Month: May 2019

2 Minutes With … Patrick Adu: Reviving the arts in his Sierra Leone homeland

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Sierra Leone was marred by an 11-year civil war from 1991 to 2002. In its wake, the war wiped out the country’s once-thriving theater culture. Seventeen years later, Lawrence University student Patrick Adu ’19 is leading the way to revive his country’s performing arts scene.

He’s starting Target Theatre, a nonprofit organization that aims to put public performances back on stages and reintroduce arts education in Sierra Leone’s schools.

A vibrant past

Prior to the civil war in Sierra Leone, theater was an essential medium for expressing views on a range of issues. No matter what the topic was, Patrick says theater was an integral part of people’s lives.

“(The impact) was very strong,” he says. “People loved it. People went to see it and get some information to take back home to create and start working on change.”

But the damage in the aftermath of the war was so immense that people forgot about plays. It was necessary to prioritize rebuilding roads, schools and hospitals. The performing arts were mostly pushed aside.

Now Patrick is bringing the former glory of Sierra Leone’s theater culture to the government’s attention with his plans for Target Theatre. He has communicated with some government officials who are ready to work with him. Other people back home are ready for the change, too, Patrick says. He receives encouraging social media engagement in response to his efforts.

“There are people who are very, very interested in reviving the arts there. They said, ‘We will work together and we’re happy you want to revive this stuff.’ So, I think I will have a good relationship and support from people back home.”

Beyond the stage

By reviving Sierra Leone’s theater culture, Target Theatre will create jobs and support the rising creative talents of the country’s youth.

Patrick explains the two primary steps that will guide his efforts: “Those performances, scripts, plays, should go back on stage. We want to revive the art of watching plays, actors acting in the entire country. And the second, to revive arts education. By that we can help youths. This is an ambitious project that has all these components, but we want to roll them out one step at a time.”

Equipped with his studies at Lawrence in theater arts and a passion for keeping theater alive around the world, Patrick plans on one day teaching theater arts at a university. But for now, Target Theatre has his full attention.

“It’s very important for arts education to come back to life,” he says.

If you’d like to support Patrick’s cause or find out more information, visit this link: www.gofundme.com/help-revive-theatre-in-sierra-leone

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Maria Poimenidou: LUCC leader looks to do ‘amazing things’

Maria Poimenidou ’20 is president of the LUCC.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Yes, running a student government — a $400,000 budget and oversight of all clubs, committees, and student-related activities on campus — can be a bit overwhelming. But Maria Poimenidou ’20 has it down to a science.

The Lawrence University biochemistry and economics double major from Thaso, Greece, says it’s all about staying organized and pushing past any fears or doubts.

“Whenever I am afraid of something, I force myself to do it,” she says. “I don’t want any fear I have to keep me from doing amazing things.” 

The Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) plays a huge role in decision making and oversight on campus. It operates as a shared governance council, meeting weekly and helping to shape campus climate. As president, Maria oversees all that activity.  

“The role of the president is overseeing all of that and keeping the big picture in mind and seeing how different things can occur through legislation or different events,” Maria says.    

Right at home

Maria was part of her student government in high school. When first coming to Lawrence from Greece, Maria became a freshman class representative as a way to make Lawrence “feel more like home.”  

Her role in LUCC then evolved from a way to make friends and get involved to finding a way to make positive change on campus. 

“I remember going to general council and not knowing what was happening,” Maria says. “Over the years that changed, I started to see things that can be improved.”

Maria stayed on the council as a sophomore class representative, then was elected vice president, then president.  

Maria has kept a can-do mindset throughout her LUCC journey. Leading up to her position as president, she ran for various offices a total of five times. She keeps running and stays involved because she is determined to create positive change on campus, she says. It’s only a few months into her presidency, but she’s already increased student engagement and improved the function of LUCC committees by creating a cabinet position that focuses on that.

Be calm, stay organized

As one can imagine, being a student — a double major, no less — and running the LUCC is a full load. We asked Maria for five tips on handling a busy schedule:  

1: Do not be afraid to ask for help.

2: Prioritize what is important.

3: Create a schedule, and follow it.

4: Listen to yourself.

