Category: Students

Lawrence student entrepreneurs take top prize at $50,000 The Pitch competition for second straight year

Two for two!

For the second year in a row, a team of Lawrence University budding entrepreneurs wowed the judges to earn first-place honors in the second annual northeast Wisconsin The Pitch competition held April 11 at Fox Cities Stadium.

the winning members of team WellBell holding their first-place check
Lawrence University students (left to right) Ayomide Akinyosoye, Nikki Payne, Alfiza Urmanova and Alejandra Alarcon were all smiles after winning The Pitch competition and the first-place prize of $10,000 in cash and $15,000 in in-kind professional startup assistance. (Photo by Max Hermans)

While a trio of Lawrence hockey players won the inaugural Pitch event in 2017, it was the ladies turn to shine in the spotlight this time.

A team of four international students — Ayomide Akinyosoye, Lagos, Nigeria, Alejandra Alarcon, Quito, Ecuador, Nikki Payne, Bangkok, Thailand, and Alfiza Urmanova, Arsk, Russia — overcame a technological hiccup to win the first-place prize of $10,000 in cash and $15,000 in in-kind professional startup assistance.

Despite a computer glitch that prevented their visuals from being shown during their presentation, the four junior economics majors didn’t miss a beat in confidently touting the importance and benefits of their idea, WellBell, an innovative wristband device with an S.O.S button that can be used to send notifications for help or medical assistance. The team sees potential markets for WellBell in health areas as well for social emergencies, such as sexual assaults or shootings.

“I just knew we were going to win,” said an ebullient Alarcon.

Payne was a bit less confident, but equally happy.

Memmbers of team WellBell giving their pitch presentation
Photo by Max Hermans

“What?!? Are you serious?” Payne said was her initial reaction. “I was really surprised. There were great teams out there and we saw some great products they came up with. I thought, ‘I don’t know, I don’t think we’re going to win’ and then when they called our name it was like, ‘okay…guys we did it.’”

Urmanova is credited with conceiving the idea for WellBell this past January. She says the next step is to create a prototype.

“This prize money will help us with beta testing,” explained Urmanova. “Once we test the product, we’ll be able to launch it. For now, we need to see if the market is ready for it. This is something that hasn’t been done before, but it’s very simple and not too complicated. We have a plan on how we want to manufacture it, so within two, three years, it’s possible it will be on the market.”

Modeled after the television show “Shark Tank,” The Pitch featured 10 teams of student entrepreneurs presenting their business idea to a panel of judges and a room full of business leaders and mentors. Each presenter is given five minutes to pitch their product or idea and then answer questions from the judges.

The competition featured two teams each from St. Norbert and Ripon colleges, UW-Green Bay and UW-Oshkosh as well as Lawrence, the only competing institution without a business program.

“I was really proud of the young ladies. Their power point didn’t work and yet they gave one heck of a presentation,” said Gary Vaughan, coordinator of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program at Lawrence University. “Women and entrepreneurship go together. There’s no reason why we can’t have more women pitching at events like this. For Lawrence to do this two years in a row against the quality of the other schools we have, it’s awesome.”

“It’s not just the (innovation and entrepreneurship) program, but the whole university and how we prepare our young people, how they present themselves, the confidence they show on stage.”
— Gary Vaughan

Vaughan says Lawrence’s success in the first two Pitch events transcends just the university’s innovation and entrepreneurship program.

“It’s not just the program, but the whole university and how we prepare our young people, how they present themselves, the confidence they show on stage,” said Vaughan.

“It’s the liberal arts foundation they have that we’re building from. The I & E program kind of complements all the other majors on campus. That’s one of our competitive advantages. We’re fining-tuning all the other majors in the way we’re teaching our students how to think entrepreneurially. That entrepreneurial mindset adds value to all of the majors at Lawrence.”

As for the prospects of WellBell, Vaughan thinks it has a future.

“It’s simple and it’s a contemporary solution to some of our challenges in society today,” said Vaughan. “With the prize money they have and the in-kind support, they’ll be able to do a prototype that will work. What we’re talking about with WellBell is your loved one’s security.”

Akinyosoye says Lawrence’s second straight winning Pitch speaks volumes about the importance of having innovative minds.

“It pushes you beyond the boundaries of the classroom and pushes your mind to explore things you didn’t think were possible,” said Akinyosoye. “Coming up with this (WellBell) was just a conversation in a room a few months ago and today it’s possible that it’s going to be a product in the future. The sky is just the beginning.”

“The future is female,” Alarcon added proudly, “and the future is now.”

Brian Minorer making his pitch presentation
Lawrence junior Brian Mironer made a presentation for “Guido,” his innovative way to teach music using a specialized glove and novel curriculum. Photo by Max Hermans

Brian Mironer, a junior from Edina, Minn., who won the on-campus LaunchLU pitch competition April 7, also represented Lawrence at The Pitch. During his presentation on “Guido,” his innovative way to teach music using a specialized glove and novel curriculum, Mironer had the judging panel singing “Do-Ra-Mi.”

