Tag: Convocation

Carter calls on Lawrentians to work together to confront coming challenges

Lawrence University President Laurie A. Carter delivers her first Matriculation Convocation Friday in Memorial Chapel. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University has an opportunity to build on past successes, but it’ll need to do so at a time of significant challenges in higher education, President Laurie A. Carter said Friday in her first Matriculation Convocation address.

Carter, who began her tenure as Lawrence’s 17th president on July 1, said Lawrence isn’t immune to the growing turbulence across higher education—financial pressures heightened by the pandemic, political strife, attacks on the liberal arts, bloated student debt, declining retention and graduation rates, and a coming steep decline in the number of college-age students. But its community of faculty, staff, students, and alumni are ready to rise to the challenge and place Lawrence among the leaders in a new higher education environment.

“Creating a sense of urgency is the first step in the process,” Carter told the Lawrence community in a presidential address that annually serves as a kick-off of a new academic year.

Speaking at Memorial Chapel and via a livestream, Carter reiterated how honored she is to lead Lawrence. She celebrated the university’s 174-year history and its recent successes and invited all Lawrentians to sign up for the hard work to come, even if it means working outside of their comfort zones.

“I am excited for this work, and I feel uniquely positioned for the challenges ahead,” she said. “As an African American woman and leader, discomfort has always been a part of my journey.”

Following Carter’s speech, a video was presented featuring students speaking about why they love Lawrence:

Looking forward

There is much to build on at Lawrence—the success of the recently concluded Be the Light! Campaign, the commitment of dedicated alumni, the size and strength of the newest class, the recent launch of five key academic programs, the addition of several endowed professorships that have strengthened existing programs, and the unity in purpose that has been so evident over the past year and a half.

“The manner in which the community came together to support one another during the pandemic is why we are brighter together,” Carter said.

Let’s celebrate those successes, she said. Embrace the great traditions of Lawrence. But don’t lose sight of the challenges ahead for higher education; they will be significant.

“Through our collective efforts, we must transform Lawrence into a university that is poised to lead in this new environment,” Carter said. “And as the environment evolves, we must be nimble enough to evolve with it.”

Watch a replay of President Carter’s speech here

Setting priorities

Carter laid out five priorities that will be key pieces of a to-be-built strategic plan — strategic equitable student success; Lawrence brand enhancement; diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism; an enhanced integrated university experience; and strategic financial stewardship.

“While these five priorities touch nearly every aspect of our university, from recruitment and retention to the curricular and co-curricular programs, they all are in the service of our students,” Carter said. “And our ability to collectively engage in dialogue and problem-solving around these areas will determine our course for the future.”

Lawrence’s current strategic plan expires in 2022.

Carter also introduced the formation of five guiding coalitions, each with a mix of faculty, staff, students, trustees, and alumni, to address particular areas that need expedited attention. These coalitions will be tasked with creating a path to meaningful progress in the assigned areas, with timelines focused on the current academic year. The work of the coalitions will help inform the strategic plan.

The guiding coalitions include: Visioning of Our Five Priorities; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-racism; Full Speed to Full Need; Amplifying Athletics; and 175th Anniversary. Each will have at least two co-leads, one from faculty and one from staff. Members of the Lawrence community are being invited to join the coalitions.

“Our volunteer army will consist of members of the community who are passionate about these issues and are willing to lock arms with others to create meaningful change around them,” Carter said. “You—faculty, staff, students alike—have the opportunity to participate, step up and act like never before.”

The Convocation, the first of three to be held during the 2021-22 academic year, featured a performance of Mark A. Miller’s Creation of Peace by the Welcome Week Choir, directed by music professors Phillip A. Swan and Stephen M. Sieck. Other elements of the program, including the size of the audience in Memorial Chapel, were adjusted to accommodate pandemic protocols.

Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Public Events Committee, announced that Austin Segrest, assistant professor of English, has been chosen as the Honors Convocation speaker in the spring. Multidisciplinary artist Alexandra Bell will deliver the Winter Term convocation.

As the pandemic continues with no clear end in sight, Carter encouraged all Lawrentians to lean into the truth Lawrence has long embraced — “light, more light.”

