Tag: film studies

Use of VR tech now reality in classrooms; FaCE grant to ramp up pace

Christopher Gore-Gammon wears VR headset in photo linking to video.

“One of the reasons I did that project was not only to explore my interest in it but also to give Lawrence the chance to pioneer in an art medium and form that not many schools are doing yet.”

Christopher Gore-Gammon ’17, on creating with virtual reality

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Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When students in Lavanya Murali’s Anthropology of South Asia class explored a Bangladesh refugee camp via a documentary, they did much more than just watch the narrated video.

Without leaving campus, the Lawrence University students walked the paths of the camp housing Rohingya Muslims who had fled violence in Myanmar.

Virtual Reality (VR) technology allowed the students to take the walking tour, with a 360-degree view. Not only could they walk with and listen to the “I Am Rohingya” tour guide discuss the camp, they could veer off on their own, wander inside the makeshift housing at the camp, explore the edges.

“For me, the object was to humanize something that is such a huge crisis,” Murali said, “and to have my students understand how refugees were living and the conditions in which they were living and to understand the magnitude of the refugee crisis.

“And I think the VR experience did that because it’s immersive. It does a better job of that than just watching the documentary would have.”

The experience of the Murali class, using Google Cardboard headsets with smartphones during winter term 2018, is an early example of VR technology being integrated into the classroom at Lawrence.

Constance Kassor, an assistant professor of religious studies, followed suit this term, using the Google Cardboard headsets for students to explore religious sites in India and Tibet. Martyn Smith, associate professor of religious studies, has been dabbling in other uses of the technology in class.

More is on the way, be it VR, Augmented Reality (AR) or 3D technology.

The Makerspace wing of the Seeley G. Mudd Library, housing the early investments in that technology, has already been expanded and reconfigured since its launch three years ago.

EXPLORE MORE: See Film Studies and Seeley G. Mudd Library

The next step will come this summer when faculty representatives from Lawrence will join with other Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) schools for a conference on blending immersive technologies with liberal arts classrooms.

Lawrence, led by Reference and Learning Technologies Librarian Angela Vanden Elzen, and other ACM schools successfully sought a Faculty Career Enhancement (FaCE) grant to fund a two-day workshop in July aimed at kick-starting new collaborative efforts to share, promote and develop best practices for growing the use of VR, AR and 3D technologies in classrooms at 11 ACM schools.

The workshop will be held at Grinnell College and will be a jumping off point for collaboration that will be ongoing, Vanden Elzen said.

They’ll share not only the classroom potential of VR and AR but also some of the low-cost options that make the technology accessible without major blows to the budget. Murali, for example, is among the Lawrence professors already using Google Cardboard, a VR platform adaptable to a smartphone, available for as little as $10 each.

“At a lot of these campuses, there is a small handful of people, in some cases maybe only one, who are doing this kind of stuff with their students,” Vanden Elzen said. “It’s going to provide a great opportunity for a bunch of people interested in VR and AR and 3D visualizations to share what we’ve learned.”

Pioneers in VR tech

Lawrence has had a handful of students dive into VR for their Chandler Senior Experience, including two this year under the guidance of Anne Haydock, assistant professor of film studies.

Two years ago, Christopher Gore-Gammon ’17 and Noah Gunther ’17 were pioneers of sorts, the first two Lawrence students to use VR in their Senior Experience projects.

Gore-Gammon, now a videographer with Lawrence after graduating with a degree in film/cinema/video studies, said helping Lawrence push forward on the use of VR and AR technologies was a big motivator for him.

“One of the reasons I did that project was not only to explore my interest in it but also to give Lawrence the chance to pioneer in an art medium and form that not many schools are doing yet,” he said. “You have your art schools here and there that are doing it, but liberal arts schools of this size aren’t even venturing close to it. So, to integrate VR and AR into not only the projects that students do but into the classroom itself gives Lawrence a unique opportunity to change how we approach pedagogy, and how we approach not only teaching the students that come in but also teaching each other.”

