Megan Scott

Author: Megan Scott

June Campus Updates | June, 8, 2022

Dear Lawrentians,

In just a few short days, we will celebrate our graduating seniors at Commencement, and this academic year—my first at Lawrence—will officially come to an end. 

As I look back upon my first year, I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude for the warm welcome my family and I received upon joining the Lawrence and Appleton communities, and gratitude for all the students, faculty, and staff who shared their experiences with me and helped me learn what it means to be Lawrentian. I am especially thankful for all members of the community who volunteered their time to work on the Guiding Coalitions and other working groups dedicated to planning for the university’s future, both immediate and long term. 

I am also filled with pride in the work we accomplished both individually and collectively as a community. Here are just a few of the year’s highlights:

  • Six faculty members received national grants or fellowships to support their research, and three students received national fellowships—one Watson and two Fulbright Fellowships. 
  • Our faculty were recognized by U.S. News & World Report for excellence in undergraduate teaching. 
  • The university signed the Second Nature Climate Commitment. 
  • We launched our 175th anniversary celebrations, as well as a new website.
  • We welcomed back traditions and programs like the Harrison Symposium, the Rabbit Gallery, and the Oratorio for the first time in more than two years.

Our athletic teams proved that it was a good year to be a Viking: Two individual university basketball records were set; three track and field students won individual Midwest Conference Championships; and three teams ended their seasons as Midwest Conference Champions—men’s and women’s cross country and baseball.

I am especially proud of the tremendous work that went into the university’s plan for the historic, one-time strategic investments, which the Board affirmed at its May meeting. Work is already underway on this investment in Lawrence’s future, including a review of Student Life, the branding initiative, and the introduction of EAB Navigate to help with student retention. Work updating our residence halls, Drew Street bridge, and other key capital improvements will begin immediately after Commencement and will continue over the summer; many of the projects will be complete by the fall.

We launched this academic year with the anthem Brighter Together, and the Lawrence community has shown me that the points at which light intersect are always brighter than any individual light. This year was not an easy one, as we continued to navigate the challenges of the ongoing pandemic, but our strength as a community shines brightest when we engage in challenging endeavors and enjoy all that this rich and vibrant community has to offer. 

I wish you all a restful and rejuvenating summer and look forward to the energy, excitement, and good work awaiting us in September.


Laurie A. Carter

Beacon on the River| Inaugural Address, May 13, 2022

Cory, thank you for that wonderful introduction and for your extraordinary leadership. And thank you all for joining us this evening. I would like to express my gratitude to the Board of Trustees for the honor of serving as the 17th President of Lawrence University. I thank the search committee for their role in bringing us to this day, to the presidential transition team, to the Lawrence students, faculty, staff, and alumni for the warm welcome my family and I received when we arrived in Appleton, and Mayor Woodford and the Appleton community for embracing us.

On behalf of the entire university, I want to extend this same warm welcome to all members of the Appleton and Fox Cities communities who are with us tonight. I look forward to seeing even more friends from the community at our Brighter Together picnic tomorrow, which celebrates the 175-year connection between Lawrence and Appleton. Not only are we brighter together, but we are also stronger together.   

I would also like to thank the speakers, artists, and dignitaries participating in tonight’s ceremony. Carl Allen, my partner in Jazz, thank you for your music and your friendship. And to Joseph, Ron, and Dan, your kind words mean a great deal to me. Each of you continue to play such an important role in my life. And Robert, watching you grow from a 17-year-old dancer into the leader of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, one of the world’s preeminent dance companies, has given me incredible joy. My career has always focused on students and their success. Having you here tonight is an honor. Thank you.

And for the last 17 days, Cole Hepburn and Carter Robinson, with the help of students and staff started the inaugural process by spreading kindness across campus and in the community. Thank you for reminding us that kindness matters.

I am incredibly blessed to have an extraordinary family and amazing friends and colleagues. Thank you for your support and for being here with me. I especially want to thank my three brothers, James, Bryan, and Jason, and my sister-in-law, Yolanda and brother-in-law Michael. Your support means the world to me. And to my nephew Willie, who with his three-year-old daughter, Maya, flew here from Italy to be with me at this moment. Thank you for being here to support me and to honor your mother. I know she is smiling down on us.  

And I would not be standing here tonight without the love and support of my husband, Gary and our son Carter. Gary, thank you for always being there for me while I live out my purpose. Carter, you are the light that your father and I brought into the world. We love watching you shine and know that you will use your light to make oceans cleaner and the world a better place.

Many of you know that I was a first-generation college student. Like many first-generation students, I didn’t have anyone to guide me through the college process. I had to figure things out on my own, and I didn’t know what I didn’t know. 

Thankfully, I had people around me who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself: Coaches, faculty, and administrators who introduced me to literature and ideas that opened my eyes to the world, guided me when I needed direction, and challenged me when I got off track. I also had great cheerleaders in my parents, James and Harriet Carter, who were always there for me. I am so grateful for their love and support. They may not have known firsthand about the college journey, but they knew that their support mattered in my success. 

I stand on the shoulders of the generations that came before me. I observed my parents and grandparents live lives of service in the midst of adversity. Over the course of my college career, I leaned into those lessons and developed grit, determination, and drive through my experiences as a first-generation student. I thrived both inside and outside of the classroom. I tutored other students, performed in theater productions and hosted my own radio show. I was often first on the track in the 100- and 400-meter hurdles, as well as in other sprints, relays, and field events. I earned a spot in my alma mater’s athletic hall of fame and that competitive spirit still lives in me.  

