2 Minutes With … Daniel Toycen: “Emergency” is in the job description

Daniel Toycen ’21 has been working in Milwaukee as an EMT for the past year. (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

The importance of first responders has become increasingly evident a year into the pandemic as hospitals and emergency rooms have remained all-hands-on-deck. Daniel Toycen ’21 is one of the many brave essential first responders tackling this pandemic head on.

The Lawrence University biology major has been working in Milwaukee as an emergency medical technician (EMT) since last March, balancing work with his studies. Toycen, who aspires to be a physician assistant, applied for the role right before the pandemic changed everyone’s lives.  

“I was looking to get patient-experience hours for applying to grad school and physician assistant programs,” he said. “I decided on EMT because you are seeing a wide range of patients and arguably seeing them at the most stressful point in their lives. I wanted to be able to develop my bedside manner with them during difficult times.”  

While he lives off campus in Appleton, Toycen opted to work in Milwaukee because of the high volume of calls.

“I also wanted to see the bigger hospitals in the area and how those hospitals work,” he said. “And I wanted to work with a more diverse patient pool.” 

When COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic last March, Toycen, then a junior, knew hospitals were going to need more help. He started working as an EMT before COVID took a major a toll on Wisconsin hospitals, giving him a glimpse of EMT life “pre-pandemic,” he said.   

“A typical shift, you get there early to talk to the crew that is getting off shift,” Toycen said. “Then we check over the ambulance to make sure we have all of our supplies and the ambulance is working — all the lights are working, checking tires, things like that. Right after that we are put in service and are able to receive calls.” 

Important classroom lessons 

To qualify to be an EMT, Toycen took an accelerated course at Fox Valley Technical College. 

Toycen said he is particularly grateful for the skills he has learned in the classroom at Lawrence, as he finds himself tapping into those skills at work. In addition to his major in biology, he is pursuing a minor in biomedical ethics.

“My medical ethics courses and medical anthropology have both helped me be able to have knowledge on people’s backgrounds,” Toycen said. “[They taught me] how culture and health care intersect, and, being mindful of that, I am able to provide better care to the patients I do have. When I am out there in the field, I think back to lessons or discussions we had in class and I’m like, ‘Woah, this really applies here’.”  

When the pressure is on

Toycen has been on the call for some very high-pressure emergencies.  

“I was on a 16-hour shift and it was getting kind of late in our shift, and nothing exciting happened up until that point,” Toycen said. “Then we get a call, and we have no idea what we’re going for; it just says ‘assault in progress’. And then we get there, and the patient was stabbed four times in the back and obviously it was very serious. Right after we got done with that call, finished the report, this was probably at 4:30 in the morning, we get a call for a pedestrian that was hit by a car and the car was going like 50 miles an hour; so another call back-to-back at the end of a 16-hour shift super early in the morning.”

Toycen said his work as an EMT has reassured his path in the medical profession and he has even used his work as an EMT in his senior capstone project. Next up for Toycen is applying to physician assistant programs.  

Even though being an EMT is a high-pressure job, Toycen has not let it consume him. He continues to complete his course work at Lawrence remotely and plays on Lawrence’s men’s hockey team, all while maintaining health and safety protocols in the pandemic.

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

2 Minutes With … Lauren Askenazy: First Lawrence goal forever frozen in time

Lauren Askenazy ’23 is a member of Lawrence’s first women’s hockey team. (Photos 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

Lauren Askenazy ‘23 has long waited for her chance to play college hockey. She didn’t know she’d be landing in the record books and doing it at a school with deep family roots.

The sophomore transfer student from Albuquerque, New Mexico, became the first player to score a goal in the newly launched women’s hockey program at Lawrence University.

The team faced off against the College of St. Scholastica in its Feb. 13 debut at the Appleton Family Ice Center, fulfilling Askenazy’s dream of playing college hockey. With 3:19 left in the game, she fired a wrist shot over the shoulder of the St. Scholastica goaltender, etching her name in Lawrence lore for evermore.

She followed that up by scoring a goal in each of Lawrence’s first four games.

Lauren Askenazy ’23 scores the first goal in Lawrence history on Feb. 13.