Piquing the interest of faculty

Getting faculty buy-in across campus is the next hurdle for many schools. Some schools have jumped into VR and AR technology with more enthusiasm than others. Some have faculty members already experienced in the new technologies. Others do not. Lawrence has made significant progress over the past couple of years but there is room to grow.

What schools are finding, Vanden Elzen said, is that students are often ahead of their instructors in this technology and are pushing for it to be used in the classroom.

Kassor called the new technology an innovative tool to get students engaged in exploration on a deeper level. In early February, 10 students in her class on Buddhism in India and Tibet used VR headsets to go on a virtual scavenger hunt, seeking and exploring monasteries, temples, statues and murals.

“I gave students a basic orientation in how to use the VR viewers and some apps they might want to look at on their phones,” Kassor said. “Then I kind of turned them loose and gave them time to explore, and then we had a kind of show-and-tell after they found things.

“The value of that for me was really just to give students another opportunity to explore things on their own rather than me curating content for them. It was really encouraging them to do something a little bit more than just a Google image search.”

The students’ enthusiasm reflected the growing interest in the technology, and the classroom possibilities, Kassor said.

At Lawrence, that growth in student interest can be seen in the Senior Experience projects as well as the daily traffic coming in and out of Makerspace.

“Students have been really embracing this,” Vanden Elzen said. “At first there were just a few students who would use this space. Now we’ve seen a lot of students embrace the space independently. So, it’s kind of come the other way around where the students are telling their professors what they’ve been making in the Makerspace.”

Meanwhile, Film Studies just got approval to create a high-end VR station just outside of Makerspace in the library. While the impetus came from Film Studies, it’ll be available to students across all majors, perhaps as early as the start of next term.

Film students “will use it to develop their own VR content to be used with the campus HTC Vive VR headsets,” Vanden Elzen said. “They’ll be using Unreal 4, a game-design program, and a 3D modeling program, probably Blendr, to create their content. … We’re hoping that by having this resource in the library, students from all majors will feel like this is available for them to use.”

That’s part of the VR momentum that’s building on campus, Gore-Gammon said.

“There are already multiple students who are interested,” he said. “They don’t have to be experts, but they’re interested. And soon we will go from the two people — me and this other student — two years ago to these students this year to eventually there will be 50 students who will want to do it, and that will be amazing.”

When Kassor and some of her students return to Nepal next year — a biennual trip — she hopes to have students create VR content that students back in Appleton can then access. That’s the next step in this VR journey, she said.

“We can bring some of that back and some of the students who don’t have the opportunity to travel can experience some of the same things the students who are traveling get to experience.”

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

Lawrence faculty members promoted, granted tenure

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty have been granted tenure appointments and a fourth has been promoted to the rank of full professor by the college’s Board of Trustees.

Kurt Krebsbach has been promoted from associate professor to full professor of computer science. Celia Barnes in the English department, Alison Guenther-Pal in the German department and Copeland Woodruff, director of opera studies and associate professor of music, have been granted tenure. Barnes and Guenther-Pal also were promoted from assistant to associate professor.

“I’m delighted to welcome a new faculty member to the elevated rank of professor and to congratulate our three newest tenured colleagues,” said Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty. “Lawrence sets a high bar for faculty achievement, requiring demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship, creative activity and service. These faculty have enhanced our community immeasurably, introducing our students to new ideas and fresh perspectives on long established truths and enriching the intellectual and artistic life of the university. I look forward to working with them for many years to come.”

Kurt Kresbach
Kurt Krebsbach ’84

Krebsbach, whose research interests include artificial intelligence, multi-agent systems and functional programming, returned to Lawrence in 2002 as a faculty member, having earned his bachelor’s degree from Lawrence as the university’s first mathematics-computer science major.

He has made research presentations and technical reports at more than three dozen professional conferences in his career. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence since 1987, Krebsbach spent time in 2009 at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland as a Masters of Informatics Scholar.

