Tag: Lawrence faculty

Wise words: An A-to-Z guide to faculty appreciation through the pandemic

Geology professor Marcia Bjornerud works with Madeline Taylor ’23 during a Hot Rocks class in Youngchild Hall of Science. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

We are heading into Teacher Appreciation Week, giving us an opportunity to shine a light on the Lawrence University faculty, which has innovated, adjusted, readjusted, inspired, and experimented over the past 14 months, all while helping guide students through steep and ever-changing pandemic challenges.

Through it all—and it’s not over yet—the faculty has kept Lawrence’s academics robust and transformational.

Many of our faculty members have shared words of wisdom along the way. Or showed their ongoing commitment in the face of uncertainty. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-8), we’ve dug into our story library to share some of those wise words and actions in this A-to-Z guide. This is just a sampling, of course. Many others have responded in amazing ways.

A: AP assist

Rosa Tapia

“The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency.” / Rosa Tapia, professor of Spanish, on joining colleagues Gustavo Fares (Spanish) and Beth De Stasio (biology) in contributing virtual video lectures to College Board’s AP Daily, a YouTube series aimed at helping high school Advanced Placement (AP) students during the pandemic.

B: Brainstorming the music

Tim Albright

“Most of these folks are gigging, working musicians on the cutting edge of performance today, so for my students to get to interact with them in their living rooms is a huge opportunity that we wouldn’t have normally.” / Tim Albright, trombone professor, on bringing professional musicians from around the world into classes via Zoom.

C: Costumes to de-stress

Alyssa Hakes

“The Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student.” / Alyssa Hakes, associate professor of biology, on wearing pop culture-inspired costumes for her Zoom lectures.

D: Disasters in real time

Jake Frederick

“I think in any class, whether it’s history or English lit or physics, when students see what they’re studying unfolding in the world they’re living in, they always find that very stimulating.” / Jake Frederick, professor of history, on incorporating pandemic developments into his Disasters that Made the Americas class.

E: Ethnic Studies win

Jesús Gregorio Smith

“I believe it’s time liberal arts colleges and Ethnic Studies programs get this level of recognition. This fellowship is really about aiding teachers who are dedicated to diversity and racial justice in conducting and finishing their research so that their work is taken seriously in the academic community and so that their dedication to racial justice is amplified.” / Jesús Gregorio Smith, assistant professor of ethnic studies, on receiving a 12-month Career Enhancement Fellowship that supports the career development of underrepresented junior faculty in the arts and humanities.

F: Fresh take

Celia Barnes

“I recognized that there was a beauty and weirdness to the literature—and that women and people of color, and not just bewigged white men, were writing it. I was hooked; the rest is history. When I tell this story to my students, I insist that they will be hooked, too, after a novel or two. And many of them are.” / Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, on the joys of teaching 18th-century literature in a 21st-century world.

G: Global thinking

Marcia Bjornerud

“Students today need a different conceptual tool kit to be ready for work or graduate study in the environmental studies. Fortunately, Lawrence science faculty members have expertise spanning all aspects of the environment, from the chemistry of the atmosphere, water and soils; to terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems; to climate and global change over a wide range of time scales.” / Marcia Bjornerud, Walter Schober Professor of Environmental Sciences and professor of geology, on the value of Lawrence’s new environmental science major.

H: Holiday time

John Holiday

“One of the things I wanted to do in doing this show is to show my students what’s possible when you stretch yourself beyond what you think is possible. There are people who dare to dream bigger than themselves; they never stop learning, never stop growing. I wanted to show my students what that looked like.” / John Holiday, voice professor, on his successful journey through NBC’s popular singing competition, The Voice.

I: Inspired to help

Andrew Crooks

“There is extreme anxiety in the arts community, and we wanted to offer a little help, a little hope, and as much sense of community and solidarity as we could possibly muster.” / Andrew Crooks, assistant professor of music, on helping to organize the Artist Relief Tree fundraiser to assist artists put out of work by the pandemic.

J: Journey through a crisis

David Gerard

“We followed along with the economics and policy scholarship that was emerging in real time, and we also surveyed the social science and historical scholarship on how epidemics and pandemics have shaped the arc of history. There are elements of that material in just about every course I will teach going forward.” / David Gerard, John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, on teaching economics during the pandemic.

K: Know what’s coming

Jerald Podair

“Watch how voting by mail plays out across the country. Will there be delays? Fraud? Chaos? For better or worse, there will be no going back; mail voting is our future. In a decade, in-person voting will be considered as outmoded as manual typewriters.” / Jerald Podair, Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history, predicting what would follow the November 2020 election.

L: Labs go virtual

Allison Fleshman

“Well, the main take-away from a lab science is to practice the scientific method. So, all of my students will make a piece of art or collection of art that inspires them, and the catch is that they must document their work—hypothesizing, observations, detailing the chemistry involved, and documenting the procedure—in a detailed laboratory notebook maintaining the highest level of scientific rigor.” / Allison Fleshman, associate professor of chemistry, on getting creative in remote classes.

M: Music won’t be stopped

Patty Darling

“While the way we are creating music is different and sometimes awkward right now, it still gives us the chance to share this experience, work toward common goals, and be together.” / Patty Darling, director of the LU Jazz Ensemble, on keeping music ensembles together during the pandemic.

