Category: Students

Excellence Ball, Cultural Expressions to highlight 2019 Empowerment Week

Cultural Expressions, a five-year tradition at Lawrence University, returns on Feb. 23, the conclusion of People of Color Empowerment Week on campus.

Performers are on stage during a past Cultural Expressions event.
Cultural Expressions features music, dance, poetry and more.

A week of activities celebrating and empowering people of color on the Lawrence University campus will kick off Saturday with a new event, the Excellence Ball.

It will be held Saturday night in the Esch-Hurvis Studio in the Warch Campus Center to officially launch the annual People of Color Empowerment Week.

The week, featuring a series of speakers and performers, will culminate with the Cultural Expressions talent showcase, set for Feb. 23. Check out a video preview here.

The Excellence Ball is the new entry this year. It will be a stylish affair, with attire billed as black-and-white formal wear. It runs from 8 p.m. to midnight and organizers say it aims to be a gathering to “acknowledge the accomplishments of people of color and to come together as a community to uplift each other and to have a good time.”

Music will be provided by DJ King Szn.

Cultural Expressions, meanwhile, is all about showcasing talented Lawrence students. Following a 4 p.m. dinner in the Diversity and Intercultural Center, an art gallery will be featured in the Mead Witter Room in Warch, showing students’ work in a range of art, film, poetry and sculptures. That’s followed by a series of performances in music, dance, poetry and spoken word beginning at 7 p.m. next door in Esch-Hurvis.

Admission for all of the student-organized events is free. All of the events are open to the public.

Awa Badiane ’21, president of Lawrence’s Black Student Union (BSU), said the Excellence Ball was added this year to provide a more significant launch to Empowerment Week.

“We’ll have posters and framed pictures up of people who represent black excellence,” she said. “The Obamas will be up, Maya Angelou, and others with captions underneath to describe who they are. It’ll be decorated like a ball. It’ll be a formal event with everyone dressed up.”

Like Cultural Expressions, the new ball is being organized by BSU.

“There was never really a celebratory event to say, hey, this is going to be a week about empowering and uplifting,” Badiane said. “So we’re going to start it off with this.”

Empowerment Week activities are being organized by All Is One: Empowering Young Women of Color (AIO), led by President Krystin Williams ’19.

Empowerment Week participants will include Vision, a spoken-word artist, at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Diversity and Intercultural Center; Sin Color, a Latin band from Los Angeles, performing at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Warch Campus Center; and Brienne Colston and Jaz Astwood, two Lawrence alumnae with New York City-based Brown Girl Recovery, facilitating a conversation on community accountability at 7 p.m. Friday in the Diversity Center.

Also planned is the showing of the movie “The Hate U Give,” set for 6 p.m. Monday at the cinema in the Warch Campus Center. Organizers also are working to set up an open mic at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Diversity Center.

Brown Girl Recovery is an organization in the Bronx that “aims to create avenues of support and community for black and brown folks through innovative and social justice-based programming, workshops and events,” according to its web site. It was founded by Colston, a 2015 LU graduate. Astwood, also a 2015 graduate, works with the organization.

“I think it’s nice to have alumnae from this campus back who did a lot for people of color while they were here,” Williams said of bringing Colston and Astwood in for Empowerment Week. “To bring them back and show the progress and how they’re still helping women of color in their own hometowns.”

Badiane said seeing alumni return for Empowerment Week sends an important message to current students.

“As a person of color on this campus, I do see the effects that POC Empowerment Week has,” Badiane said. “It’s essentially empowering you while you are on campus. It says I matter. And you see representation throughout campus, and you see accomplished people who get invited back. …. And you say, wow, that’s my goal.

“You see people who were in your shoes taking steps toward their goals or who have reached their goals, and you’re doing what they had been doing. So, you deserve an opportunity to celebrate that.”

Dean selected to lead Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement

Michael O’Connor has been selected as the new Riaz Waraich Dean of Lawrence University’s Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement.

Currently the Director of Career Exploration at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, O’Connor will fill the newly endowed deanship. It’s supported by a $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 that was announced in November at the launch of Lawrence’s $220 million Be the Light! Campaign.

Portrait of Michael O'Connor
Michael O’Connor

O’Connor will begin his new role May 1, overseeing a revamped and reenergized office that prepares students for life after Lawrence, develops and sustains networking connections with alumni near and far, assists in fellowship opportunities and enhances career connections in the community. He will report to Christopher Card, Vice President for Student Life.

For O’Connor, the opportunity to put into play the recommendations that came from the Task Force on Life After Lawrence – the final report was released in May 2018 – was too good to pass up. He praised President Mark Burstein’s leadership, saying the enhanced commitment to career services for all Lawrence students ties in well with other initiatives designed to make Lawrence more accessible and increasingly responsive to student needs.

