Month: November 2019

On Main Hall Green with … Deanna Donohoue: When science is in the air

Deanna Donohoue sits on a bench outside of Main Hall.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Deanna Donohoue (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Deanna Donohoue isn’t ever too far from her beloved ARTEMIS.

The Lawrence University assistant professor of chemistry developed ARTEMIS — Atmospheric Research Trailer for Environmental Monitoring and Interactive Science — as a science lab on wheels. It’s a low-cost, mobile laboratory for atmospheric measurements, allowing her and her students to monitor and learn about air quality and the effects of things like oil and gas activity and sand mining.

Donohoue earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and a Ph.D. in marine and atmospheric chemistry from Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami. She joined the chemistry faculty at Lawrence in 2013. Her work with ARTEMIS has included, among other things, monitoring air quality in the Bakken Shale basin in and around western North Dakota and eastern Montana and near a sand quarry in Fremont, Wisconsin.

When it’s not on duty, ARTEMIS is often being shown by Donohoue to school groups or others willing to listen — because science in fascinating and cool and fun, and Donohue has a deep desire to spread the love.

We caught up with Donohoue to talk about her work and her interests on and off campus.


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

I give extra credit for failure. I think so often a student enters a class thinking that they should get every answer right and never make a mistake. But this is just not possible; we all come into a class with different experiences and backgrounds. My job is to push you all to grow in your knowledge. If you know or immediately understand everything I present in class, then I have failed you. I need to push you into spaces that you are unsure of the answer and into spaces where you make mistakes because it is through those experiences that you will learn the most deeply. So in my class, you do not get extra credit for knowing all the answers. You get extra credit for pushing yourself into the unknown and trying.

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

This is a hard one, as I love all of the work I do at Lawrence. But if I have to pick one to tell you about, it is the development of my mobile air quality lab — ARTEMIS. Before I started my Ph.D., I said I wanted a magic school bus, and now I have one. ARTEMIS is a small trailer filled with instruments that measure air quality that can be taken anywhere. Students and I have taken a 14-day trip through areas of heavy oil and gas development in North Dakota and Montana. We took it to Pennsylvania to look at the impacts of aging oil and gas wells on methane emissions and ozone production. More recently, ARTEMIS was sitting in a field about 30 minutes from campus to measure the impacts of sand mining on local air quality. It really is a magic school bus that lets me explore the world of atmospheric chemistry.

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

I picked a field in chemistry that would let me travel and have many adventures. Last year, I had to replace my boots, and I thought about all the places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had wearing those boots. I wore those boots looking at faraway galaxies through a telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. They got all scratched up working on volcanos in Nicaragua and Italy. They carried me through the snow in Barrow, Alaska, and through the mud in the Florida Everglades. I was surprised about how much of my career was contained in those boots, and it was hard to let them go. But I did, replacing them with the exact same boots. Now I am ready to spend 15 years creating science and stories in these boots.


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

I would open a bakery. I love to create new recipes — which often fail — and share those treats. Students can tell you; you never know what treats might appear in the first floor Chem office suite.

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

I find Sabin House a wonderful retreat from the hustle and bustle of campus. Whether working on my research, having a group meeting, or just finding some time to slow down, the open door of Sabin House helps me be my best self.

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

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry speaks to my soul, I can settle in and watch the TV show Leverage any day, and right now the song What’s Up by 4 Non Blondes is getting me ready for the day, and, more importantly, ready to dance!

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

2 Minutes With … Adona Lauriano: Building leadership, career skills

Adona Lauriano poses for a photo in the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence.
Adona Lauriano ’21 led efforts to revamp the space that houses the Diversity and Intercultural Center.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Finding employment and internship opportunities that tie in with future career plans is the ideal for college students. Adona Lauriano ’21 did just that this past summer and was able to work at two jobs that pertained to her area of interest.

The experiences built on the skills she was already developing as the resource coordinator for Lawrence University’s Diversity and Intercultural Center (DIC).