Prior to joining the faculty, Krebsbach spent seven years as an artificial intelligence researcher at Honeywell Laboratories in Minneapolis. He also taught two years in the math and computer science department at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania.

After graduating from Lawrence, Krebsbach earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Minnesota.

Celia Barnes
Celia Barnes

Barnes joined the Lawrence English department faculty in 2010 as a visiting assistant professor before receiving a tenure-track appointment the following year. Her scholarship focuses on how18th-century writers conceived of their own place in literary history. She is particularly interested in re-examining the familiar image of the professional author who writes alone and always with an eye to publication into one where writers and readers are actively and sociably engaged in an interactive process of creating text.

In addition to teaching courses such as “British Writers,” Revolutionary 18th Century” and “Gender and Enlightenment,” Barnes has collaborated with colleagues to team-teach the interdisciplinary English/physics course “Newtonian Lit: Chronicles of a Clockwork Universe” and the English/philosophy course “Enlightenment Selves.”

Barnes directed an elementary composition program at Indiana University and spent a year on the faculty at California Lutheran University before coming to Lawrence. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from The College of William and Mary with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned a Ph.D. in English with a concentration in 18th-century British Literature from Indiana University.

Alison Gunther-Pal
Alison Gunther-Pal

Guenther-Pal began her career at Lawrence in 2007, first with a three-year appointment in German and film studies through the university’s Postdoctoral Fellows program, then as visiting assistant professor and finally as a tenure track assistant professor. In addition to teaching in the German and film studies programs, she also teaches courses in gender studies.

Her scholarship interests span German cinema, 20th-century German culture, feminist film theory, queer theory and popular culture, especially stardom and fandom. Her primary research focuses on the representation of homosexuality and queerness in cinematic, scientific, lay and literary texts during the Konrad Adenauer era of post-World War II Germany.

Guenther-Pal was honored with Lawrence’s Young Teacher Award in recognition of “demonstrated excellence in the classroom and the promise of continued growth” in 2017 and was the 2015-16 recipient of the university’s Mortar Board Award for Faculty Excellence.

She studied in Germany at the University of Göttingen and the Free University of Berlin before earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and the University of California, Santa Cruz. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Germanic studies from the University of Minnesota.

Copeland Woodruff
Copeland Woodruff

Woodruff was named Lawrence’s first director of opera studies in 2014 after spending six years as co-director of opera activities at the University of Memphis. In addition to directing Lawrence’s annual main stage opera production, Woodruff has launched a series of “micro-operas” that examine socially relevant issues and are performed at non-traditional locales. His first, “Expressions of Acceptance,” featured 13 short operas simultaneously staged throughout the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center, including stairwells, bathrooms, the bar areas and even elevators. The production tied for third place in the 2015-16 National Opera Association’s Division 1 Best Opera Production competition.

In 2016, his “Straight from the Hip,” was performed at The Draw, a local art gallery. The production examined the issue of gun presence and gun awareness in the community through a series of nine mini-vignettes. His 2017 production, “Is That a Fact,” explored facts, and possibly, their alternative-fact counterparts.

Woodruff’s 2016 mainstage production, “The Beggar’s Opera,” was awarded first-place honors in by the National Opera Association. Under his direction, Lawrence also was recognized in 2015 with first-place honors in the undergraduate division of the Collegiate Opera Scenes competition and earned second-place honors in the NOA’s Best Opera Production competition for “The Tender Land.”

He earned a both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Public Invited to Free Screening of Lawrence’s Civic Life Project Films Oct. 28 at Fox Valley Technical College

The second Civic Life Project, a documentary film program designed to engage Lawrence University students with social issues facing the Fox Cities community, presents a free public screening at Fox Valley Technical College Tuesday, Oct. 28 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.Civic-Life-Porject_weblog

Five short films on topics ranging from dementia to the reintegration of sex offenders, will be shown in the Commons on the FVTC campus, 1825 N. Bluemound Dr., Appleton. Use Entrance 6 off of the south parking lot. Due to limited seating, advance registration is requested.