“I love the strategic direction the school is going under Mark’s leadership,” O’Connor said. “I love how the college is smart for investing in its core strengths, and raising its national profile while increasing affordability/accessibility and leveraging its unique learning environment.

“I love the integration of fellowships, community engagements, and career services under CLCE, and see limitless potential for connecting our broader mission to both the broader Lawrence and Appleton communities.”

Card said O’Connor’s appointment “is the culmination of a national search for a distinguished professional to lead the center.”

O’Connor comes to the Riaz Waraich Deanship following more than five years as director of the Career Exploration program that is part of the Career Center at Williams College. He is second in command at the Career Center, and spent seven months as its interim director in 2015-16.

He previously served as director of the Office of Career Planning at Sage Colleges in New York, and worked in career services at Union College in New York and Hiram College in Ohio.

He has a bachelor’s of arts degree with a major in psychology from the University of Connecticut and a master’s of arts and social sciences degree from Binghamton University with a concentration in student affairs and diversity.

Associate Professor of History Monica Rico, who was a member of the Lawrence search committee, said she was impressed not only with O’Connor’s wide-ranging work with students but also his collaborations with faculty.

“Mike has a proven record of developing, implementing, and refining approaches to post-graduate life that connect with students at all phases of their college experience,” Rico said. “He’s emerging as a nationally known expert on career planning for liberal arts students.”

Anne Jones, who has served as the interim dean of the CLCE for the past year, will continue in that role until O’Connor arrives in May.

“I want to acknowledge the amazing work by Anne Jones, who has led that department with distinction since February of last year,” Card said.

The deanship is named after Hurvis’ business partner, Riaz Waraich, as recognition of how quality partnerships are often key to career success.

That’s a theme O’Connor is looking to build on in his new role.

“I loved the thoughtful design of the position and fabulous work by the Life After Lawrence Task Force,” he said. “I think the CLCE team is poised for big things.”

Lawrence ranks among ‘Best Value Schools’ in the country, places 4th on Impact Schools list

Lawrence University has been recognized as one of the “Best Value Schools” in the country by The Princeton Review, ranking No. 4 in the category of best schools for making an impact.

Photo of the cover of the book, "The Best Value Colleges"
Lawrence University is included in the newly released book from The Princeton Review, “The Best Value Colleges.”

Lawrence is one of 200 schools selected for inclusion in the 2019 edition of the newly released book, The Best Value Colleges: 200 Schools with Exceptional ROI for Your Tuition Investment.

ROI references Return on Investment.

Within the book, Lawrence is ranked No. 4 in the category of Impact Schools, a category driven by student ratings of their experiences on campus, including student engagement, service, government and sustainability, and by the percentage of alumni who report that their jobs have “high meaning.”

In The Best Value Colleges – an annual release that was previously titled Colleges That Pay You Back – “we recommend the colleges we consider the nation’s best for academics, affordability, and career prospects,” according to the book’s editors at The Princeton Review.

The 200 schools that were selected were not ranked in any particular order. But within the book, Top 25 rankings were done in several categories, including Impact Schools.

The book lauds Lawrence for its academic strategies, including the Freshman Studies program, its “significant financial aid and scholarship opportunities,” its social activities that have “an altruistic bent” and its effective career services outreach to graduating students.

The ranking is one more reminder that the value of a Lawrence education continues to resonate long after graduation day.

“Lawrence has been transforming students’ lives for generations,” said Ken Anselment, Vice President for Enrollment and Communication. “So we are thrilled that the Princeton Review, which started measuring this phenomenon a few years ago, has once again rated the experience of our alumni so highly.”

The book highlights Lawrence’s commitment to financial aid and scholarships.

Lawrence has garnered national attention for its “Full Speed to Full Need” campaign designed to help bridge the financial gap for students who show a demonstrated need. The campaign has raised more than $74 million since 2014 and Lawrence is on its way to becoming one of only about 70 universities nationwide to be designated as full-need institutions.

Bolstered by a $30 million matching gift to kick off the campaign, the school has made a bold commitment to “make Lawrence accessible and affordable by meeting the full demonstrated financial need of every student.”

The Impact School ranking, meanwhile, speaks to the experience on campus and beyond.

“When families are considering the return on their investment in a college,” Anselment said, “we like to talk about this particular ranking because it highlights that Lawrentians feel that their careers and lives have meaning and that they are truly making a difference in the world.

“What better outcome could you ask for from a college experience?”

Lawrence University on list of schools producing most Fulbright recipients

With five recent graduates teaching abroad on Fulbright awards, Lawrence University landed on a prestigious list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students this year.

