Author: Ed Berthiaume

On Main Hall Green With … Allison Fleshman: For the love of science

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Allison Fleshman (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

Allison McCoy Fleshman, an associate professor of chemistry, has a deep love of science.

It’s evident when she’s teaching or conducting research as an associate professor of chemistry. She’s been a key member of the Lawrence University chemistry faculty since 2013. It’s also evident when she joins her husband, Bobby Fleshman, at their McFleshman’s Brewing Co. in downtown Appleton. The Mc in the name comes from McCoy, and she revels in the science of beer-making at the micro-brewery and taproom.

Fleshman has a bachelor of science degree in physics and a Ph.D. in chemistry from the University of Oklahoma.

We caught up with her to talk about 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?

I absolutely love science, and in particular physical chemistry, and my enthusiasm is sincere. When I teach the Periodic Table of the Elements to my introductory chemistry students, my eyes fill with tears as I talk about its beauty. Those are real tears. Having a deep passion for the subject helps students appreciate what it means to be a life-long learner. I tell them that even something as simple as table salt, sodium chloride, still has so many secrets to share. Sincere enthusiasm fuels us to keep asking questions, even on things we think we understand.  

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

I work with liquid salts that have fascinating physical properties, and have potential use in battery systems, carbon sequestration; you name it, these nifty materials can likely do it—except your taxes, they probably can’t do that, but they could be used in inks, so yeah, I guess they can do your taxes. My research focus is developing mathematics that describes the behavior of these liquids. I get super excited when the theoretical models explain experimental observations—sounds nerdy, but when the math works out, I do a happy dance. 

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?

In 2017, a chance encounter at a conference resulted in me moving to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for six months as the resident director of an off-campus study program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. I was shocked to have the door open for me, but took advantage and learned so much science and met some great people. I admit that Imposter Syndrome is a real thing, but working at Oak Ridge helped build my confidence in my abilities as a scientist. My project was on the same liquid salts I mentioned, but using a completely new technique. I essentially got to play with a big laser that tracked little fluorescent molecules as they danced through the liquid salts. It was an absolute blast.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Not a fair question. If I wasn’t teaching physical chemistry, I’d likely be teaching yoga, so still teaching. If I had to avoid teaching altogether, I’d probably join my husband at McFleshman’s Brewing Co. and write articles for the Society of Brewing Chemists. You can take the scientist out of the lab, but you can’t take the lab out of the scientist?

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

My personal favorite spot: The Esch Hurvis Room in the Warch Campus Center has yoga classes facing the windows that overlook the river. I highly recommend them because you get a remarkable view to accompany a great yoga practice in the middle of the 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?

I’m not sure what this says about my soul, but for a book: Salt by Mark Kurlansky. A fascinating tale of how salt has changed the world, although when I have recommended it to friends, they don’t tend to like it. Their loss. It is so fascinating. Although I should also give a shout out to Eric Scerri’s The Periodic Table, which now dons the First-Year Studies list. It has become a close runner-up to Salt. 

Recording: Tom Petty’s Southern Accents. My husband and I saw him and the Heartbreakers over 30 times in concert, but never heard this song live. There are many others, but this one does speak to my soul, in particular the live version in Gainesville, Florida, for the 30th anniversary tour. Check out YouTube. You’re welcome. RIP, Tom.

Film: I’m a child of the ’80s. Raiders of the Lost Ark for the win. 

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

Find more faculty profiles from the On Main Hall Green With … series here.

Lighting the Way With … Andrea Lewis Hartung: When justice gets it wrong

Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05 (Photo courtesy of Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law)

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05, a lawyer and clinical assistant professor of law at Northwestern University who works with the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Even when Andrea Lewis Hartung ’05 wins a case, she finds it difficult to celebrate.

A lawyer specializing in post-conviction law, Lewis Hartung fights to overturn wrongful convictions, a small but growing field of law that garners attention whenever a wrongfully convicted client is exonerated, often after years of incarceration. But the slog through the legal system is long and difficult, and the reality of a win means an innocent person has had a large chunk of their life taken from them.

