Month: April 2020

2 Minutes With … Naomi Torres-Solorio: Exploring climate crisis while at sea

Naomi Torres-Solorio ’22 spent a portion of Winter Term in New Zealand.

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

One morning earlier this year, while on dawn watch aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, miles from New Zealand shores, Naomi Torres-Solorio ’22 spotted dolphins. It was a welcome sight and a moment of peace for this environmental studies major from Oakland, California, who was researching the climate crisis on the other side of the world.

SEA Semester, one of Lawrence University’s beloved study abroad opportunities, sends students around the globe to spend a portion of an academic term at sea. SEA Semester programs encompass a range of academic disciplines from anthropology to marine science, but all concentrate on specific ocean-related themes and give students the tools to take on real-world problems. This is possible thanks to the efforts of the Sea Education Association (SEA), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that promotes environmental literacy in high schools and undergraduate programs.

Eye-opener on other side of the world

Torres-Solorio was among the first students to try out SEA Semester’s new humanities program, Climate in Society, which allowed her to study the effects of the climate crisis on New Zealanders’ way of life. New Zealand is an island nation that is already feeling the effects of rising sea levels and warming temperatures.

But the students didn’t jump into research right away. They spent the first half of the term on the SEA Semester campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Here they prepared for their time at sea by taking global ocean classes and learning the ins and outs of safety on the boat. Then, after a long flight, Torres-Solorio and 30 other students from around the country spent a week on New Zealand’s south shore. This is where Torres-Solorio first had the chance to speak to islanders about their personal experiences with climate change. It’s when she realized the gravity of what she was there to do.

“It was really eye-opening,” she said. “It’s very important to recognize what’s going on and be able to talk to people about it.”

Much of the SEA Semester experience for Naomi Torres-Solorio ’22 was spent on a boat off the shores of New Zealand. There was plenty of work and study, mixed with a little bit of fun.

Living life at sea

Torres-Solorio has long been interested in human impact on the environment. But getting out of her comfort zone was what drew her to SEA Semester in the first place. That is, spending the final five weeks of her term living and working on the vessel, the SSV Robert C. Seamans.

“I never imagined myself living on a boat,” she said. “I’m a city girl. But it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.”

Of course, life on the boat wasn’t a vacation. Torres-Solorio and the other students were responsible for daily chores and rotating watch shifts. But Torres-Solorio found plenty to love in this new routine. Even staying awake for dawn watch from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. turned out to have its perks.

“You see everything,” she said. “You get the night and the stars, and by the end of your watch a sunrise. It’s so nice. Anything can happen in that single watch.”

When they weren’t maintaining the vessel, students attended class in the afternoons. This offered opportunities to share data they collected on various aspects of their journey, such as keeping track of organisms they saw along the way.

That data is for students to use in two projects that finish off the program: one in science and one in humanities. Using the collective data, Torres-Solorio focused on the abundance of chlorophyll A and phytoplankton on the cruise track. She capped off the humanities component with a paper on the psychological effects of climate migration, using data from her interactions with New Zealanders.

To students considering a term abroad with SEA Semester, Torres-Solorio offered these words of advice: “Talking about it doesn’t do justice to how amazing the program is. All the things you see and do, the people you talk to, it’s just incredible. If you like adventure and the environment, go for it.”

For more on Lawrence’s study abroad options, see here. For more on SEA Semester, see here.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Andrew Sage: Mining data for the greater good

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Andrew Sage (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 Lawrence faculty member every two weeks — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Andrew Sage arrived at Lawrence at just the right time.

The assistant professor of statistics came on board in 2018 just as the school was looking to expand its offerings in the areas of statistics and data science to meet a growing demand surrounding all things data.

He was the first of a one-two punch in the mathematics faculty. When Abhishek Chakraborty joined the team a year later, plans moved quickly to launch a new minor in data science. That goes live in the fall.

Read a story about Lawrence’s new Statistics and Data Science minor here. Additional details on the program can be found here.

Sage has a bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster, master’s degrees from Iowa State and Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Iowa State.

We caught up with him to talk about his vision for data education and his passions in and out of the classroom.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

I want my students to know how much I learn from them. My students challenge and sharpen my understanding, and perhaps most importantly, teach me how to be a better teacher. Some of the most important changes I have made in my teaching have been the result of suggestions from students. I want my students to know that I am always listening, and I want to hear their thoughts on how we can work together to best help each other learn.

