Tag: faculty

Lawrence to welcome five talented tenure-track faculty in the fall

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Five new tenure-track faculty members will join Lawrence University for the start of the 2019-20 academic year, boosting the school’s academic prowess across multiple fields of study.

The appointments include Abhishek Chakraborty, statistics; Estelí Gomez, Conservatory of Music (voice); Vanessa D. Plumly, German; Relena Ribbons, geosciences; and Austin Segrest, English.

The new hires were announced by Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat.

“I am delighted to be able to welcome five new tenure-track faculty to Lawrence this coming fall,” Kodat said. “These impressive new colleagues represent the best in their fields and will allow us to continue building on our strengths in mathematics, the sciences, and the humanities in the college, and in the voice program in the conservatory.”

The tenure-track hires include:

Abhishek Chakraborty, statistics

Chakraborty head shot

A candidate this spring for a Ph.D. in the Department of Statistics at Iowa State University, Chakraborty holds a master’s degree in statistics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur, India, and a bachelor’s of science degree in statistics from St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, India. He ranked fifth out of 200 entrants from 100 different countries in the Prudsys AG Data Mining Cup 2016, and placed 28th out of 193 entrants in 2018. He worked as a graduate teaching assistant at Iowa State.

His research experience has focused on developing statistical methodologies for analysis of complex data sets, with broad work in the fields of machine learning, data mining, predictive modeling and the application of Bayesian variables.

“Abhishek joins a newly renamed Mathematics and Computer Science department as our second specialist in statistics,” Kodat said. “His research interests in data mining will fortify course offerings in data science as well as statistics more traditionally understood — an exciting contribution for a department in the midst of a renaissance.”

For more on the computer science major at Lawrence, click here.

For more on the mathematics major at Lawrence, click here.

Estelí Gomez, voice

Gomez head shot

A soprano, Gomez joins the Conservatory of Music amid impressive success as a recording artist and performer. She is a vocalist with Roomful of Teeth, which won a 2014 Grammy Award with its debut CD. Also, she was a vocalist on Silk Road Ensemble’s 2017 Grammy-winning CD Sing Me Home, featuring members of Roomful of Teeth. She was nominated for a 2017 Gramophone Award as soprano soloist on the Seattle Symphony’s release of Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No 3. She holds a master of music degree from the McGill Schulich School of Music and a bachelor of arts degree in music from Yale.

Roomful of Teeth has performed at Lawrence twice, once in 2014 and again in 2017. The eight-piece a cappella ensemble has been much lauded in vocal circles since debuting in 2009. Gomez, who has sung in more than 20 languages, has taught in private voice studios since 2006, mostly in New Haven, Connecticut, Montreal and New York City.

“A founding member of the celebrated vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, Estelí exemplifies the twin commitments to excellence in teaching and performance that characterizes our conservatory faculty,” Kodat said.

For more on the Voice Studio in the Conservatory of Music, click here.   

Vanessa D. Plumly, German

Plumly mug

Plumly comes to Lawrence from State University of New York at New Paltz, where she is a German lecturer and program coordinator in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and a Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies faculty affiliate. She has been there since 2015. She earned her Ph.D. in German Studies in 2015 from the University of Cincinnati. She holds a master of arts degree in German Studies from the University of Kentucky and a bachelor of arts degree in German and History from Bethany College in West Virginia.

Plumly earned the 2018 German Embassy Teacher of Excellence Award from the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG). She was a Fulbright Research Fellowship Alternate in 2013.

“Vanessa’s research interests in Afro-German culture, film, and gender and sexuality studies will enrich many areas of our curriculum beyond German: Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, and Gender Studies, to name three,” Kodat said. “She joins us as our third Mellon Faculty Fellow for a Diverse Professoriate.”

For more on German studies at Lawrence, click here.

Relena Ribbons, geosciences

Ribbons head shot

A visiting assistant professor in geosciences at Lawrence since 2016, Ribbons has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Wellesley College, a masters in forest ecology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and doctorates in forest ecology, geosciences and natural resources from Bangor University and geosciences and natural resources management from the University of Copenhagen.

She’s also an accomplished marathoner and ultramarathoner.

“Relena’s appointment to the Geosciences department gives us additional expertise in important areas of environmental research, among them soil ecology and biogeochemistry,” Kodat said. “And we are always happy to welcome another marathoner to the Lawrence faculty family.”

For more on Lawrence’s geosciences major, click here.

Austin Segrest, English

Segrest head shot

A visiting assistant professor of English at Lawrence since 2014, Segrest holds a doctorate in literature and creative writing (poetry) from the University of Missouri and a master’s from Georgia State University. He has received fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and previously served as the poetry editor of the Missouri Review.

“We now have three accomplished, actively publishing writers who are either tenured or on the tenure track in our English department, a great boon for our student writers in both the college and the conservatory,” Kodat said.