“I’d say the victories are bittersweet,” Lewis Hartung said. “The work is slow. These cases often take years to move back through the criminal justice system. There are a lot of road blocks along the way. So, it definitely feels good when there’s a win, when a client gets exonerated or otherwise released from prison, but at the same time there’s always the recognition that there’s a person who was in prison for a crime they did not commit. They’ve essentially lost their life.

“Things have to be relearned, and relived under this stigma of a prior conviction. There’s a lot of work that has to be done to rebuild a life after a wrongful conviction. So, even if we win, when an individual gets out of prison, that sense of relief is there, but there’s also an enormous struggle to rebuild a life that was lost.”

For more Lawrence alumni features, see here.

It is work that Lewis Hartung has a passion for, built on the liberal arts foundation she embraced while at Lawrence University, where she majored in psychology and Spanish. She would go on to study law at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law, working as a student in the school’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

After graduating, she worked for a Chicago firm in the labor and employment law group, and did some pro bono work in criminal law and other areas. But the wrongful convictions work continued to tug at her heart. She returned to Northwestern and the Center on Wrongful Convictions in 2013 as a clinical fellow, a position focused on female prisoners who were believed to have been wrongfully convicted. She then transitioned into a faculty position two years later. She now teaches post-conviction law and works cases for the clinic.

A recent exoneration happened in the Arkansas case of Tina Jimerson, a woman who spent more than 26 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted in 1992 of being an accessory to a 1988 murder and robbery. Jimerson and three other defendants had been sentenced to life in prison. After years of legal fighting, including a confession from one of the convicted that he acted alone and a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling affirming that prosecutors and police intentionally concealed a jailhouse informant interview, Jimerson and another defendant were exonerated.

Jimerson was released from prison in 2018. But it took until September of this year for charges to be formally dismissed.

“When we got word that Tina was exonerated, it was definitely worth all the work,” Lewis Hartung said.

The process is difficult. The end point can feel a long way off. But there are moments on the journey that provide reassurance, Lewis Hartung said.

“There are little steps along the way that make the work worthwhile for me,” she said. “Small things like a client thanking me for listening to their story, or telling me that no one has asked them what happened before, or no one has asked them to walk through their story before. They are thankful for that. … I think it’s worth joining them for that fight.”

The Center on Wrongful Convictions, launched in 1999, is one of dozens of organizations across the country dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions. Since 1989, nearly 2,700 convicted individuals have been exonerated in the U.S., according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Fueled by the Lawrence experience

When she was a student at Lawrence, Lewis Hartung knew she wanted to be a lawyer. She just hadn’t quite centered on where that might lead her. But she knew the liberal arts foundation would take her where she needed to go.

“One of the best parts of the Lawrence experience was that the educational process was a little bit entrepreneurial,” she said. “You pick a major along the way but Lawrence really encourages students to take courses that interest them and to develop as students. Having the opportunity to sort of push my own boundaries, take classes that may or may not have gone toward my major, and being at a liberal arts college in general, I think was helpful to becoming a lawyer later on. In much the same way, I work on my cases and I take on clients and I have to be pretty creative in determining what to do with cases and how a client may or may not be helped, and I do think having that liberal arts background and having sort of a broader education has helped along the way.”

It was just a matter of time until she found her calling. She initially held off on jumping into law school, instead taking another job in the legal field.

“I wanted to observe what lawyers did for a living, then make a decision from there,” she said.

That eventually led her to Northwestern, back to her Chicago roots. She continues to live near Chicago with her husband, Chris, and their young son, Rob.

Reconnecting with Lawrence

In that first decade after graduating from Lawrence, Lewis Hartung said she mostly lost contact with her alma mater. But when she got an email about efforts to organize a Black alumni reunion, she was intrigued. That eventually brought her back to campus, where she connected with President Mark Burstein and other campus leaders and engaged in conversations about getting and staying involved. She became active with the Black Alumni Network and was named to the Lawrence University Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Now she hopes to keep that momentum going, perhaps working through the Viking Connect program or Career Communities or other outlets in the Career Center.

“I know I, and other alumni, would really like to be a bit more involved with student mentorship,” she said.