Lauriano, a government major from Brooklyn, New York, started the summer as a worker for Meredith Jones’ judgeship campaign for Kings County Surrogate Court in New York.  

“For Meredith Jones, we would be in the office trying to figure out ways she could publicize what she has done in the community,” Lauriano said. “Because in New York, when you are running for court, your community has to elect you. So, we were trying to figure out ways to highlight all the good she has done in her life for her community.” 

Building experience

Lauriano was able get a first-hand look at what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to becoming a judge. This is especially beneficial, she said, because she hopes to be a judge herself one day.

“I learned that if I want to be a judge, I need to start with my community impact now,” Lauriano said. “I’ve learned that everything you say and do matters. It’s important to try your best and make a change in a way that’s impactful for more than one racial group, more than one type of community in general. And to be nice, that’s very important.”

Jones fell short in the primary in June, but the experience was invaluable for Lauriano.

After the elections were over, Lauriano became a campaigner for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  

“I wanted something in my field,” she said. “I’m going into political science because after I get my undergrad, I’m going to law school. So, I’m trying to figure out which path as a lawyer I want to take. The ACLU helped me solidify some of my beliefs that I believe is important to have as a lawyer.”

As a campaigner, Lauriano helped the ACLU raise funds to keep its programs running. 

Leading the DIC remodel

At Lawrence, Lauriano had been building her fund-raising skills as the resource coordinator for Lawrence’s DIC. Recently, the center revamped its space, and Lauriano was the advocate behind the remodel.

“I definitely do think it’s representative of the community,” Lauriano said of the newly remodeled space inside Memorial Hall. “The people who are up [on the wall] are portraits of 12 leaders that the community voted on. And it was something that I definitely pushed for, outreached on. Through surveys, polls, emails, yelling at people, asking them for their input, we wanted to ensure that it was reflective of what the community wants.

“And it’s not done yet,” she said. “There are going be vinyl letters that go up with words that inspire people from diverse backgrounds, which we also got from our community outreach.”

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

2 Minutes With … Jason Bernheimer: Spanish-language, LGBTQ+ advocacy

Jason Bernheimer poses for a portrait.
Jason Bernheimer on his efforts to advocate for resources for the LGBTQ+ community in the greater Fox Cities: “Inclusivity is always the best policy.” (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Spanish and global studies double major Jason Bernheimer ’22 figured out how to combine his passions in a research project. The Lawrence University sophomore from Vancouver, Washington, visited various clinics in the Fox Cities to find out what Spanish-language health resources are available to Appleton’s LGBTQ+ community.

This type of work is familiar territory for Bernheimer. In high school, he worked for different departments within the Washington state government, doing workshops with state officials on how to successfully serve a gender-diverse community.

Behind all of this is Bernheimer’s philosophy that inclusivity is key.

“Inclusivity is always the best policy,” he said. “I think this applies to many different realms, not just gender inclusivity or the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important for all sorts of things.”

In the field

Bernheimer, working on an independent study project through professor of Spanish Rosa Tapia, knew that patients with health resources available in their preferred language — especially having access to health professionals who speak that language — have significantly better experiences in clinics than those without. So, what resources does Appleton provide for the Spanish-speaking community members who need them? And what about the LGBTQ+ community, another group that benefits from targeted health services?

Bernheimer hopped on his bike and went from clinic to clinic in search of answers. The results? There aren’t many health centers in the Fox Cities that provide adequate Spanish-language resources for Latinx patients. Nor is there any overlap between these resources and those targeted toward the LGBTQ+ community.

“That was something I found to be really concerning, and somewhere we have room to grow as a community and as a city,” Bernheimer said.

Regardless, Bernheimer said he had impactful conversations with clinics and nonprofits that have been working hard to support Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities in the Fox Cities. One is Casa Hispana, a Fox Cities nonprofit that develops initiatives to better the lives of Latinx locals, including connecting them to resources.