5: Take time for you.  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Del Toro’s research puts Lawrence on front lines of bee advocacy

Israel Del Toro, dressed in a protective suit, preps honeybees for the observational hive on the roof of the Warch Campus Center.
Israel Del Toro prepares to release honeybees to an observational hive on the roof of Lawrence University’s Warch Campus Center. The hive is visible from inside the Warch on the fourth floor.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Israel Del Toro’s advocacy for bees — fun fact: there are upwards of 100 different species of bees in Appleton alone — is no secret.

The Lawrence University assistant professor of biology has been championing bees and the untold benefits they bring to our ecosystem since he arrived on campus three years ago. He launched the Appleton Pollinator Project to turn homeowners and gardeners into citizen scientists, helped install and study pollination sites across the Fox Cities, and pushed students in his biology lab and campus environmental clubs to work to improve the on-campus habitat for bees.

Now Del Toro is stepping up that advocacy to another level, working to get Lawrence designated as a bee-friendly campus via Bee City USA, an initiative of Xerces Society. There are currently 70 campuses across the country that hold the bee-friendly designation.

All expectations are that Lawrence will be No. 71, and only the second in Wisconsin.

Del Toro submitted Lawrence’s proposal in early May, spotlighting the school’s sustainability push, the efforts to eliminate invasive species that work to the detriment of bees, the planting of bee-friendly wildflowers, the ongoing research activities and the educational outreach on and off campus.

“The goal is to use the campus as this big lab to try to figure out what the best practices are for managing bee diversity in urban landscapes,” Del Toro said.

To help connect Lawrence faculty, students and staff with the wonders of honeybees, Del Toro donned a protective suit last week and released bees into an observational hive set up on the roof of the Warch Campus Center, visible from behind the safety of glass on the building’s fourth floor.

“It’ll be an active colony that we hope will last for three years,” Del Toro said.

“People can’t actually touch the bees but the hives themselves have a plexiglass window so you can look inside and see the bees doing their bee thing and building honeycomb and foraging and dancing.”

A formal unveiling of the observational hive will be held in June, complete with a bee-inspired picnic featuring foods that require bee pollination — think apple pie, blueberry treats and avocado smoothies. Stay tuned for time, date and details.

Bee science

The observational hive at Warch offers an up-close look at the honeybee, the best known of the bee species that are here, but that’s just the start of the bee-focused educational opportunities on campus.

There are 10 different bee species known to be on Main Hall green, mostly housed in the hexagon-shaped pollination box just southeast of Main Hall. But another 32 species are known to inhabit S.L.U.G. (Sustainable Lawrence University Gardens), where students actively maintain a bee-friendly space with blooming flowers, native wildflowers and the ongoing removal of invasive plants.

The hexagon-shaped pollination box is on the Main Hall green, near Youngchild Hall.
A pollination box is on the Main Hall green near Youngchild Hall, home to multiple species of bees.

Del Toro is also working with City of Appleton officials to get the city designated a Bee City. It’s all part of the efforts to educate people on the ecosystem importance of bees and the dangers that exist when we’re not being good stewards of the land.

“It reflects some of the important values of Lawrence,” Del Toro said of the bee-friendly campus and city efforts. “Lawrence has always been very progressive thinking. Sustainability is a big issue now. We want to make sure that in the time of climate change and biodiversity loss, we are a leader in setting the proper example. If all we can impact is our little 88 acres on campus, well, that’s a great starting point. We can lead by example. I think that’s a really great example of the ethos of Lawrence.”

As long as we can get past the misconceptions about bees — no, they are not looking to sting you — it’s also good for student recruitment, Del Toro said.

“I would hope something like this is drawing students who are more sustainably focused and are thinking about issues like conservation and ecology and conservation biology,” he said.

For more on Lawrence’s biology and related offerings, click here.

For more on Lawrence’s geosciences and related offerings, click here.

Hands-on learning

That sort of thinking drew in Maggie Anderson ’19 , a farm girl from northern Minnesota who came to Lawrence with an interest in biology and found the field work that was part of the Del Toro-led bee studies to her liking. She’ll graduate in June, then head to the University of Minnesota to pursue a doctorate while researching bees in prairie ecosystems.

“I didn’t necessarily come in with an intent to study bees, but it kind of became apparent soon after I got here that that was something I was really interested in,” Anderson said.

“It’s given me a lot of
really great research experience.”

Maggie Anderson ’19

What she got at Lawrence in terms of hands-on research opportunities was “really more than I expected,” she said.

