Lawrence partners with Bellin for COVID-19 testing as it sets plans for fall

Lawrence University

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Bellin Health will be the COVID-19 health care partner with Lawrence University during the coming academic year, part of the University’s comprehensive plan for reopening the campus for Fall Term.

Lawrence announced July 14 that its Appleton campus would open as planned for the Fall Term, which begins Sept. 14, with students, faculty, and staff having the option to be on campus or remain remote. Classes will be offered in a mix of in-person and distance learning, with physical distancing requirements in place on campus.

The partnership with Bellin will be a key piece of that strategy.

“Lawrence is fortunate to reside in a community with many talented health care organizations,” President Mark Burstein said. “The University has contracted with Bellin Health to be our health care partner as we adapt as a community to living with COVID-19. They will provide on-campus testing for all community members. Our long-term existing relationships with Ascension and ThedaCare health systems in the Fox Valley will also continue to supply essential local support.”

Planning for Fall 2020: See letter from President Burstein, details, FAQ here.

The partnership with Bellin Health includes COVID-19 testing of students, faculty, and staff when they arrive on campus. Any member of the Lawrence community living or working on campus will then need to complete a daily screening of temperature and symptoms and participate in frequent testing through the term.

Physical distancing and masks will be part of campus life when Fall Term opens.

“At Bellin Health, we understand that improving health means going beyond the walls of our hospitals and clinics to serve our communities up close, working together to keep people safe and improve overall health and well-being,” said Randy Van Straten, Bellin’s vice president for business and community health. “We look forward to the opportunity to partner with Lawrence, helping this great local university coexist with COVID-19 and maintain a safe and healthy campus environment.”        

The university will continue to collaborate with the Appleton Health Department for contact tracing for anyone who tests positive for the virus.

The academic year at Lawrence will look different than any before. Physical distancing rules will be in place and all members of the community will be required to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, including classrooms, as well as outdoor spaces where physical distancing is not possible. All members of the Lawrence community who opt to be on campus will need to sign a community pledge agreeing to an understanding of what it means to be physically on campus.

“Ensuring the health and safety of the Lawrence University community and beyond only works when everyone does their part, together,” said Christyn Abaray, assistant to the president.

Lawrence’s pandemic planning team consulted with health experts, both within Wisconsin and around the country, and with various faculty, students, staff, and trustees through the shared governance process, Burstein said.

“Our goal was to ensure that every Lawrentian will have the opportunity to learn, teach, and work as fully and safely as possible,” he said.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Lawrence joins amicus brief in support of injunction against ICE ruling on international students

Lawrence University, in partnership with the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration, has joined 179 other colleges and universities in an amicus brief filed July 10 in support of Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s legal complaint against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The plaintiffs seek an injunction against new guidance from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that effectively implements a ban on international students enrolled exclusively in online courses as a result of COVID-19. The amicus brief argues that higher education institutions and international students will experience significant burdens due to the guidance’s arbitrary prohibition, without notice, to online-only courses for international students, particularly after investing substantial resources in planning for fall. Institutions, the brief argues, relied heavily on the existing SEVP guidance that flexibility would continue “for the duration of the emergency.”

“Ensuring all students can choose the right learning option for themselves during the pandemic has been an overarching principle for the University,” Lawrence President Mark Burstein said.  “The federal government’s decision this spring to provide flexibility for international students’ learning choices was a humane and appropriate decision. The revocation of that flexibility now makes little sense for colleges across the country and for the students we serve.”

The friend-of-the-court brief and list of signatories may be accessed here.

Campus upgrades in lighting, heating, AC part of “innovative” $5.5M agreement

Infrastructure upgrades, including in the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall, and Memorial Chapel, are expected to decrease energy usage on campus by more than 20 percent. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has signed a $5.5 million agreement with Johnson Controls Inc. to upgrade lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment on its campus, in the process lowering the school’s utility consumption and reducing its carbon footprint.

The agreement is part of a 20-year innovative payment contract with the Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls that allows the sustainability-focused work to be done now with no up-front capital costs to Lawrence. The savings in utility costs that will come from the energy efficiency upgrades, along with fewer repair and replacement costs, will pay for the project over the next two decades.

The project includes the installation of LED lighting in 17 buildings on campus, the replacement of chillers that serve the Music-Drama Center, Shattuck Hall, and Memorial Chapel, the replacement of inefficient steam traps campus wide, and upgrades to mechanical and fume hood systems in Steitz and Youngchild halls. Other targeted heating and air conditioning upgrades also will be completed across campus.

“The work will reduce Lawrence University’s utility costs and its carbon footprint while improving lighting quality and the comfort and safety of building occupants,” said Aaron Rittenhouse, Midwest program leader for Johnson Controls. “The project is expected to reduce the campus’ energy usage by more than 20 percent.”

Johnson Controls recently entered into similar contingent payment performance contracts with a handful of other private colleges and universities. It puts the onus on the company to guarantee that its work will provide the promised savings. Once the work is done, the company continues to monitor the upgrades and verify that expectations are being met. If the university is not seeing the agreed-upon efficiencies, it’s Johnson Controls’ responsibility to make the needed adjustments.

