Category: Students

The Lawrence experience: 17 ways we embrace college life in 4 short years

Lauren Chamberlain ’24 and Pearl Sikora ’24 take a break from studies on Main Hall Green in September. Hammocks on the green is a long Lawrence tradition. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Alex Freeman ’23

Everyone’s college experience is different. We’re all charting our own path, finding our own niche, figuring out what we can see ourselves doing for the rest of our lives. My four years at Lawrence University will vary dramatically from yours, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to explore our interests, whatever they may be.

But as unique as we all are, some parts of college life are practically universal. Whether it’s a walk down memory lane or a glimpse of what’s to come, here are 17 quintessential college experiences that unite us.

1. Embrace First-Year Studies

To Plato or not to Plato: First-Year Studies always brings conversation.

Get to know First-Year Studies a little better.

Let’s be honest, there’s no way I could start a Lawrence listicle of iconic college experiences with anything other than First-Year Studies, the introductory, multidisciplinary course which every Lawrentian takes during their first year. While several other colleges have their own version of First-Year Studies, I don’t know of any others that are able to unite a student body quite as much as ours.

Whether you’re a first-year student, a senior or an alumnus, you know you can always find a connection in the form of First-Year Studies. Controversial opinion: Plato’s Republic should be removed from the curriculum, but Angels in America and Native Guard taught me more about art and justice than any philosopher ever could. And this decades-old debate among Lawrentians is all part of the fun! Whether you’re pro-Plato or anti-Plato, you’ll always have this shared bond with the Lawrence community, and you can be sure that by the end of Winter Term, you’ll be a better writer and thinker than you were at the start.

2. Explore the local community

Jones Park is a short walk from campus.

Get to know trails and parks near campus.

To be honest, I really dropped the ball on this one during my first year. I’ve memorized the walk down College Avenue from Main Hall to Walgreens, but my knowledge of Appleton essentially stops there. While the restaurants and shops along that mile-long stretch definitely hit the spot (I’m always craving Katsu-Ya’s Red Dragon roll), I’m only scratching the surface of what the Fox Cities have to offer. You can be sure that I’ll be spending the rest of my college career making up for lost time and exploring Appleton as far as my feet (or Uber) can carry me.

3. Join or start a student organization

Members of the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG) put in some work.

Let Lawrence students tell you about student orgs.

What better way to make new friends and converse with like-minded individuals than by joining a student organization? United under a shared purpose, you have a guaranteed opportunity to explore your passion with classmates who care just as much as you do. And if none of Lawrence’s 114 existing student organizations feel just right, you can always take the initiative and start your own! Any takers for a YA Lit book club?

4. Live the dorm life

Ormsby Hall is among the residence halls housing students on the Lawrence campus.

The lovely ladies of Sage Hall fourth floor were my first friends on campus, and now, they’re some of my best friends in the world. There’s something special about the bond that comes from living in close quarters that can’t quite be replicated in any other setting.

Where can I even begin with this one? I have so many treasured memories of dorm life: playing pool in the lounge, knocking on my neighbor’s door every night for Commons dinner dates, buying marshmallows and cereal from the Corner Store to make the world’s densest Rice Krispies treats. And, of course, I’ll never forget the many Saturday nights that started as dance parties and turned into a dozen people crammed in a dorm room, sharing our childhood memories and deepest insecurities until the sun began to rise.

5. Find volunteer work

Volunteer opportunities abound at Lawrence.

One of the first things I did when I started college was look for volunteer opportunities, and luckily for me, GivePulse and the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change made that easy. The Wednesday nights I spend tutoring Appleton Area School District students through the VITAL program have been among the most rewarding times of my college career, as I contribute to the community, develop new skills and get to know some pretty great kiddos. And with Lawrence’s six diverse volunteer communities, every student is sure to find the volunteer program that inspires them to give back.

6. Enjoy life outside of class

Snow angels, anyone? Enjoying winter’s first snow is always a thing.

If college was just about the academics, I have a feeling the retention rate would be a lot lower. It’s also about that classic college student lifestyle, swiping into the Commons for meals, hammocking with friends on Main Hall Green, enjoying winter’s first snowfall, and, most importantly, participating in student life events. From annual events like Winter Carnival and LUAroo to the smaller scale events that pop up every week (caricatures, anyone?), student life events are the best way to keep yourself connected to the campus community. Plus, they almost guarantee free food, which I’m certainly not going to pass up.

7. Choose a major

Did you know you now can major in creative writing at Lawrence?

Some people come to Lawrence knowing exactly what they’re majoring in, and then there are those of us who maybe tend to be indecisive (I call it multi-interested) and push off declaring a major until well into sophomore year—and that’s OK! Lawrence doesn’t require a major declaration right away, giving you time to explore. Choosing your major impacts your entire college experience, and you want to make sure you’ve had a taste of everything before you make the (flexible) commitment. But when you come to the conclusion for yourself (and you can finally stop marking that awful “undecided” box on every form), it’s a moment of pure pride and an exciting look into your future.

8. Play intramural sports

Intramurals are open to all students. Athletic ability is optional.

OK, hear me out on this one—I couldn’t find my high school’s swimming pool or football field until my junior year, and even I’ve participated in intramural sports at Lawrence. If you’re actually an athlete, show off your skills in an official capacity on one of Lawrence’s 22 fantastic sports teams. Or if you, like me, faked sick to get out of gym class, there’s no shortage of lower intensity, recreational sports that any Lawrentian can try. Test your coordination on the broomball rink or join me on Main Hall Green for a friendly game of ultimate frisbee!

9. Cheer on classmates at athletic events

Women’s hockey became the 22nd varsity sport at Lawrence this year.

If I didn’t convince you with that last one, this is a great alternative for my fellow bench-warmers. As a native of the lower Midwest, I went to my very first hockey game last winter to cheer on the Vikings, and I’ve got to say, nothing quite instills school spirit like praying it won’t be your guys who get pushed into the wall. I’m happy on the sidelines, thank you very much!

10. Study abroad

London in January 2020.

My 61-year-old father still talks about his college study abroad experience, and my mom says her biggest college regret is not making time to study abroad, so I’m starting to get the feeling that this is the type of experience that stays with you all your life. I, like every other 20-something, don’t want to make the same mistakes as my mother.

Since financial aid travels with you (plus additional scholarships) and major requirements can be fulfilled with any number of Lawrence’s affiliated off-campus programs, many of the traditional barriers to study abroad have been mitigated at Lawrence. At this point, it’s mostly just a matter of planning ahead to fit it in your schedule! Whether you want to follow the path of many fellow Lawrentians and study at the London Centre or you want to find a program that’s uniquely you, it’s never too early to seek some guidance from the Off-Campus Programs office.

11. Get to know faculty

Senior banquet is just one of the cherished traditions that allow students to interact with faculty outside of class.

When my CORE leaders told me that part of the Lawrence experience was personal student-professor relationships, I was a little skeptical, but I’ve been proved wrong 10 times over. As you start to specialize and narrow your field of interest, Lawrence faculty members are there for you every step of the way as both teachers and guides. Whether it’s a studio pizza night at your professor’s house or an impromptu discussion sparked by guest speakers, you have ample chances to get to know your professors outside of the classroom. Plus, it also makes it a whole lot easier to forgive and forget when the Geoscience faculty steals the last table at Bowl 91.

12. Attend concerts and performances

Richard III was presented in Winter Term 2020.

Everyone knows that the Conservatory is pretty amazing, and no Lawrentian’s college experience is complete without attending a few incredible concerts and performances. In addition to supporting classmates in choir, band, and orchestra concerts (not to mention musicals, operas, and plays), Lawrence brings in a variety of professional musicians each year to perform in the World Music, New Music, Dance, Jazz and Artist series. I can’t say that I ever expected to see a Balinese Gamelan and dance performance, but I can say that it has undoubtedly enriched my college experience.

13. Be a student worker

Student employment opportunities are plentiful across campus.

