Tag: Lawrence faculty

On Main Hall Green With … Dominica Chang: Heavy lifting in French studies

Dominica Chang poses for a photo while standing on one of the paths cutting across Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Dominica Chang (photo by Danny Damiani)

About the series: On Main Hall Green With … is an opportunity to connect with faculty on things in and out of the classroom. We’re featuring a different faculty member every two weeks — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Dominica Chang, the Margaret Banta Humleker Professor of French Cultural Studies and an associate professor of French, is a classroom favorite, whether leading study abroad trips to Senegal or diving deep into French literature.

But she also has a variety of interests outside the classroom, not the least of which is the pursuit of some serious weightlifting skills. She was recently certified as an Olympic-style weightlifting coach.

Chang has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Middlebury College, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We fired off six questions for her as part of our new On Main Hall Green With … faculty series. She was kind enough to help us get the series started.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Inside info: What’s one thing you want every student coming into your classes to know about you?

I hope that every student knows that I truly want them to succeed, not only in my class but also in life. I want them to master the content of the specific course, certainly, but also to learn how to think critically and independently, to speak with intelligence, confidence and humility across differences, and to be sensitive and generous to each other. These basic principles guide my pedagogy, from Freshman Studies to French 101 to French Senior Capstone. My hope is that when a student believes that a teacher is in their corner, hoping they will succeed, they will also better understand — and therefore better conquer — the intellectual and social challenges we will engage in together.

Getting energized: What work have you done or will you be doing at Lawrence that gets you the most excited?

Spending 10 weeks in Senegal with Lawrence students has been a wonderful experience for me. While there, we spend most of each day as well as many weekends together, so I am able to get to know the students in a completely different environment. It’s very fulfilling to help such bright, enthusiastic young people experience and navigate a culture that is so different from our home campus.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you (either a physical space or something more intellectual, emotional or spiritual) that took you by surprise?

Dakar, Senegal! I could never have predicted that my training in 19th-century French literature and cultural studies would have led me to spending 10 weeks every few years leading our Francophone Seminar in Senegal. Each time I’ve gone, I have as much of a transformative experience as the students I accompany. I’ve made lifelong friends there and consider myself incredibly fortunate to have these opportunities.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

This or that: If you weren’t teaching for a living, what would you be doing? 

I think a lot about the random contingencies in life that affect what we do and who we become, so I love this question. If I weren’t teaching, I would most likely be rescuing animals or working as an animal welfare advocate of some sort. Either that … or perhaps helping to run a local pizza joint!

Right at home: Whether for work, relaxation or reflection, what’s your favorite spot on campus?

My intellectual side loves my office; my home away from home. When I need a break from thinking too hard, I love spending time in the Alexander Gym weight room, especially since I’ve gotten more seriously into weightlifting this past year. It’s a great facility and I enjoy running into our hardworking coaches and student-athletes.

One book, one recording, one film: Name one of each that speaks to your soul? Or you would recommend to a friend? Or both?

Book: Sentimental Education (1869) by Gustave Flaubert. It’s the text that took my love for French studies to the next level and inspired my graduate work in the field. I am very fortunate to be able to teach it on occasion in The Long Novel, a course that I co-teach with professors Tim Spurgin and Peter Thomas.

Recording: New Order, Substance (1987). I’m a child of the ’80s. Just the other day, I realized that at least a few songs from this album have made it onto every single playlist I’ve put together since 1987.

Film: The Battle of Algiers (1966) by Gillo Pontecorvo. Perhaps my favorite film of all time. Time and again, I am astounded by its cinematic beauty and especially by the sensitivity and complexity with which it represents the brutality of colonial occupation.

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

Lawrence experience inspires, informs Madhuri Vijay’s path to “The Far Field”

Portrait of Madhuri Vijay
Madhuri Vijay ’09 has earned critical praise for her debut novel, “The Far Field,” including being long-listed as a semifinalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The 24 semifinalists will be narrowed to six on Nov. 4. (Photo courtesy of Manvi Rao)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Madhuri Vijay ’09 was taken aback by the critical praise that accompanied the January arrival of her debut novel, The Far Field.

