As a Biology major and Environmental Science minor, Ronan Christman ’13 has drawn from, and contributed to, the incredible community spirit at Lawrence in the years following her graduation. Christman initially visited Lawrence due to an interest in small Midwestern liberal arts schools and the knowledge that her own grandfather had been a student at Lawrence himself.
Christman fondly remembers the first time she set foot on campus: “It was one of those perfect Fall days—sunny and brisk with all the leaves changing color, the Campus Center was just being built, and I just knew.” Since then, many more positive experiences have shaped her perception of Lawrence.
Along with completing her studies, Christman especially remembers what a joy it was to be involved in the rowing team, to be a biology tutor and serve as Compost Manager for the Sustainable Lawrence University Garden (SLUG) club garden both during the school year and over two summers. Christman reflected, “There was such a beautiful community surrounding the Garden and SLUG house. I still miss it!”
It was this theme of community and empowerment which struck Christman most about her time at Lawrence, and perhaps informed her involvement with Riverview Gardens non-profit urban farm, at that time only recently founded, upon graduating.
“One of the things that I have continued to appreciate about my Lawrence experience is the power of cooperative community building. It is not about getting it all done yourself, but about building communities and organizations of people who are willing to work hard together. As individuals and communities, we are stronger together,” Christman stated.
Working together to build a stronger community, especially for those who are often under served or overlooked due to socioeconomic position or other challenges, is certainly the cornerstone of Riverview Gardens’ mission.
Job training, leadership opportunities and an overall sense of personal empowerment are created through the programs offered at the urban farm and hydroponics greenhouse, which were founded during Christman’s time at Lawrence.
Christman explained further, “[Riverview Gardens] was inspired by the example of other non-profit urban farming programs across the country. We hoped to design a program that was unique to both the strengths and needs of the Appleton community.” Since its beginnings in 2011, Riverview Gardens has become a large part of Lawrence’s community as well.
Frequent volunteer opportunities are offered for students to participate in, including the memorable Welcome Week service trip which freshmen embark on in the fall.
Since working at Riverview Gardens, Christman has moved on to work in Waynesboro, Va., where she serves as a Taproom Manager at Blue Ridge Bucha, a local organic kombucha brewery.
Christman explained briefly what kombucha is made of, noting that “the base of kombucha is a fermented tea,” while “the end result is a naturally carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage that is high in pro-biotics.”
Though Christman has moved far from Appleton, Wis., her work at the kombucha brewery is still influenced in part by the community experiences she had while at Lawrence: “Kombucha was something I first learned about at Lawrence thanks to some friends at the SLUG house and have been drinking ever since,” Christman said.
Overall, Christman has come away from her experience as a Lawrence student with an open mindset and willingness to try out new experiences.
“Finding opportunities to work with people who agree, disagree, challenge and support me has always led me to new adventures and chances to broaden my understanding. It’s cliché but I have always found that I regret the chances I don’t take far more than the chances I do take,” Christman concluded.