I brought that drive with me when I started my career. I was the first African American and youngest director of residence life at Fairleigh Dickinson University and then the first African American Vice President at The Juilliard School, where I was also the first General Counsel and the first Executive Director of Jazz Studies, a program I co-created. I was the first woman and first African American President of Shippensburg University and am now the first African American President of Lawrence University. Without realizing it, I embraced the first in first-generation and made it into a career of firsts.  

These opportunities have given me the chance to work with young people from across the globe and to mentor and support them as they grow and develop into people who are changing the world. I have had the honor of seeing them at their best and at their worst. 

Maya Angelou said nothing can dim the light from within. Experience has taught me that sometimes you need to help others find their internal light. When students feel they are in their darkest days, it has become my purpose, my “why,” to be a beacon to help them find their way, their light within, and, ultimately, to achieve their purpose. It is a gift to have been that beacon for so many young people.  

Not surprisingly, it is the light that drew me to Lawrence University. 

For the last 175 years, Lawrence University has sat on the banks of the Fox River, calling students to its light: a Beacon on the River. And this beacon’s light, more light called to me. The more light I have, the more I can share, and the more lives I can impact. This is why I am so honored to be standing here today.  

I came to Lawrence knowing that a liberal arts education is exactly what today’s society demands. It is what society has always demanded. When I review the resumes of Lawrence’s alumni—top lawyers, leading corporate executives, dedicated teachers, cutting-edge doctors, community organizers, entrepreneurs, and award-winning writers and musicians—I am inspired to ensure that Lawrence deepens its commitment to the liberal arts and secures its place as a national leader in the higher education.  

For 175 years, this Beacon on the River has illuminated students’ journeys of enrichment and exploration, igniting their passions and propelling them into meaningful careers that impact their communities, our nation, and the world. This is what a liberal arts education—a Lawrence education—does. 

Prior to arriving at Lawrence, I sat of the Board of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce. I listened to my colleagues from the business sector talk about the need for employees who can write well, present strong presentations, solve complex problems, work in teams, and think critically. It was apparent to me that they were talking about the skills gained through a liberal arts education. 

Not everyone shares this same appreciation for the liberal arts. Society questioned the value of higher education and the liberal arts, in particular, even prior to the pandemic. Some of the most prominent issues in this national debate are the cost of tuition, student loan debt and access to higher education. I am grateful to my predecessor, Mark Burstein, for his work to address these issues at Lawrence. 

Mark raised significant funds to put Lawrence on the course of becoming a full need institution, while reducing the amount of loans our students need to cover their costs. He also led the Lawrence team in creating a more diverse student body and a campus culture that is working toward creating a stronger sense of belonging for all students. Thank you, Mark.

Yet more work remains as we face the challenges ahead. The task before us will require all of us, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members alike, to work together to ensure this Beacon on the River shines brighter than ever before.

We know that students succeed when the faculty and staff supporting them have the resources they require to provide an exceptional academic experience. We have spent the last few months working across campus to identify Lawrence’s most pressing needs, listening to our community and exploring institutional data. The data tell us that we at Lawrence need to better resource our faculty and staff, increase our applicant pool, deepen our work in diversity, equity and inclusion, and continue to build our reputation. 

As Lawrence has done throughout its 175-year history, we are prepared to address these needs head-on. Earlier today, the Board of Trustees agreed to strategies and metrics for a strategic investment in the institution that includes additional support for academic programs and faculty development; facilities and technological infrastructure; diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism; reputational enhancement; and better compensation for our faculty and staff. 

This historic action by the Board will permit us to secure the equipment faculty require to prepare students for life after Lawrence; create more technologically advanced classroom spaces; and provide additional resources to some of our newer academic programs as they continue to grow. These innovations will enable us to keep pace with the demands and expectations of prospective students and their families. They will also send a clear message to our faculty and staff that we value them and understand that excellence requires investment. I want to thank our Board for investing in the future of this remarkable institution.

In the current challenging environment, maintaining our position as a selective national liberal arts institution is key to our future success. Lawrence continues to attract high academic achievers, yet the enrollment cliff predicted for 2025-26 means that there will be fewer high school graduates, particularly in the Midwest and the Northeast. We are already seeing the results of more aggressive recruiting and financial aid packaging from our peers as the higher education landscape becomes more competitive. But Lawrence is well positioned to continue to lead during this turbulent time.  

Thanks to generous donors, we have already made improvements to our residence halls. The investments approved by the Board continue our work, allowing Student Life to reorganize to respond to changing student needs; develop a first-year experience program to provide extra and co-curricular support to our students; review our student advising program to ensure it is consistent with best practices. We are also taking another look at our Career Center to create ways for students to have earlier engagement with the office and experience high-impact practices like internships, mentoring, and study abroad. Increasing support for the Conservatory and Athletics, which account for 20% and 25% of our student population, is also vital to the university’s success. 

Enhancing these student experiences will ensure that Lawrence remains a beacon for current and future Lawrentians.   

I mentioned earlier the diversity, equity and inclusion work taking place on campus. Last May, the Board determined that Lawrence should deepen that work and become an anti-racist institution. This work is consistent with the values of our founder, abolitionist Amos Lawrence, and Lawrence University’s status as one of the first co-educational institutions in the country. Our commitment to diversity extended even further when Lawrence joined with the all-women’s Milwaukee-Downer College in 1964.  