Dayne Rusch from UW-Oshkosh was awarded $17,000 in cash and in-kind support as the second-place finisher for “Pyxsee,” an app that allows parents to monitor or limit their children’s time on social media. Sam Hunt of UW-Green Bay was award third place and $10,000 in cash and in-kind support for PrecisionLAG, a device attached to the grip end of a golf club to help the golfer make proper contact with the ball.

The Pitch competition features the best entrepreneurial ideas from college students in northeast Wisconsin, each of whom qualified through preliminary on-campus pitch competitions at their respective institutions.

The winners were chosen by a panel of five judges representing Nicolet Bank, Gulfsteam Aerospace, gener8tor, a startup accelerator, Baker Tilly Virchow Krause and Winnebago Seed Fund.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

The Pitch: Lawrence student entrepreneurs competing in $50,000 contest

“We’ve got a target on our back.”

That’s how Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence University’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program and lecturer of economics, handicapped the second annual The Pitch competition, which begins at 1 p.m. Wednesday April 11 at Fox Cities Stadium. That’s because the Lawrence team of 2017 graduates Ryan Eardley, Felix Henriksson and Mattias Soederqvist won the inaugural competition with their idea for Tracr, a forensic accounting software product. They claimed the first-place prize of $10,000 in cash and an additional $15,000 in professional services.

Three Lawrence students presenting their idea at the 2017 The Pitch competition
Lawrence students Mattias Soederqvist (left), Ryan Eardley and Felix Henriksson presented the winning pitch at last year’s inaugural The Pitch competition from among eight presenters.

The stakes are even higher this year, with a total of $50,000 in prize money and professional startup assistance on the line, up from $40,000 last year.

Budding entrepreneurs from Lawrence, Ripon College, St. Norbert, UW-Green Bay and UW-Oshkosh will present their ideas Wednesday, April 11 to a panel of judges in front of an audience of area students, community members, business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors at the Fox Cities Stadium beginning at 1 p.m.

Representing Lawrence will be Brian Mirone, a junior from Edina, Minn., and Alejandra Alarcon, a junior from Quito, Ecuador, Nikki Payne, a junior from Bangkok, Thailand and Alfiza Urmanova, a junior from Arsk, Russia.

Mirone was the first-place winner of Lawrence’s own on-campus pitch contest held April 7 and received the winning prize of $3,000 cash and in-kind services from Lawrence alumni for “Guido,” his innovative way to teach music using a specialized glove and innovative curriculum. The three-member, all-female team of Alarcon, Payne and Alfiza Urmanova, earned second-place honors for their creation “WellBell,” an innovative wristband device used for emergencies and wellness alerts.

“It’s different pitching on campus than it is pitching at the Timber Rattlers Stadium,” said Vaughan, who noted both teams will be working with Lawrence alumni mentors Greg Linnemanstons and Irene Strohbeen as well as community volunteers David Calle and Brad Cebulski to fine-tune their pitch before the big event.

“On campus, we have three judges and maybe 20 or 30 people in the room. For The Pitch competition, you have the Timber Rattlers stadium as the backdrop, you’ve got five or more judges and you have maybe 200 people sitting in front of you. It’s a whole different experience pitching in front of that number of people. That’s part of the variable our students have to overcome if they want to be the champs this year.”

Many of the comments Vaughan heard at last year’s The Pitch competition were complimentary on how “professional” the Lawrence students were and how they really knew how to pitch the judges in their presentations, which Vaughan credits to the entire I & E program.

“In almost every course in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the students are getting up in front of their peers, in front of other people and they’re pitching,” said Vaughan. “We’ve got a good program here and everybody knows it outside of the university. Our students know they’re going to have to up their game.

“We were probably the best kept secret up until last year,” Vaughan added. “Now, the secret is out and the pressure is on us because everyone will be gunning for us. That’s okay, I’m good with that. Our students will step up to the challenge and see what happens.”

Judging this year’s The Pitch competition will be Mike Daniels, representatives from Nicolet National Bank, gBETA Northeast Wisconsin, Winnebago Seed Fund, Gulf Stream Aerospace and Baker-Tilly.

Lawrence’s brush with Hollywood set to hit the big screen

For J.R. Vanko, it was “the chance of a lifetime to be a part of something incredible.”

The “it” was a genuine feature-length, professional film shot on the Lawrence University campus where he was a student.

Group photo of the band Bucky and the SquirrelsVanko was one of numerous Lawrence students who seized the opportunity to get involved with the filming of the movie “Bucky and the Squirrels” when the production team brought its cameras and actors to campus.

Written and directed by award-winning Hollywood veteran Allan Katz, “Bucky and the Squirrels” is a mockumentary about a one-hit wonder rock band from Appleton that vanished in a plane crash in the Swiss Alps. Fifty years later, the aircraft is discovered with the Squirrels still inside — frozen alive. The film includes cameo appearances by Jason Alexander (“Seinfeld”), Mike Farrell (“M*A*S*H”), Richard Lewis (“Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Raquel Castro (“Empire”).

Bucky” (Rated PG, 83 minutes) begins a 45-screen theatrical run Friday, Jan. 26 beginning in the Midwest and spreading west. A national digital/DVD release will follow later in the spring. It will be shown in Appleton at both the Valley Grand Cinema and Hollywood Cinema. Beyond Appleton, the film will be shown at Wisconsin theatres in Delafield, Green Bay, Madison, Menomonee Falls, Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Sheboygan.