The payment program is an alternative to traditional debt financing, one that gives Lawrence advantages when it comes to managing its long-term debt, said Jenna Stone, Lawrence’s associate vice president of finance. By not taking on additional debt for these infrastructure projects, the University gives itself flexibility for future borrowing.

“Our partnership with Johnson Controls has allowed Lawrence to pursue important capital renewal that support Lawrence’s goal of decreasing our carbon footprint without limiting the University’s capacity to fund other capital projects,” Stone said.

Mechanical upgrades in Steitz and Youngchild halls will enhance air filtration in those buildings. It’s part of $5.5 million in utility enhancements planned across campus.

Dane Lindholm, lead financial analyst for structured finance at Johnson Controls, said the company guarantees that energy and utility savings from the infrastructure upgrades will pay for the project over the 20-year life of the contract, providing a boost to the school’s sustainability efforts while not requiring it to take on added debt.

“If the projected savings don’t materialize, Johnson Controls will cover the difference up to the amount we have guaranteed,” Lindholm said. “The University has set-off rights, meaning Johnson Controls will provide a credit on its next quarterly invoice if the projected savings do not meet the utility savings we guaranteed. Essentially, Johnson Controls owns the risk of performance.”

The work will begin this summer and continue through spring. Lawrence officials will work with the Johnson Controls team to ensure that the work is scheduled around the school’s educational needs and is done with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines in place.

“There are safety protocols already in place as crews enter and exit the campus,” said Russell Garcia, director of higher education at Johnson Controls.

Private colleges and universities with strong endowments, good credit ratings, and consistent enrollment numbers are considered for this type of alternative financing agreement, Garcia said. Lawrence fit that bill.

“There’s much more transparency these days with campus operational costs versus the rate of student tuition,” Garcia said. “So, these projects demonstrate that in addition to positive environmental stewardship aligned with the University’s mission and goals, they are being fiscally responsible with those monies and how they’re being managed.”

Garcia called the expected savings that are factored into the agreement “pretty conservative.” If the efficiency goals are met, Lawrence makes its payments from those savings. If the goals are exceeded, Lawrence keeps the additional savings. And if the goals are not met, Johnson Controls will make the needed infrastructure adjustments.

“The company’s track record in projecting savings from facility upgrades gives it confidence to proceed with that route,” Lindholm said. “We’re willing to do this because we are fully assured in the work that we perform. Due to the company’s size and experience in higher education projects, creditors trust that we will live up to our performance guarantees.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Champion of Pride award shines light on advocacy work of Helen Boyd Kramer

Helen Boyd Kramer on hard-fought progress made on LGBTQ+ issues: “Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Helen Boyd Kramer jokes that it’s a “lifetime achievement award.”

There might be truth in that if her work was done. It is not.

Kramer, a lecturer in gender studies at Lawrence University since 2008, was named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate, a leading national voice on LGBTQ+ issues that each June honors 104 activists – two from each state and the District of Columbia.

Kramer joined Dane County’s Baltazar De Anda Santana as this year’s Wisconsin recipients.

A leading activist on transgender issues since publishing her first book, My Husband Betty, in 2003, Kramer was cited for her recent work advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in Appleton, including a successful effort earlier this year to get the Common Council to approve a ban on practicing conversion therapy on minors. That followed efforts in October to help make National Coming Out Day more visible in Appleton, resulting in a rainbow flag flying over City Hall for the first time.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Kramer said of being honored by The Advocate, but she sees it as a sign of progress in her efforts to advocate for diversity, the rights of transgender people in particular.

“When you’ve been in a movement that’s young but you were part of the original people doing it, you tend to get used to the fact that this is what you do, this is what you’ve been doing,” Kramer said. “So, this (award) kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. … The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.”

An agent of change

Kramer arrived at Lawrence in 2008, a year after publishing her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married, chronicling her experiences with transgender spouse Rachel Crowl. The move took her from New York City to Appleton, necessitating a change in her activism. Here, she got to know the elected officials she would be pushing for change.

“Being an activist in Appleton was going to be a different thing,” Kramer said. “It was going to be more about personal relationships.”

In the 12 years since, she’s been a frequent voice on LGBTQ+ education, be it in the community before city councils and school boards or on campus in gender studies classrooms, Freshman Studies workshops, or in campus-wide Cultural Competency discussions.

Appleton, Kramer said, has grown in its understanding of and support for the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps fueled by the giant leap forward that came with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down same-sex marriage bans in 2015. The Common Council has gotten noticeably more progressive. The topics Kramer and other LGBTQ+ activists speak to, including the conversion therapy ban, no longer shock.

“Instead of being reactive, we actually have council members now who are bringing legislation forward,” she said. “That’s what happened with conversion therapy.”

