Tag: Lawrence faculty

On Main Hall Green With … Claudena Skran: Deep connections in West Africa

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Claudena Skran (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

Claudena Skran, the Edwin & Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government, has been one of Lawrence University’s leading international scholars over the past three decades.

Sierra Leone has been a particular focal point for Skran, researching and teaching on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the 10-year civil war and post-conflict peace-building in Sierra Leone, and refugee entrepreneurship.

The 1983 Rhodes Scholar has visited Sierra Leone nearly 20 times since first going there in 2005 as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar. Dozens of Lawrence students have accompanied her and participated in various research projects.

Her work often tackles international relations, social entrepreneurship, sustainable development, and African and European politics.

Skran, who joined the Lawrence faculty in 1990, has served as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from Oxford University.

We caught up with Skran to talk about her 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 want each of my students to know that I think of education as an adventure. Whether we are sitting in a classroom in Briggs Hall or gathered in an African village, my students and I are on a voyage together. Our journey always starts with what is familiar and known, and it moves into areas that are much less so. There will be challenging questions, unexpected lessons, and surprising results, but along the way we will find both excitement and fun. Much of what we learn together will not be on the starting syllabus; instead deeper understanding will emerge as we travel together.

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

I love the point in a class or a course when everything “clicks.” This happens when a lecture point hits home, a discussion question takes on a life of its own, or when the students on a travel course all start to work together.

Going places: Is there an example of somewhere your career has taken you that took you by surprise?

I first went to Sierra Leone as a Fulbright Scholar in October 2005. When I arrived, I thought that I would have a productive sabbatical, but I didn’t realize how much my life afterwards would change. Since then, I’ve worked as a consultant for the UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency, and collaborated with a global group of scholars studying refugees, women, and entrepreneurship. In addition, I have taught new courses on African politics and security, brought almost 200 Lawrence faculty and students into “traveling classrooms” in West Africa, and started the KidsGive scholarship program. In early March, I acted as the faculty guide for an alumni tour to Ghana, the first ever to an African country. One of the most meaningful parts of the tour was when the group visited the Cape Coast Castle, a former slave fort, and we left a memorial plaque from Lawrence University. Fifteen years ago, I did not expect to help create these deep connections between different parts of the Lawrence community and West African peoples and countries.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I have always thought of myself as both a teacher and a scholar. In regard to teaching, I am a strong believer in the value of experiential learning outside the traditional classroom. These kinds of experiences spark personal growth in young people, help them use the knowledge they already have, and give them direction and confidence to reach further. I hope that I will always be able to share my perspective with learners, even if I am not a full-time faculty member. But in answer to the question of what I would do if I weren’t teaching, let me just say that I have a few unfinished writing projects (both fiction and non-fiction) to complete. So, if I have any spare time, I plan to work on them, in this life rather than an imagined one, preferably in a scenic location.

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

Main Hall Green. The green is beautiful no matter the time of year. It always pleases me to know that generations of students and faculty have enjoyed sharing it. I especially like the sign that mentions Lawrence was the first coeducational institution in the state of Wisconsin.

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

My taste in music is a very mixed bag, and contains such disparate things as hymns (“Amazing Grace”) and rap (Flo Rida) as well as ’70s ballads (Bette Midler’s “The Rose”). Maybe a common thread is an inspirational transcendence; Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings” and Damien Marley’s “There for You” are two of my favorites. 

Film is Knives Out, for the sheer fun of it.

The book is Soft Power (2004) by Joseph Nye. It is still well worth reading. It offers the important lessons that ideals are a key source of power, and American values—not simply military might—helped the U.S. to win the Cold War.

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

On Main Hall Green with … David McGlynn: Creative in, out of classroom

Portrait on Main Hall Green: David McGlynn (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

Professor of English David McGlynn teaches creative writing in the classroom. He lives it outside the classroom.

A member of the English faculty since 2006, McGlynn is the author of a number of well-received books — 2018’s One Day You’ll Thank Me: Lessons from an Unexpected Fatherhood, 2012’s A Door in the Ocean, and 2008’sThe End of the Straight and Narrow. His books have earned honors from the Wisconsin Library Association and the Council for Wisconsin Writers. His writing has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, Real Simple, Yale Review, and Best American Sports Writing. In 2009, he was awarded Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Creative Activity.

As chair of the English department, McGlynn played a key role in developing the new major within the English department, one that, beginning in the fall, will allow students to major in either Creative Writing: English or Literature: English.