Through my students, I have also learned so much about topics I previously had little knowledge. In my applied statistics courses, students complete projects that connect the course material to topics they are interested in. Through these projects, I have learned about such topics as the economic impact of having babies in various countries, the nature and impact of volcanic eruptions, inconsistencies in media coverage of forest fires, and many more. We are all lifelong learners and I hope my students realize how much of a role they play in my own learning.

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

I am very excited about expanding the opportunities for students to study statistics and data science at Lawrence. In the 2020-21 academic year, we will be launching a new minor in statistics and data science, as well as a statistics track within the mathematics major. Abhishek Chakraborty and I are working together to develop new courses in rapidly advancing areas like data science, machine learning, and Bayesian statistics.

The statistics and data science minor could be paired with many different majors. The minor incorporates not only courses taught by statisticians, but also data-driven courses in other departments. Faculty and students all across campus use data and statistical software in their courses and research. I am excited about opportunities for collaboration that will result from our growth in this area. A data scientist must possess not only a strong statistical foundation, and programming skills, but also domain area expertise, and the ability to account for ethical considerations. I cannot think of a better place to develop this kind of reasoning than a liberal arts college.

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 always knew that I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know what subject, or at what level. At various points, I thought I was going to teach history, or theoretical mathematics, before I arrived at applied statistics. I taught high school for four years, and enjoyed it, before I decided that that the college level would be the best place for me.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

If I wasn’t teaching, I would be umpiring baseball games. I love baseball, and umpiring was a great way for me to stay involved in the game and make a little money while I was in college. It’s been years since I last called a game, but every so often, I get the urge to be back on the diamond.

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

I love the bike path that runs along the river. It’s a great place to go for a run and clear my mind, and it offers a gorgeous view of campus.

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: I’m a big fan of David Baldacci’s mystery crime novels. My favorite is The Simple Truth (1998)

Recording: Centerfield (John Fogerty). As I said, I love baseball.

Film: The Imitation Game (2014). The film highlights Alan Turing’s pioneering work in artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the persecution he faced as a result of being gay. While the film takes liberties in a biographical sense, it draws attention to a critically important figure who is often denied the credit he deserves.

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

“Kimmel” show, Instagram live all part of quarantine life for Tweedy family

Spencer Tweedy ’19 (Photo by David Zoubek)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Singing around the house isn’t anything out of the ordinary for Spencer Tweedy ’19.

He is, after all, part of a very musical family, his father being Jeff Tweedy, founder, singer, and guitarist of Wilco.

But singing with your dad and brother – in the bathroom – for a TV audience of nearly 2 million people? Well, that’s a little different for the young musician not quite a year removed from his Lawrence University commencement.

The 24-year-old Spencer joined his dad and brother, Sam, Monday night on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, singing Evergreen, a song from the elder Tweedy’s 2019 solo album, Warm. It was filmed as the Tweedys – including mom and wife Susan Tweedy – are hunkered down in their Chicago home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and was shared widely by Rolling Stone and other media sites.

Wilco was supposed to appear Monday night on the Kimmel show, but, alas, the band’s tour has been paused and even late-night hosts are self-quarantined. Next best thing? Jeff Tweedy and his boys, live from the bathtub.

“It was super fun,” Spencer said. “We sing at home all the time, and we’ve been doing it even more lately on Instagram. So, it felt the same as any other time we’re singing at home except this video was going to end up in front of a much larger audience.”

The Instagram that Spencer speaks of is The Tweedy Show, a newly launched, quarantine-inspired look at the Tweedy household, filmed and narrated by Spencer’s and Sam’s mom and housed on her already well-followed @stuffinourhouse account. Music and antics from the Tweedy household are now front and center for the world to see on a nightly basis, streaming live at 9:30 p.m. and continuing perhaps as long as the coronavirus lockdown lasts.

“Thankfully, we all get along really well,” Spencer said. “The challenges of living in more or less close quarters aren’t too bad for us. So, I’m really grateful for that.”