Now, nine months and a multi-continent book tour later, comes the announcement that her novel, published by Grove Press, has been long-listed for the prestigious 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a literary honor that could push her visibility to new heights.

“The whole thing feels somewhat surreal and a bit like a dream,” Vijay said by phone from her home in Hawaii, where she and her husband are preparing for the imminent arrival of their first child. “It’s always hard to take (the honors) seriously because it always seems like someone is going to call and say, this has all been a big mistake.”

That is not going to happen.

Ten years removed from her days as a Lawrence University undergrad, Vijay has arrived as a significant young novelist. The Far Field has been short-listed for the JCB Prize for Literature, long-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and has drawn stellar praise in book reviews from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, and others. On Nov. 4, the 24 books long-listed for the Carnegie medal in the fiction category will be narrowed to six finalists.

Along with accolades from the literary awards circuit comes much admiration from faculty members at Lawrence who nurtured Vijay’s storytelling skills a decade ago, not to mention current students who see her as a rock star in the making.

“When Madhuri visited my creative writing class last winter — she read at LU on the day her novel was officially released — my students saw her as a kind of superhero: glamorous and whip-smart and on the verge of international fame,” said professor of English David McGlynn. “But they only glimpsed the end result of an awful lot of work and an endless amount of dedication and determination.”

The publishing of The Far Field came after a six-year writing and editing process that Vijay called grueling, exhausting, and exhilarating. The book, set mostly in Bangalore, a metropolitan area in southern India where Vijay grew up, and the more remote, mountainous regions of Kashmir, tells the story of Shalini, a restless young woman, newly graduated from college and reeling from her mother’s death, who sets out from her privileged life in Bangalore in search of a family acquaintance from her childhood. She runs smack into the unsettled and volatile politics of Kashmir.

When Vijay launched her book tour early this year, Lawrence was an important stop. She points to her time as a student here as the impetus to a life of writing. She will tell you she arrived in the fall of 2005 as a determined but narrowly focused freshman. She’ll then tell you she left four years later having explored, sampled, and embraced every nook and cranny of the liberal arts experience, a creative enlightenment that rerouted her plans, turned her focus to fiction writing, and led her to the story that became The Far Field.

She double-majored in psychology and English at Lawrence, but it wasn’t until she was midway through a 12-month Watson Fellowship following graduation that she called off her plans to go to graduate school for psychology, applying instead to the Iowa Writers Workshop, a highly focused two-year writing residency at the University of Iowa.

Details on Lawrence’s English major here

“Lawrence itself was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Vijay said. “I grew up in India, and our system of learning is in some ways very good because it’s very thorough and it’s science-based and it’s very rigorous, but it doesn’t allow for a lot of experimentation and play.

“So, when I got to Lawrence, I was overjoyed to discover that I could just dabble in all of these different things. I would take biology and Latin and I would sing in the choir and I would do all of these different things, which is the foundation of a liberal arts education. But it’s also, as I see it now, the foundation for being a good fiction writer, in that you have to be interested in everything all of the time and that nothing is divorced from the other thing. … Everything is worthy of study and everything is worthy of interest. That’s the thing I discovered at Lawrence.”

McGlynn was in his first year on the Lawrence faculty in 2006 when he first encountered Vijay, then a sophomore in his English 360 class. He recalled her being smart, poised and articulate, but her writing was far from polished.

“Her writing showed promise, but it also needed to be refined and to mature,” he said.

What made her stand out, though, was a willingness to work. That was evident from the get-go.

“She recognized her intellectual capacity, but she also knew capacity was only the beginning,” McGlynn said. “She knew she needed to work. She knew she needed to walk the path. That, more than anything, was her great gift. She remains one of the most dedicated and passionate students I have ever taught in my 13 years at Lawrence.”