Connecting to the community

The research was relevant to Bernheimer not just as a student but as a Fox Cities community member.

“It was a really helpful experience for me in general,” he said. “More than just doing the research but also becoming more a part of the Fox Cities community. [The research] presented itself as an opportunity for something I wasn’t aware of as someone who is residing in the Fox Cities.”

The research also lays the groundwork for his future plans to help companies implement inclusive practices and policies.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Tim Spurgin: Embrace the chance to “up your game”

Tim Spurgin poses for a portrait on a snowy Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Tim Spurgin (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Tim Spurgin’s track record at Lawrence University is full of accolades.

It seems the school, its faculty and its students have found countless ways to tell him that he’s really, really good at what he does.

Spurgin, the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and associate professor of English, has been at Lawrence since 1990. He has since won Lawrence’s Young Teaching Award (1993), its Freshman Studies Teaching Award (1994), and its Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014), as well as multiple Babcock Awards for going above and beyond in assisting students.

Spurgin has focused much of his academic interest on 19th-century English literature, especially the works of Charles Dickens, as well as literary criticism and theory. But he also has been a key leader in Freshman Studies at Lawrence through the years and has been a guiding force for countless students who have gone on to great success in part because of his teachings in writing and literature.  

A graduate of Carleton College with a doctorate in English from the University of Virginia, Spurgin shared with us some insights on what makes him tick as part of our On Main Hall Green With … series.


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

I’d like students to know that my job has two parts.  I’m here to offer support and encouragement.  That’s absolutely crucial.  But professors are also supposed to set challenges for students.  You come to college because you want to up your game — to read and talk about things that probably weren’t on the agenda in high school.  The other thing to remember is that those two things are not at odds with each other.  They’re supposed to fit together — and when things are going well, they really do.  At least I think so.

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

In the last few years, I’ve had the chance to launch some new classes, and that’s been very exciting. Working with my pedagogical heroes, Dominica Chang and Peter John Thomas, I’ve helped to introduce a new course on the 19th-century novel. That one’s called “The Long Novel.” I’ve also introduced classes on Joyce’s Ulysses and the works of Jane Austen. In all of those classes, I’ve had a chance to dig into interesting books and meet students who might not otherwise take an English course. It’s been a win-win for me — and I hope for them, too.

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

When I came to Lawrence in 1990, I had no idea that Freshman Studies would be so important to me. I’ve taught the class almost every year, and I’ve twice served as program director. In that time, I’ve had an amazing chance to continue my own liberal-arts education. It’s interesting to reflect on this and to realize that many of my favorite FS works are from outside my discipline — Plato, Chuang Tzu, Feynman, Milgram, the “I have a dream” speech, Fun Home, and Kind of Blue, just to name a few. I’m not sure I’d have predicted that, and I’m very glad it’s worked out that way.


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

I’ve always been jealous of sportswriters. Cartoonists and cinematographers, too. I’m not sure I could really do any of those things, but it never hurts to dream.

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

I like several spots in the library, including the Kruse Room on the fourth floor. I’ve also become very fond of Andrew Commons at breakfast time. Not brunch on the weekends — though that’s nice, too. I’m talking about weekday breakfast time. The coolest people are there, and the view cannot be beat.

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

Book: Setting aside the obvious choices for someone in my field — Persuasion, Middlemarch, To the Lighthouse, and anything by Penelope Fitzgerald — I’d have to say that it’s True Grit, by Charles Portis. Both movie versions have their charms, but there’s nothing like the original novel.

Recording: The Band’s debut album, Music from Big Pink, or maybe their second (self-titled) record. My favorite single track is their version of Long Black Veil. Give that a listen sometime.