A musical life

Spencer has been back in Chicago since graduating from Lawrence, working as a drummer-for-hire on a number of music projects. He released an EP of his own songs a year ago, songs that he worked on while in Appleton. The philosophy major split much of his time at Lawrence between his studies and playing music with friends in the Conservatory.

“One of the really, really cool things about my time at Lawrence was that the boundary between the Conservatory and the college is pretty permeable,” Spencer said. “I was really able to participate in all of the percussion ensembles that I wanted to. (Professor of Music) Dane Richeson was so welcoming. And I think the system is set up that way, where you can mix and match. I majored in philosophy and I was still able to play in things like the drum ensembles and in some of the jazz programs, too.”

Spencer also tapped into the recording facilities at The Refuge Foundation for the Arts in Appleton, which partners with Lawrence on a number of levels.

His philosophy studies, he said, provided him with avenues into his music and other passions. That continues to be true.

“The philosophy program really gave me a lot of skills to understand problems,” he said. “I feel like I really, really grew in my ability, to put it super crudely, to just think about stuff. Philosophy is sort of a big umbrella under which you can put all your other interests and any facet of the world you’re interested in and it gives you these frameworks for understanding them better.”

Initially drawn to Lawrence because of what he calls its “Midwestern humbleness,” Spencer said he walked away four years later with a deeper appreciation for the school’s commitment to its students.

“Everybody who is there cares,” he said. “I wish Lawrence was recognized more for having that quality. Every professor I interacted with was just so extremely dedicated and so extremely caring.”

A spring term like no other

Spencer said he’s thinking a lot about those Lawrence students who are about to embark on a spring term in which they’re living at home and studying from afar amid COVID-19 fears. He’s staying in contact with friends who are still in school as best he can.

“I can’t even begin to relate to some of the challenges people are going through,” he said. “I say this with no intention of paternalism or telling people what to do, but I just think any crisis benefits from people having patience and compassion, and also confidence that things are going to be OK as long as we can have that patience and compassion.

“I think Lawrence students who are being affected by this right now know what to do. They’re going to be able to do their work at home, and in the end, whether or not they get anything out of this weird term at home will depend on the strength of their relationships with their professors. And I have a lot of confidence in that because I know how strong those relationships can be.”

Building a career

In the meantime, Spencer will continue to put the building blocks on his own music career. Besides his dad’s band, he’s already put his drumming skills to work on behalf of Norah Jones, James Elkington, and Amos Pitsch, among others.

“It’s definitely a plus,” he said of entering the music business with a father who is so accomplished. “I’d be a fool to look at it as anything other than a plus. There are definitely challenges sometimes. There are people who struggle to see anything past that and what they know about my family and know about my dad, but that’s really far outweighed by all of the ridiculous privileges of being able to grow up in a family like mine.”

It’s a family you can get to know a little better in the coming days and weeks, one The Tweedy Show Instagram stream at a time.

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

2 Minutes With … Caroline Garrow: Designing her own Lawrence path

Caroline Garrow ’21 worked with Lawrence professors to design her own course of study.

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

One of the many great features about Lawrence University is the ability to self-design your own academic path. If a student is interested in taking a specific class or pursuing a major that is not readily available at Lawrence, there are options.

Caroline Garrow ’21 took advantage of the self-design aspect of Lawrence while studying at London Centre during Winter Term, before COVID-19 brought about social distancing restrictions. 

“It’s really nice to have the independence to work on your own time and to have the immersive experiences,” Garrow said. “I went to the British Film Institute, down by Southbank, and they have lots of other resources for film. It was super cool to be able to just get up and do something like that.” 

Garrow, of Evergreen, Colorado, is a film and self-designed cognitive science double major.

“I have two professors on campus who are ‘sponsoring’ me,” Garrow said. “I coordinate my assignments with them.” 

For information on Lawrence’s student-initiated options, including tutorials, independent study, and academic internships, see here.

Being independent

With her independent study, Garrow has been able to focus on specific topics of interest. 

While Garrow’s independent classes during Winter Term didn’t directly connect with the city of London, taking an independent study abroad opened the opportunity to better understand an aspect of the place where you are studying.

Garrow had planned to stay in London for spring term, but she headed home because of the closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. She hopes to do more studying abroad in the future, including in Copenhagen.