Read more: 10 ways Lawrence celebrates Pride Month all year long

She singled out the work of Appleton alderperson Vered Meltzer ’04, a Lawrence alum who in 2014 became the first openly trans person to hold elected office in Wisconsin, according to Fair Wisconsin, a Madison-based advocacy group.

Meltzer returns the praise, calling Kramer tenacious in her efforts to support marginalized people in the Appleton community.

“Helen’s advocacy is effective because she never stops working, whether she’s on campus or off campus,” Meltzer said. “And one of the best things about working with her is that she doesn’t give up or get discouraged, no matter how much work there is to do or how long it takes to see results. Her tireless dedication, and her personal care and support for marginalized individuals in our community, has helped bring activists throughout the community together over the years with a sense of unity and shared goals.”

Kramer sees the progress happening in Appleton as reflective of what’s happening across the country. While there is much work yet to be done, momentum has been building in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from the same-sex marriage ruling five years ago to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees from workplace discrimination.

“There has been an education of people in terms of civil rights,” Kramer said. “Poll after poll after poll say people believe that you shouldn’t be able to get fired for being gay or lesbian.”

The celebration of the Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling on workplace discrimination may have been a bit muted because of COVID-19 social restrictions, but there is little doubt it marked a major moment, one that arrived amid heightened awareness of equity issues. The ruling was delivered by a conservative-leaning court midway through Pride Month, 50 years after the Pride movement first emerged en masse.

“The movement has worked,” Kramer said. “The reason gay people started coming out and the reason gay people still feel the necessity to be out is precisely because the more straight people know them or more straight people know that they are related to someone who is LGBTQ+ the more likely it is that they would support same-sex marriage, employment discrimination rules, and such. This has been a long time coming.”

Helen Boyd Kramer on efforts to support LGBTQ+ students: “The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Education on campus

The enlightenment at Lawrence over the past decade hasn’t been quite as stark because the university has long been a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students, Kramer said. Again, it’s been a work-in-progress, but the work of inclusion has been in play here for a long time.

The dramatic change at Lawrence since she arrived a dozen years ago has come in the trans community. In 2008, it was mostly a curiosity, even on a liberal arts campus.

“It’s kind of hard to explain how much has changed in that time,” Kramer said. “The first class I introduced at Lawrence was Transgender Lives, and at that time I had one student who shyly admitted to doing drag once. I had a bunch of students who took it because trans was an interesting topic. A lot of them were future therapists, a bunch of psychology majors. Now, when I teach Trans Lives, half of the students in the class identify as LGBTQ+ as either trans or non-binary. … There’s been a giant cultural shift.”

All that progress doesn’t mean the fight is over. Far from it. Kramer points to the Trump Administration’s recent ruling that removed federal health care protections for people who identify as transgender. Protections written into the Affordable Care Act addressed sex discrimination, and in 2016, the Obama Administration interpreted that provision to include gender identity. But in early June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying it is returning to an earlier interpretation of sex discrimination, thus excluding the trans community.  

“This isn’t just for trans procedures,” Kramer said. “It’s for pneumonia or COVID. These stories are already common in the trans world, where doctors wouldn’t take what they had seriously, cancer in particular. It would just go untreated because doctors wouldn’t work with trans patients. Seeing HHS do this right now when everyone is scared of dying is particularly heartless.”

The COVID dilemma

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a cruel light on the LGBTQ+ world. Besides health care access issues, it has highlighted wealth disparities, which are particularly stark among Black LGBTQ+ people. The same systematic racism issues that have ignited nationwide protests are in play within the LGBTQ+ community, Kramer said.

“When we get to a point when we’re actually doing recovery, eventually, we’re going to have to figure out the wealth problem and the access to employment and training and education,” she said. “These are all systems that are so soaked in the same discrimination we’re talking about. It’s employment, it’s health care, it’s food on the table.”

The pandemic sent students home for spring term, put summer research and internships on pause, and infused uncertainty into almost all near-future plans. That, in turn, has heightened anxieties for LGBTQ+ students who don’t have adequate support at home. Kramer and other advocates on campus have tried to stay in frequent contact, but seeing students having to isolate in a home environment that’s toxic adds new layers of concern.

“The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common,” Kramer said.

While a growing number of families are accepting and supportive, it’s those students who aren’t feeling that love who are particularly vulnerable right now.

“Some students used to refer to Lawrence as Hogwarts because they could be gay here,” Kramer said. “And they couldn’t always be at home. Now those students are at home during the pandemic. It’s one of the reasons why there was more than one student I helped make sure they could stay on campus this spring because their home situation just isn’t good.

“How do you accept the fact that your family basically doesn’t like you so much? Sometimes they hate you. That’s a wounding you can’t really process. I think Lawrence has been amazing about that, being aware that we do provide acceptance in a way that some students are not always getting elsewhere.”