That kind of scientific research doesn’t start and stop with bees, though. Ecological-focused work is happening across departments at Lawrence, from biology to natural sciences to environmental sciences, where faculty and students are working on studies in such wide-ranging but critical areas as aquatic ecosystems, endangered plants, bat conservation, soil ecology, and hydrology, to name a few.

“This is one tiny thing we do,” Del Toro said of the bees. “We’re doing a lot of cool science. What that means for our students is they get to go on this ride with us as we’re doing really cutting-edge science.”

Del Toro and his wife, Relena Ribbons, a visiting assistant professor of biology who will become a tenure-track faculty member in the fall, have been leaders in the citizen science project, an effort launched last year to build nearly 60 garden beds in back yards across the Fox Cities. The garden beds, designed to grow vegetables, are split in two, one half pollinated by insects, the other half cordoned off by mesh to keep bees and other insects out.

The homeowners keep the veggies in exchange for providing data from their gardens. Del Toro, Ribbons and their students then analyze the results as they come in.

Israel Del Toro head shot
Del Toro

“What we found from last year’s research is that bees are probably contributing to a market here in the Fox Cities that’s worth roughly $80,000 to $100,000 a year in pollination ecosystem services,” Del Toro said. “That’s based on the amount of produce that gets pollinated by bees in our back yards.”

For Anderson, the interaction with the community has been as enlightening as the work with the bees.

“It’s given me a lot of really great research experience, but also communication experience,” the senior biology and music double major said. “Working with people is a really undervalued part of science, especially in the conservation field that I want to go into. You have to work with people a lot, and you have to know how to communicate.”

Her fellow students, Anderson said, have embraced her bee research and the idea of this being a bee-friendly campus.

“In this campus environment, people really do get that,” she said. “People really do understand that we are up against a lot of environmental issues when we talk about bees in terms of habitat loss and bees just not having enough resources in an urban setting. We need to make a nice, available on-campus habitat for bees, and students and staff to my knowledge have been really, really supportive of that.”

Today (May 20) is World Bee Day. And National Pollinator Week arrives on June 17, just in time for Del Toro’s pollination-themed picnic. No better time to salute these researchers as they create the biggest buzz on campus.

Did we mention there will be pie?

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

2 Minutes With … De Andre King: Turntable, headphones and a desire to entertain

De Andre King poses for a photo in the Lawrence radio station studio.
De Andre King ’20 has channeled his love of music into a DJ’ing enterprise called King SZN.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Being entrusted with the aux cord in any situation is an honor, but to be trusted with controlling the music at almost every campus event is a sign of huge respect … and talent.

De Andre King ’20 has gone from being an Aux at small-scale Lawrence University fraternity parties to launching a DJ’ing enterprise, King SZN, that has him traveling the Midwest. 

Music for the computer science major from New York City is never far away.

“That’s one of the first things I check for when I leave my room, my headphones,” he says. 

De Andre’s passion for music started young. He recalls listening to WWPR-FM 105.1 in NYC while on the school bus. Coming from both New York City and a Caribbean household, different styles and genres of music have always been present in his life.

Filling a void

That passion for music followed him to Appleton, where he quickly created a platform to share his music with others on campus.

“My first weekend here, I remember calling my friends back home, ‘I DJ’d a party here on campus.’ I was really just using my phone. I had thought that was DJ’ing at the time.”  

It took off from there. Now, at almost every campus event you will see De Andre controlling the turntables. He’s also been a frequent voice on WLFM.

De Andre said he set out to fill a void after seeing “a need for actual disc jocking.” He watched YouTube videos, shadowed veteran DJs during their sets, and learned by trial and error.

“Mixing, blending, beating, matching, crowd control, energy, and overall passion of music,” he says of the learning process.

He has become an established name on campus. From hosting Lawrence’s first-ever Tailgate to Lawrence International’s annual Fall Formal, De Andre has filled the void he first noticed as a freshman. Today, he goes beyond the boundaries of Lawrence, creating his own brand with King SZN Enterprise, traveling and sharing his talent across the Midwest, and even performing on trips back to New York.

“It’s a blessing if you had asked freshman year Dre DJ’ing in Sig Ep,” he says. “… If you would have told him you are going to be doing gigs outside of Lawrence throughout the Appleton community, but also back home in New York, I would have been in disbelief.” 

He now spends most weekends traveling to host events at other schools. It’s a huge commitment, but he’s made it look effortless. He’s found his groove.