Trust me on this one—I spend 15 to 20 hours each week working for my three on-campus jobs, and I wouldn’t change it if I could. It’s the perfect baby step into the job market as you gain real-world work experience, develop technical and professional skills, and start to fill up some of that dreaded white space on your resume. (Of course, it’s also the best way to ensure you’ll be able to afford that weekly coffee from Seth’s.)

14. Learn from impressive speakers

Masha Gessen delivered a convocation address in January 2020.

You know when your friend is talking about something that they really care about, and their passion is so infectious that you can just listen to them go on for hours? That’s like every speaker that comes to Lawrence, except this time they’re an expert in their field and they came prepared. From convocations to cultural competency lectures, from course-specific guest speakers to talented alumni, attending these speaking events is the best way to dive into the deep end of any given subject.

15. Get an internship

Stephany Pichola ’21 landed a remote internship last summer with The Commons, a Milwaukee nonprofit initiative.

Students talk about internship experiencesand students tap into experiential learning funds.

Welcome to the real world! No college experience is complete without this first taste of postgraduate personal and career life. Sure, you might be underpaid and overworked (though employers are thankfully starting to treat their interns a whole lot better), but you’re learning more about your future job prospects than you could in any classroom, while also gaining professional contacts and starting to build a life for yourself as an independent young member of the workforce. And if you want to make sure you find that perfect internship, where you spend your time getting paid for valuable, stimulating work instead of coffee runs, the Career Center is always available to help you find the right job and apply for any supplemental funding.

16. Take a class that has nothing to do with your major

Taking a class outside your area of study is among the joys of Lawrence.

So, at this point you’ve declared your major, and it’s all about squeezing those graduation requirements into your schedule. Maybe in your first couple of years, you spent some time exploring different disciplines, trying to figure out that one true passion—after all, academic exploration is a core principle of the liberal arts! But now, term after term of classes in the same area of study start to pile up.

The good news is, the opportunity to try something new doesn’t end as you get deeper into your major. In fact, it’s the perfect time to give yourself a little break, and sign up for a course because you want to take it, not because you have to take it. I love my government and anthropology classes (after all, there’s a reason I declared the major!), but I, for one, can’t wait for the term when I finally manage to fit a dance class into my schedule.

17. Bring it all together with Senior Experience

The Senior Experience can involve research, collaboration, writing, technology, and more, all designed to show what you’ve learned in your course of study.

I couldn’t have ended this story with anything other than the Chandler Senior Experience. It’s the culmination of our academic careers. Tailored to your personal interests and expertise, Senior Experience is an exhibition of all that you have become as a scholar, encompassing hours and hours of independent and collaborative work, many late nights, and probably a few too many scoops of ice cream from the Cafe—but in the end, you will have become a better and more accomplished student, expert, and person. Four years of learning and living the college experience all leads up to this, and there’s no way you can leave Lawrence without an empowering and well-deserved sense of pride.

Alex Freeman ’23 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Launch of new Mariachi Ensemble is a dream realized in Lawrence Conservatory

Jando Valdez ’24 leads a Lawrence University Mariachi Ensemble rehearsal in the Music-Drama Center. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The mariachi sounds coming twice-weekly from a rehearsal space in Lawrence University’s Music-Drama Center have been a long time in the making. A dream, Jando Valdez ’24 calls it.

The impetus for that dream goes back to 2016, when Valdez, then a freshman at nearby Appleton North High School, started a mariachi band with a few Latinx classmates, celebrating and sharing a genre of music with deep roots in Mexico.

It picked up momentum a year later when Valdez’ group, Mariachi Jabalí, connected with the music education team at Mile of Music, beginning a relationship with Lawrence Conservatory of Music faculty, students, and alumni that would continue through three iterations of the popular Appleton music festival.

It accelerated in the fall when Valdez enrolled at Lawrence in pursuit of a Bachelor of Musical Arts (BMA) degree. He quickly found himself in conversations with Alex Medina ’21, Willy Quijano ’22, and Ricardo Jiménez ’21 on the possibility of launching a mariachi ensemble in the Conservatory.

The idea aligned with discussions that had already begun in the Conservatory, where Associate Professor of Music Matthew Arau, fresh off delivering a keynote address at the International Mariachi Summit in San Diego in August 2019, was all in on adding mariachi to Lawrence’s robust roster of student ensembles. He would help guide Valdez and the other students as they put together a plan and began recruiting other students.

It came to fruition early in Winter Term, when the new Lawrence University Mariachi Ensemble (LUMÉ) launched. Numbering upwards of 30 students during any given rehearsal—roughly half music majors, the others from across the college—the ensemble began playing together twice a week in the Music-Drama Center, with pandemic protocols in place.

“The first time LUMÉ was able to meet in person, it felt as if a piece of myself and my family’s heritage had been reignited,” Valdez said.

Ricardo Jiménez ’21 claps to the beat during a LUMÉ rehearsal.

He said the ensemble aspires to do more than play mariachi music at a high level. The students also want to learn about the music, where it comes from and what it means to those native to it.

“The difference between LUMÉ and a traditional ensemble is that we want to dive deep into the roots of the music we play and focus heavily on history through research and knowledge from qualified mariachi educators,” Valdez said.

That is music to the ears of Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory. He called the Mariachi Ensemble a great fit with the Conservatory as it allows students to explore their musical passions in an intellectual, creative, and meaningful way.

“It is such a great example of what I call empowered learning,” Pertl said. “Lawrence is so good at helping students make their musical dreams a reality.”

The ensemble also aligns well with ongoing Conservatory efforts to teach and explore music from around the world. That is no small thing. Look no further than Gamelan Cahaya Asri, Lawrence’s Balinese gamelan, an ensemble featuring gongs, drums, and bamboo flutes of Indonesia. Then there’s the Conservatory-led music education efforts that are part of Mile of Music, spearheaded by music education instructor Leila Ramagopal Pertl, much of it tied to exposing festival-goers to global music.

 “The dream of LUMÉ was perfectly aligned with our commitment to broadening our ensemble offerings beyond our outstanding classical music and jazz offerings,” Brian Pertl said. 

Jando Valdez ’24 (left) and Marya Wydra ’23 perform during rehearsal. The ensemble is a mix of music majors and students from across the college. Wydra is a biochemistry major.

Arau, who chairs the Music Education Department and serves as associate director of bands in the Conservatory, said he was inspired while taking part in the International Mariachi Summit two years ago. He met mariachi music educators from across the United States and heard high school mariachi ensembles perform. It’s a musical genre that has rarely been taught or otherwise nurtured in major music conservatories.

Why not? Arau asked. And why not at Lawrence?

“I was blown away by the musicianship and performance presence of these groups, and I realized that it would be fantastic for students at Lawrence to get to learn how to perform this incredible music of Mexican heritage,” Arau said.

He began talking with Conservatory students about launching a mariachi ensemble, but when the pandemic hit a year ago and classes went remote in Spring Term, the idea was put on pause.

Then Valdez reached out to Arau over winter break with an offer to take the lead in making the ensemble happen, even during the pandemic. Arau began meeting with Valdez on Zoom, piecing together the particulars of getting it up and running. He connected Valdez with Fredd Sanchez, a mariachi music educator in San Diego who agreed to regularly Zoom in as a guest artist and teacher. (Sanchez even brought his professional mariachi group, Mariachi Continental de San Diego, onto a Zoom session to perform for the students.)

Rehearsals kicked off Jan. 25 and now take place on Monday and Wednesday evenings. Masks are worn. Musicians are spaced throughout the room. Some join via Zoom on giant screens.

“There is a lot of excitement about the new group because the music is so engaging and inspiring,” Arau said.

Willy Quijano ’22 helped bring the ensemble to fruition.

That enthusiasm for world music, mariachi in particular, is what drew Valdez to Lawrence when it came time to choose a school. He said he got a sense of community and support within the Conservatory while working with Lawrence’s Mile of Music team.

“The emphasis on mental health and connection to one’s spirit, the importance of effort, broadening your musical horizons, and, most importantly, the words of Leila Ramagopal Pertl, ‘Music is a birthright’,” Valdez said. “And there was a possibility of a mariachi ensemble being formed here at LU, so that became one of my goals if I was fortunate enough to be accepted.”