Our continuing work will be consistent with the needs of today’s society. A demographic shift is taking place in the country. It is forecast that more students of color will be attending college in the coming years. In addition, the number of first-generation college students is on the rise.  We must be prepared to receive these students and provide them with a sense of belonging. In all of my roles as a first, I have worked to create an environment where everyone can thrive, and I am committed to working across campus and in the community to do the same at Lawrence.

I have heard many stories from students and alumni who have not felt welcome or supported, but I am confident we can do better. Just last month, we held the annual President’s Ball. It was wonderful to see students of different colors, identities, and nationalities come together for an evening of music and dancing. The event demonstrated that there is a place for everyone at Lawrence. And we will continue to work to ensure that all students can thrive at the university.

You may have noticed our new website, which launched earlier this spring. I want to thank our communications and marketing team, as well as the entire campus community, for their work in updating that critical recruitment vehicle. The website was an important first step in better showcasing the university’s strengths and value. We have recently engaged a nationally recognized marketing firm to assist us in telling Lawrence’s story and highlighting the excellent education we provide so that it is more compelling to prospective students and their families. We also plan to expand our outreach by investing in more digital marketing opportunities. So don’t be surprised if you see Lawrence pop up in a few more Google searches.

Continuing this theme, I’d now like to take some time to boast a little on behalf of the university. Did you know that Lawrence is the #1 liberal arts college in Wisconsin? It’s also one of 40 schools featured in the New York Times bestselling Colleges that Change Lives. And home to a world-class Conservatory of Music. 

Our students regularly win national prizes like Fulbrights and Watson Fellowships. Our faculty conduct cutting edge research that is supported by grants from entities like the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Their work is featured in the New York Times and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and receives local and regional honors from community organizations and professional associations. 

These examples all showcase Lawrence’s extraordinary scholars and artists and the transformative education our students receive. And it’s more important than ever that we share this news with the world. And we ask each of you to share Lawrence’s good news as well.  

Lawrence students, faculty, staff, alumni—you are the best examples of a transformative Lawrence education. Lawrence parents and friends—you are our biggest cheerleaders. When you leave this ceremony tonight, share what you love about Lawrence. Or what you’ve learned about the university and its community during your time in Appleton. 

You can even start with this Tweet: Lawrence University is an extraordinary liberal arts community dedicated to excellence and integrity, collaboration and creativity, nestled in the vibrant city of Appleton, WI. Help us share our story far and wide!

This is not an easy time to be a university president, and I do not accept the challenge of leading this great university lightly. But as Langston Hughes said in his poem Mother to Son, “Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair,” and leading two different universities during a pandemic while grieving the loss of loved ones has taught me a lot about shining light into darkness.  I know full well that a flickering light can recover its brilliance. 

The world is rapidly changing. We cannot stand still. Like the river that flows through our campus, we must move with the current while honoring the shore around us. Buddha said, “Doubt everything and find your own light.” We have heard the skeptical discourse around higher education and the liberal arts. We doubt that it is insurmountable. We see clearly the shifting student demographics before us. We stand firm in our belief that the education we provide will meet the needs of current and future students.  We know that Lawrence is at a pivotal moment in its history. We illuminate a path forward.

We are Lawrentians.  

And as this Beacon on the River provides light, more light, we will continue to hold firm to our tradition of providing an exceptional liberal arts education to our students.

Students, you inspire me. You bring so much light to this campus. You have a light within that gives you the potential to become a beacon of your own. The beacon the world needs for a more kind and sustainable future. I encourage you to let your light shine. 

More coverage of Inauguration.

December Campus Updates (December 10, 2021)

Dear Lawrentians, 

While there may be fewer students on campus, our daily lives are still filled with activity.  After nearly two full weeks of coursework, December classes are coming to a close. Students and faculty are collaborating on research projects. Our Vikings basketball and hockey teams are competing for the first time in December since 2019. Facilities Services is working on enhancements to residence halls across campus. The faculty, students, staff, trustees, and alumni participating in our five guiding coalitions—Visioning Our Five Priorities; Full Speed to Full Need; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Antiracism; Athletics; and 175th Anniversary—and the Strategic Equitable Enrollment Management team are deep into their work planning for Lawrence’s future. All of which facilitates the Strategic Planning Committee, which has commenced its work as well. Thank you to everyone who is dedicating their time, energy, and talent into ensuring that Lawrence meets its fullest potential. 

As November brought moments of reflection and gratitude, December brings moments of celebration and transition. Last week, faculty and staff gathered at our annual holiday reception, and it was wonderful to see so many colleagues gathered safely together to enjoy our bright community. My sincere thanks to Human Resources for helping to plan the gathering, to Bon Appetit for the wonderful food, and to our Conservatory students for the joyous music. Earlier this week, we celebrated Alice Boeckers and Linda Peeters as they embark on their retirement after years of dedicated service to Lawrence. Thank you to everyone who came together to wish them well as they enter this new stage of their lives. 

The new year will also bring a number of transitions for the university, the President’s Office in particular.  

