Tag: Lawrence students

Stories in the night sky: Lawrence student tackles research on Celestial Histories

Avery Greene stands among chalk constellations drawn by Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, earlier this month on the Lawrence University campus. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

Story by Karina Herrera ’22

Many people enjoy stargazing without ever knowing that those twinkling dots in the sky hold stories and legends from cultures around the world.

Avery Greene, a Lawrence University sophomore from Edina, Minnesota, wants to share those stories, particularly those that are important to her fellow Lawrentians. She spent the summer on a research project called Celestial Histories, under the guidance of Megan Pickett, associate professor of physics, and is now creating an oral history of astronomy and of personal connections to the night sky. She’s building a website that will hold her research and the celestial stories shared by students, faculty, and staff at Lawrence.

A chemistry and history double major, Greene became interested in pursuing this project after hearing about one of Pickett’s astronomy classes, where students discussed different interpretations of constellations and stars. She had previously taken a historiography class that involved studying oral histories and learned how to create an exhibit in a narrative format. She had already taken numerous physics classes and felt ready to jump into the celestial research.

“I was able to take my education and my interests and put them together for this project,” Greene said.

She describes Celestial Histories as a collection of stories, traditions, and experiences of the night sky that people in the Lawrence community have shared with her. By collecting these different tales and legends, Greene is able to portray how students can celebrate different cultures in various forms — even in the sky.

“It’s a way that we can walk with other cultures, not only to a space where we’re acknowledging other cultures, but kind of creating a community centered around all these things that we have in common,” Greene said.

One such story that Greene pieced together is about the constellation Taurus. Often referred to as Taurus the Bull, one part of the constellation consists of a cluster of seven stars called the Pleiades. It might look familiar, Greene said, if you think of the Subaru logo. In Japanese, subaru means “united” or “gather together,” so when the Subaru Corp. was founded in 1953, its leaders adopted a logo with the united stars. One reason there are only six stars in the logo instead of seven is because the seventh star is not always visible to the naked eye.

The process for gathering these stories and experiences was twofold for Greene. Half of the project was spent researching and gathering historical information on her own, and the other half was spent interviewing people for their interpretations and accounts with the night sky.

Greene chose to focus her research within the demographics and populations that are represented at Lawrence so that her project would be more personal to the Lawrence community.

She reached out via social media to spread the word about her project, inviting Lawrentians to come forward with their stories. Now she’s creating a website so that people can experience for themselves the many traditions and legends connected with certain constellations.

Throughout her progress with Celestial Histories, Greene said Pickett’s guidance and support has been instrumental in keeping the project moving forward. Pickett provided the initial idea and a general outline of what she was looking for and continued to offer feedback at every stage of the project.

“She has an insane knowledge base of the actual sky, so she’s been a really good reference for me to check that what I’m actually saying is the right star,” Greene said.

Pickett had nothing but praise for Greene’s work.

“She put together the surveys, conducted the interviews, put together the website and archival access—and got us both IRB (Institutional Review Board) certified; she’s done an amazing job, and I am so proud of her,” Pickett said.

Greene aims for Celestial Histories to be an ongoing project. She is excited to continue interviewing students about their personal connection with the night sky. Both she and Pickett want it to be something that other students can continue after Greene graduates.

“I have learned so much,” Greene said. “I got to dig into something that I hadn’t really ever experienced before.”

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

2 Minutes With … Tee Karki: Compiling, sharing resources to assist South Asia

Tee Karki ’23

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 Karina Herrera ’22

Tee Karki ‘23, a government major from Nepal, has been raising awareness for the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in South Asia. That’s included the compiling of an extensive list of resources for people who want to help.

South Asia has seen a surge in COVID -19 cases, with infection rates spiking and the death toll climbing. The outbreak in Nepal hit home for Karki as she spoke to her parents about the vaccinations here in Appleton.

“I mentioned to them that I got my second vaccine and they mentioned that they still hadn’t gotten theirs and I thought that was really concerning,” Karki said.

