Rebecca Vande Hei Frostenson '04

Rebecca Frostenson

We don’t have a legacy of higher education in my family, but we do have a legacy of breaking with tradition. My great-grandparents immigrated from Europe to put down roots in a new place. My grandparents left farming to build a modern life. My mom created a career in addition to a family. And I chose a totally new path that began with a liberal arts education, which doesn’t carve a straight line to any job but makes excelling at every job possible.

In high school, I wanted a college experience where I’d be immersed in the humanities, challenged academically, and accepted for my creative expression. The Lawrence Difference entered my vocabulary when a friend enrolled two years ahead of me. I was enthralled as he described Freshman Studies and Trivia Week. Another friend enrolled the next year, and I learned more about the small class sizes, charismatic professors, and quiet campus. When I visited to compete for a merit scholarship, it confirmed that everything I wanted was just two hours from home.

My parents didn’t support my choice of such an expensive school—especially without a clear career path in mind. I spent months before my first year trying to piece together funds through scholarships, the money I earned, and the state-school equivalent amount my parents had set aside. When the first tuition payment came due, I was seriously short.

That is how my Lawrence experience came to begin with a surprise ally in the Finance department. I remember breathing to stop my tears as I explained my situation over the phone, and how they welled back up when the woman said, “We’ll figure this out together.” She helped me secure an alumni grant and confirm a Work Study option, and she partnered with me throughout my time at Lawrence. I averaged 70-hour work weeks every summer and had to request payment extensions many times, but I made it.

The constant financial challenge magnified everything else about my time at Lawrence: The friends who became family, professors who became mentors (Dreher, Goldgar, Taylor), and lessons that became part of my DNA. I love remembering sensations like the heat of my ears during debates in small classes. The surge of adrenaline when I first tried rock climbing with the Lawrence University Climbers Association. The vibration of Lawrence Orchestra concerts in my chest. The crunch of snow underfoot as I left the library at closing time. The peace of belonging.

I am honored to be serving on the LUAA Board, and I look forward to amplifying the light of our truly exceptional community.