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

Lighting the Way With … Dr. Ben Weston: On the COVID-19 front lines

Dr. Ben Weston ’05 (Photo courtesy of Medical College of Wisconsin)

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Dr. Ben Weston ’05, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin who has been a leader in the Milwaukee area in the COVID-19 pandemic battle.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

When Dr. Ben Weston ’05 tells you “it’s been an interesting year,” know that is his understated way of saying it’s been an emotionally draining, frustrating, holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened, gut-wrenching, exhausting, pants-on-fire sort of a year.

So, yes, interesting.

The Lawrence University alumnus is among the army of front-line health care workers who have been living the COVID-19 pandemic up close and personal on a daily basis, and he’s done it wearing three important but vastly different hats.

For two shifts a week, Weston works as an emergency department physician at Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee, part of his role as associate professor of emergency medicine at Medical College of Wisconsin. It’s here where he sees COVID patients fighting for their lives, where the latest surge threatens to overwhelm staff and space, where he and colleagues have to wear the same protective masks for multiple days for fear of resources running short.

He also lives it in his role as director of medical services for Milwaukee County, working through the Office of Emergency Management to coordinate 14 fire departments, ambulances, and other first responders in providing emergency medical care for a region with a population of nearly 1 million people.

For more Lawrence alumni features, see here.

And he lives it in his role as medical director of the Milwaukee area’s COVID-19 Unified Emergency Operations Center, working with the city of Milwaukee, the county, and a bevy of municipalities to coordinate responses to the pandemic and provide consistent messaging to residents.

Three hats, three perspectives of a pandemic that has shown no signs of abating, and a day-to-day schedule that has been dominated by the coronavirus since the earliest days of 2020.

And when Weston’s work day is over and he settles in with his wife and three young kids, can he move away from the brutal realities of the health care crisis? Well, not completely. His wife, Dr. Michelle Buelow, is a physician with Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers on the south side of Milwaukee, treating a heavily Hispanic population that has been hit hard by COVID-19.

“She’s been right in the thick of it as well,” Weston said. “So, the evenings usually start with a little pandemic conversation, and then we try purposely to shift to other things.”

Beyond the imaginable

Weston knew his world was about to change in January as the virus began its spread. What he didn’t know was that nearly a year later we would be staring into what could be a very dark winter as cases surge across the United States, hospitals are stretched to capacity and beyond, and the death toll nears 275,000.

“I don’t think anybody anticipated the longevity or the extreme impact that COVID would have,” Weston said of those early days before the virus landed in the U.S. “We would talk through scenarios about if long-term care facilities were hit or if there were outbreaks in regions of the community. I think it was certainly hard to imagine back then that we would be having this widespread outbreak everywhere like we have now. Every county in Wisconsin, every state in the United States, every country in the world is having these surges in cases right now, along with hospitalizations and deaths. We would have been naïve to think it wasn’t going to affect us at all, but I don’t think anyone anticipated this.”

Weston has been front and center in messaging to the public about the spread of the virus, the significance of the threat, and the need for personal responsibility. He’s spoken at news conferences and done dozens of interviews with media, locally and nationally. He’s done so while fighting conflicting messages coming from the national level.

“There have been a lot of novel aspects to the virus that makes it very challenging to control,” Weston said. “Biologic aspects of the virus, the incubation period, the asymptomatic spread. Things like that make it very hard to control, and difficult to message from a disease perspective. And then you compound that with messaging at the highest level and the national response that a lot of times is contradictory to the local response and the local messaging and you have a pretty difficult situation.”

There are consequences that come with that lack of a unified national response. One, of course, is the accelerated spread of the virus when segments of the population refuse to take it seriously, continuing to gather in confined spaces and refusing to wear masks. Another is the emotional toll it’s taking on health care workers. They not only face burnout because of the workload, but they also have to deal with backlash from people who see the pandemic as politics, Weston said.

“Everyone is really strained from a work standpoint,” he said. “Our public health infrastructure is not designed for this, nor is it funded, nor is it staffed in a way to manage something like this.”

To then receive hateful messages from someone taking exception to the daily news cycle adds to an already overwhelming burden, Weston said.