That was a light-bulb moment for her as she came to understand more about the disparities between her situation in the U.S. and that of her family in Nepal.

Wanting to help the people from her home and other countries in South Asia, Karki dived in this spring. She started by compiling a resource guide, highlighting organizations that are trying to help with everything from medical supplies like oxygen and ventilators to food and other necessities in Nepal, India, and Bangladesh.

It eventually grew into an extensive resource document that she has been sharing on social media. Click here to access the document.

“I wanted to create a resource document by different organizations and where they’re rooted,” Karki said. “So, you can track them based on where they are locally or not locally. And that’s just kind of how I got started, and then I just kept going.”

Facing challenges

Karki’s efforts were not without struggles. She said it was difficult to talk to people about the severity of the situation in South Asia when people here were just starting to overcome their pandemic anxiety. It was also challenging mentally for Karki. She described how she carried a lot of guilt for being able to walk around vaccinated with her friends and then sitting down to write about the dire situation back home.

It also was hard work. Karki had to read through and winnow a lot of information on the organizations she included on her resources list.

“That was my biggest challenge—more than getting it out there—it was going through the information by myself,” she said.

Karki did have experience working in Lawrence’s Title IX office to lean on.

“Working with Title IX is very sensitive; I have to be able to do a lot of research and then condense and make it easy to follow, and I think it’s exactly what I needed to do with the resource document,” she said.

Goals for the future

Karki plans to grow her network of resources and include more countries that have been heavily impacted. She’s working to add Myanmar and the Philippines.

She doesn’t plan to stop there, however. Karki wants to return home to create a video series to highlight the types of loss that people are facing and how they can better manage and cope with that loss.

After college, Karki aims to continue her advocacy work.

“The end goal would be to be an international lawyer and fight against the refugee crisis and genocides and really just commit to supporting people and countries who need to be represented equally with major superpowers,” she said.

Karina Herrera ’22 is a student writer in the Office of Communications.

2 Minutes With … Terrence Freeman: Exploration key to research fellowship

Terrence Freeman ’22, an anthropology major, will be doing archeological research this summer as part of the Graduate School Exploration Fellowship program. (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

Planning for life after Lawrence can be daunting. Terrence Freeman ‘22 is preparing by participating in the Graduate School Exploration Fellowship (GSEF) program this summer.  

“GSEF essentially takes students from marginalized communities to a conduct a research program at a graduate school,” said Freeman, an anthropology major from New York. “It is mainly used to not only draw marginalized students to the graduate school program but also to give you a feel of what the graduate school experience is like, to see if you really want to do that after graduation.”

GSEF is a fellowship program that gives undergraduate students between their junior and senior years the opportunity to conduct research at one of the Big 10 research universities. Participants are partnered with a mentor and receive career development advice along the way.   

Important guidance

Freeman is part of the Posse program at Lawrence and was encouraged to apply for a GSEF fellowship by his Posse mentor. He completed an application process that included, among other things, a personal statement essay and a research proposal.

“They said it was competitive and kind of tough to get in, so I was not putting too much hope into it; so, when I got it, I was like, this is awesome,” Freeman said. 

After being accepted, Freeman went through a week of training that detailed what to expect from the program. He was placed with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is being matched with a mentor. During the application process, Freeman presented a research proposal that was centered on his work in anthropology and archeology. The research conducted is ultimately chosen by the mentoring professor, but Freeman hopes to do research on North American archeology.  

“I knew I wanted to work with an Indigenous community or an Indigenous population,” Freeman said. “I proposed studying the Pueblos in the Southwest because they have a rich prehistoric history. The main reason is, because they are a marginalized population, their prehistory goes unrecognized, and I wanted to shed some more light on it. Prehistory is pre-written time, so the material record is one of the only things that gives a voice to these people. By uncovering the material remains of the past, you are telling their story.” 

Connecting archaeology, activism  

Freeman, who will do his GSEF research this summer, has been active at Lawrence as a student activist.  