Finding a home

Askenazy was no hockey novice when she arrived at Lawrence. She started playing at 7 years old in her native Albuquerque. From those first shaky steps on the ice, she went on to become a three-year player with the HTI Stars in Canada, from 2016 to 2018.

Askenazy then enrolled at Connecticut College, but she kept her eyes open for a liberal arts school that was the right fit academically and had a women’s hockey team.

Everything fell into place. Vikings coach Jocey Kleiber was recruiting former members of the HTI Stars team when she learned of Askenazy’s interest in college hockey. The two connected and the recruiting process began.

It didn’t take long for her to feel at home on the ice here. She calls hockey a therapeutic outlet.

“I’m so happy every time I can step on the ice,” she said. “Especially since we’re all sitting in our rooms on our computers 24/7. As soon as everyone is together in the locker room, everyone cheers up.”

Family roots at Lawrence

Askenazy didn’t choose Lawrence on a whim. She continues a family legacy at Lawrence — her mother, uncle, and grandfather are alumni. When she was recruited for the newly created hockey team, Lawrence quickly became more than just a university she had always heard about.

“My family members are very excited about me coming to Lawrence and they are so happy I get to continue doing what I love while also making history,” she said.

It goes without saying that a new hockey team beginning its first season faces unconventional challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s especially true, Askenazy said, in the realm of team relations.

“It’s been a lot more difficult, especially because we’re a brand-new team,” she said. “Usually, teams can hang out and do bonding activities, and we can’t do that. But we’re willing to do anything we can to be able to play. We’re appreciative that we can have games.”

Getting wins has been tough early on, but it’s a learning process for a new program, one that is filled with promise.

“Everyone on the team is so excited to be a part of a new program,” Azkenazy said. “We’re building the foundation.”

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

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.


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. 


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.

2 Minutes With … Justin Williamson: Galaxies collide in simulation project

Justin Williamson ’22 used Lawrence’s Experiential Learning Funds to complete a computer science simulation project he had been working on for years. (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

When he was in high school in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona, Justin Williamson ‘22 spent lunch periods asking his physics teacher all kinds of questions about how the world works. Now, his curiosities about physics and space have culminated in his first big 3-D graphics project.

With the help of Lawrence’s Experiential Learning Funds (ELF), the computer science and French double major finished a long-running attempt to simulate two galaxies colliding. Supported by alumni and other donors, the fund helps students access summer internships, self-directed research and projects, and more opportunities that enhance their learning experiences.

The simulation Williamson completed over winter break is just one iteration of a project he has been tinkering with for about five years. His earlier version of the simulation depicted between 100 and 200 stars. That’s grown to about 50,000 stars in a collision that takes place over 750 million years. More stars mean more computing power and, well, more skill. The difference lies in programming on the CPU (central processing unit) versus the GPU (graphics processing unit).

“Most programs run on the CPU, which is good at running serial calculations, but not 50,000 of the same calculation,” Williamson said. “But the GPU is good at that kind of calculation. It’s very different because you have to think about everything happening at the same time, rather than sequenced.”

Help from the ELF

That’s where the stipend comes in. Williamson had been working with the Career Center to hunt down internships when they sent an email detailing the ELF. This was Williamson’s first time programming on the GPU, so some extra research, which comes with added expenses, was necessary to achieve his goal.

“[The fund] allowed me to get books very easily,” Williamson said. “Also, a little bit of hardware for my computer to make it run better. I don’t think I would’ve finished it over the break if I hadn’t had the stipend.”

Programming a simulation like this can be a gamble. Williamson put faith in his calculations. He recalled the final moment of truth: letting the simulation run overnight.

“I didn’t know if it was going to work the night before or not,” he said. “That day I encountered two or three subtle bugs. Once the calculation started, all the stars would instantly disappear. So, it all could’ve been for naught. But I was amazed at what was happening when I actually could see the simulation.”

A needed assist

It wasn’t just the financial boost that helped Williamson achieve his goal. His passion for programming was met with support from his past.

“I’m so thankful to my high school physics teacher,” Williamson said. “I spent two or three hours on the phone with him trying to fix my math.”

The successful simulation is a testament to Williamson’s growing skills in computer programming, but it’s anything but the end. He hopes to eventually simulate galaxies of one million stars. But those are calculations for another day.

