Category: Student Profiles

2 Minutes With … Shonell Benjamin: Heart, hustle, and a passion to inspire

Shonell Benjamin, a member of the Lawrence women's basketball team, holds a basketball as she poses for a photo in the Wellness Center gym.
Shonell Benjamin, a biology major and women’s basketball player at Lawrence, is working toward becoming a physical therapist. She also plans to launch an athleisure brand. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Shonell Benjamin ’20 believes she’s found the perfect way to express her passion for basketball and empower members of the athletic community — she plans to launch her own brand of athleisure wear with a message built around “heart and hustle.”

This move is inspired by a lifelong love for the sport, she said. As a child, this biology major could be found playing streetball in her home streets of Brooklyn, New York. She first experienced the nuances of playing on a basketball team at her high school in 10th grade.

“Basketball gave me something to focus on and keep me motivated in school,” Benjamin said. “It taught me a lot of lessons — how to win, how to lose, and how to deal with adversity.”

She continues those pursuits now as a member of the Lawrence women’s basketball team.

Heart and Hustle

Her planned athleisure brand says it all — Heart and Hustle. It embodies the passion and hard work Benjamin puts into basketball and her academic pursuits. She hopes the name will encourage wearers of the clothing to put that same amount of heart into whatever they do. But the planned collection of comfortable hoodies and sweatpants isn’t just for athletes.

“It’s not only about basketball,” Benjamin said. “It’s about putting your heart and grind into whatever you’re passionate about.”

Benjamin believes building a brand is one way to give back to the community. That’s another motivating force behind her plans for the clothing line.

Working at basketball camps for three summers in Brooklyn introduced her to the joys of empowering younger players and strengthening their dedication to the sport. Inspired by that experience, the clothing is another kind of outreach that will allow others to wear the “heart and hustle” in their everyday lives, and perhaps share it with others.

Benjamin has designs ready and plans to get them produced as soon as she can. Basketball practice and applying to physical therapy schools have her attention right now, but she’s looking at summer for a possible release date.

Off the court

During the summer of 2019, Benjamin was on campus doing her senior capstone research with Assistant Professor of Biology Israel Del Toro, studying the thermal tolerance of different species of bees. Professionally, Benjamin would like to eventually start her own physical therapy practice.

But basketball, she said, will always be a part of her life.

“It’s molded me to become the person I am right now and the person I want to be in the future,” Benjamin said. “You can learn a lot through a game, and learn how to inspire people through it, as well. That’s going to translate into my brand. Wherever it ends up going, it’s going to be bigger than me.”

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

2 Minutes With … Esmeralda Liz: Study of art therapy draws her to London internship

Esmeralda Liz poses for a photo during a stop in Greece prior to Winter Term.
Esmeralda Liz ’20 is studying in London this term. She visited other overseas locales, including here in Greece, prior to the term to do art research for her Senior Experience capstone. (Photo courtesy of Esmeralda Liz)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

About 11% of American college students study abroad, and even fewer partake in internships abroad. Esmeralda “Esme” Liz ’20 has joined the short list of students doing both.

Liz, studying during winter term at Lawrence’s London Centre, is taking part in a London internship focused on using the arts in the treatment of mental health. 

“I wanted to experience how to interact with different types of people,” Liz said of pursuing the internship abroad. “The way mental health might be approached in America may be different to the way it is in Europe. And I wanted to see how I can learn some of those things and bring it back.”  

More on study abroad: Financial aid changes clear hurdles at Lawrence. See story here.

Liz is a psychology and studio art double major from New York — and a Posse Foundation scholar — who became fascinated by the possibilities of art therapy.  

“I took studio art spring term of my senior year in high school,” Liz said. “I took it because it was one of my general requirements, but it became the only class I would look forward to, so I was like, I guess this is what it’s supposed to feel like going into your major. Psychology was my back-up plan. … Then I was in PPR (Posse Plus Retreat), and I had a dyad with a woman named Katherine. She was telling me about how one of her friends was an art therapist, and I was like, ‘What is that?’ She told me she felt this was something I should look into because you’re doing psychology and art. Then I looked into it and was, ‘Oh, this seems like fun.’”

Finding connections

Liz’s professors at Lawrence encouraged her to continue to explore the art therapy options. She soon realized having hands-on experiences would be important to understanding what the field might entail.

“It’s giving me a preview of what I plan on doing,” Liz said of the London internship at Core Arts. “I feel like this placement allows me to be hands-on and see what it’s like to both work with art and mental health.” 