The new ensemble aims to explore a range of sounds within the mariachi genre. The musicians are incorporating standard mariachi instruments such as trumpets, violins, voice, guitar, and bass as well as some nontraditional instruments such as flute, tuba, euphonium, and double bass.

“This term we are focusing on the style of rancheras, which are songs typically about living in rural Mexico and have a waltz feel,” Valdez said. “In addition, we are learning tunes in the style of son jalisciense—a style that switches between 2-beat and 3-beat rhythms—and polka, which is influenced directly by German polka.”

For the moment, the pandemic is keeping LUMÉ from debuting in front of a live audience. Instead, the students have been working toward a debut livestream performance, set for 9 p.m. March 10.

That, Valdez said, is the next step in the dream.

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

Lawrence’s pandemic response has kept campus safe in midst of chaos elsewhere

Meralis Alvarez-Morales ’22 works at the COVID-19 testing site in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center gymnasium. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Christyn Abaray knew she and her Lawrence University colleagues were walking a fine line when they welcomed 800 students back to campus in early September for the start of Fall Term.

After going fully remote during Spring Term, the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team (LPPT)—a campus leadership group led by Abaray, assistant to the president—spent late spring and much of the summer sifting COVID-19 data, studying options, consulting with experts on and off campus, and eventually drafting a multi-layered strategy that would allow for a mix of in-person and remote study.

But as Fall Term neared, with roughly 60% of the school’s nearly 1,500 students opting to return to the Appleton campus, news reports were painting a bleak picture. Wisconsin was the No. 1 hot spot in the country for new COVID cases, with Appleton being one of eight Wisconsin cities making the New York Times’ top 10 list.

Christyn Abaray

Abaray watched those reports with understandable concern. LPPT members began fielding queries from concerned students and parents about how safe it was to return to Appleton.

But Abaray and her team stayed confident in the strategic plan they had put together, which included the initial testing of all students, faculty, and staff on campus, weekly random testing throughout the term, ample space for quarantining and isolation, and strict requirements to Honor the Pledge, including wearing a mask and adhering to physical distancing.

As the COVID test results came in through September and into October, the difference between what was happening in the Fox Valley—and, really, most of Wisconsin—and what was happening on the Lawrence campus could not have been more stark. While Appleton case numbers blew up, the campus emerged as arguably the safest place in the city.

“We were regularly just in awe of what the testing was showing,” Abaray said. “We were just blown away.”

Positive cases on campus through Fall Term stayed below 1% even while cases surged in the surrounding community. And while reports of bars and restaurants filling with unmasked patrons were frequent in the Fox Valley and across Wisconsin, Lawrence students overwhelmingly stayed true to the pledge they signed to follow safety protocols.

Campus buildings were closed to the public. Signage reminded all to wear masks anytime on campus. Students were asked to socialize mask-less only in their pods, with all other interactions requiring masks and distancing.

Now, midway through Winter Term, with six months of experience to lean on and protocols still in place, Lawrence continues to have success in limiting the spread of the virus on campus, with cases detailed weekly on its digital dashboard. There have been slight upticks, but nothing that has been sustained.

At its most problematic point during Fall Term, Lawrence counted 20 positive COVID cases among its students. That number fell back to two a few weeks later and never went above 10 the rest of the term.

In Winter Term, which began with the return to campus of about 900 students the first week of January, there was a quick increase, with 30 students testing positive and going into isolation during the week of Jan. 11. It was a potential tipping point, Abaray said, and the LPPT quickly communicated concerns, reminding the Lawrence community how precarious the situation was and how important it remained to adhere to safety protocols.

The message hit home. The feared spread never happened, with positive tests and needed isolation quickly dropping again into single figures. As of mid-February, there was one active student case.

Abaray and her team know this is not a victory lap. There remains a long way to go. New COVID variants spreading across the U.S. pose new threats, and losing focus on what got Lawrence to this point could send things south quickly. But they also know the strategy they adopted last summer works.

Testing, testing, testing

D’Andre Weaver ’21 (left) and Sterling Ambrosius ’22 wear protective gear as they work at the testing site. Fifteen students were hired to help staff the site each week.

Despite a hefty price tag, Lawrence committed to testing early and often and has stayed with it. The LPPT, which consulted frequently with Medical College of Wisconsin President and CEO Dr. John Raymond and ThedaCare President and CEO Dr. Imran Andrabi, identified testing as key to keeping the plan on track.

Everything else would fall in place based on what the testing numbers told them, Abaray said. If they could mitigate the spread of the virus, then they could launch academic programs as envisioned in various modalities and they could take steps to make the student experience as robust as possible despite the obvious limitations that come with safety protocols.

“The big piece of making all that happen was testing,” Abaray said.

Every student and employee who planned to set foot on campus at any point during the term was required to be tested before the term began. After that initial round, at least one-third of the campus population was tested weekly.

During Fall Term, that meant nasal swabs administered by Bellin Health. For Winter Term, the LPPT opted to switch to saliva-based PCR tests that could be administered by Lawrence staff in partnership with Concentric.

Richard Jazdzewski

“This allows us to be much more efficient and able to scale our staffing patterns to match the testing numbers for the given week,” said Richard Jazdzewski, dean of Wellness Services and an LPPT member. “This has resulted in less time waiting in line on site for our LU community.”

It’s also allowed Lawrence students to work as part of the testing team. Meralis Alvarez-Morales ’22 jumped at the chance to don protective gear and go to work. She’s now working between four and five hours a week, gathering needed information on site from Lawrentians being tested.

“I choose to work as a testing assistant not only because of the opportunity to be paid, but also because I wanted to do my part in giving back to my community,” Alvarez-Morales said. “We are still in a global pandemic after all, and many hands do make light work.”

The testing, which is set up in the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center gymnasium, will continue in Spring Term, Abaray said. The cooperation to date from students and employees has been stellar. The push to stay the course will continue even as COVID numbers in the surrounding community continue to go down and a growing number of people are being vaccinated.

“The only way our testing strategy works is because we have a group of students, faculty, and staff who are adhering to all it means to be in the Pledge,” Abaray said. “It’s an interwoven group of things that all have to be happening for us to be where we are right now. Holding each other accountable is a big piece to that.”

The Pledge

Wearing a mask on campus is part of Honor the Pledge.

Honor the Pledge, launched before Fall Term began, is a pact between the University and all students, faculty, and staff who opted to or needed to be on campus. It lays out 10 promises tied to safety protocols, from mask-wearing to social distancing to testing.

Violations of the Pledge have been addressed on an individual basis, Abaray said. And while there have been occasional violations among students, the vast majority of Lawrentians on campus have stayed true to the Pledge. That, more than any other factor, is why Lawrence has had success mitigating the spread while some universities across the country have struggled.

“Student adherence to what we’re asking them to do, for the most part, is what’s making this possible,” Abaray said. “We’ve all read the stories from other places where decisions that students make really do make or break what happens. We have students who get it. They’re making some of the most mature decisions that we could ask for.”

Being a small campus certainly helps. Abaray and the rest of the LPPT know it’s easier to get that buy-in from a student body of 1,500 than it is for a campus with 50,000 students. But it’s still impressive. And the work continues.

A new incentive program launched through Wellness Services, called #VIKINGSCARE, gives Lawrence community members an opportunity to recognize their peers for behavior that keeps the campus community safe.

“Students who have been nominated can win weekly prizes, including free dinner with five friends from a local restaurant, an Apple watch, a Bluetooth speaker, LU gear, and more,” Jazdzewski said.

Alvarez-Morales, a Global Studies and Spanish double major, speaks with pride about her fellow students. She said students’ willingness to adhere to the Pledge, as limiting as it is, is what has separated Lawrence’s success in mitigating virus spread from what’s happened off campus.

“Lawrence overall has done a great job enforcing safety protocols and guidelines on campus,” Alvarez-Morales said. “Lawrence has also done a great job of providing students with the resources to obtain masks, reusable dinner bags, food, and sanitizing products to clean their spaces.”