Film: Local Hero, by the Scottish director Bill Forsyth, just out on the Criterion Collection. Beautiful, offbeat, with an inspiring score by Mark Knopfler. I’d be a good Gordon, Gordon.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

Read more:

On Main Hall Green With … Dominica Chang

On Main Hall Green With … Stefan Debbert

Lighting the Way With … Rana Marks: Delivering on Amazon’s sustainability plan

Rana Marks '12 poses for a photo in the Spheres, Amazon’s biodiversity conservatory in Seattle where employees can enjoy the beauty of 12,000-plus plant species from over 30 countries around the world.
Rana Marks ’12 joined Amazon’s sustainability team six months ago. She played a leading role in launching a new website chronicling the company’s sustainability initiatives.

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence alumni. Today we catch up with Rana Marks ’12, who is part of the much-buzzed about sustainability efforts recently announced at Amazon.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Rana Marks ’12 is just six months removed from getting her MBA at Duke University and already the Lawrence University alumna is elbow deep in one of the year’s most talked about environmental sustainability stories.

When Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced in September that the global behemoth was committing to an ambitious pledge to fight climate change and be transparent about its own carbon footprint, he pointed to the launch of a new public-facing Amazon website — — that would report and track the company’s sustainability efforts.

That new website has been the focal point for Marks since being hired in June as a program manager for sustainability at the company’s Seattle headquarters. She is part a team of about 200 employees focused on shepherding the company’s sustainability efforts.

We talked with the Chicago native — she was an economics major, singer, and tennis player during her time at Lawrence — about the road ahead and how the path that got her to Amazon happily went through Lawrence.

On her role in Amazon’s Worldwide Sustainability division

“My job has really been to manage that whole launch of the website, to work across different constituencies in sustainability and tell the story of what they’re doing, but also to work with the developers of the website,” Marks said. “I’m sort of coordinating all of those pieces. It’s a lot of pieces. It’s been a busy couple of months.”

The Amazon announcement included, among other things, a pledge to be carbon neutral by 2040, to use 100 percent renewable energy in its operations by 2030, and to be operating 100,000 electric vehicles by 2030. Bezos also said Amazon has become the first company to sign the Climate Pledge co-created with Global Optimism and is challenging other companies to sign on.

The website project was in motion long before Marks came on board. But she jumped in shortly after arriving in Seattle and helped bring the launch to fruition.

“It’s been a lot work and a lot of hours and a lot of reward,” she said.

Considering Amazon employs more than 600,000 people across the globe and touches our daily lives in a myriad of ways, the challenges ahead are huge.

“Now that we’ve said it out loud and made this public commitment, it does drive a different speed of action internally that has to happen in order to hit those goals,” Marks said.

Rana Marks ’12 stands in the Spheres, Amazon’s biodiversity conservatory in its Seattle headquarters, where employees can enjoy the beauty of 12,000-plus plant species.

On finding her place in sustainability

Marks worked briefly in sustainability for The Boldt Co. in Appleton and then in Chicago for a nonprofit advocating for the blind and visually impaired before heading to Duke to pursue her MBA. She said the work she’s doing now at Amazon meshes beautifully with her interest in both global economics and sustainability, interests that came into focus during her studies at Lawrence.

She came to Lawrence to study economics but already had thoughts of sustainability in her head. It was a trip to China through Lawrence’s Sustainable China program, led by Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs and Associate Professor of Government Jason Brozek and funded by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, that sealed the deal. She knew then that sustainability in some shape or form would be her calling.

“It was an experience that I still look back on really fondly,” Marks said of the China trip. “It certainly helped expand the way I thought about sustainability in a global context.”

She leaned into classes and professors with a sustainability focus. In addition to Brozek, she pointed to economics professors David Gerard and Merton Finkler as big influences.

“Having exposure to classes in natural resource economics and environmental economics developed my interest in sustainability even further,” Marks said.

Learn more about Lawrence’s sustainability initiatives here.

On exploring career paths while at Lawrence

She said she drew insight from a Lawrence business program, similar to what is now known as Innovation and Entrepreneurship, that exposed her to various career paths. That led to an internship with a utility company following her sophomore year that was focused on developing an infrastructure for electric cars. She would later study abroad in Argentina, taking classes on sustainability issues in South America that built on her global perspective.