The Civic Life Project was created by award-winning documentary filmmaker and 1972 Lawrence graduate Catherine Tatge and her husband, Dominique Lasseur. The topics for the videos grew out of conversations Tatge conducted with numerous community leaders to identify issues of concern in the Fox Cities. Three-member teams of Lawrence students then shared the roles of writer, editor, producer, director and videographer in creating the documentaries.

The titles and topics of the films to be screened are:

“Labeled for Life,” the challenges sex offenders face reintegrating into our community.

• “Living with Dementia,” the challenges faced by caregivers and individuals suffering from the disease.

Civic-Life-Project_newsblog• “Before Bars,” the story of disproportionate imprisonment of minorities.

“If you can’t reach ’em, you can’t teach ’em,” the achievement gap in Appleton-area schools.

“Domestic Violence and Schools,” the effects of domestic violence on children’s performance at school.

Brief, student-led round-table discussions follow the screening of each film, which Tatge sees as vital to the process of community engagement with these topics.

As a result of the discussions “the students get a chance to really see the impact of their work on the community members,” said Tatge. “And I think that just to show these films one after the other doesn’t have the same impact as allowing people to reflect after each one.”

Tatge and Lasseur designed the Civic Life Project as an innovative educational tool to challenge each student to learn about civics and democracy in a unique way, discover more about the community in which they reside and find their own individual voice through the creation of a documentary video.

Lawrence student Jaime Gonzalez, who worked on the film “Labeled For Life,” found the experience rewarding and enlightening.

“I learned from the experience to never look at something from one point of view,” said Gonzalez, a junior from Milwaukee. “Once we started creating this film…it became more evident how important it is to do your research and understand the legal, social and political aspects” of these topics.

Tatge is in her fourth year as an artist-in-residence at Lawrence. The Civic Life Project at Lawrence is modeled after a similar program she and Lasseur launched in 2010 in their home state of Connecticut. Started at one high school, the program has since expanded to 10 schools around the state.

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 Film Festival Showcases Student Projects

From a woman’s struggle within an abusive relationship to a comical personification of a cat, the creative results of 13 budding Lawrence University student filmmakers will be showcased Saturday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center cinema in the second annual Lawrence Student Film Festival. The event is free and open to the public.

Dinner for Two_newsblog
A scene from Peter Emery’s “Dinner for Two.”

The festival features 15 films ranging from as short as one minute to a nine-minute documentary. The festival line-up includes:

“Dinner for Two” (Peter Emery ’15, 2:00), a woman’s struggle within an abusive relationship.

“Egg” (Pat Commins ’15, 2:20), a documentary on the not-for-profit organization One Egg Rwanda, which provides small children one egg every day to combat the effects of protein malnutrition.

  “Nollywood in Sierra Leone” (Kate Siakpere ’14, 9:00), a documentary on Nigerian cinema, the second largest film industry in the world affecting smaller, neighboring African countries.

  “Cat Man” (Brooks Eaton ’14, 1:00) a comical advertisement about a personification of a cat.

 “I am Not Jeffrey Collins” (Alex Babbitt ’15, 6:29), a post-MySpace existential comedy.

  “Rabbits – Behind the Scenes” (Peter Emery ’15 4:00), a mockumentary about a director’s attempt to keep his job in a struggling video series.

“Do the Squirrel: Making ‘Long Live the Squirrels’” (Nathan Lawrence ’15, 6:00), a documentary on the process of creating “Long Live the Squirrels,” a feature-length film shot on the Lawrence campus last fall and scheduled for release later this year.

Awake-in-Art_newsblog
A scene from Brooks Eaton’s “Awake in Art.”

“Awake in Art” (Brooks Eaton ’14, 1:00), a touching, proof-of-concept film made for Mofilm, an advertising competition, about a mother discovering one of her daughter’s talents.

“Back to Home” (Maisha Rahman ’14, 5:20), a profile of Lawrence Professor of Government Claudena Skran and her commitment to helping foreign students at Lawrence.

