Tag: Lawrence students

2 Minutes With … Kelsi Bryant: New LUCC president embraces the challenge

Kelsi Bryant ’22 was elected president of the Lawrence University Community Council. (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

Being president of the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) has never been an easy role, but serving in the middle of a pandemic brings even more challenges and uncertainty. That didn’t stop Kelsi Bryant ’22 from stepping up when the position came open this fall.

She was elected in a student vote earlier in October. She now leads the campus’ shared governance council, working with class representatives and committee members in helping to shape campus climate. The president’s position gives her a seat at Board of Trustees meetings and she oversees a six-figure budget.

Bryant, from St. Louis, has had a long history with student governments, as she was involved in her high school’s governing body all four years. She wanted the same at Lawrence.

“I ran for class rep my freshman year, but I didn’t get it,” Bryant said. “So, I was like, I have always been involved, but I didn’t get it so I thought maybe it’s not for me anymore. But having the experience in high school really gave me the courage to try again.” 

In her short time as president, Bryant has already seen how significant this role is as she represents her peers across campus.  

“Student government in my old school was more focused on planning events, kind of like S.O.U.P. (Student Organization for University Programming),” she said. “It’s a lot of different now. I’m answering lots of emails 24-7 and going to a lot of meetings; however, I still love it.” 

Inspired to run 

Bryant said she became inspired to run for LUCC president as a result of some negative experiences in Appleton, both personal and hearing of them from friends.  

“Sophomore year I was walking down College Avenue, I was with a group of people and someone leaned out their window and threw a beer can at my head,” Bryant said. “I was lucky I ducked and it missed me, but it was really, really scary.”   

Bryant said she took this traumatic experience and used it as fuel to get to a position where she can help make a difference going forward. In her role with LUCC, she wants to build a better bond between Lawrence and the greater Appleton community, working directly with the mayor’s office to protect students and create a norm that experiences like hers are never OK.  

“I want our diverse students to feel safe on and off campus,” Bryant said. “Starting with on campus. … I’m going to challenge the campus to stand up for each other. … This way things would be nipped in the bud right away with a ‘that’s not right’.” 

Navigating the uncertainty

Bryant said she plans to work to keep campus safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and to encourage students to get more involved in LUCC.

“Overall, I just want the student body to interact with LUCC more,” Bryant said. “I want them to know who we are, and students to feel supported by us. Not in a way that LUCC is overshadowing all of campus, but in a way that students can feel comfortable coming to LUCC with any concern.”

Bryant said it’s important for students to feel connected even amid the safety protocols tied to the pandemic. She wants to use LUCC to keep the campus climate positive and fulfilling for all students.

“I still want our students to interact, safely of course, giving them some more of the college experience back,” she said.  

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

2 Minutes With … Dani Massey: Leaning into the transfer student journey

Dani Massey ’22 transferred to Lawrence a year ago. (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 Dani Massey ’22 was working as a conductor’s assistant amid their college search, they decided to ask their music director about his college experience.

“He had this spark of how he treated people and how he taught, and I wanted that light,” Massey recalls.

It turns out he was a Lawrentian. And from that moment, attending Lawrence became Massey’s priority.

Ever since they transferred to Lawrence in fall 2019, Massey has been among the transfer students who help make Lawrence great. We’re highlighting their contributions to our community here for National Transfer Student Week, Oct. 19-23.

Balance is a science

Like many transfer students, the process of getting to Massey’s dream school was a journey. It began at Joliet Junior College, 30 miles southwest of their hometown of Chicago. While initially pursuing a music major, Massey was drawn to psychology instead, and developed an interest in neuroscience. Now, they hope to work with students in a teaching hospital in order to expand our knowledge of biology and behavior.

“It’s important we understand ourselves and how to help people learn,” Massey says. “Take care of oneself and each other.”

Juggling psychology, neuroscience, and Russian makes academic rigor a hallmark of Massey’s Lawrence experience. This course load has taught them much about personal and professional balance.

“It’s a lot of time management and knowing when to say no,” Massey says.

Now into their second year at Lawrence, the landscape has changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Adapting has itself been a learning experience.

“I’ve leaned into the discomfort of taking classes on Zoom,” Massey says. “Forgiving myself if things don’t go right.”

Finding a voice

There are many dynamic ways in which a student can feel at home on campus. Massey connects to their peers through their diversity column in The Lawrentian, titled Subculture on Main. It’s about providing a voice and a platform for students of different groups and backgrounds to share their experiences.

“The spectrum of experience is so vast,” Massey points out. “Each person has a story here. It’s a good way to let people who don’t leave their comfort zones be exposed to different worldviews.”

