Category: Feature

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Noonan puts focus on balancing short-term challenges, long-term strength

Mary Alma Noonan is Lawrence University’s new vice president for finance and administration.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Mary Alma Noonan will tell you that interviewing for and landing a new job in the midst of a pandemic can be a bit disconcerting.

Lawrence University’s new vice president for finance and administration came on board in early August after going through a lengthy interview process, all without ever leaving her home in Vermont. Thus, Appleton became her new home sight unseen.

“The hardest part was wrapping my head around coming to Appleton when I had never set foot here, had not really spent any time in Wisconsin at all,” she said.

Six weeks in, so far so good. The campus is gorgeous, the weather has been beautiful, and the Lawrentians she’s met – masked up and at a distance or via Zoom – have been helpful, collaborative, and committed. In other words, as advertised.

“Because of the pandemic, I haven’t been exploring as much as I might have otherwise,” she said of Appleton. “But I’ve been doing a lot of walking, getting a sense of the geography.”

Noonan also has dived into Lawrence’s finances, which, like those of most every institution of higher learning across the country, are being stressed by the COVID-19 pandemic. She arrives on campus at a particularly difficult time, with much of the instruction taking place virtually and a little more than 60% of students living on campus for Fall Term.

Noonan said she and other members of the Lawrence leadership team will need to work closely with shared governance committees to make decisions with an eye on both the short-term financial realities and the long-term health of the University.

“It’s difficult, but that also makes it interesting and challenging,” Noonan said of her new role. “If it were just a job that I stepped into and it was just clicking through the steps and checking the boxes, I probably wouldn’t be as interested in it. There are challenges out there. I feel I have some ideas that can be helpful, looking at strategies going forward. Right now, we are so focused on the here and the now and getting through this crisis that the strategic part is a little bit on the back burner. But I know that that is going to pop into the foreground before too long. That’s really an interesting part of this to me, to think about how to make the institution stronger, how to ensure the best possible experience for the students we have now and those in the future.”

Noonan spent the past year as the chief financial officer for the Rutland City Public Schools in Vermont. Prior to that, she spent a year and a half as the vice president for finance and administration at Green Mountain College, a struggling liberal arts college in Poultney, Vermont. She came on board well aware that Green Mountain was trying to dig out of serious financial difficulties. Efforts to reverse the slide were not successful and the school closed its doors after the 2018-19 academic year.

The experience gave Noonan insights into the hurdles facing higher education. And furthered a desire to work in the world of liberal arts education.

“Lawrence is in a relatively fortunate position vis-à-vis some of its peers in that we’ve got a pretty solid financial footing supported by a good endowment,” she said.

That endowment is being significantly bolstered by the $220 million Be the Light! Campaign that launched six years ago and is scheduled to conclude at the end of 2020, providing long-term sustainability.

The endowment isn’t “luxurious” when compared to the handful of other schools with similar faculty-student ratios to Lawrence and that count their endowments in the billions, Noonan said, but it’s strong enough to provide stability that some schools just don’t have right now.

“The higher education sector is going through some tough times, but Lawrence will get through it,” Noonan said. “We just need to be good conservators of the resources that we have. We need to put in the work and make sure that we’re using those resources as effectively as possible to ensure the longevity of what we do.”

Ultimately, identifying ways to generate higher levels of revenue while maintaining a commitment to Lawrence’s mission and values will be key going forward, Noonan said.

A new career path

Entering the world of higher education was no accident. Noonan, who has a bachelor of arts degree in East Asian Studies from Middlebury College and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School and speaks fluent Mandarin, spent the bulk of her career in the business world, holding financial leadership posts with Sara Lee Corporation, Arrow Electronics, and Fannie Mae.

But after she took some time off to help see her mother through a health crisis, she shifted her focus toward more mission-driven work.

“When I started to go back to look for my next step, I realized my heart really wasn’t into continuing with a lot of the private sector functions I had been doing,” Noonan said. “It didn’t feel like there was a whole lot of purpose or mission behind that work.”

She had long been doing pro bono work on the side for a variety of nonprofits. That, she said, is where she was finding joy.

“I felt, particularly when I was in Washington, that I was getting more fulfilment out of some of the nonprofit work I was doing than in my day job,” she said.

