Tag: Lawrence students

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.

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

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

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

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

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

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

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

A passion that’s been building

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

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

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

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

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

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

Makerspace has helped grow use of VR tech at Lawrence

More than meets the eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An early start

Jones was drawn to music early in her life.

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

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

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

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

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

Good advice

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

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

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

Awa Badiane is a student writer in the Communications office.

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

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

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

Story by Isabella Mariani ’21

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

The start of something new

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about the LARY Buddy program here.

Broadening horizons

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

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

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

Learn more about Even Start here.

One for all

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

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

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

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

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

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