For details on the new Creative Writing: English major, see here. For a story introducing the new program, see here.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from the University of California, Irvine, and a master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Utah.

We caught up with McGlynn to talk about his interests and 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?

That I was once – and am, in many ways – just like them. I arrived at my own undergraduate university with dreams of becoming a writer. Plenty of people in my life, including members of my own family, thought that reading and writing were spurious, at best recreational, activities – not something on which to make a life. Intent on proving them wrong, I declared myself an English major and enrolled in creative writing classes certain that becoming a published writer ultimately came down to, well, wanting it enough. It took me a few years to understand that wanting to write – no matter how much wanting I did – wasn’t the key to success. The only way to become a better writer, it turns out, is to write. A lot. I had to write every day, regardless of whether I felt inspired, and I had to keep at it, especially when every word that landed on the page felt absolutely terrible. I failed and floundered for nearly 10 years before my work began to appear in print. The process is slow.

I spend a lot of time talking to students about the importance of persistence and patience and why those two qualities matter so much more than talent. I ask every student, in every creative writing class, to write every day, even if for only a few minutes, and I try to free them from the burden of judging whether their work is good or bad. Rather, I try to get them to pay attention to the world – to the sky and the weather and the way the evening light falls across the Main Hall Green. Zadie Smith writes, “You spend the morning reading Chekhov, and in the afternoon, walking through your neighborhood, the world has turned Chekhovian; the waitress in the cafe offers a non­-sequitur, a dog dances in the street.” I can’t imagine a better training for a writer.

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

Beginning in the fall of 2020, Lawrence will offer two tracks within the English major – one in creative writing and the other in literature. Students on the Creative Writing track will take classes in poetry and/or prose at every stage of the major, from their first year to their senior capstone. Our brand-new Senior Seminar in Creative Writing will bring together students from across the major; they’ll spend a term reading one another’s work and revising and assembling their own work into chapbook-length thesis projects.

A number of supremely talented young writers have come through Lawrence in recent years – including several who have recently published books – and students have long augmented the English major with additional coursework in creative writing. I’m thrilled that future students will have the opportunity to major in a program specifically tailored to these interests.

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?

Several years ago, more or less on a whim, I began writing short pieces about fatherhood. I’d spent my first six years at Lawrence working on two books, both of which grappled with pretty heavy themes, and I needed a break. My two sons were 8 and 5 at the time, both with more energy than bugs in a jar, and I figured I’d just tell a few stories about teaching them to ride bikes and the time they figured out how much fun it is to cuss. I mean, what’s funnier than a toddler swearing? But the stories contained more depth than I expected, and they led me to insights and observations I didn’t know I thought until I literally wrote them down. Thanks to a few tremendous strokes of luck, several essays appeared in such periodicals as The New York Times, Men’s Health, O., The Oprah Magazine, Parents, and Real Simple, all of which led to a book, One Day You’ll Thank Me: Lessons from an Unexpected Fatherhood, published in 2018. It’s a book I never expected to write, but I’m so glad I did.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

I had an image of myself, back when I was in graduate school, teaching at a college exactly like Lawrence – small, serene, with close interactions with students. During my interview for the job, I looked out the window of Tim Spurgin’s office and watched the students strolling along the sidewalks, some with bassoon reeds in their mouths or violin cases beneath their arms. The sky was a shade of blue only visible north of the 44th parallel. I remember a student with a head of red curls walking by singing an aria so loudly I could hear it through the glass. I knew, right then and there, that Lawrence was my home. I can’t imagine doing anything else, at any other college.

But, for the sake of argument, I also think I would have made a pretty good Coast Guard rescue swimmer.

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

Step inside the Mudd Library and turn left. Follow the wall past Angela Vanden Elzen’s office (be sure to say hello) and you’ll come to the Lincoln Reading Room. The last chair on the right, closest to the window, is my favorite place on campus. I finished my first book, and wrote three others, in that chair, all while watching the leaves on the Japanese maple beyond the window turn from green to red and then fall to the ground, year after year.

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 of the best things about Lawrence is that our own students have produced some of my favorite books and films. No one should miss The Soul of Power by Callie Bates ’09, The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay ’09, or Return on Investment by Magdalena Wąż ’11. Magdalena and her partner, Micah Paisner ’11, co-created my favorite web series, My Astronaut, which is just uproariously hilarious. And I’m beyond excited to read Bread and Fish by Andy Graff ’09, due out early in 2021.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Andrew Sage: Mining data for the greater good

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Andrew Sage (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

Andrew Sage arrived at Lawrence at just the right time.