“I look back and it was all of these little pieces over the course of my four years at Lawrence,” Marks said. “It was certainly an interest I had before coming to Lawrence, but I think the liberal arts education and the sort of dynamic way we learn at Lawrence was something that really catered to the development of my interest in this area — wanting to have a career in sustainability while also understanding the complexity of what sustainability encompasses.

“I didn’t just get a business degree and go into sustainability. It was the interactive learning, the ability to do independent study with professors who were doing things that I thought were interesting, the school giving me the opportunity to study abroad, to take a trip focused on sustainability. It was the collection of all of these experiences.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

2 Minutes With … Martha Strawbridge: Merging passions for music and math

Martha Strawbridge ’20 conducted research on math and music with math professor Alan Parks. She’ll be presenting an academic poster on her work at a math conference in Denver in January. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Math and music may seem like two distinct subjects with no significant correlation. Not true, and Martha Strawbridge ’20 is trying to change that narrative, highlighting the ways in which mathematics and music can be used to understand each other.  

“I’ve been playing saxophone since I was in sixth grade, so I’ve had a lot of time on the performance side,” the Lawrence University senior said. “When I came [to Lawrence], I wanted to become a jazz saxophonist.”  

Strawbridge, from Longmont, Colorado, came in as a saxophone performance major, and while taking classes in both the Conservatory of Music and the college, she grew increasingly interested in mathematics.  

“I knew I liked math in high school, but I took a calculus class here and I loved it so much that after my freshman year I decided to become a math major,” she said. 

Strawbridge continues to be part of the Conservatory as a saxophone performance minor. She also creates big band compositions with Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and a jazz professor.   

“It wasn’t so much I wanted to switch; I just wanted to start doing more math and still kind of pursue music,” Strawbridge said. “It was more that I wasn’t as interested in performing.”  

A perfect combo

She found a way to combine her two interests last year when she attended a mathematics symposium where professors were presenting research they had been working on. Lawrence mathematics professor Alan Parks presented his research on mathematical music theory, studying ways in which math and music inform and influence each other.

After the symposium, Strawbridge applied to conduct research with Parks.  

 “It worked out really well, and he and I already knew each other from classes and some independent studies,” Strawbridge said. “So, I applied, and he knew I was really interested in music and math, so it was kind of like a natural match.” 

In tune with research 

With a grant in hand to support women in science and math, Strawbridge was able to conduct research in mathematical music theory over the summer.  

“It was an interesting process figuring out what we were going to research,” she said. “Professor Parks is a musician, too. So, we were wondering if it was going to become like music theory, analyzing scores and depicting them mathematically. Or if it was going to be really math heavy.  A lot of time it was just both of us reading stuff that interested us.” 

Mathematical music theory is a relatively new area of study.

“In the standard Western tuning system, you have 12 notes,” Strawbridge said. “[We tried to figure out] what are different ways we can imbed that into space that’s enlightening for people, or at least interesting?”

Next steps 

Parks and Strawbridge are now working to get their research published in the Journal of Mathematics and Music. And Strawbridge has been selected to present her research in January in Denver at a joint meeting of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). 

“I’m presenting the poster that I made,” Strawbridge said. “It will be very cool to explain what I was doing. It’s really fun.”

While that audience will be with people steeped in mathematics, Strawbridge said she also loves explaining the connections between music and math to people who aren’t necessarily involved heavily in either.

“I feel like math and music are both like, ‘oooh, music or math, I can’t do either of those,’ and it’s, like, ‘Well, I can talk to you about these ideas and you can understand more than you think you would.’ I think that was a really fulfilling aspect of our research, too.”