N: Novel ideas

David McGlynn

“A Lawrence student might not publish a novel while a student, but our record shows that something foundational is happening here. They begin the long journey toward the larger goal.” / David McGlynn, professor of English and chair of the department that recently launched a creative writing major, on his former student, Andrew Graff ’09, getting national attention for his newly released Raft of Stars debut novel.

O: Ongiri convocation

Amy Ongiri

“As a culture, we have tended to value winning over all other experiences, but we are all going to fail a lot in life, and we need to learn early on what it means and how to think about it.” / Amy Ongiri, Jill Beck Director of Film Studies and associate professor of film studies, on the importance of embracing and learning from our failures.

P: Pride, Champion of

Helen Boyd Kramer

“The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” / Helen Boyd Kramer, lecturer in gender studies, on the work that led to her being named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate.

Q: Quest for knowledge

Beth Zinsli

“I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. … In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever. / Beth Zinsli, assistant professor of art history and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, on teaching from a distance.

R: Remote but in tune

Ann Ellsworth

“I tell them they can hang out or not and that I’ll be back in 20 minutes, and I’ll come back and they are still there, hanging out, talking about student stuff. We had a prospective student join one meeting and I left them there to get acquainted because they can’t come to visit the campus. It’s super productive.” / Ann Ellsworth, assistant professor of music, on using Zoom to help her horn students stay connected despite the distance.

S: Songs of unity

Stephen Sieck

“This is not the way we would have imagined a celebrated conservatory choral program working a year ago, but our students are making it work. Lawrence students need to sing.” / Stephen Sieck, associate professor of music and director of Concert Choir, on Conservatory students adapting during the pandemic

T: Together, always

Matthew Arau

“My biggest concern was there would be two independent streams; there would be the online students and the in-person students and they would feel so separate from each other, and possibly doing totally different things. So, it was important to find a way that the students who are online still feel connected to Lawrence and particularly to the ensembles.” / Matthew Arau, associate professor of music, on using technology and other innovations to help music students learn and play together during the pandemic.

U: Universe, we got this

Megan Pickett

“We believe, now more than ever, that this is our time to shine. The circumstances aren’t ideal, but then [Isaac] Newton changed the world when he was at home in quarantine in 1665.” / Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, on rising to the challenge of teaching and learning physics during the pandemic.

V: Virtual engagement

Leila Ramagopal Pertl

“This pandemic has given us an opportunity to think differently. What are the ways in which we can think about online engagement? Can we use our screens creatively, can we get to every child in a way that allows them to not only perform music but make their own music?” / Leila Ramagopal Pertl ’87, music education instructor, on Lawrence students creating virtual music workshops to reach area elementary students who were learning remotely.

W: World in need of care

Jason Brozek

“I think all of us do feel the urgency of the climate crisis, and we see that in our students who are looking for the sort of hands-on, experiential learning that can help them become more effective environmental advocates, experts, and leaders.” / Jason Brozek, Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and associate professor of government, on the Environmental Studies program expanding to incorporate an environmental science major.

X: X factor

Israel Del Toro

“The biological sciences are increasingly using big data and novel computational technologies to tackle big questions about ecology, evolution, and health, just to name a few examples. By offering a data science minor to our students, we are preparing them with a marketable skill set that is broadly applicable regardless of what biological sub-discipline they choose to pursue.” / Israel Del Toro, assistant professor of biology, on the interdisciplinary nature of the statistics and data science minor, which launched this year.

Y: Your journey

Eilene Hoft-March

“The mistakes we make—and I include myself—the questions we ask, and the challenges we encounter all give distinctive worth to the whole enterprise. The more we dig in, the more our work becomes part of our personal strategies for dealing with what’s beyond the classroom.” / Eilene Hoft-March, Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French, on helping to guide students through the intellectual journey.

Z: Zoom, Zooming, Zoomed

Brian Pertl

“I’m excited that we’re actually looking at technology and its possibilities and not just focusing on what we can’t do. Instead, we’re saying, ‘What can we do?’ I think that’s a very Lawrencey thing. We’re trying to teach our students to be creative and innovative and be problem-solvers.” / Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, on infusing an attitude of resilience and opportunity.

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

Biology prof gets creative with costumes to ease stress of remote learning

Alyssa Hakes in some of her favorite virtual attire, with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Alyssa Hakes turned to goofy costumes early in the pandemic to add some fun to classes she was teaching via Zoom. It went over so well she has kept it going for a year.

The Lawrence University associate professor of biology said she was struggling during the first week of teaching virtually in March 2020.

“I felt isolated from my students and it was incredibly awkward recording lecture videos in an empty bedroom,” Hakes said.

Enter a pirate hat borrowed from one of her kids.

“I hadn’t quite leaned into the full Zoom costume thing yet, but I felt a spark of that teaching joy again,” she said of putting on that pirate hat. “I surveyed our household collection of dress-up clothes and Halloween costumes and I realized that I could make this a regular thing. Strangely, I found that dressing up in ridiculous costumes made me feel less awkward on camera, and thinking about next week’s costume was a welcome distraction from the anxiety of teaching during a pandemic.”

Hakes’ costumes have ranged from pirates and horror movie monsters to space creatures and video game heroes, all with corresponding Zoom backgrounds.

“Because my Zoom costumes are mostly put together with things I already have in my house—Professor Fleshman also loaned me a few costume items—they don’t necessarily match with the course material,” Hakes said. “Although, when I taught First-Year Studies in the Fall, I had a few costumes that fit with the works—Socrates, honeybee, and cave.”