J.R. Vanko and Allan Katz
J.R. Vanko ’13 worked with writer/director Allan Katz as the production designer on the movie “Bucky and the Squirrels.”

Katz and Jill Lover, a 1993 Lawrence graduate and professional actor who plays therapist Dr. Adams in the film, will be in Appleton for the Saturday (1/27) evening screening at the Valley Grand Cinema as part of a Lawrence special event.

A theatre major at Lawrence, Vanko served as the production designer for the film, overseeing set design and all of the artistic design elements of the film.

Documentary filmmaker and 1972 Lawrence graduate Catherine Tatge, who was serving as an artist-in-residence at the time helping to get Lawrence’s new film studies program established, had seen Vanko’s theatre work and thought his skills could translate perfectly for the film industry. She encouraged him to consider applying for the production designer position.

“I jumped at the opportunity to try something new,” said Vanko, a 2013 Lawrence graduate. “The opportunity allowed me the experience of working with professionals in the film industry and challenging myself as an artist. The chance to design for a film that had the potential to be distributed nationally was the chance of a lifetime to be a part of something incredible.”

Vanko was working as an apprentice at the American Theater Company in Chicago when Katz called him in June 2013. He recalls the conversation fondly.

“Allan said, ‘Hi Jonathan, I want you to be the production designer for my new film. Do you have a team?’ I will always remember that call as one that changed my life. This film allowed me to challenge myself as a designer in a professional setting, taking what I had learned in my theatre program and apply it to a film setting.”

The film was produced by Lawrence graduates Tom Hurvis ’60 and his late wife, Julie Esch Hurvis ’61, long-time associates of Katz. The decision to shoot much of the film on the Lawrence campus and around Appleton was to enable Lawrence students to get involved in the production.

J.R. Vanko and Jill Lover
Jill Lover ’93, who portrayed therapist Dr. Adams, shares a light moment on the set of “Bucky and the Squirrels” with J.R. Vanko ’13, who was the film’s production designer.

“Bucky and the Squirrels” provided Lawrence students with the unique opportunity to work hands-on with a large-scale Hollywood film production,” said Amy Ongiri, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies at Lawrence. “Our film studies students already participate in a wide variety of film-related internships off campus while they are in the program, but to have a Hollywood film produced right here in the Fox Valley enabled them to see every aspect of film production up close. This was an invaluable experience for everyone involved.”

Vanko credits his experience with the “Bucky” production for paying dividends in his post-Lawrence life and he remains grateful for the opportunity.

“Many of the skills I learned as a production designer for the film have come into play when building community relationships in my current position,” said Vanko, the director of community engagement at Lifezone 360, a sports/fitness/events programming facility in West Dundee, Ill.

“This film provided an opportunity for so many Lawrence students and alumni and truly set the stage for the tone of our film studies department,” Vanko added. “There are so many higher educational institutions out there today but there are none quite like Lawrence. When I look back on my experiences there and my time on this film, all I can think of is how thankful I am I had four years of transformative opportunities and experiences that changed the way I not only saw the world but the way I saw myself as a professional.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

“Word origins for $1,200”: Senior Allison Holley represents Lawrence on “Jeopardy!” college tournament

History isn’t Allison Holley’s go-to category when it comes to playing her favorite game, the popular television quiz program “Jeopardy!.” But thanks to the show, she recently managed to make history.

The senior English and Spanish major from Racine recently became the first Lawrence University student to compete in the annual “Jeopardy!” college tournament’s 29-year history.

A photo of Lawrence University student Allison Holley with Jeopardy host Alex Trebek.
Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

Holley was one of only 15 students nationally selected for this year’s tournament. She traveled to California in early January to tape the contest, which will be broadcast over the upcoming two weeks (Feb. 13-24.). Holley’s first game is scheduled to air on Thursday, Feb. 16.

How did she do? You will have to tune in to find out. (Locally, WLUK-TV Fox 11, 6 p.m.)

“I was feeling pretty good,” Holley said of her arrival at the studio for the taping. “I was actually able to sleep the night before, unlike a few days before when my mind was racing 500 miles per hour and all I could think was ‘I’m going to be on Jeopardy!.’”

She was matched against two male contestants, one from Lehigh University and the other from New York University. Holley was the only contestant representing a school in Wisconsin.

Watching/playing “Jeopardy!” has been a part of Holley’s daily routine since she was nine years old. She competed with her mom whenever she was home and when she wasn’t, her parents would tape the program for marathon viewings when she was. Her parents correctly predicted it was only a matter of time before she would give the show a shot.

“I had kind of toyed with the idea but never really looked in to it until I was watching the college tournament last year,” said Holley, who practiced for her appearance by watching the show standing up and using a click ball point pen as a buzzer. “I realized $100,000 (the first-place prize) would do a lot for graduate school and my future.”

Holley’s multiple-step journey to the “Jeopardy!” studio in Culver City, Calif., started last September with a 50-question online test — with 15 seconds to answer each question. A minimum of 35 correct is necessary to advance. Based on answers she found posted on Twitter several days later, Holley estimated she got at least 40 right.