“The Theft” (Reed Robertson ’17, 4:20; Jamie DeMotts ’16, 2:10). Two versions of a crime film assembled from the same raw footage.

The festival also will include the final project films of  Anna Johnson Ryndová’s “Principles of Editing” class, in which students had to make a creative “how to” video,  the idea of which was to describe a particular process in a visually compelling way, using as little dialogue or narration as possible. Each student conceived, directed, shot and edited all the material themselves.

• How To Put On Red Lipstick (Katerina Kimoundri ’15, 2:35)

 How To Bury a Dead Body (Kate Siakpere ’14, 4:00)

Toast (Alexcia Jellum ’16, 4:10)

How To Build A Snowskate Obstacle (Evan Flack ’14, 5:00)

The Dinner (Htee Moo ’15 ,3:40)

How-toSnowscape_newsblog
A scene from Evan Flack’s “How To Build A Snowskate Obstacle.”

The films were produced in Lawrence’s film studies program with the assistance of award-winning PBS filmmaker Catherine Tatge, a 1972 Lawrence graduate who is serving as an artist-in-residence, and Ryndová, lecturer of film studies and video editor.

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 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Lawrence Documentary on Austrian Holocaust Gets Community Screening at Appleton Public Library

A free public screening of the Lawrence University-produced documentary film “Surviving Anschluss: Austrian Jews in the Holocaust” will be held Tuesday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at the Appleton Public Library. An audience Q & A follows the screening. In addition to the library, the film is presented in conjunction with the city of Appleton’s diversity and inclusion department.

Surviving-Anschluss_newsblogAnschluss refers to Adolf Hitler’s 1938 annexation of Austria into political union with Germany. The film was created by Lawrence students in the college’s film studies program and was inspired by Lawrence’s 2012 multimedia Holocaust Symposium.

The film features clips from the symposium as well as individual interviews with four survivors of the Anschluss, including Curtis Brown of Neenah. Anne Kelemen, Gerda Lederer and Renee Weiner, all from New York City, along with Brown share personal stories of fleeing Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis.

The documentary was produced by award-winning filmmaker Catherine Tatge, who is serving as an artist-in-resident at Lawrence, and edited by Anna Ryndova Johnson.

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 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Multimillion Dollar Gifts Enable Lawrence University to Establish Two New Endowed Professorships

Amy-Ongiri_newsblog
Amy Abugo Ongiri

Deep-seated appreciation for film and opera has led a pair of Lawrence University alumni and an anonymous donor to establish new endowed professorships at the college. Lawrence requires a minimum of $2.5 million to establish an endowed professorship.

Tom Hurvis, and his wife, Julie, 1960 and 1961 Lawrence graduates, respectively, and the Caerus Foundation, Inc., have established the Jill Beck Professorship in Film Studies in recognition of Lawrence’s 15th president, her service to Lawrence, their love of film and their conviction that student participation in film studies has an important role in a liberal arts education.

In 2011, a $5 million gift from the Hurvises enabled Lawrence to establish the Hurvis Center for Interdisciplinary Film Studies, a facility dedicated to the integration of film production into the Lawrence curriculum.

Motivated by a desire to encourage participation in music and arts at Lawrence, an anonymous donor made a gift to enhance the college’s capacity to provide learning and performance opportunities for students in opera studies while increasing multifaceted collaboration within the curriculum by establishing the endowed director of opera studies position. The Lawrence conservatory, with the support of the theatre arts department, has annually staged an opera production since 1961.

In conjunction with the newly created professorships, Lawrence President Mark Burstein announced the appointment of Amy Abugo Ongiri, currently an associate professor of English at the University of Florida, as the Jill Beck Professor and Director of Film Studies and J. Copeland Woodruff, assistant professor and co-director of opera studies at the University of Memphis, as Director of Opera Studies.

Both Ongri and Woodruff join the faculty with the rank of associate professor. Ongiri’s appointment includes tenure.