For more on English offerings at Lawrence, click here.

Retiring Chinese professor Jane Parish Yang honored for 24 years of service

As a scholar of Chinese language and literature, Jane Parish Yang was instrumental in expanding Lawrence University’s foreign language curriculum when she joined the faculty in 1991.

Chinese Professor Jane Parish Yang will be honored as a retiring member of the faculty with an honorary master’s degree at Lawrence’s 166th commencement.

But it was her involvement with the long-standing hallmark of a Lawrence education that she considers a highlight of her teaching career.

“I really enjoyed teaching Freshman Studies because you’re working with your colleagues. And the training we do for it is wonderful,” said Yang, who is retiring this month after a 34-year teaching career, including the last 24 years at Lawrence. She will be recognized Sunday, June 14 with professor emeritus status and awarded an honorary master of arts degree, ad eundem, as part of Lawrence’s 166th Commencement Ceremonies on Main Hall green, which will be available via livestream.

“Teaching Einstein dampened my enthusiasm somewhat,” Yang added with a smile of her Freshman Studies experience, “but I loved teaching Shakespeare. We also taught ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ for several years and then had the conservatory perform the opera, which was wonderful. I taught Freshman Studies a total of 10 years and I’m so glad I did it.”

Yang came by her career in Chinese in part by serendipity. After graduating from Grinnell College with a degree in American Studies — she grew up a half block from the Iowa campus, which is also the alma mater of both of her parents, her grandfather and a daughter — Yang participated in a “5th year abroad” program thanks to some left over funds from a long-since discontinued program in China that Grinnell once ran.

“I went to Hong Kong, which was completely by chance,” said Yang. “And then I traveled in India and Europe and when I came back I decided to start studying Chinese.”

She began an intensive Chinese language class at the University of Iowa while pursuing a master’s degree.

“Unfortunately you can’t really learn Chinese in the middle of Iowa, so I went to Taiwan,” said Yang.

After studying Mandarin at Fu Jen Catholic University and Stanford University’s Chinese center, she returned to the states to complete her master’s in Asian Studies at Iowa and earn a Ph.D. in Chinese at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Yang split the ensuing decade among teaching appointments at National Taiwan University, Colby and Oberlin colleges and UW-Milwaukee before arriving at Lawrence to help launch its fledgling program in Chinese.Jane-Yang-with-student_newsblog

In addition to sharing her language expertise — Chinese is a four on the four-level scale of difficulty of foreign languages —Yang played a critical role in helping the upstart program gain traction by successfully writing more than $2.1 million in grant proposals. The subsequent funding she helped generate opened up opportunities for students and faculty alike for internships and study trips tours to China and other East Asian countries.

“Directing some of these programs and providing opportunities for field experiences to students as well as faculty was certainly a high point for me,” said Yang, who has led at least 10 student and/or faculty trips to Asia during her tenure at Lawrence and counts Xi’an, China as her favorite destination. “When I came, we were not very internationalized, but I think that’s changed a lot now.”

Yang, who co-founded the Wisconsin Chinese Language Association of Secondary Schools while at Lawrence, points with particular pride to a $1.5 million grant from the Freeman Foundation that supported more than a dozen separate trips abroad between 2001-2005, impacting the campus beyond just the Chinese and Japanese department.

“We were able to take so many people on those trips. I think we took half of the faculty who were here at the time,” said Yang. “The various groupings of students and faculty who went on all those different trips represented so many areas of the college, including the conservatory of music. Our expectations were not that you came back as an expert, but perhaps you could add something about East Asia to a course as some sort of comparison or reference. On that front I think we succeeded.”

“Directing some of these programs and providing opportunities for field experiences to students as well as faculty was certainly a high point for me. When I came, we were not very internationalized, but I think that’s changed a lot now.”
— Jane Yang

With the emergence of China as a world superpower, Yang believes it is imperative Americans understand the role that region of the world will play in the future.

“I don’t think everybody needs to start learning Chinese, but I think everybody should be aware of the importance of East Asia,” said Yang. “We’re going to be dealing with China and all of its relationships with its neighbors for years to come. We need to have a good understanding of Chinese culture.”

An opera lover and an avid swimmer  — she’s less than 80 miles shy of earning her 750-mile t-shirt through the YMCA’s Y Miler program — retirement won’t mean an end to teaching entirely for Yang, who is about to become a bicontinental resident of the planet.  Her husband is the founder of an institute for philosophy for children in Taipei. For the past two years, Yang has split time between Appleton and their home in Taiwan, where she’s been leading an adult reading group, exploring children’s and young adult literature written in English at the institute.

“I’ve been taking the reading group more in the direction of my interests lately, looking at memoirs,” said Yang, who spends spring and summer and part of the fall here, but escapes in the winter to the family retreat in the mountains in Taiwan. “This past winter I did ‘A Room of One’s Own.’ Sometimes we do a bilingual class where we look at the original text but also the Chinese translation. I’ll be there for five weeks later this summer and we’ll study ‘A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’ along with the Chinese translation. It’s fun for me because I get to do a little bit of teaching.”