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

For this seafaring Lawrence alum, life has been one shipwreck after another

John Odin Jensen '87 poses for a publicity photo at the wheel of a ship.
John Odin Jensen ’87 is the author of “Stories from the Wreckage: A Great Lakes Maritime History Inspired by Shipwrecks.” He will return to Appleton Nov. 11 for a book event at the History Museum at the Castle and to speak to Lawrence students.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

John Odin Jensen ’87 knows his way around a shipwreck.

He survived one.

Jensen grew up in Alaska in the 1970s and early ’80s, immersed in his family’s fisheries business, an isolated and often danger-filled upbringing. Then he headed to Lawrence University in 1983, a history major determined to get an education that would allow him to explore a new way of life and leave the seafaring world behind.

Mission accomplished. Sort of.

He did find a new life, earning a bachelor’s degree at Lawrence, a master’s at East Carolina University, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He’s now on the history faculty at the University of West Florida.

But he never did escape the sea, or more specifically, his insatiable interest in the sea. The history of North American mariners, ships, and shipwrecks would dominate his career, from working as an engineer aboard a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Great Lakes research vessel to surveying shipwrecks as an underwater archaeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Now he’s written a book, Stories from the Wreckage: A Great Lakes Maritime History Inspired by Shipwrecks (Wisconsin Historical Society Press). A book tour will bring him to Appleton Nov. 11, where he’ll talk about shipwrecks and Great Lakes history from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the History Museum at the Castle, co-sponsored by Lawrence’s Cheney Fund for Excellence in History. He’ll also meet with Lawrence students in Monica Rico’s Intro to Public History class.

For info on studying history at Lawrence, see here.

We caught up with the Lawrence alumnus in advance of his visit to Appleton, which comes one day after the 44-year anniversary of the 1975 sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior, arguably the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck thanks to singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot and his “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Jensen talked with us about his own harrowing early adventures at sea and how his academic experiences at Lawrence set the course for what was to come.

Q: You’ve been immersed in maritime history for your entire career. What inspired the book?

A: In terms of the book itself, the inspiration was obligation and gratitude. Early in my career I had the extraordinary opportunity of getting in on the pioneering years of public underwater archaeology in Wisconsin. My work with the Wisconsin Historical Society led me to pursue a Ph.D. in history, and I know it was repeatedly instrumental to my success getting academic positions in a difficult job market. I have preached the gospel of Wisconsin public maritime heritage in classes, academic conferences, heritage policy forums and through public programs across North America from Alaska and Hawaii to New England, as well as internationally.

Everywhere I went, people were surprised and amazed by the Wisconsin/Great Lakes shipwreck heritage story. I wanted the readers of this book, particularly those from Wisconsin, to be equally surprised and enthused about their history and proud of their state’s public investment in preserving it.

Q: Speaking of inspiration. Your family was involved in commercial fisheries. How did growing up in that environment affect the decision to study maritime history?

A: Well, the conceptual underpinnings of the book and nearly all of the deeper ideas and themes I have explored as a scholar are inspired by my experiences growing up on Alaska’s coastal frontier as part of a Norwegian-American seafaring family. I began working with my dad in commercial fishing at a very young age, and this became really the center of my life and identity.

We often worked ridiculous hours; vile weather was pretty routine, and economic uncertainty was the norm. Ships sank and people I knew died — not regularly — but it was not that unusual. Our community was isolated — literally the western end of the American highway systems. The quality of available health care was marginal at best and services limited. The norms of behavior among those in the fishing community were, at minimum, colorful. As a child and young man, I had no grasp of how extreme our lives really were.

I was luckier than many people, but I witnessed and I experienced many things connected with life and work in a coastal community that marked and haunted me. The study of history — not just maritime history — has provided me with endless opportunities to make sense of, and derive positive benefits from, these experiences. 

Q: You are a shipwreck survivor yourself. What did that experience teach you?

A: This is a tough one. The book is a history inspired by shipwrecks. Typical shipwreck books look only at the actual wreck event and their surrounding circumstances.  Although dramatic — it is pretty unsatisfying because the wreck is often only a footnote or afterward in a much richer set of human stories of imagination, innovation, and success.