With additional guidance from Tim Spurgin, the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and associate professor of English, Vijay applied to and was selected for a Watson Fellowship, funding a year of travel and study. Her Watson study was focused on people from India living in foreign lands. Her travels took her to South Africa, Malaysia, and Tanzania, among other places, and her desire to write and create grew along the away.

Details on the Watson Fellowship here

“Being on the Watson means you are alone for a year,” Vijay said. “You’re absolutely independent in that nobody is looking over your shoulder. You either do the work or you don’t, which, in a nutshell, is what it means to be a writer. No one is waiting for you to produce anything. You either do the work or you don’t. All the urgency has to come from you, and it’s a lonely profession.”

Interestingly, it was during her Watson year that she first encountered Shalini and some of the other fictional characters that would eventually become key players in The Far Field. And it was her continued correspondence with McGlynn that in part set the wheels in motion.

“I wrote a short story during the Watson that had some of these same characters in it,” Vijay said. “It was very bad. But David McGlynn read it. He is one of the few people I trust to read even my worst writing. He was the one who literally suggested, ‘Why don’t you make this a novel?’ So, I wrote about 30 pages, and that’s how I got to Iowa, on the strength of those 30 pages. But it was a very different version. It had nothing to do with the book that eventually got published.

“After I got into Iowa, I didn’t touch those 30 pages, and I didn’t think about those characters for two years. It was only after Iowa when I was thinking about what to do next that I began thinking about those characters again. … If David hadn’t said that to me, I probably wouldn’t have written this book. I may have written something different, but not this book.”

Vijay is now a year into a follow-up book project that she says has yet to fully take shape. She knows the positive reaction to The Far Field assures nothing. It’s about continuing to put in the work.

“There is no point where you arrive at some sort of certainty where you say, ‘OK, this is a guarantee,’” she said of her life as a novelist. “Every single day feels like a gamble, feels like a risk, feels like you could fall at any given moment. That point (of certainty) hasn’t arrived, and I don’t think it ever will. And I don’t think it ever should. … You should always feel like you might fall flat on your face. That is the only way to do it honestly.”

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

Three Lawrence faculty honored with teaching, scholarship awards at 2019 Commencement

Jose Encarnacion smiles from the stage as he accepts applause for his faculty award at Commencement.
Jose Encarnacion is greeted by applause as he accepts his faculty award at Commencement.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty — two key music talents in the Conservatory of Music and one highly acclaimed geologist — were honored Sunday, June 9 for their academic and scholarly achievements.

The awards, announced during the 2019 Commencement ceremony and considered to be among Lawrence’s highest faculty honors, went to gifted instrumentalist and music instructor Erin Lesser, jazz musician and instructor Jose Encarnacion and highly lauded geology scholar and author Marcia Bjornerud.

For more coverage of Lawrence’s 2019 Commencement, click here.

Erin Lesser

Portrait of Erin Lesser at Commencement.
Erin Lesser

Lesser took home the 2019 University Award for Excellence in Teaching. A member of the acclaimed ensembles Wet Ink, Decoda, and Alarm Will Sound, she is both a highly regarded performer and an accomplished instructor. She has been teaching at Lawrence since 2011.

In her award citation, Provost and Dean of Faculty Catherine Kodat praised Lesser for her ability to balance the demands of being a touring artist with those of the classroom.

“Your brilliance in the concert hall finds its bright reflection in the Lawrence Conservatory studio, where your grateful students grow as musicians and thinkers in their own right, thanks to your thoughtful, attentive efforts to meet them where they are and then give them the tools and support that helps them realize their artistic goals.”

Jose Encarnacion

Portrait of Jose Encarnacion at Commencement.
Jose Encarnacion

Encarnacion was given the 2019 Award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member.

