Author: Awa Badiane '21

Awa Badiane '21 is a student writer in the LU Office of Communications.

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.

2 Minutes With … Shelby Siebers: Indigenized leadership, mentoring

Shelby Siebers '20 poses for a photo during her stay in London.
Shelby Siebers ’20 is spending the fall term studying in London.

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

Senior year is a great time to reflect on the journey you’ve taken at Lawrence. For Shelby Siebers ’20, an ethnic studies and psychology double major, that reflection is focusing squarely on the work she has put into indigenizing education.

Getting involved

“When I came to Lawrence, I was involved in LUNA as a member,” Siebers said. “By my sophomore year, I quickly had a board position and I started doing leadership for LUNA.”  

LUNA is the Lawrence University Native Americans organization, and during her junior year, Siebers served as president.

“I think LUNA has done a lot,” Siebers said. “The biggest accomplishment each year I think is Indigenous People’s Day.” 

What was formerly known as Columbus Day has been changed to Indigenous People’s Day as a way to recognize and celebrate indigenous cultures. For the past five years, LUNA has been hosting a celebration on campus. 

“Basically, we invite the Oneida Nation dancers to do a pow-wow demonstration and to just go through what each dance means,” Siebers said. “I think it’s a very significant part of Lawrence’s culture because it shows that we Native students are there, even though our population on Lawrence’s campus is small. And it’s just a really good way to educate Lawrence’s campus.”  

During her time as president of LUNA, Siebers helped bring Matika Wilbur, creator of Project 562, to campus. Wilbur was invited to not only speak at a convocation on the representation of Natives, but also to create a mural on campus that adds a positive representation of Native people. 

Read more on Matika Wilbur’s visit to Lawrence here.

“She came to Lawrence after lots and lots of convincing, and we did a mural on the side of the Wellness Center,” Siebers said. “And it was meant to be a representation of the land Lawrence occupies currently, which is the Menominee Nation. … I feel like this mural was a really big breaking point for Native students on campus because we finally got positive representation.”   

Studying abroad  

For this term, Siebers has gone abroad, studying at Lawrence’s London Center.  

“It’s been really hard for me being a Native in London,” Siebers said. “Just because I was so used to building that identity at Lawrence, so I was feeling very secure in it. But here it almost feels like I’m starting over again because it feels like I’m the only Native.” 

The commitment to indigenized education and expressing her identity continues, however.  

“It motivates me to carry my identity even stronger than I would back at home,” Siebers said. “Being away for Indigenous People’s Day was really hard, but I still represented myself. I wore my moccasins, I wore my ribbon skirt, I wore my beaded earrings.”   

Being a mentor

This past summer, Siebers worked as a camp counselor for the Oneida Nation Arts Program, allowing her to work with Native youth.  

“It was such a rewarding experience because not only did I get to do what I love to do best, which is work with Native youth and be a mentor toward them, but I also got to be more connected to my culture,” Siebers said. 

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

2 Minutes With … Liam Wulfman: Where everybody knows your name

Liam Wulfman is one of the student managers of the Viking Room.

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

Many people dream of one day running a business. This dream doesn’t typically include co-managing a night spot on your college campus during your junior year. For Liam Wulfman, however, this is reality.  

“I couldn’t imagine doing another job. Everything just seems kind of boring in comparison,” Liam says of his work at the Viking Room (VR), Lawrence University’s on-campus gathering place that first opened in 1969. 

The VR is located in the basement of Memorial Hall, a casual hangout for faculty, staff and students who are 21 or older, mostly staffed by students.

The Viking Room was managed by an outside company until recently. Now it is student run (plus a faculty advisor). Liam and three other students manage the place that has been part of the fabric of the Lawrence community for five decades.  

“We run everything, basically,” Liam says. “Operationally, we are pretty self-sufficient. Other than one faculty (advisor), it’s all student run. It’s pretty crazy. It’s weird and it’s exciting.” 

Liam is in charge of a full staff, creates work schedules with other managers, and ensures the Viking Room is running smoothly and responsibly at all times.  

“My first shift, I was carding,” he says, “It was pretty fun. They just told me, sit here, make sure no one under 21 comes in. Like, oh god, I was so afraid.” 

Building skills

Liam, a biology major who is part of Lawrence’s swimming and diving team, joined the VR staff near the end of his freshman year. 

“One of the people on the swim team worked at the bar. … She told me to apply.” 

As one might assume, now being responsible for the well-being of a fully functioning entertainment hangout while still in school is quite the challenge. Yet, as Liam gets more acclimated in his position, he is becoming more comfortable with his role as a manager and his need to juggle those duties with the demands of the classroom.  

“It’s been tough, but really rewarding,” he says. “Now I know the bar really well. I pride myself on knowing how to make the stereo work every time. If you flick it just the right way, it works.”  

He is even working to add features to improve the Viking Room experience.  

“Turning the VR into a place where people can have fun and enjoy new things,” Liam says. “I’m excited for the future of the VR.”  

Familiar faces

He says it’s fun to run a business on campus and have the opportunity to serve and work with familiar faces, including professors who sometimes come in as guest bartenders. 

“Working with professors is always super funny,” Liam says. “Especially if you have had the professor before.” They’re the experts in class but often not so skilled behind the bar. 

Having the opportunity to build management skills necessary to run a business while in college can be golden in the long run, a big selling point for someone who one day hopes to open his own brewery.

“There’s a big craze for microbrewers right now, so I’m waiting for it to die down and I’ll be the cool one to bring it back,” Liam says.