Fulbright logoEach year the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs announces the top-producing institutions for the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

The 2018-19 list that features Lawrence  was published Monday in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Five students from Lawrence received Fulbright awards through the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program for academic year 2018-19, tying a school record previously set in 2014-15. Lawrence has had at least one Fulbright student recipient every year since 2006-07. The school has had multiple recipients in nine of the past 11 years.

“The designation as a top-producing institution reaffirms that our students continue to excel at the highest levels and that a Lawrence education is well recognized as rigorous, competitive and influential,” Vice President for Student Life Christopher Card said. “That we have earned this distinction is cause for celebration for the whole institution, in part because it is a collective, institutional effort to prepare our students to ‘be the light’ for all to see.

“We are grateful to the scholars, their faculty supporters and fellowship staff for their hard work and dedicated energies – they have made us proud and deserve our gratitude.”

The five Lawrence Fulbright recipients this year:

Nalee Douangvilay ’18, who studied English, is spending her Fulbright year teaching in South Korea.

Augusta Finzel ’18, who studied biology and Russian studies, is teaching in Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland, and studying the effects of climate change on the local population.

William Gill ’18, who studied German and government, is teaching in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

Elena Hudacek ’18, who studied Spanish and linguistics, is teaching and leading conversation circles at the National University of Colombia in Bogota.

Emilio Salvia ’17, who studied biology and German, is teaching at a gesamtschule, a comprehensive school in Harsewinkel, Germany.

Kia Thao, Coordinator of Pre-Professional Advising and Major Fellowships at Lawrence, said the Fulbright honor highlights the numerous opportunities students have to pursue fellowships and scholarships.

“Getting recognized as one of the top-producing institutions is an acknowledgement of the great things Lawrence students can achieve,” she said. “I would like to encourage Lawrence students to dream big dreams and to apply to as many fellowships and scholarships as they are eligible. In addition to receiving the grant, the benefits of applying to scholarships and fellowships are also valuable.  The process of applying to any scholarship will help students develop a clear sense of their career goals, enhance their writing and interviewing skills, and personal growth.”

Being on the list of top-producing schools is notable and speaks to Lawrence’s world view, officials with the Fulbright program said.

“We thank the colleges and universities across the United States that we are recognizing as Fulbright top-producing institutions for their role in increasing mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” said Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

The Fulbright competition is administered at Lawrence through the Center for Career, Life and Community Engagement.

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 390,000 participants — chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential — with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns, according to a statement released by the Fulbright program. More than 1,900 U.S. students, artists and young professionals in more than 100 different fields of study are offered Fulbright Program grants to study, teach English, and conduct research abroad each year. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program operates in more than 140 countries.

Lawrence has had 57 student recipients since 1976.

The annual application process requires a commitment from the students, faculty and staff, Thao said.

“I would like to acknowledge the faculty who were part of the interviewing committee in this application cycle, Ruth Lunt, Alison Guenther-Pal and Matt Stoneking. I would especially like to thank Bob Williams and Pa Lee Moua for their continued support with the 2018-2019 application cycle.”

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State, funded by an annual appropriation from the U.S. Congress to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and supported in its implementation by the Institute of International Education.

The Fulbright Program also awards grants to U.S. scholars, teachers and faculty to conduct research and teach overseas.

Eleven Lawrence faculty members have earned Fulbright awards since 1995.

In addition, some 4,000 foreign Fulbright students and scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research and teach foreign languages.

For more information about the Fulbright Program, visit eca.state.gov/fulbright.

New Diversity Center director provides guidance on academic, social transition

Dr. Brittany Bell believes strongly in the need for universities to provide support to help first-year students in the often anxiety-filled transition to college life.

Portrait of Brittany Bell
Brittany Bell

The reward is seeing them come back for a second year.

For students from underrepresented backgrounds, that transition to college can be fraught with even more potential bumps in the road.

In her new role as assistant dean of students and director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence University, Bell is putting new focus on smoothing the edges for students making that transition.

Bell began her new duties in mid-January, coming to Lawrence after six and half years on the staff at St. Norbert College, where she served as assistant director of multicultural student services and then student success librarian.

At St. Norbert, she was involved in improving first- and second-year student persistence rates, developing programs that help with the college adjustment and increase the likelihood of a student returning for their sophomore year.

“I’ve done a lot of research in first- and second-year persistence and in student success, so being able to … put something like that into practice was something I knew I could do here,” Bell said.

Lawrence launched its Leadership and Mentoring Program (LAMP) several years ago to provide that added assist to students from underrepresented backgrounds. Much of that has focused on the social end of college life, Bell said. She’s looking to expand the program with new emphasis on the academic side, improving interaction with faculty and staff and nurturing leadership skills.