This week, we welcomed Andrea Thorsbakken as my new executive assistant. Andrea brings years of experience serving as a chief of staff and project lead at the Tennessee Department of Education, which will be invaluable to her new role. I’m confident she will be a wonderful addition to our team here in the President’s Office. Mike O’Connor will be transitioning from his position as Riaz Waraich Dean of the Career Center and Center for Community Engagement and Social Change to a new role as special assistant to the president in January. His role will focus on university-wide assessment and metrics and other projects as designed. He will work across the university to create a culture of assessment that includes clear metrics to assess strategic priorities and investments and ensure that we are working toward meeting our goals. I’m excited that Mike will share his skills with the university in this new role, and I look forward to working with him to ensure Lawrence is meeting its full potential. 

Starting January 1, Megan Scott will serve as vice president of communications and marketing, reporting directly to me. This shift in title and reporting is a direct reflection of the quality of work Megan has done during her time at Lawrence, as well as the importance of Communications to the ongoing success of the university. Megan has worked to build an integrated communications office that directly supports the university’s strategic initiatives and has kept our community informed and connected during the pandemic. She and her team will lead our efforts to elevate Lawrence’s reputation and relevance as a leading liberal arts institution. 

Also, as of January 1, Christyn Abaray will officially become my chief of staff, while also continuing her role as secretary to the Board of Trustees. This is truly a change in title only, as Christyn has been an invaluable resource and partner as I’ve transitioned into the Lawrence community. She helped to implement our guiding coalitions, leads the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team, and, when needed, represents the President’s Office. She will also play an integral role in our strategic planning process, helping to set a vision for Lawrence’s future. 

Please join me in welcoming Andrea to Lawrence and congratulating Mike, Megan, and Christyn on their new positions at the university.  

I look forward to welcoming the new year, one in which we will celebrate Lawrence’s 175th anniversary, our storied history and our bright future, together. I wish you all peaceful, safe, and restful holidays with your family, friends, and loved ones. 


Laurie A. Carter
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525

Matriculation Convocation 2021: Comfort with Discomfort

Thank you for joining us this afternoon.  And what a thrill it is to be here. That music was so incredibly beautiful. It just warmed my heart.

But I want to begin by acknowledging my message to the campus community this morning addressing two recent incidents of concern, both of which involved our students witnessing or being the target of hateful speech in our surrounding community. This is not how I wanted to start this academic year or this Convocation. But we cannot talk about our future without addressing the challenges of our present. These incidents–and others like them–are not acceptable and are in direct conflict with our values as a community. Ensuring that Lawrence is a place of safety and belonging is an essential priority.  And I pledge to you that Lawrence will continue to work closely with the City of Appleton to ensure that the safety of Lawrence students both on and off campus. It is a top collaborative priority. More information about about joint efforts with the city will be shared soon.

I am honored to serve as President of Lawrence University at this moment in history, just a few months away from the 175th anniversary of this renowned College of Liberal Arts & Science and Conservatory of Music. While I was told about Lawrence’s traditions prior to my arrival on campus, witnessing them first-hand last week brought them to life. I was particularly moved to see the hand-off of the purple class flag to the incoming Class of 2025. This is a tradition that not only unites our students and graduates but also honors our ties to Milwaukee-Downer College, whose students brought the class colors tradition with them when our two colleges merged more than 50 years ago. 

I am looking forward to experiencing first-hand more of Lawrence’s rich traditions just as I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity to speak with you this afternoon about Lawrence’s bright future.  

But before I discuss where we are going, I want to take a moment to look at where we’ve been and to express gratitude to Lawrence faculty, staff and students for their extraordinary show of solidarity and sense of community during the 2020-21 academic year.  The manner in which the community came together to support one another during the pandemic is why we are brighter together today.  Thank you for allowing me to join a community that is poised to confront the challenges ahead with a focus on what is best for our students and our mission.   

I also want to thank the facilities and grounds team for successfully completing multiple complex construction projects this summer, many of which were funded by our generous donors or through grant funding. From the replacements of sidewalks across campus to the addition of an accessible ramp on Brokaw Hall to the truly transformational renovation of Youngchild’s lecture hall into the new Science Learnings Commons and the first phase of the reimagined student residence Kohler Hall, the campus looks great.  Providing our students with newly upgraded living and learning spaces is a testament to your dedicated work.  And I would be remiss if I did not thank the volunteers who pitched in to help beautify our campus in preparation for the arrival of our students.  We truly are brighter together.  

The Admissions team also deserves our gratitude for their extraordinary work in recruiting one of the largest first-year classes since 2012. 

I had the privilege of welcoming our newest Lawrentians to campus last week.  I was moved by the hope and anticipation they brought to campus. I met three first-generation college student who want to study biology.  An African-American student who wants to learn more about Korean culture and language.  A track and field scholar-athlete who specializes in hurdles and also wants to be a pentathlete.  And in the truest form of exploration, the student from Tunisia who knows nothing about American football but is serving as operations manager to the team.  

Each of these students has come to Lawrence to challenge themselves in new ways.  They realize that the path to their success requires them to stretch outside of their comfort zone.  After all, this is the way we grow as individuals.  We develop a level of comfort with discomfort that allows us to forge new paths, engage with different people and cultures, and confront and persevere through challenges that have been placed in our way.  Our students also came to Lawrence with the expectation that we nurture and support that growth while we—faculty, staff, and administrators—model this path ourselves. 