This Lawrentian gig also fulfilled Massey’s goal of having their writing published before they graduate.

A worthy journey

Pandemic or not, here’s what Massey wants transfer students to know: “Self-advocacy is something I can’t emphasize enough. Making those connections, communicating about your needs, and finding someone who will listen is really important.”

The journey as a transfer student has been one of persistence.

“Since I am a first-generation student, I have had to navigate higher education alone — everything from picking a school to balancing two jobs and full-time classes,” Massey says. “I knew when I began at Joliet that I would be working up to transferring to Lawrence. It’s my undergraduate dream school. I am immensely proud of becoming a Lawrentian. I worked very hard at my junior college and I continue to work hard at Lawrence because I am so happy to be here. Being a Lawrentian reminds me that I am capable of achieving my dreams, that I have a bright future ahead, that I can help someone else achieve their dream with the education I am getting here.”

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

2 Minutes With … Emily Harper: Science, space, and a chance to explore

Emily Harper ’22 is doing summer research via the NASA Space Grant Program.

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

Amid the uncertainty of an unconventional Spring Term, Emily Harper ’22 received good news that’s keeping her eyes on the future. The Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium (WSGC) awarded her a stipend for a summer research program, the Elijah Balloon Payload Team Educational Experience.

The grant is provided by NASA’s Space Grant Program, which works with partner universities like Lawrence to fund educational opportunities in science and aerospace in order to prepare students like Harper for careers in space science.

Harper, of Westerville, Ohio, applied for the Elijah Balloon Team on a suggestion from Jeff Clark, a professor of geosciences. She was in the process of applying to other summer research programs when this one came her way.

She is spending nine weeks with a research team made up mostly of engineering students. They will decide together what they want to test with Elijah, WSGC’s high-altitude balloon used to collect data in near-space environments. As a chemistry and English major, Harper looks forward to sharing new learning perspectives with her interdisciplinary team.

“Engineers think a lot differently than a standard chemistry standpoint,” she said, “so it will be interesting to see how I can work on a team with engineering students and solve problems together.”

Sparking an interest

Her interest in field research took root in the fall when she did chemistry fieldwork with her advisor, assistant professor of chemistry Deanna Donahue. She learned to love working in rugged conditions and unpredictable weather.

Of course, things will look a bit different this time around due to COVID-19. The summer research will move to an online format, and perhaps be based more in the design and development of the project.

Looking forward

Despite some uncertainty, Harper is thankful for what she’ll be able to experience. She hopes this summer’s research will inform her future career interests.

“When the pandemic started to get more serious and we were sent home for Spring Term, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do anything in terms of research opportunities for summer,” she said. “So, I’m very grateful that this program is still able to happen virtually.”

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

2 Minutes With … Ghania Imran: A renewed desire to stay involved

Ghania Imran ’21 is studying at home in Chicago during Spring Term. (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

Life off campus at her Chicago home is pretty different for biology major Ghania Imran ’21.

After juggling classwork, research in the biology labs, and service on the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC), she’s finding distance learning during Spring Term to be a bit of an adjustment.

It’s also motivating her to reconnect with student government when students return to campus.

Imran has spent most of her Lawrence career connected to campus through LUCC, Lawrence’s student government organization. Though her once-active university life has slowed a bit, Imran still thinks fondly about her extensive involvement with LUCC.

Imran first found a long-lasting niche in LUCC when she became a class rep in her freshman year. This wasn’t unfamiliar ground when she ran for the position that winter. Imran was a debater in high school and has always had an interest in student government.

“I think I very naturally gravitate toward leadership,” she says. “I like to do things outside of biology in my free time.”

She discovered an enthusiasm for campus involvement as a class rep, which inspired her to run for president in her sophomore year. Her efforts landed her the vice president position, which she served this past year. That included the role of Finance Committee chair, where Imran managed a budget of half a million dollars and approved financial requests from campus clubs. She also served on the Steering Committee, approving new and existing clubs. She was hooked.

“I learned to love it really quickly,” Imran says. “It was so fun.”

LUCC furnishes students with the special opportunity to impact the student handbook. Exercising her right as a Lawrentian is one of the things she misses most about student government.

“It’s really cool that students get to do that,” she says. “I miss it, I love being super involved.”

Having been so active in LUCC, Imran thinks about her peers as they do their work while quarantined.

“I can’t imagine what LUCC is going through. Student body engagement is already difficult while you’re on campus in person. We worked so hard on that.”

