Category: Faculty Profiles

On Main Hall Green with … Patty Darling: Jazz artistry, and so much more

Patty Darling poses for a photo on a snow-covered Main Hall Green, with Main Hall in the background.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Patty Darling (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Patty Darling has had plenty of successes since joining the Lawrence Conservatory of Music faculty in 2007, but perhaps none speak louder than the rave reviews for the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, which she directs. The student ensemble has, among other honors, earned the prestigious DownBeat Student Music Award in the large jazz ensemble category each of the past two years.

The awards are reflective of Darling’s deep influences in the Jazz Department over the past 13 years, but they don’t tell the whole story. In addition to leading one of the nation’s most outstanding collegiate jazz groups, Darling continues to compose music that has been performed widely across the country, including in middle and high school music programs. And she played a big part in developing and launching the new Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) degree, recently rolled out in the Conservatory after years of development.

See more on the B.M.A. degree here.

Darling is a Lawrence graduate, earning a Bachelor of Music degree in composition in 1985. She went on to study advanced composition at the University of Minnesota, where she also worked in the Electronic Music Department. 

We caught up with Darling to talk about her work in the Conservatory and her 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?

I am committed to understanding and supporting your unique musical path here at Lawrence. There are countless opportunities to create, perform, and collaborate with students and faculty, giving you the chance to discover and pursue the music that speaks to you. You will find me deeply interested in your personal musical goals and aspirations, and I’ll do my best in our classes and lessons to help you along the way.

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

This is the first year of our Jazz Department’s new degree program, the Bachelor of Musical Arts (B.M.A.) in Jazz and Contemporary Improvisation. It has been very rewarding to develop new courses in composition and arranging. My students are integrating improvisation in a variety of musical styles, experimenting with form and development, and practicing core musicianship skills in our piano and composition lessons. They share recordings of artists that inspire them, and I am excited to have the opportunity to explore these different genres together. In addition, I’m enjoying working with songwriters and getting back into electronic music production and recording.

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

I love composing music for big bands, and did not expect to find such joy and satisfaction in writing music for younger students. I just finished a new piece titled Connections, which will be published by Sierra Music this summer. Many of my big band charts are designed for middle and high school musicians, and I’m motivated by the challenge of creating music that is fun to play while also teaching improvisation and jazz fundamentals. I enjoy traveling to different schools throughout the U.S. and working with students on these charts.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

You would most likely find me working at a wildlife sanctuary — with big cats! — or perhaps delving into organic gardening/farming.

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

The “Jazz Room,” Shattuck 46. It feels like the heart of the Jazz Department; there’s so much happening there. Big band and combo rehearsals, improvisation and composition classes, percussion groups, auditions, recording sessions, meetings, and a lot more. During our Jazz Weekend festival, it is packed with young students performing and learning to improvise. Last year we did a side-by-side rehearsal there with the famous Vanguard Jazz Orchestra — that was a blast. Guest artists and LU jazz alumni come in to perform and share their stories. It’s an inspiring place even when it is empty and quiet.

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

Film: Cast Away. A powerful story of survival and the intense need for human connection. Alan Silvestri’s sparse, breathtaking soundtrack reinforces the impact of such extreme isolation.

Book: Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach. “True simplicity as a life choice illuminates our lives from within.” A good friend gave me this book several years ago, and every so often I come back to it to read, reflect, and rebalance my life.

Song: Pretty much anything by Bon Iver — Woods, 715-Creeks. His music is incredible, beautiful and honest.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Jesús Gregorio Smith: Open mind, open heart

Jesús Gregorio Smith poses for a portrait near the front steps to Main Hall.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Jesús Gregorio Smith

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Jesús Gregorio Smith, who joined Lawrence University in 2017 as an assistant professor of ethnic studies, helped to launch Ethnic Studies as a major.

He’s taught classes on such topics as research methods in communities of color, sociology of black Americans and sociology of Latinx. He has organized the annual Continuing Significance of Race undergraduate conference. And at last year’s Cultural Expressions, Lawrence students presented him with the Beta Psi Nu Faculty Excellence Award.

Smith also is a finalist for the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation’s 2020 Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty.

A native of El Paso, Texas, Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s in sociology at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Texas A&M University. His initial thesis work looked at race and sexuality on the U.S.-Mexico border and the implications it has on dating and sexual health. At A&M, he broadened that work to examine online dating, sexual racism, and HIV/AIDS in quantitative and qualitative fashions. 

A book he contributed to and co-edited, Home and Community for Queer Men of Color: The Intersections of Race and Sexuality, was recently published through Lexington Books.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

I want you to know that my goal is to touch, challenge and change every one of you in a different way. When you teach students about race and racism, often times you get young — or older — people who are deeply miseducated and undereducated on the U.S.’s racial history. As a result, many people misunderstand the racial present. So, it is my job to walk you through that history, and it can be painful, difficult and depressing much of the time. Yet, it can also be inspiring, powerful and influential other times. So, as long as you walk into my class with an open mind and heart, you may be challenged on old beliefs you may have held that were misguided, you may be touched by hearing a story from one of your fellow classmates of color who experienced something similar to whatever we are reading that day, and you may be changed forever from learning about something that is painful and important to know. If you put in the work, you will rise to the occasion and come out a better person for it. That is a big challenge for me, but I never back down from a challenge.

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

Since being at Lawrence there is so much I have accomplished and done that I am excited about. My Intro to Ethnic Studies class works with Beth Zinsli, the director and curator of the Wriston Art Center Galleries, to put together these historical and artistic exhibits on race and ethnicity. The class is broken into four groups, and each group covers a different stairwell on each floor of Briggs Hall with a different topic. Each year it is so awesome to see what the students produce. This past year, for instance, a group focused on ethnic hair and how it relates to identity, and they interviewed several students about their hair and even created a video that played on a loop about ethnic hair. A professor took her class to check out that exhibit because it went with a topic she was teaching in her class. Last year, a group looked at the injustices of the criminal justice system in the lives of people of color and imagined what their mug shots would look like if they were victimized by a system stacked against them. It was so powerful it brought a faculty member to tears. It’s become a highlight of the Ethnic Studies program here at Lawrence.

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

I am a gay, Afro-Latino man from El Paso, Texas. The last place I’d imagine my life ending up is Appleton, Wisconsin! Yet, my partner, Michael Reed (animal and psychology lab technician), and I have made it a home. I have grown really close with some faculty of color (Thelma Jimenez-Aglada in Spanish, Sigma Colon in History, Israel Del Toro in Biology, and John Holiday in the Con) who help it feel like a home away from home. We have done so many fun things like walk across Lake Winnebago when it is frozen, attend a bunch of shows for really cheap at the Fox Cities PAC, and catch all the live music in the area like Jazz at the Trout or Mile of Music. My partner keeps a calendar of events so he can show me how busy we are all the time. I didn’t believe him, but now he has evidence that five times out of the week, we are usually doing something fun.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

If I wasn’t teaching, I would undoubtedly be a civil rights lawyer or a medical doctor for Doctors Without Borders. I say undoubtedly because I honestly can see myself getting another degree while I am a professor so I can make a bigger impact in my community. So, don’t be surprised if you find out I am taking online law classes somewhere.

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

I like working with my writing group in Youngchild 218. It’s nice and secluded and we don’t often get bothered. I also love the large wooden area by Briggs when it is open. It is just a nice place to chill and look at the water. I’m a Scorpio, which is a water sign so I love looking at the water and being by water.

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

One Book: I love the book Annihilation. We read it in our book club and it is one of the weirdest, creepiest and most beautiful books I have ever read. It’s about this pristine part of nature that looks too good to be true, and it is. On the surface it is a scary book about this nightmarish landscape and potential predator, but underneath the surface is this beautiful meditation on life, relationships, nature, and regret. It is worth a read. The movie starring Natalie Portman is pretty good as well.

One recording: I love the song Iphone by Dababy and Nicki Minaj from his 2019 album Kirk. The bars in the song are deliriously good — Nicki kills it, man — and I feel like Dababy is having a moment right now in hip hop that is unforgettable. He reminds me of Nelly from when I was younger, just a young southern rapper who puts on a helluva performance. 

One Film: I saw the film Hustlers with a bunch of friends. It’s a JLo movie so I wasn’t expecting anything good, but it had Cardi B and Lizzo and a bunch of women of color headlining, so I gave it a shot. It was awesome.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Katie Schweighofer: Strength in gender studies

Katie Schweighofer poses for a photo on Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Katie Schweighofer (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Katie Schweighofer, who arrived at Lawrence in the fall of 2018, is playing a key role in growing and developing the Gender Studies department.

With deep interests in feminist and queer theory and LGBTQ studies, she has focused much of her academic work on the histories and geography of sexual identity, and the institutional and cultural messages that have and continue to frame those conversations.

Before joining Lawrence as an assistant professor of gender studies, Schweighofer taught at Dickinson College following appointments at Butler University and Indiana University. A native of Rochester, Mich., Schweighofer earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a certificate in women’s studies from Princeton University. She also holds a master of arts from New York University and earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in gender studies from Indiana.

We caught up with Schweighofer to talk about her work and her 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?

I’ve chosen to do this work because it is personally meaningful to me, and I hope each of my students is able to similarly connect with some of the ideas in my courses. Our lives and selves are shaped by gender, sexuality, race, class, and a myriad of other factors — identifying, deconstructing, analyzing, and rethinking those institutional and cultural messages is empowering and revolutionary work.  My work is most rewarding when I hear how our work in the classroom continues to affect students long after they’ve left the university. 

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

I’m thrilled to be here as the first full faculty member entirely in Gender Studies, both for what that represents — including decades of hard work by other faculty — and for the possibilities for the future the role offers. Right now, I’m focused on building our gender studies program, helping our students connect with one another and with our alums doing exciting work in the world. 

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?

My career trajectory has taken me to places like Kathmandu, Nepal, where I worked with a group called the Women’s Foundation, a group of deeply passionate women who worked tirelessly to help others escape domestic violence and support themselves through sustainable agriculture and textile work. I have also found my way to material closer to my home in Michigan, studying Midwestern LGBTQ histories that challenge the narrative that queer life only happens in cities like New York and San Francisco.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Hmm, perhaps writing for the New York Times Gender & Society desk? Or training for a spot on the Great British Bake-Off. Or playing professional rugby. Honestly, all of those jobs would take a lot of work to get to but they sure would be fun.

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

My favorite campus spot was shown to me by a student on my interview visit — the path along the river, from below Briggs east to the old railroad trestle. It is a wonderfully peaceful walk with just the sounds of the river and the rustle of leaves to keep you company.

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 really a person with all-time favorites, but on my nightstand recently are copies of Margaret Atwood’s new book The Testaments (the follow-up to her classic The Handmaid’s Tale), Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox (a queer story of an 18th century thief — I’ve donated a copy to LU’s library!), and the immigration story Mama’s Nightingale by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat, which I’ve been reading with my twin 7-month-olds. 

I’ve been listening to The Highwomen’s debut album a fair amount recently — they’re a newly formed country music group of four independent artists who are writing smart and compelling songs with a feminist bent. Check them out.

I really like classical Hollywood cinema —American films from the mid-twentieth century — and recently re-watched the classic Calamity Jane (1953) and my wife’s favorite, Singin’ in the Rain (1952). If you haven’t seen them I highly recommend you watch The Celluloid Closet first, a 1995 documentary about LGBTQ people and representations in Hollywood. Then watch them with an eye to the ways in which the films portray gender and sexuality — and you’ll love Calam and Cosmo Brown even more.

See more On Main Hall Green With … features: Dominica Chang, Stefan Debbert, Tim Spurgin, Deanna Donohue, Abhishek Chakraborty.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Abhishek Chakraborty: Diving deep into data

Abhishek Chakraborty stands on Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Abhishek Chakraborty (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Compiled by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Abhishek Chakraborty is a new data guru on campus.

The assistant professor of statistics joined the Lawrence University faculty this fall as the revamped computer science program was rolled out to students.

He arrives with a background in research focused on developing statistical methodologies for analysis of complex data sets, with broad work in the fields of machine learning, data mining, predictive modeling and the application of Bayesian variables.

Chakraborty has a Ph.D. in statistics from Iowa State University, a master’s in statistics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Kanpur, India, and a bachelor’s degree in statistics from St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, India. 

As a welcome to campus, we threw six questions at him, part of our On Main Hall Green With … faculty series.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

I am here to help them learn and assist them in making their Lawrence experience a grand success. Undergrad life runs pretty fast and is one of the memorable phases in life. I have been there, and wish I could go back again. My greatest satisfaction is when I can support them in their journey and play my part in preparing them for the life ahead. My doors are always open. I have interesting stories to tell. They should never feel that they are alone in this adventure.

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

I am one of the two statisticians at Lawrence. I am working on developing new statistics courses (newest coming up in spring 2020) and plan to contribute toward proposing a statistics/data science minor in the upcoming years. In my short time at LU, I have seen a lot of interest among students about statistics. These courses will open up different avenues of interest. Diving deep into the world of statistics and preparing future statisticians really gets me excited.

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

I learned as a student that knowledge has no boundaries. And my learning process still continues. There is some kind of inexplicable satisfaction when you stumble upon a realization. Having said that, I have come to believe that knowing and realizing are quite different things. Realization takes ages. I have become physically fitter during my grad student life. And that has helped in the development of my mind as well.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Two years back, I would have said playing soccer or becoming a musician. Recently, I spend my free time cooking and learning about beers. So, maybe I would have been a chef or opened a brewery.

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

Firstly, I would say it’s my office. I have a great view of the Fox River. I like it best when the sun rays come in and light up my office. That’s usually during the mornings and early afternoons. I also like the walk along the river; very peaceful.

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: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I recommend everyone read it at least once in their lifetime.

Song: I am a big fan of the (now pretty old) British rock band Pink Floyd. It’s hard to choose just one of their songs. Maybe Poles Apart from the album The Division Bell. Marooned is another favorite. Chances are my choice of the song and the artist might change if you ask me another time.

Film: The Shawshank Redemption. Because, “… hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

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

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

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

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more:

On Main Hall Green With … Dominica Chang

On Main Hall Green With … Stefan Debbert

On Main Hall Green With … Stefan Debbert: “Constantly challenged to grow”

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Stefan Debbert (Photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Stefan Debbert knows a thing or two about inclusive pedagogy.

The Lawrence University associate professor of chemistry is leading the way in reshaping the school’s teachings in the sciences to better engage students of all backgrounds and identities. When Lawrence was one of 33 schools in the country selected in 2018 for a $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to implement its Inclusive Excellence Initiative, Debbert was tabbed as the project director.

A member of the Chemistry faculty since 2007, Debbert has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a Ph.D. from Cornell University.

We fired six questions at him as part of our faculty series.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

Every student should know that I deeply respect the work they’re doing, in and out of my class. From the synthesis of a new molecule or the construction of a tight two-page essay, nothing we try to do in my classes is easy, so it’s important that students feel like they can ask questions and make mistakes without incurring judgment from me. Our students work really hard, and I’m always impressed by their development as scientists and as people during their years at Lawrence. 

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

Right now, I’m excited to help lead Lawrence’s efforts to make our introductory science classes the best, most effective, most inclusive, most engaging, most life-changing experiences we can offer. That’s a lot of commas, but with our $1 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Inclusive Excellence program, we are aiming high. We’re rethinking our intro courses in biology, chemistry, and physics from the ground up so that every student is included, challenged and supported from the very beginning. We’re putting a lot of work into this, with help from a lot of people, students included, and we’re really excited about the possibilities.

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

I really appreciate how my job at Lawrence has led me to chase my passions, and am constantly surprised by how my day-to-day job changes. My organic chemistry lab training led me to a job where I, on occasion, make new compounds, cultivate cancer cells, write research grants, teach chemistry, teach drug development, teach poetry and art and Shakespeare, work with and advise students from new freshmen to graduating seniors, manage a research group, chair a department, help develop institutional policy, play instruments in class, etc., etc., very much etc. I think the 2005-era, new-Ph.D., slightly-better-shape version of me would be very surprised that I’d be doing all that — and that I’d do it less than an hour from my hometown of Fond du Lac.

I feel like I am constantly challenged to grow as an educator, a scientist and a person. It’s difficult, it’s always humbling, and I really appreciate it.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Teaching as a hobby, probably. Alternately, I could parlay my career as a Parks-and-Rec youth baseball coach into a position with the Brewers’ management, I assume.

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

I have a few! My lab, obviously (Steitz 226), is awesome, but I also like hanging out by my favorite organic chemistry books in the Mudd Library (QD 262 4 LIFE). My daughter’s favorite spots, when she was little, were the skull display case in Briggs and the ramp at the bottom of Steitz (perfect for scootering). Finally, I like the gym at Buchanan-Kiewit, the site of lots of soccer highlights (and hilarious lowlights) over the years. 

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

My favorite book is Primo Levi’s The Periodic Table … wait, come back! It’s a memoir, and it’s really good! It deals with the author’s life as a Jewish chemistry student in WWII Italy, his experience in a concentration camp, and his life as a chemist thereafter. It’s full of his appreciation for the tactile sensuality of chemistry, and it really speaks to me. 

One recording: Johnny Cash, At San Quentin (the unabridged version), or if I’m feeling more chill, Chet Baker Sings.

One film: Sorry, no answer on this one.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Dominica Chang: Heavy lifting in French studies

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Dominica Chang (photo by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Dominica Chang, the Margaret Banta Humleker Professor of French Cultural Studies and an associate professor of French, is a classroom favorite, whether leading study abroad trips to Senegal or diving deep into French literature.

But she also has a variety of interests outside the classroom, not the least of which is the pursuit of some serious weightlifting skills. She was recently certified as an Olympic-style weightlifting coach.

Chang has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, a master’s degree from Middlebury College, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We fired off six questions for her as part of our new On Main Hall Green With … faculty series. She was kind enough to help us get the series started.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

I hope that every student knows that I truly want them to succeed, not only in my class but also in life. I want them to master the content of the specific course, certainly, but also to learn how to think critically and independently, to speak with intelligence, confidence and humility across differences, and to be sensitive and generous to each other. These basic principles guide my pedagogy, from Freshman Studies to French 101 to French Senior Capstone. My hope is that when a student believes that a teacher is in their corner, hoping they will succeed, they will also better understand — and therefore better conquer — the intellectual and social challenges we will engage in together.

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

Spending 10 weeks in Senegal with Lawrence students has been a wonderful experience for me. While there, we spend most of each day as well as many weekends together, so I am able to get to know the students in a completely different environment. It’s very fulfilling to help such bright, enthusiastic young people experience and navigate a culture that is so different from our home campus.

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?

Dakar, Senegal! I could never have predicted that my training in 19th-century French literature and cultural studies would have led me to spending 10 weeks every few years leading our Francophone Seminar in Senegal. Each time I’ve gone, I have as much of a transformative experience as the students I accompany. I’ve made lifelong friends there and consider myself incredibly fortunate to have these opportunities.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I think a lot about the random contingencies in life that affect what we do and who we become, so I love this question. If I weren’t teaching, I would most likely be rescuing animals or working as an animal welfare advocate of some sort. Either that … or perhaps helping to run a local pizza joint!

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

My intellectual side loves my office; my home away from home. When I need a break from thinking too hard, I love spending time in the Alexander Gym weight room, especially since I’ve gotten more seriously into weightlifting this past year. It’s a great facility and I enjoy running into our hardworking coaches and student-athletes.

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: Sentimental Education (1869) by Gustave Flaubert. It’s the text that took my love for French studies to the next level and inspired my graduate work in the field. I am very fortunate to be able to teach it on occasion in The Long Novel, a course that I co-teach with professors Tim Spurgin and Peter Thomas.

Recording: New Order, Substance (1987). I’m a child of the ’80s. Just the other day, I realized that at least a few songs from this album have made it onto every single playlist I’ve put together since 1987.

Film: The Battle of Algiers (1966) by Gillo Pontecorvo. Perhaps my favorite film of all time. Time and again, I am astounded by its cinematic beauty and especially by the sensitivity and complexity with which it represents the brutality of colonial occupation.

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