Bell said having a background that has included both academic programming and student life administration gives her insight into navigating both sides of the student experience. If one side of the equation is out of sync, the student will struggle.

“I can see how they connect to their academics but I also can see how they need to connect to student services,” she said.

Bell has been impressed with what she’s seen so far of the students utilizing the Diversity and Intercultural Center, located on the first floor of Memorial Hall.

“There are definitely leaders here,” she said. “There are a lot of leaders. They are already doing programs, and a lot of these things they are doing on their own. … Usually (faculty and staff) are the drivers. But the students here are the drivers.”

The Rev. Linda Morgan-Clement, Lawrence’s Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, led the search to fill the assistant dean position. She said Bell’s work involving a variety of student experiences was impressive.

“The faculty, staff and students who served on the search committee were impressed with Brittany’s genuine interest in Lawrence and the strong background she brings to the position,” Morgan-Clement said. “Her research and practical background situate her well to vision and lead the move toward (growing) a Diversity and Intercultural Center that will serve our increasingly diverse campus.”

Bell, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, a master’s from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and a doctorate from Edgewood College, previously worked in student life positions at Kearney and then Carroll University before joining St. Norbert in 2012.

She had her eye on Lawrence long before January.

“I had been connecting with Lawrence quite often through my other role with multicultural students at St. Norbert,” she said. “I knew a lot about Lawrence University and I knew all about the programs here and I knew that if I ever was going to continue on in student services that a position like this would be something that would be appealing.

“So, when the opening came, I was like, yep, this is where I want to be.”

Business and volunteer spirit

Off campus, Bell is on a mission to serve.

She and her partner, Chris, and their two children, own and operate an apparel line called God’s Purpose Apparel, creating and selling clothing featuring inspirational messages such as “I dream big,” Love thy neighbor” and “Blessed.” Much of their apparel is sold through their web site, godspurposeapparel.com, but they also set up shop occasionally at vendor fairs and other nearby events.

They spin that apparel venture into regular volunteer gigs at Green Bay area homeless shelters, donating time, some of the proceeds from sales and even some of the apparel. They run a weekly Alpha Group at St. John’s Homeless Shelter in Green Bay, providing a meal and engaging visitors to the shelter with discussions of faith and life.

Lessons learned during nights at the shelter provide interesting insights to her work on campus, Bell said.

“Sometimes our students are going through similar struggles and we don’t see the signs,” she said. “My work there has helped me identify different things that I can see within our students.”

Freedom Forum VP to speak at Lawrence: ‘It’s a scary time for the First Amendment’

Note: Weather conditions have resulted in Barbara McCormack’s flight being canceled. Her Feb. 12 visit to Lawrence has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19.

Barbara McCormack and her team at the Freedom Forum Institute are on a mission to teach people how to be better consumers of media.

That’s no small task.

“It’s a scary time for the First Amendment,” says McCormack, vice president of education at the nonprofit Freedom Forum.

Photo of Barbara McCormack
Barbara McCormack

She’ll bring her message about media literacy, politics and the challenges of navigating a free press to Lawrence University for a 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19 government colloquium in Room 102 of Steitz Hall. It is free and open to the public.

In an age when fake news is a thing, social media is a preferred outlet, news programs blur the lines between news and opinion, the president paints the media as enemies of the people and newsroom staffs are being downsized across the media landscape, the dangers of being lazy in your media consumption are real.

“Now, we’re all gatekeepers of information,” McCormack said. “With that, we all have to decide what to share, what not to share, what’s reliable, what’s not, and we’re doing this with no formal training. And not doing a very good job of it, quite honestly.”

Thus, McCormack and her team are on the road a lot. They have 35 workshops, classes or lectures scheduled during the first quarter of 2019. They meet with community groups, religious groups, students, journalists and more.

“Everyone is worried about this topic,” McCormack said. “We all understand the impact.”

She’s not here to tell you which news outlets you should trust. She’s here to push you to do the work so you can make informed decisions on your own. She hopes her lectures and workshops provide participants with the tools to do that. And when you find those outlets you trust, be confident enough to pony up for a subscription, digital or otherwise, to support the quality journalism they are doing.

The prevalence of fake news and the ease in which it’s created has added to the confrontational nature of today’s politics, said Arnold Shober, associate professor of government at Lawrence. He invited McCormack to Lawrence to further that conversation about blurred lines and how to navigate the daily onslaught of information so you become a better informed consumer, citizen and voter.

“We don’t know our politicians personally, at least most of us don’t,” Shober said. “The news is a filter we have.”