“Me and my friend, Earl Simons, we co-founded the Students for Democratic Society (SDS) here at Lawrence,” Freeman said. “Essentially what it is is a national pan-leftist organization that tries to create change through student-led activism and student-led campaigns.” 

There are about 20 SDS chapters in the United States. Freeman was able to get a chapter started in Appleton. As a chapter leader, Freeman attends a biweekly meeting to give chapter updates and stay coordinated with other chapters. 

Freeman is passionate about activism and hopes to one day combine it with his work in anthropology and archeology. 

“If I am going to work in archeology, I am going to work in public archeology, which is essentially conducting archeological research for the community,” Freeman said. “In my public archeology class now, we are talking about how public archeologists go out to marginalized communities and go to the people there and are like, ‘There is history beneath the soil now; how do you want to see it conveyed.’ I want to incorporate my activism with archeological research.” 

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

2 Minutes With … Georgia Greenberg: Putting a focus on climate change

Georgia Greenberg ’20 helped organize the recent LUaroo music fest. (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

Georgia Greenberg ’20 will continue her journey through Lawrence this fall when she begins a full academic year of student teaching in an Appleton elementary school, part of a partnership between Lawrence’s Teacher Education program and the Appleton Area School District. After majoring in government with a minor in education, she is now in pursuit of her teacher certification.

But until she steps into the classroom, Greenberg has been busy the past year pursuing another passion—serving as the communications lead for Sunrise Appleton, a local chapter of the youth-led Sunrise Movement organization that works to combat the climate crisis by spreading awareness and driving legislative change in communities across the country.

She also took time to help organize the recent LUaroo music festival on the Lawrence campus.

Most of the work with Sunrise Movement is done through Sunrise “hubs,” where community members meet, hold events, and forge partnerships.

Greenberg, who is from Chicago, took a one-year pause from her schooling before she jumps into student teaching. She joined the Sunrise Appleton group in May 2020, several months after some Lawrence students created the community-wide hub.

“I think there are a lot of students like me who have had these interests but haven’t been able to put them into action,” Greenberg said. “It’s very exciting that we can be the first step into that world for young people who haven’t had the opportunity to get involved with something like this before, including myself.”

But Greenberg highlights the importance of expanding the reach of Sunrise Appleton. Organizers have made early efforts to rebrand the hub into a more regional Sunrise of the Fox Valley. They held a recent public pizza party downtown, hoping to recruit members and educate the community about climate change.

The expansion of the hub is a focus for Greenberg, as her responsibilities center on outreach and social media engagement. But it was a hunger for personal connections that got her on board with the Sunrise Movement in the first place.

“The first step for me was that I missed people and want to be around people,” Greenberg said. “I do it because I want to make the world better, but I also do it because I will go crazy if I don’t have work that I’m doing that makes me feel in control over things that are freaking me out.”

An interest in activism

Greenberg’s interest in activism was sparked when she saw her teachers in Chicago go on strike in 2012.

“That kind of organizing has always been interesting and inspiring to me,” she said. “There was a time when I thought, ‘That’s for other people; I don’t know enough. I can’t do that.’”

That mind-set has certainly changed for Greenberg, who has found a comfort level as communications lead with Sunrise Appleton.

She thinks the leadership skills she’s developing will help as she looks to become a leader in the classroom. After obtaining her teacher certification, she hopes to teach in her home city of Chicago.

“Figuring out I wanted to teach made school make sense,” she said. “I’m so excited. It’s crazy that this whole thing is going to end up being a six-year journey. And this is the final step.”

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

2 Minutes With … Clayton Agler: Baseball star pitches in during pandemic

Clayton Agler ’22 scores a run during an April 24 game vs. Cornell.

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

Clayton Agler ’22 has found the perfect blend of academics and athletics as a student-athlete at Lawrence University.

A standout center fielder on the Vikings baseball team, Agler is majoring in biochemistry in preparation for medical school.