Lawrence recently introduced the LGBTQ+ Alliance House as a residential space. A Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center opened in Colman Hall late last year. Trans Rights United (TRU) became the University’s first trans student organization. Those additions are all built onto an already well-established support system.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes culturally that get reflected on the campus,” Kramer said. “I think the campus has done an amazing job for the most part in creating these spaces, and creating diversity training for everyone else. There are still pockets of education that’s needed, but I love the fact that we let students lead. They’re telling us what they need. They feel empowered, and we’re getting much better at that.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University: Email:

National honor spotlights LU affinity group focused on socioeconomic hurdles

Rose Wasielewski, chair of LIFT UP Employee Resource Group: “I think many of us are hungry to take up the conversation about class and socioeconomic status and access.” Photo by Danny Damiani

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Rose Wasielewski recognized a need when she found herself in a conversation about stigmas and issues that affect some Lawrence University employees who feel defined by or live within the confines of low-income backgrounds.

Their voices need to be heard, their concerns validated, their successes celebrated.

In November, Wasielewski, an associate dean of students and dean of the sophomore class, helped launch LIFT UP, the newest of six employee resource groups on the Lawrence campus. It aims to provide support and resources for faculty, staff, and students who come from low-income backgrounds or were first-generation college students.

Less than a year old, the group, chaired by Wasielewski, herself the first in her family to graduate from college, already has membership surpassing 40 faculty and staff. And now others are taking notice of the group’s work.

LIFT UP, an acronym for Low-Income, First Generation Talent Unpacking Privilege, is one of 38 recipients of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s 2020 Inspiring Affinity Group Awards. The magazine, a resource for diversity and inclusion news and information, debuted the Inspiring Affinity Group Awards in its July/August edition, with plans to make it an annual honor.

“I think LIFT UP is being so well-received because it touches on some marginalities and intersecting identities that aren’t as apparent on the surface but can still deeply impact the person with those identities,” said Wasielewski, who chairs the group. “You cannot necessarily know someone was a first-generation student just by looking at them. I think it is also easy to make assumptions about folks working at a small liberal arts college – that even if you were low-income as a student, you probably aren’t low-income now, and that just isn’t the case.

“I think many of us are hungry to take up the conversation about class and socioeconomic status and access so that we can work to dismantle some of the systems that don’t support, or even outright harm, some of our current students who hold these identities.”

In its report on the Inspiring Affinity Group Awards, the magazine called employee resource groups (ERGs) an important part of encouraging and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the workplaces of higher education. They can have a huge impact not only on recruiting diverse faculty and staff but also on retaining those employees long-term.

LIFT UP joined five other employee affinity groups that are active at Lawrence – Employees of Color Resource Group, Pride Resource Group, Emerging Professionals Resource Group, Global Employees of Lawrence Resource Group, and Anti-Racist White Affinity Group. All are organized through the Diversity and Inclusion office.

Kimberly Barrett, vice president for Diversity and Inclusion and an associate dean of the faculty, said the affinity groups are vital in connecting with and supporting employees from a wide variety of backgrounds. She said she’s thrilled to see LIFT UP garner national attention.

“The work of the group, which focuses on understanding the marginalization that results from class privilege, is intersectional and cuts across many dimensions of identity,” Barrett said. “One of the most impactful aspects of this group is that although it is an employee affinity group, the activities that bring them together often provide direct support to students.”

Gaelyn Rose

While the COVID-19 pandemic slowed some of its plans, the group hopes to put together a book read of Anthony Abraham Jack’s The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students, possibly get the author to speak either on campus or virtually, and organize panel discussions on topics such as impostor syndrome or phenomenon.

The connection to current students, and the opportunity to provide support and insight, is one of the draws for LIFT UP’s members. Gaelyn Rose, an associate director of admissions who joined the group shortly after it launched in the fall, said she didn’t even think about being a first-generation college student until after she’d graduated.

“I look back and think of all the resources I could have used if only I’d known about them,” she said. “It motivates me to ensure all Lawrentians have access to the life-changing opportunities we can offer, and LIFT UP is such an innovative, amazing way to do this.”

Jaime Gonzalez

Jaime Gonzalez, director of transfer admissions and transitions and a LIFT UP member, said the issues the affinity group is connecting with resonate with both students and employees. Often the issues, sometimes subtle, are bubbling just below the surface.

“Sometimes we forget that even though we’ve graduated and our lives may be different, our experiences and family histories don’t change but they do influence us and our work,” he said. “This is why I’m part of the LIFT UP group; it recognizes that our needs and experiences are different, and whether we are supporting students or ourselves, we still foster a strong sense of community around this integral part of our identities.”

Wasielewski said she sees nothing but growth ahead for LIFT UP, both in terms of membership and in the scope of its work. The visibility to date is valuable, but there is so much more work to be done in raising awareness, connecting students with opportunities, and pushing for a more equitable world, on and off campus.

“There is a lot of conversation among members about wanting to use this group to make a lasting, tangible difference, not only for ourselves as employees but more so for our students,” Wasielewski said

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Students pitch in to make cloth masks to keep Lawrence community safe

Members of the Lawrence community and visitors to campus have been asked to wear masks in shared spaces. Students in the costume shop, spread across the country, have pitched in by making more than 350 cloth masks. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Being quarantined isn’t stopping Lawrentians from stepping up for the health and safety of the campus community. Six students employed in the costume shop have constructed more than 350 cloth face masks so far for students and staff who are on campus.