Our students have entrusted their education to us at arguably the most tumultuous time in recent history.  We have been in the midst of a global pandemic for more than 18 months with no clear end in sight.  The United States is confronting political strife that has torn families apart.  We are grappling with a racial reckoning that is exacerbated by that divide.  And for schools like Lawrence, we face more complex challenges in addition to these national and global disruptions than ever before. The value of higher education, especially the liberal arts, is under attack by political parties and factions of the media.  And while student loan debt is skyrocketing, college retention and graduation rates are not. Post-graduation placement into work or graduate programs is being scrutinized like never before, and employers are frustrated that recent graduates are not meeting expectations of critical thinking, adaptability and teamwork.  And if that isn’t enough, the nation is approaching a demographic cliff when the birthrate will drop so low that the competition for college-age students in the Midwest will be more intense than ever.

So how will we at Lawrence confront these issues? How will we maintain and amplify the quality of the Lawrence experience and position Lawrence as a leader in higher education now and into the future?  Like our students, we must develop a level of comfort with discomfort.  We will need to challenge ourselves in new ways, ask ourselves hard questions and boldly move forward while keeping our focus on what is in the best interest of our students, sustains the university’s mission, and honors our history. 

I am excited for this work, and I feel uniquely positioned for the challenges ahead.  As an African-American woman and leader, discomfort has always been a part of my journey.  It started as a child when I was often either the only Black person—or one of few—in the room and certainly the darkest.  Later, I added the discomfort of being a female athlete—I ran sprints and hurdles—at a time when femininity and athletics were in tension with the other.  Later, as a professional, I can clearly remember being in roles where I was expected to be present in the room but to either remain silent or only speak on behalf of all Black people.  I recall when seeking advancement, being told that I should not expect to have it all.  The pretext was that being a mother and a professional should be enough.  But with each experience, I grew.  I understood that if I was to achieve my goals, I couldn’t allow the barriers placed in my way to stop me.  I guess in some respects, being a hurdler helped.  Instead of looking down at the barrier I was crossing, I learned to look ahead and keep my eye on the goal of crossing the finish line first.  Being the first woman or the first BIPOC person in a space can come with discomfort, but it can also come with the comfort of success.  And that is how we will proceed.  With the knowledge that if we work together, we will not only overcome the discomfort challenges bring, we will succeed, and ultimately find comfort in our success. I want to be clear that comfort does not equal complacency. Comfort is knowing that we were able to overcome the hurdles we faced and met our objectives. Comfort is also having the confidence that we can face even more discomfort and rise to the challenge again. 

Since the announcement of my presidency in March, I have spent time getting to know the Lawrence community.  I have had conversations with trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, parents, and Appleton community leaders.  I want to thank all with whom I’ve spoken for your time, candor and commitment to Lawrence.  It has been invaluable to me in planning for how best to move the university forward at such a challenging and uncomfortable moment in our history. 

I have also learned of the many incredible things happening at Lawrence.  The pandemic has clearly not extinguished the light emanating from this community.  And I’d like to take a few moments to share a few examples of these bright lights from the past year with you.

Multiple faculty members received prestigious awards or grants, including Jake Frederick, Professor of History, who was awarded a short-term Newberry Library/Associated Colleges of the Midwest Fellowship in October 2020.

Beth Zinsli, Assistant Professor of Art History and Curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, won the inaugural M.C. Lang Fellowship in Book History, Bibliography and the Humanities Teaching with Historical Sources from the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School in March.  Beth was also named a winner of a National Endowment for the Humanities Preservation Assistance grant to determine approaches to preserving Lawrence’s Downer College Teakwood Room.

In July, Julie Rana, Assistant Professor of Mathematics, was awarded a National Science Foundation LEAPS-MPS—or Launching Early-Career Academic Pathways in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences–grant. And Israel Del Toro, Assistant Professor of Biology, was awarded an EAGER grant from the National Science Foundation to forward his work in bee conservation.

And recently, Lori Hilt, Associate Professor of Psychology and Department Chair, received a subaward grant from the National Institute of Health through Harvard’s McLean Hospital Corporation.

In addition to stellar research, scholarship, and performance, our faculty remain committed to excellence in teaching, a fact that was recognized just this week by U.S. News & World Report, which included Lawrence on its 2022 list of Best Undergraduate Teaching. 

And there’s more: 

Dr. Brittany Bell, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Diversity and Intercultural Center, contributed a chapter to the recently published book Teaching Beautiful Brilliant Black Girls

Vice President for Enrollment and Communications Ken Anselment’s podcast The A.L.P. recently received the John B. Muir Editor Award, recognizing the NACAC member that has made the most significant communications-related contribution to the college admission counseling field during the past year.

LeRoy Frahm, electronics technician in the Physics department since 1975 and an Air Force veteran, recently received the 2021 James M. Roche Spirit of Volunteerism Award from the U.S. Department of Defense. 

The Lawrence Conservatory of Music’s jazz program earned an Outstanding Performance award in Downbeat magazine’s annual Student Music Awards, marking the fourth consecutive year the program has been honored. 

Lawrence opened its inaugural varsity women’s hockey season in February. This was the first new varsity sport launched since 1986.

Members of the Class of 2021 received prestigious national grants, including Travis Dillon, how. received a prestigious National Science Foundation award that will assist the mathematics major as he heads to graduate school and pursues a doctorate. Ricardo Jimenez and Ben Portzen were named national recipients of the prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.  Additionally, 2018 graduate Koby Brown was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Brazil to pursue his ethnomusicology research. 