While Encarnacion has been an assistant professor at Lawrence for just five years, his ties to the Conservatory date back to 2002, when he came here shortly after receiving his master’s of jazz and contemporary media from the Eastman School of Music. He would leave for a six-year stint as director of jazz and band ensembles at Eastman before returning to Lawrence in 2011 as a lecturer. He became a tenure-track faculty member in 2014 and now leads a jazz program that is regularly lauded in national music education circles.

“Your return has had a measurable effect — since 2015, the excellence of Lawrence’s jazz program has been recognized by no less an authority than DownBeat magazine, which has presented the university with four awards in four years,” Kodat said.

Marcia Bjornerud

Portrait of Marcia Bjornerud at Commencement.
Marcia Bjornerud

Bjornerud, who came to Lawrence in 1995, is the recipient of the 2019 Award for Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity. She has been among the college’s most honored faculty members. The Walter Schober Professor in Environmental Studies and founder of the Environmental Studies major has earned two Fulbright Senior Scholar awards, was named a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Women Geoscientists and was named a Fellow of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters.

The faculty scholarship honor comes after her 2018 book, Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist Can Help Save the World, was widely praised for making complex geological concepts — and their importance in the ongoing debate over how we care for the Earth — both accessible and substantial. It was long-listed for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Prize for Literary Science Writing, was a finalist for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize and received the PROSE Award in Popular Science and Popular Mathematics from the American Association of Publishers.

“In Timefulness, you draw on your research into the physics of earthquakes and mountain formation to show how an understanding of the multiple, overlapping temporalities of the Earth’s deep past can help us gain the perspective we need if we are to confront and address the environmental challenges that face us,” Kodat said.

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

Hetzler, Bozemans bring long, impressive Lawrence journeys to a close

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Two tenure-track faculty and one long-time adjunct faculty will bid farewell to Lawrence University at the close of spring term.

Bruce Hetzler, a fixture in the psychology department for more than four decades, and Kenneth and Joanne Bozeman, key players in the growth and success of the Conservatory of Music, are retiring. The three have a combined 110 years of teaching at Lawrence.

Lawrentians with long memories may recall that the Bozemans, then a young married couple, also served as head residents of Trever Hall for two years in the early 1980s.

Hetzler and Ken Bozeman came to Lawrence at the same time, joining the robust incoming faculty class of 1977. Joanne Bozeman joined as an adjunct faculty member in 1993.

They talked to us about Lawrence pride, new journeys and the emotions of saying goodbye.

Bruce Hetzler: “We were one of the few undergraduate institutions to have a neuroscience program.”

Bruce Hetzler

Bruce Hetzler has been a leading voice in the psychology department at Lawrence since 1977. You might even say his 42-year run has been magical.

Hetzler has often mixed his love of magic with his passion for teaching about the brain.

Much of his work at Lawrence focused on neuropharmacology, effects of alcohol on the brain, computer analysis of brain waves and neuroscience.

He and his students through the years published dozens of papers on a wide range of brain-focused topics, the latest being a study on why some people co-abuse methylphenidate (most common trade name is Ritalin) and alcohol. That paper, with co-authors Lauren W.Y. McLester-Davis ’18 and Sadie E. Tenpas ’17, was published in the June edition of the journal Alcohol.

“I have mixed emotions,” Hetlzer said of his retirement. “I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve loved it. I’ve enjoyed teaching, I’ve enjoyed doing research, and I’ve enjoyed working with students in the laboratory. But it has been 42 years, so I think it’s time for this chapter in my life to close.”

Hetzler spent much of his career doing research on the effects of drugs on the brain, most specifically alcohol. He is a charter member of the International Society for Biomedical Research on Alcoholism.

He was part of a faculty group that launched the initial neuroscience program at Lawrence in the early 1980s.

“At the time we were not able to put together a neuroscience major, but we did start the neuroscience program,” Hetzler said. “In 1980, we were one of the few undergraduate institutions to have a neuroscience program.”