Core Arts is a nonprofit organization that focuses on promoting positive mental health and wellbeing through the arts.  

“Core Arts is an art therapy facility that focuses on mental health without speaking about,” Liz said.

The art therapist bonds with the participants through art, and consults with psychologists and counselors as needed.

“A lot of (the art therapists) get back to the counselors with things that they notice, but they don’t specifically talk to the people about their mental health; they just talk to them as artists.” 

Winter term abroad is not Liz’s first time in London. She was able to explore England and other parts of the region in late 2019 through her Senior Experience capstone. 

“Before we went on break for the winter, I made a proposal to the art department to do research while on break for my capstone,” Liz said. “It got approved, and I went around to a lot of the art capitals of the world, places like France, Italy, Spain, and London. While we were traveling, me and another studio art major, we were going to museums, talking to local artists, and collecting information for our capstones.”  

Tips on studying abroad

We asked Liz for a few tips on being a student abroad: 

1: Try to get a card with low or no foreign transaction fees.  

2: When in London, look right when crossing the street.

3: Bring spare luggage. You will buy things.  

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Kelvin Maestre: Work and play in the library’s Makerspace

Kelvin Maestre, wearing protective glasses, watches as a laser cutter starts its work on a piece of wood in the Makerspace on the first floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library.
Kelvin Maestre ’21, watches as a laser cutter starts its work on a piece of wood in the Makerspace on the first floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Being the Makerspace assistant is more of a lifestyle than a job for Kelvin Maestre ’21. He’s found the place where teaching, learning, and a passion for creativity merge — in a little corner of the Seeley G. Mudd library.

The Makerspace is a hub of creative technologies on the first floor of the library. Free for students to use, the equipment includes 3D printers, sewing machines, a laser cutter and a soldering iron.

“The Makerspace is a place for you to come if you want to make something, study, or if you want a creative outlet,” said Maestre, an anthropology major from Revere, Massachusetts. “Your personality really comes out when you’re in that small space.”

A passion that’s been building

It was a longtime interest in 3D printing that brought Maestre into the Makerspace for the first time.

“Where I grew up, there was no 3D printer, there was no Makerspace,” he said. “I heard about these machines years ago and I’ve wanted to get my hands on one for a long time, and when I finally came here and I saw one, that was it.”

That first sighting for Maestre happened on a tour of the library during Summer Institute, a three-week visit to Lawrence before his freshman year. The next day he contacted Angela Vanden Elzen, the Reference & Learning Technologies librarian and assistant professor who serves as the Makerspace coordinator. She didn’t waste any time training him on the 3D printers at the start of fall term.

By his sophomore year, Maestre was a regular at Makerspace. He was given a job there that summer; a role he continues today as the assistant.

Ever since, the boundaries between work and play have disappeared. Each day, Maestre is able to share his passion for 3D printing with his peers. He spends his time training people on the machines and taking on small projects for professors, as well as pursuing a few of his own. Some of his favorite 3D-printed work includes a model jet engine, an ocarina, and a skull soap holder.

“Once you’ve used a 3D printer for so long, you can’t live without it,” he said. “I feel like I can’t separate myself from the lifestyle. Now I want these things and they have to be with me when I leave, otherwise I just feel incomplete.”

Makerspace has helped grow use of VR tech at Lawrence

More than meets the eye

It’s not just the machines Maestre has bonded with. He and Vanden Elzen have become a dynamic Makerspace duo — in his words, “Like Angela is Batman and I’m Robin.”

And Maestre’s one-on-one time with Makerspace visitors forges relationships with students, too.

“The best part about my job is when I get to help people out,” he said. “It always makes me happy when I teach someone something and I see them do it themselves. They come to me for help and I help out, and you see them come back over and over again.”

Find everything you need to know about Makerspace here, and follow along on the Makerspace blog.

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

2 Minutes With … Hannah Jones: Inspired to find her voice in opera

Hannah Jones ’22 sings in a studio class being held in All Saints Episcopal Church in Appleton.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Hannah Jones ’22 remembers the moment she fell in love with opera, and knew immediately that would be her calling.

She was a high school student in Houston and was part of a music trip to New York City.

“I went to New York because I was singing with Houston Travel Choir,” Jones said. “We were singing at Carnegie Hall, and we went to see The Phantom of the Opera.  At first, I was like, ‘I don’t want to see The Phantom of the Opera, this white show; I want to see The Lion King.’