When her online classes allowed for more interaction with students, she wore costumes at the start to set a fun tone, then switched to more professional attire.

“Some of my costumes are outdated references to ’80s and ’90s pop culture, or reflect more of my kids’ tastes in cartoons and video games, but the Zoom costume teaching strategy seems to have the intended effect of lifting morale during a year where it has been difficult to be a student,” Hakes said. “It just makes my day when I hear from a student that the Zoom costume and the accompanying lame joke or silly dance is making their remote learning experience a little more fun and engaging.”

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

“Dedicated and richly talented:” 10 Lawrence University faculty earn tenure

Main Hall

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Ten members of the Lawrence University faculty have been granted 2021 tenure appointments.

President Mark Burstein and the college’s Board of Trustees, based on recommendations by the faculty Committee on Tenure, Promotion, Reappointment, and Equal Employment Opportunity, granted tenure to Ingrid Albrecht (philosophy), Matthew Arau (music education), Chloe Armstrong (philosophy), Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd (education), Horacio Contreras (music), John Holiday (music), Danielle Joyner (art history), Victoria Kononova (Russian), Nora Lewis (music), and Brigid Vance (history). All 10 have been tenured and promoted to associate professor.

The appointments span multiple disciplines across the college and conservatory.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming such a dedicated and richly talented group of faculty into the tenured ranks,” said Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine G. Kodat. “The breadth of ability and skill represented in this year’s tenure ‘class’ is truly extraordinary, both in terms of individual achievement and in how those achievements support our broader efforts to expand and enhance our curriculum to support diversity, inclusion, and excellence.”

The 10 newly tenured faculty:

Albrecht

Ingrid Albrecht: A specialist in ethics and moral philosophy, she joined the Lawrence philosophy department in 2013. Her courses have ranged from existentialism and ethics to feminism and philosophy and biomedical ethics.

Arau

Matthew Arau ’97: A Lawrence alumnus, he joined the Lawrence Conservatory’s music education faculty in 2014 and serves as the associate director of bands. His efforts on and off campus to teach a positive mindset in music education have drawn a strong following.

Armstrong

Chloe Armstrong: A specialist in early modern philosophy, she joined Lawrence’s philosophy department in 2015. Her teaching ranges from the works of Margaret Cavendish and Gottfried Leibniz to courses on food ethics and ancient Greek philosophy.

Burdick-Shepherd

Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd: A specialist in early childhood education, she joined the education department in 2015. She played a big role in launching the new teacher certification program in early childhood education and provides leadership for students going through teaching residencies.

Contreras

Horacio Contreras: A professor of cello, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017. He taught for 10 years at Universidad de Los Andes in Merida, Venezuela, before receiving his DMA in cello performance from the University of Michigan in 2016. He performs regularly nationally and internationally.

Holiday

John Holiday: A professor of voice, he joined the Conservatory faculty in 2017 after teaching for two years at Ithaca College. He has been hailed as a rising star in the opera world and performs frequently on some of opera’s biggest stages. He gained national attention as a crossover artist in late 2020 when he advanced to the finals on NBC’s The Voice.

Joyner

Danielle Joyner: A medieval art historian, she joined the art history faculty in 2018. She teaches courses on medieval and gothic art and is part of a faculty research and teaching collective on ancient and pre-modern societies.

Kononova

Victoria Kononova: A specialist in nineteenth-century Russian literature and theater, she joined the Russian department in 2015. She teaches advanced Russian language classes and courses in English translation that include Russia’s Golden Age, women and gender in Russian culture, and Slavic science fiction.

Lewis

Nora Lewis ’99: A professor of oboe and an alumna of Lawrence, she joined the Conservatory faculty in 2018 after teaching stints at Austin Peay, Kansas State, and Western Michigan. She has performed extensively and presents master classes nationally and internationally.

Vance

Brigid Vance: A historian of late imperial China, she joined the history department in 2015. A regular contributor to First-Year Studies, she teaches courses that range from Chinese women’s history and the West’s view of China to the history of Chinese medicine and modern East Asian civilization.

The high level of achievement across the group speaks well of Lawrence’s ongoing commitment to academic excellence, Kodat said.

“It’s such a pleasure seeing their many past accomplishments rewarded with tenure, and I look forward to many years of rewarding partnership,” she said.

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

Celebrating the life of John Koopman, founder of Lawrence’s opera program

John Koopman, 1989 (Lawrence University Archives)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is mourning the death of John Koopman, the founder of Lawrence’s opera program and a longtime voice professor in the Conservatory of Music.

Koopman joined the faculty in 1960 and continued to teach until his retirement in 1994. He died Dec. 22 in Appleton at age 88.

“Professor John Koopman influenced generations of Lawrentians and created our wonderful opera program,” said Kenneth Bozeman, emeritus professor of music who worked with Koopman for more than a dozen years and maintained a friendship through the years. “We are so grateful for the immense impact he had on our Conservatory.”

Koopman served for many years as chair of the Voice Department.

He forged a second career following retirement, becoming a widely published opera journalist, with his writings appearing in publications around the world.

It was his deep love of opera that brought him to Lawrence more than 60 years ago and set him on his journey to create an opera program within the Conservatory, an endeavor that has since grown into the robust and renowned program it is today, led for the past seven years by Copeland Woodruff, the first director of opera studies in the program’s history.