“When the sun was shining brightly, meaning before the public discourse on higher education turned negative and the pandemic disrupted the world, our light shone brighter than ever,” Carter said. “But now that darkness has threatened us, we must use the light within us to demonstrate to the world who we are.”

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

President Carter to discuss Lawrence priorities in opening convocation

President Laurie A. Carter (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Communications

President Laurie A. Carter will deliver her first Matriculation Convocation to the Lawrence University community at 12:30 p.m. Sept. 17.

Centered on the theme of comfort with discomfort, the address will focus on Carter’s priorities to ensure that Lawrence remains a leader in higher education. She will discuss the need to build on Lawrence’s enduring strengths as we look to the future and the challenges facing higher education, and she will call on all members of the Lawrence community to join together to guide Lawrence to a brighter future. 

The event will be held in Memorial Chapel with an audience limited to 300 to account for pandemic protocols. It will be livestreamed at go.lawrence.edu/convo so all Lawrentians can watch from their rooms, offices, or another location. 

While Memorial Chapel is closed to the public, alumni and friends are encouraged to access the stream to watch.

The Matriculation Convocation address, delivered by the university president each September to mark the launch of another academic year, will be one of three convocations held this year. The others are scheduled for Feb. 18 and May 27

Carter began her tenure as Lawrence’s 17th president on July 1.

Joy (and concern) in the night sky will be focus of Honors Convocation message

Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, leads an Earth Hour event on Main Hall Green earlier this spring, sharing information on the night sky. She’ll give the Honors Convocation address on May 27. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The beauty of the night sky, the stories it can tell, and the “light pollution” that is increasingly hindering our view will be the topic of Lawrence University’s May 27 Honors Convocation.

Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, will deliver the Convocation address, The Stars: Mansions Made by Nature’s Hand, at 11:15 a.m. It will be delivered virtually and is available to the public on the Honors Convocation page at lawrence.edu.

In her address, Pickett will share why light pollution, the ever-increasing brightening of the sky by artificial lighting, is a concern that has long-term economic, health, and biological costs.

“The stars tell our stories, guide our way, and quietly mark time,” Pickett said in preparation for the Convocation. “They inspire artists and compel scientists. The shared heritage of the night sky is a universal natural resource—and we are losing it, one star at a time.”

The annual Honors Convocation, which publicly recognizes students and faculty recipients of awards and prizes for excellence in the arts, humanities, sciences, social sciences, languages, music, athletics, and service to others, is traditionally held in Memorial Chapel. But due to campus facilities being closed to the public and physical distancing practices being in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this marks the second year it is being held virtually.

Pickett said she remembers being 12 years old and holding a copy of H.A. Rey’s book, The Stars, as she stared at the night sky in her suburban Detroit neighborhood.

“I truly saw for the first time the hidden treasure suspended above,” she said of that night. “I knew then, standing in a palpably spiritual awe, that my life’s work would be to share that joy and wonder.”

Megan Pickett (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Pickett would go on to become an astrophysicist, earning a bachelor’s degree in physics from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Indiana University. She joined the Lawrence physics department in 2006 after six years on the faculty at Purdue University. Before that, she spent four years as a research associate at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

Much of her research through the years has focused on the formation of solar systems.

Now she wants to share some of that work and her passions for protecting the night sky with the Lawrence community.

“I will discuss the problems of light pollution, and the solutions that I and other astronomers advocate—simple, cost effective changes that can give us back our nights,” she said. “I will also explore what we are losing, from the soaring spirit of exploration the sky inspires to the traditions of so many peoples—often overlooked—that are celebrated in the stars themselves.  My work in understanding our home in the cosmos has given me a deep appreciation for how we all come to see that home, and a sense of urgency to save the night for all those 12-year-olds who step out in the cold and look up.”

Pickett said more than 80% of the world, and 99% of America, lives under a polluted sky. 

“Fully one-third of the world can no longer see the Milky Way, our home galaxy, including more than half of Europe and three-quarters of America,” she said. “In the few enclaves of pristine sky, you can see 5,000 stars on a clear night, but if you live in suburban America, only a tenth of that number; in a city, less than 50.”

Don’t take it for granted, Pickett said. There is joy in those stars, and generations to come may be hard-pressed to find it.