“But when we went to see The Phantom of the Opera, the phantom was a black man, which is not common at all; usually that role is played by a white man. I saw it and was on the edge of my chair. I realized this is what I want to do, this is what I have to do.”  

Jones has been pursuing voice ever since, more specifically opera. In her second year at Lawrence University, she’s majoring in music performance (voice) in the Conservatory of Music.

She has been excelling at it since arriving at Lawrence in the fall of 2018, learning under the tutelage of voice professor John Holiday, also from Houston. She participated in a National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competition, taking a first place honor. She competed again this year, and won for the second year in a row.  

“During my first year, my professor, John Holiday, taught us not to focus on winning but to focus on doing your best, so regardless if you win or not, you still feel good,” Jones said. “I felt good about my performance, so when I won, I was like, this is even better. It felt good, but it wasn’t the end all be all. I want to win bigger things and just do better.”  

Learn more about John Holiday here and the Lawrence Conservatory of Music here.

Besides winning in the NATS competition for the second year in a row, Jones has had lead roles in shows on campus and has been chosen to sing in Italy this summer.  

“Being here, I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities,” Jones said. “Like this summer, I got a role in an opera in Italy. I’m really excited about that. So, I’m learning the opera for here (Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in March) and the one for there in June. It never stops, but it’s fun.” 

An early start

Jones was drawn to music early in her life.

“I’ve always been singing,” she said. “My mom is a choir director, and I come from a musical family in general.” 

Having a career in the field of music has been part of her vision. 

“Originally, I played cello for eight years, and I wanted to be an instrumentalist,” she said. “I would tell people I wanted to be the next Yo-Yo Ma … but in the high school I went to, we weren’t able to do two art areas; you have to choose one.” 

When faced with having to choose one area of interest in high school, Jones chose to set aside the cello and focus on her voice.   

You can check out Jones’ talent when she performs March 6-8 in Lawrence Opera Theatre’s  Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Stansbury Theater.  

Good advice

We asked Jones to share two tips for excelling in the Conservatory: 

1: “Take care of your body. Make sure to drink water and get enough sleep.”

2: “Practice your music every day. Not just the notes; look deeper into the music. What are you trying to say?” 

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Sophie Dion-Kirschner: Pre-med studies mix well with outreach

Sophie Dion-Kirschner volunteers at Edison Elementary School. Here she talks with her LARY Buddy student.
Sophie Dion-Kirschner talks with her LARY Buddy at Edison Elementary School. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

While Sophie Dion-Kirschner ’20 completes a double major in biochemistry and biology, she reaps the joys of giving back to her community, both on campus and off. Her volunteer efforts, she says, fit quite nicely with her preparations to become a doctor.

The start of something new

Dion-Kirschner began her volunteering journey when she was a first-year student exploring what to study. She found the LARY Buddy program and hasn’t looked back.

The LARY Buddy program pairs Lawrence students with students at Edison Elementary School in Appleton who struggle academically or socially. For two hours a week, the Lawrence students visit their buddies to have lunch, hang out at recess, work in the classroom and act as an all-around support system. Dion-Kirschner is one of many examples of the program’s success.

The Buddies stay matched until one of them graduates, ensuring a bond that paves a path for an impactful experience for both students.

“I’ve been with my Little Buddy for three years now,” Dion-Kirschner says. “I’ve watched her go from first grade to fourth grade and the change is incredible. I’ve gotten to see some incredible relationships that come out of this.”

Being a buddy inspired her to become the child advocacy coordinator at Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE), where she helps match LU students with Edison buddies, and advertises the program.

“I’m a LARY coordinator because I believe in it,” Dion-Kirschner says. “The program is really important.”

Learn more about the LARY Buddy program here.

Broadening horizons

Dion-Kirschner has expanded her off-campus outreach. She recently started volunteering at Even Start, a program based at the Community Early Learning Center (CELC) in Appleton that teaches English to mothers who are new to the United States, while also providing free daycare for their children.

Once a week, Dion-Kirschner tutors the mothers alongside the teacher of one of the eight weekly class sessions. If you’re interested in volunteering, having no teaching experience is no problem; all you need is a willingness to make a difference in someone’s life.

“These moms are an inspiration to me,” Dion-Kirschner says. “Some are working two jobs, have several kids and are learning English.”

Learn more about Even Start here.

One for all

Though she wears many hats, Dion-Kirschner points out that there’s unity in her role as a student on a pre-med track and a volunteer.

“Working at the volunteer center for so long has shown me that I don’t want volunteering in the community to be this thing I do on the side,” she says. “I want that to be my goal in my career. Volunteering is so great because you start thinking of things you haven’t thought about before.