“It’s disheartening for public health practitioners when they are working these 60-, 70-, 80-, 100-hour weeks, and then at the end of the week when they feel like they’ve done something positive, they open up their email or listen to their voice mail and that’s what they hear.”

Through it all, though, there are opportunities to smile, Weston said. Health care workers need to cling to those moments. For him, it’s a kind email from a woman who opted to skip an indoor Thanksgiving gathering after hearing him speak on the dangers of such behavior. Or seeing multiple health care organizations across the state come together to share data and strategies, something that would have been unheard of a year ago.

“They come in somewhat small victories,” Weston said.

A path forged at Lawrence

Before Weston earned his medical and Master of Public Health degrees at the University of Wisconsin, he was a biology major at Lawrence. The classroom instruction prepared him well for medical school. But he points to campus experiences outside of the classroom that helped him develop the leadership and collaboration skills that are in play now. He worked his final three years at Lawrence in residence hall leadership positions, first in Plantz Hall and then in Hiett Hall, and chaired the Lawrence University Community Council’s Judicial Board.

“I loved my Lawrence experience,” Weston said. “I had the privilege of having leadership opportunities at Lawrence that I think helped to develop and hone my ability to be in these positions I’m in now.”

He cites then-Dean of Students Nancy Truesdell and current Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale as mentors who helped guide his journey.

“They were great mentors, and I saw great examples of principled leadership and steadfast collaboration from both of them that have certainly carried forward to my career,” Weston said. “Those were critical building blocks for me.”

Those lessons, he said, will be close at hand as the calendar flips to 2021 and he looks to help colleagues weather at least a few more months of distress before a vaccine hopefully brings some relief.

“It’s been hard the last few weeks to see the surges going up, knowing that no hospital can keep up with those sorts of numbers,” Weston said.

But the recent news of a vaccine that could be coming soon has buoyed spirits among health care workers, even though they know things will be difficult between now and spring.

“What changes is the perspective,” Weston said. “If we had talked back in July, August, September, we didn’t know when the end point was. We hoped it would be maybe in the spring, but we didn’t know. We had no evidence to point to, to say there’s an end to this, it’s coming. There was talk that this could go on for years.

“And now we see promising signs that there is an end point. We see the vaccine trials and we see this news and we start talking about how we’re going to distribute it. And I think that’s great news and we should celebrate it. But we also should recognize that the vaccination campaign isn’t going to take off and get everyone vaccinated this winter. We have to get through what’s going to be a really hard winter. So, the message has to be that we can celebrate the vaccine, but for the next few months we really need to buckle down. We have winter coming. It’s going to be a challenging time. But we know an end is in sight.”

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

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. 

On Main Hall Green With … Jerald Podair: Explorations in American history

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Jerald Podair (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

Jerald Podair knows his way around presidential politics.

The Robert S. French Professor of American Studies and professor of history has studied, taught, and spoken frequently on the subject of American politicians and other examinations of United States history since joining the Lawrence University faculty in 1998. It has made him one of Lawrence’s most visible professors.

Political history, after all, is a topic he loves almost as much as baseball and his native New York.

A two-time winner of Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship, Podair co-authored 2019’s Republican Populist: Spiro Agnew and the Origins of Donald Trump’s America (University of Virginia Press). That followed his award-winning 2017 book that explored slices of both baseball and political history, City of Dreams: Dodger Stadium and the Birth of Modern Los Angeles (Princeton University Press).

Much of Podair’s academic work has focused on 20th-century American history. Other books he has authored include The Strike That Changed New York: Blacks, Whites, and the Ocean Hill-Brownsville Crisis and Bayard Rustin: American Dreamer, a biography of the civil rights leader who planned the 1963 March on Washington.

He earned a bachelor’s degree at New York University, a law degree from Columbia University, and his Ph.D. from Princeton University.

We caught up with Podair to talk about his love of teaching history at Lawrence and his interests away from the classroom.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

That I was in my mid-30s before I decided what I wanted to do with my life. So, they have much more time to make that decision than they may realize.

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

I love writing history, and love when I’m able to connect what I’m writing to what I’m teaching. When students are as excited about history as I am … well, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m also excited when a student starts a course in one place and ends it in another – richer in knowledge, insight, and understanding. It’s always great to see that and share their sense of accomplishment.