Regarding her formal recognition at this year’s commencement, Yang says she’s looking forward to receiving her new attire, trading her University of Wisconsin regalia for her Lawrence academic hood.

“It has been a privilege to be a faculty member at Lawrence for this long,” she said.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.


Professors Shimon, Lindemann honored with Wisconsin Visual Art Achievement Award

The creative accomplishments of Lawrence University faculty members, photographers and creative partners John Shimon and Julie Lindemann have been recognized with a Wisconsin Visual Art Achievement Award (WVAAA).

John and Julie Lindeman_newsblog
John Shimon and Julie Lindemann were among the 2015 recipients of a Wisconsin Visual Art Achievement Award.

Awarded annually since 2004, the WVAAAs were created to honor artists who have contributed to the wealth of creativity in Wisconsin and to educate the public about the region’s rich artistic history.

The award was presented Sunday, May 24 at the Museum of Wisconsin Art (MOWA) in West Bend, where a retrospective of Shimon and Lindemann’s work titled “There’s a Place: A Three Decade Survey of Photographs by J. Shimon and J. Lindemann, runs until June 7. They were two of 13 visual artists to receive the award this year.

Art historian Debra Brehmer, director of Milwaukee’s Portrait Society Gallery, accepted the award on Shimon’s and Lindemann’s behalf. She offered a David Letterman-like Top 10 list of things she learned from them in accepting their award.

The artistic duo has long been interested in blending contemporary and historic photographic techniques to tell meaningful stories about ordinary people in their native Wisconsin. By combining old and new photography techniques, Shimon and Lindemann have created a compelling, at times melancholy, body of work. Although rooted in Wisconsin, their images are neither regional nor documentary but deeply personal, reflecting slow, thoughtful meditations on relationships that reveal the human experience.

Associate Professors of Art, Shimon and Lindemann joined the Lawrence faculty in 2000. They were recognized with Lawrence’s Faculty Excellence in Creative Activity Award 2012 and were named 2014 Wisconsin “Artists of the Year” by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Their photographs are featured in numerous museums including MOWA, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and the Milwaukee Art Museum.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.



Lawrence Mourns the Death of Professor Emeritus Mojmir Povolny

Mojmir Povolny, Emeritus Professor of Government and Henry M. Wriston Professor of Social Sciences died suddenly in Appleton. He was 90 years old.

Professor Povolny taught at Lawrence from 1958 to 1987. He began his academic career with a J.D. degree from Masaryk University School of Law in Czechoslovakia.

He came to the United States and earned a Ph.D. degree in International Relations from the University of Chicago. At Lawrence, Professor Povolny taught courses on human rights, international politics, European democracies, the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia and Communist rule. He was an active figure on the Lawrence campus. In 1969, he became the chair of The Select Committee on Planning which was charged with investigating the elements of a revised liberal arts education at Lawrence and formulating a coherent institutional plan that would lead to the implementation of a liberal arts curriculum at Lawrence. In addition, during his tenure at Lawrence, Professor Povolny shepherded more than 50 LU mentees. He was honored with the Lawrence University Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1986.

Upon his retirement in 1987, Povolny was praised for his service as an “academic dean, department chair, wise counselor to presidents, confidant to colleagues, pedagogical innovator, scholar, and, above all, generous guide and teacher to students.” To honor his retirement, the Mojmir Povolny Prize in Government was established. It is given annually to an outstanding senior government student.

In recognition of Povolny’s commitment to the education of students, the Department of Government named its lecture series after him. Since 1987 the Mojmir Povolny Lecturship in International Studies has brought numerous distinguished internationally acclaimed scholars to campus to address crucial issues of the day.

“Professor Povolny was a wonderful colleague and a gentleman,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Dave Burrows. “He played a central role in helping Lawrence become aware of the vital importance of global affairs in the life of each person. He inspired the Povolny lecture series that is a critical part of the intellectual life of the University. Always friendly and supportive, he was a central figure in Lawrence’s development as a nationally prominent university.”

Professor Povolny also took an active role in international politics. After the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1948, during which he was executive secretary of the Benes Party, he left the country. He worked with the anti-communist movement in exile. From 1974 to 1993, he served as chair of the council. He has also served on the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and with the American Friends Service Committee. On October 28, 1995 the independence day of the Czech Republic, Czech President Vaclav Havel presented him with the Masaryk Order, the Czech Republic’s highest civilian honor, “for his service to democracy and human rights”.

Professor Povolny is survived by his wife, Joy, and sons Daniel and David.

A formal obituary will be published in the Appleton-Post Crescent.

An on-campus memorial is being planned. Details will be forthcoming.