Tag: President Mark Burstein

Burstein calls for thoughtful, impactful leadership on global climate crisis

President Mark Burstein speaks at the podium from the stage of Memorial Chapel during Thursday's Matriculation Convocation.
Lawrence University President Mark Burstein speaks during Thursday’s Matriculation Convocation in Memorial Chapel.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein, speaking Thursday at the Matriculation Convocation to launch the school’s 2019-20 academic year, encouraged members of the Lawrence community to provide constructive leadership on the growing global climate crisis, and to bridge political differences along the way.

Burstein called the climate crisis “the central challenge facing society today,” and said it is the university’s responsibility to teach climate science to its students, to raise awareness of the issues and challenges and to converse respectfully with people who dismiss the science.

“It is crucial that we engage with those who dismiss the findings of 97% of climate scientists who now confirm that a climate crisis has begun, and that human activity is a root cause,” Burstein said as he addressed faculty, students and staff in Memorial Chapel on the fourth day of the fall term. “We need to continue to broaden the learning opportunities we offer and to avoid partisan framing of the climate crisis if we aim to reach all of our students, faculty, and staff. Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of the Environmental Studies program, we offer a wide array of learning opportunities for students to consider how human activity impacts the natural world.”

The convocation, the first of three to be held during the academic year, included the traditional march of faculty, adorned in their academic dress, and music from students of the entering class. But it was Burstein’s call for climate crisis leadership that took center stage.

Faculty members, adorned in their academic dress, proceed from the Music-Drama Center to Memorial Chapel on Thursday.
Lawrence University faculty move their procession toward Memorial Chapel for Thursday morning’s annual Matriculation Convocation.

He encouraged those in attendance to draw on their own experiences with nature, to consider deeply how human activity is affecting resources we interact with close to home and on our travels.

“Experiences can sensitize us to the deep and far-reaching effect that the climate crisis will have,” Burstein said. “My year as a farmer during a break between high school and college changed my views and established conservation as central to my personal values. Living directly in the cycle of a dairy farm significantly influenced the way I thought about the natural world.

“I’m sure you have your own connections to nature. Could we find ways to encourage all of us to explore the rich natural resources of northeastern Wisconsin and Door County? Could this be a way to reach students who might otherwise avoid enrolling in an Environmental Studies course or joining an environmental organization? Are there ways we can more closely tie the prodigious natural world that surrounds us into our curriculum?”

Burstein highlighted the fires that are threatening the Amazon, the extreme conditions affecting areas from Alaska and the Arctic to the Canary Islands and California, and the increasingly extreme weather patterns being experienced here in the Midwest.

He noted statistics from the World Bank that show an average of 24 million people per year since 2008 being displaced by weather events, and projections that those numbers will rise dramatically.

Lawrence has initiatives in place and established programs available to teach about environmental issues, be it from economic, policy, cultural, biological, chemical, or geoscience perspectives. Impressive gains in recent years have been guided by faculty members such as Jeff Clark, Marcia Bjornerud, and David Gerard, and sustainability coordinator Kelsey McCormick. But, Burstein said, there’s more work to be done all across campus to better inform and engage on the challenges we face now and those we’ll be handing off to future generations.

He pointed to the polarizing effect politics is having on the climate crisis debate, and implored those in the Lawrence community to stay attentive no matter how frustrating it might get.

“Even those who agree that a climate crisis is real approach the issue now with an incapacitating fatigue,” Burstein said.

“No amount of improved communication seems to weaken the feeling that this crisis is inevitable, that nothing we do can change the course of this unfolding natural disaster,” he added. “This attitude prevents important interventions.”

President Mark Burstein speaks during Thursday's convocation in Memorial Chapel.
Memorial Chapel drew faculty, students and staff on Thursday for the Matriculation Convocation. It was the first of three convocations that will be held this academic year.

Protecting the environment and prepping the Earth for future generations hasn’t always been embedded in a political chasm. When the leaders of 12 national environmental organizations were asked to rank the “greenest” U.S. presidents, they chose Teddy Roosevelt, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama, in that order, Burstein said.

“Two Republicans and two Democrats,” he said. “Conservation was central to Teddy Roosevelt’s vision for America’s future. He preserved land and natural beauty at the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and hundreds of other locations across the country. Richard Nixon founded the Environmental Protection Agency, banned DDT, and created the regulatory infrastructure that continues to this day. But this public consensus is disappearing.”

It’s time to reclaim the conversation, Burstein said, challenging college campuses to lead the way, to infuse climate science across the curriculum and to foster intelligent and productive conversation, all the while prepping tomorrow’s leaders to be environmentally astute and informed no matter their political affiliations.

“For us, now, to engage our entire community, we must provide a learning environment in which we can all participate without criticism or rejection,” Burstein said.

“I hope you will commit yourselves, with me, to making sure that this generation of Lawrentians will graduate with the knowledge, the tools, and the energy to provide leadership on the most important challenge that faces all of us in this century.”

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

President Burstein talks liberal arts education on WPR ‘Morning Show’

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein joins host Kate Archer Kent Thursday morning on Wisconsin Public Radio's "The Morning Show."
Lawrence University President Mark Burstein joins host Kate Archer Kent Thursday morning on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show.”

