks,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine G. Kodat. “The breadth of ability and skill represented in this year’s tenure ‘class’ is truly extraordinary, both in terms of individual achievement and in how those achievements support our broader efforts to expand and enhance our curriculum to support diversity, inclusion, and excellence.”
The 10 newly tenured faculty:
Ingrid Albrecht: A specialist in ethics and moral philosophy, she joined the Lawrence philosophy department in 2013. Her courses have ranged from existentialism and ethics to feminism and philosophy and biomedical ethics.
Matthew Arau ’97: A Lawrence alumnus, he joined the Lawrence Conservatory’s music education faculty in 2014 and serves as the associate director of bands. His efforts on and off campus to teach a positive mindset in music education have drawn a strong following.
Chloe Armstrong: A specialist in early modern philosophy, she joined Lawrence’s philosophy department in 2015. Her teaching ranges from the works of Margaret Cavendish and Gottfried Leibniz to courses on food ethics and ancient Greek philosophy.
Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd: A specialist in early childhood education, she joined the education department in 2015. She played a big role in launching the new teacher certification program in early childhood education and provides leadership for students going through teaching residencies.
Horacio Contreras: A professor of cello, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017. He taught for 10 years at Universidad de Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela, before receiving his DMA in cello performance from the University of Michigan in 2016. He performs regularly nationally and internationally.
John Holiday: A professor of voice, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017 after teaching for two years at Ithaca College. He has been hailed as a rising star in the opera world and performs frequently on some of opera’s biggest stages. He gained national attention as a crossover artist in late 2020 when he advanced to the finals on NBC’s The Voice.
Danielle Joyner: A medieval art historian, she joined the art history faculty in 2018. She teaches courses on medieval and gothic art and is part of a faculty research and teaching collective on ancient and pre-modern societies.
Victoria Kononova: A specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature and theater, she joined the Russian department in 2015. She teaches advanced Russian language classes and courses in English translation that include Russia’s Golden Age, women and gender in Russian culture, and Slavic science fiction.
Nora Lewis ’99: A professor of oboe and an alumna of Lawrence, she joined the Conservatory faculty in 2018 after teaching stints at Austin Peay, Kansas State, and Western Michigan. She has performed extensively and presents master classes nationally and internationally.
Brigid Vance: A historian of late imperial China, she joined the history department in 2015. A regular contributor to First-Year Studies, she teaches courses that range from Chinese women’s history and the West’s view of China to the history of Chinese medicine and modern East Asian civilization.
The high level of achievement across the group speaks well of Lawrence’s ongoing commitment to academic excellence, Kodat said.
“It’s such a pleasure seeing their many past accomplishments rewarded with tenure, and I look forward to many years of rewarding partnership,” she said.
Lawrence University has launched a new Environmental Science major, giving science-minded students with an interest in environmental research a more concentrated path.
The major, running parallel with Lawrence’s long-established Environmental Studies major, taps into deep expertise in Lawrence’s science faculty on topics ranging from urban ecology and tectonics to soil biology and atmospheric chemistry. Approved in a recent faculty vote following two years of study, the new major will be available beginning in Fall Term, said Environmental Studies chair Jason Brozek, the Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government.
The new major speaks to the growing interest and career paths tied to the climate crisis and the desire by students to do hands-on research in environmental protection. For some students, it will provide a clearer path to graduate school.
“Environmental Studies has always evolved to fit the needs of students, and we see this as a step that builds on our strengths and makes our long-standing program even more robust,” Brozek said. “One of the goals is to help students feel prepared for graduate programs and careers in the environmental sciences—without sacrificing the interdisciplinary perspective that our Environmental Studies program has been built on for more than two decades.”
The particulars of the major came out of a working faculty group that involved numerous science professors—Marcia Bjornerud, Jeff Clark, Andrew Knudsen, and Relena Ribbons from the Geology Department, Israel Del Toro from Biology, and Deanna Donohoue from Chemistry.
As has been done elsewhere on campus, this was an opportunity to create space for more than one major under the same umbrella. The Environmental Studies program remains, but under that banner students will be able to major in Environmental Studies or Environmental Science.
“Both are interdisciplinary majors made up of courses from a wide range of different disciplines, and both will guide students from early exploration through advanced independent research,” Brozek said
The Environmental Studies major will continue to explore environmental issues through a multitude of lenses—scientific, political, economic, and cultural. The Environmental Science major, meanwhile, will focus more on hands-on scientific research.
There are opportunities here in Appleton and in the surrounding northeast Wisconsin region for students to engage more broadly in authentic, meaningful, and focused environmental science research, Clark said. The research not only provides valuable hands-on learning experiences for the students but also serves important public service functions.
“Our students want to be engaged in real-world problem-solving, and the Environmental Science major provides the background to tackle these problems,” Clark said.
Attention to the climate crisis is growing as evidence of distress becomes increasingly perilous. Employment opportunities are following suit, with career paths expanding in everything from climate modeling and environmental engineering to water resource management and sustainability. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected an 8% growth in employment of environmental scientists and specialists over the course of this decade.
For some students with an eye on the environment, the interest is in the political, policy, or economic realm. For a growing number of others, it’s in the science. Thus, Lawrence providing a new path of study that focuses squarely on environmental science is reflective of what more and more students are asking for, Brozek said.
“I think all of us do feel the urgency of the climate crisis, and we see that in our students who are looking for the sort of hands-on, experiential learning that can help them become more effective environmental advocates, experts, and leaders,” he said.
“In that time, scientific understanding of climate, ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and human interaction with these complex natural phenomena has become far deeper and more nuanced,” she said. “Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.”
Current students interested in switching to the Environmental Science major can do so, but they’ll want to consult with their advisor first to see how the major’s requirements mesh with courses they’ve already taken, Brozek said.
For prospective or incoming students, it’s one more option to consider if they’re exploring the rapidly expanding career paths tied to the environment and climate change.
“Whether students picture a career in environmental justice or hydrology or policy analysis—or all three—we hope they see Lawrence as a good fit for them,” Brozek said. “Environmental Science is another springboard for the next generation of environmental leaders.”
The Rock, a 2-ton boulder that has been part of Lawrence University lore for 126 years, is being gifted to departing President Mark Burstein.
In searching for the perfect gift for a leader whose rock-solid leadership has helped guide Lawrence to new heights, the university community opted to follow the lead of Burstein’s previous employer. When he left Princeton University to join the Lawrence family eight years ago, Burstein was given small honed pieces of material that were used in the many building and landscape projects constructed and renovated during his nine-year tenure there. These pieces form a small square that resides on his desk in Sampson House.
It’s hoped he’ll proudly display The Rock in similar fashion as he leaves Lawrence and moves back east to begin a new adventure.
“I’ll need a bigger desk,” a gracious Burstein said. “Or David will have to design a garden with The Rock as a center point.”
Now it’ll go further east with a president who also is revered. The gift didn’t include a means of moving The Rock because of ongoing budget constraints. So, come June, volunteers, fully masked and following The Pledge, will be needed to hoist The Rock atop Burstein’s car for the 900-mile drive. A sign-up sheet can be found on the fifth floor of the Mudd Library in the Center for the Advancement and Study of Humor, Hijinx, and Fools.