It eventually became a major at Lawrence, and the number of faculty positions tied to the program has grown considerably.

“That wasn’t just me, it was a lot of people who put that together,” Hetzler said. “But it’s been very pleasing to see it grow like that.”

Outside of his teaching duties at Lawrence, Hetzler for years could be found doing table-side magic at local restaurants such as B.J. Clancy’s and Ground Round.

He persevered with both his teaching and his magic after suffering a major stroke in the summer of 2011. Relearning magic tricks, he said, helped with his long and slow recovery.

Now he hopes to dedicate more time in retirement to the physical therapy that’s needed to regain many of his magician skills.

“I’d love to be able to do table-side magic at a restaurant again in the future, but that depends on my determination to do exercises to increase my dexterity and my ability to walk without a cane,” Hetzler said. “The year before I had a stroke I was doing 100 magic shows a year. Now I do maybe five. I’m not sure my wife would like me to do 100 again, but somewhere in between would be nice.”

Kenneth Bozeman: “When you are working on someone’s voice, in a sense you are messing with their soul.”

Kenneth Bozeman

Music professor Kenneth Bozeman, retiring after 42 years on the Conservatory of Music faculty, has left an impressive imprint that’s difficult to measure.

He led the voice department for much of his tenure, in the process providing important leadership not just in the Conservatory but across campus. In addition to his work as a respected voice teacher, he has led or been a part of talent searches for Conservatory faculty and new deans and has played a big role in campus projects such as the expansion of the Music-Drama Center and the building of the Warch Campus Center.

In recent years, his focus has been in the growing field of acoustic voice pedagogy. He’s become an in-demand scholar on that topic across the country.

But it’s in the voice studio, working one-on-one with students, where Bozeman says his heart remains.

“Voice teaching is totally one-on-one, so it’s pretty personal,” he said. “When you are working on someone’s voice, in a sense you are messing with their soul. Their sense of personal identity is wrapped up in their voice.”

He’s done it well. In 2018, Bozeman was chosen by his peers for the Lawrence Faculty Convocation Award, which honors a faculty member for distinguished professional work. He was the ninth faculty member so honored.

Bozeman is the author of two books, Practical Vocal Acoustics: Pedagogic Applications for Teachers and Singers and Kinesthetic Voice Pedagogy: Motivating Acoustic Efficiency. He was awarded the Van Lawrence Fellowship by the Voice Foundation in 1994 for his work in voice science and pedagogy.

He has been recognized with two Lawrence teaching honors, the Young Teacher Award in 1980 and the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1996.

Under his guidance, the voice department within the Conservatory has grown from about 40 students and four instructors to nearly 100 students being taught by five full-time studio faculty, one adjunct faculty, two choral directors, opera and theater directors, a vocal coach and other contributors.

“We’ve seen a lot of growth,” Bozeman said. “There’s been good quality all along. There was always some good talent in the student pool. … But now it certainly feels like there is a lot more talent here. It’s definitely harder to get in here. The talent floor has risen because of the competitiveness of it.

“And what we’re able to provide in terms of training is much deeper and richer as well.”

As the years have gone by, an increasing number of voice students have gone on to sing professionally or pursue voice in graduate school programs.

“Now it’s pretty routine that that happens,” Bozeman said.

He said he’ll continue to do voice work in retirement. He’s already committed to a weeklong workshop on acoustic voice pedagogy this summer at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. He’ll also be presenting at multiple conferences and will be doing private voice teaching, focused on young professional singers.

Joanne Bozeman: “The change between an 18-year-old singer and a 21- or 22-year-old singer is a huge transition.”

Joanne Bozeman

Joanne Bozeman has been an adjunct member of the voice department at Lawrence since 1993, teaching studio voice and related course work.

She also was a sought-after soloist in recital, concert and oratorio for nearly four decades. She’s appeared with, among others, the Fox Valley Symphony, the Green Lake Music Festival, the Bach Chamber Choir in Rockford, Illinois, and the Lawrence University Concert Choir and Orchestra.

