After the Bubble bursts:

Cathy Statz ’96

Even though I’ve been out beyond the bubble’s shiny confines now for over 10 years, I sometimes feel as though I’ve never left Lawrence. One of the reasons for this is that I’ve been lucky enough to score a position on the Lawrence University Alumni Association board of directors and have cause to return to LU twice a year, at least until my term is up. Then I’ll have to find some other excuse.
On a recent trip back to campus, I was sitting in the grill musing on the passage of time since my days as a Plantz-living, procrastinating double-degree student in English and voice performance. I got to thinking about the beauty of being “multi-interested,” and how Lawrence allows, no, strike that, rather, demands that students dig deeply yet explore widely. That idea, coupled with Lawrence’s focus on individualized attention, shaped the way I perceive and approach my life and work.
Since graduating from Lawrence, I’ve worked as the education director for the Wisconsin Farmers Union, a grassroots, family farm advocacy organization headquartered in Chippewa Falls. I have met senators and future presidents in the halls of Congress and visited with ageing farm couples at kitchen tables in rural Chippewa County. But the work I find most rewarding is creating connections – through individualized and interdisciplinary approaches – to ideas, people and experiences for young people. Just as Lawrence did for me, I enjoy introducing the next generation to the wider world waiting to be explored.
As part of my job, I serve as the camp director for the organization’s summer camp program. While our curriculum focuses on leadership, cooperatives, rural issues and environmental sustainability, we also plan recreational theme nights to round out our camp day. During one of my first years directing camps, and long before the semi-animated film featuring a gold-plated, sinuous Angelina Jolie, I proposed a camp theme night based on the epic poem “Beowulf.” Most of the camp staff didn’t know what I was talking about, but they went along with it, re-enacting Beowulf’s epic battles with cardboard swords and Goodwill costumes.
Years later, we still have a disintegrating three-foot high, papier-mƒché, chicken wire, and burlap Grendel head which makes cameo appearances in camp skits dealing with everything from time travel to game shows. It is heavy enough to topple tiny junior campers who try to walk while wearing it. Like the real Grendel, it is, depending on your point of view, either terrifying or pathetic, though I must admit it is looking rather more pathetic with each passing summer of swordfights and water balloons.
One of my favorite moments as a camp director occurred when a college student who’d been a young camper during the original “Beowulf” theme night came back to camp. She told me what she’d been assigned in her British literature course: “Beowulf.” Both amused and chagrined, she said, “I started reading it and realized, hey, I know this story!” Of course you do, I said, and smiled.

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