Awa Badiane ’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.

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 … George Mavrakis: YouTube, fish and a hobby gone wild

Lawrence University senior George Mavrakis feeds fish in an aquarium in his dorm room.
George Mavrakis ’19 tends to his fish in his Lawrence University dorm room. The LU economics major has built up a successful YouTube channel focused on coral fish.

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 

A lot of students have had a pet fish, but it is not every day someone can turn having a pet fish into the nation’s largest aquarium show and a YouTube channel with nearly 120,000 subscribers. Lawrence University’s George Mavrakis ’19 has done just that. 

“It was all about seeing what other people thought of my tank,” the Lawrence senior says. “I always wanted to show off my tank and see if other people think this is an awesome tank.”

It was. And they did. And a hobby focused on coral fish was about to explode.

George, an economics major from Golf, Illinois, who played on the LU basketball team, runs the YouTube channel CoralFish12g. He and a business partner have also launched Aquashella, an aquarium festival show that debuted first in Chicago last year and then Dallas earlier this year, drawing thousands of aquarium enthusiasts with a mix of fish, music and art.

Getting hooked

George went through 10 fish before he finally got the hang of things. In his defense, he was 14 and working with a much more difficult kind of fish than your standard gold fish — coral. There was much to learn about keeping salt water fish alive.

“YouTube, Google and books,” George says of his eight-year journey. “Like, my coral would die and I’d just be like, welp, it wasn’t calcium. Then I’d check that off, then my next coral would die, and I’d be like, well, it wasn’t calcium or the light. By trial and error, I taught myself to keep coral.” 

Then he set out to teach the rest of the world via YouTube.

His first videos were mostly just his tank. He eventually went in front of the camera, sharing knowledge on salt water aquatics through what he refers to as “infotainment.”

He found an audience, and now he has the biggest salt water aquarium channel on YouTube, making him the biggest salt water aquarium influencer, all operating out of a dorm room at Lawrence.

He traveled to Israel over holiday break with Facebook influencer Nas Daily. His 1-minute video has more than 3 million views.

Check out CoralFish12g, including the Nas Daily video, here.

Geoge Mavrakis poses in his Lawrence dorm room with his fish tanks and tech equipment.
George Mavakis’ YouTube channel, CoralFish12g, has nearly 120,000 subscribers.

He created Aquashella last year with a friend while studying abroad in London. They were both fans of aquarium festivals but wanted to launch one that infused art and music with the showing of the fish. Mission accomplished. More than 4,000 people showed up for an August 2018 show in Chicago, while 7,000 came out for an early spring show in Dallas. Chicago is again on the books for August 2019.

He tapped into skills learned through Lawrence’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program. Balancing his coral fish hobby-turned-business with school has been a challenge, George says, noting he was “pulling more all-nighters” than desired and was giving up free time in pursuit of his fish adventures. The payoff, though, for all that hard work is on YouTube for all to see.

Sharing YouTube wisdom

Want to start a YouTube channel of your own? We asked George for four tips:

1: “Being different is better than being better.”

2: “Persistence is the key. It won’t happen overnight.”

3: “It’s a third luck, a third skill, and a third the quality of your content.” 

4: “Provide people with value.”  

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Isabella Mariani: In pursuit of a good read

Portrait of Isabella Mariani with a James Joyce book.
Isabella Mariani

Two student writers, Awa Badiane and Isabella Mariani, have joined the Communications staff and will begin writing a series of stories — 2 Minutes With … — to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. To get it started, we asked Awa to write about Isabella and Isabella to write about Awa.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

From very young and for reasons she cannot quite pinpoint, Isabella Mariani ’21 has been a bibliophile.

“Always when I was kid, I was reading,” she says. “I would bring a book everywhere I went.”

Fast forward to today, and chances are good you’ll find the Lawrence University sophomore English major with her nose in a book, even on a Saturday night.

“(Reading is an) escape,” Isabella says. “Not really from anything in particular that I consciously acknowledge, but it’s relaxing. For one thing, I am generally pretty busy and stressed out, so to have reading as a time to just relax and forget everything else is sorta the idea.” 

Did you know?

Isabella describes her dorm room as “looking like a library,” with books on the shelves, desk and floor. “Books are stacked everywhere,” she says.

But — quick fun fact — despite frequently studying in the library, Isabella has never actually checked out a book. Ever. She prefers buying her books, mostly from thrift stores, as she builds her own personal library.

As she pursues an English major at Lawrence, Isabella is able explore and have discussions about new reads in everything from the works of Jane Austen to Vladimir Mayakovsky. It’s a good fit, one she’s been eyeing since childhood.

“After learning to read, I remember doing short children’s stories for my younger brothers, which I also illustrated,” she says. “Creative writing time was my favorite in school and reading and writing never felt like homework to me. I’ve been journaling for years, and that’s where I’m at now.”   

Isabella, who credits her mother with instilling a love of books early on, says she became a prolific reader while bringing a book along to her brother’s hockey games while growing up in Sun Prairie. Turns out, it was time well spent.

A shared passion

On that note, we asked Isabella for some book recommendations. You’re welcome.

Five books she’d recommend to a friend: The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson; Ulysses, by James Joyce; To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf; Invitation to a Beheading, by Vladimir Nabokov; The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon 

Book she’s most looking forward to reading: The Master in Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov. “Other people I know have talked about it and I really want to read it. And pretty much all the Jane Austen books.”

Book she thought would not be great but surprised her: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë 

Book she’s reread more than any other: Holes, by Louis Sachar

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