“Volunteering gives me the opportunity, as a doctor, to see the changes I need to make to serve people and make a difference.”

Dion-Kirschner sees volunteering potential in everyone, including her fellow Lawrentians. It’s no secret that Lawrence students are busy. But Dion-Kirschner turns that into a strength. She offers the following advice to aspiring volunteers:

“If you want to volunteer, the best thing you can do for yourself is remind yourself what’s important to you. If it’s important to you, you’ll do it.”

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

2 Minutes With … Papo Morales: Charting a course to the classroom

Papo Morales stands on the patio just south of the Mudd Library.
Papo Morales ’21 works with Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

History major and art and Latin American studies minor Papo Morales ’21 dreams of becoming a teacher. He got one step closer to that dream through a recent internship at KIPP NYC.

KIPP (Knowledge is Power Program) is a nonprofit network of charter schools committed to training outstanding educators and helping students develop skills to succeed in college and beyond. KIPP serves 28 regions throughout the United States.

During his first two weeks at KIPP NYC, Morales worked in the legal department, which meant reading over tax plans and making sure everything complied with New York state laws. He then moved to the People Team, where he recruited teachers and helped with teacher certification. In the last leg of his internship, he advised high school students on the college process with KIPP Through College.

A chance to explore

Morales had an immediate connection with his work. As the Equal Access to Education Programs coordinator at Lawrence’s Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE), he’s no stranger to the administrative side of education. He’s also a charter school child from Brooklyn himself.

“The great thing was I got to do a bunch of different things,” he said. “Even though it wasn’t in the classroom, I got to learn a lot about what makes a charter school network run, and being a charter school student, it was a completely different perspective.”

Morales was able to apply his experience at KIPP to his work at the CCE, particularly when it came to making changes to the VITAL program, Lawrence’s free tutoring program that pairs tutors with students in the Appleton area school district based on subject area.

“A lot of the things I learned at KIPP I brought back here, and helped change my program. I overhauled it over the summer while I was there because I learned a lot. They gave me tons of feedback about academic support.”

A promising partnership

The summer internship wasn’t Morales’s first time working with KIPP. In the preceding winter, he stepped into the classroom for the first time as a teaching fellow at KIPP Academy in Lynn, Massachusetts. He speaks highly of both KIPP experiences.

“My favorite part has to do with the passion it helped me discover,” he said. “While my experiences were just weeks long, it helped me realize what I really wanted to do. During my time there I also just got to network, which I think Lawrence students benefit greatly from. I was working with other professionals. I was in a space where I felt validated, like a working individual.”

Now that Morales has built on his passion, it’s clear he’s going to stick by it. He plans to continue his relationship with KIPP with another teaching fellowship in the winter, where he will teach middle school students in Minnesota. By February, he hopes to apply to Teach for America, an organization that promotes equal access to education by recruiting college graduates to teach for two years in low-income communities.

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

2 Minutes With … Adona Lauriano: Building leadership, career skills

Adona Lauriano poses for a photo in the Diversity and Intercultural Center at Lawrence.
Adona Lauriano ’21 led efforts to revamp the space that houses the Diversity and Intercultural Center.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Finding employment and internship opportunities that tie in with future career plans is the ideal for college students. Adona Lauriano ’21 did just that this past summer and was able to work at two jobs that pertained to her area of interest.

The experiences built on the skills she was already developing as the resource coordinator for Lawrence University’s Diversity and Intercultural Center (DIC).

Lauriano, a government major from Brooklyn, New York, started the summer as a worker for Meredith Jones’ judgeship campaign for Kings County Surrogate Court in New York.  

“For Meredith Jones, we would be in the office trying to figure out ways she could publicize what she has done in the community,” Lauriano said. “Because in New York, when you are running for court, your community has to elect you. So, we were trying to figure out ways to highlight all the good she has done in her life for her community.” 

Building experience

Lauriano was able get a first-hand look at what goes on behind the scenes when it comes to becoming a judge. This is especially beneficial, she said, because she hopes to be a judge herself one day.

“I learned that if I want to be a judge, I need to start with my community impact now,” Lauriano said. “I’ve learned that everything you say and do matters. It’s important to try your best and make a change in a way that’s impactful for more than one racial group, more than one type of community in general. And to be nice, that’s very important.”

Jones fell short in the primary in June, but the experience was invaluable for Lauriano.