Though there’s no doubting Imran’s passion for student government, genetics and cell biology is where she stakes her future. Last summer, she joined associate professor of biology Brian Piasecki in the lab to genotype the behaviors of a microscopic worm called C. elegans. This research helped her realize her abilities to do biology research in grad school.

Now that she’s home, the LUCC veteran is considering running for JBoard, LUCC’s judicial board. She would take the position next year.

“It feels weird not having a hectic schedule,” she confesses.

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

2 Minutes With … Sarah E. Navy: BSU president keeps connections alive

Sarah E. Navy, a music performance major, is president of Lawrence’s Black Student Union.

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

Sarah E. Navy ’22, president of Lawrence University’s Black Student Union (BSU), has been on a mission during Spring Term to keep members of the student organization connected.

It’s the continuation of efforts that were in play on campus before the COVID-19 pandemic sent everyone home.

Those efforts have included keeping alive an important tradition in bidding farewell to senior members of the BSU, the Kente Cloth Ceremony. Navy has been working to overcome the roadblocks, mapping out a Zoom alternative to the group’s beloved senior celebration.

Building connections

While still on campus, Navy, a music performance (voice) major from Houston, and the BSU board had made major strides as an organization in building stronger connections as a community.

“We have hosted a game night, we have gone roller skating; that was super fun,” Navy said. “We have had various community events. During one meeting, we had the Title IX coordinator come and speak with us. One of the big things I wanted to do was to redefine what community meant to us as a community on campus.”

With everyone separated this term, hosting events has been difficult, but not impossible. Navy has worked to keep lines of communication open between herself and BSU members.    

“I send out a lot of emails to our organization as a whole,” Navy said. “I feel like with us being so far away, the least I can do is to continue to send out those messages for our community to know there is still some sort of lifeline to connect with.”  

Navy and the BSU board have also been active on the organization’s social media accounts.  

“The DIC (Diversity and Intercultural Center) just had their virtual party, so spreading that around for everybody to see,” Navy said. “Just keeping everyone as engaged as possible.”  

An important tradition

The annual Kente Cloth Ceremony is among the group’s most cherished traditions. During this celebration, the BSU community comes together to say goodbye to BSU seniors and celebrate their accomplishments. Seniors are presented with a kente print stole that is worn at graduation. Though unable to come together and celebrate in person, Navy still believed it was important for this year’s seniors to have a ceremony and to receive a cloth.  

“When I found out we were getting quarantined, I was like, OK, we have to figure out how to get the seniors their kente cloths,” Navy said. “And I remember being in Sankofa and talking to a senior, Jacelynn Allen, and she was so upset about it all, and I was like, ‘You know we’re going to figure out a way to give you guys your kente cloths.’

“And she was like, ‘You’re going to try and get us our kente cloths? I didn’t think that was possible. When we were told to go home, I thought that was done.’ To be able to provide that for someone, and not for personal gain but just so they know they are accounted for, that matters.”  

BSU will be hosting the Kente Cloth Ceremony through Zoom later this term. They will produce a video of people chosen by the seniors to speak on their behalf. The video will be shown during the Zoom ceremony, and then others in attendance will have a chance to congratulate the seniors and bid them farewell.  

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

2 Minutes With … Naomi Torres-Solorio: Exploring climate crisis while at sea

Naomi Torres-Solorio ’22 spent a portion of Winter Term in New Zealand.

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

One morning earlier this year, while on dawn watch aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans, miles from New Zealand shores, Naomi Torres-Solorio ’22 spotted dolphins. It was a welcome sight and a moment of peace for this environmental studies major from Oakland, California, who was researching the climate crisis on the other side of the world.

SEA Semester, one of Lawrence University’s beloved study abroad opportunities, sends students around the globe to spend a portion of an academic term at sea. SEA Semester programs encompass a range of academic disciplines from anthropology to marine science, but all concentrate on specific ocean-related themes and give students the tools to take on real-world problems. This is possible thanks to the efforts of the Sea Education Association (SEA), a Massachusetts-based nonprofit group that promotes environmental literacy in high schools and undergraduate programs.

Eye-opener on other side of the world

Torres-Solorio was among the first students to try out SEA Semester’s new humanities program, Climate in Society, which allowed her to study the effects of the climate crisis on New Zealanders’ way of life. New Zealand is an island nation that is already feeling the effects of rising sea levels and warming temperatures.

But the students didn’t jump into research right away. They spent the first half of the term on the SEA Semester campus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Here they prepared for their time at sea by taking global ocean classes and learning the ins and outs of safety on the boat. Then, after a long flight, Torres-Solorio and 30 other students from around the country spent a week on New Zealand’s south shore. This is where Torres-Solorio first had the chance to speak to islanders about their personal experiences with climate change. It’s when she realized the gravity of what she was there to do.