And we cannot forget that during some of the darkest days of the pandemic, John Holiday’s performances on “The Voice” lifted our spirits.  I want to thank John for leading our new students and their families in an inspiring rendition of “This Little Light of Mine” at our President’s Welcome last week.

These accomplishments—and so many more that we don’t have time to name here but are equally impressive—pay testament to the strength and resilience needed to propel our scholarship, our work, and our creativity forward even during a challenging time. It is heartening to see that the discomfort of this pandemic did not impede progress at Lawrence. And the external forces that will challenge us in the coming years will not impede our progress either. 

At this moment we must dig deep within ourselves to do more to move the university forward. Through our collective efforts, we must transform Lawrence into a university that is poised to lead in this new environment.  And as the environment evolves, we must be nimble enough to evolve with it.  

Dr. John Kotter, author of “Leading Change” and several other books on the subject, says that “transformation is a process, not an event.”  Unlike the way the world had to shut down almost overnight to mitigate COVID, our process of change will take a little longer, but it must keep pace with the need to provide an exceptional education to students and prepare them for a rapidly changing world, while appropriately responding to the national discourse on higher education.

Just as Lawrentians have shared their pride in the university’s many strengths and accomplishments with me during recent conversations, they have also generously shared their insights on our future.  As a result of those discussions, the President’s Cabinet and I have developed five priorities that will frame our work moving forward:    

  • Strategic Equitable Student Success
  • Lawrence Brand Enhancement
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
  • An Enhanced Integrated University Experience
  • Strategic Financial Stewardship

While these five priorities touch nearly every aspect of our university, from recruitment and retention to the curricular and co-curricular programs, they all are in service of our students.   And our ability to collectively engage in dialogue and problem-solving around these areas will determine our course for the future. 

In “Leading Change,” Kotter described his change model that evolved in his later book, “Accelerate.” The process involves a parallel construct.  On one side, the traditional hierarchy of our university will continue to operate.  We must press forward with the day to day operations and honor our policies, processes and shared governance.  At the same time, parallel to the traditional hierarchy, we will work through the steps of change using Kotter’s model, which has proven effective for so many organizations.  

Creating a sense of urgency is the first step in the process.  Let’s look back to the issues that higher education is facing in this new landscape.  Declining applications. Declining net tuition revenue. Inconsistent and aspirationally low retention rates. Public discourse challenging higher education, specifically, the liberal arts. High national student loan debt. And the perception of a low return of investment in terms of job placement and continuing education.  

Lawrence is not immune to these issues.  Yes, we have a strong foundation with talented and dedicated faculty and staff and bright motivated students. We have extraordinarily generous alumni and friends who supported the historic Be the Light! capital campaign. We introduced three new areas of study in the last year and recruited one of the largest incoming classes in Lawrence’s history. The university’s outlook has improved thanks to these efforts, and we should be proud of our accomplishments.  But financial issues still need to be resolved, including deferred and other maintenance that will cost in the tens of millions of dollars.  And we can’t forget that enrollment cliff that’s on the immediate horizon. We need to ensure that a Lawrence education is more attractive and accessible to incoming students than ever before.

Do you feel a little more urgency now?  

So let’s work together to strengthen Lawrence’s position and build a brighter future for our university and our community.

Following Kotter’s model, we will build a series of guiding coalitions that will serve as accountable, integrated groups bound by opportunity, strategy and action.  Consisting of a volunteer army of Lawrentians from across the university, the guiding coalitions will form the strategic visions and initiatives to move us forward.  They will work and be authorized to remove barriers so that they are able to generate short-term wins, sustain acceleration, and ultimately institute change. 

Implementation of the process is critical.  Because we have so many challenges ahead of us and some issues require more immediate action than others, we will move forward along three consecutive paths, using our normal hierarchical model, a hybrid model of hierarchy and accelerate, and a pure accelerate model for areas that need immediate, focused attention.  

Let me take a moment to share how this will work.

Our current strategic plan, Veritas est Lux, expires in 2022.  The process to create a new plan will work through our existing governance models.  A strategic planning committee will be formed in the next two months.  This group will be charged with evaluating the current plan.  Once that work is completed, we will be better positioned to begin the creation of a new plan based upon the work of our guiding coalitions.

Strategic Equitable Student Success is our first priority.  No later than October 31, we will use our existing hierarchy and an accelerated approach to begin the creation of a Strategic Equitable Enrollment Management plan – the hybrid model.  The team responsible for the plan will represent a cross section of the campus community.  It will use data and best practices to create a plan that will allow us to grow applications, increase net tuition revenue, and better serve all students by focusing on recruitment and retention strategies that will position Lawrence as a leader in the future of higher education.

We will also begin working through the steps of “Accelerate,” by creating five guiding coalitions.  Each will focus on one area and will be given a charge and timeline specific to that area.  The timelines will begin within the next month and conclude prior to the completion of this academic year.  Each guiding coalition will consist of members from multiple layers of the university hierarchy and will represent all constituents—faculty, staff, students, trustees and alumni.  Each will have at least two co-chairs, one representing faculty and one representing staff.   Some may include additional co-chairs representing other constituents.  Members of the coalitions must have a sense of urgency and a commitment to the change initiative at hand. The guiding coalitions will focus on five areas:

  • Visioning of Our Five Priorities
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
  • Full Speed to Full Need
  • Amplifying Athletics
  • 175th Anniversary

Our volunteer army will consist of members of the community who are passionate about these issues and are willing to lock arms with others to create meaningful change around them. You—faculty, staff, students alike—have the opportunity to participate, step up and act like never before.  Everyone, regardless of role, can engage in this process, and I truly hope that you will.