She started to explore career opportunities in the nonprofit world. And that led to her connecting with Green Mountain, which put her on a path that would eventually lead to Lawrence.

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

Creative Writing major adds new path in English for Lawrence students

David McGlynn, professor of English, teaches an Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction class during Winter Term. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Students looking to major in Creative Writing can now do so at Lawrence University, marking a significant shift in how the school’s English curriculum is structured.

Beginning in the fall, students in the English program will have two curricular tracks to choose from, one leading to a major in Creative Writing and the other to a major in Literature.

“The new ‘track’ system in the English department—essentially two majors, one in literary analysis and the other in creative writing—beautifully showcases the range of talent within our faculty while giving students the opportunity to explore their passions as readers, critics, and writers to the fullest range of their ability,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat.

See details on the new Creative Writing: English major here.

David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the English department, said the newly launched Creative Writing: English major will allow students who want to focus on writing to do so with more depth and purpose. It will build on—not replace—an English major with deep roots, one that has produced a wide range of novelists, journalists, technical writers, poets, and book editors through the years.

“We’ve seen more prospective students articulating their desire to focus directly on creative writing,” McGlynn said. “More current and prospective students are seeking graduate-school and career opportunities in writing. We believe the new track system will allow students more flexibility to pursue their goals.”

Lawrence has offered a minor in creative writing for nearly a decade. Many of the writing courses — taught mostly by McGlynn and colleagues Melissa Range and Austin Segrest — are already in place. But new offerings will be added, including an introductory creative writing course designed for first-year students as well as a senior seminar in creative writing for graduating seniors.

Meanwhile, the Literature: English major also will see new classes added, including one that focuses on academic writing at the advanced level and expanded offerings in the study of historically underrepresented writers.

“Both tracks will allow students more opportunities to focus on what they want to do with the English major,” McGlynn said.

As chair of the English department, David McGlynn has led efforts to launch a Creative Writing major within the English offerings, beginning this fall.

Lawrence has had no shortage of successful writers coming out of its English department through the years. Most recently, Madhuri Vijay ’09 had her debut novel, The Far Field, longlisted for the 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.

“Creative writing students learn how to work hard and to have faith in themselves over the long haul,” McGlynn said. “Developing as a creative writer takes years and the process can’t be cut short. But when we, as professors, find students who love to write, we do our best to encourage them to go big, to go for it.”

In addition to those who have become novelists or published authors, English graduates from Lawrence have found success in dozens of other fields where the ability to write and think analytically is so important.

“The skills learned in English classes, such as writing, communication, analysis, critical thinking, have applications far beyond studying literature,” McGlynn said. “Along with the writing comes the ability to look into the perspectives of other people, to consider things through someone else’s point of view. That turns out to be pretty good training for fields like social work, counseling, psychology; we’ve had students go on to study medicine, law, business, and library science. The possibilities really are endless.

“And when they get those opportunities, the writing, the thinking, the ability to sympathize and analyze simultaneously comes in really, really handy.”

English is often a popular option for a double major. The new Creative Writing major adds new possibilities across campus that has Kodat excited.

“In particular, it will be exciting to see what kinds of collaborative student projects the new track in Creative Writing unleashes at Lawrence, with its depth of course offerings in music and visual art,” Kodat said. “Expect to be dazzled and astonished.”

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

Lawrence unveils Data Science minor beginning in 2020-21 academic year

Andrew Sage, assistant professor of statistics, works with Erin Lengel in a Data-Scientific Programming class during Winter Term. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is introducing a new Statistics and Data Science minor in the fall, strengthening the school’s offerings in an academic area that is increasingly in demand in today’s job market.

While the minor is housed in the mathematics department, it will be evident very quickly that this is not just for math and computer science majors. Departments all over campus have been tapping into emerging trends in statistics and data analysis in recent years, spotlighting the interdisciplinary strengths of data science and its role in a liberal arts curriculum.

“Data scientists are working with bioinformatics, genetics; it’s huge in economics, and it’s become a huge thing in political science,” said Andrew Sage, an assistant professor of statistics who came on board a year ago and has helped bring the new minor to fruition.

See details on new statistics and data science minor here.

