Month: November 2020

On Main Hall Green With … Scott Corry: New frontiers for a mathematics scholar

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Scott Corry (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 each time — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Scott Corry is leading the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science into new territory.

The professor of mathematics is the chair of the newly renamed department, which has grown significantly, adding two faculty positions, one last year in statistics and one upcoming in computer science. Multiple new courses have been added to the curriculum, the mathematics major has been redesigned, including the addition of a statistics track, the computer science major has been reconfigured, and a new minor in statistics and data science has been launched.

Corry joined the Lawrence mathematics faculty in 2007. He returned to the department chair position in 2019 after previously holding that post in 2014-15 and 2017-18. He has taught calculus, algebra, number theory, and geometry courses while pursuing his research interests in analogies between Riemann surfaces and finite graphs. He was a visiting fellow at the Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge, England, in 2009, and was recognized with Lawrence’s then-named Young Teacher Award in 2011.

He earned his doctoral degree at the University of Pennsylvania and his bachelor’s degree at Reed College.

We caught up with Corry to talk about his interests on and off campus.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

Students should know that I believe they can enjoy math. Too often, people have fixed ideas about whether or not they are “math people,” and they carry anxieties about their mathematical abilities. This is the wrong approach. I want students to relax into the creative play that lies at the heart of mathematical exploration, and to feel the joy of solving problems and studying interconnections between ideas. As in all things, the more you enjoy your work, the more likely you are to succeed at it.

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

In recent years, more and more of my energy has been devoted to chairing the Department of Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science, and I’ve been surprised at how much I enjoy hiring and supporting new colleagues, working with them to revise our curriculum, and collaborating to support students in new and more substantial ways. My own mathematical work and teaching will always be the bedrock of why I love being at Lawrence, but the recent challenge of department-building and curricular revision is exciting.

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?

A few years ago, I wrote a book called Symmetry and Quantum Mechanics that describes the exquisite mathematical structure underlying the central physical theory of the microscopic world. While I’ve been interested in physics for a long time—I started out as a physics major before switching to math—I never expected to make a scholarly contribution. But I found myself writing that book as a labor of love after embarking on a reading project with my good friend Doug Martin from the LU Physics Department. This is a great example of the power of collaboration to push us in unexpected directions, and it was honestly the most fun I’ve ever had with an intellectual project.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I think it would be nice to be a science journalist, doing the important work of explaining scientific developments to a popular audience. I’m thinking especially of someone like Natalie Wolchover and her writings for Quanta magazine. Over the past decade or so, I’ve discovered a real passion for writing, and I enjoy the challenge of learning and explaining new things.

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

There is a secluded bench next to the Buchanan-Kiewit Wellness Center that looks out to the Fox River over the LU Sustainable Garden. Although I haven’t been there recently, in my early years at Lawrence I often ate my lunch there, weather permitting. It is a nice place to take a break, read a book, or simply catch your breath during an otherwise busy day.

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

Stanley Cavell’s The Claim of Reason. This ambitious and unusual book of moral philosophy traverses a wide swath of thought, beginning with Wittgenstein’s ideas about language, moving through the epistemological challenge of skepticism, and culminating in an exploration of Shakespeare’s tragedies. It had an immense impact on me as a college student, and I continue to return to it to this day.

Mahalia Jackson’s rendition of If I Can Help Somebody. Just listen.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. An ensemble cast delivers a complicated and touching performance tied together by an excellent Aimee Mann soundtrack.

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

2 Minutes With … Louric Rankine: Rolling with FilmNation internship

Louric Rankine ’21 is taking classes this fall while also doing a remote internship with FilmNation.

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

Louric Rankine ’21 is seizing an opportunity during Fall Term that became doable when most internships went remote. While taking a full class load at Lawrence, he also is doing a remote internship with FilmNation Entertainment.

The entertainment company funds, produces, and distributes films around the world.

Through his internship, Rankine, an English and Film Studies double major from Brooklyn, New York, has had the opportunity to work with international film distributors and other outlets on the company’s “screeners.”

“Screeners are unreleased films; so, films that haven’t been released yet I have access to them,” Rankine said. “… Films that are coming out with the Netflix team, we have to make sure their asset came in — this includes banners, music, trailers.”

He’s also part of quality control on those unreleased films.

“I would get a trailer or any type of visual and make sure the dialogue is fine, make sure the audio is correct, make sure there’s no pixelation.”  

Making connections

Along with his daily duties, Rankine has been working on a larger presentation to show to the senior vice president of worldwide delivery on a topic of his choice. Rankine will be presenting it at the end of November.

In addition to the skills he is developing, Rankine is making great connections that will help him with life after Lawrence.  