The vast majority of students have taken the virus seriously. They understand that masking up and following protocols are selfless acts aimed at keeping others safe and the campus functioning. Alvarez-Morales said she wishes that was the case everywhere.

“In short, yes, I feel safer on campus now than I did when I first thought of returning to campus. But I do not feel safe in the surrounding community.”

Isolation and Quarantine Space

Kohler Hall was set aside as isolation and quarantine space as part of the strategic plan to mitigate virus spread on campus.

Lawrence limited the number of students who could live on campus – roughly 800 opted in for Fall Term and about 900 for Winter Term – so adequate housing space could be dedicated to isolation and quarantine.

Kohler Hall has been that space, with students being moved into the hall for isolation if they test positive and for quarantine if they have had close contact with someone who tested positive.

Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life and chaplain to the University, Terra Winston, associate dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, and Curt Lauderdale, dean of students, have been instrumental in creating a responsive and caring space for students entering Kohler. Bon Appetit, Lawrence’s on-site provider of campus meals, has been essential in providing food delivery.

Abaray praised Morgan-Clement and Winston for their ability to provide comfort—physical and emotional—for students going through isolation or quarantine. And she called Bon Appetit employees unsung heroes for their willingness to adapt in ways that serve those students.

“Their planning and their ability to adjust their planning for our students who are in Kohler in quarantine or isolation has been phenomenal to watch,” Abaray said. “We had a plan going in, and that wasn’t providing the best experience for the students, so they pivoted. It illustrates how much adjusting you need to do. It’s OK to adjust. You don’t have to have all the answers on the front end. You won’t. Adjusting is part of that.”

The making of the LPPT

Leadership and communication via the LPPT have been critical from the beginning. The group includes President Mark Burstein and most of his cabinet, as well as key personnel from Wellness Services, the faculty, and other points across campus. In all, more than 50 voices have been part of that team, including a number of student leaders.

“We figured out very quickly that we needed to have a lot of stakeholders around the table if we were going to do this the right way,” Abaray said.

The group met twice weekly through the spring and summer as it drafted a strategy to, if at all possible, bring students back to campus. It split into five subgroups to explore in detail various aspects of that challenge—a group focused on the campus calendar and curricular issues; a co-curricular group focused on student life, housing, meals, and student engagement; a group focused on visitors to campus; a health group that included faculty members with expertise in the biomedical field; and an employee group that explored potential workplace issues.

Those subgroups met regularly, then reported back to the LPPT as the strategy slowly evolved.

“All of it needed to come together by the middle of summer to have an idea of what direction we wanted to go for the fall,” Abaray said. “That was the first big decision that needed to be made.”

Once the decision was made to proceed with at least a portion of the student body on campus, the LPPT went to work drafting particulars, communicating the plan in detail to students, families, faculty, and staff, and answering an onslaught of questions.

That work is ongoing, with the LPPT continuing to meet weekly.

“We feel somewhat comfortable with where we are,” Abaray said.

But as it was nearly a year ago when the pandemic first arrived, there are more questions than answers. LPPT members know they must continue to listen, learn, respond, and adjust.

“Everything changes by the day,” Abaray said. “It’s that level of living in the gray. I don’t know how many times I’ve said that to people. You hear, ‘You all said this on this day and now you’re saying this.’ Yes, we did. We learned something. It’s not that we were wrong. It’s that we’ve learned something, and that’s moving us forward. We are making decisions with the best information we have at that particular moment, and the moment we have more information we are going to adjust. I know that’s not comfortable and it’s not ideal. For the control freak in me, it’s unnerving. But you have to be able to be in that space right now if you’re going to be productive.”

What’s next?

Vaccines are on the horizon. Jazdzewski said Lawrence will continue to work with city and county health officials in efforts to distribute and administer COVID-19 vaccines on campus, but how and when has yet to be determined.

In the meantime, preparations are under way to launch a Spring Term that will look very much like Winter Term. Students are again being given the option of living on campus or staying remote. If living on or visiting campus, adherence to the Pledge will remain a must. Adjustments in protocols will be made as conditions dictate.

Confidence in the strategy that has gotten Lawrence to this point is strong, Abaray said. But she and others on the LPPT know there will be more hurdles and more questions as winter turns to spring and impatience grows. The finish line remains murky at best.

“Every day we doubt everything because we just don’t know,” Abaray said. “We still don’t know what’s going on with this virus; still don’t know a lot of things. But I trust and I have confidence in our protocols and our strategy.”

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

Student-to-student: Advice on staying connected in a remote world

Tip for remote students: Reach out to classmates who are on campus. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

In our fast-paced, hyper-connected world, we had to make a lot of adjustments when we were thrust into the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago. As Lawrence students know, everything changed.

Isabella Mariani ’21

Now in my third term learning remotelyand second-to-last term of collegethe challenges I’ve faced with distance learning are ongoing. But I’ve learned a lot along the way. So, I’m here to offer some advice, from one struggling student to all the others who are trying to find their way through this pandemic while studying from afar.

Winter Term brings its own challenges for those of us who are remote. For many students, cold weather and short days can augment those feelings of detachment from the campus community. For those students struggling to stay connected, here are some things that have helped me.

1. Utilize your professor’s office hours: Does you professor have that Zoom link designated for office hours? You don’t need to be struggling in class to set up a meeting. Having a one-on-one with your professor can be a lifeline if you’re feeling disconnected from Lawrence. Most would be happy to discuss something from class or just to chat; they miss you, too.

2. Have virtual hangs with on-campus friends: If you have friends who are on campus, catching up with them via video chat is a great way to bridge the gap. Maybe they can take you on a virtual tour around campus buildings to show you the sights you miss most. Or, if you’re like me and most of your pals are remote, too, video chatting with them can also keep you in the loop.

3. Keep up with the Lawrence News Blog: My totally unbiased opinion is that bookmarking the News Blog page is an easy way to maintain a relationship with Lawrence when you’re learning remotely. For the low price of a few minutes of your time, you’ll receive a variety of news on fellow students, professors, and campus events that you may not hear about elsewhere.

4. Look for virtual events: Living and learning off campus doesn’t mean you’ve lost access to the events Lawrence has to offer. Some events you loved on campus have adapted to the virtual world, including LU Reads and guided meditations. Maybe you’ll see someone you know there. You can find them on the Calendar of Events.

5. Write about it: Hear me out. Writing about this whole pandemic experience is a healthy outlet to vent those feelings of separation from life at Lawrence. Jot down your favorite Lawrence memories, document your experience with distance learning. Wherever you are, this is a simple way to keep Lawrence close.

6. Just talk to people: Few things are as effective as remembering you’re not alone in the ordeal of remote learning. Don’t forget about your friends. Respond to those unopened texts. Be honest about your day-to-day life away from campus.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Changes aim to improve student access to Experiential Learning Funds

Thinking about summer plans? Then you should be thinking about applying for Experiential Learning Funds. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A record number of Lawrence University students received funding over the past year through the school’s Experiential Learning Funds (ELF) program, designed to support students pursuing summer internships, self-directed research, and volunteer work.

Ninety student projects were financially supported, more than double the usual amount, an increase due in part to changing needs caused by the coronavirus pandemic, said Emily Bowles, Experiential Learning Funds coordinator.

Now the deadline for 2021 applicants is straight ahead—it’s set for March 5 but flexibility is being built in because of ongoing pandemic uncertainties—and administrators are expecting another robust year.

The Career Center has streamlined the application process in an effort to make it easier for students with qualifying projects to access the funding. Students are being asked to submit a common application, leaving the ELF committee to match it with the most appropriate of the more than two dozen donor-supported funds that make up ELF. That removes the need for students to seek out specific funds, and it provides flexibility to match a request with a fund that has like-minded intentions.

“We’re hoping we can dismantle some barriers students may have faced in the past, increase awareness of funding opportunities, and ensure we help donors—many of whom are our alumni—match their dollars to projects that align with their values,” Bowles said.

The ELF committee is expected to issue decisions on each request by the end of March.

Student uses Experiential Learning Funds for computer science simulation. See more here.