“It’s really nice to be able to play baseball, which is a sport I have always loved, while getting a really good education,” Agler said.   

The junior from Rockford, Ohio, has been playing baseball since he learned how to walk.

“Balancing athletics and academics is definitely tough, but I have learned to take advantage of every opportunity of free time that I have,” Agler said. “Like when we have long bus trips to away games, doing some homework on the bus.”   

Lawrence debuts new athletics logo. See more here.

Agler also represents the baseball team as co-chair of the Lawrence Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), a group that helps strengthen the bond between student-athletes and the administration. It typically hosts a number of events throughout the year, although that was limited during the pandemic. SAAC will be hosting its first in-person event since the start of the pandemic in the coming weeks, the BLU Crew Awards.  

The call of medicine

When Agler is off the field, you can find him volunteering as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or working as an EMT at his hometown hospital. 

“It was a very eye-opening experience, I would say, seeing the impact of the pandemic and the toll that it takes on our health care system,” Agler said of his EMT work over the past year.  

He received his EMT certification the summer of 2018. He got it as a way to explore the medical field.

“I didn’t necessarily become an EMT with the intention of working during a pandemic,” Agler said. “But I was thankful to be able to help.” 

On the front lines

He served as an EMT when the country was seeing some of its worst numbers of COVID cases. He saw the suffering up close.   

“The area I worked in was a very rural community,” Agler said. “There were a lot of people, especially older people, who would get some kind of sickness and then just stay home. It would end up getting really bad, then they would end up calling 911 because they needed to go to the emergency room.  Most of them had not been tested for COVID, so we would not know if it was COVID, and It would turn out they had it.” 

Despite working during a high stress time, Agler said the experience reaffirmed his passion for medicine and his desire to go to medical school.  

“Absolutely,” he said when asked if he’d do it again. “I think being an EMT during the pandemic gave me a unique opportunity to help people in a way that others are not able. And I was able to help in a way that was definitely needed.” 

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

2 Minutes With … Finn Witt: Science, art, creativity meet via NASA internship

Finn Witt ’21

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

Right now, a peculiar asteroid is swinging slowly around the sun. Meet 16 Psyche—with a diameter of 140 miles, scientists suppose it is the core of an ancient protoplanet, blown away by rocky collisions long ago.

Last year, here on Earth, Finn Witt ’21 interned with NASA’s Psyche Inspired program and helped spread the word about this space giant.

An asteroid first discovered in the 1850s, 16 Psyche has drawn much attention through the years for its unusual metallic makeup. NASA is set to launch a Psyche probe to orbit the asteroid in 2022—arrival time, 2026—to learn more about the goings-on of rocky planet cores.

Witt, a biochemistry major from Kinnelon, New Jersey, was familiar with this mission before he landed the internship with Psyche Inspired. Based at Arizona State University, Psyche Inspired recruits undergraduate students of all disciplines to share the Psyche mission with the public through a variety of creative projects.

“It was a nice crossroads between getting the public excited about what was going on and science,” Witt said.

Getting creative

The internship program takes place over one academic year. During this time, students must create four projects of their choosing that represent the Psyche mission in an artistic way. These projects are shared on the Psyche mission’s social media platforms to get the public engaged with the upcoming launch.

Witt’s projects bear witness to the creativity afforded by Psyche Inspired. He completed a string quartet composition and three paintings, one of which had to go digital when his work was interrupted by the pandemic. But even that was a learning experience.

“It pushed me into digital art, and I do it more now,” Witt said. “It was a new technique for me.” 

Making connections

The communication and collaboration involved in Psyche Inspired stand out to Witt. The students met each week via video chat to discuss their projects. They also met with researchers and reviewed their findings.

“I really enjoyed getting to meet different people in different fields,” Witt said. “I had a lot of fun talking to engineers who worked for NASA and other institutions.”

The internship may be over but Witt’s career in science is just getting started. He is on track to complete the first portion of his dual-degree program; after earning his biochemistry major, he will move on to Washington State University to complete a degree in mechanical engineering. He is currently finishing up his capstone, studying whether bacterial species can survive on Mars.