In mid-October, the second leg of her trip showed up in her inbox on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of a laundry session.

“I was checking email,” said Holley, “when I saw a message: ‘We would like you to come to audition in Chicago. RSVP within 24 hours for more details.’

The Chicago audition was set for Nov. 12, Saturday of ninth week, aka academic crunch time in Lawrence’s 10-week term calendar.

“It was kind of insane,” Holley recalled with a smile. “The election had happened that previous Tuesday. I was trying to finish writing a Spanish paper that Friday night in my room back home. I had to wake up early the next morning to catch the train to downtown Chicago. Somehow we made it all work and it was really awesome.”

A photo of Lawrence University student Allison Holley and her competitors from 14 colleges with Jeopardy host Alex Trebek.
Lawrence senior Allison Holley was one of 15 students nationally selected to compete in this year’s “Jeopardy!” college tournament. Photo courtesy of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.

A Michigan Avenue hotel conference room served as a stand-in “Jeopardy!” studio. A second written test was administered — skeptical producers want contestants to prove they are as smart as their earlier online test suggested minus any “over-the-shoulder” help they may have employed. In groups of three, the contestants were called in to play a short mock version of the game, including a self-introduction.

“I was in the very first position and wasn’t sure what exactly to say, so I just went through my name and school and what I want to do,” said Holley of her audition. “We also had to say what we would do with the money, but you weren’t allowed to say things like pay off student debt or use it for grad school, which is what I would do. I just talked about traveling. I had gone to London and really loved it.”

After watching some of the rest of her competition in their auditions, Holley headed for home with the uncertain news from the producers that those who made it would hear from the show before the holidays.

“The best part of the whole experience was just being out there. All of the people, all the contestants that I met were really nice, cool people.”
— Allison Holley ’17

“It was one long and hectic day, but just getting that far was awesome,” said Holley.

Back home, what she thought was a wrong number in early December turned out to be the call of a lifetime.

“I noticed someone had left a voicemail but I didn’t recognize the number, so I figured someone was just asking for the wrong person,” said Holley, who was in a grocery store at the time. “I listened to it and had to stop dead in the aisle. The message said ‘Hi! This is Ryan from Jeopardy. I have your application.’ I definitely was not expecting that. I started jumping up and down and an elderly woman looked at me kind of weird. I was smiling like an idiot I was so happy.”

Accompanied by her mother, Holley flew to California, where she got to spend a day hanging out in the new Harry Potter world at Universal Studios before getting down to business the following day.

Prior to the taping, Holley got the celebrity green room treatment, including make-up and promotional photographs, along with a primer on the rules of the game and basic strategy. Held in front of a studio audience of a little more than 100, the contestants were admonished not to eyeball any family or friends in the crowd.

“The contestants’ guests sit in a special area, so there is no potential for cheating,” Holley explained. “The producer was yelling, ‘You don’t know your friends and family. Don’t look at them!’

By appearing in the college tournament, Holley forfeits her eligibility to appear on the regular “Jeopardy!” program. But being able to still check “Jeopardy! contestant” off of her bucket list is a memory she’ll never forget.

“The best part of the whole experience was just being out there,” said Holley, a member of Lawrence’s Quiz Bowl team and this year’s champion on-campus trivia contest team. “All of the people, all the contestants that I met were really nice, cool people. They had a reception for all the production staff and the contestants involved in the tournament afterwards, which was really neat.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest offers 52nd test of cerebral fitness

 It seems a no brainer that Ridley Tankersley would eventually hold the exalted title of Trivia Headmaster of Lawrence University’s ultimate test of cerebral fitness.

A photo of Lawrence University Trivia Headmaster Ridley Tankersley.
Senior Ridley Tankersley will oversee the 52nd edition of Lawrence’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Heck, he almost was named a trivia master before he was even a Lawrence student.

As 2017’s Trivia Headmaster, Tankersley, a senior studio art major from Phoenix, Ariz., will oversee 50 straight hours of outrageous competition all in the name of fun during the 52nd edition of Lawrence University’s Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Older than the Super Bowl and liberally sprinkled with questions that make explaining the Higgs Boson look easy, the Lawrence trivia contest is the nation’s longest-running salute to all things obscure.

The contest returns in all its inconsequential glory Friday, Jan. 27 at its customary 10:00.37 p.m. start time and runs until midnight Sunday. The contest, just as it has for the past 11 years, will be webcast worldwide from the control room of wlfmradio.

Nearly 400 questions will be asked over the course of the contest, with hundreds, if not thousands of trivia addicts playing for on-campus and off-campus teams, calling in answers to the WLFM studios. Last year, 86 teams battled it out for the off-campus title, which was won by Hobgoblins of Little Minds, a team based in North Carolina. Among on-campus combatants, David and the Bucky’s Batallion Diabolically Antagonizing Tortured Brood-Makers, Basically Building Batteries, Bungee Jumping Blindfolded, Bizarrely Bludgeoning Bells and Definitely Ascending toward Brilliance By Dastardly Battling Together outlasted 18 challengers for its second straight title.