“In the pioneering spirit of John Koopman and his legacy at Lawrence University, especially in founding an opera ensemble, we are dedicating this academic year’s productions to his memory,” Woodruff said. “Having to invent the wheel, again, because of the pandemic, by delving into film techniques, we can only imagine what it must have taken to forge a new theatrical ensemble when Mr. Koopman started the journey. Opera Studies at Lawrence stands on the shoulders of this passionate, kind, and talented maverick.”

Koopman was preceded in death by his wife of 57 years, Elizabeth Jane (Hayes) Koopman, who, after retiring from public education, ran Lawrence’s sight-singing program for many years as an adjunct faculty member. He also was preceded in death by his daughter, Ann Koopman. He is survived by two sons, William and James, four grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Nancy Marsh Stowe ’61, a beloved companion of recent years, said Koopman cherished his enduring relationship with Lawrence and the hundreds of students he taught and mentored through the years.

“Teaching was paramount for John, and he had a remarkable ability to connect with students, both personally and with regard to their voice development and potential,” she said. “He did not impose on them his vision for them, but encouraged them to find that for themselves and supported their choices.”

For those who worked with Koopman in the halls of the Conservatory, the memories are indelible. Bozeman called him “broadly educated, literate, erudite, and witty” and said sharing the stage with him was a joy.

“As a performer, John was a solid, stylish, serious singer, but also a hilarious comedic actor,” Bozeman said. “I both thoroughly enjoyed and benefited from performing with him in recital and concert. The prioritized attention he gave to expression, elegant diction, and compelling communication were exemplary for us all. His friendship, humanity, and wit will be fondly remembered and dearly missed.”

The family expects to hold a memorial celebration in Appleton later in 2021 and asks that if you wish to make a gift in John Koopman’s memory, please make it to the Lawrence Conservatory of Music.

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

Celebrating the life of piano professor Robert Below; he had “virtuosic abilities”

Robert Below, 1990 (Lawrence University Archives)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University is celebrating the many artistic and academic contributions of Robert Below, a retired piano professor who taught in the Conservatory of Music for 32 years before retiring in 1996.

He died Dec. 16 at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He was 86.

Besides being a force in the classroom, Below is being remembered as a prolific performer and composer.

“Robert’s virtuosic abilities as both a performer and educator inspired generations of Lawrentians,” said Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory.

In the classroom, Below taught nearly 1,200 Lawrence students. His teaching included piano studio work and classes in music history, literature of music, theory-analysis, and chamber music, among others.

His son, Andy Buelow ’84, now the executive director of the West Michigan Symphony, was among the Lawrence students Below inspired. He said his father found a welcoming home when he arrived at Lawrence in 1964, something he never took for granted.

“The university’s commitment to liberal arts was something in which he believed strongly, both for himself and his students,” Buelow said. “He felt that broader studies that included art, literature, history, theater, and the sciences would help them become better musicians and well-rounded human beings. He encouraged them not to spend their entire four years holed up in the music building.”

Buelow said he twice took classes taught by his father, both in music history.

“This is a memory I will always treasure — the opportunity to experience first-hand his amazing skills as a classroom teacher,” he said. “We, of course, spent a lot of time listening to recorded musical samples, but I still remember the day we were exploring 20th century piano literature and he sat down at the piano, without preamble or warm-up, and played the Copland Piano Sonata for the class. It was an unforgettable moment for us all.”

In addition to teaching, Below performed on stages in Appleton and across the United States, as well as in Europe and Latin America. He performed often with Lawrence colleagues and appeared as a concerto soloist with numerous orchestras, among them the Fox Valley Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony.

He also composed more than 50 works, many of which have been performed through the years by Lawrence ensembles.

His numerous anthems, hymns, and other sacred works were used at his beloved All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton. His choral music has been performed at his alma mater, the University of Louisville, as well as by the Lawrence University Concert Choir.

He was selected as the winner of the 1990 Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Wisconsin Composers Fanfare Competition and he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award of the School of Music at the University of Louisville.

In his obituary, former student Priscilla Peterson Weaver ’68 spoke glowingly of Below’s commitment to music education.

“The combination of grace and artistry and humanity that lived in Robert and that he passed on in his trademark forceful manner to all his students was a joy to witness,” she said. “For those of us privileged enough to have Robert as a mentor, and not just an occasional teacher, the experience was a blessing of immeasurable worth.”

Below reveled in the arts, at Lawrence and elsewhere, the family said. Poetry, ballet, classical music, and jazz were sources of inspiration during and after his time at Lawrence, and he continued to play the piano into his final days.

He and his wife, Barbara, relocated to Albuquerque shortly after his retirement. She preceded him in death in May. Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Alison, of Albuquerque.

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

Three LU professors part of video series reaching out to high school AP students

Rosa Tapia, Gustavo Fares, and Beth De Stasio

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Three Lawrence University professors will be featured in AP Daily, a new series of video lectures aimed at supporting high school students taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses in the midst of the pandemic.

The College Board launched the ongoing virtual series on YouTube when the COVID-19 pandemic forced high schools to go to remote learning. The free series features college professors lecturing on topics of their choice tied to AP course material.

Lawrence’s Beth De Stasio, the Raymond H. Herzog Professor of Science and professor of biology, and Gustavo Fares and Rosa Tapia, both professors of Spanish, were invited to join the series. All three jumped at the chance.

“Each lecturer is asked to speak on material that extends the content of a particular unit of the course,” De Stasio said. “I immediately said, ‘Yes,’ because, frankly, I just love to teach and to facilitate learning.”