After the elections were over, Lauriano became a campaigner for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  

“I wanted something in my field,” she said. “I’m going into political science because after I get my undergrad, I’m going to law school. So, I’m trying to figure out which path as a lawyer I want to take. The ACLU helped me solidify some of my beliefs that I believe is important to have as a lawyer.”

As a campaigner, Lauriano helped the ACLU raise funds to keep its programs running. 

Leading the DIC remodel

At Lawrence, Lauriano had been building her fund-raising skills as the resource coordinator for Lawrence’s DIC. Recently, the center revamped its space, and Lauriano was the advocate behind the remodel.

“I definitely do think it’s representative of the community,” Lauriano said of the newly remodeled space inside Memorial Hall. “The people who are up [on the wall] are portraits of 12 leaders that the community voted on. And it was something that I definitely pushed for, outreached on. Through surveys, polls, emails, yelling at people, asking them for their input, we wanted to ensure that it was reflective of what the community wants.

“And it’s not done yet,” she said. “There are going be vinyl letters that go up with words that inspire people from diverse backgrounds, which we also got from our community outreach.”

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

2 Minutes With … Jason Bernheimer: Spanish-language, LGBTQ+ advocacy

Jason Bernheimer poses for a portrait.
Jason Bernheimer on his efforts to advocate for resources for the LGBTQ+ community in the greater Fox Cities: “Inclusivity is always the best policy.” (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Spanish and global studies double major Jason Bernheimer ’22 figured out how to combine his passions in a research project. The Lawrence University sophomore from Vancouver, Washington, visited various clinics in the Fox Cities to find out what Spanish-language health resources are available to Appleton’s LGBTQ+ community.

This type of work is familiar territory for Bernheimer. In high school, he worked for different departments within the Washington state government, doing workshops with state officials on how to successfully serve a gender-diverse community.

Behind all of this is Bernheimer’s philosophy that inclusivity is key.

“Inclusivity is always the best policy,” he said. “I think this applies to many different realms, not just gender inclusivity or the LGBTQ+ community. It’s important for all sorts of things.”

In the field

Bernheimer, working on an independent study project through professor of Spanish Rosa Tapia, knew that patients with health resources available in their preferred language — especially having access to health professionals who speak that language — have significantly better experiences in clinics than those without. So, what resources does Appleton provide for the Spanish-speaking community members who need them? And what about the LGBTQ+ community, another group that benefits from targeted health services?

Bernheimer hopped on his bike and went from clinic to clinic in search of answers. The results? There aren’t many health centers in the Fox Cities that provide adequate Spanish-language resources for Latinx patients. Nor is there any overlap between these resources and those targeted toward the LGBTQ+ community.

“That was something I found to be really concerning, and somewhere we have room to grow as a community and as a city,” Bernheimer said.

Regardless, Bernheimer said he had impactful conversations with clinics and nonprofits that have been working hard to support Latinx and LGBTQ+ communities in the Fox Cities. One is Casa Hispana, a Fox Cities nonprofit that develops initiatives to better the lives of Latinx locals, including connecting them to resources.

Connecting to the community

The research was relevant to Bernheimer not just as a student but as a Fox Cities community member.

“It was a really helpful experience for me in general,” he said. “More than just doing the research but also becoming more a part of the Fox Cities community. [The research] presented itself as an opportunity for something I wasn’t aware of as someone who is residing in the Fox Cities.”

The research also lays the groundwork for his future plans to help companies implement inclusive practices and policies.

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

2 Minutes With … Martha Strawbridge: Merging passions for music and math

Martha Strawbridge ’20 conducted research on math and music with math professor Alan Parks. She’ll be presenting an academic poster on her work at a math conference in Denver in January. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

Math and music may seem like two distinct subjects with no significant correlation. Not true, and Martha Strawbridge ’20 is trying to change that narrative, highlighting the ways in which mathematics and music can be used to understand each other.  

“I’ve been playing saxophone since I was in sixth grade, so I’ve had a lot of time on the performance side,” the Lawrence University senior said. “When I came [to Lawrence], I wanted to become a jazz saxophonist.”  

Strawbridge, from Longmont, Colorado, came in as a saxophone performance major, and while taking classes in both the Conservatory of Music and the college, she grew increasingly interested in mathematics.  

“I knew I liked math in high school, but I took a calculus class here and I loved it so much that after my freshman year I decided to become a math major,” she said. 

Strawbridge continues to be part of the Conservatory as a saxophone performance minor. She also creates big band compositions with Patty Darling, director of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and a jazz professor.   