Besides its outreach work, the Freedom Forum operates the Newseum in Washington, D.C. It recently announced that it plans to sell the building that houses the decade-old museum dedicated to news and the First Amendment amid budget concerns.

It’s one more hit that speaks to the fractured financial state of media today. But it doesn’t diminish the message or slow the work the Freedom Forum is doing.

“We’re really hoping that by teaching media literacy, teaching responsibility to consumers, that along the way we will also instill an appreciation for the role a free press plays in our democracy,” McCormack said. “And hopefully send consumers out seeking quality news. We want them to have the skills to do that, to find those reliable sources.”

Navigating media

What: A Matter of Trust: Countering the Corrosive Effects of Polarization and Propaganda
Who: Barbara McCormack, Vice President of Newseum Education at the Freedom Forum Institute. She dives into the dark arts of media manipulation. Learn what propaganda is, how to spot it, and the roles news producers and consumers play in sustaining a healthy democracy.
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 19
Where: Room 102, Steitz Hall. It is free and open to the public.

We survived the deep freeze. Now let’s enjoy Winter Carnival

The timing couldn’t be much better.

As the deep freeze that shut down campus for two and a half days begins to thaw (we think, we hope), it’s time to venture back outside.

Student Celeste Reyes crosses College Avenue in the cold weather.
Celeste Reyes, a student at Lawrence University, was among those battling freezing temperatures in recent days. Photo courtesy of Danny Damiani/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

No better time for the arrival of the annual Winter Carnival, one of Lawrence University’s favorite traditions.

With activities both indoors and out, the weekend is full of winter togetherness for Lawrence students, highlighted by the President’s Ball on Saturday night.

“Winter is a hard time for everybody, and it’s a fast term,” said Nadir Carlson, student activities coordinator and one of the Student Life organizers of Winter Carnival. “And the weather is just not great, so the Winter Carnival kind of gives us a reason to celebrate and be together.”

Saturday is the big day, and the forecast calls for temperatures to climb back into the 30s. Think broomball on Ormsby Lake and gingerbread building, games of all sorts and two showings of the movie “Happy Feet” (um, penguins) in the Warch Campus Center. Then it’s time to get dressed up for the President’s Ball in the Somerset Room.

Winter Carnival was a tradition at Lawrence dating back decades. But it went away as the millennium neared. It roared back to life in 2011 and has been part of the Lawrence experience ever since. Check out this video from its 2011 return.

Broomball being played on Lake Ormsby.
Broomball has long been part of the Winter Carnival tradition.

The broomball tournament gets rolling at 10 a.m. Saturday. Teams can register here.

The gingerbread house competition -– this replaces the ice sculpting of past years -– goes from 1 to 3 p.m. on the third floor of Warch.

Games will be played from 1 to 3 p.m. in Mead Witter.

“Happy Feet” showings are set for 8 and 11 p.m. Friday and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday in the Warch Cinema.

The President’s Ball, featuring Big Band Reunion, runs from 9 p.m. to midnight Saturday.

“The big culminating event is the President’s Ball,” Carlson said.

There’s live music, photos, catered food, even fondue. It’s a student event where faculty and staff are invited to attend.

You can get a jump start on the fun Thursday night with the always popular Grocery Bag Bingo in Mead Witter, set for 7:30 p.m. No better celebration of winter than winning cool food prizes.

We survived this week’s wind chills of 50 degrees below zero. We’ve earned a Winter Celebration.

Broomball, anyone?

 

Top finishers named in annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest

The 54th edition of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest at Lawrence University has come and gone, surviving a deep freeze that had everyone, thankfully, staying indoors.

The student-run webcast at WLFM Radio drew nine on-campus teams and 75 off-campus teams. The 50-hour blitz ran from Friday night through Sunday night.

Trivia masters taking a group nap.
It was an exhausting weekend for your trivia masters.

Here are your top three on-campus finishers (some team names amended as needed):

  1. Do You Really Trust an Aquarius Baking & Cooking and Sauteing, Save Big Money at Menards and Broiling and Flambeing and Freeze Drying Whole Milk Family™, Stir Frying Please Mr Morrison, I Only Have But 50 Shillings, and Roasting & Grilling Club, The Name You’ve Just Read Has Been Redacted; The Amended Name Now Reads … (sorry, this is redacted, too) (1,645 points)
  2. Coming Out of the Cave and … (1,635)
  3. Cole Foster’s One Long Noodle and a Fistful of Spinach (950)

Here are your top three off-campus finishers:

  1. Get A Load Of That Sandwich (Get A Load Of It!) Look At That Boulder! (That’s A Nice Boulder!) Look At That Sandwich (Look At It!) Get A Load Of That Boulder (That’s A Nice Boulder!) Look At That Sandwich (Look At It!) Woo! (Woohoo!) Woo! (Yeah!) Woo! (Woohoohoo!) (1,765 points)
  2. Cardboard Dave Presents: Red Dog, The National Beer of the Holy Broman Empire (1,730)
  3. Caillouigi 3 & Knuckles (1,595)

The winning off-campus team was based in New York City.