“One of the many strengths that a Lawrence education develops is the ability to link a student’s own talent and creativity with performance and presentation, a skill one needs to succeed in the world today,” said Burstein in announcing the appointments. “The addition of Amy Abugo Ongiri and J. Copeland Woodruff significantly enhances our capability in this area both for students interested in film studies and in the conservatory and also in the larger Lawrence student body.

“I want to thank Julie and Tom Hurvis and anonymous members of the Lawrence community for making these two important appointments to our faculty possible,” Burstein added.

Award-winning Educator

Ongiri joined the University of Florida faculty in 2003 after four years at the University of California-Riverside. In 2006, she was recognized with both UF’s Teacher  of the Year Award and  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Teacher of the Year Award.

Her scholarship interests focus on African American literature and culture, film studies, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies. She is the author of nearly 20 published journal articles, three dozen conference papers and the 2009 book, “Spectacular Blackness: The Cultural Politics of the Black Power Movement and the Search for a Black Aesthetic.” She spent 2005 in Dakar, Senegal on a National Endowment for the Humanities summer seminar in African film.

She is a member of the editorial board of the journals American Literature and Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies and serves as a reviewer for the Journal  of African American History and the Journal of American History.

At Florida, Ongiri has taught courses ranging from the history of film and African cinema in a world cinema context to an introduction to Asian American film and video.

Ongiri earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree from the University of Texas and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have Amy Ongiri as the first director of film studies,” said Brent Peterson, professor of German, chair of Lawrence’s film studies program and a member of the search committee. “She is an accomplished scholar and dedicated teacher; someone who is there for every last one of her students at a large public university. She will be a terrific asset for Lawrence students. She is also exactly the right person to put together an expanded curriculum for film studies and to shape the program in film making.”

“Amazingly Creative, Innovative”

J.-Copeland-Woodruff_newsblog
J. Copeland Woodruff

Woodruff has taught at the University of Memphis since 2008. He previously has held teaching appointments at The Julliard School, Oberlin College, Temple and Yale universities as well as the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and Germany’s Universität Bamberg. He also has served as a guest instructor with La Musica Lirica in Italy, the Festival of International Opera of the Americas in Brazil and at Bejing University.

He has directed more than 90 opera productions, including the 2013 world premiere of “Raise the Red Lantern” at the Tianqiao Theatre in Bejing, one of three productions in China he has directed. Since 2006, Woodruff has earned four first-place National Opera Association Best Opera Production Awards and was recognized in 2013 with the University of Memphis’ Dean’s Creative Achievement Award.

Woodruff has enjoyed an extended relationship with Boston’s Guerilla Opera, serving as stage director of a new production of “Heart of a Dog” and earning Second Prize in the 2012 American Prize in Opera Performance competition, professional division.

“It is with great excitement that we welcome Copeland Woodruff to Lawrence,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the conservatory of music. “Besides being an amazingly creative, innovative and well-respected opera director and educator, he is also passionate about  the liberal arts and cross-disciplinary collaboration. In short, he will absolutely flourish at Lawrence. We are entering an exciting new era for opera studies at Lawrence and I can’t wait to see how all the possibilities unfold.”

Woodruff attended the University of South Carolina, where he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in vocal performance and also completed extensive master’s level coursework in theatrical design. He earned a master’s degree in stage directing for opera from Indiana University.

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 2014 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.

Festival Showcases Student Film Projects

The cinematic visions of 25 budding student filmmakers will be showcased Tuesday, May 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the Warch Campus Center cinema in the first Lawrence University Student Film Festival. The film festival is free and open to the public.

A gambler experiences a positive new direction in his life after experiencing a run of bad luck in the film “Luck.”

The festival will screen nearly 20 short films, most 3-9 minutes in length. Among the films to be shown are “Luck,” a card-playing gambler with a lucky charm who runs into some bad luck that leads to a positive change; “The Roommate,” when a new student at Lawrence meets his roommate, not everything goes smoothly, but love conquers all, including hand wipes; “Shattered,” the challenge of moving on after losing someone close that leaves your life is shattered; and several films focusing on the art of dance.