“The night sky is at once a visible and an ephemeral natural resource,” she said. “Its loss, and the increase in unnecessary sky-brightness come with economic, medical, and biological costs. As important, we lose something of ourselves, and our history, as each generation sees less of the wondrous night.”

Ami Hatori ’23 will perform the Convocation’s prelude, Jupiter’s Moons, on piano. The postlude, On a Clear Day, will feature Courtney Wilmington ’22, soprano vocals; Samara Morris ’21, alto vocals; Jack Murphy ’21, tenor vocals; David Womack ’22, bass vocals; Nick Muellner ’20, alto and tenor saxophones; Alyssa Kuss ’22, baritone saxophone; Jack Benedict ’21, trumpet; Allie Goldman ’21, trombone; Carson Bell ’22, guitar; Rowan Barcham, keyboard; Ali Remondini ’21, double bass; and Daniel Green ’21, drum set.

This is the third and final convocation of Lawrence’s 2020-21 academic year. The earlier convocations featured President Mark Burstein and author Kiese Laymon.

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

Kiese Laymon, author of “Heavy,” to deliver Convocation address Jan. 28

Kiese Laymon

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Kiese Laymon, the author of Heavy, a much-praised memoir that served as a recent community read across the Lawrence University campus, will deliver the school’s Winter Term Convocation address on Jan. 28.

His writing has been lauded for its richness in detail, its emotional complexity, and its honesty as Laymon lays bare his experiences growing up and making a life for himself as a Black man in America. He feels the forces of racism suffocating him while he navigates complex and often confounding family relationships and issues tied to abuse, body image, and addictive behavior.

Set for 11:15 a.m., the Convocation will be virtual due to the ongoing pandemic. Laymon’s recorded speech, The Radical Possibility and Democratic Necessity of Navel Gazing, will be followed by an interview hosted by Amy Ongiri, the Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, and students Tania Sosa ’24 and Edwin Martinez ’24. That will be followed by an audience Q&A with Laymon, moderated by President Mark Burstein.

Laymon, a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Mississippi, 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. It adds six essays and edits others from the initial release.

National Public Radio praised the new release, saying Laymon “takes on the messiness, richness, violence, and diversity of the South in his work, as well as the complex question of what it means to be Black and from Mississippi.” Jerald Walker of the New York Times called Laymon’s retooling of the essay collection a worthwhile undertaking “because by adding six rich new essays, deftly curating seven from the original book, and reworking the chronology, you have made a once solid collection superb.”

It was the release of Heavy in 2018 that first brought Laymon widespread acclaim. The memoir earned a bevy of literary honors, including winning the Christopher Isherwood Prize and being named a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the Chautauqua Prize. Written as a communication to his mother, the book rips open and digs deep into layers of family pain, abuse, success, wisdom, passion, addiction, and fear, much of it grounded in his love-hate relationship with Jackson, Mississippi, where he grew up, fled, and eventually returned.

Lawrence faculty, students, staff, and alumni joined together for a recent community read. Many then explored the complexities of Heavy in a virtual book discussion held on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Music at the Convocation will include 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 Associate Professor of Music Stephen Sieck. The link for the Jan. 28 Convocation can be found here.

The live webcast will be accessible to the public, but a recording of the event will not be made public.

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

Burstein: Nurture a campus home that “spans geography, race, and all identities”

President Mark Burstein delivers his Matriculation Convocation address virtually from the Memorial Chapel stage.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

President Mark Burstein spoke of the need for Lawrence University to feel like home to all Lawrentians as he headlined a virtual edition of the 2020-21 Matriculation Convocation on Thursday morning.

Striving for that sense of belonging comes with additional challenges this year as the University adapts to life in a pandemic and the country continues to grapple with ongoing issues of racism and racial injustice and political divisions that grow deeper and more caustic by the day.

It’s critical, Burstein said, to make sure all members of the University feel they belong here. He called on students, faculty, staff, and alumni to be part of the conversation to help make sure that becomes reality—and is sustained.

“I look forward to hearing your ideas, reactions, and disagreements as we make Lawrence the ‘home’ we all need it to be—one that spans geography, race, and all identities,” he said. “One that helps us all to become ourselves.”