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

2 Minutes With … Jessica Toncler: Involvement brings new connections

Jessica Toncler ’22 (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 / Communications

Lawrence provides a lot of opportunities for students to participate in important decision-making on campus. From the Lawrence University Community Council (LUCC) to the Judicial Board (J-Board) to the recent Presidential Search Committee, Jessica Toncler ‘22 has repeatedly seized the opportunity to take part in that decision-making process. 

“I’d always been really interested in student government,” Toncler said. “I was in student government all throughout high school; I was student body president my senior year. It is something I was already really passionate about.” 

Toncler, a government and music performance (violin) double major from Columbia Station, Ohio, is serving as the council’s parliamentarian this year.

“I just kept trying to become more involved,” she said.

A presidential search

That involvement led Toncler to being part of the most recent big decision Lawrence made, the hiring of a new university president. 

“It was a lot of work; there were weeks we put in 20-plus hours on Zoom meetings,” said Toncler, who joined Shaun Brown ’21 as students named to the 17-member Presidential Search Committee. 

She and Brown worked alongside faculty, staff, and members of the Board of Trustees, narrowing down potential candidates, eventually recommending Laurie A. Carter to become Lawrence’s 17th president. 

“I think this was one of my favorite memories at Lawrence thus far,” Toncler said. “Working with the Board of Trustees, I made so many new connections and relationships. I met a whole new group of professors that I would have never met otherwise because I wouldn’t have taken classes in their discipline.” 

Toncler said the experience is something she’ll continue to build on.  

“I had my junior [violin] recital in March, right after we announced Laurie as the new president, and all the trustees came to the livestream and were emailing me,” Toncler said. “It was a little community; it was so great.” 

Embracing student government

Toncler joined LUCC her first year at Lawrence as a class representative.  

“My first year, I ran for class rep, either the first or second week of school,” Toncler said. “I remember it was really stressful because no one knew me, all they would know was my 150-word statement.” 

Toncler was elected a class representative during her first year and has been a part of LUCC ever since. She has worked toward expanding her reach on campus, joining other committees and boards geared toward improving campus.  

“I got really involved in [LUCC] and it was because I really enjoyed it,” Toncler said. “My sophomore year I ran again and was re-elected [a class representative], and I joined the Curriculum Committee and got to meet a lot of the people who are part of the administration. My sophomore year I also joined the Judicial Board.” 

Toncler was excited about the teams she joined because she knew she was having a real impact in advancing Lawrence as a student.  

“One of the interesting things about Lawrence is they give the students a lot of free reign,” Toncler said. “Curt [Lauderdale, dean of students] and Chris [Card, vice president for student life] sit in on LUCC meetings as advisors, but it really is a student-run entity.” 

After Lawrence, Toncler is planning on pursuing law school and feels as if her experiences at Lawrence have prepared her well. 

“The parliamentarian role has set me up really well,” Toncler said. “Feeling like I have some relevant experience to bring to the legal sphere. I have also learned how to communicate in a professional setting, how to talk to administrators, how to talk to board members.” 

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

2 Minutes With … Sterling Ambrosius: Looking out for student welfare

Sterling Ambrosius ’22

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

Leadership at a distance has its share of challenges and rewards. Sterling Ambrosius ‘22, who is fulfilling duties as chair of the Student Welfare Committee and as a student member of the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team (LPPT) from their home in Milwaukee, knows that well.

The Student Welfare Committee (SWC) serves the student body as a resource for accessibility, sustainability, transportation, wellness, and more. Ambrosius became chair in their first year at Lawrence and has stayed with it. But Ambrosius is quick to credit fellow SWC members with the committee’s successes.

“Every year my committee impresses me,” Ambrosius said. “I want them to know their work has a positive impact.”