The festival also will feature five documentaries produced for Lawrence’s Civic Life Project. The focus of the Civic Life Project films was determined after conversations last fall with community leaders. Each addresses an issue confronting the Fox Valley.

The idea behind the Civic Life Project is to challenge students to learn about our democracy, discover the community they live in for four years and “find their voice” through the creation of a documentary film.

The Civic Life Project films include:

• “Homeless Veterans of the Fox Valley,” an examination of the challenges facing military veterans reacclimating to civilian life.

• “Walking Alone,” a look at homophobia and the consequences teens suffer from the brunt of its isolation and rejection.

• “Rooted,” the Hmong community’s struggle between assimilation and maintaining cultural identity.

• “Adelante,” the plight of undocumented teenage immigrants.

• “Muted,” uncovering victims of sex trafficking in Appleton.

All of the films were produced in Lawrence’s film studies program under the direction of award-winning PBS filmmaker Catherine Tatge, a 1972 Lawrence graduate who is serving as an artist-in-residence.

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 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Lawrence Hosts Premiere Screening of “Surviving Anschluss” May 7

Holocaust survivor Curtis Brown of Neenah will be one of four Viennese emigrés featured in the world premiere of the Lawrence University documentary film “Surviving Anschluss,” Tuesday, May 7 at 7 p.m in the Warch Campus Center cinema. The screening is free and open to the public.

Inspired by Lawrence’s May, 2012 multimedia Holocaust  Symposium, the film includes clips from the symposium as well as individual interviews with the four survivors. In addition to Brown, Anne Kelemen, Gerda Lederer and Renee Weiner, all from New York City, share their personal stories of fleeing Austria in 1938 to escape the Nazis. Anschluss refers to the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany.

The documentary, made by students in Lawrence’s Film Studies program, was produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Catherine Tatge, who is serving as an artist-in-resident at Lawrence, and co-directed and edited by Anna Ryndova Johnson.

The 2012 Holocaust Symposium was produced by Professor of Music Catherine Kautsky, who was inspired by the stories of her parents who emigrated from Vienna to America following the Anschluss. Collaborating with faculty members in departments and disciplines across campus and with assistance from the Lawrence Hillel chapter, Kautsky created a three-day commemoration that featured lectures, discussions, gallery exhibitions and concerts. A performance of Paul Schoenfield’s chamber work “Camp Songs” was a highlight of the symposium and excerpts are woven throughout the film.

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 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.

Campus Screening of Just-Released Film Comedy “Oconomowoc” Features Plenty of Lawrence Connections

Andy Gillies is returning to his alma mater, and he’s bringing his directorial debut film with him.

The 2004 Lawrence graduate will be on hand for a screening of his feature-length film “Oconomowoc” Thursday, May 2 at 9 p.m. in the Wriston Art Center auditorium. Sponsored by the Lawrence University Film Club, the screening is free and open to the public.

Gillies, who wrote, directed and acted in the film, will conduct a Q & A following its screening.

A deadpan comedy set in its title Waukesha County town (the hometown of a one-time girlfriend of Gillies), the film has more Lawrentian fingerprints on it than just Gillies.’ The story follows 20-something slacker Lonnie Washington, portrayed by fellow 2004 Lawrence graduate Brendan Marshall-Rashid with “goofy soulfulness” as noted by the Hollywood Reporter, who moves back home.

Quirky characters abound, including Todd, Lonnie’s 30-year-old stepfather played by 2005 Lawrence grad Andrew Rozanski, and Travis, an old friend eager to recruit Lonnie in a poorly run T-shirt making business, portrayed by Gillies.

Deemed “an engagingly cynical ode to futility” by Slate Magazine, the film’s do-it-yourself aesthetic is complimented by an improvised acoustic score composed by Gillies, Marshall-Rashid and director of photography/editor Joe Haas.

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 2013 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries. Follow Lawrence on Facebook.