Under normal circumstances, Burstein’s address, Finding Home: Belonging During a Pandemic, would have been delivered to a full house at Memorial Chapel, per tradition. But with strict social distancing protocols in place to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and a portion of the campus community teaching and studying from afar, the convocation was streamed online.

Besides Burstein’s talk, the convocation included a beautiful and creative introduction of Burstein by Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Public Events Commitee, and a musical prelude by Conservatory faculty Estelí Gomez, Esther Oh Zabrowski, Stephen M. Sieck, Steven Paul Spears, and Phillip A. Swan (Show Us How to Love, Mark A. Miller). The virtual choir was individually recorded, then manually assembled for the composite performance.

Linda Morgan-Clement, the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life, provided closing words, encouraging Lawrentians to rise to the challenges before us. “Together we have the ability to love each imperfect self,” she said. A postlude on piano was then delivered by Hung Phi Nguyen ’21.

The Matriculation Convocation, delivered each September to mark the launch of another academic year, will be one of three convocations to be held this year.

This marked Burstein’s final Matriculation Convocation. He announced recently that he will step away from his presidential post at the end of the 2020-21 academic year, a decision informed by the need for him and his husband, David Calle, to be closer to family on the East Coast.

“I began to think about the theme of belonging and home for this Matriculation Convocation last spring in response to the societal convulsion created by both the pandemic and the deepening recognition of systemic racism in our culture,” Burstein said. “At that moment, I had no idea how personal this topic would become for me. This summer has been a time for me to reassess my priorities and decide to prioritize family, specifically my mother and my in-laws, over a position I love.”

Burstein said he, like others, is feeling the strain of the political tenor that has gripped the country in recent years. It’s been particularly raw here in Wisconsin, a state he quickly adopted when he was named Lawrence’s 16th president in 2013.

“I expect many of you feel, as I do, the pain, the conflict, and the dislocation in our society,” he said. “The new presidential election cycle has unleashed overwhelming forces to divide us. Our country’s attempt to reckon with systemic racism brings both hope and conflicting views of an aspirational future. Environmental degradation continues to march on around the globe. And, the pandemic has curtailed ways to process all of this stress, has upended family life, and has created severe economic burdens on many of us and the institutions we serve.”

All the more reason, he said, for Lawrence to double down on its efforts to make sure inclusion and equity are part of daily life here. He cited the words of an array of writers who have addressed themes of home and belonging, among them Nira Yuval-Davis (The Politics of Belonging), Brene Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection), Natasha Trethewey (he quotes from Theories of Time and Space), Kwame Anthony Appiah (In My Father’s House:  Africa in the Philosophy of Culture), Kath Weston (Families We Choose:  Lesbians, Gays, Kinship), and Toni Morrison (Home).

“Many theorists who have explored the concept of belonging find that one of its central aspects is the need to feel that your whole identity is recognized and affirmed,” Burstein said. “This recognition is seen as an invitation to create a deep connection. If this is true, how can belonging be created in a society in which racism and bias against minority identities continue to exist?”

That’s a challenge going forward, Burstein said, to make sure that sense of belonging is woven into this learning environment. And all of us need to play a role.

“Research has found that the smallest social belonging interventions can yield lasting positive effects on individuals,” he said.

Burstein said he will be locked into that work for the remainder of this academic year. And he pledged to remain connected to the Lawrence community and the work it’s doing after he departs in June, all the while maintaining his own sense of home and belonging here.

“Serving as your president has been the central privilege and pleasure of my professional career,” he said. “David and I want to thank all of you who have allowed us to join, to belong, and to call this university and Appleton our home. Lawrence will always be in our hearts and we will always be proud to call Appleton our home no matter where we reside.”

A replay of the Matriculation Convocation can be accessed here.

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

Burstein’s Convocation address to explore sense of home during pandemic

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

A sense of belonging, something that may feel adrift in the midst of a pandemic, will be a central theme when President Mark Burstein delivers his eighth Matriculation Convocation to the Lawrence community on Sept. 24.

In an address to be presented virtually at 11:15 a.m. (access it here), Burstein will push Lawrentians to work in unison to assure that all students, faculty, and staff feel they have a home at Lawrence. The speech, Finding Home: Belonging During a Pandemic, will address the emotions of a campus community strained by the COVID-19 pandemic, with some students studying on campus amid new safety protocols and others spread across the globe as Fall Term gets rolling with most classes being taught remotely.