Director of Wellness and Recreation Erin Buenzli helped orchestrate the mask-making operation. With the threat of COVID-19 spread an ongoing concern and the need for masks to be worn in shared spaces on campus, she worked with Lawrence’s COVID-19 Management Team on the idea of supplying masks to Lawrence community members who need to be on campus. This idea reached the costume shop, where six students took on the challenge during Spring Term to make as many masks as they could.

“I love the collaboration and the ingenuity of students,” Buenzli said. “The fact that we can reach across departments to look at an issue and be creative and solve it. It’s been fun to be a part of.”

The masks have been distributed to students, faculty, and staff as needed. Signage has been placed throughout campus reminding anyone on campus grounds to wear a mask.

Five of the six students made the masks remotely from home and sent them to campus. The work continues this summer.

Andrea Lara ‘21 shipped her work from her Milwaukee home-turned-workspace. Combating a global pandemic by making more than 50 face masks probably wasn’t on her mind when she learned to sew in the costume shop in Fall 2017. But Lara embraced the work wholeheartedly.

For one, she’s always been driven by a simple desire to help others. Secondly, she’s seen the pandemic taking its toll around her in Milwaukee. That experience motivated her to be an agent of change.

“Sometimes it can feel overwhelming that I don’t have any power,” Lara said. “Sometimes the only way I feel like I can take control is to do something to help others stay safe.”

Lara is a psychology and theater double major. Like the other students involved in this project, she found a marriage between her education and reaching out to help others that goes beyond employing sewing skills.

“As a psych major, I really focus on the betterment of people,” Lara said. “In particular, disenfranchised people who don’t have access to resources. That’s really important to me. And as a costume designer and theater major, it’s important to show how well you can work and adapt under pressure.”

Never underestimate the influence of the good you put into the world. Lara’s 7-year-old brother has taken notice of her efforts.

“When he sees me making masks, he gets so excited and says, ‘We should make more so we can help more people.’ And that increases my excitement to try to help out.”

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

Pride all year long: New center latest in efforts to support LGBTQ community

The Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center is located in Colman Hall. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

June is designated as Pride Month, a chance to acknowledge and celebrate the impact lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer individuals have had on history.

A year ago, we shared a list of ways that Lawrence University flies its Pride flag all year long. We’re sharing that list again this June, with notable updates – led by the arrival of the Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center (GSDC), which opened in the fall in Colman Hall. We’ll start there.

1. Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center

The new GSDC space, located in Colman 110, is designed as a welcoming spot for queer Lawrentians of all backgrounds and their allies to gather to socialize, study, or just hang out. Programming in the space is led by a GSDC Council. A soft opening took place near the close of fall term, and a mixer was held in January.

2. Colores 

Colores is a student organization that was originally created to be a space for empowerment for LGBTQ students of color. It has since expanded to incorporate any LGBTQ students on campus and to help educate the wider community on LGBTQ intersectionality. Colores hosts weekly meetings and special events throughout the academic year. Find out how to get involved with Colores here.

3. Pride Prom 

As a way to celebrate our differences and to educate the wider campus on queer history, the student group Colores hosts an annual Pride Prom. Along with the music and food you might find at a traditional high school prom, Pride Prom includes information about queer history and rainbow decor. Organizers feature images, films, articles, and more on queer history throughout the venue. Most importantly, Pride Prom is a chance for members of the LGBTQ community to gather, have fun, celebrate their identities, and feel connected on campus. Pride Prom is open to the entire campus, as well as the Appleton community, and serves as a great opportunity to learn about queer history and to boogie down.

4. LGBTQ Alliance House 

Lawrence University now has a LGBTQ Alliance house. This house, which opened in the fall, acts as a safe space for queer individuals and allies. As a house, they do lots of community outreach, including a clothing exchange, throughout the Lawrence and Appleton communities to spread awareness and acceptance for queer identities.

5. Lavender Ceremony 

To say goodbye and congratulate graduating seniors, Student Life and the Diversity and Intercultural Center co-host an annual Lavender Ceremony. This is a celebration for queer-identifying students as they prepare to graduate from Lawrence. There are speeches on behalf of the seniors and a dinner for the seniors and their guests. The students being honored also are presented with a lavender stole to wear at Commencement.

6. Alumni connections

The Lawrence University Pride Alumni Network is a recently formed alumni group. It kicked off a year ago, serving as an outlet for support, social interactions, and career networking. Also, an LGBTQ group is now part of Viking Connect, providing opportunities for alumni to mentor students as they prepare to launch careers.

7. Pride Resource Group

The Faculty/Staff Pride Resource Group is a network for Lawrence faculty and staff who identify as LGBTQ or have family who identify as such. This group offers a sense of community for the faculty and provides an avenue for updates on available resources. Learn how to get involved with the Pride Resource Group here.