Career Center here to help as pandemic affects job searches. See more here.

The funds cover expenses for students doing internships, job shadowing, research, or volunteer work. Some of the funds are broad in nature, giving the committee flexibility in how to disperse the monies. Other funds are specific to a particular field of study. The payments might help defray a student’s transportation costs, purchase needed resources, or cover living expenses.

The maximum outlay is $5,000, although the average is usually between $1,000 to $2,000.

The record 90 projects last year were supported to the tune of more than $160,000. The increase in the number of approved requests, Bowles said, was driven by the pandemic, which took many internship and research projects virtual, removing or lowering travel and housing expenses.

A new fund in the ELF program, the Equal Opportunity Fund for Career Exploration and Development, was launched to support Black, Latino, and/or first-generation students in new ways. And new attention was paid to using ELF funds to get students experience in social justice initiatives or with nonprofits that offer only unpaid internships, Bowles said.

“We were able to support more projects specifically designed by BIPOC and/or first-generation students thanks to the Equal Opportunity Fund,” she said. “In the midst of COVID, this fund source let us meet students where they were and alleviate some financial pressures so they could pursue projects based on their passions and personal or professional goals, even with so many factors conspiring to make pursuing internships or unpaid opportunities untenable for many people.”

A wide breadth of work

Among the 90 projects funded in the past year: a virtual internship at a psychology clinic working on social skills with middle school students; immersion in a public health research study; a data science internship; research into creating biographies for a catalog of Latin-American cello works; exploration of the barriers the arts present to artists of color; research into food insecurity issues across multiple continents; work in the offices of local elected officials; and many more.

Natalie LaMonto ’22

Natalie LaMonto ’22, an anthropology major from Frankfort, Illinois, was among the students who tapped into ELF funds after the pandemic shifted summer plans. She had planned on traveling to New Zealand, but that was no longer doable. The Sara A. Quandt and Thomas A. Arcury Endowment for Experiential Learning and Research in Public Health, one of the available ELF funds, gave her a viable plan B.

“This was not the summer I was imagining back in March, but I am glad that it turned out this way,” LaMonto said in a Career Center report on ELF impact.

She took on a virtual internship researching public health issues in vulnerable communities in North Carolina. She worked closely with Lawrence alumna Sara Quandt ’73, a professor of epidemiology and prevention at Wake Forest University who does extensive research in public health.

“This past year, after taking Nutritional Anthropology, I had realized that I wanted to pursue a career in public health, but I did not know exactly what that meant,” LaMonto said. “When I was chosen for this internship, I knew that I wanted to research vulnerable communities, like the Latinx migrant farmworker community in North Carolina, but I did not know exactly what that meant either. Through this internship, I have grasped what it means, what it is like, to be a researcher in public health.”

Gabriel Chambers ’22

Gabriel Chambers ’22, a government major from Queens, New York, took on a self-directed research project on food insecurity, funded in part by the Equal Opportunity Fund.

“We see that some populations have lack of access to safe and nutritious food whereas some don’t,” Chambers said in the ELF report. “In the current pandemic, this threat leaves at-risk individuals vulnerable to malnutrition while simultaneously trying to protect themselves from a virus. This project identifies what is food insecurity, why is this an issue, who is affected by this crisis, where in the world are these conditions prevalent, and my personal insight on my story with food insecurity.”

Besides helping to center his career ambitions, Chambers said the summer experience helped him develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and networking skills. 

“In a time of need, the Equal Opportunity Fund provided me with resources to build a foundation to a path I want to follow upon leaving Lawrence,” he said. 

Funds to fill in the gaps

Bowles said those types of student experiences are at the heart of the Experiential Learning Funds program. It’s what motivates donors to participate and what drives students to seek out such opportunities.

“Experiential learning projects over the summer can help students harness their theoretical knowledge to practical, hands-on experiences,” Bowles said. “I know when I was in grad school, I struggled with a sense of disconnect—I was talking about feminist and queer theory without having opportunities for advocacy or activism—and I think for Lawrentians, these funds can help fill in that space.”

For students eyeing law school or medical school or seeking additional business training, the funds can provide opportunities to build important connections. The funds, for example, can assist students in accessing online Harvard Business School courses in partnership with Lawrence.  

“Some of these projects have direct connections to classroom learning, and others let them try out things as interns with alumni or on the job so they can start to think about what possibilities their degrees hold for them,” Bowles said. “With the funds, it’s also possible for students to try out things that Lawrence doesn’t offer without having to do that during an academic year, when the work might conflict with their ability to show up fully for their courses.” 

Bowles said students looking to apply for ELF funds should consult with their advisors, be creative in what they envision, and be realistic in their budget projections.

“One of my favorite things about working with Lawrentians is seeing the myriad ways in which imagination, passion, ambition, and critical thinking become the foundation for such different experiences in the short and long term,” Bowles said. 

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

“We are setting some history here”: Women’s hockey ready to make its debut

The Lawrence women’s hockey team will drop the puck on its debut season on Saturday, Feb. 13. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Joe Vanden Acker / Lawrence Athletics

When Jocey Kleiber started as Lawrence University’s first women’s hockey coach in August 2019, she wrote a number on the whiteboard outside her office at Alexander Gymnasium. That figure was more than 400, and it signified the number of days until the Vikings dropped the puck on the first game in program history, set for late October 2020.

“It feels like five years ago now,” Kleiber said with a laugh.

That number was finally down to double digits, less than two months away from the opener, when the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) announced in August 2020 the season was going to be suspended until at least January 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of taking it as a soul-crushing setback, Kleiber took it in stride.

“The pandemic had been raging at that point so it wasn’t like it came out of the blue,” Kleiber said. “I kind of chuckled a little bit, and it was like, of course, I try to start a new program and a pandemic hits.”

Now the day Kleiber and her team have waited for, planned for, longed for, is finally upon us. Lawrence opens its inaugural season on Feb. 13 against the College of St. Scholastica at the Appleton Family Ice Center. The puck drops at 7 p.m. No fans will be allowed for Lawrence home games, but the contests will be webcast here. Lawrence then travels to St. Scholastica for a 4 p.m. Feb. 14 game in Duluth, Minn.

“It was kind of like our hearts dropped,” said first-year forward Delaney Kingsland of the decision to suspend the season. “We had worked through the year to get to this place. When we got the news that we were going to have a season, we were super excited.”

Women’s hockey is Lawrence’s first new varsity athletics program since men’s hockey was elevated from club status in 1986. Lawrence, which started its athletic program with a track and field day in 1889, now has 22 intercollegiate athletic teams. The addition of the Vikings brings the number of NCAA Division III women’s hockey teams to 67.

A slow build

Kleiber was only half-joking when she said it felt like five years ago that she was hired. It would be a colossal understatement to say much has transpired in the past 12 months. A once-in-a-century pandemic has dominated our lives. Kleiber was undeterred as she went about the business of building her team from scratch.

“As soon as I was hired and able to start recruiting, the first thing I did was to try and get as many feelers out as I could,” Kleiber said.

“I focused solely on recruiting. I was trying to go to as many tournaments as I could to get people to see me more and more. I had a mom say to me, ‘I’ve seen you everywhere on the road.’”

Kleiber kept plugging away as she saw hundreds of players in games across the country. She polished her pitch about why these young women should choose Lawrence and be part of something brand new. It didn’t always go smoothly.

The Vikings recently began full team practices at the Appleton Family Ice Center.

“Being a college coach, you get used to hearing the word no a lot, and you just kind of roll with it and go to the next kid,” Kleiber said.

And every once in a while, you hear, “Yes!”

Prescott native and goaltender Sydney Seeley didn’t know a lot about Lawrence, but Kleiber convinced her to see the campus.

“I was coming to Green Bay for a tournament for the weekend, and I thought I would tour (Lawrence) and check it out,” Seeley said. “I fell in love with the campus, and I love coach Jocey. There was something about (Lawrence), and I knew this was the place I wanted to be.”

“Sydney committed right then and there, and a few people committed shortly after that,” Kleiber said.