The Matriculation Convocation address, delivered by the University president each September to mark the launch of another academic year, will be one of three convocations held this year. Alumni are encouraged to access the stream to watch.

This will be Burstein’s final Matriculation Convocation. He announced on Friday that he will step away from his presidential post at the end of the 2020-21 academic year. That decision itself ties in with the theme of the talk, as Burstein has said he and his husband, David Calle, are drawn to return to the East Coast to be closer to family.

In his talk, Burstein will explore the pain and conflicts that have gripped the nation this year, from the ongoing pandemic that has dramatically changed life as we know it, to the systematic racism that has led to ongoing, emotional public demonstrations, to the political divisions that have become increasingly strident as the presidential election draws closer. And he’ll discuss how that pain adds to the anxieties about home and belonging, and how it adds urgency to efforts to make sure Lawrence is truly a home for all who choose to study, teach, and work here.

A musical prelude will be presented by Conservatory faculty Esteli Gomez, Esther Oh Zabrowski, Stephen M. Sieck, Steven Paul Spears, and Phillip A. Swan. Hung Phi Nguyen ’21 will present the postlude on piano.

Jessica Hopkins ’22 will present the traditional land acknowledgement and Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the Public Events Committee, will introduce this year’s Convocation series.

The Matriculation Convocation details and information on other convocations can be accessed through the Speakers and Convocations page on the Lawrence website.

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

Convocation speaker: Imaginative thinking is political work, and it’s not easy

Masha Gessen talks at the podium on the stage of Memorial Chapel during Thursday's convocation.
Masha Gessen, a Russian-American journalist and author, delivers a convocation address Thursday at Memorial Chapel. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Masha Gessen was up front that there would be no answers in this address. Only questions, be they political, socio-economic or otherwise.

The Russian-American journalist and author, delivering the winter term Convocation Thursday morning at Lawrence University’s Memorial Chapel, told the gathering of mostly faculty, students, and staff that in order to find answers to society’s most perplexing problems, we must first challenge our assumptions of what we think we know and then imagine a better world, a better way to connect the dots.

In other words, think. And think deeply.

Gessen is the author of more than a dozen books, including the National Book Award-winning The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. Two more books are in the works, one coming this summer focused on the three years of the Trump presidency, and another that is still a work in progress on imaginative political projects around the world and what we can learn from them.  

It was the latter that was the focus of Gessen’s Convocation address, “The Parallel Polis.” It was the second of three Convocations in Lawrence’s 2019-20 series.

A staff writer at the New Yorker and an instructor at Amherst College, Gessen is a native of Russia, relocating to the United States at the age of 14.

Some things, Gessen said, seem so straightforward, so automatic, that we stop questioning it, stop thinking about it. It was an assumption about the former Soviet Union that kicked off the conversation that is now leading to the coming book.

“It started with this assumption I was raised with that I never, ever questioned,” Gessen said. “The assumption was that, not only communism and the communist idea, but any utopian idea would always lead to totalitarianism.”

Perhaps. But perhaps there are other ways to think about it, pieces to pull from it, ideas to reimagine in a different context. Can we challenge ourselves to dive deep and explore whether our assumptions are indeed correct and absolute?

Masha Gessen: “I was looking for very disparate projects that were united by the commitment to imagining something different.”

Gessen talked about reporting around the world, from a community-based urban farm in Detroit to experiments with universal basic income in Finland, all as imaginative political projects aimed at upsetting the paradigm.

“I wasn’t looking for projects that were solving a specific problem. I wasn’t writing about the problem itself. I was looking for very disparate projects that were united by the commitment to imagining something different.”

Gessen said people working on some of these projects had a difficult time telling their stories, in part because they were imagining something that didn’t yet exist. They didn’t have a language to make sense of it, so they struggled to articulate their vision.

“It got me thinking about different ways to think about imagination, which was my ultimate topic,” Gessen said. “How do we talk about things that we haven’t invented yet?”

Imaginative thinking is where real political change happens, Gessen said.

In late 2011, early 2012, when Russia was reeling in economic turmoil and there were mass protests and talk about the fate of Vladimir Putin, Gessen started pondering imaginative thinking, or the lack thereof. No one could really imagine what would come next in Russia should Putin be gone.