The assistant professor of statistics came on board in 2018 just as the school was looking to expand its offerings in the areas of statistics and data science to meet a growing demand surrounding all things data.

He was the first of a one-two punch in the mathematics faculty. When Abhishek Chakraborty joined the team a year later, plans moved quickly to launch a new minor in data science. That goes live in the fall.

Read a story about Lawrence’s new Statistics and Data Science minor here. Additional details on the program can be found here.

Sage has a bachelor’s degree from the College of Wooster, master’s degrees from Iowa State and Miami University, and a Ph.D. from Iowa State.

We caught up with him to talk about his vision for data education and 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 want my students to know how much I learn from them. My students challenge and sharpen my understanding, and perhaps most importantly, teach me how to be a better teacher. Some of the most important changes I have made in my teaching have been the result of suggestions from students. I want my students to know that I am always listening, and I want to hear their thoughts on how we can work together to best help each other learn.

Through my students, I have also learned so much about topics I previously had little knowledge. In my applied statistics courses, students complete projects that connect the course material to topics they are interested in. Through these projects, I have learned about such topics as the economic impact of having babies in various countries, the nature and impact of volcanic eruptions, inconsistencies in media coverage of forest fires, and many more. We are all lifelong learners and I hope my students realize how much of a role they play in my own learning.

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

I am very excited about expanding the opportunities for students to study statistics and data science at Lawrence. In the 2020-21 academic year, we will be launching a new minor in statistics and data science, as well as a statistics track within the mathematics major. Abhishek Chakraborty and I are working together to develop new courses in rapidly advancing areas like data science, machine learning, and Bayesian statistics.

The statistics and data science minor could be paired with many different majors. The minor incorporates not only courses taught by statisticians, but also data-driven courses in other departments. Faculty and students all across campus use data and statistical software in their courses and research. I am excited about opportunities for collaboration that will result from our growth in this area. A data scientist must possess not only a strong statistical foundation, and programming skills, but also domain area expertise, and the ability to account for ethical considerations. I cannot think of a better place to develop this kind of reasoning than a liberal arts college.

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 always knew that I wanted to teach, but I didn’t know what subject, or at what level. At various points, I thought I was going to teach history, or theoretical mathematics, before I arrived at applied statistics. I taught high school for four years, and enjoyed it, before I decided that that the college level would be the best place for me.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

If I wasn’t teaching, I would be umpiring baseball games. I love baseball, and umpiring was a great way for me to stay involved in the game and make a little money while I was in college. It’s been years since I last called a game, but every so often, I get the urge to be back on the diamond.

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

I love the bike path that runs along the river. It’s a great place to go for a run and clear my mind, and it offers a gorgeous view of campus.

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: I’m a big fan of David Baldacci’s mystery crime novels. My favorite is The Simple Truth (1998)

Recording: Centerfield (John Fogerty). As I said, I love baseball.

Film: The Imitation Game (2014). The film highlights Alan Turing’s pioneering work in artificial intelligence and machine learning, as well as the persecution he faced as a result of being gay. While the film takes liberties in a biographical sense, it draws attention to a critically important figure who is often denied the credit he deserves.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Beth Zinsli: Excelling in the art of engagement

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Beth Zinsli ’02 (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

Beth Zinsli ’02 is a focal point for visual arts at Lawrence University.

As an assistant professor of art history, she is an important voice in the classroom. But more people may know Zinsli for her role with the Wriston Art Center Galleries, where she serves as curator, leading the staff that prepares and presents the public art exhibitions and oversees the University’s art collection. She also serves as program director for the Museum Studies interdisciplinary area.

Zinsli joined Lawrence in 2013, 11 years after earning her bachelor’s degree in history as an LU undergrad. She went on to earn a master’s degree and Ph.D. in art history from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We caught up with Zinsli to talk about her work in the classroom and galleries and her 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?

My goal in the classroom is to get to the questions that really matter, the questions that will push students to think and engage more deeply with an idea. I don’t have all the answers; I want to work through the important questions with students. Learning to ask those sorts of questions is hard but it’s part of the joy of intellectual work. In the spring 2020 term, the added challenge is doing this at a physical and temporal distance from students, but in our current context, shared intellectual engagement and joy feels more important than ever.