“It was really eye-opening,” she said. “It’s very important to recognize what’s going on and be able to talk to people about it.”

Much of the SEA Semester experience for Naomi Torres-Solorio ’22 was spent on a boat off the shores of New Zealand. There was plenty of work and study, mixed with a little bit of fun.

Living life at sea

Torres-Solorio has long been interested in human impact on the environment. But getting out of her comfort zone was what drew her to SEA Semester in the first place. That is, spending the final five weeks of her term living and working on the vessel, the SSV Robert C. Seamans.

“I never imagined myself living on a boat,” she said. “I’m a city girl. But it turned out to be one of the greatest experiences I’ve had.”

Of course, life on the boat wasn’t a vacation. Torres-Solorio and the other students were responsible for daily chores and rotating watch shifts. But Torres-Solorio found plenty to love in this new routine. Even staying awake for dawn watch from 1 a.m. to 7 a.m. turned out to have its perks.

“You see everything,” she said. “You get the night and the stars, and by the end of your watch a sunrise. It’s so nice. Anything can happen in that single watch.”

When they weren’t maintaining the vessel, students attended class in the afternoons. This offered opportunities to share data they collected on various aspects of their journey, such as keeping track of organisms they saw along the way.

That data is for students to use in two projects that finish off the program: one in science and one in humanities. Using the collective data, Torres-Solorio focused on the abundance of chlorophyll A and phytoplankton on the cruise track. She capped off the humanities component with a paper on the psychological effects of climate migration, using data from her interactions with New Zealanders.

To students considering a term abroad with SEA Semester, Torres-Solorio offered these words of advice: “Talking about it doesn’t do justice to how amazing the program is. All the things you see and do, the people you talk to, it’s just incredible. If you like adventure and the environment, go for it.”

For more on Lawrence’s study abroad options, see here. For more on SEA Semester, see here.

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

2 Minutes With … Caroline Garrow: Designing her own Lawrence path

Caroline Garrow ’21 worked with Lawrence professors to design her own course of study.

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

One of the many great features about Lawrence University is the ability to self-design your own academic path. If a student is interested in taking a specific class or pursuing a major that is not readily available at Lawrence, there are options.

Caroline Garrow ’21 took advantage of the self-design aspect of Lawrence while studying at London Centre during Winter Term, before COVID-19 brought about social distancing restrictions. 

“It’s really nice to have the independence to work on your own time and to have the immersive experiences,” Garrow said. “I went to the British Film Institute, down by Southbank, and they have lots of other resources for film. It was super cool to be able to just get up and do something like that.” 

Garrow, of Evergreen, Colorado, is a film and self-designed cognitive science double major.

“I have two professors on campus who are ‘sponsoring’ me,” Garrow said. “I coordinate my assignments with them.” 

For information on Lawrence’s student-initiated options, including tutorials, independent study, and academic internships, see here.

Being independent

With her independent study, Garrow has been able to focus on specific topics of interest. 

While Garrow’s independent classes during Winter Term didn’t directly connect with the city of London, taking an independent study abroad opened the opportunity to better understand an aspect of the place where you are studying.

Garrow had planned to stay in London for spring term, but she headed home because of the closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. She hopes to do more studying abroad in the future, including in Copenhagen.

“My family lived in Copenhagen and London,” Garrow said. “I think it’s really cool to see where you grew up from a completely different perspective.”  

During her time at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Copenhagen, Garrow hopes to be able to take classes pertaining to her self-designed major.    

“I’ll be taking cyber-psychology, neuropsychology of social behaviors and innovation through design thinking,” she said. “These are courses that are not specifically offered at Lawrence but do have connections with what we are studying and will help to enrich the major I have established at Lawrence.”  

Willing to explore

Study abroad opportunities will eventually come back. So, we asked Garrow for some tips for students who are considering it: 

Say yes. “My favorite trips have been when I wasn’t in charge,” Garrow said. “I went to an Afro beats club; I wouldn’t have done that on my own. A friend took me hiking; I wouldn’t have done that on my own. I would say talking to the people around you, getting to know people and see what they’re interested in, and just being Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man.”  

Think about food. “Things can get expensive if you get take-away or eat out every day. Think about what it is you like to eat and what would keep you healthy”. 

Pack light. “You will buy things to bring home with you; make sure you have enough room for it.” 

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

2 Minutes With … Andrew Foley: Finding the intersecting rhythms in math, music

Andrew Foley ’21 draws inspiration from music and math. (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

Meet Andrew Foley ’20, a computer science and math double major with a music minor.