“The intellectual work of imagining what would happen after is actually political work,” Gessen said. “It’s essential for something to be able to move forward. But how do you imagine something that you don’t know, and then sort of will it into being?”

More questions. All the more important to think about at what Gessen called “this particularly vexing moment in history.”

The answers won’t ever come easy.

“I think things that are right in one place are really wrong in another, which is not to say everything is relative,” Gessen said. “It’s not. But it is to say there probably aren’t universal recipes. But what’s useful is figuring out what your assumptions are and thinking really hard about those assumptions and doing some experimenting in your mind.”

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

Eventful fall: 16 events we’re looking forward to in Fall Term

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Pull out your cozy sweaters and go find your pumpkin-carving kit, because fall is upon us. Personally, I love fall. The cool weather, leaves changing colors, cute fall outfits — everything about fall is just perfect. And I get it, some of you may be sad about summer ending. But honestly, there is no reason to be sad over summer, because Fall Term is jam-packed with so many fun things to do on and off campus. That is why I have created this list of things Lawrence students can look forward to this fall. 

1) Soup Walk 

This is exactly what it sounds like. On Oct. 19 from 1 to 4 p.m., restaurants in downtown Appleton will have their best soups for people to try. With your soup ticket, you can walk into the participating restaurants on College Avenue and try their soups. And once you’ve had all the soup your heart desires, vote for your favorite. Tickets for the soup walk are $20 and go on sale Oct. 1. There’s is nothing better than a bowl of soup on a cool autumn day. 

2) Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade 

The Downtown Appleton Christmas Parade always takes place on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That’s Nov. 26 this year. As odd as that might be, it’s great for Lawrence students because we are still on campus for it! The parade takes place on College Avenue, meaning you can see the parade from campus. It is filled with floats, bands, Santa Claus, even floats that shoot out fire to make sure everyone stays warm. If you want to watch the show from College Ave., be sure to get there early because the streets do fill up. The parade starts at 7 p.m.  

3) Octoberfest

Who doesn’t love fancy cars and good food? On Sept. 27 and 28, Appleton will be hosting its annual Octoberfest. The first night of Octoberfest kicks off with a classic car show called License to Cruise. The car show is filled with about 400 cars, live music, and great food. And if you think that’s great, the second day of Octoberfest is a huge block party — Appleton’s largest block party of the year. The party boasts five stages with live music, an arts and crafts station, and more delicious food. Luckily for us, Octoberfest takes place right on College Avenue, only a few blocks from campus. 

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center as seen from College Ave.

4) ‘Hamilton’ in Appleton 

Your eyes are not deceiving you; Hamilton is coming to Appleton! The Broadway production that took the world by storm will be at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center for a multi-week run in October. And unlike trying to see Hamilton on Broadway, you may actually be able to get tickets thanks to their lottery system. Check the PAC website for show dates and details.

5) Apple picking 

This is a fall classic! As a kid, my favorite school trip was going to the nearest orchard and going apple picking. I didn’t really like eating the apples; I just really enjoyed picking them. Luckily for us, Appleton has a ton of apple farms, (see what I did there?), meaning we can take part in this fall ritual. The Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard is the closest orchard to campus, and they also have a pumpkin patch! 

6) Fall Formal  

Get your outfits ready! Every year Lawrence International hosts a Fall Formal, which is happening Sept. 27. The formal will be taking place at Liberty Hall in Kimberly, which is about 15 minutes from campus. If you don’t have a ride, no worries. There will be a shuttle running from campus to Liberty Hall every 15 minutes.     

7) Convocation 

A new academic year means a new Convocation Series. Every year, the Convocation series is kicked-off with the Matriculation Convocation. This Convocation is special because it is led by our very own president, Mark Burstein. This year, the Matriculation Convocation will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 19 in Memorial Chapel.  

Dancers perform traditional Native American ceremony in Warch Campus Center on Indigenous Peoples Day.

8) Indigenous Peoples Day  

Every year, the Lawrence University Native American Organization (LUNA) hosts an Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration. This year, the celebration will be held on Oct. 14 on Main Hall Green. The celebration is typically filled with music, food, and traditional dancing that is sacred to indigenous cultures. This celebration gives indigenous students a chance to celebrate and share their culture with the wider campus as it also gives non-indigenous students a chance to learn about indigenous cultures.  