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

I was excited and honored to help bring Matika Wilbur (Swinomish and Tulalip) to campus to install the “Indigenize Education” mural with students and give a convocation last spring. It was thrilling to see the positive reactions to the mural and her powerful talk. Public art is a vital form of representation that can compel important conversations – the “Indigenize Education” mural started the conversations we need to keep having as a campus. There’s more to come.

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 got to travel to Havana twice for dissertation research in graduate school. There is no way I could have fully prepared for the experience or for the surprising, profound conversations I had with Cuban artists, curators, and other folks while I was there.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Definitely something with food – chef, restaurant critic, food stylist, culinary historian. Cooking and baking are my creative outlets and I think about recipes and ingredients all the time. I have around 130 cookbooks, from a well-used copy of The Joy of Cooking to NOMA by Danish chef René Redzepi.

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

The art galleries, of course. I am biased, but they are usually peaceful and there is always something interesting to look at. There’s also a windowsill seat by the back gallery that looks out on the walkway between Memorial Hall and Wriston; if I need a break it’s the perfect spot to people-watch for a few minutes.

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 picked up Florida, Lauren Groff’s recent book of short stories, on librarian Colette Lunday-Brautigam’s recommendation. I was in New York checking out some museum shows; when I took a break for lunch I pulled it out. I didn’t come up for air until a couple hours later. I finished it the next day and then immediately started reading it again from the beginning.

What’s that you asked about a recording? I couldn’t hear you over ROSALÍA’s El Mal querer, which I have been blasting on repeat for the past few months. Her voice and stylistic versatility are totally energizing.

I find Chantal Ackerman’s film, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels, fascinating. It’s 201 minutes long and focused on a single woman’s seemingly mundane daily routines. She literally makes a meal in real time on screen. I’m interested in boredom and how we react to disruptions in our habits, two big themes in this film – so maybe it’s not for everyone, especially as we all cope with those very things – but it’s definitely on my safer-at-home screening list.

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

On Main Hall Green With … Nancy Wall: Brainpower in neuroscience growth

Portrait on Main Hall Green: Nancy Wall (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

Nancy Wall, an associate professor of biology, has been one of the leading scientists at Lawrence University since joining the faculty in 1995.

In addition to her classroom teaching, Wall has worked closely with dozens of students in doing developmental and molecular biology research over the past 25 years.

She led the neuroscience program as its chair from 2011 to 2019. She’s now playing a lead role in the expansion of that program, one that will see a cognitive neuroscientist added to the faculty in the coming year, strengthening Lawrence’s offerings in both cognitive science and neuroscience.

Other leadership roles have included being Lawrence’s campus coordinator for the McNair Scholarship Program, which assisted low-income students and those from historically underrepresented communities, and serving for four years as associate dean of faculty.

Before arriving at Lawrence, Wall earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Presbyterian College in South Carolina, her master’s in biology education from the University of South Carolina, and her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University.

We caught up with Wall recently to talk about her motivations 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?

As a college freshman, I struggled academically because I was underprepared for college. I had no study skills. But I developed a set of skills that helped me make the Dean’s List every semester after that year. I want any student who is struggling academically to realize if I could do it, they can do it, too.

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

Right now, I’m really excited about teaching the inaugural offering of NESC 200: Introduction to Neuroscience and the continued development of the Neuroscience program at Lawrence. I’ve always been curious about how brains work. How is it that this organ, along with its interconnected nerves and ganglia, processes information about an animal’s external — the world around it — and internal — the world within it — environments and coordinates its responses so it survives, even thrives? I’m particularly interested in learning about how such a complex organ system develops and connects to every other organ system in the body. So, I’m excited about the subject matter, but I’m also excited that next year we will be adding a cognitive neuroscientist to the faculty to further strengthen our program and give our students more options for studying human neuroscience.

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?

Well, ending up living in Wisconsin was a surprise. Before I interviewed at Lawrence, I was not seriously considering moving to Wisconsin. I’d never lived further north than Nashville, Tennessee, so I was not sure about living where the ground stays covered in snow for extended periods of time. But once I interviewed here, I knew that Lawrence was the kind of quality liberal arts college I was looking for. I was impressed by the great students, dedicated faculty, and supportive administration. I’ve never regretted coming here. I love Lawrence, and it turns out I’m cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in winter, not to mention golfing and kayaking in summer and enjoying the occasional Friday night fish fry at the local supper club.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

That’s a tough one. It’s hard to imagine doing anything else, but maybe forensic science would be an option.