The hiring of Sage in the fall of 2018 was followed by the hiring of Abhishek Chakraborty, another assistant professor of statistics, in the fall of 2019. That put the faculty pieces in place to add key new courses in machine learning, Bayesian statistics, and advanced statistical modeling, among others, elevating the program significantly. The new minor recently got faculty approval, setting up a launch in the 2020-21 academic year.

“There’s really an interest across campus in using data to draw conclusions and make decisions,” Sage said. “By bringing in a second statistician and allowing us to really grow our program and teach more classes specifically to that area is really going to open up a lot of opportunities for collaboration across departments, and help us to better prepare students to apply statistical analysis and data analysis in their own areas.”

A 2019 report from LinkedIn showed a 56% year-to-year jump in data science job openings in the United States. TechRepublic.com listed data scientist as the No. 1 tech-related job in terms of openings and potential for advancement. All indications point toward continued growth as data scientists are sought in a wide range of fields.

At Lawrence, growing the statistics and data science offerings adds an important layer to the curriculum for students looking at options in a fast-changing job market, said Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat. Practical and pragmatic learning intersects here with the power of a liberal arts education.

“The new minor gives our students the unparalleled opportunity to connect modes of quantitative analysis with the distinctively thoughtful, broad-based approach to learning that is characteristic of a Lawrence education,” she said. “Bringing together the training in critical thinking and effective communication fundamental to liberal learning with the keen numerical acumen that is foundational to so many 21st-century careers makes for a uniquely flexible set of skills that will leave our students well-equipped for life after Lawrence.”

Chakraborty said the potential to grow such a program was what drew him to Lawrence. The demand from students, in and out of the math program, has been evident since the day he stepped on campus.

“I have had students asking me about the minor, and it’s really encouraging to see their interest,” he said.

Two new courses were launched this year with the arrival of Chakraborty, and two additional courses will launch next year. Other courses—some in the math department and some in other departments—will be developed in the coming years. All that has the two new statistics professors grinning ear to ear.

“Our new courses filled up very quickly,” Sage said. “I think there’s definitely a demand, so the chance to come in here and contribute to that was a really big draw for me.”

Abhishek Chakraborty came on board this academic year as an assistant professor of statistics. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Current Lawrence students can switch into the new minor depending on where they are in their academic journey and which courses they’ve already taken. A handful of students could arrive at their 2021 graduation with a data science minor in hand. The number is expected to grow significantly in the years to follow.

“The field of data science is changing so rapidly that I expect this will be a minor that will continue to evolve and adapt to the needs of the students,” Sage said.

That brings us back to its fit in a liberal arts curriculum. Professors from departments across campus provided input to the creation of the new minor because of the prospects it holds for so many students.

Israel Del Toro, an assistant professor of biology, was among those actively working with the mathematics faculty to create the minor. Giving biology students stronger quantitative skills does nothing but widen their career opportunities.

“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,” Del Toro said. “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 subdiscipline they choose to pursue.”

Gathering data is only one part of the equation, of course. A good data scientist needs to be equipped with the ability to analyze that data, to communicate its significance, to understand the context of the data, to work as part of a team, and to make ethical decisions of how and when that data is shared, Sage said.

“Data numbers by themselves are meaningless if you don’t have an understanding of the context and the domain,” he said.

“I think this is the perfect place to be introducing data science as a minor,” Sage said. “It really does incorporate so much, and you really do need to be able to think in so many different ways. I don’t see any better place to engage in that kind of thinking than in a liberal arts environment.”

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

Trethewey to deliver Commencement address; 2020 ceremony to be virtual

Natasha Trethewey

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose writings are plenty familiar to Lawrence University students will be the speaker at the university’s 2020 Commencement celebration, which will take place in a virtual format.

Natasha Trethewey, who served two terms as the 19th Poet Laureate of the United States and whose book, Native Guard, has been part of the required reading for Freshman Studies at Lawrence the past five years, will deliver the address and receive an honorary degree.

Lawrence officials notified the senior class on Monday that an in-person Commencement ceremony on campus would not be possible this year because of the projected length and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. See President Mark Burstein’s message here.

Lawrence has moved its Spring Term to distance learning and has canceled all public events during that time.

Commencement, set for June 14, will continue, but it’ll happen in a virtual space. Details are still being worked out, but Trethewey has committed to participating.   