No teams got the Super Garuda question correct. Super Garuda, of course, is the final question of the contest and is worth 100 points. It also serves as the lead-off question for the following year’s contest.

Here is the Super Garuda: This Chicago restaurant serves both Italian beef and shrimp egg foo young, and may also be mistaken for a file extraction software. The street on which it is located is the first name of a man whose last name is the first name of a different man who began his own DIY cake decorating business. The man who shares his name with this street has written a book which purports that those born between November 22 and December 21 are “fond of horses.” On page 21 of that book, there is a car. What does the car say?

The answer is “OINK!”

Allegra C. Taylor has been selected as the grand master for the 2020 Great Midwest Trivia  Contest.

If you missed it, click here for our  guide — 37 reasons why — to the awesomeness of the Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Exploring Communication Through Opera

Lawrence opera students utilize sign language in new conception of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.”

Lawrence University Conservatory of Music student rehearse ASL for the upcoming opera, "Mass."
Lawrence University Conservatory of Music students rehearse ASL for the upcoming opera, “Mass.”

Twenty-one members of the Lawrence University Opera Theatre Ensemble spent two weeks over their winter break learning American Sign Language (ASL). Why would opera singers need to know ASL?

In a twist on the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers, award-winning Director of Opera Studies and Associate Professor of Music Copeland Woodruff has incorporated a Deaf character into the production, resulting in an exploration of communities breakdowns when opposing sides work to understand each other and move forward together. Performers will utilize ASL, as well as Pidgin Signed English (PSE), throughout the performance.

“The use of ASL and PSE underscores the struggle to communicate, particularly between Deaf and hearing communications and within the Deaf community itself,” says Woodruff of his decision. “My inspiration was two-fold: the obvious metaphor of our current society, where people have a difficult time listening to one another, and the inclusion of community members who might not necessarily attend an opera.”

Woodruff has a track record of partnering with community groups to examine socially relevant issues through opera. Mass is no exception. He is working with local partners to explore options for community engagement and dialogue about the history of the Deaf community in the U.S. and the world, as well as Deaf language and culture. In tandem with the show, Lawrence students will take part in planned community engagement activities, including a performance of selections from of the opera at Appleton’s Edison Elementary, which serves both Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students.

Members of the production team hope that the opera will reach roughly 2,000 people in the Fox Valley region.

“It is rare—even at the national level—for a signed opera to be produced and performed,” said Woodruff. “The majority of our area’s theater-going public would not ordinarily experience this type of performance. Mass will open dialogues about faith and inclusion to our community.”

Robert Schleifer, professional Deaf actor, Kristine Orkin, local interpreter for the Deaf, and two professional vocal/style specialists are participating in the production. Schleifer, along with Lawrence student performers, will sign most of the opera’s lyrics in real-time during the performance. Deaf audience members will also be able to read supertitles.

As a part of the world-wide celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Woodruff and the Lawrence University Opera Theatre Ensemble will collaborate with members of two local children’s choirs to reimagine Mass, which is structured like a Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass but mixes sacred and secular texts and music. The Celebrant leads the ceremony, and the Deaf character is the voice of the congregation challenging the Celebrant. They argue and search for answers to universal questions together—their diversity highlighted by an eclectic blend of blues, rock, gospel, folk, Broadway, jazz, hymnal, Middle Eastern dance, and orchestral music. Ultimately, they affirm the value of faith and hope for peace.

“Distinctive productions like Mass provide students with a rich educational opportunity to practice being a singer-actor, hone full-bodied communication skills, as well as develop appreciation and respect for the experience of others,” said Woodruff. “We hope that students will learn that the arts can be a powerful vehicle for personal and societal awareness and change.”

Erik Nordstrum ’19, who shares the main role of the Celebrant with Aria Minasian ’19, has learned a great deal about his personal beliefs throughout his work on the production.

“Through working on this piece, I realized that I have not been listening to other people, or to myself, as intently or as consistently as I would like to, and that so many human failures stem from a failure to communicate,” Nordstrum said.

“I’d say some of the most challenging things are also the most enjoyable,” adds Minasian.

“Learning about the Deaf community and applying it to the show has been awesome. I’ve also found challenges with figuring out how to be a female Celebrant in a Roman Catholic Church setting. This show has a lot to unpack and many different ways it can be presented and interpreted, leaving a lot to the performers and production team.”