“Never really think about it, I just try and do,” he says.  

Take a spin

Looking for new music? You’re in luck, we asked De Andre to give us some of his favorite music to rock out to. 

Song on repeat: Hustle and Motivate, by Nipsey Hussle 

First favorite song: Rockin That Thang, by The-Dream 

Favorite gym song: Hustle and Ambition, by 50 Cent  

Favorite DJs: DJ ByFarMega, DJ TrueBlends , DJ Tech 12, DJ Iz Lit, DJ Jhasire Powell  

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Mads Layton: Fashion, theater passions merge backstage

Mads Layton works on a dress in the theater costume shop at Lawrence.
Mads Layton ’22 combines interests in fashion and live theater in the Lawrence costume shop. Here she works on a costume for “She Ventures and He Wins,” showing Thursday through Saturday at Stansbury Theater.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Have you enjoyed recent Lawrence theater productions such as Mass and Pippin? Perhaps you’ve wondered how those amazing costumes are created.

Mads Layton ’22 works in the costume shop; she’s here to take us inside and raise the curtain on the work she does to prepare for the shows we love.

The English major’s two greatest passions are fashion and live theater, so she’s a great fit for the costume shop. She started working there after Pippin ran its last show in the fall, sorting old costumes for washing and getting ready for an upcoming play on the bill, She Ventures and He Wins.

More on the Theatre Arts program at Lawrence here.

Initial decisions

Costuming normally begins after the cast has been determined and characters are developed. Before anything new is made, students pull what they can from a stock of costumes in storage. However, some productions like She Ventures and He Wins require large builds of new costumes. This calls for early preparations, such as a tailoring tutorial for waistcoats in winter term. Mads began work on the play shortly after she started working at the costume shop.

“Actually, the first thing I made was in preparation for this show because we knew it would be a really big build,” she says. “We didn’t have a lot of stuff from that time period, so they had us starting early.”

She made a skirt with box pleats, and 10 feet of box trim for one of the lead’s dresses.

She Ventures and He Wins, a Restoration-era comedy, will be presented this week. The show — and its spectacular costumes — will be on stage in Stansbury Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.

Mads Layton works on the trim of a costume in the theater costume shop.
Mads Layton on putting her skills to work in the theater costume shop at Lawrence University: “I really enjoy doing detail work and hand-sewing, so I get a lot of hand-stitching of hems, as well as trims.”

Team effort

Students in the costume shop don’t tackle full garments alone. Instead they’re assigned tasks based on their skill level, and the garment is pieced together in the end.

Mads, who came to Lawrence from Mesa, Arizona, may be new to costume-making but she’s confident in the sewing abilities she learned from her mom, who taught her and her sisters at a young age.

“I really enjoy doing detail work and hand-sewing, so I get a lot of hand-stitching of hems, as well as trims,” she says. “Other than that, I’ve made a lot of skirts this year.”

For Mads, learning new ways to create garments is a perk of the job. She had never worked with pleats before, and now that dress is her favorite costume she’s worked on.

“I did seven or eight hours of just doing box pleats, and then I had to sew them on,” she says. “It’s just a beautiful dress. I have a little bit of an attachment to that one because I spent so much time on it.”

When the director delivers final notes on the costumes, and last alterations are made, it’s showtime. Mads has always supported the art form she loves, and working in the costume shop allows her to see her creative work in action onstage.

“I make sure to go to all the shows because I love live theater,” she says. “I think it’s important and wonderful.”

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Religious studies grad finds her calling in an Appleton elementary classroom

Michelle Gibson '17 works at a table with a second-grader at Lincoln Elementary School in Appleton.
Michelle Gibson ’17 works with students in her second-grade classroom at Appleton’s Lincoln Elementary School.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Michelle Gibson ’17 had visions of being a religious studies professor.

She arrived at Lawrence University six years ago as a first-year student enamored with the idea of teaching about life’s mysteries, about how our human qualities make us more alike than different despite our cultural and faith histories and how a thirst for learning can lead us to the inner peace we crave.

Today, nearly two years after graduating as a religious studies major, Gibson is indeed teaching those principles she holds so dear. But the students staring back at her, well, they’re a little younger than the college students she once envisioned.

Welcome to Appleton’s Lincoln Elementary School, where Gibson is a second-grade teacher, one year removed from a year-long apprenticeship program that provided a different path to the classroom than most of her teaching peers.