“No decision this year was more painful than the realization that we needed to transform our wonderful commencement celebration into a virtual event,” Burstein said. “Having Ms. Trethewey’s commencement address will help us all remember the importance of inclusive social connection and the power of humanity.

“Ms. Trethewey’s work has provided a gateway to our arts and sciences education for every Lawrence first-year student for years through our Freshman Studies program,” Burstein said. “It seems fitting that we honor Ms. Trethewey, whose powerful poetry has moved millions, at the Commencement of a class that her work launched.”

Trethewey previously gave a Convocation address at Lawrence in fall 2016.

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

A chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Trethewey is the author of five collections of poetry: Domestic Work (2000), Bellocq’s Ophelia (2002), Native Guard (2006)—for which she was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize—Thrall (2012), and Monument: Poems New and Selected (2018).

In 2010, she published a book of nonfiction, Beyond Katrina: A Meditation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Trethewey is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Beinecke Library at Yale, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. In 2017, she received the Heinz Award for Arts and Humanities. A member of both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she is currently Board of Trustees Professor of English at Northwestern University.

When Trethewey came to Lawrence in 2016, she spoke on “The Muse of History: On Poetry and Social Justice.”

It’s Native Guard, meanwhile, that Lawrence students will be most familiar with. It’s been part of the Freshman Studies reading list since 2015.

Garth Bond, associate professor of English, was directing Freshman Studies last year when he said this about Native Guard: “This short collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry teaches students to recognize the fullness and precision of meaning in language. Trethewey’s poems meditate on the role that objects—photographs, monuments, diaries—play in shaping our memories and histories. She begins with the personal loss of her mother, then turns to the public history of American racism and the memorialization of the Civil War. The final section revisits personal experience, now reshaped in the light of that public history.”

Reunion 2020 announcement: Reunion 2020, a four-day celebration with Lawrence alumni planned for the week following Commencement, will not take place as planned this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, University officials announced to Reunion classes on Monday. Lawrence officials are in the process of determining how the University will move forward to celebrate and honor Reunion 2020. A message to alumni from Matt Baumler, executive director of Alumni and Constituency Engagement, can be found here. Alumni are encouraged to check the Reunion page at lawrence.edu for updates.

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

Lawrence to add new faculty member in Spanish department for 2020-21

Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A new tenure-track faculty member will join Lawrence University in the Spanish department beginning this fall, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Gunther Kodat announced.

Miriam Rodriguez-Guerra comes to Lawrence from the University of Arizona, where she is completing her Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics with an emphasis on phonology.

Madera Allan, chair of Lawrence’s Spanish department and a member of the search committee, said Rodriguez-Guerra brings background and teaching skills that will benefit students in and out of the classroom.

“Miriam is a dynamic scholar and teacher, with vast and varied experience and interests that will allow her to contribute to a number of programs across campus,” Allan said. “She studies bilingualism from multiple perspectives—phonological, cultural, and philosophical. We are thrilled to welcome a sage and enthusiastic new colleague to the Spanish department.”

Rodriguez-Guerra’s emphasis at Arizona has been in the areas of speech, language and hearing sciences, phonology, and sociolinguistics. For her dissertation, she has done extensive language and phonology studies with young Latinx children in Tucson, Arizona, focused significantly on the speech benefits of growing up bilingual.

“My dissertation contributes to the fields of Hispanic linguistics and speech and hearing sciences as it provides a bilingual approach of analyzing substitution patterns and it contributes to the description of growing up bilingual in the U.S.,” Rodriguez-Guerra said in a letter to Lawrence. “The results of this study give back to the community as this project provides speech and hearing clinicians new resources to better understand sound development for bilingual preschoolers in Tucson, Arizona.”

Rodriguez-Guerra holds a bachelor’s degree in English philology from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (Spain), a master’s degree in phonetics and phonology from the Spanish National Research Council (Spain), and a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Arizona.

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

Lawrence’s Buenzli, Rosa earn President’s Award of Excellence

Erin Buenzli (left) and Ariela Rosa ’15

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two Lawrence University staff members who work closely with students and alumni have been honored for their tireless work and their willingness to reach across departments.

Erin Buenzli, director of wellness and recreation, and Ariela Rosa ’15, associate director of corporate, foundation, and sponsored research support, are the recipients of the 2019-20 President’s Award of Excellence.