The momentum continued to build over the following months, and it was late winter 2020 when Kleiber started to feel good about the size of her first recruiting class.

“I think when the calendar flipped to March or April, I was feeling like we were right there. We needed a couple more players to fill out the team,” Kleiber said. “I had a good handful of feelers out to kids that had been accepted, and they just needed to make a decision.”

Navigating a pandemic

At the same time, Wisconsin went into a lockdown as the pandemic hit the population hard for the first time. Lawrence sent students home to study remotely during Spring Term.

Despite the lockdown, Kleiber managed to finish her recruiting class of 14 student-athletes. As we eased toward mid-summer, the number of infections and deaths continued to rise, but the coaches and athletes on the Lawrence campus held out hope they would be able to return to campus and be allowed to compete.

Kleiber continued her preparations for the season and kept her fingers crossed. The first bad news came on July 27 when the Midwest Conference announced it would not play the fall sports season. The NCHA followed on Aug. 6 with word that the men’s and women’s hockey seasons wouldn’t begin until January 2021 at the earliest.

Coach Jocey Kleiber recruited 14 players for the debut season.

“Man, we’re so close,” Kleiber recalled. “We have our jerseys; we have our equipment; the locker room is taking shape, and the world stops.”

That holding pattern continued until January. The Midwest Conference canceled its winter sports competitions, but the NCHA announced it would play an eight-game regular season followed by the playoffs. That announcement set off high-fiving and fist-pumping among the Vikings.

“We were all really excited that we got to have a season,” Seeley said. “Being the inaugural team, we wanted to play. Had we had to wait until next year, it would have been different. One thing that hits home for us is that we are the first people to wear these jerseys, the first people to set records, and it’s super exciting because we get to set expectations for the program.”

The Vikings have been careful since they arrived on campus in the fall. They conducted practice and weight training in small pods before just recently beginning full team practices. Masks are worn at all times. Team meetings and video work are all done via Zoom, and even on-ice conversations are socially distant whenever possible.

Kleiber said she reminds her players daily to “honor the pledge” to ensure the health and safety of the Lawrence community and to make decisions to keep everyone safe. The players are tested for COVID multiple times per week, including the day of a home game and within 24 hours of a road game.

Making history

All of those precautions have allowed the team to reach this point of launching a new program.

“Every time you step out on the ice for a new team it’s kind of exhilarating,” Kingsland said. “You get to do what you love and play with your best friends. Being able to step on the ice for our first game will be memorable. We are setting some history here.”

Women’s hockey became the 22nd intercollegiate athletic team at Lawrence.

A pretty lofty goal of 10 victories had been Kleiber’s goal for the team before the season was shut down last summer. 

“I say it to the players, I’m not someone who’s happy to be here. I want us to be good from the get-go,” Kleiber said. “I want more than that, and I know the athletes that are here want more than that. Having a goal that seems out of reach is better in relative terms than something that is pretty easy to accomplish.”

With the Vikings now playing an abbreviated eight-game regular season, Kleiber has adjusted the goals.

“One of the goals for us will be to make the playoffs,” Kleiber said. “Why not us? We will have to just play it one series, one weekend at a time. However it works out, it’s going to be an inaugural season unlike any other.”

Joe Vanden Acker is director of athletic media relations at Lawrence University. Email: joseph.m.vandenacker@lawrence.edu

Student collaborations put new focus on Black History Month events at Lawrence

Sarah Navy ’22 and Malcolm Davis ’23 took the lead in organizing a series of Black History Month events. Navy is president of the Black Student Union. Davis is program coordinator of the Diversity and Intercultural Center.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s celebration of Black History Month during February includes a series of student-organized events that are shining new light on Black history and culture.

The series comes out of new collaborations between the Diversity and Intercultural Center (D&IC) and the Black Student Union (BSU), led by Sarah Navy ’22, the president of BSU, and Malcolm Davis ’23, program coordinator for the D&IC.

“After attending any of these events people will hopefully leave having learned something new that they can then share with others,” Davis said. “Putting aside sharing, individual growth is huge as well. After attending one of the events, you may leave with a different perspective, or a new understanding of a topic. All of this, I think, will elevate conversation and education surrounding Black history.”

The new series kicked off Feb. 2 with Black History Jeopardy and continues with the following virtual events:

6 p.m. Feb. 9: Film screening of the documentary Talking Black in America.

4-9 p.m. Feb. 11: African Heritage Emerging Leaders Institute.

6 p.m. Feb. 16: A Q&A discussion of the film Talking Black in America. The discussion will be facilitated by Associate Producer Renee Blake, who is featured in the documentary. She will co-facilitate with Executive Producer Walt Wolfram.

6 p.m. Feb. 23: A book discussion of Heavy, open to BSU members only.

Information on how to access the events can be found here.

The series augments other activities in February organized by either the D&IC or BSU or in collaboration with other student groups, including Lunar New Year (Feb. 13), Cultural Expressions (Feb. 27), and a range of activities during the final week of February titled AIO Presents Honoring Black History.

Events to catch in a busy Winter Term. See more here.

Cultural Expressions will be a virtual event this year. Watch for details to be announced.

“We want to have an event that would allow us all to come together, on-campus or not,” Navy said. “And for those of us here, we wanted to do it the safest way possible. The theme for this year will be ‘Black Love’.”

Meanwhile, AIO Presents Honoring Black History will be held Feb. 21-27. To be presented virtually, it’s a collaborative effort between various student organizations, including All is One (AIO), BSU, Beta Psi Nu (BYN), Pan-Asian Organization (PAO), LU Native Americans (LUNA), and Colores. The focus is on “understanding the intricacies of our communities and how blackness can be centered to educate and develop relationships.” A kickoff dinner with limited seating, hosted by AIO, is being organized for Feb. 21. The virtual sessions to follow include:

5 p.m. Feb. 22: Brown Girl Recovery, with Brienne Colston ’15, hosted by BYN.

6 p.m. Feb. 24: Building Generational Wealth in the Black Community, with Cordero Barkley, hosted by BSU.

5 p.m. Feb. 25: Anti-Blackness in the Asian American & Pacific Islander Community, with Maddie Schumacher, hosted by PAO.

7 p.m. Feb. 25: Keynote with Menominee speaker Sasanehsaeh Jennings, hosted by LUNA.

4 p.m. Feb. 26: Loving Radically, with Yante Turner, hosted by Colores.

Students can look for access information to the virtual events in the weekly LU Insider.

Navy said the BSU’s annual presentation of Cultural Expressions remains an important February event, but the launch of these student-directed Black History Month events, and the collaboration with other student groups and the D&IC, will hopefully widen needed conversation on campus.

“There are certain things that need to be understood to move forward,” she said. “I believe that the education, the continuance, and the familiarity of these events can propel us in the right step of accepting and appreciating, and not appropriating, Black culture.”

Davis said the events stem from a desire to go deeper into Black history. Collaborating with the BSU seemed a perfect fit.

“This collaboration allows the D&IC and BSU to combine our resources to produce programming for our community that we have not seen in years past,” Davis said.

Navy said she’s particularly looking forward to the screening of Talking Black in America and the conversation to follow. The documentary explores the history of African American speech, from legacy and identity to linguistic profiling, language-based discrimination, and public misunderstanding or misrepresentation.

“I get a chance to learn about a part of me that is seen as either something that needs to be excused to some or something that can be appreciated by others, and I rather do the latter,” Navy said. “What also makes this special is that the event is open to the whole campus to learn as well.”

Davis and Navy said they are hopeful this year’s Black History Month events will be the start of annual collaborations.

“I do expect this to become an annual event,” Navy said. “Black history is American history. Black history is now. I am hoping that once my colleagues and I move on, this intentionality and passion for creating a space for Black culture will continue to thrive.”

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

Connections, resiliency pay off as new grads navigate job searches in pandemic

Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, Maria Poimenidou ’20 (submitted photos)

Three recent Lawrence grads talk about
anxieties, changed plans, delayed successes
as they job-hunted in the time of COVID

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Launching into a post-college career is no easy thing in the best of times. Now do it amid a global pandemic, the job market suddenly fractured, travel frowned upon, interviews only by Zoom, the family’s basement turned into a makeshift workspace.