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?

Growing up as a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, if anyone had told me I’d spend 23 very happy years in northeast Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have believed them. Before I came to Lawrence, I had never spent more than two consecutive weeks outside the New York metropolitan area. So, I’m surprised at where I am, but pleasantly so.

I also have never finished writing a book where I expected to be when I began it. Historical writing never loses its capacity for surprise and wonder. 

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I’m living the life I’ve imagined, teaching and writing American history. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. I gave an Honors Convocation address a few years back titled, The Only Life: Liberal Arts and the Life of the Mind at Lawrence University. That’s how I still feel. This is the only life, and we Lawrentians are fortunate to live it.

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

My favorite spot is Rik Warch’s portrait at the entrance to the Campus Center. Rik was full of warmth and humor, and a wise, generous friend — not only to me but to everyone on the Lawrence campus. He was unforgettable, and seeing him in the Campus Center, a place that vibrantly reflects his spirit, always lifts my own spirits. From time to time I give Rik a nod or a wink as I pass by, and I’ll bet I’m not the only one who does. 

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: Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison. The great American novel of the 20th century and the work of a courageous and honest man.

Recording: Bill Evans’ version of Here’s That Rainy Day. It’s been said that the melancholic Portuguese-Brazilian word “saudade” defies translation, but Evans comes closest.

Film: The Lives of Others. German director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s story of human redemption for our time and all time.

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

2 Minutes With … Jonathan Hogan: Working hard to get out the vote

Jonathan Hogan ’23 is working in Student Life to provide voter information to students in advance of Election Day on Nov. 3. (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

Jonathan Hogan ’23 had lots of downtime during his summer job as a pool worker in his hometown of Warrenville, Illinois. To pass the time, he often took refuge in political reports from The New York Times and German public radio. This is how the government and German major found himself submerged in the world of election campaign news like never before.

It drew him to his current fellowship with Lawrence’s Student Life office, serving as an essential student resource for voting information.

For more information on voting, see here.

The fellowship’s objective is simple: increase voter turnout among students. Jonathan understands that voting takes time, energy, and effort. It’s his job to ease concerns and equip students with the tools to exercise their constitutional right.

“It’s been my goal primarily to deliver the simplest message as possible and decrease the cost (in time, energy, and effort) of voting as much as possible,” he said.

Gaining new experience

As a government major, Jonathan is learning about ways to address the needs of voters, though he admits his governmental interests lie more in analytics than abstract engagement tactics. So, he’s found there’s much to learn from this experience with Student Life.

“I’ve never been good at doing big social or public events,” he said. “So, it’s been rewarding to learn how to design posters, get the word out, and attract attention and participation from the community.”

Jonathan’s Fall Term position has been ideal for practicing those skills. Before Election Day rolls around, he must host four events under different topics: voter registration, voter information, early/absentee voting, and Get Out the Vote. His impressive first move was coordinating with President Burstein to get students the day off from classes on Nov. 3 so students are more likely to be free and able to vote. It’s now one of the Mid-Term Reading Period days. You’re welcome.

Of course, this year these events must be contactless. Recently, Jonathan put up posters with information on candidates running in local races. He then brought a “one-stop shop” table to Warch Campus Center where students could get voter registration forms and other voter information; within one week, he helped 150 students complete their registration. Keep an eye out for the table in the coming days to get information on early voting or to get questions answered on other election-related topics.

Large bags of popcorn in Jonathan’s residence hall room await the final upcoming event, a virtual ballot-counting watch party.

A promising platform

With these efforts in mind, one’s thoughts turn to the ongoing difficulty in connecting with others due to the pandemic. Jonathan’s outreach campaigns are no exception. Though he’s been successful in spreading the word on voting, he still notes a lack of communal feeling when we’re trapped in a virtual world, forced into indirect means of communication. Nonetheless, he emphasizes that he’s making it work.

“It’s been rewarding in general contributing to something I feel is very important for the future of all Americans,” he said. “Engaging in communal politics in an elementary fashion is really cool.”

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