“I am currently applying to grad school,” Rankine said. “And one of the [intern seminar] workshop leaders graduated from the same program I am applying to. I am meeting with him soon to talk about the program and application process; he is a recent graduate so he knows all the professors and everything. He’s going to prepare me so I am equipped when applying for the program.” 

Though this internship is a great opportunity and Rankine is enjoying his work, it has not been easy balancing an internship with a full class load. But he has been making it work and gives thanks to his Posse mentor, Elizabeth De Stasio, for giving him the support needed to get it all done.  

The road to experience

Rankine worked with a film program called Hook Arts Media while in high school. It was those contacts that led to his internship with FilmNation.

“That’s where I learned about the technique of documentary film-making,” he said of Hook Arts Media. “… They sent a couple of us alumni links to a two-day seminar with FilmNation because they are partners.” 

That led to connections with FilmNation’s internship program. Despite knowing he would also be in school and it would be a lot of extra work, Rankine decided to apply because he knew it was a great opportunity. The remote nature of the internship was perfect.

“I’ve had interviewers (for other internships) say they’re denying me because I wasn’t going to stay long enough, and it’s been my dream to work with a major production company,” Rankine said.  

He went through a two-step interview online. In the first step, he had to review a 100-page script and send feedback, and then he had one-on-one interviews with a few leaders in the company.  

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

On Main Hall Green with … Rosa Tapia: A passion for Spanish literature, cinema

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Rosa Tapia (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 each time — same questions, different answers.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Rosa Tapia has left her imprint on the Spanish faculty in a myriad of ways since coming to Lawrence University in 2002, but perhaps nowhere as visibly as her work with the annual Latin American and Spanish Film Festival.

Working in partnership with faculty colleague Cecilia Herrera, Tapia helped launch the festival in 2012, bringing award-winning films from Latin America and Spain to Lawrence and connecting the community to national and international filmmakers. It’s an extension of her ongoing study in contemporary Spanish and Latin American literature and cinema.

The professor of Spanish has been drawing rave reviews herself since arriving on campus 18 years ago. In 2005, she earned the University’s then-named Young Teacher Award. She also serves as a co-chair of the national Development Committee for the AP Spanish Language and Culture Exam.

In addition, Tapia has been a leader in academic advising at Lawrence, receiving the Excellence in Advising Award in 2014 and serving as faculty director of advising from 2016 to 2020. She chaired a task force that developed a new guide and resource page for advising and led initiatives that improved connections between faculty advisers and students.

More faculty features can be found here.

Tapia holds a doctorate in Spanish from Penn State University, a Master of Arts in Spanish from the University of Delaware, and a Licenciatura in English philology from the University of Granada in Spain.

We caught up with Tapia to talk about her interests 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?

Students should know that I’m very passionate about what I teach and I’m always looking for ways to share that passion with them. My Spanish classes and my work on literature and film are tightly connected. They naturally include a variety of academic and cultural perspectives, so I expect students to contribute their own point of view. They should come ready to jump into other cultural frameworks and ways to see and study the world.

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

I love being able to blend my research with my classes, with student projects, and with initiatives like the Latin American and Spanish Film Festival. It’s an amazing opportunity to interact with international filmmakers and it feels great to welcome such a diverse audience to campus. It was also energizing to participate in initiatives to improve academic advising for student success and I cherish my years as a Posse mentor.

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?

Oh, there are too many surprises to list here. Pursuing an academic career as an immigrant opened my eyes time after time. I learned to negotiate and inhabit a number of cultural, social, and symbolic borders, both in my everyday life and in my academic interests. These are not always easy to separate when one studies identity, power, and representation as a Spanish-born scholar of Latin American culture in the U.S. The flip side of the coin is, of course, the wonderful opportunity to see various parts of the world, meet incredible people, and be a lifelong student of other cultures. I had no idea this was going to be my life! I’d love to go back and tell my 18-year-old self when I was starting my own college journey in Granada, Spain.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I’d love to work on projects related to college access and success, or the promotion of cultural connections through the study of the arts, particularly film, across different communities and countries. Ideally, I’d like to do something that would allow me to keep growing and learning, travel, and collaborate with people from different origins and diverse backgrounds.

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

One of my favorite places on campus is the Cinema, because it brings me wonderful memories of the film festival.

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

Carmen Martín Gaite’s novel The Back Room, Caetano Veloso’s version of the song Cucurrucucú Paloma, and Pedro Almodóvar’s film All About My Mother.

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

2 Minutes With … Maggie McGlenn: Finding purpose, one mask at a time

Maggie McGlenn ’22 works on masks in the costume shop.