8. Queer Thanksgiving

The Diversity and Intercultural Center hosts an annual potluck, called Queer Thanksgiving, just before the end of fall term. The annual event has been held in the Diversity and Intercultural Center and is open to the Appleton community. It is a way for queer individuals to come together and celebrate over some delicious food.

9. Gender-inclusive bathrooms

Lawrence expanded the number of gender-inclusive restrooms available on campus last year. The expansion increased the number of gender-inclusive facilities available to community members, including those who identify as transgender, transgender non-binary, and non-binary.

10. Trans Rights United (TRU)

Also new this year is the launch of Trans Rights United (TRU), a student organization committed to supporting trans Lawrentians through community building and advocacy, both on campus and in the larger community. The group is an open community for all Lawrentians who identify as transgender, non-binary, or gender-nonconforming, as well as those who are questioning their gender identity.

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Kuo-ming Sung selected for endowed professorship in East Asian Studies

Kuo-ming Sung

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kuo-ming Sung, a professor of Chinese and linguistics who has been teaching at Lawrence University since 1994, has been named the inaugural Wendy and K.K. Tse Professor of East Asian Studies.

The endowed professorship, established courtesy of gifts from Wendy and K.K. Tse ’81, provides ongoing support for a distinguished member of the college’s faculty who demonstrates a commitment to teaching courses that contribute to the understanding of East Asia.

The appointment was made by President Mark Burstein.

“I am truly honored to receive this endowed professorship from the University,” Sung said. “It means very much to me personally as it recognizes my scholarship in and service to East Asian Studies in the past; but, more importantly, it gives me a new sense of responsibility for the future as I look for ways that I can contribute more to East Asian Studies in general and the Chinese and Japanese programs in particular.” 

The investment will help sustain, and hopefully grow, the scope and depth of the program, Sung said. It provides needed study of a robust and significant region of the world.

“I have been working hard on this and now have high hopes for creating new courses that will bring growth to the program, an area of study that is proving increasingly significant in the global context,” he said.

Catherine G. Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty, said the endowed professorship will pay dividends for Lawrence and its students for years to come.

“I’m extremely grateful, both for Wendy and K.K. Tse’s extraordinary generosity and for Kuo-ming’s years of steadfast dedication to East Asian Studies, particularly in Chinese language instruction and advocacy for study abroad,” Kodat said. “Endowed professorships like this make it possible for the University to express its appreciation to talented faculty while maintaining important commitments in academic programming. We are fortunate, indeed.”

Sung holds a bachelor of arts degree from National Taiwan University, and Master of Arts, C.Phil, and Ph.D degrees from the University of California-Los Angeles. He was promoted to full professor at Lawrence in April.

The endowed professorship donation, part of the ongoing Be the Light! campaign, reflects the gratitude of Wendy and K.K. Tse for the education K.K. received at Lawrence. He transferred to Lawrence in 1979 and graduated magna cum laude in 1981 with an interdisciplinary science degree. While a student, he was a member of the Lawrence Christian Fellowship and Lawrence International. He later earned his M.B.A. from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and his M.P.A. from the University of Hong Kong. Wendy worked in higher education administration in Hong Kong for more than 20 years.  

K.K. Tse served on the Lawrence University Board of Trustees from 2012 to 2018. He has also served on the advisory committee for Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and has been a guest speaker at Lawrence. 

Sung said he is grateful to the Tses for the opportunity that the endowed gift presents in growing East Asian Studies at Lawrence.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to President Mark Burstein, Provost Katie Kodat, and my tremendously supportive colleagues in the Chinese and Japanese Department and the East Asian Studies and Linguistics programs,” Sung said.  

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

50 years after graduating amid chaos, Class of 1970 offers hope to 2020 grads

A group of Lawrence University students, faculty, and staff march across campus following the May 4, 1970, shooting of anti-war protesters at Kent State University. (Lawrence University photo)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Graduating from college when it feels like the world is on fire isn’t a particularly comforting thing. Members of Lawrence University’s Class of 1970 can tell you something about that.

Fifty years after walking across the Commencement stage on Main Hall Green at an event that felt part celebration, part protest, part chaos, the Lawrentians of that class have nothing but words of encouragement for the 2020 graduates who are navigating their own moment of chaos.

Margaret Everist ’70 was one of those graduates 50 years ago. She feels the disappointment and pain of this year’s graduates, who had to finish their final term away from campus and watched the job market implode amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Her advice? Stay focused on what’s in front of you — the opportunity to change the world.

“That’s really what it’s all about,” Everist said from Minneapolis, where she retired after carving out successful careers in health care and finance. “Go out into the world to make a difference, one small step at a time.”

Lawrence held a virtual 2020 Commencement on Sunday, honoring nearly 270 graduates. As the day arrived, racial injustice protests rolled across the country, a tipping point that is resetting public conversations on equality, inclusion, and police brutality. Combined with the ongoing pandemic, it added new context to Commencement and the graduates’ post-Lawrence journeys: “As we continue to settle into this uncertainty, maybe a little more uncertainty than we might’ve bargained for four years ago, I am confident that if any class has the strength to deal with the weight of the world, it’s the Class of 2020,” senior class speaker Samantha Lizbeth Torres ’20 told her classmates.