By the time they’re all launched, more than 200 videos will be included, providing support and flexibility to AP students studying remotely. The release dates are staggered to coincide with each curricular unit during the school year. De Stasio, Fares, and Tapia expect their videos to post in the coming weeks.

More than 8.5 million students have already watched the AP Daily videos, said Cathy Brigham, senior director of academic outreach at the College Board.

“These videos are available both behind a password-protected site called AP Classroom, which AP students and teachers manage in their in-class interactions,” she said. “But the videos are also available to the public on YouTube. On YouTube alone, the videos from higher education faculty have been viewed over 34,500 times for the first four units of AP courses. We are launching videos in sequence with when students are experiencing that content live in their classrooms, and so the number of videos will grow over time.”

De Stasio and Tapia chair their respective AP test development committees, and Fares has done so in the past, so they are plenty familiar with the work of the College Board and the AP process. De Stasio also is on the Science Advisory Committee for the College Board.

Tapia has been actively involved with the AP Spanish Language and Culture program since 2007. As a leading expert on the AP Spanish exam, she has been invited to give talks and workshops to university educators and administrators across the country, most recently at a February symposium at Stanford University.

She is one of seven lecturers speaking in the Spanish Literature and Culture portion of the AP Daily video series. The subject of her lecture is the Spanish writer and philosopher Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936).

“An independent and bold thinker, Unamuno’s life and works continue to spark a passionate cultural and social debate almost a century after his death,” Tapia said. “In the last two years alone, a series of books and two high-profile films have been dedicated to the writer and his legacy. The topic is pertinent to the AP curriculum, naturally, but I chose Miguel de Unamuno in particular because his influence can be felt today with a clear sense of relevance and urgency. His powerful works and unresolved dilemmas during a controversial and violent time in Spanish history—the prelude to a civil war—provide important lessons for today’s students anywhere in the world.”

Fares, meanwhile, is one of six lecturers for the Spanish Language and Culture portion of the series. He also has a long history of involvement with the College Board dating back two decades and knows the significance of keeping that program healthy and functional during the pandemic.

“The AP students tend to be the most interested in the disciplines they decide to pursue though the AP Program, and they tend to carry over that interest to their college education,” Fares said. “As such, they are students Lawrence would want to recruit.”

Fares delivered his video lecture on Joaquín Torres-García (1874-1949), a Uruguayan artist he covers in his Latin American Visual Arts course.

De Stasio is one of seven video lecturers in Biology. She chose to talk about how genes are “turned on” and “turned off” by different environmental conditions.

“I wanted to show how scientists model genes and interactions of the proteins that turn genes on or off,” De Stasio said. “So, a ruler was DNA, and binder clips represented proteins that bind to DNA to change accessibility of that DNA. I encouraged students to make models with things they have at home and to practice what will happen when the environment changes. What happens to particular genes in humans when we are stressed, for example? How does that stress signal get received and transduced all the way to the level of a gene? I wanted to demonstrate that these academic details are connected to our lives every day and that it is fun and exciting to figure out how it all works.”

The professors were asked to simulate as best they could a classroom lecture.

Being invited to participate in the series was an honor, and having three faculty members on the select invite list speaks well of Lawrence.

“As a subject matter expert, professors Tapia, De Stasio, and Fares will be able to share the depth and breadth of their knowledge with high school students who are up for the challenge,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president AP and Instruction for the College Board. “We are thrilled to partner with Lawrence and their faculty to help prepare these students for the opportunities provided by higher education.” 

For Lawrence, the series also provides a great connection with prospective students and their AP teachers.

“The site is free and open to the public, so teachers and students can use the lectures in their courses at no cost to them, the school, or the district,” Fares said. “By them accessing these resources, Lawrence becomes familiar to those educators and students, and these resources can become powerful recruitment tools for the university.”

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

Lawrence mourns loss of retired economics professor Jules LaRocque

Jules LaRocque (Lawrence University Archives)

Communications

Jules LaRocque, a professor in Lawrence University’s Economics Department for nearly four decades, passed away Nov. 30 at his home in Marlborough, New Hampshire. He was 87.

He joined the Lawrence faculty in 1963 and continued to teach until his retirement in 2001. He chaired the Economics Department during several stints in the 1970s and 1980s. He also was a frequent instructor in the Freshman Studies program, served for many years as the campus coordinator for the then-named Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows Program (now the Visiting Fellows Program of the Institute for Citizens and Scholars), and provided leadership in the early years of the London Centre.

LaRocque focused his work in the areas of economic history of the United States, economic development, economies in transition, political economy, and financial institutions.

He was born on June 20, 1933, in Berlin, New Hampshire, and was the youngest of three children. He served in the United States Army during the Korean conflict, then attended the University of Iowa, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and eventually a doctorate in economics.

He taught for two years at St. Ambrose College in Iowa before moving to Wisconsin to begin work on the faculty at Lawrence, forging a bond that would last a lifetime.

After retiring from Lawrence, LaRocque moved back to New Hampshire, where he enjoyed teaching adult enrichment classes at Keane State University. His other interests included family, classical music, opera, reading, tennis, bicycling, skiing, and hiking.

He is survived by his son, Marc (Sue Tyson) LaRocque of Sacramento, California; and a daughter, Lisa (Jeffrey) Gartman of East Troy, Wisconsin.