Opera has been an integral part of the Lawrence voice program for almost 60 years, a centerpiece of the performance opportunities for voice students. Under Woodruff’s direction, Lawrence’s mainstage operas have received national awards, including Hydrogen Jukebox (2017) and The Beggar’s Opera (2016), which shared first prize for the American Prize in Opera Performance in the college/university division. Le comte Ory (2018) and The Beggar’s Opera also received first place from the National Opera Association; Hydrogen Jukebox received third place in the same competition. Woodruff was also named the 2018 recipient of the American Prize’s Charles Nelson Reilly Prize for stage direction.

The production is supported by grants from 91.1 The Avenue and the Jewelers Mutual Charitable Giving Fund and the Bright Idea Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers will be performed February 14-17, 2019, in Stansbury Theatre on the Lawrence University campus. More information, including ticket information, can be found at go.lawrence.edu/massopera.

An A+ for D Term: Students Offered a Rich Array of Experiences During Winter Break

From Appleton to London to Hong Kong, Lawrence faculty and students used D-Term 2018 to explore ideas, art, research skills and the wider world. D-Term, or December Term, is a two-week mini-term that offers brief, intensive enrichment courses. This year, students had the opportunity to engage with questions of sustainability and historical resilience to disasters, bring a liberal arts perspective to wellness and sharpen practical skills in design and data analysis.

Read more about this year’s D-Term classrooms, whether it’s a room in Main Hall, an urban garden in Hong Kong or the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, through insights from faculty members.

Hong Kong: Sustainability, Livability, and Urban Design

Group of Lawrence students with Hong Kong skyline in background
Students taking part in the D-Term trip to Hong Kong stand on Victoria Peak, overlooking the Hong Kong skyline.

This combined discussion-and-travel course examined sustainable, livable urban design through the lens of contemporary Hong Kong. The class, taught by Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and Associate Professor of Government Jason Brozek and Associate Professor of Government Ameya Balsekar, spent one week on campus reading and preparing, followed by several days in Hong Kong for on-the-ground study, including meetings with local NGOs, government officials and business leaders. Below are excerpts from Jason Brozek’s daily reports on the opportunities for students during the on-the-ground study portion of the class:

Day 1: The first day of the on-the-ground portion of our class on livability, sustainability and urban design in Hong Kong focused on the city’s history, British & Chinese influences and its emergence as a global trading and financial hub. We visited Chunking Mansions to engage with “low-end globalization” (a concept and case study from one of the books we discussed during our week of prep on campus), did a mapping activity with a scan of a vintage 1930 map of Kowloon, visited the Hong Kong Museum of History and hiked at Victoria Peak. We ended the day by having dinner at the Happy Valley Jockey Club with KK Tse (’81) and Wendy Lai.

Day 2: We focused on the preservation of things like urban green space and historic buildings—the  kind of things some cities have lost as they tried to build and grow quickly. We did a slow-looking activity in Kowloon Park (inspired by Freshman Studies), then compared it to wilder green space by hiking across the Wan Chai Gap trail to the reservoir on the south side of Hong Kong Island. Connected to a different class discussion, we also visited some preserved historic sites. They included a former army barracks in Kowloon Park, the 1912 Wan Chai Post Office (now the Environmental Resource Centre) and the international award-winning Blue House.

Day 3: We kicked off with Rooftop Republic, a nonprofit that helps corporations and schools build rooftop farms. At this site, they grow on top of a shopping mall and donate the produce to local food banks.

Then we met with Rick Kroos ’66, who was the engineer for the HSBC headquarters in Hong Kong’s financial district (as well as many other projects). Rick connected us with a wide range of other speakers, including Billy Wong, deputy head of research at the HK Trade Development Council; Anneliese Smilie from Redress, a nonprofit dedicated to reducing waste in Hong Kong’s garment industry; and Bernard Chang, an architect with the firm KPF.

Day 4: We spent the morning with the staff of Department of City Planning to learn about the HK2030+ strategic vision. Overall, Hong Kong is focused on livability, sustainability and integration with the broader Pearl River Delta (Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Macau and other nearby cities in China). The students asked terrific (hard!) questions about how this plan intersects with climate change, affordable housing, green space, waste management, historic preservation and land reclamation. In the afternoon, we visited the new Kowloon terminal for the high-speed rail connection with mainland China, which is controversial in Hong Kong. Many people here see it as encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy, which is guaranteed under the Basic Law and One Country, Two Systems principle.

You can view the full gallery of photos from Hong Kong here.