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

This probably sounds boring, but my office. I have a nice view of Main Hall and part of the Green and it is a little like my home away from home given how much time I spend there.

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

Another tough question. Only one of each? There are so many … OK, at least in this moment, I go with the following: book, The Little Prince; recording, Rhapsody in Blue; film, Schindler’s List.

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

On Main Hall Green with … Jake Frederick: Learning through disasters

Jake Frederick poses for a photo on Main Hall Green.
Portrait on Main Hall Green: Jake Frederick (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

Fourteen years after his arrival at Lawrence, history professor Jake Frederick is fully established as a scholar on colonial Latin America.

Sparked in part by an experience fighting forest fires in Mexico prior to going to graduate school, Frederick has taken a deep interest in the history of Mexico, as well as Afro-Latino history and environmental history.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University.

He joined the History faculty at Lawrence in 2006, and also now serves as co-director for Latin American Studies. His scholarship has included research on and presentations about fire and other environmental crises in Mexico and economic factors that have informed Mexico’s history. Published books include Riot! Tobacco, Reform, and Violence in Eighteenth-Century Papantla, Mexico, and, with Tatiana Seijas, Spanish Dollars and Sister Republics: The Money That Made Mexico and the United States. In 2017, he was awarded Lawrence’s Award for Excellence in Scholarship.

We caught up with Frederick to talk about his work and 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?

I fancy myself a fairly demanding professor, and I have found in my years of teaching that when students work hard they learn a lot and produce excellent work. I know that you are capable of a lot, and that may be more than you think you are. Higher education should challenge what you believe and it should challenge your skills. You all volunteered for this, to learn ideas you don’t know already and to develop skills you don’t have. So bust your butt to get the most out of it.

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

Right now, I am teaching a seminar on Disasters that Changed the Americas, and I find that really exciting. I have always been interested in disasters, like major disease outbreaks, fires, earthquakes, and the like. They are not just exciting in and of themselves; they are also a great way to find out about societies: how they divided one another into different groups, how they reacted to challenges, and how they envisioned their futures. The in-class discussions have been great.

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 suppose being in the position I am in now is the big surprise. Before I went to graduate school I did a lot of different jobs, like working in a plastics factory, selling sporting goods, and working on an ambulance. I never planned on being a professor. I spent the longest time working as a forest fire fighter for the U.S. Forest Service. In 1998, when there was a terrible outbreak of forest fires in Mexico, they sent me to Chiapas to help train firefighters. That deployment came just before I went to graduate school, and was a big part of what led me to focus on Latin America. I thought that if that kind of thing was happening now, there must have been historical examples to study as well. Now, here I am more than 20 years later teaching about just those kinds of disasters in history.

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

Special effects makeup! I love doing it. I take Halloween far too seriously each year. And if I had the chance to make people up as ghouls, or zombies, or plague victims for a living, well, I’d have to give that some real thought.

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

It’s a secret, and it’s way better than any other place by far. But I can’t tell you because then everyone would go there. Honestly, it’s probably any view of Main Hall when I’m walking into work. I’m always struck by what a beautiful old place I work in.

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’d recommend Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It. To me it’s some of the most beautiful writing in the English language.

The recording may well be The Grateful Dead live in Portland, Maine on March 31, 1985, at Cumberland County Civic Center (you can hear it at archive.org). It was a great show, and it turns out that one of my best friends was there, though we wouldn’t meet for another 14 years. It also brings up interesting, if blurry, memories of my misspent youth.

For a film, it would have to be Jaws. I’d recommend it to anyone; because, who wouldn’t want to watch the best movie ever?

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

We caught up with Darling to talk about her work in the Conservatory and her interests on and off campus.

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

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

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

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

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

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

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

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

I’m not really a person with all-time favorites, but on my nightstand recently are copies of Margaret Atwood’s new book The Testaments (the follow-up to her classic The Handmaid’s Tale), Jordy Rosenberg’s Confessions of the Fox (a queer story of an 18th century thief — I’ve donated a copy to LU’s library!), and the immigration story Mama’s Nightingale by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat, which I’ve been reading with my twin 7-month-olds. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compiled by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Abhishek Chakraborty is a new data guru on campus.

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

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

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

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

IN THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

OUT OF THE CLASSROOM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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