“It wasn’t so much I wanted to switch; I just wanted to start doing more math and still kind of pursue music,” Strawbridge said. “It was more that I wasn’t as interested in performing.”  

A perfect combo

She found a way to combine her two interests last year when she attended a mathematics symposium where professors were presenting research they had been working on. Lawrence mathematics professor Alan Parks presented his research on mathematical music theory, studying ways in which math and music inform and influence each other.

After the symposium, Strawbridge applied to conduct research with Parks.  

 “It worked out really well, and he and I already knew each other from classes and some independent studies,” Strawbridge said. “So, I applied, and he knew I was really interested in music and math, so it was kind of like a natural match.” 

In tune with research 

With a grant in hand to support women in science and math, Strawbridge was able to conduct research in mathematical music theory over the summer.  

“It was an interesting process figuring out what we were going to research,” she said. “Professor Parks is a musician, too. So, we were wondering if it was going to become like music theory, analyzing scores and depicting them mathematically. Or if it was going to be really math heavy.  A lot of time it was just both of us reading stuff that interested us.” 

Mathematical music theory is a relatively new area of study.

“In the standard Western tuning system, you have 12 notes,” Strawbridge said. “[We tried to figure out] what are different ways we can imbed that into space that’s enlightening for people, or at least interesting?”

Next steps 

Parks and Strawbridge are now working to get their research published in the Journal of Mathematics and Music. And Strawbridge has been selected to present her research in January in Denver at a joint meeting of the American Mathematical Society (AMS) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA). 

“I’m presenting the poster that I made,” Strawbridge said. “It will be very cool to explain what I was doing. It’s really fun.”

While that audience will be with people steeped in mathematics, Strawbridge said she also loves explaining the connections between music and math to people who aren’t necessarily involved heavily in either.

“I feel like math and music are both like, ‘oooh, music or math, I can’t do either of those,’ and it’s, like, ‘Well, I can talk to you about these ideas and you can understand more than you think you would.’ I think that was a really fulfilling aspect of our research, too.”

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

2 Minutes With … Summer Kopitzke: Wading deep into nature research

Summer Kopitzke, wearing waders, poses for a photo while kneeling along the Forget-Me-Not Creek in Manitowoc.
Summer Kopitzke ’20 does field work along the Forget-Me-Not Creek near Manitowoc.

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrentians on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

While most of us spent our summer in shorts and swimsuits, Summer Kopitzke ’20 donned her waders for her summer job as a Great Lakes fisheries technician for the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Program.

It was the latest step for the Lawrence University senior as she forges a path in ecology.

With the help of scientists, students and public outreach, the federal-university partnership program strives to maintain healthy coastal environments by educating coastal and Great Lakes communities about preserving and respecting American coastlines. The UW program is one of 33 Sea Grant university partnerships in the United States.

In the field

Kopitzke’s work was based out of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Manitowoc campus. Her primary task: Mapping Forget-Me-Not Creek, a two-mile stream that flows along the Ice Age Trail into Lake Michigan. This involved trekking back and forth along the length and width of the creek, recording each 100-foot mark with poles and measuring tape. Mapping the stream also consists of noting changes in substrate and depth, and using a seine to determine what species of fish call the stream home.

Despite frustrations with rainy days and pesky reed canary grass that often blocked her passage through the stream, Kopitzke knew she was doing important work.

“Doing this work, I felt a lot of love and it was a lot of fun to do,” she said. “I got to do research on things I really find interesting.”

Her findings at Forget-Me-Not Creek will be compiled and given to visitors at the nearby Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve, an organization that recently restored the mouth of the stream to improve the fish habitat and water quality.

Kopitzke also recorded data from bycatch videos from a fishing boat in Two Rivers. The bycatch data will be sent to the DNR to help advise the fishing boat operators on adjustments to their net sizes so they can catch more whitefish, their target species.

A lifelong passion

Kopitzke fondly recalls hunting and fishing with her grandfather in Tigerton, where she grew up. Those experiences instilled in her a love for the land, inspiring her to double major in biology and environmental science. She discovered her love for field work upon taking an aquatic ecology class here at Lawrence.

The summer research tapped into those same interests, Kopitzke said.

“Where I’m from, it’s a big part of my life,” she said of the outdoors. “It’s always held a part in my heart.”

When she wasn’t walking around the stream or analyzing bycatch data this summer, Kopitzke took time to enjoy the scenery of prairie and farmland that surrounded her. Her Senior Experience project will focus on whitetail deer population ecology. She plans to further her involvement with aquatic ecology when she goes to work for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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