9) The Price is Right  

Lawrentians, come on down! As a way to celebrate Lawrence’s annual Giving Day, the Student Ambassadors Program (SAP) will be hosting a game of The Price is Right. Students will be able to dress in funky costumes and guess the price on different items around Lawrence to win prizes … just like the game show! The game will be held on Oct. 10 in the Mead Witter Room (second floor Warch), starting at 6:30 p.m. Giving Day will also have other events for students. Stay tuned.  

10) Blue and White Weekend  

Let’s go Vikes! As a way to celebrate the Lawrence community, Lawrence University hosts an annual Blue and White WeekendFrom Oct. 3-6, Lawrence will be filled with different events for families, alumni, and students. Last year’s Blue and White weekend was so much fun! There were different sporting events, concerts, and lots of places on campus to get free food, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year! 

Portrait of four members of Brooklyn Rider
Brooklyn Rider

11) Artist and Jazz Series 

The performers coming to Lawrence during 2019-20 season have been announced! Brooklyn Rider will be the first group to kick-off the Artist Series, preforming Oct. 4 at 8 p.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel. Brooklyn Rider is a strings quartet that creates music focused on healing. The Jazz Series, meanwhile, will begin with the Fred Sturm Jazz Celebration Weekendwith the Miguel Zenon Quartet as the first featured performance. Miguel Zenon is a Grammy-nominated saxophonist who will be preforming at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9. You will not want to miss these performances, and the best part is, they’re free for students.

12) Game Night  

As a way to ease the transition from high school to college for first-year students, Lawrence University’s Black Student Union (BSU) will be hosting a series of game nightsThe game nights will be open to the entire campus with a focus on being a space where students of color can have fun and get to know each other. The first game night will be held at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Diversity and Intercultural Center.  

13) Events from S.O.U.P. 

S.O.U.P. is the Student Organization for University Planning. All the fun, really random things that happen on campus are typically brought to us by S.O.U.P.  This year will be no different, as S.O.U.P. continues to bring new events to campus for student to enjoy. On Sept. 28, S.O.U.P will be hosting Blacklight Zumba and bringing magician Peter Boie to campus. Be sure to be on the lookout for more events hosted by S.O.U.P happening this fall. 

The Vikings offensive line faces University of Chicago football players on the Banta Bowl field.

14) Fall Sports  

TOUCHDOWN! Fall term means fall sports. Be sure to stay up to date on the schedules for the football, volleyball, soccer, and tennis teams so you can support our Vikes! 

15) Wriston Art

Let there be ART! The Wriston Art Gallery will soon be opening its fall exhibitions. New pieces will be displayed in the gallery with an opening reception at 8 p.m. Sept. 27. Come check out the incredible art right here on campus. 

16) World Music Series 

The World Music Series is keeping the ball rolling from last year with a performance from Çudamani: Gamelan and Dance of Bali. This group is considered Bali’s most forward-thinking ensemble and will be coming to campus at 8 p.m. Sept. 23. The World Music Series is free for students, so be sure to take advantage of the opportunity to see performances from around the world. 

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

Mural unveiled as Project 562 creator hails the artwork as ‘a huge step’

Native students gather in front of mural

Update from Brigetta Miller: Due to unexpected inclement weather, this Project 562 Indigenous Land Project mural was unable to properly cure during its installation. Members of LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) and UWGB’s Intertribal Student Organization will be working closely with the Project 562 artistic team to repair the mural in the coming weeks once temperatures warm.  Our campus community is deeply committed to caring for the mural and all that it represents. Thank you for your patience.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The weather didn’t cooperate, but the work got done. And the results are beautiful.

A large mural featuring the faces of three generations of Native Americans was unveiled on the Lawrence University campus Thursday following a convocation address by Matika Wilbur, the creator and director of Project 562.

“I would never have dreamed this as I was daring to dream as a young girl,” Wilbur told a nearly full Memorial Chapel during the spring convocation.

“I’m so proud of you,” Wilbur said, addressing the more than a dozen Native American students from Lawrence and the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay who helped create the mural over the past five days. “And I’m proud of Lawrence for taking this huge step. This is a huge step to have indigenous representation on a college campus.”