At his request, no services will be held. The family has asked that gifts in memory of LaRocque be sent to the Office of Development, Lawrence University, 711 E. Boldt Way, Appleton, WI 54911.

In midst of pandemic, Disasters class draws poignant lessons from history

Jake Frederick (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Jake Frederick is drawn to disasters.

Natural and unnatural disasters. World-altering disasters.

He doesn’t wish for them or the pain and destruction they bring. But the Lawrence University professor of history is unapologetically fascinated by them, struck by the physical, cultural, and emotional recalibration that comes in their wake.

By the nature of his chosen profession, Frederick is usually focused on disasters from long ago, exploring how they altered life in the years, decades, even centuries, that followed, how they exposed inequities, and how they reshaped cultural norms. But right now, as we’re living through a global pandemic unlike anything seen in 100 years, it’s tough for even a history scholar like Frederick to keep the focus squarely on the past. When he was teaching his Disasters That Made the Americas class during the last Winter Term, he found conversations quickly shifting to the present as the spread of COVID-19 arrived in the Americas and the panicked hoarding of toilet paper signaled that life as we know it was about to change.

“I think in any class, whether it’s history or English lit or physics, when students see what they’re studying unfolding in the world they’re living in, they always find that very stimulating,” Frederick said.

“At the moment, this group of students is living through a more dramatic historic moment than I think students have in 100 years. There hasn’t been anything like this since the Spanish influenza outbreak in 1919 and 1920. Even the second World War, there was a home front, so you could always be away from where the disaster was happening. But in the case of the pandemic, it’s everywhere.”

It’s not just the pandemic, of course. The wildfires that burned through large chunks of the western United States in recent months, fueled by climate change that is rapidly altering the planet, provide even more fodder for the intersection of historical disasters and modern times.

Disasters That Made the Americas, a 400-level history course that is focused mostly on Latin America, is being offered again in the upcoming Winter Term, and Frederick said the pandemic and the wildfires will certainly be incorporated into the class discussions. How could they not? The current disasters can help inform the study of past disasters, whether illness, climate, war, or otherwise, and perhaps provide some insight into what lies ahead.

“History is interesting in and of itself,” Frederick said. “But I think we can learn a great deal from the modern moment. I wouldn’t dare say what will be the effect of COVID, because historians get very freaked out by the present tense. We need a good 10, 20 years to figure out what the impact will be. But as we look backwards and look at cholera outbreaks, the Spanish influenza outbreak, there is always something contemporary you can refer to in helping them understand the historical point you are talking about.”

Ricardo Jimenez, a senior biology and music performance double major from Barrington, Illinois, was in Frederick’s Winter Term class. He remembers Frederick talking about COVID-19 on one of the first days of class, in early January, two months before it would be declared a global pandemic. There were reports of a few thousand cases in Wuhan, China, and Frederick talked to his students about keeping a close eye on its spread.

In nearly every classroom session to follow, Frederick would start the discussion by giving an update on the virus as more news came out. He tried to contextualize the gravity of the moment and what might lie ahead based on lessons from history.

“We saw it go from a few thousand to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands, and then eventually to other countries,” Jimenez said. … “I will never forget the day in which it arrived in the Americas and we had class the next day. Professor Frederick sat us down and said, ‘I don’t think we will be seeing each other next term.’ By this time, Europe was already on lockdowns.

“It was a very sobering moment to hear from a professor of disasters of human civilizations that this event that we were experiencing was a historical moment.” 

Up close and personal

Frederick, a member of the History Department faculty since 2006 and co-director for Latin American Studies, comes by his fascination with disasters via experience. He fought forest fires in the 1990s before going to graduate school. The firefighting he did in Mexico piqued his interest in the history of that region, leading him to a Ph.D. from Penn State University with a focus on colonial Latin America.

“I’ve always found the history of fires really interesting and thought I could marry these things together,” Frederick said.

He’s on sabbatical during Fall Term as he works on a book about fires in 18th century Mexico. When the Disasters class returns in January, the students will, among other things, draw parallels between today’s ongoing disasters and those that dot the history of the Americas.

“Human beings care about the same things now that they cared about a thousand years ago,” Frederick said. “But it’s sometimes difficult for students to put themselves in that mindset. But with the kind of things they’re encountering right now, and with us looking at disaster as the focus of the course, we are going to have a lot of good conversations.”

Much of Frederick’s focus is on what comes next. What happens after a disaster alters life in a particular region? What inequities have been exposed? And what responses come from leaders and from the populace?

“To a certain extent, the disasters are the sexy hook that makes it very interesting to engage these moments, but the disasters themselves are isolated moments,” Frederick said. “What really is most compelling about them is the impact that they have.”

History suggests some of that impact is communal, at least in the short term. People—today’s anti-maskers notwithstanding—tend to rally together in times of disaster, trending away from the popular mythology that disasters cause societal breakdowns and lead to anarchy.

“In the wake of disasters, particularly very acute disasters, people tend to come together,” Frederick said. “In a big disaster, the first responders are always the neighbors, the nearest community. The rescue forces are there immediately. So, what you often see, after a big disaster, there is a big moment of community-building. And these things can do a lot, at least in the short term, to bring people together. Even if that’s not a lesson for the future, it debunks every disaster movie out there. In reality, people really do tend to provide a lot of help to their neighbors.”

The lessons of history

For all of our advanced medical technology, our radar systems, our smart phones, and the like, the disasters of 2020 provide a reminder that we are as subject to epic natural threats as humans were in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries—pandemics, wildfires, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes.