Watch the galaxies colliding here.

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

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.


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.


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.

2 Minutes With … Molly Ruffing: Meeting a “desperate” need for tutors

Molly Ruffing ’22 is running VITAL and other education-focused programs in the CCE.

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

The Equal Access to Education coordinator position has always been a complicated student role. The COVID-19 pandemic has not made it any easier.

But that has not been a deterrence for Molly Ruffing ‘22, who has reintroduced the program in the Center for Community Engagement and Social Change (CCE) in a big way.

“I knew they were hiring quite a few people in the CCE,” Ruffing said. “I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do it; I thought of all the requests for tutoring that would come in and how heart-breaking it would be. But I also knew it would be a great learning experience.”

A new path

Ruffing, a psychology and English double major from Kaukauna, was hired as the program’s coordinator last winter, before the pandemic hit and most students were sent home. Typically, the CCE does their hiring in Winter Term, and trains new employees during Spring Term. This was not the case for Ruffing. The pandemic changed everything, and Ruffing set out to create a new path.  

Over the summer, she worked on developing a plan for a re-envisioned version of the Volunteers in Tutoring at Lawrence (VITAL) program, which matches Lawrence students as tutors for K-12 pupils in the Appleton Area School District.

Molly Ruffing ’22 is among the Lawrence students supported as Paulson Scholars. Read more here.

“It was only 10 hours a week; I would just work on stuff for VITAL,” Ruffing said of her summer efforts. “A lot of it was thinking about how we wanted to do training, logistically can we have people meeting, what were the forms going to look like now, do different questions have to be asked? Talking with partners in Appleton to see what we could do, because it’s difficult to get an adult to be with a minor on video by themselves, so working through that.”

In the past, when students would sign up to be a tutor, they would meet with their student in the library on campus. With COVID, this was no longer an option.

“I was looking at our end-of-the-year reports, and seeing what we did in the spring,” Ruffing said. “That was a partnership with St. Norbert College, but we wanted to be independent in the fall. So, looking at that and seeing what we can actually apply to our own program.”  

The demand grows

More than 200 tutoring requests have come in since school began in the fall. Appleton students were accessing classes remotely, and many were struggling to keep up.

“There were always a lot of requests, but it seemed like the requests became more desperate,” Ruffing said. “Before it was like, ‘It would be nice to have help’, and now it’s like, ‘My kid is months behind because they didn’t learn in spring at all when we transitioned.’ It was really hard to read some of those requests, but at a certain point you have to remember you are doing the best you can.” 

To fulfill such a high demand for tutors this year, Ruffing began partnering with retired Appleton teachers and even some Lawrence alumni. Right now, there are more than 100 pupils who have been paired with a tutor through the program.

In addition to VITAL, Ruffing is in charge of other access to education-focused programs.  

“I worked on starting a new program, which I am really excited for,” Ruffing said. “It’s a first-generation student-mentorship program with Kaukauna High School, called First of Many, and it’s starting this term. Not everyone who’s passionate about education necessarily wants to tutor; I still want people to be able to pursue that passion and give that to the community.”  

Ruffing said this work has confirmed her passion for education. After Lawrence, she hopes to work as a high school counselor.

“I love [my job] a lot,” Ruffing said. “In the beginning, it was kind of stressful because it is a lot. I would look at the requests and be thinking about all of these kids who are waiting, and I would just feel awful. But then I had to remember, ‘No, think of all the kids that you are supporting.’ It taught me how to set up that boundary and it made me more mindful of the impact I am creating, and it has just made me more passionate.” 

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

Lighting the Way With … Tom Coben: When Kimmel calls and statues dance

Tom Coben ’12

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence University alumni. Today we catch up with Tom Coben ’12, a motion graphics artist whose work in the past week has been viewed more than 5 million times.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Nearly a decade after leaving Lawrence University with a growing portfolio of 3D graphics and other visual effects, Tom Coben ’12 has gone viral.

Well, his creative skills have gone viral, if not his name.

A freelance motion graphics and visual effects artist in the Twin Cities, Coben hooked up earlier this month with the creative team of ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live! They were looking for an artist who could animate statues dancing and singing for a video they were making to mark the end of the Trump presidency.