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

Maggie McGlenn ’22 keeps busy as a biology major and a data science minor. But you also can find her bent over a sewing machine in the Theatre Department’s costume shop, crafting face masks for people on campus and across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

In some ways, McGlenn has always occupied this niche as a sewer and a creator. She got her first sewing machine at age 9 and later took lessons with a family friend in her hometown of Madison. She debuted in Lawrence’s costume shop in fall 2018 as a first-year student helping to create costumes for Lawrence’s theater productions.

It’s where she now spends time sewing masks, some in efforts to help mask up the Lawrence campus and others for family, friends, and other contacts near and far. McGlenn created an Instagram page to vend her surplus masks on a “pay what you can” basis.

Despite experience that’s years in the making, McGlenn said she continues to develop her skills.

“It’s taught me a lot about doing things consistently,” she said. “When I sell a mask, I have to be more critical and think, ‘Are all my lines straight? Does it look finished?’ It’s taught me to be diligent in sewing, and also try to increase my speed and make masks quicker.”

Finding comfort in the work

It was the initial mask shortage in March that spurred McGlenn’s foray into mask-making. In those early days, working at home, her goal was to ensure that her family and friends were equipped to be COVID-safe, especially as transmission rates rose throughout spring and the reality of the pandemic’s presence became more pronounced. When fall fell upon us, McGlenn discovered solace in bringing her skills to campus.

“I found it was something really comforting to me, feeling like I could still contribute in some way,” McGlenn said.

That extra contribution is more important than ever. For one, work in the costume shop has been unconventional. Productions have been socially distanced and on a scale that doesn’t require hefty original costuming work.

Stitching together a community

The project begs a humanitarian perspective.

“Trying to turn a profit is definitely not what’s most important,” said McGlenn, who is trying to cover her costs. “It comes down to, ‘How do I care for and support my community?’ I want to act in the world as I want to see the world become. Giving what I can in a time when it feels like a lot of things are going wrong or poorly.”

Hundreds of masks later, McGlenn has successfully shown us that providing for the community is a great way to stay in touch with others, even from a distance. It’s a means for connection we’re missing out on these days.

“Masks are a love language of that,” she said. “I’ll send masks to my great aunts or friends who aren’t on campus in my immediate vicinity, and it still feels like I get to connect with them and still maintain communities.”

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

2 Minutes With … Meralis Alvarez: DIY soap in the time of quarantine

Meralis Alvarez ’22 researched how to make her own soap as the COVID-19 pandemic put new emphasis on the frequent washing of hands. (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

In this pandemic, frequently washing our hands is a key to stopping the spread of the virus. That means a high demand for soap, something that caught the eye of Meralis Alvarez ’22 early on.

She decided to make her own.  

“It’s really funny when I tell people I make soap,” Alvarez said. “Yes, I do make my own soap products because soap is important.”  

Alvarez started making soap in June while home in Chicago. She wanted to be more aware of what she was putting in, and on, her body, and more certain that the products she was using were sustainable and not harmful to the environment. 

“I noticed that a lot of soaps have a lot of fragrances and dyes in them and just a lot of very harmful chemicals and additives,” Alvarez said. “These are not only harmful for the skin longer term, but also for the environment. Living in the city of Chicago and seeing the effects of environmental racism and being from Puerto Rico and seeing the effects of environmental racism and climate change, it really just inspired me to think about intentional living in every facet.”  

Looking out for family and friends

Alvarez said she also was inspired to start making soap by the people in her life and understanding the price-gouging that happens in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

“I’m not the only one in my house that has sensitive skin; my mom has sensitive skin … and she’s becoming more and more excited about taking care of herself as she ages,” Alvarez said. “And my dad is diabetic, and he’s becoming more intentional about his life choices. … So, one of the reasons I started making soap was more for him than it was for me.” 

Alvarez said she had limited resources while growing up in Chicago and had to teach herself how to conduct research because she “didn’t have the same access to journals as other kids.”  She has carried those same research skills with her to college and was able to tap into them to teach herself how to make soap.  

“Taking biology classes, taking online apothecary classes, online naturalist courses that were given by scientists and holistic natural gurus,” Alvarez said. “And really just doing my own academic research; there were so many academic articles and medical journals that I would hoard through to figure out what works and what doesn’t. … It’s a process that took months of research. I started making [soap] in June, but I was looking into making my own beauty products in the beginning of quarantine. It took some time to research and then I did it.”

From hobby to business

After her holistic research into soaps and skin, Alvarez started to make soap for herself and her family. Now she’s eyeing an LLC to make it a business. She said she’s able to tailor her soaps to the wants and needs of her clients.

Back on the Lawrence campus for Fall Term, Alvarez has continued making soap for herself. She finds it a relaxing activity, a break from the stresses of her classes.  

“I was thinking of not doing it throughout the school year because I knew how busy I would be,” Alvarez said. “But then, I was like, I don’t like spending money on soap. So, I knew I had to make it for myself.”

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