Tankersley, who went from playing as a freshman to serving as a trivia master the past two contests, tried to pull a fast one in 2012. As a visiting prospective student, Tankersley conspired with a current student to apply as a trivia master.

“We thought it would be funny if we both auditioned to be trivia masters,” said Tankersley, who was a member of the winning on-campus team his freshman year. “I pretended to be a Lawrence student. My visit roommate gave me a fake Lawrence ID number and his room number. I went through the whole process, including an interview. I heard I came close to being picked. I think people were quite surprised when they realized I was back in Arizona finishing high school.”

As he gets ready to settle in to the big chair for the weekend, Tankersley hopes to remind players of the contest’s credo: Trivia is meant to be entertainment and should be perceived solely in that light.

“I’ve seen the focus put on competitiveness, not the enjoyment of playing and I want to see it go back to that,” said Tankersley, who figures he’ll only manage to sneak in eight hours of sleep during the course of the 50-hour contest. “I want it to be on the front of everyone’s mind that people are playing because it’s fun and trivia masters are doing what they do because it’s fun.”

A photo of Lawrence University headmaster dressing up as a Joker, surrounded by trivia masters holding up large playing cards.
A “deck full” of trivia masters will assist headmaster Ridley Tankersley (center) during this year’s 50-hour Great Midwest Trivia contest.

While technology has perhaps eroded some of the contest’s original, simple charm, its core spirit — a weird, yet at the same time weirdly logical experience —  remains untarnished.

“You’re in a room with waxing and waning numbers of other teammates, but you’re all there doing the same thing,” said Tankersley, whose dad played as the one-man team “Square Root of All Evil” from Arizona last year. “People take it seriously and it’s inspiring that they do, finding the fun in this weird thing.

“It’s really all about the community of playing,” he added. “It’s about spending time with your friends on the weekend, and maybe coming out of it with a bad prize. It’s all about the experience.”

 Appleton native Kim Stahl knows all about trivia’s “community of playing.” She began playing the trivia contest when she was in elementary school and started a team in sixth grade. Today, she and her best friend Heidi Delorey are co-ring leaders of a team that numbers around four dozen multiple-generation players from as many as 10 states who annually converge on her home — in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Stahl, who has approximately 35 years of notches in her trivia belt, and her merry band of “Hobgoblins,” have benefited from the contest’s switch from an over-the-air broadcast to its current webcast, allowing her to maintain a beloved, decades-old tradition.

“We just love playing. We love the contest. It’s a lot of fun and it makes for a wonderful reunion,” said Stahl, a 1991 graduate of Appleton West High School. “And we love the fact that all of these Lawrence students have kept it going all these years. It’s such a unique college tradition.”

Despite her long history with the contest, Stahl first cued the DJ to play “We are the Champions” in 2015, the contest’s 50th anniversary. They successfully defended their title last year and now are gunning for a coveted “threepeat.”

“We are firmly intending to hit the hat trick this year,” said Stahl, whose own personal trivia tradition involves filling her front yard with pink flamingos the weekend of the contest.  “After never expecting to win for the first 30-some years, that would be a crowning jewel.”

Following trivia tradition, Lawrence President Mark Burstein, will start the fun by asking the contest’s first question, which, also by tradition, is always the final — and virtually unanswerable 100-point “Super Garruda” — from the previous year’s contest.

For one of the few times in the contest’s history, last year’s Super Garruda was correctly answered by the Trivia Pirates…Aaarrrggh. They somehow managed to come up Earwigs Rule to the question: In 1964, a band pretended to play Beatles songs at a battle of the bands called the Letterman Show. What is written in the top right corner of the page that features the band in a KWSS DJ’s copy of the lead singer’s 1965 high school yearbook?

Here are a few “softballs” to help everyone get warmed up for this year’s contest.

  1. In 1988, students at the University College in Dublin broke a record by debating, for 503 hours and 45 minutes, what statement?
  2. At this toy themed amusement park in San Diego, what guards the entrance to the ride immediately south of the easternmost green roller coaster?
  1. The leader of a one-man comedy synth punk band also has a website dedicated to images of a certain household object. What is BigJerk’s lamp thinking?

(1. “Every Dog Should Have Its Day” 2. A 16-foot tall LEGO pharaoh  3. “I hate the zoo.”)

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Year of the Rooster: Lawrence celebrates Lunar New Year 

Lawrence University will ring in the 2017 Lunar New Year — the Year of the Rooster — Saturday, Jan. 28 at 6 p.m. with dance performances and a multicultural expo in the Warch Campus Center. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

A photo of a local Hmong dance group Nkauj Hmoob Ntsias Lias.
Nkauj Hmoob Ntsias Lias, a local Hmong dance group, will be among the performers at Lawrence’s annual Lunar New Year celebration.

Showcasing Eastern culture will be the local Hmong dance group Nkauj Hmoob Ntsias Lias, the Vietnamese hip-hop duo Beast Street, a traditional lion dance by Vovinam Chicago and the Japanese drumming/folk dance group Anaguma Eisa from UW-Madison.