“My family lived in Copenhagen and London,” Garrow said. “I think it’s really cool to see where you grew up from a completely different perspective.”  

During her time at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Garrow hopes to be able to take classes pertaining to her self-designed major.    

“I’ll be taking cyber-psychology, neuropsychology of social behaviors and innovation through design thinking,” she said. “These are courses that are not specifically offered at Lawrence but do have connections with what we are studying and will help to enrich the major I have established at Lawrence.”  

Willing to explore

Study abroad opportunities will eventually come back. So, we asked Garrow for some tips for students who are considering it: 

Say yes. “My favorite trips have been when I wasn’t in charge,” Garrow said. “I went to an Afro beats club; I wouldn’t have done that on my own. A friend took me hiking; I wouldn’t have done that on my own. I would say talking to the people around you, getting to know people and see what they’re interested in, and just being Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man.”  

Think about food. “Things can get expensive if you get take-away or eat out every day. Think about what it is you like to eat and what would keep you healthy”. 

Pack light. “You will buy things to bring home with you; make sure you have enough room for it.” 

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

Lighting the Way With … Emily Muhs ’12: Running toward excellence

Emily Muhs ’12

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 Emily Muhs ’12, a consultant with Bain & Company in Houston.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Emily Muhs ’12 has always been focused on goals, whether in her career, in her classes, or in her running shoes.

At Lawrence, she was a government major while excelling as a student athlete in cross country, earning all-conference honors three times.

Her journey after Lawrence has included teaching for three years in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before going to Yale for her MBA. She now works as a consultant for Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, in Houston, and, yes, continues to run. She’s added marathons, including last year’s Boston Marathon, to her growing list of accomplishments since leaving Lawrence.

We chatted with Muhs about the path she’s taken, the lessons learned as a runner, finding her way to a promising business career, and navigating the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On teaching in Abu Dhabi:

It was through Lawrence that l learned about teaching internationally, as several Lawrentians before me had taught abroad and enjoyed it.

I attended an international teaching fair while I was doing my 13th trimester student-teaching, and the offer to go to Abu Dhabi seemed like the best option. Not to mention there were a few Lawrentians in Abu Dhabi teaching there already. So, I decided to take the offer, and the next August I was off to the UAE.

One of the biggest things I took away from my experience was an increased appreciation for different perspectives, particularly as a history teacher. I taught students from all over the world who had learned history up to that point in a variety of countries. So, teaching history at an international school forced me to think and talk with my students about different perspectives and subjectivity in history, and, more generally, in the media.

The second takeaway I would say is it built my tolerance for taking risks. Before moving to Abu Dhabi, I had only really lived in Wisconsin — apart from studying abroad — growing up in Janesville and going to Lawrence. Moving to the Middle East was a culture shock, but taught me the importance of taking thoughtful risks, and that being uncomfortable can produce growth, which I try to keep in mind as I think about where my life and career will take me.

On getting her MBA at Yale

After three years in Abu Dhabi, I knew I wanted to come back to the United States but did not know exactly what I wanted to do. It was a natural time to pursue an advanced degree, and an MBA was the best option. I was looking for a path where I could grow and make an impact, and an MBA was the best choice to do this while setting me up for optionality long-term.

Yale had the additional benefit of being focused on “business and society.” I knew I had a lot to learn about the private sector but wanted to keep the connection to other sectors and gain a perspective on how the private, public, and nonprofit sectors interact and support one another. The MBA program at Yale was a great fit for my goals.

On how her Lawrence experience prepared her for those next steps

Reflecting back, it was the liberal arts skill set I gained at Lawrence that helped me going forward. I built my ability to learn and problem-solve. These two skills were very important as a teacher and continue to be important as a consultant. In both careers, you are required to learn very quickly, be able to tackle whatever problem is thrown at you, and adapt your approach to whatever students and clients need.

On what being a runner has taught her

My experience running has influenced how I think about goals. A big part of reaching your running goals is simply the miles and work you put in, similar to how you have to work toward your goals in many other aspects of life. At the same time, you will have bad races, and I grew to understand how to learn from them — when to see it as an off day versus when it is a sign you need to change something in your training, a mentality I try to take today into my professional life.