“There are six of us in the house working or studying,” said De Andre King ’20, who pursued software engineering jobs from the basement of his family’s New York City home in the months following his June 2020 graduation from Lawrence University. “It meant stuffing a towel under the door to make sure no noise was coming into the room while I was doing the interview. I had to position my table to where the water meter behind me wasn’t showing. It took a lot of planning.”

King is far from alone, of course. We’re closing in on a year since COVID-19 complicated things for new and soon-to-be graduates, adding urgency to the work of Lawrence’s Career Center and importance to connections forged with the school’s alumni.

In some ways, strange as it might sound, the pandemic has lowered the temperature a bit on the pressure to land that perfect job out of school, said Grace Kutney, associate director of the Career Center.

“What I hear from a lot of students, and one of the reasons their shoulders are so tense, is that they feel like they are doing something wrong if they give themselves permission to explore during that first year or two after graduation,” she said. “But I think because of the pandemic, people kind of knew things were going to be weird. I think their families understood that things were going to be weird. And there was the anticipation of bracing themselves for it. … So, it takes a pandemic to be, ‘Oh, it’s OK to find something that is maybe short term.’ But if you look at the statistics nationally, taking a position for a year or two and then shifting to something else is normal; it’s totally normal.”

With that backdrop, we caught up with three recent Lawrence graduates, all of whom leaned heavily on the Career Center and other campus resources as they navigated these uncertain days before landing jobs. Their journeys are all different, but with some shared threads.

^ ^ ^

De Andre King ’20

De Andre King ’20: “It took me a little while to pick myself back up”

King was in Atlanta in early March for the fourth and final round of interviews for an internship with a music company, a software engineering position the computer science major believed would set him on his post-college path.

He nailed the interview. Then everything came crashing down.

The recruiter pulled him aside with a warning. The spread of COVID-19, having recently arrived in the United States, was exploding. The internship was about to be nixed.

“Literally, that world for me was ending,” King said. “And then to check back into reality and see that the world as we know it was possibly ending as well, it was really tough. I was really, really banking on that opportunity. In all of my job-searching experiences, it was something down to the T what I wanted to do.”

He returned to Appleton just as Lawrence was announcing that it would be going to remote classes for Spring Term, and King joined his fellow seniors in scrambling to say goodbyes and honor their college experiences while taking finals amid chaos and tears.

“I wasn’t even able to be fully present for those moments because I was so worried about what was going to happen next,” King said. “Once that opportunity in Atlanta fell through, I was down and out. I’m not going to lie; I was really disappointed and it took me a little while to pick myself back up and keep going. I think I took two or three weeks off before starting back on my job search.”

After going home to New York, he reconnected with the team at Lawrence’s Career Center. Kutney would help guide him through an all-out blitz of job applications, making new connections with alumni, updating application materials, and identifying opportunities that were shifting by the day as companies tried to make sense of life in the pandemic.

“It wasn’t starting from the ground up again, but more so making a pivot and seeing what worked and what didn’t work up to that point,” King said.

He worked through his resume and application letters with Kutney. He circled back with Michelle Cheney, his former advisor in the Career Center who had moved to a position in the Annual Giving office. He reconnected with Cory Nettles ’92, a Lawrence trustee who had been a mentor to him, picking his brain on networking and other skills. He talked with Gary Vaughan, coordinator of Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, who had been an important conduit to the Atlanta interviews.

“In the earlier search, I was more specifically looking toward the music industry and the music tech industry,” King said. “But after that opportunity fell through, I widened my scope of industries to look into.

“Michelle and then Grace, they were amazing. They took the time to really review each of my materials — my cover letter, my resume, my LinkedIn, my Handshake profile. They also provided me with the tools that helped me manage my time better.”

In all, King sent out about 200 applications.

His efforts eventually led him to Bloomberg LP, where he landed a job in October as a software engineer with the media company’s Princeton, New Jersey office. In November, the Wall Street Journal featured him in a story about the hard work of job searches in the pandemic.

King, still working from the family’s basement, has yet to set foot in the Bloomberg office, but he hopes it’ll happen soon.

“I drove past it one day but I haven’t been inside yet,” he said. “Yea, I’m looking forward to going into the office.”

^ ^ ^

Maria Poimenidou ’20

Maria Poimenidou ’20: “You can fall into a spiral of worries”

Poimenidou has been in Houston since mid-September, working as a research assistant for the Experimental Therapeutics Department in Cancer Medicine at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Like King, the pandemic not only added new levels of stress to the job search, it also delayed the process.

“While I was hoping that by graduation I would know exactly where I would be, my interviews and job offers were all pushed back until after graduation,” Poimenidou said. “There is a lot of uncertainty that comes with that and you can fall into a spiral of worries, but the way I adapted to everything was by becoming more flexible.”

She leaned even harder into her Lawrence experience and the resources in the Career Center. 

“One of the most valuable lessons you get out of Lawrence is learning how to be flexible and open-minded,” said Poimenidou, a biochemistry and economics double major. “While I waited for my job offers to come back, I reached out to alumni and applied for different unpaid internships that were not directly tied to the job sector I was interested in. I was fortunate to be able to take on an unpaid internship and grateful to receive two job offers by the end of the summer, one in Chicago and one in Houston.” 

Advice from Kutney and Cheney was helpful, she said, keeping her focused on her priorities while letting go of things she couldn’t control.

“Both Michelle and Grace were more than just career advisors, they were life coaches,” Poimenidou said.

Her job interviews were all virtual, which Poimenidou said she found oddly comforting.

“To be honest, I enjoyed the virtual aspect of the application process because in a way it felt more personable,” she said. “I had interviews with people that were in their homes and I was in mine, where I could hear their dog bark or some commotion in the background. It felt less intimidating and I actually had amazing, easy-going conversations.” 

^ ^ ^

Hoa Huynh ’19

Hoa Huynh ’19: “I’ve become much more comfortable in networking”

Huynh is set to begin a new job as a finance trainee with ING in the Netherlands in April. It follows a just-concluded internship with a small U.S. company based in Amsterdam, an internship she landed after the pandemic put her post-Lawrence plans in disarray.

An economics major at Lawrence, she had wanted to add another internship to her resume. She began looking to large companies, exploring data analytics, finance, and marketing opportunities. That all changed as the pandemic arrived, shutting down hiring at many companies.

“I did a lot of reflection about myself and talked to many people, including peers who were also struggling in the pandemic and those who already succeeded in job applications,” Huynh said.

She reconnected with the Career Center and zeroed in on the finance field, where she already had some experience.

“I diversified the types of companies and applied to smaller businesses and startups,” she said. “After changing strategy, I finally got the internship.”

That led to the opportunity at ING, a multinational banking and finance company. Without the internship and the added experience, it would not have happened, she said, noting that she’d been rebuffed by ING prior to the internship.

“I think the pandemic has definitely made the job search more competitive than before, especially at the beginning when companies were also struggling with changes the pandemic posed,” Huynh said. “I had to adjust my goals.

“More importantly, I had to be even more active in networking to build connections and gain more insights, to make sure that I could prepare the best resume and cover letters. Thanks to networking skills that Grace taught me during my time at Lawrence, I’ve become much more comfortable in networking and reaching out to people, and that hugely helped me land the traineeship at ING.”

Huynh said she now hears herself echoing the lessons she learned via Kutney and the Career Center as she talks with peers who are launching job searches during the pandemic.

“Try to build connections, deepen the connections, and don’t be afraid to show that you’re vulnerable,” Huynh said. “For those who are intimidated by networking, like I was in college, think of it simply as asking about other people’s experiences and information; they would love to share that with you.”

Lessons learned

The pandemic is hammering home the important connections Lawrence students and recent graduates have in the Career Center, where Career Communities, Viking Connect and other recent innovations have improved life after Lawrence planning.

