Sure, the ongoing pandemic kept things a bit weird in 2021. But that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for telling the stories of Lawrence University and the Lawrentians who make this world a better place.
Today we’re going to spotlight eight Lawrence stories from the past year that speak to resilience, ingenuity, creativity, and resourcefulness. These stories are among our favorites of the year. If you read them the first time around, consider this a reminder of how amazing this place can be. If you missed them earlier, now is the time to catch up.
We hope you’ve enjoyed the journey through 2021 as much as we have.
1. Rising to the challenge
Lawrence had welcomed about 800 of its students back to campus in the fall of 2020 at a time when COVID outbreaks in Wisconsin were spiking. Classes remained remote and students needed to adhere to strict safety protocols, but the opportunity to resume a semblance of campus life was a big step forward. How did Lawrentians manage to keep campus safe while the surrounding community was struggling with outbreaks? We took a closer look.
“We’ve all read the stories from other places where decisions that students make really do make or break what happens,” Assistant to the President Christyn Abaray said. “We have students who get it. They’re making some of the most mature decisions that we could ask for.”
2. A need for flexibility
Diving head first into a job search upon graduation can be daunting enough in the best of times. Now do it in the midst of a pandemic when the job market is in turmoil. We caught up with three newly graduated Lawrentians, Hoa Huynh ’19, De Andre King ’20, and Maria Poimenidou ’20, to talk about navigating the job search in these strange days.
3. Debut novel brings national buzz
Catching up with Lawrence alumni who are doing creative things is always a pleasure. Andrew Graff ’09 leaned heavily on the lessons learned as an English student at Lawrence as he wrote his debut novel, Raft of Stars. It arrived among the spring releases with national shout-outs from the likes of the New York Times and USA Today.
“His work is a testimony to the fact that inspired, artful writing happens over time and is not the product of a flash of genius or a single good idea,” English professor David McGlynn said. “A Lawrence student might not publish a novel while a student, but our record shows that something foundational is happening here.”
4. A new sound in the Conservatory
Jando Valdez, a sophomore at Lawrence, has had a passion for mariachi music since his freshman year at Appleton North High School. How he turned that passion into the newly launched Lawrence University Mariachi Ensemble (LUMÉ) speaks to the beauty of the Conservatory of Music and the growing flexibility built into its various degree programs.
5. Pandemic rock stars
This was fun. When Rob Neilson, an art professor, and Jake Frederick, a history professor, had their sabbaticals canceled by the pandemic, they hunkered down in a storage garage on campus and wrote and recorded an album. Never mind that they knew very little about writing music and even less about recording it. It was new territory, but it gave them a chance to channel some energy and creativity at a time when there was nothing much to do and nowhere to go.
6. New visibility for Indigenous students
The creation of a new piece of public art raises the profile of the Native community on campus to new levels. The sculpture, known as Otāēciah and located on the renamed Kaeyes Mamaceqtawuk Plaza between Mudd Library and the Wriston Art Center, was dedicated on Indigenous Peoples Day.
“Once they see themselves, they kind of have that reinforcement that we’re here, and we’re always going to be here,” Taneya Garcia, a senior who is president of Lawrence University Native Americans (LUNA), said of Native students’ reaction to the sculpture.
7. Raising profile of Latin American composers
The level of talent and commitment from Lawrence faculty is always impressive. We’ve highlighted some of that through the year. The story of Horacio Contreras, a cello professor in the Conservatory, and his wife, Natali Herrera-Pacheco, a research and intern coordinator for SOLA, stands out. They launched SOLA (Strings of Latin America) to build catalogs, biographical materials, and pedagogic tools to help raise the visibility of Latin American composers in classical music. Their efforts are paying off, with catalogs for cello and viola now available, and more on the way. Lawrence students are working as SOLA interns to move the project forward.
8. A classroom with a purpose
Lawrence science faculty announced three years ago that they were launching an initiative to reimagine and remodel a lecture hall in Youngchild Hall to make it more inclusive and more engaging for intro-level STEM classes. With funding from donors through the Be the Light! Campaign and an assist from a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), they set out on a journey that would come to fruition at the outset of Fall Term 2021. We took a look at how this modern classroom moves STEM teaching forward and raises the bar across campus.