Like many people from my old walk of life, I have lived the human stories and the shipwreck — but very few people that I know have had the opportunity to spend decades dissecting and learning from these experiences. I have gotten to build a truly great life and a satisfying career on the foundations of one very, very bad day at the office.

Q: Did you come to Lawrence with a maritime history career in mind?

A: Absolutely not. I came to Lawrence during the winter term of 1983 to escape my maritime history. However, I was probably accepted in the first place because of my application essay, where I described how the lessons of my shipwreck experience made me a good fit for Lawrence. I guess it was my first written shipwreck history story.

Q: How did your Lawrence experience later inform your work and your career path?  

A: It was through Lawrence — particularly some amazing faculty — that I eventually learned to see broader value of my early life experiences, and I internalized a liberal arts/interdisciplinary approach to thinking and problem-solving. As a professor at the University of West Florida, I struggle consciously on a daily basis to live up to and pass on the high standards that Lawrence faculty set for academic excellence, professional integrity, and extraordinary mentoring.  

Q: What advice would you give to today’s students interested in history?

A: Now more than ever, the country and the world need people who can think historically and who are historically literate. The person who understands history has real advantages in coping with and finding opportunities in a world of perpetual change. I am biased, but an imaginative and hardworking student who completes a history major at Lawrence University will never lack for meaningful opportunities in the workforce and to make a difference in the world.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email:

2 Minutes With … Summer Kopitzke: Wading deep into nature research

Summer Kopitzke, wearing waders, poses for a photo while kneeling along the Forget-Me-Not Creek in Manitowoc.
Summer Kopitzke ’20 does field work along the Forget-Me-Not Creek near Manitowoc.

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

While most of us spent our summer in shorts and swimsuits, Summer Kopitzke ’20 donned her waders for her summer job as a Great Lakes fisheries technician for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

It was the latest step for the Lawrence University senior as she forges a path in ecology.

With the help of scientists, students and public outreach, the federal-university partnership program strives to maintain healthy coastal environments by educating coastal and Great Lakes communities about preserving and respecting American coastlines. The UW program is one of 33 Sea Grant university partnerships in the United States.

In the field

Kopitzke’s work was based out of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Manitowoc campus. Her primary task: Mapping Forget-Me-Not Creek, a two-mile stream that flows along the Ice Age Trail into Lake Michigan. This involved trekking back and forth along the length and width of the creek, recording each 100-foot mark with poles and measuring tape. Mapping the stream also consists of noting changes in substrate and depth, and using a seine to determine what species of fish call the stream home.

Despite frustrations with rainy days and pesky reed canary grass that often blocked her passage through the stream, Kopitzke knew she was doing important work.

“Doing this work, I felt a lot of love and it was a lot of fun to do,” she said. “I got to do research on things I really find interesting.”

Her findings at Forget-Me-Not Creek will be compiled and given to visitors at the nearby Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve, an organization that recently restored the mouth of the stream to improve the fish habitat and water quality.

Kopitzke also recorded data from bycatch videos from a fishing boat in Two Rivers. The bycatch data will be sent to the DNR to help advise the fishing boat operators on adjustments to their net sizes so they can catch more whitefish, their target species.

A lifelong passion

Kopitzke fondly recalls hunting and fishing with her grandfather in Tigerton, where she grew up. Those experiences instilled in her a love for the land, inspiring her to double major in biology and environmental science. She discovered her love for field work upon taking an aquatic ecology class here at Lawrence.

The summer research tapped into those same interests, Kopitzke said.

“Where I’m from, it’s a big part of my life,” she said of the outdoors. “It’s always held a part in my heart.”

When she wasn’t walking around the stream or analyzing bycatch data this summer, Kopitzke took time to enjoy the scenery of prairie and farmland that surrounded her. Her Senior Experience project will focus on whitetail deer population ecology. She plans to further her involvement with aquatic ecology when she goes to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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