For our students, I have heard loud and clear that you feel pressured to not only alert the faculty and staff to the work required to best serve your needs but also to DO the work yourselves. That stops here. We need your ideas, thoughts, and experiences. While your participation is desired and necessary for the success of this process, you should not feel compelled to lead it.  We have heard you and will continue to do so throughout this process and beyond.  

Lawrence’s motto calls for Light! More Light! Remember, the points at which light intersect are brighter than any singular light, and I am asking each of you to bring your light to this process. 

Later this afternoon you will receive an email inviting you to join this effort.  I hope that you will join me and your colleagues and classmates to heed that call. 

Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, “People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.”  Lawrence is known for its light.  And when the sun was shining brightly, meaning before the public discourse on higher education turned negative and the pandemic disrupted the world, our light shone brighter than ever.  But now that darkness has threatened us, we must use the light within us to demonstrate to the world who we are.  

So for a moment close your eyes.  Imagine yourself in this Chapel on a winter’s eve surrounded by Lawrentians past and present.  Then imagine everyone in the Chapel lighting a candle in the darkness.  Imagine the power of that light illuminating the stained glass of this beautiful structure so that it shines beauty and light on the outside world.  That is our path forward.  Our individual lights will join together to face and embrace discomfort and guide our university to an even brighter place. We will be brighter together.

Commencement 2021 (March 18, 2021)

Dear Seniors,   

As Winter Term comes to a close I am sure most of you have started to think about Commencement. I am pleased to announce that Lawrence will host an in-person, outdoor Commencement ceremony on Sunday, June 13 at 10:00 a.m.  Like many of the events since last March, Commencement 2021 will look different than in years past. Our goal will continue to be a celebration of your time at Lawrence and the milestones you and your classmates have achieved. Many details still need to be worked out, but so far we know that:   

  • Commencement will be held at the Banta Bowl in order to safely accommodate all attendees. 
  • All seniors will be invited back to campus to participate in the ceremony, including those who currently live off-campus. 
  • Each graduate will be allowed up to two guests in order to accommodate our social distancing guidelines.  
  • The university also plans to host commencement events such as Baccalaureate and the Commencement concert. Some events may take place in a virtual format. More details will be provided in the coming weeks. 
  • As in years past, Commencement will be streamed live via Lawrence’s YouTube channel, so it will be available to friends, family and graduates around the globe. 
  • All regalia, including caps, gowns, and tassels, will be provided to graduating seniors by the Lawrence University Alumni Association (LUAA). 
  • We are also developing plans for a virtual alternative if the need arises.  
  • More details will be shared via email as they become available.  You can also visit, to find up-to-date information about the ceremony.  

A survey will be sent to all seniors within the next two weeks requesting information regarding your plans for Commencement.  It is important that you respond to this survey as soon as possible so that we can begin to finalize ceremony arrangements. 

As we end our last year at Lawrence, together, I am deeply thankful for your leadership of our learning community.  I am particularly grateful for your commitment to Honor the Pledge, which has allowed us to consider an in-person celebration of your time here.  Since your arrival in Appleton, I have had the honor of watching you take full advantage of the Lawrence experience. Your successes as Lawrentians are even more meaningful in light of the challenges of this past year. I am so honored to be able to celebrate this important milestone with you, in person. I look forward to seeing you on campus or via zoom during Spring Term. Until then, I wish you a restful and healthy spring break.  


Mark Burstein
President, Lawrence University

Community Health & Safety (October 1, 2020)

Dear Lawrentians, 

In this unprecedented time, our goal of protecting the health and safety of our community is more important than ever. Each week—and often every day—brings news that is deeply troubling, whether it is our nation surpassing more than 200,000 deaths from COVID-19 or the presence of a potential hate crime in a neighborhood near our campus. I write today both as your president and as a Lawrentian to address the critical issues of the health and safety of our community.  

The spread of COVID-19 in the Fox Cities has reached alarming levels. According to data from the Appleton Health Department, we have moved from community spread to widespread community transmission. The Federal Government has designated the Fox Cities and most of Wisconsin a “red zone” the highest designation for community transmission of the virus. Please take seriously this frightening increase in the presence of COVID-19 in our surrounding community.  Limit all nonessential interactions off campus. For those living on campus, the safest place for you right now is the Lawrence campus. For those commuting to campus for work or learning, please exercise great care in your life at Lawrence and beyond. 

In the midst of such a fast-moving outbreak, we at Lawrence have done a truly amazing job mitigating the spread of the virus. As of September 27, we have administered 2,878 tests on our campus and have only 7 total active cases among those living, learning, or working on campus. This is a rate of positivity of less than one half of one percent:  a testament to your diligence in adhering to health and safety guidance.  

On this Giving Day when we thank our community for their support of Lawrence, I cannot fully express how thankful I am for the actions all of us are taking to mitigate the spread of the virus. We have all worked to Honor the Pledge—wearing masks, physically distancing, limiting your exposure to the virus. We have become a model for members of our surrounding community. Please continue with your practices. It is only by working together that we will mitigate the spread of the virus and keep each other healthy. 