We feel your pain

The Class of 1970, meanwhile, was supposed to be on campus this week to celebrate its 50th anniversary, but, alas, Reunion fell victim to the coronavirus lockdown. The class that graduated amid a firestorm of anti-war protests following the U.S. invasion of Cambodia and the subsequent shootings of student protesters on the campuses of Kent State and Jackson State put plans to gather in person on pause. Instead, a virtual “re-Commencement” was held Sunday to bring the class together online. More than 100 members of the class took part.

For members of that class, the emotions of Commencement 50 years ago still linger. The ceremony took place but the divisiveness was palpable, the graduates recall. Many refused to wear their caps and gowns. Some wore black armbands. The Commencement speaker lectured the students, calling their generation self-absorbed, naïve, and humorless.

“The Vietnam War was raging and draft boards were aggressively seeking out young men whose service had been deferred during college,” Bill Hillburg ’70 recalled. “Baby boom demographics resulted in too many new grads chasing too few jobs and professional school slots. Inflation was devouring salaries. We were collectively freaking out.”

The 1970 Commencement went on as scheduled despite anti-war protests that had heated up in the weeks following shootings at Kent State and Jackson State. “It was a divisive mess,” Myra Krinke Hillburg ’70 said. The class, marking its 50th anniversary, held a virtual “Re-Commencement” on Sunday. (Lawrence University photo)

It was in the weeks leading up to Commencement that the bottom seemed to fall out. College campuses were already hotbeds for anti-war protests, and then on May 4, 1970, the improbable happened. Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on students on the Kent State campus, leaving four dead. Less than two weeks later, police fired shots on the campus of Jackson State, killing two students.

Protests would escalate on campuses across the country.

In Appleton, hundreds of protesters, many of them Lawrence students and faculty, flooded into the downtown the day following the Kent State shooting, the anger reflected on the front page of a special edition of The Lawrentian. Classes on campus would be temporarily suspended as the protests continued through the remainder of the term.

“Our college years were anything but perfect,” said Myra Krinke Hillburg ’70. “We were on the streets protesting the war and the racial and gender inequalities we could witness every day. Our country was as divided then as it is now.”

For her and her classmates, college had been tumultuous from the start. They saw the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., then Robert F. Kennedy. The Vietnam War was escalating and emotions were running raw.

“We finished out our senior year with suspended classes and bitter divides among the Lawrence administration, faculty, and student body,” Krinke Hillburg said. “Yes, we had a graduation ceremony, but it was a divisive mess, with many students wearing black armbands and donating the money that would have gone to cap and gown rental to the anti-war effort. Our Commencement address was given by a faculty member who chastised us for our naivete and privilege. Our idealism was ridiculed, our upheaval of cherished Lawrence traditions mourned. We were the least favorite graduating class of all time.”

A message of hope

For Bill Hillburg, it was a Lawrence staff member, a career adviser, who provided a sense of calm and hope amid all the chaos. You have a Lawrence education to cling to, and that is no small thing, he told students who had gathered for a spring term counseling session.

“He had no hot job tips or secrets for getting into grad school, which was not an option for the draft eligible,” Bill Hillburg said. “He also didn’t advise us whether to take up arms or flee to Canada. But he did give us hope. He assured us that our lives and careers would take us on paths we could not foresee and adventures and challenges we could not imagine, and through it all, we would benefit from being educated Lawrence grads. He was right.”

Bill and Myra would marry shortly after leaving Lawrence. Bill would go on to work many years as a journalist, mostly in California, and later with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Myra would become an accomplished teacher and girls’ golf coach.

“Along the way, we lived in several states and foreign countries and raised two talented daughters,” Bill Hillburg said.

John Fease ’70, a retired pastor who provided the benediction at Sunday’s “Re-Commencement,” said a lifetime of experiences has dulled the frustrations that surrounded Commencement. He, in fact, didn’t even graduate as expected that spring. He was short on credits, which pushed his Commencement to the following year. While his classmates went through with a fractious Commencement ceremony, he and his fiancee, Barb, got married.

So, as Fease and others on the 1970 Reunion Committee were meeting over the last year to plan their 50th reunion, he and Barb also were looking forward to marking their 50th wedding anniversary the same weekend. That celebration is not canceled.

“While there is great disappointment that we won’t be gathering for the reunion this year, Barb and I plan to shelter together to celebrate our 50th anniversary,” Fease said. “Surely, reason to rejoice.”

Fease, Everist, the Hillburgs, and their classmates are now delivering to the Class of 2020 a message of resilience: There are lifelong benefits to having a liberal arts education, and, thus, the uncertainty of the moment will give way to new opportunities and adventures. Krinke Hillburg said there’s much to be disheartened about right now, from the state of today’s politics to “the deterioration of our planet, another unending war, and unprecedented inequality in our society.” But just as it was true 50 years ago, today’s graduates have much to build on.