Numbers from Lawrence’s 2020 class are not in yet, but Kutney said of the 2019 graduates, 95% are employed or continuing in their education. That is just shy of the 97% average over the past five years, which is good news in a pandemic that started eight months after that class graduated.

Mike O’Connor, the Riaz Waraich Dean for the Career Center & Center for Community Engagement and Social Change, said he was seeing an influx of student interaction even before the pandemic hit. It continues to grow. In September, more than 250 first-year students attended a Career Center orientation, and 150 first-year students paid follow-up visits, an all-time high.

The Career Center’s Instagram account, where important career planning and job search information is shared, has seen an increase of nearly 700 student followers since fall 2019.

“What I say to students in the pandemic is, be prepared to pivot to industries that are hiring,” O’Connor said. “Many are surging. Think tech, health care, even education. Related to that is skill-building for those opportunities. There are tons of ways to approach this, including remote opportunities and internships. And build your network; that is so key. Colleges with ready-to-tap alumni mentors and contacts are super valuable.”

Those conversations are becoming more frequent in the pandemic, Kutney said. The message is often about staying calm and focusing on the next steps.

She talks to students about not stressing over the perfect job. Is the short-term need to earn a certain amount of money? Is the need to gain experience in a particular area? Is the need to be in a particular geographic area?

“In an ideal world, the position would fill all of those things,” Kutney said. “But right now, in a pandemic, that might not be the case. So, we’re really encouraging them to give themselves permission to go, ‘This is what I’m focusing on for this season of time, and then I can shift.’ That’s part of releasing from their shoulders this burden that they have to have it all figured out before June.”

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

Great Midwest Trivia Contest results: “We are so proud of what we pulled off”

Grace Krueger ’21 (center) led her team of trivia masters through a very challenging but successful Great Midwest Trivia Contest.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The 56th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest thrived over the weekend in its first all-digital edition.

Forced to make changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team of trivia masters led by Head Master Grace Krueger ’21 stayed true to many of the weird and beloved traditions that have been part of the contest for five and a half decades. Bizarre questions that focus on information searches, useless prizes, nods to the contest’s history, and interactions between players and trivia masters all lived on.

“All in all, the weekend went fantastically well,” Krueger said. “Despite some hiccups that are always going to happen with the adaption of new technology and the restrictions we were under this year, the contest was a complete success and we are so proud of what we pulled off.”

For a wider sampling of the 2021 trivia contest, see this playlist.

With the WLFM studio unavailable and trivia masters socially distanced, the contest was held on Twitch. The action questions were all virtual and players called in answers via a virtual phone line on a Discord server.

“Teams adapted to all the changes this year so well, and we want to thank them for learning with us,” Krueger said.

What, if any, changes will be rolled into the traditional format next year will be at the direction of Riley Newton ’22, who was announced as the head master for the 2022 contest.

Despite going all-digital and teams not being able to gather together per usual, this year’s contest remained a big draw. It drew 77 off-campus teams and 14 on-campus teams, featuring a total of 551  players.

Here are the winning teams (yes, the tradition of long and strange names continued):

ON CAMPUS:

1: Team 3, At this point, Why not trust an Aquarius Microwaving and Peeling and why IS [REDACTED] ON FIRE-oh yes, YES, Flambéing and society of bones and pyromaniacs (owo) cinematic Universe (TM). The previous name has burst into flames; like a phoenix from the ashes has risen as a virgo: 1,650

2: Team 1, The Gaming House Special Featuring the Nipples of Knowledge: 1,415

3: Team 6, joe and ethan funtime bonanza team: 1,315

OFF CAMPUS:

1: Team 135, Delguigi: 1,710

2: Team 112, are you the onesie #comfycrew: 1,665

3: Team 106, Hobgoblin of Little Minds: This One is for Sheila: 1,650

The Super Garuda was among the traditions that continued. The Super Garuda is annually a weirdly obscure question that serves as the final question of the weekend and then as the first question of the following year’s contest. Here’s your head start for 2022:

Q: The person who installed Pepsi machines on set played a Prohibition agent in a black-and-white film where Peter sets out to prove that he isn’t a boob. The title of this silent comedy is a featured comical word in a 2018 linguistics paper published by Canadian university researchers. A building at this university is named after a man whose last name is the first name of an actor who played a one-eyed man in a movie once described as having “all the appeal of a seaweed sandwich.” In this building, there is a large room on the mechanical floor directly below 2A2. In the southwest corner of the room, a red, graffiti-covered beam crosses the path near a door. A message is written on the wall next to the beam informing the reader of their odor. What, according to the author, do you smell like?

A: Cabbage

(It was answered correctly by Team 142: Beedough Beedough Beedough.)

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

Kiese Laymon, author of “Heavy,” speaks to need for introspection, revision

Kiese Laymon (top left) speaks with Amy Ongiri (top right), Tania Sosa ’24 (bottom left) and Edwin Martinez ’24 as part of the Jan. 28 virtual Convocation.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kiese Laymon says he’s never sure how to answer when someone asks him how long it took him to write Heavy: an American Memoir, his widely praised 2018 book that explored, with raw honesty, family secrets wrapped in a mix of brilliance, drive, pain, abuse, and addiction.

He’s not even sure the verb tense is correct.

“I’m not sure how long it took me to write Heavy or I’m not sure how long it’s taking me to write Heavy,” Laymon said Thursday as he virtually delivered Lawrence University’s Winter Term Convocation address.

As it should be with all art, he said, the revisions are ongoing, even though the book rolled off the presses more than two years ago and has racked up a bevy of top literary awards, including the Carnegie Medal for Nonfiction and the LA Times Isherwood Prize for Autobiographical Prose.

“Because memory and freedom are so fluid, I’m never going to stop revising Heavy no matter what,” Laymon said. “I think the honest answer to the question of how long did it take you to write Heavy is, I’m going to have to let you know when I’m done. The book is published but the book is not done.”

That need for constant revision in our work, in our lives, to look deeply inward in pursuit of honesty and clarity, was at the heart of Laymon’s address. Titled The Radical Possibility and Democratic Necessity of Navel Gazing, Laymon’s talk challenged people to embrace their own “navel gazing” as they uncover their own truths.

“I would like to argue that in this nation we are suffering because we are not as navel-gazing as we need to be,” Laymon said. “If each of us looked within our navel patiently, with routine and imagination, we would really find things that we never imagined. Those things, if we rigorously push them, would connect us to someone else.

“If you look into your navel with any acuity, with any tenderness, you’re going to find something you never saw before, and that something is going to help you understand the people you love more, it’s going to help you understand context more, and, most importantly, it’s going to help you understand what you want tomorrow to be.”

In Heavy, Laymon, a professor in English and creative writing at the University of Mississippi, offers a personal narrative of growing up Black in Jackson, Mississippi. It’s written as a communication to his mother, woven with layers and complexities of brilliance, passion, abuse, racism, obesity, anorexia, gambling, and more. The Lawrence community discussed the book earlier this month as part of a campus-wide read.

Thursday’s convocation address included a question-and-answer session in which Laymon discussed his work with Amy Ongiri, Lawrence’s Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, and students Tania Sosa ’24 and Edwin Martinez ’24. President Mark Burstein then hosted a public Q&A with Laymon.

Music included Genius Child, performed by Preston Parker ’23 and Mandy Kung, and Set Me as a Seal, performed by the Lawrence University Concert Choir with members of the Appleton East High School Easterners, under the direction of Stephen Sieck.

Laymon recently released a new essay collection, “How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America,” an expanded and reworked version of an essay collection first released in 2013. He bought the rights to the book from the publisher so he could add six essays and edit others.

Again, introspection and revision.

That need for revision was instilled in Laymon early by a mother who pushed him hard. It has resonated through his teaching, first at Vassar College and then the University of Mississippi.

“It’s hard to have a revision if you don’t have an initial vision,” Laymon said. “It’s hard for that revision to have any integrity if that initial vision doesn’t have some sort of layers and depth. And I think that initial vision can only have depth if we do the rigorous work of looking within. I would argue there is no radical possibility without more sustained democratic navel gazing. And I think Heavy, among other things, is an example of that.”

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