Following the performances, several Lawrence student organizations will host a cultural expo from beginning at 8 p.m., offering a variety of traditional crafts/games, calligraphy, paper fan/lantern decorating and paper fortune cookies. A photo booth will be available and a selection of Asian treats — Vietnamese Bánh mì, Korean potato pancakes, Chinese donuts, spring rolls, crab Rangoons and pot stickers — will be served.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

A day “on”: Lawrentians honor MLK legacy through reflection, community service

While the annual holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a day off from work or school for many, more than 250 Lawrence University students, faculty, staff and local alumni will make it “a day on.”

A photo of Lawrence University student packing up a box to send to Feeding American in Eastern Wisconsin.As a prelude to the Jan. 16 annual Fox Cities community celebration of the life of the civil and human rights leader, which Lawrence will host in the Memorial Chapel beginning at 6:30 p.m., Lawrentians will spend part of the day engaged in community service.

Since 2008, Lawrence has honored King’s legacy by providing volunteers to area nonprofit organizations. This year Lawrence volunteers will spend part of the King holiday providing their time and talents to 11 local nonprofit organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of the Fox Valley, Riverview Gardens, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, Homeless Connections and the Bethesda Thrift Shop on a variety of activities, including a new reading initiative for K-6 students at Appleton’s Edison Elementary School.

Prior to the volunteer activities, Lawrence will conduct a Read & Reflect event the morning of Jan. 16 in the Warch Campus Center. The action-based discussion will focus on Marc Lamont Hill’s book “Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond.” It will include the sharing of personal experiences of feeling like a “nobody” and action individuals and the campus as a whole can take to better support society’s  most vulnerable members.

A photo of Lawrence University students volunteer on MLK's Day.

Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts will deliver the keynote address — “On the Fierce Urgency of Now” — at the Fox Cities’ 26th Martin Luther King community celebration.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Welcome Class of 2020: Andy Wang an atypical typical Lawrence freshman

A photo of Lawrence University student Yuhan (Andy) Wang.
Yuhan (Andy) Wang ’20

Andy Wang’s college application looks impressively similar to most members of Lawrence’s class of 2020: high grade point average, challenging set of classes, participation in a theatre production, co-president of Model United Nations, a bevy of volunteer/community service projects, published author, charitable foundation founder.

Wait. Published author? Charitable foundation founder??

Okay, maybe Wang’s application has a few atypical highlights.

Charles Dickens was 24 when his first novel was published. Wang had his first book published at the age of 18.

Wang is one of approximately 380 freshmen arriving in Appleton for the start of new student orientation activities Sept. 6. Classes for Lawrence’s 168th academic year begin Sept. 12.

A native of Shenyang, China, a city of eight million people 500 miles northeast of Beijing, Wang chronicled his experiences as an international student attending high school in the state of Washington in the 2015 book “High School Encounter — Seattle.”

“I experienced a significant culture shock when I first came to the United States and writing became my therapy, a way of self-meditation and a process to explore my own identity,” said Wang, who applied to Lawrence on a recommendation from a family friend. He visited campus last spring and embraced the many opportunities he learned Lawrence could offer.

Wang said Chinese culture — where ranking of all things is rampant among young people and anyone or anything considered “the best” is overvalued —  contributed to his confusion in his adopted hometown of Burien, Wash.

“Nobody told me how to satisfy myself, so I used all kinds of activities to fill up my time,” Wang said. “Yet, the more activities in which I participated, the deeper the confusion grew. I was always trying to display to everyone the best version of myself, but I felt lost inside.

A phot of the cover of Lawrence University student Yuhan (Andy) Wang book "High School Encounter — Seattle."As time passed and I wrote my weekly thoughts, I discovered a deeper understanding of myself and this new world around me.”

A blog Wang started evolved into his book, which was published by the largest national book store in China. He then decided to donate all book sale proceeds to assist other students. In June, 2015, the “Andy Reading Fund” was born. Driven by the belief that nothing is more powerful than an educated mind, Wang established the charity to provide educational books and resources to rural students around the world.

“A friend told me recently that she found my book in a library of a small, distant town. I was really quite surprised by that,” said Wang, who wrote an article earlier this year for international students struggling in the culture gap that was carried by several leading Chinese media outlets and led to numerous interviews.

“I never turn down any chance to advocate for the reading fund, raise people’s attention on this topic and help students in need,” said Wang, an only child whose parents both work in the financial sector in China.

In little more than a year, he has raised more than $7,500 for the Andy Reading Fund, much of it from the sale of his book. He has used the funds to make donations to three elementary schools in rural China as well as send learning materials to 52 students at the Chinyaradzo Children’s Home in Harare, Zimbabwe. An anonymous gift provided support for winter coats and new shoes for students at the Zuoguyida Elementary School in Meigu, China.

“Among all the students we’ve sponsored, I remember Ying the most,” said Wang. “She was a young girl in the poorer Liangshan area who received funding to attend high school. Her family could not afford to support her for high school, so she was very moved when she received tuition from the Andy Reading Fund. She kept repeating through her tears ‘I am so, so lucky.’”

“The things that form the backbone of Andy’s story — curiosity, innovation, resilience, care for others — form the core of what we look for beyond all Lawrentians’ academic profiles.”
— Ken
Anselment, dean of admissions and financial aid.