While she’ll stay active in private teaching and related projects in retirement, it’s the voice studio instruction — working one-on-one with students as their voices and their music knowledge transform over four years — that will be difficult to leave behind.

“I’ll miss working with students in the long term, four or five years, developing their skill set and seeing them master certain things,” she said. “The change between an 18-year-old singer and a 21- or 22-year-old singer is a huge transition. It’s really exciting to be involved with that.”

Many instrumentalists arrive at the Conservatory having been in training for a dozen or more years. Not so much for voice students.

“Singers don’t know they have an instrument until they’re maybe 14, 15 or 16 years old,” Bozeman said. “They maybe haven’t had theory or lessons and they come in a little more raw. To see their incredible strides and development over that period of time is really cool.”

Bozeman called working with the voice faculty in the Conservatory a joy.

“We don’t always agree with each other, but we really do get along,” she said. “I admire my colleagues’ skills in the studio, and we are friends. I’ll miss that kind of intimate relationship. I’ll miss the people in the office, and I’ll miss my wonderful colleagues all over the Conservatory.”

In addition to giving private voice lessons, Bozeman is working on a book about women’s singing voices as they go through perimenopause and menopause. The book, which she is co-writing with two other women, has included interviews to date with nearly 60 women, ranging from elite professional singers to those who participate in community choirs.

It’s an emotional and very personal issue for women who want to continue singing as they age, Bozeman said.

“Some breeze through it,” she said. “Some struggle. I really struggled. That’s kind of what fueled my interest in the issue.”

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

Fleshman, Hakes, Piasecki earn 2019 tenure appointments at Lawrence

Aerial photo of Main Hall and Steitz Hall of Science
Lawrence University

Three members of the Lawrence University faculty — all teaching in the sciences — have been granted 2019 tenure appointments.

The college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment and Equal Employment Opportunity, and President Mark Burstein, granted tenure to Allison Fleshman (chemistry), Alyssa Hakes (biology) and Brian Piasecki (biology). All three have been promoted to associate professor, effective Sept. 1.

“Lawrence has some of the best faculty in the world; I can say that with certainty because I get the immense pleasure of seeing direct evidence testifying to that fact every year in reviewing the accomplishments of faculty who stand for tenure,” said Catherine Gunther Kodat, provost and dean of the faculty. “This year’s tenure class had the unique aspect of really showing off faculty talent in the sciences. Alyssa, Brian, and Allison are not only doing stellar work in their labs, they are true teacher-scholars, who meaningfully involve their students deeply in their own research.

“I am delighted that they have chosen Lawrence as their intellectual home, and look forward to applauding their accomplishments in the future.”

To help you get to know the three new tenure appointments a little better, we gave them each four questions to answer:

Allison Fleshman

Portrait of Allison Fleshman
Allison Fleshman

Promoted to associate professor of chemistry. Joined Lawrence in 2013. Fleshman has a bachelor of science degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma.

What or who inspired you to pursue chemistry?

“I’ve always been in awe of nature, and trying to unlock her secrets is the job of a scientist. My particular science, physical chemistry, is about understanding how nature’s building blocks — atoms and molecules — interact and move about.

“As an undergraduate, I couldn’t decide between physics and chemistry, so what a delight when I worked as an undergraduate summer researcher with physical chemist Roger Frech (who later became my doctoral advisor) and learned I could do both. It’s incredible to look at a chemical problem as a physicist and see the mathematical interworkings unfold. 

“I also love to teach and share my passion for this subject, so working at Lawrence allows me to share physical chemistry with students in class sizes that are small enough that we can really dive deep into the material. I often joke that I get paid to read a textbook and share my findings with a captive audience — I absolutely love it.”

What about the work you’re doing at Lawrence has you the most excited?