“When these things happen, there are very, very familiar consequences that tend to unfold,” Frederick said. “You find that certain parts of society will suffer the most. … What they tend to expose are pre-existing stresses that are in society, the pre-existing shortcomings of a society.”

The United States, for all its advancements, is no different, and the news cycle that is 2020 is making that clear.

“The responses (to disasters) tend to show the same thing,” Frederick said. “Wow, we have this disease coming, and it turns out that in the United States and across the world, health care is really unequally distributed. You might think that can be tolerated up to a point, but disasters tend to push those systems to the fracturing point.”

Lessons can be drawn, for example, from the cholera outbreak in Peru in the 1960s, which led to a reimagining of the country’s medical infrastructure.

“It was not necessarily, how are we going to prepare for the next cholera outbreak, but rather, how does this show us what is wrong with the system that exists now?” Frederick said. “And what it shows is that, disproportionately, poor people, people on the bottom of the socio-economic scale, were getting crushed by this disease. And there was a racial disparity. Indigenous people were getting disproportionately harmed by this disease.”

For Jimenez, learning how that has played out over and over again through history has given him perspective as he and his fellow students navigate the pandemic.

“I think studying past catastrophes helps you learn how events like these tend to unfold, who is really affected by them, and what the aftermath tends to look like,” Jimenez said. “I think the biggest takeaway from the course is really learning that the poorest in our society are those who suffer the most during any catastrophe. They are the most vulnerable but also the ones who are forgotten.”

These lessons from the past can inform the present. And vice versa. It’s what drew Frederick, the one-time firefighter, to the classroom in the first place.

“You can get a sense of relief and comfort from history,” Frederick said. “When you look at a disaster like COVID, you see that the world has gone through things like this before and we got out to the other side. It can be an awful process, and I promise this is going to get much worse before it gets better, but people have managed to get through this sort of thing and worse. Every single time, humanity has come out on the other side.”

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

Interested is readings from the Disasters class?

If Jake Frederick’s Disasters in the Americas class has piqued your interest and you want to read more, try these books that are part of the class:

The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, by Jonathan Katz; New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2013. This book is about the 2010 earthquake.

A Paradise Built in Hell, by Rebecca Solnit; New York: Viking, 2009. The thesis of the book is that in times of urgent disaster people have a greater tendency to pull together than to turn on each other.

Floods, Famines, and Emperors: El Niño and the Fate of Civilizations, by Brian Fagan; New York: Basic Books, 1999. See chapters on the classic Maya collapse and the destruction of the Moche civilization.

On Main Hall Green With … Getting to know Jake Frederick, other Lawrence professors

Internship put Lawrence physics student on research team that earned Nobel Prize

An image created by Professor Andrea Ghez and her research team from data sets obtained with W.M. Keck Telescopes shows stars that are in very close, very fast orbits around the Milky Way’s central black hole. It’s research that Amelia Mangian ’18 participated in during a 2017 internship. (Courtesy of UCLA Galactic Center Group – W.M. Keck Observatory Laser Team)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University’s Physics Department is again celebrating close connections with the winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Amelia Mangian ’18, then a fourth-year physics student at Lawrence, spent an internship in the summer of 2017 working with a team of scientists at UCLA led by astronomer Andrea Ghez, who earlier this month won the Nobel for her years-long study of supermassive black holes in the universe.

“She is the model of the perfect scientist,” Mangian said of Ghez. “She persevered, she worked hard, and she proved a lot of people wrong on the way to becoming a world-class researcher and educator. I think the other thing that is remarkable about Andrea is how easily she can communicate her work to people of all ages and how much she cares about spreading her love of science.”

Ghez is one of three recipients of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics, joining Roger Penrose, a mathematician at Oxford University in England, and Reinhard Genzel, a professor at the University of California Berkeley and director at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany. All were honored for their work advancing the study of black holes.

Amelia Mangian ’18

“Working with this team—Andrea, her collaborators, particularly Mark Morris and Tuan Do, as well as her research team, post-docs, and graduate students—has helped my career tremendously,” said Mangian, now pursuing a doctorate in astronomy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. “It helped me find a passion for black holes, for astronomy, and for being a role model to other young astronomers who want to be researchers, too.”

A year ago, the Nobel went to two astronomers whose breakthroughs in the 1990s led to the discovery of thousands of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy, a research subject that Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics and chair of the Physics Department at Lawrence, has focused on for much of her career.

The 2019 Nobel announcement felt like a win for Pickett and her students. The 2020 announcement is much the same. Having a former student so closely connected to the research team is an opportunity to shine a light on undergraduate internships and research opportunities that are plentiful for Lawrence students in the sciences.

Not lost on Mangian or Pickett is that Ghez is only the fourth woman to win the Nobel in Physics, joining Marie Curie (1903), Maria Goeppert Mayer (1963), and Donna Strickland (2018). The Nobel adds to Ghez’s growing profile as she blazes trails as a role model for women scientists.

“One of my particular interests, long before coming to Lawrence, has been the history of women in physics and astronomy—our stories, representation, and how we can tear down barriers to success and recognition,” Pickett said. “There are a number of ways we get at this problem, but primarily it comes down to creating a sense of belonging with the department, and the discipline.”