A photo of Lawrence University student Yuhan (Andy) Wang at talks to a woman at The Chinyaradzo Children’s Home in Harare, Zimbabwe.
The Chinyaradzo Children’s Home in Harare, Zimbabwe, was one of the beneficiaries of the Andy Reading Fund.

This summer, Wang launched a new initiative to recruit 100 student representatives to sponsor 100 students in need, providing a variety of resources, including the Andy Reading Fund website in both Chinese and English, updates on social media, marketing materials and fundraising guidance.

“Each representative will be asked to raise tuition for one student within a year,” Wang explained. “This project can offer more students an opportunity to do something to help the less fortunate and influence the people around them.”

As he prepares to embark on the college chapter of his life, Wang is looking forward to spreading the gospel of the Andy Reading Fund at Lawrence.

“It’s always a bit scary to come to a new place,” said Wang, who is mulling everything from international relations and gender studies to economics, psychology and mathematics as potential majors. “I still remember how hard I was trembling the first day at my high school in Seattle. But I’m ready to be a part of the Lawrence community.”

Ken Anselment, dean of admissions and financial aid, calls Wang’s story “extraordinary.”

“The things that form the backbone of Andy’s story — curiosity, innovation, resilience, care for others — form the core of what we look for beyond all Lawrentians’ academic profiles,” said Anselment.

Wang and all of this year’s new students were drawn from a school-record applicant pool of more than 3,500 — a 16 percent increase over the previous year. In addition to freshmen, Lawrence also welcomes 25 transfer students and eight visiting exchange students from Tokyo’s Waseda University and from the Netherlands.

Putting the class of 2020 under the magnifying glass reveals:

Geographically, they hail from 32 states, plus Washington, D.C. Thirteen percent of the freshmen are citizens of 23 foreign countries.

Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota were the top three Lawrentian-producing states. While Wisconsin once accounted for 50 percent of new students, this year only one-quarter of Lawrence freshmen are home grown.

A photo of Lawrence University students on Freshmen move-in day.
Freshmen move-in day is an annual rite of passage. This year’s happens Sept. 6.

• 23 percent of the freshmen identify as domestic students of color.

• With 19 students, China is sending more freshmen to Lawrence this fall than all but four states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and California). Vietnam accounted for the second-most international students with nine.

Academically, one quarter of the freshmen ranked in the top five percent of their graduating high school classes.

The average ACT score was 28 among all students and 29 among those who submitted test scores for consideration for admission. Lawrence has been test optional since 2006.

“The folks around here get tired of hearing me say this,” said Anselment, “much as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a university to enroll a student. I’m grateful that the members of the Lawrence community — and those who support us — devote such great energy in helping us enroll students from all over the world who will thrive here. I’m especially grateful for the tireless work of our admissions and financial aid team’s outstanding effort this year.”

“And as we welcome the class of 2016,” Anselment added “we’re already in high gear working on 2017 and beyond.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.”  Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence celebrates 167th commencement, honors novelist Lan Samantha Chang

Lan Samantha Chang knew she wanted to be a writer since she was four years old.

The Appleton native who followed her dream and became an award-winning novelist returns to her hometown to be recognized for her literary achievements as the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Lawrence University Sunday, June 12 at the college’s 167th commencement.

Lan Samantha Chang will receive an honorary degree from Lawrence and serve as the principal speaker at the college's 167th commencement June 12. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.
Lan Samantha Chang will receive an honorary degree from Lawrence and serve as the principal speaker at the college’s 167th commencement June 12. Photo by Tom Jorgensen.

Chang, 51, who has directed the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa for the past 10 years, also will be the featured commencement speaker.

Lawrence is expected to award 364 bachelor degrees to 350 students from 32 states, the District of Columbia and 19 countries. A live webcast of the commencement ceremony will be available at http://go.lawrence.edu/lugrad16.

A baccalaureate service will be conducted Saturday, June 11 at 11 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Benjamin Tilghman ’99, assistant professor of art history, presents “What Makes Us Unique Also Binds Us Together: Empathy, Curiosity and the Liberal Arts.” The baccalaureate service and commencement exercise are both free and open to the public.

Four retiring faculty members — John Dreher, Merton Finkler, Nicholas Maravolo and Patricia Vilches — will each be recognized with an honorary master of arts degree, ad eundem, as part of the ceremonies. Vilches will be honored in absentia.

In addition to Chang, Lawrence President Mark Burstein, Board of Trustees Chair Susan Stillman Kane ’72 and senior Kevin Marin of Queens, N.Y., also will address the graduates.

Commencement_mortar-board_newsblogWhile Chang was burying herself in books as a child, dreaming about some kind of artistic future, her parents, who emigrated from China more than 65 years ago and had witnessed the horrors of a world war, had their hearts set on her pursuing a career in medicine, which they viewed as something stable.

“When I applied to Yale, I wrote in my application that I wanted to be a dermatologist mostly because it’s the only kind of doctor I had ever been to,” said Chang of her initial efforts to mollify her parents. “I started taking science classes and instantly realized that I did not want to pursue that path. It was very stressful because I was too chicken to talk to my parents about the decision. It was a year or two before I was able to tell them I didn’t want to be a doctor and I had to come up with a backup plan. So I told them I wanted to be a lawyer.”