“My research looks into what makes liquids flow, which seems like something we should understand. But as we learn more about materials on the molecular level we discover that our understanding is incomplete. What excites me most about this work is that it is rewriting what is in the textbooks.

“My students often take the textbook as absolute truth, but this work helps them see that even our most agreed upon understanding still has room for improvement. In addition, the liquids I study are called ionic liquids — salts in the liquid form — and they are showing great promise as materials for carbon sequestration, and could help revolutionize industrial processes that emit greenhouse gases. It is essential that we all act to combat global climate change, and this research lets me fight it both in the lab and in the classroom.”

How do you think your students would describe your teaching style?

“My students probably wouldn’t argue that I love my subject more than humanly possible and think physical chemistry is one of the most beautiful disciplines to study. That enthusiasm also seeps into my teaching. ‘Go Team’ is a phrase I say quite often, and I think my students would liken me to their cheerleader/coach, encouraging them to push themselves beyond their comfort zone and embrace the challenging path.” 

What’s something you do outside of work that gives you joy?

“I practice yoga on a daily basis and find peace and serenity in that daily ritual. I am also a co-owner of a local brewery located in downtown Appleton with my husband and his family called McFleshman’s Brewing Co. When I’m not in the classroom, I’m in the taproom supporting the family’s efforts to make traditional English and German beers. My chemistry skills help us bridge the art of brewing with fermentation science and those efforts yield some delicious pints. Cheers!” 

Alyssa Hakes

Portrait of Alyssa Hakes
Alyssa Hakes

Promoted to associate professor of biology. Joined Lawrence in 2012. Hakes holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University.

What or who inspired you to pursue biology?

“I wanted to be an ecologist since I was a kid. I fell in love with nature reading Ranger Rick magazines and through hiking and camping with my family and Girl Scouts. I first became interested in insects during the 17-year periodical cicada emergence of 1990 in the Chicago area. I collected a bunch and brought them to ‘show and tell.’

“My interest in plants started when I made a wildflower trail for my Girl Scout Gold Award project, and then continued in college when I went on a research trip to Panama to study rainforest plants. Because of that experience, I know how important faculty-mentored undergraduate research opportunities are to the development of a young scientist. By specializing in ecological interactions between plants and insects, I was able to combine all of my interests in botany, entomology, and ecology into one research program.”

What about the work you’re doing at Lawrence has you the most excited?

“My lab has been doing an exciting project in Door County involving a rare plant and invasive insect. The federally-threatened Pitcher’s thistle is a native plant that is found only in sand dune habitats of the Great Lakes. Recently, an ‘evil weevil’ has invaded the sand dunes and is eating the seeds of the plant, which is bad news.

“My students and I take summer research trips to the Lake Michigan field site and have discovered areas of the dune where weevil damage is more intense and less intense. Our data show that dune elevation and neighboring plant community influence weevil dispersal and damage. We are now using this knowledge to develop methods for controlling the insect and conserving the plant. The proximity of our field site to Bjorklunden has been key to our success. And it’s fun to have a beach as a summer office.”     

How do you think your students would describe your teaching style?

“I hope that my passion for the content comes through in my lectures. I like finding creative ways to demonstrate biological concepts in class, whether it’s making insect mouthpart puppets, throwing cut-out paper ‘seeds’ off the atrium balcony to study dispersal, anaesthetizing a touch-sensitive plant in class, or baking horrible-tasting cookies for students to demonstrate ‘Batesian Mimicry.’

“I like to be a little goofy and rarely pass on an opportunity to make a lame pun, adapt a meme to a class topic for a laugh, or tell stories that connect students with the material and make class more enjoyable. Through course evaluations, students have called me helpful, caring, and approachable. I don’t think I’ve been described as ‘hilarious’ on a course evaluation yet, but that’s secretly the dream.

What’s something you do outside of work that gives you joy?