It turns out Gibson’s journey through Lawrence ignited a new spark, one that called her to the elementary classroom. And the launching of an apprentice partnership between Lawrence and the Appleton Area School District proved to be ideal timing, providing the opportunity she was looking for.

Gibson became one of the first two graduates of the Teacher Education Apprenticeship Program, and on April 28 she was honored with the Early Career Education Award presented by the Wisconsin Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (WACTE). The award goes to teachers in their first three years of teaching who are already making an impact.

It was during Gibson’s sophomore year at Lawrence — her last name was Johnson then — that the seeds of a new career were first planted. She took a sociology of education course that brought her into a kindergarten classroom during her practicum.

“I realized that when I was in that classroom, that was when I felt the most at home and actually felt happy,” she said. “I wasn’t stressed. It was almost like a release for me to go hang out with those kids.”

Michelle Gibson sits on the floor with some of her second-grade students during a class project at Lincoln Elementary School.
Michelle Gibson ’17, in her first year as a second-grade teacher in Appleton, was a religious studies major at Lawrence who used a one-year apprenticeship program as a path to her teaching certification.

But it wasn’t until the following year, when she took a philosophy of children class taught by Assistant Professor of Education Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd, that she was convinced the elementary classroom would indeed be her calling.

“That’s when I realized, oh my goodness, I need to teach,” Gibson said. “We were finding ways where you can pose these philosophical questions like you do in religious studies, but with children.”

In a religious studies college classroom, she figured she would mostly be speaking to students with a similar view of the world — “We are all human, we are all the same, we need to find the sameness within us to really come together as a world and as a community,” she said.

“Or I could go into an elementary classroom and be working with young students and really be helping them to see that truth and having those large philosophical conversations with them about the sameness within people and how as humans we are more alike than different, and how that can build community rather than divide us.”

That’s where the post-graduate apprenticeship program, a collaboration between Lawrence, the school district and the Mielke Family Foundation, pays dividends. It allows for undergraduates in any major at Lawrence to apply for admittance, giving them a one-year path to teacher certification as an elementary teacher.

“Our program is rare in the sense that, at its core, what we value most is the education of the liberal arts, that an education about learning to love and engage deeply in learning across disciplines and subject areas is the best preparation for teaching young children,” Burdick-Shepherd said. “The elementary school teacher teaches how to learn, and our students learn to teach learning in our elementary teacher certification program.”

Lawrence saw two graduates, Gibson being one of them, jump into the apprenticeship program in 2017. Another graduate is in the program this year and two more are lined up for next school year.

Burdick-Shepherd said her courses that are focused on working with young children are consistently full, and not just with students on a teaching path. And, as they did for Gibson, such courses might just light that fire.

“Michelle is a shining example of how someone who never saw themselves as an elementary teacher learns to recognize a call to change the world by working with young people,” Burdick-Shepherd said. “Michelle is one of LU’s outstanding alums. There was not a book you could throw at her that she wouldn’t read deeply. She wrote magnificently. A religious studies major, she traveled the world engaging deeply with other cultures and traditions.

“Michelle could do any job she wanted, but she chose to learn to teach. I think she chose this because she wanted to share her love of learning in the most impactful way she could.”

Gibson, who grew up in Minoqua, was one of two teachers honored by WACTE. The other is Dan Singer, a band teacher at Oshkosh West High School who has mentored eight student-teachers from Lawrence through the years.

Lawrence’s apprenticeship program, Gibson said, provided the guidance she needed to transition smoothly into an elementary teaching career.

“The apprenticeship, that’s when you really felt, OK, this is what teaching actually looks like,” she said. “This isn’t just reading from a textbook on what teaching looks like, this is actually what it looks and feels and smells and is like.”

She liked the full-year apprenticeship, as opposed to a one-semester student-teaching stint. It provided time to absorb, to adjust, and to ask questions.

“I knew I had an entire year to see where the kids grew, where they started off and where they ended, and I could even map my own growth alongside them,” Gibson said.

She also found her teaching style, her own pacing and methods of student interaction, heavily influenced by her liberal arts background. That’s an important thing, a base to build on.

“I could just start off with a very inquiring style of teaching,” she said.

“I had Lawrence modeling, that conversational style of teaching in the college setting, which was actually very easy to transition into a first- or second-grade room.”

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