The President’s Award of Excellence Committee and President Mark Burstein announced the honors. In past years, the awards have been announced at the annual Service Award Luncheon, but because of steps taken to protect the Lawrence community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event has been postponed. It’ll be rescheduled at a to-be-determined date.

Nominators cited Buenzli and Rosa for championing the staples of the President’s Award — support, stewardship, innovation, and teamwork.

To see videos about Buenzli and Rosa, and to see past President’s Award winners and this year’s service award recipients, click here.

Buenzli: Seeking wellness

While Buenzli’s work is based in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center, she is active across campus, organizing an annual wellness fair, holding pop-up wellness sessions in unexpected spaces, and even teaching an annual Spring Term wellness class.

“She is in every space you could possibly think of on campus and she’s always looking beyond her position description for the good of Lawrence,” said Kristi Hill, director of the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

Leah McSorely, associate dean of students for international student services, applauded Buenzli for reaching out to all students on campus and making wellness services accessible for all.

“She makes sure Lawrence is at the forefront of providing an inclusive wellness space,” she said.

Rosa: Advocating for others

Rosa, meanwhile, drew praise not only for her stellar work on the grants team but also for her willingness to mentor others and be an advocate on and off campus for inclusiveness and fairness.

“She is someone who stands up for people whose voices aren’t heard, making sure people feel supported, making sure people know where to go when they need things, and just having a much bigger vision for what it means to be an inclusive campus community,” said Emily Bowles, coordinator for experiential funding and professional networking.

Jaime Gonzalez ’16, an assistant director of admissions with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and access, called Rosa’s mentoring skills an extension of who she is as a person.

“We kind of all go the extra mile to help and support one another,” he said of the Lawrence culture. “And Ariela is kind of the person who goes the extra, extra mile.”

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

LU music prof at heart of national effort to raise funds for out-of-work artists

Andrew Crooks directs music during a dress rehearsal of The Marriage of Figaro, staged during Winter Term at Lawrence University.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University Assistant Professor of Music Andrew Crooks has helped launch an online fund-raising campaign that has already brought in more than $237,000 to assist musicians and other artists across the United States who are struggling because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Artist Relief Tree (ART) was started earlier this month as music venues began to close and performances and tours were canceled, putting many artists out of work. The web site, www.artistrelieftree.com, received more than 3,500 requests for help in its first four days.

While it started with a goal to raise $10,000, organizers have now reset the target at $1 million.

For artists not in salaried, stable positions, the shutdown of performances on such a massive scale is heartbreaking, Crooks said in an email interview from his native New Zealand, where he is hunkered down to teach remotely during Spring Term.

“It is very painful to bear witness to these stories, both through Artist Relief Tree and via social media, as well as via more personal communications with friends,” he said. “There is extreme anxiety in the arts community, and we wanted to offer a little help, a little hope, and as much sense of community and solidarity as we could possibly muster.”

Crooks, who serves as a vocal coach at Lawrence and was the music director for the Conservatory’s Winter Term production of The Marriage of Figaro, teamed with a handful of other artists from around the country to form ART.

4 ways Lawrentians can pitch in, stay connected amid COVID-19 crisis: Details here.

Numerous notable performers and authors have since jumped on board with endorsements, among them Russell Brand, Brene Brown, Ani DiFranco, Brian Eno, Ben Folds, Rhiannon Giddens, George R.R. Martin, Mike Posner, and Lawrence’s own John Holiday.

The process works like this: An artist in need can request funds, with a requirement to provide some basic documentation about their work. On a first-come-first-served basis for those who qualify, ART will provide a financial assist. Monies began going out on March 18.

This isn’t going to sustain anyone long term. But it’s an effort to help a community that is reeling, to embrace a sense of togetherness among artists, and to raise awareness along with dollars, Crooks said. Many of these artists who were lined up to perform in some of the world’s great opera houses and other performance venues have no fallback. In many cases, no performance, no paycheck.

It was a team of six artists and arts administrators, all tied to the world of opera, who launched the project, Crooks said. He and Morgan Brophy, of Wolf Trap Opera, have served as co-founding-directors. The organizers are all working as volunteers.