“I enjoy spending time with my spouse and two kids. It’s fun seeing our kids develop their personalities and watching them try new things for the first time. We try to spend time with both sets of their grandparents as often as we can, which is a real privilege. 

“I am active in my Appleton church, and I love being invited to talk about the science of evolution with my congregation. Evolution was something I once misunderstood as a teenager, but has become an exciting and integral part of my scientific career. It brings me joy to share my passion for evolutionary biology with others in my faith community. I also teach Sunday School.

“To relax, I like watching baseball and Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes.”

Brian Piasecki

Portrait of Brian Piasecki
Brian Piasecki

Promoted to associate professor of biology. Joined Lawrence in 2011. Piasecki holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Texas, a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.

What or who inspired you to pursue biology?

“Growing up my two biggest hobbies were building and taking things apart and experiencing nature through a variety of activities like camping, hiking, and climbing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the type of cell biology I do merges both of these interests. I now study how the individual molecular constituents of cells affect the function of organisms as a whole, and because I focus on evolutionarily conserved processes, this allows for me to simultaneously understand how organisms function and to more broadly experience the awesomeness of life.”

What about the work you’re doing at Lawrence has you the most excited?

“The old cliché that says a picture represents a thousand words works at both the macro and microscopic level, so biological imaging is what excites me most. I am enamored by visualizing cellular processes and sharing this passion with students by showing them how to use a variety of different microscopes. To me there is nothing more rewarding than watching a student grasp a biological concept by visualizing it with their own eyes.”

How do you think your students would describe your teaching style?

“I think students would describe me as highly engaged. I equally love biology and trying to make biology relevant to others.”

What’s something you do outside of work that gives you joy?

“As much as I enjoy working with others and having a family, I am actually a little more introverted by nature. Therefore, I really enjoy hobbies that allow for me to disconnect for a while, like woodworking. A few years ago, I discovered the ‘pocket hole,’ which is a really easy method for making rock-solid wood joints. Some might consider it cheating, but to me it provides an easy way to build my own durable and functional things around the house. In the past few years I have built a bathroom vanity, a couple of cabinets, and a combined shoe rack/bench.”

Artist Alice King Case Passes Away, Taught Art at Lawrence for 20 Years

Long-time Lawrence University art department instructor Alice King Case died peacefully Monday, Dec. 16 at Appleton’s St. Elizabeth Hospital following a brief illness. She was 76.

Alice_King_Case_newsblogAn accomplished artist who specialized in drawing, collage and abstract painting, Case joined the Lawrence art department in 1980 after teaching art classes in suburban Chicago for 21 years. Through her initiative and insistence, Lawrence introduced computer-assisted art courses to the department curriculum in 1987.

In addition to teaching, she directed Lawrence’s art education program, supervising the certification of nearly 50 future art teachers before retiring in 2000. She remained in Appleton in retirement and continued to teach an occasional figure drawing class or tutorial for another four years. Upon her retirement, Case said Lawrence had “changed her life. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

Born in Pittsburgh in 1937, Case lived a bit of a nomadic childhood, living in seven different states by the age of 16 before settling in the Chicago area, which she called home until she moved to Appleton in 1980.

She was a two-time recipient of Artist-in-Residency awards to the Vermont Studio Center, one of the country’s leading creative communities for working artists. Her art was showcased in national juried and invitational exhibitions in more than 30 galleries across the country and several of her works were used as compact disc covers for Lawrence Conservatory ensemble recordings.

Alice earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art at Coe College and pursued graduate studies at Northern Illinois University and Bennington College through the Massachusetts College of Art.

She is survived by two daughters, Cathleen Robertson, Appleton, and Marianne Case, Milwaukee.

A time of visitation will be held at Wichmann Funeral Home, 537 N. Superior St., Appleton, on Thursday, Dec. 19 from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. with a prayer service to follow. The funeral liturgy will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 20 at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 1617 W. Pine St., Appleton. An additional time of visitation will be held at the church from 10 a.m. until the time of service.

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.