Lawrence is part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute initiative that challenges U.S. colleges and universities to substantially and sustainably increase their capacity for inclusion of all students, especially those who belong to groups underrepresented in science. It was one of 33 schools selected in 2018 to receive a $1 million grant from HHMI through its Science Education Program to implement its Inclusive Excellence initiative. Another 24 schools were selected the year prior, part of HHMI’s push to reimagine science education to better engage students from all backgrounds.

“Our primary focus is inclusive excellence — how can we increase our successful engagement and the success of students who are under-represented in the sciences, whether first-generation college students, for example, or under-represented minorities?” Pickett said.

Megan Pickett

Seeing scientists such as Ghez be awarded a Nobel—also of note, two women won the Nobel in chemistry the following day—helps ring that bell, and having a Lawrentian so closely tied to the work adds fuel to the fire. But it also is a reminder that while great strides have been made, the work is far from finished when it comes to equity and opportunity.

“Having those role models, and being able to send our students off campus, potentially to work in a Nobel lab, is huge,” Pickett said. “Closer to home, though, we are today more diverse and more dedicated to that diversity as a department than we have ever been. In particular, the addition of professors (Tianlong) Zu and (Margaret) Koker help make our department begin to look more like our student body—and the importance of that cannot be overstated.”

Mangian, meanwhile, counts Pickett as a mentor who helped her believe in herself as a scientist. That relationship, she said, drives her to pay it forward as a mentor as she carves out her own career.

“She has guided me through rough times and helped me be the best version of myself during the good times,” she said of Pickett. “She’s the reason that I’m where I’m at today, academically and personally.”

At Illinois, Mangian is studying actively feeding supermassive black holes and their host galaxies, using data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) to infer properties of the black holes such as its luminosity and mass. She’s also building on mentoring lessons she took from Pickett and others at Lawrence.

“I’ve been very active in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts through the organization I run called the Society for Equity in Astronomy,” Mangian said. “We are a group focused on improving the astronomy department at Illinois and those across the country. We run a mentorship program with about 40 individuals involved and have monthly discussions about culturally significant topics such as the Strike for Black Lives, #BlackInTheIvory, and the ongoing situation with the Thirty Meter Telescope being constructed on indigenous lands on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. I am also starting up a tutoring program aimed at helping students with disproportionate educational backgrounds coming into the astronomy program at Illinois.”

Mangian’s work in 2017 with Ghez’s group came after being selected for a National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program, a highly competitive process. Lawrence students in recent years have gone through that program to land research posts at the University of Indiana, University of Wisconsin, Harvard, University of Rochester, and the University of Twente in the Netherlands, among others. 

“These experiences are valuable regardless of whether you end up going to graduate school or not,” Mangian said. “Having the opportunity to work in a research environment early on in your life allows you to explore areas that interest you the most, helps you build skills to prepare you for a wide variety of jobs—collaboration, computer skills, communication—and helps build your professional network. This, along with my time working with Megan, convinced me that I wanted to be an astronomer, and an educator, too.”  

It also gave her the chance to get to know and learn from a future Nobel Prize winner, something she reflected on when she heard the Ghez announcement from the Nobel Committee for Physics, relayed to her by her mother.

“My excitement grew throughout the day as I came to terms with the fact that I not only worked for a Nobel laureate, but I’d been to her house, too, for wine and cheese. I couldn’t think of a more deserving person to win the award.”

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

Lawrence mourns passing of former anthropology professor George Saunders

George R. Saunders, 1946-2020

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

George R. Saunders, a Lawrence University anthropology professor for more than two decades before a serious brain injury took him from the classroom in 2001, passed away on Sept. 17.

He died at his Appleton home with his wife, Bickley Bauer-Saunders, and family at his side. He was 74.

Saunders, who held a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of California-San Diego, joined the Lawrence faculty in 1977. He spent many years as chair of the Anthropology Department and is being remembered by colleagues for his mentoring skills, his commitment to his students, and his anthropology scholarship in the areas of language, religion, and Mediterranean Europe.

“George was a well-respected scholar of religious movements in contemporary Italy,” said Peter N. Peregrine, a professor of anthropology who worked with Saunders beginning in 1995. “He focused on Pentecostalism among rural communities and the interesting relationships and conflicts between Pentecostals and Catholics within that strongly Catholic nation.”

Saunders helped found the Society for the Anthropology of Europe in 1986, served on the group’s first Executive Committee, and was the group’s treasurer from 1996 to 2000.

Four years after arriving at Lawrence, Saunders earned the school’s Young Teacher Award (today known as the award for Excellent Teaching by an Early Career Faculty Member), one of numerous honors he’d receive for his teaching and scholarship. Then-President Richard Warch said Saunders brought to the classroom “an infectious enthusiasm for learning, a solid grounding in theory, and a wealth of field experience, and has, in the process, made the study of anthropology both intellectually challenging and humanely rewarding.”

Saunders suffered a serious brain injury in 2001 as a consequence of a brain tumor. Almost two decades later, his presence continues to be felt in and beyond the Anthropology Department.

The university funded an anthropology library in his honor shortly after he left the faculty. It still resides in the anthropology seminar room, Briggs 305, and has been used by generations of students for classes and research projects.

Peregrine called Saunders “a calming influence across the campus” and said his leadership helped build a strong Anthropology Department.

“Within the department he was a strong leader and tireless promoter of anthropology’s central role in developing a better appreciation for diversity among our students,” he said. “He was a wonderful, caring, and supportive mentor to me. … He was universally loved by his students, and was known as one of the most talented teachers at the University.”

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