“They have poured their hearts and souls and time into this passion project,” Crooks said. “They all care so, so much … about their artistic friends all over the world.”

Back at Lawrence, the efforts are drawing applause across the Conservatory.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our remarkable faculty,” Dean of the Conservatory Brian Pertl said. “This is such a great example of turning compassion into action, which is exactly what we want to model for our students.”

For more details on the project, see www.artistrelieftree.com or visit ART on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/artistrelieftree.

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

Looking to pitch in? 4 ways Lawrentians can help during COVID-19 crisis

Kate Zoromski, associate dean of academic success, restocks the student food pantry in Sabin House. The pantry makes food and other necessities available to Lawrence students in times of need. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The move to distance learning to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of this global pandemic is a heavy lift for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff.

These are challenging, unprecedented times. But it’s a path we must take, and we must take it together.

“We have always risen to the challenges that face us with resilience and ingenuity,” President Mark Burstein said in a letter to the Lawrence community announcing the difficult decision to go to distance learning for Spring Term. “I know, as we have in the past, we will rise to this challenge and ensure that Lawrence continues to create a learning environment second to none.”

For details of COVID-19 response at Lawrence, see here.

As we lean into the values and commitment that have always defined the Lawrence experience, we ask everyone in the Lawrence community to do what you can to help our students navigate these uncharted waters. Among the ways we all can help:  

1. Donate to the Student Pantry: Whether for students on campus during spring break or those who will be here during Spring Term due to an inability to get home, the pantry can be an important connection. It offers supplies and food to students, but also needed items such as personal products. You can buy/donate directly through Amazon via a wishlist. Please note that Amazon has removed “non-essential” items from qualifying for rush shipping, but orders and deliveries are still being accepted and processed. More information about the Student Pantry is here: https://www.lawrence.edu/students/services/foodpantry

2. Contribute to the Lawrence Fund: The Lawrence Fund – Supporting Our Students (SOS) emergency fund has been established to aid students’ unexpected and urgent expenses related to the impacts of COVID-19. This fund will make available critical resources for immediate needs like our new distance-learning model, food, travel, housing, and other unexpected expenses. Every contribution helps support the University’s ability to assist students.

3. Be an alumni connection: Help Lawrence students network by signing up for our new Viking Connect program. Connecting with a current student and providing some positive guidance has never been more important. This is a chance to reach out virtually while still making a personal connection. See link here: https://vikingconnect.lawrence.edu/page/about

4. Support each other: Be supportive of other Lawrentians through use of the Alumni Directory. Stay connected in these difficult times and check in on one another using the directory and via Lawrence’s many social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Find the alumni directory here: go.lawrence.edu/profile

We are Lawrentians, now and forever. Let’s come together to be supportive as we grapple with difficult challenges and show our current students the path forward. In the darkness of uncertainty and deep angst, let us again be the light.

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

Lawrence alumnus brings classic Sam Shepard production to Cloak Theater

Paul McComas ’83 and Megan Corse star in Fool for Love, coming March 13 to Lawrence.

Update: This event has been canceled.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Playwright Paul McComas ’83 is passionate about a good number of things in this world, among them his alma mater and the work of the late writer and actor Sam Shepard.

Those two passions will come together on a Lawrence University stage on Friday, March 13, as McComas brings his adapted production of Shepard’s 1983 Fool for Love to Cloak Theater.

The play, set for 8 p.m. and starring McComas and fellow Chicago actor Megan Corse, begins with a set of “songs of foolish love,” followed by McComas’ 45-minute adaptation of Fool for Love, a sometimes funny, sometimes tragic rollercoaster of love and heartache that was a signature piece in Shepard’s 50-year career as a playwright, actor, director, and author. The play earned Shepard a Pulitzer Prize nomination, and it was later adapted to a feature film by Robert Altman.

To bring the touring production to Lawrence is a particular thrill for McComas, who counts the late Fred Gaines and other Lawrence faculty as mentors who set him on a course of creative exploration that has defined his career in the arts. The production will serve as a fundraiser for the Lawrence Conservatory’s Fred Gaines Student Playwright Series.

“There’s no education like a liberal-arts one,” McComas said of his time at Lawrence. “I see those lessons popping up daily — in every story or script I write, every stage or screen performance I assay, every song or instrumental piece I compose, every film I direct, every class I teach. I see it even in my thought processes and my most strongly held beliefs, namely the empathetic, altruistic, progressive ones.”

