Hidden Figures of Lawrence: Lynn Van Zeeland

Lynn Van Zeeland sits behind her desk in the Office of Admissions, located in Alice G. Chapman Hall.
Photo by Larissa Davis.

This column is devoted to highlighting staff members that play a huge role in the everyday experiences of the Lawrence community. The goal is to focus on the “Hidden Figures” of Lawrence University and their interests both within, and outside of Lawrence.


This past Monday, May 1 marked National College Acceptance Day, which is the last day for students to accept admission into the college or university that they will attend in the fall of this year. In the past few months, Lawrence has been bustling with prospective students and their parents, eager to see what the campus has to offer. Some of those prospective students will end up at other universities across the country, but many of them will become a part of the Lawrence Class of 2021.

Lawrence exists first and foremost because of its students. Each year, as the school says farewell to a senior class, it welcomes a new group of freshmen into the campus community. But who chooses these people, how are they chosen and why do they end up at Lawrence? That is the role of the Office of Admissions staff. Lynn Van Zeeland is the Senior Administrative Assistant in the Office of Admissions. She has a variety of roles, all of which are crucial to the success of admissions at Lawrence.

On a regular day, Van Zeeland assists the Dean and Director of Admissions and serves as building director for Alice G. Chapman Hall, which is the location of Admissions, Career Services, ACE and Film Studies. Van Zeeland also provides overall support to the whole staff and manages the Youth Options Program that allows local high school students to apply for advanced classes at Lawrence.

Van Zeeland additionally organizes the nine large open houses for prospective students visiting Lawrence throughout the year. Van Zeeland gets a lot of help from the greater Lawrence community. She reflected on how grateful she is towards current students for being so welcoming to all the prospective students. “Everybody is so willing to be helpful and friendly,” she said. Van Zeeland believes this makes Lawrence a truly unique community to visit.

It has been almost thirteen years since Van Zeeland began working in the Office of Admissions. When Van Zeeland first started in 2004, the dining hall was located in Alice G. Chapman Hall and the Office of Admissions was in a little house across the street from Kohler Hall. Back then, applications came in paper-form through the mail. “When the mail came in, we got [bins] heaping full [of] mail,” Van Zeeland said. “You would open [the] mail and you would group it, so that was how you would find all of the different pieces to the applications. And then that all had to be hand-entered [into computers].”

Van Zeeland has noticed that the transition to online applications has allowed the staff in the Office of Admissions to focus more time on reviewing applications and preparing for prospective student visits. Interestingly, as more general information about Lawrence has become available on the internet, visits have become more specific to the interests and goals of individual prospective students.

Van Zeeland loves the variety that her job brings, as well as the interactions she has with student staff workers. Van Zeeland also appreciates getting to meet prospective students and see the excitement and nervousness contained within those visits.

As some Lawrentians may remember, each prospective student applying to Lawrence must submit a 47-word response answering the question ‘Why Lawrence?’ Everyone interprets the 47-word response differently. And when asked how she defined the ‘Lawrence Difference,’ Van Zeeland responded, “The ‘Lawrence Difference’ is different to everybody, and I think that is the ‘Lawrence Difference.’ This place opens up your eyes to things you never knew were out there.”

On top of all of the roles Van Zeeland has at Lawrence, there are many activities and jobs that Van Zeeland assumes in her daily life as well. Van Zeeland enjoys spending time in the northern part of the state, which provides a “peace of heaven” away from phones, internet and even the washing machine! “It’s just peaceful; that’s my downtime,” Van Zeeland said. Recently, Van Zeeland’s sons have also moved back to the area, which has allowed the family to spend more time together. One of her sons is an alumnus of Lawrence, and both have been busy with jobs and school. Van Zeeland is glad her kids are close to home and the family for now, but she commented, “If they go somewhere fun, then I have a place to visit!”

It may come as a surprise that with so many roles, Van Zeeland is considered one of the Lawrentian’s ‘Hidden Figures.’ Her upbeat and genuine character make her a welcoming staff member, and her hard work allows for prospective students from all over the world to envision themselves within the campus community. So, although she may be tucked away in the Office of Admissions, Van Zeeland’s presence has created opportunities for current and future students to find their place at Lawrence.