But honestly, the biggest thing that has carried over from my experience running at Lawrence is the community. The team was a great group of smart, motivated people who I have been lucky enough to stay connected with since leaving Lawrence.

On launching a business career at Bain & Company

We work in teams to help our clients solve challenges. For me, this has included a variety of different types of projects in technology, energy, retail, and, most recently, pro bono education work.

When I entered business school, I was not focused on a specific career path but knew I was looking for a job where I would grow, learn, and get to do analytical problem-solving while helping others. As I began to explore careers, it became clear consulting was a great fit, and Bain specifically stood out for the opportunities for growth and support. I was lucky enough to intern at Bain and decided to come back full time, where I have been since.

On COVID-19 pandemic and advice for Lawrentians

Like many others, the pandemic has changed the way I work and live, making most of my interactions virtual. As for advice for Lawrence students who are doing distance learning, there are a few things I would focus on.

First, use this extra time to invest in yourself as you are preparing to enter the workforce. Naturally, you are learning new ways to work with others online; keep building these skills and find other ways to continue to grow.

Second, stay connected to your classmates and professors at Lawrence both inside and outside of classroom time. For me at Lawrence, practices and team dinners were so important to my experience, and though those types of activities will not be quite the same, you can still set up virtual dinners or calls to stay connected and support one another.

Lastly, look for ways to support your community during this crisis. Looking online, it is clear that Lawrentians are already doing this through volunteer tutoring, donations, etc. It is a great way to continue the Lawrence culture of support and giving back, even if you are not on campus.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Beth Zinsli: Excelling in the art of engagement

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Beth Zinsli ’02 (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 Lawrence faculty member every two weeks — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Beth Zinsli ’02 is a focal point for visual arts at Lawrence University.

As an assistant professor of art history, she is an important voice in the classroom. But more people may know Zinsli for her role with the Wriston Art Center Galleries, where she serves as curator, leading the staff that prepares and presents the public art exhibitions and oversees the University’s art collection. She also serves as program director for the Museum Studies interdisciplinary area.

Zinsli joined Lawrence in 2013, 11 years after earning her bachelor’s degree in history as an LU undergrad. She went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We caught up with Zinsli to talk about her work in the classroom and galleries and her interests away from campus.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

My goal in the classroom is to get to the questions that really matter, the questions that will push students to think and engage more deeply with an idea. I don’t have all the answers; I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever.

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

I was excited and honored to help bring Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) to campus to install the “Indigenize Education” mural with students and give a convocation last spring. It was thrilling to see the positive reactions to the mural and her powerful talk. Public art is a vital form of representation that can compel important conversations – the “Indigenize Education” mural started the conversations we need to keep having as a campus. There’s more to come.

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 got to travel to Havana twice for dissertation research in graduate school. There is no way I could have fully prepared for the experience or for the surprising, profound conversations I had with Cuban artists, curators, and other folks while I was there.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Definitely something with food – chef, restaurant critic, food stylist, culinary historian. Cooking and baking are my creative outlets and I think about recipes and ingredients all the time. I have around 130 cookbooks, from a well-used copy of The Joy of Cooking to NOMA by Danish chef René Redzepi.

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

The art galleries, of course. I am biased, but they are usually peaceful and there is always something interesting to look at. There’s also a windowsill seat by the back gallery that looks out on the walkway between Memorial Hall and Wriston; if I need a break it’s the perfect spot to people-watch for a few minutes.

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

I picked up Florida, Lauren Groff’s recent book of short stories, on librarian Colette Lunday-Brautigam’s recommendation. I was in New York checking out some museum shows; when I took a break for lunch I pulled it out. I didn’t come up for air until a couple hours later. I finished it the next day and then immediately started reading it again from the beginning.

What’s that you asked about a recording? I couldn’t hear you over ROSALÍA’s El Mal querer, which I have been blasting on repeat for the past few months. Her voice and stylistic versatility are totally energizing.

I find Chantal Ackerman’s film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, fascinating. It’s 201 minutes long and focused on a single woman’s seemingly mundane daily routines. She literally makes a meal in real time on screen. I’m interested in boredom and how we react to disruptions in our habits, two big themes in this film – so maybe it’s not for everyone, especially as we all cope with those very things – but it’s definitely on my safer-at-home screening list.

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