Coben delivered 14 shots of statues, monuments, and paintings that became the heart of the video – the Statue of Liberty, the faces on Mt. Rushmore, the statue of Martin Luther King Jr., among them – all in full celebration mode. Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the late-night talk show, posted the video late last week, and it quickly bounced around social media, racking up more than 5 million views on YouTube in the first four days.

See the Jimmy Kimmel video here.

“I sent a sample video of the Statue of Liberty dancing as a proof-of-concept on spec and they hired me for the bit,” Coben said. “We used a type of motion-capture technique where they filmed an actor with facial tracking markers and I used that information to apply the facial motions to the different sculptures and paintings.”

From there, he watched the final product roll out, and the social media shares and video views quickly grow, all in the days following the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden.

Between social media and TV views, it’s the widest his work has been seen. But Coben said he did have one other brush with the power of the internet when Will Smith shared on his Instagram account an animation Coben made of a robot bowling. That got him a ton of exposure and some new freelance work, which is always a good thing.

“But this Kimmel video is definitely the most amount of attention any of my work has had,” he said.

It started at Lawrence

Coben first got a taste for motion graphics and 3D visual effects while studying at Lawrence.

An environmental studies major, Coben developed an interest in animation and 3D artistry. Lawrence’s Film Studies program was launching just as Coben was graduating. He was able to put together a self-directed film/animation-related minor.

“One of my favorite experiences at Lawrence was during the summer after my sophomore year when I got the opportunity to travel to the Philippines for five weeks with my advisor, (Associate Professor of Biology) Jodi Sedlock,” Coben said. “She knew I was interested in film production and asked if I would come and produce a short documentary about cave-roosting bat species and conservation of cave ecosystems on the island of Siquijor. Besides just being rad as hell, that experience helped me get a job the following summer at the Smithsonian National Zoo making promotional videos for their YouTube channel, filming the different exhibits.”

Then during his senior year, Coben took an intermediate sculpture class with Rob Neilson, the Frederick R. Layton Professor of Studio Art and professor of art, and was given the green light to focus on using 3D software to create digital sculptures that he would incorporate into footage taken around campus.

It got wonderfully weird. There was a supersized octopus clinging to the cupola atop Main Hall. And snow goons waging a battle on the snow-covered campus green.

Neilson said he recalls Coben taking to heart the prompt he gave to the class at the outset of the term: “Construct a sculptural piece in any medium you choose that somehow closes — or exists within — the gap between art and life and addresses sculpture as a ‘thing’ in all its ‘objectness’.” Coben chose to use 3D modeling and video, and Neilson said he was all in.

“My approach to teaching art has always been: Sculpture can be anything we, the students and I, collaboratively decide it is,” Neilson said. “While I certainly love to ‘make things;’ to me sculpture is more about ideas than objects. Indeed, this is the fundamental beauty of sculpture; its ability to carry and convey meaning through material — even if the material is bits and bytes in a computer. Otherwise, it’s just an object.”

Coben took that approach and ran with it. He’s still running with it.

“After I graduated, I used some of those animations along with some other personal work to put together a reel, which got me my first few freelance jobs out of college,” Coben said. “After that I worked at a small video production company for about three years before deciding to get back into freelance animation, which I have been doing for the past five years.”

Much of his work is with local clients in the Minneapolis-St. Paul market, doing 3D product renderings, motion graphics for commercials and online marketing videos, and visual effects for music videos.

He’s also designing custom 3D-printed sculptures, selling them on Etsy under the name Tomforgery3D. 

“They’re based on the classics but I’ve screwed with them to make them more absurd,” he said.

It might not draw the 5 million views of a Kimmel video, but it’s interesting, challenging, and creative work, Coben said.

“I had a lot of very cool opportunities at Lawrence and I can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be doing what I am doing today if my professors hadn’t given me the ability to pursue my interests with as much freedom as they did,” he said.

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

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.


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.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

For more Lawrence alumni features, see here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fueled by the Lawrence experience

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

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

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

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

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

Reconnecting with Lawrence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

So, yes, interesting.

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

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

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

For more Lawrence alumni features, see here.

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

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

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

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

Beyond the imaginable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A path forged at Lawrence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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