It was while at Lawrence that Gaines, the former theater and drama professor, introduced McComas to the work of Shepard. He’s been hooked ever since. He calls Shepard one of the great influences on his own writing and acting.

“Like him, I favor work that has one foot each in mainstream psychological family fiction and drama and material and themes that are more out there on the fringe,” McComas said. “I love the tension of that interplay in his work, and I aspire to it in my own.”

Productions of McComas’ Fool for Love have all been fundraisers for various causes since it premiered in 2018. It’s recommended for ages 13 and up. An audience conversation with the actors will follow the performance.

General admission tickets are $15 ($8 for seniors and non-Lawrence students), but free for members of the Lawrence community. For more information, call the box office at 920-832-6749 or visit www.facebook.com/events/696721090860700/.

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

Tight-knit cast ready to open “Figaro,” a comic opera full of messy relationships

A scene from a dress rehearsal of "The Marriage of Figaro."
Erik Nordstrom as Count Almaviva performs with cast mates during a dress rehearsal for The Marriage of Figaro. The cast in Tuesday’s rehearsal will be on stage Thursday and Saturday. The opera, with four performances between Thursday and Sunday, is double cast. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Class dynamics are certainly part of The Marriage of Figaro, the classic opera from the superstar duo of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte. But Copeland Woodruff, director of Opera Studies at Lawrence University, said he’s more fascinated by another element of the story as his Opera Theatre students prepare to open the production on March 5.

“It’s complex human relationships,” Woodruff said of the storyline that mixes love and betrayal and suspicion in equal doses, all with comedic undertones. “And everyone on stage is making poor choices, often times for selfish reasons to punish someone else.

“I’d really rather tell that story. Certainly, there’s class distinction in it, and you can’t ignore that, and you shouldn’t ignore that, but, for me, there are a lot of other interesting things, human elements that are going on, and they’re complicated.”

The comic opera was written by Mozart, the composer, and da Ponte, the librettist, in the 1780s, but, Woodruff said, if you want to think about it in more modern times, think Rick Springfield’s Jessie’s Girl. You know, coveting your best friend’s girlfriend.

In short, Figaro, Count Almaviva’s longtime friend and personal valet, is set to marry the Countess’ maid, Susanna. But the high and mighty Count is plotting to seduce the servant Susanna, on her wedding night no less. The Countess is on to him and teams with Susanna to catch her husband in all his lecherous ways. Confusion and mischief happen along the way.

Emily Richter ’20, a music performance (voice) major from London, is in the role of the Countess. She said the cast has been eyeing opening night since first receiving the music in June and then prepping that music through fall term.

“We then spent the two weeks of D-Term peeling away the layers of what we’re saying and pushing the boundaries of what is possible with this show,” she said. “Since then we’ve spent 12 hours a week staging and trying to capture the nuance of the show.”

Emma Milton is Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, to be held in Stansbury Theater.

The Marriage of Figaro will be presented over four days in Stansbury Theater — 7:30 p.m. performances on March 5, 6, and 7 and a 3 p.m. matinee on March 8. The show is for mature audiences. Admission is $15 ($10 for seniors, $8 for non-Lawrence students); free for Lawrence students, faculty, and staff.

It features a cast of 11, plus stage and technical crews, two rehearsal pianists, a student pit orchestra, and a 14-member chorus. It’s a big show, running three hours in length, and it is double cast, making for an imposing undertaking.

“It’s one of the most generous casts I’ve worked with in a long time,” Woodruff said. “They’re just generous with each other as far as sharing the stage space and working with one another.”

For Richter and other seniors in the cast, this is a final bow at Lawrence. She called her castmates “uplifting” and said the bonds being built will last long after the final curtain.

Max Muter is Figaro in Lawrence University’s The Marriage of Figaro.

“To get to be in an opera this massive with people I’ve been singing with now for almost four years is such a special experience,” she said. “Never again will we get to be in a show with people we’ve essentially grown up with for four years. It’s a very special thing, and I think that closeness, vulnerability, and trust shows up on stage.”

For more on Lawrence’s Opera Theatre program, visit here.

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