As was communicated earlier this week, the unrest, violence, and vitriolic, blatantly racist actions associated with our current political moment have again touched our campus. The police are actively investigating this weekend’s incident, targeting a private home in a neighboring community, as a potential hate crime. Sharing more details on this ongoing investigation may impede the investigation. We also want to ensure the privacy and safety of those individuals directly affected by the weekend’s event. The goal for us and for the city is to find the perpetrator(s) as quickly as possible.  

Although we cannot offer further details, we can say this: 

Lawrence University does not tolerate hate speech or actions of intolerance, including racism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia.  We believe that Black Lives Matter.  

I know these recent events have generated stress, anxiety, even fear and anger in our community. I am struggling with these feelings myself. I know that many of you are experiencing them in your own lives. But I am strengthened when I remember the University’s core values of respect for justice and the dignity of all human life.  These values inform our current work to become an antiracist institution, work that is wholeheartedly supported by the Board of Trustees. In addition to this effort, practicing empathy towards our fellow Lawrentians is one of the most important actions we can take. Remember that our own daily struggles and those of our peers and colleagues may not always be visible.  

Being a Lawrentian is one of the true honors and privileges of my life. I will continue to Honor the Pledge and do all that I can to become antiracist. I ask each of you to join me in this work. Please support and protect each other, stand up to racism and intolerance, take advantage of the services the university offers, and work to make a positive difference—to be the light—in our community. 

Be well and make choices that keep others well. 



Mark Burstein
President, Lawrence University
Sampson House, 711 E. Boldt Way | Appleton, WI 54911-5699 | Office 920.832.6525

A Message from President Burstein & the Board of Trustees (September 11, 2020)

Dear Lawrence Community,
I write to inform you that this academic year will be my last at the University. Serving as president of Lawrence for the past seven years has been the greatest honor and pleasure of my professional life. We have accomplished so much together: launching new curriculum and teaching methods; renewing campus infrastructure; and deepening our commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity. I have had the privilege of participating in the lives of smart and caring students. Our endowment has grown more than 70% which has helped us make Lawrence more affordable and decreased the average debt of our graduates. Many talented faculty and staff have joined us with their energy, insights, and new ideas. You have welcomed David, Homer, and me into this beloved learning community with open arms. We have established friendships that will endure for the rest of our lives.
With the end of our strategic plan in sight and the completion of the Be The Light! Campaign this December, it seems like an appropriate juncture in the arc of the University to prepare for new leadership. The pandemic has also made it difficult for David and me to keep connected to our parents during an important period in their lives. I plan to serve as your president for this academic year with all of my focus and energy.  After June 30th we expect to move our center of gravity to New York City and Washington, DC to be closer to family.  We also hope to frequently return to Appleton to cheer on Lawrence and do what we can for its future.   
There will be plenty of time to celebrate what we have accomplished together for Lawrence and the many students and alumni we serve. But I do want to take a moment to thank you. Your advice, counsel, and friendship have made me a better leader and for that I will be eternally grateful. 
I look forward to seeing each of you on campus or via Zoom very soon.

Mark Burstein
Lawrence University

To the Lawrence Community,
After more than seven years of leadership, President Burstein informed the Board of Trustees today that this will be his last academic year at Lawrence. I am deeply grateful to Mark for all that has been accomplished during his tenure. The depth and breadth of his experience, paired with deft and compassionate leadership, made him the right leader for Lawrence at the right time in our history. He has led the university through unprecedented challenges and remarkable opportunities. During Mark’s tenure, our curricular offerings became deeper and broader, applications and the endowment increased dramatically, and our community became more diverse, inclusive, and equity-minded. Thanks to his dedication and service, Lawrence is well positioned for the future.
Throughout the year, the Lawrence community will celebrate our collective success and Mark’s impact on the university’s trajectory. In the meantime, I want to provide a sense of how we will proceed with the selection of the university’s 17th President. We plan to mount a national search supported by a national search firm. We are in the process of forming a Presidential Search Committee, which will be made up of trustees, alumni, faculty, students, and staff. I have asked trustees Cory Nettles ’92 and Sarah Schott ’97 to lead the Search Committee as chair and vice chair, respectively. We have also asked Christyn Abaray, secretary to the board, to support the selection process from an administrative standpoint. We expect to select a search firm shortly and have every expectation that we will select a new president during the Winter Term.
The Search Committee will soon launch a webpage to share its progress with the Lawrence community. We look forward to hearing from you about what characteristics you believe we should seek as we consider candidates for the position. In addition, we will set up processes to gather these views and suggestions of candidates as well. 
In these moments of transition, it is important to find time to celebrate our progress and imagine our future. I hope the entire university community will join us in both activities. Thank you for your patience and contributions as we proceed with this important work.
I would be remiss at the start of this unusual Fall Term if I did not use this opportunity, on behalf of the Board of Trustees, to thank all members of the Lawrence community who have worked so hard to sustain the university during this pandemic. I know many faculty, staff, and students have provided leadership and extra time and effort to ensure that the learning environment we cherish continues to prosper. 
From the entire Board of Trustees, we express our thanks and warmest regards.
Be well, and stay well,
David C. Blowers ’82
Chair of the Board of Trustees
Lawrence University