After earning a degree in East Asian Studies at Yale, Chang attended the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where she earned a master’s degree in public administration.

“I realized that I didn’t want to pursue that direction either,” said Chang. “It was really just a question of coming to face the fact that I had never wanted to do anything else except write fiction and it would be pointless to keep trying to do other things.”Chang-Book_newsblog

Applying to, and getting accepted to, the Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop was the launching pad for her long-dreamt-about career as a writer.

After earning a master of fine arts degree at the University of Iowa, she taught creative writing at Stanford University as Jones Lecturer in Fiction, in Warren Wilson College’s MFA program for writers and at Harvard University as Briggs-Copland Lecturer in Creative Writing.

She returned to the Writers’ Workshop in 2006 as its director while also teaching English as the May Brodbeck Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I feel honored to be leading the workshop and proud that the program is still very strong.”

Chang’s connection to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop goes back to when she was in the eighth grade at Appleton’s Einstein Middle School. A grant enabled the Appleton Area School District to have a young poet, Monroe Lerner, who was a graduate of the Writers’ Workshop, spend a year working with students in the district on creative writing.

“It seems to me our society would be strongest if as many people as possible were given the time to read widely, think broadly and try to understand the human experience before they went out into the world. It can always benefit our society if as many people as possible study liberal arts.”
         — Lan Samantha Chang

 

Commencement_hug_newsblog“I was deeply interested in reading and writing and didn’t have an outlet for it, so every week for a year I got to meet with Monroe Lerner,” said Chang, a 1983 graduate of Appleton West High School. “It was a phenomenal experience for me…probably the most important writing experience I had until after college because he took me seriously and he introduced me to a lot of good books. He put the idea of going to Iowa in my head when I was in eighth grade.”

One of only three Chinese families living in Appleton while Chang was growing up, she was inspired by her experiences as an Asian American to write two novels and a collection of short stories about the merging of Chinese and American culture and the dynamics of family and wealth in times of hardship. Her works include 1998’s “Hunger: A Novella and Stories,” 2004’s “Inheritance” and “All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost” in 2010.

“Inheritance” received the 2005 PEN Open Book Award while “Hunger” was the winner of the Southern Review Fiction Prize and named a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her work has been selected twice (1994, 1996) for inclusion in the yearly anthology “The Best American Short Stories.”

In addition to her accomplishments, her deep connections to Lawrence made Chang a natural for an honorary degree and invitation to deliver the commencement address. Her mother earned a bachelor of music degree in piano pedagogy from Lawrence, while her father was an associate professor of engineering at the former Institute of Paper Chemistry, which had a long affiliation with Lawrence

“Receiving an honorary degree from Lawrence means a great deal to me,” said Chang, “because when I was growing up, Lawrence was the center of intellectual life in Appleton. It is a greatly respected university. I have vivid memories of being at the conservatory during my mother’s recitals and meeting her professors.”

In part because of her exposure to Lawrence as a youth, Chang holds liberal arts education in high regard.Commencement_selfie_newsblog

“It seems to me our society would be strongest if as many people as possible were given the time to read widely, think broadly and try to understand the human experience before they went out into the world,” said Chang, who admits she wanted “to stretch my wings and leave Appleton” and didn’t consider attending Lawrence when the time came. “I think that the liberal arts education always has benefits to any person, regardless of what they eventually do to make a living. It can always benefit our society if as many people as possible study liberal arts.”

Chang’s 93-year-old father still lives in Appleton. He is looking forward to seeing his daughter deliver her first commencement address.

“I think he’s probably more excited about this than anybody in my family. One of the reasons I’m so excited about it is because my dad is so excited about it. Of course, it makes me nervous because I know that he’ll be there. I want to do a good job.”

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

 

 

 

 

Wriston Art Center features Lawrence senior studio art majors

Senior-Art-Show_2016_newsblog2
Abigail Kosberg: “I am Dophie Doltz,” acrylic paint and thread on cotton fabric

Eight Lawrence University art majors will have their creative work featured in the annual senior major exhibition opening Friday, May 27 in the Wriston Art Center galleries.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, runs through July 3. A reception with the student artists at 6 p.m. opens the exhibition.

Works in the exhibition include photography, ceramics, sculpture, textiles, paintings, installation and performance art.

The seniors whose work will be featured are:
• Oumou Cisse, Washington D.C.
• Tess Gundersen, Santa Fe, N.M.
• Liam Hoy, Chicago, Ill.
• Abigail Kosberg, Wildwood, Ill.
• Brandin Kreuder, Burlington
• Isabella Schleisner, Greenville
• Laura Udelson, San Francisco, Calif.
• Austin Wellner, Green Bay

LU-Senior-Art-Show_newsblog1
Brandin Kreuder: “Paddled Box,” ceramic

The Wriston Art Center galleries are free and open to the public Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday noon – 4 p.m.; closed Mondays. For more information on the exhibition, 920-832-6890.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College” and Fiske’s Guide to Colleges 2016. Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.