Visible impact

Chances are, you see that impact every day on campus. For one, in 2018, the SWC implemented and expanded gender-inclusive facilities in common spaces. The committee branched off into the Gender Inclusive Facilities Task Force in order to focus energy on the project. For Ambrosius, a gender studies major, this project was well worth the extra effort required to complete it.

“It was a labor of love,” they said.

Then, when Ambrosius was a sophomore, the SWC made improvements to the operation of the Shopping Shuttle, a vital transportation service for students to access Appleton amenities such as Woodman’s and Target. This year, the shuttle service was expanded to include Appleton International Airport, a 15-minute drive from campus. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted the change; the shuttle enables students to travel to the airport without relying on ride-sharing with other students.

Pandemic safety

Being part of the LPPT, meanwhile, has allowed Ambrosius to see up close the importance of good communication with the campus community. Efforts to reach all students regarding COVID safety can be complicated.

“We’ve tried to get more engagement, but it’s difficult,” Ambrosius said. “There’s something disconnected about screen-to-screen connection. I want to give everyone my undivided attention, but I can’t.”

However, working with student welfare concerns in this challenging environment has brought out strength and creativity in many students.

“Though it’s a lot of work, I see great ideas come to light,” Ambrosius said. “And I get to see them from start to finish.”

As we repair and grow from this disconnected environment, Ambrosius encourages students to connect with the campus community. Having recently been reappointed as SWC chair for their senior year, Ambrosius looks forward to future projects that will keep positive changes alive at Lawrence.

“You don’t need to run as a candidate, but I think you should know what’s going on,” Ambrosius said of getting involved. “Especially for marginalized students. It’s important to get involved in communities where you will feel safe and supported.”

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

2 Minutes With … Earl Simons Jr.: Following passions in music, Japanese

Earl Simons Jr. ’22 (Photos by Danny Damiani)

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

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

One of the best parts of the Lawrence experience for many students is getting a chance to explore a deep interest even if it’s not in your primary area of study. Earl Simons Jr. ’22 can attest to that.

The junior from Queens, New York, isn’t working toward a degree in music—he’s majoring in international relations and minoring in Japanese—but has had the opportunity to nurture his trumpet skills with the Conservatory of Music. He’s played with the award-winning Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble, and this term is taking trumpet lessons as an independent study with trumpet professor John Daniel. 

Simons has been playing the trumpet since fourth grade and has gotten instruction along the way from some accomplished trumpet players, including Peter Archer, the New York City middle school teacher who was an inspiration for the Disney-Pixar film, Soul. 

“He has had a big influence on my life; he is also a Black trumpeter,” Simons said of Archer. “Fun fact, he was a big inspiration for the movie Soul. The middle school in the film is almost an exact replica of our middle school band room. Really proud of him for that.” 

Earl Simons Jr. ’22 isn’t pursuing a music degree but he still follows his music passions in the Conservatory of Music. It is one of the things that drew him to Lawrence, he said.

A common misconception with the Conservatory is you have to be majoring in music to take part in ensembles or other aspects of the music program. That’s not the case.  

“For two years I was part of the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble,” Simons said. “When I was looking into Lawrence, I was in contact with Ken Anselment (vice president for enrollment and communication), and he told me about the jazz program. He also got me in contact with Patty Darling, director of the Jazz Ensemble.”  

Studying abroad in Japan

Along with following his passion in music, Simons has been able to explore his interest in East Asian culture.  

“I’ve always been interested in East Asian cultures, ever since I was a kid,” Simons said. “For elementary and middle school, my schools were prominently Asian. So, I was always engaged in and had a deep apperception for the cultures. It wasn’t until high school where I focused on Japanese culture and language. I knew I wanted to pursue it in college.”  

Simons started studying Japanese at Lawrence his first year and had the opportunity to participate in an eight-week summer immersion program with the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont.  

“My professor, Akimi Adler, told me about it and I got in,” Simons said. “When you do this over the summer, it’s an immersion program, so it’s eight weeks of the language, no English. For eight weeks you have to honor a pledge to only speak in the language you are studying. And that really helped.”  