Lawrence University President Mark Burstein appeared Thursday morning on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “The Morning Show” with Kate Archer Kent to talk about challenges facing higher education, the value of a liberal arts college and the need to assist students in navigating the costs of college.

Below are excerpts from what President Burstein had to say on the live show. To listen to the interview, click here.

On the type of connection a private institution such as Lawrence can have with the surrounding community:

“One of the things that really drew me to Lawrence and the Fox Cities was what I would consider a symbiotic relationship between the college and Appleton and the Fox Cities. Appleton is actually named for Amos Lawrence’s wife, her maiden name. And that relationship, that connection is so alive and well today. We collaborate on so many different things, Appleton and Lawrence, and we really both together create a more vibrant place for all of us to live.”

On the draw to a private liberal arts college?

“We do provide a different type of education. The faculty-student ratio at Lawrence is 8 to 1, which allows us to provide a more individualized, engaged learning experience for every student on campus. And that can be summer research opportunities in laboratories or it could be individualized study.”

On helping students navigate costs of college?

“At Lawrence, this has been a real focus for us. … Our stated price is about $57,000 a year. But 98 percent of our students get aid. And that aid on average is half the cost. So, it halves the costs every year.

“And we’re really trying to raise even more money to increase that grant aid to students and families. Right now, our average debt that a student graduates with is $31,000. That has decreased over the past six years. And we’re trying to get it down to about $25,000. So, for Lawrence, it is a sustainable proposition. We’re really trying to raise more money to support every student and family to ensure they can afford a Lawrence education.

“On the other hand, not every private institution has the kind of resources Lawrence has. We have an endowment that’s over $300 million. We have an extraordinarily generous community that surrounds us. It’s really something that students and families have to think about. What is the debt you would have to take out for a four-year college education, and is that sustainable for you?”

On how the Full Speed to Full Need campaign came about at Lawrence?

“Full need means the institution, the college or university, has enough resources to support every family to the level that federal methodology says that we should. What surprised me … is that there are only 70 full-need institutions in the country. And there are over 3,000 institutions that teach undergraduates.

“One student came in … said he was working 38 hours a week, he already took out $20,000 in debt, he was a first-term sophomore and he needed to take out more to complete that year. … His parents were divorced, his dad had just been evicted from his home for not paying his rent, his mom worked in a bookstore, and he loved it at Lawrence and wanted to stay there. And I started by saying, maybe you should think about transferring to your local state institution, where maybe the finances would be different for you. He said, ‘Mark, you didn’t hear one part of what I just said, which is I love it here.’ …

“So that started me on this odyssey of what it means to be full need. Thanks to the extraordinary generosity of the Lawrence community we’ve now raised $79 million in scholarship aid, which goes into the endowment and supports students and families absolutely every year, including that student, who did graduate from Lawrence with more aid.”

On the battle to keep enrollment numbers up?

“In general, we are seeing declining enrollment in colleges across the board, both in public and private institutions. We see that in the UW System as well. That’s a demographic change, which is we have fewer high school seniors graduating in the United States. …

“Lawrence is very fortunate in that we have a student body of 1,500, and strong demand for the education we offer. About 25 percent of our students come from the state of Wisconsin, but 75 percent come from elsewhere. We have 47 states represented on campus and actually over 70 countries around the globe. That kind of demand is essential for both the future of Lawrence but also for the learning experience; interacting with this diverse population is part of the learning we offer.”

Matriculation Convocation Officially Opens Lawrence’s 166th Academic Year

President Mark Burstein officially opens Lawrence University’s 166th academic year as well as the 2014-15 convocation series Thursday, Sept. 18 with the matriculation address “Sustaining Dialogue: Educating for a Diverse Society.”

The event, at 11:10 a.m. in the Lawrence Memorial Chapel, is free and open to the public. The convocation also will be available via a live webcast.

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President Mark Burstein

In his address, Burstein will discuss the importance of dialogue across different viewpoints and the role universities must play to foster this engaged exchange. As our society becomes more segregated by socioeconomic class, race, and political view, universities, as training grounds for citizenry, are obligated to create campus communities where a diversity of viewpoints are explored.  Last spring’s rash of cancelled commencement speakers calls into question whether universities are fulfilling this role.

Lawrence’s 16th president, Burstein began his tenure in July 2013 after nine years as executive vice president at Princeton University. Prior to that, he spent 10 years at Columbia University as a vice president working in human resources, student services and facilities management.

A native of Cedar Grove, N.J., Burstein earned a bachelor’s degree in history and independent studies from Vassar College and a master of business administration degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Lawrence’s 2014-15 convocation series also includes:

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David Gerard

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Kwame Appiah

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Sian Beilock

Nov. 4, University of Chicago psychologist Sian Beilock, “Leveraging Mind And Body To Perform Your Best Under Stress.” Beilock is an expert on the brain science behind “choking under pressure” and the many factors that influence different types of performance, from test-taking to your golf swing.

• Feb. 17, 2015, Author and New York University Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, “A Decent Respect: Honor and Citizenship at Home and Abroad.” Known as a postmodern Socrates, Appiah asks probing questions about identity, ethnicity, honor and religion while challenging people to celebrate our common humanity.

May 14, 2015, Honors Convocation, Lawrence University economist David Gerard, “Is it Warm in Here?: The Intractable Challenges of Climate Change.” Gerard will examine the economic, social and technological obstacles confronting the issue of global climate change.

About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” 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.