“Without our Lawrence education to see us through life, we could be inconsolable,” she said. “But the light of intellectual curiosity and the quest for knowledge Lawrence provided us with has seen us through many of life’s dark moments.”

For Everist, it was the ongoing connections with fellow Lawrentians that helped guide her journey once she left Appleton. Today’s graduates will feel the same, even if they fell separated at the moment, she said.

“It’s not the end,” Everist said of Commencement. “It’s the end of being at Lawrence, but it’s not the end of the Lawrence experience.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Lesser debuts new music as part of Library of Congress COVID-19 project

Erin Lesser

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Erin Lesser has been yearning to create.

The music instructor and flutist with the Lawrence Conservatory of Music has drawn wide acclaim for her work with Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, among other ensembles. While she continued to teach via distance learning during Lawrence University’s Spring Term, her performance schedule has been on lockdown since COVID-19 was deemed a global pandemic in mid-March.

That made a recent outreach from the Library of Congress all the sweeter. Lesser was asked to participate in The Boccaccio Project, an artistic collaboration in which 10 commissions of new music would be shared with the world. Each composer would be paired with a home-bound performer, with the 10 pieces being debuted over the span of 12 days on the library’s website and social media channels.

Lesser, representing Wet Ink, was partnered with Erin Rogers, a Canadian-American composer from Astoria, New York, with Lesser recording the newly crafted piece for solo flute, Hello World, at her Appleton home in late May.


“She wrote the piece specifically for me and with the intention that it be recorded from home,” Lesser said. “The Library of Congress selected 10 pairs of performers and composers and asked them to work together on a one- to three-minute work reflecting on the pandemic and our current environment.”

Rogers describes the piece this way: “Orbiting a sonic portal to the outer world, a flutist self-arranges within a mirrored video frame. The face-to-face encounter sets the scene for introduction, reintroduction, and exploration.”

That, Lesser said, captures the past three months of video conferencing, collaborating, and socializing beautifully.

“At a time when so much work has disappeared for artists and we are searching for new ways to come together as collaborators and community, it was particularly heartening to hear about this initiative from the Library of Congress and be asked to participate,” she said. “My initial conversations with Erin centered around topics such as our new collective relationship to technology, Zoom in particular, and having to find ways to make music in confined spaces. The piece she wrote uses small sounds amplified through a microphone, and video filters that alter my perception of seeing my image looking back at me from the screen.”

We all can relate, whether we’re making or teaching music or otherwise trying to live our lives in quarantine.

“With an infant son who has spent more than half of his life in a pandemic, I have thought a lot about his earliest relationships to people being filtered through technology and wondered how this may affect him,” Lesser said.

The Library of Congress began premiering The Boccaccio Project pieces on Monday, June 15, the commissions debuting nightly at 7 p.m. CST. The Rogers-Lesser collaboration is on tap for Friday, June 19. The series, skipping Saturday and Sunday, runs through Friday, June 26.

The project is inspired by another literary effort in the midst of a public health crisis, this one in the mid-14th century by Giovanni Boccaccio, who wrote the Decameron, a collection of 100 stories shared among a group of 10 acquaintances who had removed themselves from society during a plague. Library of Congress said this early artistic response to an outbreak provided context and a means of expression, something we’ve been tapping into in this age of social distancing.

The new commissions will premiere on the Library of Congress’s website and social media channels on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The commission manuscripts will become part of the Library of Congress’s music collections.

Lesser, who earned Lawrence University’s 2019 Award for Excellence in Teaching, has been on the Lawrence Conservatory faculty since 2011. Her work with Wet Ink and other ensembles has taken her to some of the grandest concert stages in the world and she’s commissioned and debuted numerous new works.

The full schedule for The Boccaccio Project includes:

Monday, June 15: Jeremy Jordan (piano) and Damien Sneed (composer)

Tuesday, June 16: Andrew Nogal (oboe) of the Grossman Ensemble and Richard Drehoff, Jr. (composer)

Wednesday, June 17: Kathryn Bates (cello) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Miya Masaoka (composer)

Thursday, June 18: Jenny Lin (piano) and Cliff Eidelman (composer)

Friday, June 19: Erin Lesser (flute) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Erin Rogers (composer)

Monday, June 22: Charlton Lee (viola) of the Del Sol String Quartet and Luciano Chessa (composer)

Tuesday, June 23: Daniel Pesca (piano) of the Grossman Ensemble and Aaron Travers (composer)

Wednesday, June 24: Mariel Roberts (cello) of the Wet Ink Ensemble and Ashkan Behzadi (composer)

Thursday, June 25: Jannina Norpoth (violin) of PUBLIQuartet and Niloufar Nourbakhsh (composer)

Friday, June 26: Nathalie Joachim (flute) and Allison Loggins-Hull (composer), both of Flutronix

If you miss any of the premieres, no worries. You can watch any time on each event page or on the Library of Congress’s YouTube channel.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: