Category: Faculty Profiles

On Main Hall Green with … Benjamin Rinehart: Creativity, art, and equity

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Benjamin D. Rinehart (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

Benjamin D. Rinehart, a professor of printmaking and artist books, knows a thing or two about the creative field of book-making. He’s written the book on it.

A member of the Lawrence art faculty since 2006, Rinehart specializes in socially charged images with an emphasis on printmaking, book constructions, painting, and drawing. His work is included in numerous public and private collections and has been exhibited both nationally and internationally.

He’s the author of Creating Books & Boxes, a book that explores a range of art techniques.

Rinehart received a bachelor’s degree at Herron School of Art and a master’s degree at Louisiana State University and previously taught at Pratt Institute in New York and New Jersey, Rutgers/Mason Gross School of the Arts, Long Island University, Fordham University, Fashion Institute of Technology, and Manhattan Graphics Center.

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

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

I aim to create a welcoming, challenging, and equitable learning environment in my classes. Teaching and making art are two of my greatest passions in life aside from my family—including the fur babies. I enjoy finding solutions to problems and challenges whether big or small. I especially enjoy anything centered around artistic practice.

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

Becoming a Posse mentor is one of my proudest achievements on campus. In the past year and a half, I have learned so much about myself and the scholars that I support. It has made me a better advisor, teacher, advocate, artist, and socially engaged human being. The connections that I’ve made through this program are extremely meaningful and fulfilling.

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 moved to NYC with less than $1,500 in my bank account after grad school with no job prospects. Expecting to only stay for a year, I was reluctant to settle down. Things in my life started falling into place after a few months and I made connections all along the eastern seaboard that I maintain to this day. The eight years that I spent in NYC—Brooklyn primarily—was an exciting, uncertain, challenging, and extremely rewarding time in my life.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I would definitely want to become a chef. I love making a wide variety of foods, and it’s a fun challenge to try out new recipes. Cuisine outside of the United States offers a glimpse into commonalities between cultures. They all seem to have a similar foundation when beginning the cooking process, but the ingredients vary according to region and availability. One of our family favorites is a Masaman curry with homemade naan and mango lassis. Serving others something tasty brings me great joy. It is satisfying to see smiling faces after spending time in the kitchen whether it be from the flavor or presentation. Only the best recipes make it into the family cookbook.

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

I enjoy the view from the hill behind Memorial Hall. Seeing the garden, river, and shoreline offers a peaceful vantage point. Seeing bald eagles isn’t something that I ever saw growing up, and their majestic presence is undeniable. Also, I hear the hill is amazing for sledding during the winter. I haven’t tried it out yet but imagine that I would be screaming (mostly with joy) the entire way down.

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 book Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin is a work that has influenced my view of the world since I first read it. Perhaps it’s cliché, but his writing style and observations resonated with me deeply. Baldwin represented a world that was real and fraught with problems while simultaneously and desperately trying to connect with others. He was a person who was decades ahead of his time and is still one of my heroes.

I never grow tired of listening to Sade. Her hypnotic voice floods my brain, encouraging creative flow and contemplation.

It’s hard to pinpoint a single film, so I choose any of the Marvel movies.

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

Find more On Main Hall Green With … features here.

On Main Hall Green With … Eilene Hoft-March: Focused on the student journey

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Eilene Hoft-March (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

Eilene Hoft-March joined the Lawrence University faculty with a student-focused teaching style and a deep love of French literature and autobiographies. Thirty-two years later, that all remains true.

The Milwaukee-Downer College and College Endowment Association Professor of Liberal Studies and professor of French has been the recipient through the years of some of Lawrence’s most esteemed teaching awards—the then-named Young Teacher Award in 1991, the Freshman Studies Teaching Award in 1997, and the Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2011.

She has taught courses in Gender Studies, has directed Lawrence’s Francophone Seminar in Dakar, Senegal, and has advised students coming to Lawrence via the Posse Program.

She holds a bachelor of arts degree in French and English from what was then Carroll College and master’s and doctoral degrees in French from the University of California-Berkeley.

We caught up with Hoft-March 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?

I’d like students to know that, while I have a professional responsibility to guide them through the course material, each class is uniquely shaped by who shows up in the classroom. The mistakes we make—and I include myself—the questions we ask, and the challenges we encounter all give distinctive worth to the whole enterprise. The more we dig in, the more our work becomes part of our personal strategies for dealing with what’s beyond the classroom.

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

Being at the far end of my career at Lawrence, I am grateful for having been able to participate in the launch of Gender Studies and Global Studies, and in the integration of Francophone Studies into my own department, as well as being part of the Posse program. Looking forward, I want to return to the project of reconstructing and writing the story of my grandparents’ immigration to this country.

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 first went to Dakar, Senegal in 1998 when the French and Francophone Studies department’s Francophone seminar was new. I had no practical experience and little knowledge of French-speaking West African cultures. My Dakar friends’ and family’s warm hospitality, their patience in making me culturally presentable, and their curiosity about my indelible American-ness was a lot to undertake. I fell in love with their vibrant culture. Every March, the season when we leave for Dakar, I still feel a tug of nostalgia for the sandy, Sahel heat and the musical sounds of Wolof.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I suspect I’d still be teaching, but a back-up career would focus on feeding people. Making food is, in my humble opinion, a sacred and fulfilling task. You can do a lot with food to rekindle energy, friendship, and love.

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

My office. I am blessed with two stunning views of the campus from my office windows. The north window gives a view of the Chapel, Lawrence’s iconic performance space open to Lawrentians and, just as importantly, to the community beyond the University. From the south window, you can see the library, also a public space symbolizing a lot of what Lawrence is about. It’s lovely to look on these buildings that support endless potential for engagement with knowledge and art.

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 favorite book? That’s like asking me who my favorite relative is, though I wouldn’t want to push that analogy too far. I have special relationships to books that have accompanied me through tough phases of life or books whose readings shared with others have enriched my relationships. For now, I’ll go with, in English, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead and, in French, Marie Darrieussecq’s Bref séjour chez les vivants (Brief Sojourn Among the Living).

One recording? So many choices. Jaap Schröder on violin playing Bach Sonatas and Partitas, Joni Mitchell’s Mingus, and Tracing Astor by Gidon Kremer. The Piazzolla recordings are great for gliding around the kitchen while cooking.

Films? Branagh’s Dead Again and Nolan’s Memento. I’m a sucker for psychological thrillers.

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

On Main Hall Green With … David Gerard: Economics in real time

Portrait on Main Hall Green: David Gerard (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

David Gerard, the John R. Kimberly Distinguished Professor of the American Economic System and associate professor of economics, has spent considerable time over the past year studying and teaching about the economics of the COVID-19 pandemic.

No surprise there. A specialist in risk regulation and public policy, particularly in areas of energy and the environment, Gerard regularly brings real-time issues into his teaching.

In 2015, his research and teaching on environmental issues earned him Lawrence’s annual Faculty Convocation Award. He then delivered a Convocation address on the growing economic and political challenges associated with climate change.

Gerard joined the Lawrence faculty in 2009 following eight years at Carnegie Mellon University, where he was executive director of the Center for the Study & Improvement of Regulation in the College of Engineering. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College and a master’s and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

We caught up with Gerard to talk about his 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 developed this class especially for you, the Lawrence student, and I believe in my heart that you can do well. This is especially true for the introductory economics students, who often want me to know that they have never taken an economics class. I tell them, hey, this is intro, you are in the right place.

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

The pandemic has really shaken things up for me. My research and teaching focus on risk regulation and on the interface of the public and private sectors, so there is a lot going on.  There is so much going on, in fact, that I pushed back my Spring 2020 sabbatical to teach a seminar on the economics of pandemics. We followed along with the economics and policy scholarship that was emerging in real time, and we also surveyed the social science and historical scholarship on how epidemics and pandemics have shaped the arc of history. There are elements of that material in just about every course I will teach going forward. It was a pretty central focus of my Public Economics course this past fall. In our Senior Experience seminar this term we are examining recent economics scholarship on topics ranging from vaccine allocation decisions to the effects on public trust in scientists to the lasting impacts on civil liberties. Professor Shober and I are hosting a reading and discussion group on the U.S. experience with infectious diseases. I’m looking forward to finding out how this one ends.

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 first time teaching First-Year Studies we covered The Tempest. This was the year we had that giant class of 450 first-year students, so we moved the lecture to the Chapel.  The place was packed. Professor Bond brought the house down with a lecture that featured two student actors and a big log. The Actors from the London Stage were on campus to perform the play and to conduct these hands-on acting workshops for our sections. There was this extended, exhilarating Shakespeare buzz across campus for a week or more. I wasn’t expecting the campus-wide Shakespeare buzz. 

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

My wife, Kirsten, tells me that I am happiest when I am teaching, so I count it as a blessing that I will never have to find out. My students will tell you it would have to be something with an “inelastic demand for my services.” The correct answer is a professional bocce player. 

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

That would be the Fishbowl on Briggs 2nd.  The back wall is a big window that looks into the hallway, so passersby can look right in. It is such a ridiculous room, I love teaching in there. Our tutors also hold office hours in there at night sometimes, and I like dropping in to see how that’s going and chat with the students in a more relaxed setting. My second choice would be a chair next to the window in the Nathan B. Pusey Room overlooking the Fox River. Professor Parks and I used to go drink our coffee and while away the hours there back when we were young and carefree.   

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 book is Michael Chabon’s Wonderboys. It is about navigating successes and failures and coming to terms with who you are and who you might become. I have read it at different stages of my life and take different things away every time. It is one of the rare books where the book is considerably more violent than the film. And it is set in Pittsburgh!  

The recording is Miles Davis’ Right Off from the Jack Johnson album. A friend gave it to me and I could not believe I had never heard it. The energy is incredible. Everything about it is incredible.

The film that speaks to me is Breaking Away. I still cry every time I see it. Well, now you know.

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

For more On Main Hall Green With … features, see here.

On Main Hall Green With … Celia Barnes: In search of Enlightenment

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Celia Barnes (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

Celia Barnes, associate professor of English, has forged an impressive track record in working across departments, merging her deep interest in 18th-century literature with related subject matter in areas as seemingly far-ranging as philosophy and physics.

She’s been doing that since joining the Lawrence University faculty just over a decade ago, teaming with other faculty to present such classes as “Newtonian Lit: Chronicles of a Clockwork Universe” (physics) and “Enlightenment Selves” (philosophy).

Her love of literature was nurtured as an undergrad at the College of William & Mary, where she majored in English. But it wasn’t until her graduate school days at Indiana University that she went all in on 18th-century British literature, including women writers of that period.

Her classroom work at Lawrence earned her the 2020 University Award for Excellence in Teaching, one of three annual faculty awards presented at Commencement.

We caught up with Barnes 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?

That if you had told me when I was a college student and an English major all those years ago that I would be a scholar and teacher of 18th-century literature, I would have laughed in your face. As many of my students have heard—this is a favorite Professor Barnes story—in my undergrad 18th-century British lit class we never read one work by a woman. So, this period came to me by surprise years later, in graduate school, when I recognized that there was a beauty and weirdness to the literature—and that women and people of color, and not just bewigged white men, were writing it. I was hooked; the rest is history. When I tell this story to my students, I insist that they will be hooked, too, after a novel or two. And many of them are.

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

Last Winter Term, I taught a class called “Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa and the #metoo Eighteenth Century” in which we read one of the longest—and, really one of the most depressing—novels in English in just 10 weeks. Clarissa is long, depressing—and it’s an epistolary novel, which is a form 21st-century readers aren’t really used to reading. I thought I would be lucky to have four people sign up for this class, but we were full, and we had such a wonderful time. The students came to class every day ready to dig in. It was one of the most rewarding teaching experiences I’ve had here, and I’m excited to offer the course again next year.

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 have a small person at home, so literal travel when there isn’t a pandemic raging is limited to the annual conference trip, but I did have the opportunity to prepare, with my friend Jack Lynch at Rutgers, an Oxford World’s Classics edition of two texts that chronicle one of the most famous 18th-century vacations: Samuel Johnson’s and James Boswell’s accounts of their journey to the Scottish highlands together in 1773. The two friends went to the Hebrides together, but they both wrote up very different accounts of their trip, so both texts are fun to read and consider together. I had never prepared a student edition before, so it was certainly new territory, as it were, for me.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Canning vegetables. Can you make a living doing that? No, seriously, I really do love cooking, baking, and preparing jams, sauces, and the like. As anyone who is a friend of mine on Facebook knows, cooking has been something that has really grounded me during the pandemic.

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

I miss Andrew Commons so much. I miss eating there with colleagues and seeing students and chatting with them over lunch. I miss the wonderful staff. I miss that ridiculously delicious tofu on the salad bar. It’s really my favorite place, hands down.

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

Everyone should read—or try to read, because it’s not for everyone—Laurence Sterne’s strange and wonderful novel Tristram Shandy, which is basically about a guy who is trying to tell us his life story but he’s so digressive that it takes him almost half the book before he’s finally born. Meg Pickett and I teach it in our “Newtonian Lit” course, and it’s just a transformative reading experience for some of our students. Highly recommend. But if you can’t make it to the end—it really isn’t for everyone—then Michael Winterbottom made a really wonderful film version in 2005 with Steve Coogan and Gillian Anderson. A recording? Last March, Sir Patrick Stewart began reading one Shakespeare sonnet each day, starting with Sonnet 1 and going in order, and posting his readings on Instagram. He finished in October. It’s a fabulous, fabulous series.

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

For more On Main Hall Green With … features, see here.

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.

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

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

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

Champion of Pride award shines light on advocacy work of Helen Boyd Kramer

Helen Boyd Kramer on hard-fought progress made on LGBTQ+ issues: “Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Helen Boyd Kramer jokes that it’s a “lifetime achievement award.”

There might be truth in that if her work was done. It is not.

Kramer, a lecturer in gender studies at Lawrence University since 2008, was named a 2020 Champion of Pride by The Advocate, a leading national voice on LGBTQ+ issues that each June honors 104 activists – two from each state and the District of Columbia.

Kramer joined Dane County’s Baltazar De Anda Santana as this year’s Wisconsin recipients.

A leading activist on transgender issues since publishing her first book, My Husband Betty, in 2003, Kramer was cited for her recent work advocating for the LGBTQ+ community in Appleton, including a successful effort earlier this year to get the Common Council to approve a ban on practicing conversion therapy on minors. That followed efforts in October to help make National Coming Out Day more visible in Appleton, resulting in a rainbow flag flying over City Hall for the first time.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Kramer said of being honored by The Advocate, but she sees it as a sign of progress in her efforts to advocate for diversity, the rights of transgender people in particular.

“When you’ve been in a movement that’s young but you were part of the original people doing it, you tend to get used to the fact that this is what you do, this is what you’ve been doing,” Kramer said. “So, this (award) kind of came out of nowhere. I wasn’t expecting it. … The trans community was a baby when I started doing this work and when I wrote the book. Now the education about trans is at a whole different level. Every once in a while, as an activist and educator, it’s nice to go, hey, some of this education stuff works.”

An agent of change

Kramer arrived at Lawrence in 2008, a year after publishing her second book, She’s Not the Man I Married, chronicling her experiences with transgender spouse Rachel Crowl. The move took her from New York City to Appleton, necessitating a change in her activism. Here, she got to know the elected officials she would be pushing for change.

“Being an activist in Appleton was going to be a different thing,” Kramer said. “It was going to be more about personal relationships.”

In the 12 years since, she’s been a frequent voice on LGBTQ+ education, be it in the community before city councils and school boards or on campus in gender studies classrooms, Freshman Studies workshops, or in campus-wide Cultural Competency discussions.

Appleton, Kramer said, has grown in its understanding of and support for the LGBTQ+ community, perhaps fueled by the giant leap forward that came with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down same-sex marriage bans in 2015. The Common Council has gotten noticeably more progressive. The topics Kramer and other LGBTQ+ activists speak to, including the conversion therapy ban, no longer shock.

“Instead of being reactive, we actually have council members now who are bringing legislation forward,” she said. “That’s what happened with conversion therapy.”

Read more: 10 ways Lawrence celebrates Pride Month all year long

She singled out the work of Appleton alderperson Vered Meltzer ’04, a Lawrence alum who in 2014 became the first openly trans person to hold elected office in Wisconsin, according to Fair Wisconsin, a Madison-based advocacy group.

Meltzer returns the praise, calling Kramer tenacious in her efforts to support marginalized people in the Appleton community.

“Helen’s advocacy is effective because she never stops working, whether she’s on campus or off campus,” Meltzer said. “And one of the best things about working with her is that she doesn’t give up or get discouraged, no matter how much work there is to do or how long it takes to see results. Her tireless dedication, and her personal care and support for marginalized individuals in our community, has helped bring activists throughout the community together over the years with a sense of unity and shared goals.”

Kramer sees the progress happening in Appleton as reflective of what’s happening across the country. While there is much work yet to be done, momentum has been building in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, from the same-sex marriage ruling five years ago to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that protects transgender, gay and lesbian employees from workplace discrimination.

“There has been an education of people in terms of civil rights,” Kramer said. “Poll after poll after poll say people believe that you shouldn’t be able to get fired for being gay or lesbian.”

The celebration of the Supreme Court’s June 15 ruling on workplace discrimination may have been a bit muted because of COVID-19 social restrictions, but there is little doubt it marked a major moment, one that arrived amid heightened awareness of equity issues. The ruling was delivered by a conservative-leaning court midway through Pride Month, 50 years after the Pride movement first emerged en masse.

“The movement has worked,” Kramer said. “The reason gay people started coming out and the reason gay people still feel the necessity to be out is precisely because the more straight people know them or more straight people know that they are related to someone who is LGBTQ+ the more likely it is that they would support same-sex marriage, employment discrimination rules, and such. This has been a long time coming.”

Helen Boyd Kramer on efforts to support LGBTQ+ students: “The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common.” (Photo by Rachel Crowl)

Education on campus

The enlightenment at Lawrence over the past decade hasn’t been quite as stark because the university has long been a safe haven for LGBTQ+ students, Kramer said. Again, it’s been a work-in-progress, but the work of inclusion has been in play here for a long time.

The dramatic change at Lawrence since she arrived a dozen years ago has come in the trans community. In 2008, it was mostly a curiosity, even on a liberal arts campus.

“It’s kind of hard to explain how much has changed in that time,” Kramer said. “The first class I introduced at Lawrence was Transgender Lives, and at that time I had one student who shyly admitted to doing drag once. I had a bunch of students who took it because trans was an interesting topic. A lot of them were future therapists, a bunch of psychology majors. Now, when I teach Trans Lives, half of the students in the class identify as LGBTQ+ as either trans or non-binary. … There’s been a giant cultural shift.”

All that progress doesn’t mean the fight is over. Far from it. Kramer points to the Trump Administration’s recent ruling that removed federal health care protections for people who identify as transgender. Protections written into the Affordable Care Act addressed sex discrimination, and in 2016, the Obama Administration interpreted that provision to include gender identity. But in early June, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a statement saying it is returning to an earlier interpretation of sex discrimination, thus excluding the trans community.  

“This isn’t just for trans procedures,” Kramer said. “It’s for pneumonia or COVID. These stories are already common in the trans world, where doctors wouldn’t take what they had seriously, cancer in particular. It would just go untreated because doctors wouldn’t work with trans patients. Seeing HHS do this right now when everyone is scared of dying is particularly heartless.”

The COVID dilemma

The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a cruel light on the LGBTQ+ world. Besides health care access issues, it has highlighted wealth disparities, which are particularly stark among Black LGBTQ+ people. The same systematic racism issues that have ignited nationwide protests are in play within the LGBTQ+ community, Kramer said.

“When we get to a point when we’re actually doing recovery, eventually, we’re going to have to figure out the wealth problem and the access to employment and training and education,” she said. “These are all systems that are so soaked in the same discrimination we’re talking about. It’s employment, it’s health care, it’s food on the table.”

The pandemic sent students home for spring term, put summer research and internships on pause, and infused uncertainty into almost all near-future plans. That, in turn, has heightened anxieties for LGBTQ+ students who don’t have adequate support at home. Kramer and other advocates on campus have tried to stay in frequent contact, but seeing students having to isolate in a home environment that’s toxic adds new layers of concern.

“The tremendous burden of family rejection is still really common,” Kramer said.

While a growing number of families are accepting and supportive, it’s those students who aren’t feeling that love who are particularly vulnerable right now.

“Some students used to refer to Lawrence as Hogwarts because they could be gay here,” Kramer said. “And they couldn’t always be at home. Now those students are at home during the pandemic. It’s one of the reasons why there was more than one student I helped make sure they could stay on campus this spring because their home situation just isn’t good.

“How do you accept the fact that your family basically doesn’t like you so much? Sometimes they hate you. That’s a wounding you can’t really process. I think Lawrence has been amazing about that, being aware that we do provide acceptance in a way that some students are not always getting elsewhere.”

Lawrence recently introduced the LGBTQ+ Alliance House as a residential space. A Gender and Sexuality Diversity Center opened in Colman Hall late last year. Trans Rights United (TRU) became the University’s first trans student organization. Those additions are all built onto an already well-established support system.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes culturally that get reflected on the campus,” Kramer said. “I think the campus has done an amazing job for the most part in creating these spaces, and creating diversity training for everyone else. There are still pockets of education that’s needed, but I love the fact that we let students lead. They’re telling us what they need. They feel empowered, and we’re getting much better at that.”

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

On Main Hall Green With … Doug Martin: Discovering delight in physics

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Doug Martin (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

Doug Martin’s combination of curiosity and scientific know-how has made him a key member of Lawrence University’s physics department since 2007.

He teaches courses ranging from optics to quantum mechanics to experimental physics, among others. A biophysicist, his scholarly interests focus on the mechanics and dynamics of cellular processes — transport, motility, division and signaling — that explain how life works.

Physics faculty keep student connections alive amid distance learning. See story here.

Originally from Denver, Colo., Martin earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in mathematics and physics at Pomona College and completed his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Texas.

We caught up with Martin to talk about his work in the classrooms and labs of Lawrence and his interests away from campus.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

I love physics. I’m astonished that we can understand the natural world, quantitatively, with relatively simple mathematics. I’m delighted by new discoveries – from the physics that causes flower petals to curl to the Higgs boson. And, more to the point, I think every Lawrence student is an intuitive physicist, whether they appreciate it or not. Music, sports, visual art – all involve physical processes that we grasp intuitively. So, why do I want students to know this? Because, despite the grind of mathematics, abstract reasoning, spatial visualization, approximation, and the worry about understanding, the worry about belonging – all the things that come along with a physics class – my hope is to help students in my classes claim or reclaim delight in physics.

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

Teaching! Whatever I’m teaching next is the best. As I answer this, I’m preparing to talk about diffraction and why optical telescopes are now 100 feet across, and why a radio telescope the size of the earth was necessary to capture the first image of a black hole. Why is teaching what gets me most excited? I have the privilege of teaching about our endlessly amazing world, and every class is an opportunity for me to recapture wonder. What could be better? Well, sometimes building microscopes is better, because then I get to see new things, 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?

This is a hard question for me to answer because I’m a little surprised by almost everything. So, let me pick an easy, Lawrence-centric, example. I taught at the London Centre in the fall of 2018. The surprise?  How great it was. I’d thought: London is in an English-speaking country, how different will it really be?  Here are two quick examples. First: one of my classes decided we should meet in a different coffee house every day, from the delightfully named Fuckoffee to the café in an abandoned public toilet to the crypt of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. With all due respect to Acoca and Lou’s, these are something new.  Second: everything was at our doorstep. Theater? A dozen premiere shows every night. The world’s oldest sewage plant? Yes! Museums? Free! Paris? Eurostar departs a 15-minute walk from the dorms. So, I shouldn’t have been surprised at how rich the experience was, but I was.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I really don’t know. Maybe working at a national lab doing fundamental research. Maybe calibrating the machines used in radiation therapy at a hospital. Maybe developing medical lasers. These were opportunities in the past, but now? Could be almost anything.

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

Bjork! The physical separation from home and office seems to let me leave stresses behind and just be present. My sense is that something like that is true for students too, so it makes it easier to interact informally.

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 pretty voracious when it comes to all three, so let me pick something good and recent, for me.

Book: White Teeth, by Zadie Smith. It is set in London, so all of the exploring my classes did there took us to the neighborhoods in the book. And it is laugh-out-loud funny. And it borders on the strange line between the horror of watching a car crash and the very sweet.   

Recording: The Pet Shop Boys have a new album, Hotspot. I have a lot of nostalgia for the musicians of my childhood, and the Pet Shop Boys still put on a pretty good show. More to the point for this question: they’ve crafted an album that (after a bit of a rocky start) moves really well, from dance-y start to warm and fuzzy finish. And I’m old enough to enjoy entire albums at one sitting.

Film: Spaceballs. What can I say, Rick Moranis is a comedic genius. Or maybe that my laughter at this movie reveals that I am a 12-year-old at heart.

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