This surprisingly common pairing of math and music challenges our too-indulged notion of STEM and the arts as polarized fields, and shows us how Lawrentians unite the two in perfect harmony every day.

Striking the right chord

Foley started playing bass in fifth grade in his hometown of Waunakee, Wisconsin. Despite playing piano as a child, and a brief foray with the saxophone in high school, he has stuck with the bass and has embraced the unexpected parallels between that and his fascination with math.

“The most intersection is in theory,” Foley said. “With the music minor, the first three terms out of five are in theory. You’re working on a scale of eight tones so you can sort of see the connection between playing with how the tones line up.”

To say it simply, being a musician calls for a quantitative type of thinking. Foley sees this in jazz turnarounds—moments of transition and resolve at the end of a section—numerically represented as 2-5-1 turnarounds, or 3-6-2-5-1, to name a couple.

“For me, it’s a mix of sequencing and thinking of numbers,” Foley said, “and also trying to hear a specific line and trying to play something that’s similar to it.”

He points to a particular learning style offered by this quantitative thinking. Where some musicians learn best with visuals or transcription, others may benefit best from numerical thinking.


Adding it all up

This is more than just a retrospective way of talking about music. In the moment, one is always listening for those turnarounds and mathematical intervals. Mathematical thinking especially applies, Foley said, when you’re improvising or learning a new tune.

“When you’re improvising, some people can hear a line and directly play what they hear,” he said. “Some people hear a finger pattern or an interval, which is a specific number of pitches apart, which is sort of a mathematical connection there. Whenever I improvise, it’s a little bit of familiar finger patterns that I’m used to that I know sound good or doing some patterns.”

The discovery of further intersections between math and music may lie in Foley’s future. He hopes to continue his hobby of playing bass, perhaps alongside a software development job. He also ponders getting into algorithmic composing, which allows one to create music with code.

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

2 Minutes With … Kenya Earl: Records on the basketball court, research in the lab

Kenya Earl ’21 poses for a photo in a science lab in Steitz Hall. (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

In pairing an impressive basketball career with research and study as part of her biochemistry major, Kenya Earl ’21 is forging a path at Lawrence that is anything but ordinary.

The junior from Iowa City, Iowa, is setting scoring records for the Vikings on the basketball court—she surpassed the 1,000-point mark earlier this season, the fifth player in Lawrence history to do so—while also carving a path on the academic side as she eyes a career in the pharmaceutical field.

She hopes to go on to pharmacy school after getting her degree at Lawrence.

Trailblazer on the court

In her freshman year, Earl set the single-season scoring record for women’s basketball at Lawrence with 433 points. Now, she’s on track to become the highest scoring player in Lawrence history, a milestone she could reach during her final season.

“It feels pretty good,” Earl said. “In freshman year, I didn’t know about any of these records.”

Earl has had her eye on the ball for as long as she can remember; she first started playing basketball at age 6—perhaps not surprising, considering her father, Acie Earl, starred at the University of Iowa before moving on to play four years in the NBA and then overseas. When he wasn’t playing, he was coaching his daughter in the sport they both loved.

For more on Lawrence athletics, see here.

For more on the biochemistry major at Lawrence, see here.

For more on Lawrence’s success in STEM fields, see here.

The big picture

Earl also puts a lot of focus on what she and other student athletes do off the court. She’s a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), which seeks to improve the student-athlete experience at Lawrence by strengthening ties with university administration and the community. Volunteering is a big part of that. Over D-Term, for example, Earl and her teammates held a fitness boot camp at Alexander Gym for families of cancer patients to promote fitness and wellness.

“It was pretty fun to see that and be a part of that,” Earl said.

Public wellness is familiar territory for Earl. Until she heads off to a pharmacy school, she continues to put in work on her major. Last summer, she did research with Associate Professor of Chemistry Stefan Debbert, where she worked on finding new pathways for medications for a parasitic disease that has similarities to malaria. The medication on the market has not been effective, so the search is on for alternatives. Her compounds were sent to a researcher in Switzerland for further testing.

That’s all part of the student journey for Earl. With her third basketball season now over, and winter term of her junior year winding down, she is looking forward to her next steps as a Lawrentian. That includes finishing a basketball career that will place her among the most accomplished student athletes in Lawrence history.

“It’s meant a lot,” she said of her time at Lawrence. “It’s been great to accomplish the things I have. I’m inspired by great coaches and teammates who help me along the way.”

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

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

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

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

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

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

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

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

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

Heart and Hustle

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

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

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

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

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

Off the court

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

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

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

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