During this program, Simons realized how much he enjoyed learning Japanese and has decided to take his study of Japanese language and culture to Japan. He will be participating in the Waseda University semester program for Fall and Winter terms.  

“At the Middlebury Language Schools is where I really fell in love with Japanese,” Simons said. “A lot of the professors there were asking me, ‘Are you going to go to Japan?’ That’s when I thought about it and decided I wanted to study abroad in Japan.”

Simons will be taking classes at Waseda University. He then will participate in a cultural internship before returning to Lawrence in mid-March.  

“I want my experience in Japan to enlighten me about new opportunities I could take,” Simons said. “That’s what I am most excited for; I want to be inspired to do more things.” 

Simons will be bringing his trumpet with him to Japan.  

“I want to see their jazz clubs,” Simons said. “I don’t know what the jazz scene is like in Japan, but I heard it’s good.” 

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

2 Minutes with … Iyanu Osunmo: Insight into D.C. via Washington Semester

Iyanu Osunmo ’22 is participating in Washington Semester remotely.

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

Despite not being able to attend the Washington Semester program in person in the nation’s capital because of pandemic restrictions, Iyanu Osunmo ’22 is still embracing the off-campus program.  

She began her studies in January, working remotely from her home in Houston, and will continue into May.

“I am doing two seminars in the foreign policy concentration,” she said. “One of my seminars is about managing the pandemic in globalized societies and the other one is about political transition and political implications.”  

Osunmo, a government major focused on international relations, is taking classes with the American University faculty as part of the Washington Semester program, offered through Lawrence University’s Off-Campus Programs. The program is encouraged for government majors but is open to all students.

The Washington Semester enables students to participate in a thematic program of study at the American University in D.C. In addition to the core seminar, students pursue an internship related to the program topic and an independent study project. The Lawrence-approved program tracks include American Politics, International Environment and Development, International Law and Organizations, Justice and Law, Peace and Conflict Resolution, Islam and World Affairs Foreign Policy, and Global Economics and Business.

Typically, students participating in Washington Semester would be in D.C., giving them the opportunity to physically experience working and studying in the nation’s capital. That isn’t possible right now, with all classes being moved online.

Still, there is a lot she is gaining from the program, Osunmo said.

“I am taking seminars with people from many universities; for example, Lehigh University and students from other liberal arts universities across the country,” she said. 

Hearing from expert voices

The Washington Semester instructors have been able to bring in pieces of Washington.  

“The program has had to shift quite a bit due to the online nature of it, but I do believe our seminar instructors are doing all that they can to really engage us with D.C.,” Osunmo said. “For instance, they get a lot of speakers from the D.C. area and they tell us what Washington, D.C., is like. … Hillary Clinton’s speech writer came to speak to our class. Lissa Muscatine was the former chief speech writer and senior advisor to the secretary of state. She taught us a lot about the White House’s operations and about her experiences as a speech writer. I learned a great deal from her; that was a really valuable experience.” 

In addition to taking classes, Osunmo is participating in an internship, working for the National Democratic Institute’s Gender, Women, and Democracy office. The National Democratic Institute is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works with partners in developing countries to increase the effectiveness of democratic institutions.

“Currently, I am helping them with a presentation that teaches women and people in the media about building coalitions and about violence against women in politics and the media,” Osunmo said. “It’s a nice training curriculum that I get to help put together, and it’s a really rewarding experience.” 

Preparing for the next step

The internship and the classes are prepping Osunmo for life after Lawrence. She said she cares deeply about democracy and the equitable treatment of oppressed people and sees herself one day holding elected office. 

“I do believe that my experiences at the Washington Semester program have not only deeply integrated me into the field I intend to go into, by enabling me to hear from government experts and foreign policy experts, but it also has taught me about what is more valuable with regard to governance,” Osunmo said. “Protecting human health and human security, ensuring democracy continually survives, and ensuring elections are fair and transparent.”  

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