Bebop Language and Innovations

Director of Jazz Studies Jose Encarnacion writing musical notations on whiteboard.
Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación and students make musical notations.

All instruments were welcome in this course exploring how to improvise using bebop language. Among the activities, students studied solo transcriptions of musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Clifford Brown, and applied improvisational concepts. 

 

 

With an ever and constant changing world, I make my best efforts to keep our students current with contemporary musical forms and genres.

Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies José Encarnación shares that, “the music, it is always about the music and the musicians of that time period. Their wisdom, understanding, imagination, creativity, commitment and contributions to the music inspires me to introduce it to students. With an ever and constant changing world, I make my best efforts to keep our students current with contemporary musical forms and genres,” continues Encarnación. “I like for my students to listen and understand the tradition of this important American art form called ‘jazz’ and the many transformations it took on along its history. In my teachings, I encourage my students to listen, learn and develop respect for the past so they may add their contribution, knowledge and new light embodying the richness of the past and freshness of the new.”

Introduction to R and Excel for Data Analysis

Careful data analysis has become central to decision-making in areas from politics to sports to medicine. This D-Term course introduced students to collecting, cleaning and manipulating messy, real-world data with powerful programs R and Excel.

Professor Arnold Shober stands in front of a graph in a classroom.
Arnold Shober explains how to manage and analyze data to students in his D-Term class.

For any of the natural and social sciences, quantitative data analysis is a core skill,” explains Associate Professor of Government Arnold Shober.  “It is like reading a book–but for most of us it is more like reading a book in a language we’re just learning.  And just like learning a new language, we make lots of mistakes.  The D-Term course lets my students make those mistakes in a low-stakes, focused environment.  Then, when it really counts, on their own projects, they can focus on their analyses and not the mechanics.  They can write paragraphs–not spell words.”

Happiness: Meditation and Science

Constance Kassor and students meditating at a table.
Professor Constance Kassor and students participate in a guided meditation exercise.

This course took a liberal arts approach to meditation, tackling the question “What is happiness and how is it achieved?” by engaging with ideas of Buddhist philosophy of mind and investigating the ways in which they are being studied and employed by psychologists, neuroscientists and cognitive scientists. This D-Term offering is also an extension of Lawrence’s commitment to student wellness and the whole student.

My hope is that students will come away from this course with tools to help them better deal with stress at Lawrence and beyond.

“This course stemmed from my research and teaching interests in Buddhist thought and meditation,” explains Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Constance Kassor. “Not only did we read about suffering and happiness from both Buddhist and scientific perspectives, but we also spent time engaging in the different meditative practices that we studied. Students were also required to commit to 10-30 minutes of meditation outside of class every day and report on their experiences. My hope is that students will come away from this course with tools to help them better deal with stress at Lawrence and beyond.”

Plague, War, and Fire: Disasters and the Making of London

Three students pose on top of St. Paul's Cathedra with the London skyline in the background.
Students participating in the D-Term London study course stand atop St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Between 1642 and 1666 London experienced war, plague and fire. This December, Lawrentians traveled to London to examine these catastrophes and explore how the city’s responses shaped the future of not merely London, but other cities across the globe. Students visited museums and historical sites and considered how London responded to crisis, commemorated it and confronted it again when German bombs fell during the twentieth century.

“London is such an incredibly rich landscape on which to study history,” notes Frederick, whose D-Term class grew out of an earlier course he taught at Lawrence’s London Centre in 2016. “During these two weeks we were in constant contact with the deep history of this fascinating city, from walking past walls erected by the Romans, to having a lecture from an archeologist about the 14th-century plague skeleton he had laid before us, to exploring the rooms from which Churchill defended the defense of England during the Blitz. I can teach students a great deal about history in the classroom, but there is something to being in the place where it happened that just can’t be replaced.”

(Frederick also adds a dispatch about the updated London Centre: “We got a tour of the new London Center. It’s awesome!”)

Adobe Creative Suite

Associate Professor of Art Benjamin Rinehart developed a workshop setting to introduce students to the Adobe Creative Suite programs, which include Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator. “Students, staff and faculty are eager to become proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite programs,” observes Rinehart. “This course is valuable for any field of study and has many applications beyond being an artist or designer.”

Student at computer editing image in Photoshop.
A student explores Photoshop during D-Term.

From creating art to presenting data, knowledge of design principles and programs gives Lawrentians another tool to enhance their own work and offer a broad array of talents to prospective employers. The class is project-centered, allowing each student to explore the multifaceted and contemporary nature of each program. In just a couple of short weeks, students are exposed to methods in image construction, graphic design, typography and more. Students also visited the Lawrence University Office of Communications to speak with designers and see how these programs are used to advance an organization’s materials and mission.