The timeline for finishing the mural on the north-facing exterior wall of the Buchanan Kiewit Wellness Center was accelerated early in Wilbur’s week-long artist-in-residency because of the snow and rain that had been expected Wednesday night into Thursday morning. She worked long days with the Native students to finish the mural before the snow arrived.

The non-permanent mural, made with wheat paste, is expected to last two to five years before it begins to fade. How long an outdoor wheat paste installation lasts depends on weather conditions.

Following her convocation address, Wilbur led a walk from Memorial Chapel to the Wellness Center for a showing of the mural. A reception was held in the Steitz Hall atrium, where some of the participating students thanked Wilbur and her team for dedicating themselves to a project that reassures Native communities, especially young people, that they matter, that their faces should be seen and their voices should be heard.

Wilbur, a visual storyteller from the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes of coastal Washington, has been traveling the country as part of Project 562, using photography and art installations to connect with tribal communities and help redirect the narrative on indigenous people. The 562 is a reference to the number of federally recognized tribes in the United States at the time the project launched in 2012.

Wilbur sold most of her belongings, loaded her cameras into an RV and set out to document lives in tribal communities across all 50 states. It’s gone even beyond that, she said.

Matika Wilbur convocation speech
Matika Wilbur delivers her Convocation address, “Changing the Way We See Native America,” in Lawrence Memorial Chapel.

“I’ve also gone into urban Indian communities, also to Arctic communities, north of the border and south of the border and into the Caribbean islands,” she said. “So when, or if, this project is ever complete, I will have been to something like 900 tribal communities.”

Wilbur, a celebrated photographer, is expecting the travel to wrap up in about six months. After that, Project 562 will play out in books, exhibitions, lecture series, web sites, new curriculum and podcasts.

She talked about her long and winding journey during Thursday’s convocation, which included a performance by traditional Menominee flutist Wade Fernandez, an Oneida drum/dance group and an opening invocation spoken in the Menominee language by Dennis Kenote, chairman of the Menominee Nation Language and Culture Commission.

Brigetta Miller, an associate professor of music in the Lawrence Conservatory of Music and a member of the Stockbridge-Munsee (Mohican) Nation, introduced Wilbur. Miller is a 1989 Lawrence graduate who teaches ethnic studies courses in Native identity, history, and culture and works with Native American students on campus as a faculty advisor to the LUNA (Lawrence University Native Americans) student organization. She hailed Wilbur’s convocation and mural project as a historic moment for Lawrence, the Native students who are here and area tribes.

“Matika has a magical way of giving our Native students and their allies permission to acknowledge and be proud of their own cultural traditions, families and indigenous ways, even in spaces that may have not been historically designed for us,” she said.

During the week of activities, students could be heard speaking to one another in their Native languages, Miller said, calling that a reflection of the pride that emanates from this project.

“This work is more than making art for the sake of social justice,” Miller said. “It’s a way to truthfully show who we are. It’s a way for us to tell our own story.”

Telling that story, and giving young people an opportunity to embrace their own story, is what first ignited Project 562, Wilbur said. She had been asked to teach at a tribal school in the northwest, and at first hestitated.

“It turns out I loved working with kids,” she said. “It did something special for me. It recentered me in my community and helped me to realize my purpose and realign me with what I am meant to do. It taught me that I have this role where I’m supposed to feed the people, I’m supposed to participate in making my community a healthier, happier place.”

That experience teaching led her to her next revelation, one that would put her on the road to Project 562. She said she finally fully realized that the true Native American story wasn’t being told or taught.

“It was while I was teaching, I saw over and over and over again that the American dream did not include us,” Wilbur said. “I realized that when Lincoln said, ‘For the people,’ he did not mean Native American people. I came to understand that the core of our curriculum is not based in truth. It does not cultivate our indigenous intelligence.”

So she set out to change that, one photograph and one art installation at a time.

The large mural now visible at the center of the Lawrence campus speaks to that — a new mindset, a new message about respect and truth and inclusion that needs to reverberate long after the Project 562 team has left Appleton.

“As a Native professor here on this campus, this project gives me hope for the future generations,” Miller said. “It’s history unfolding before our eyes.”

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