What do you DO all day?

Bonnie Alger

“What do you DO all day?” is The Lawrentian’s new, weekly profile series. This term, we will be featuring some of Lawrence’s student deans.”Typical days” cease to exist in the world if your name happens to be Marti Hemwall. In between meetings with students about academic issues and meetings with faculty concerning policies, Hemwall, a veteran Lawrentian, occasionally wonders how she finds time to eat and sleep.

Chicago native Hemwall has been a member of the Lawrence University faculty since 1988. Dean Hemwall is known to students primarily as the current Dean of Student Academic Services, as well as an associate professor of anthropology. She claims to enjoy both positions, as “they use different parts of my brain.” The administrative position involves more “detailed” work, and forces her to “be efficient and effective” while still allowing her to meet frequently with students individually.

She regularly handles all student academic issues, including off-campus studies, transfer credit, problems with instructors and advisors, student-designed majors, and “students at risk.” Along with these responsibilities, she is a member of the Faculty Sub-Committee on Administration, which reviews student petitions for grade changes, and is a member of both the Ethnic Studies and Gender Studies steering committees. “That’s the memo side of my brain!” she jokes. Teaching allows her to be more reflective and philosophical, and “in touch with the rhythm of the university.”

As the mother of two college-aged children, Hemwall says that her own children help her relate to students. Hemwall adds, “Of course, when I started working here, I had little kids, so I was younger and closer to the age of the college students!”

During her Lawrentian college years, Hemwall thought she would pursue English or theater. “I didn’t know what anthropology was until college!” she said. But once she took an introductory class in the department she was hooked, and ended up completing an interdisciplinary major combining anthropology and psychology, the first ever student-designed major at Lawrence. Her self-designed choice of study seemed to suit her personality the best. “I was very committed to trying to make a difference in the world,” she explained.

One of Dean Hemwall’s main interests is urban anthropology. As an undergraduate, she student-taught through the Urban Education program, and has since been an advisor to that program. Her other major interest lies in academic advising, and she stressed the importance of having a positive advisor/advisee relationship. “It’s the one place where student and advisor talk about the mission of the school,” she says of advisor/advisee meetings. She just recently finished editing a monograph titled, “Advising is Learning: Academic Advising in Small Colleges and Universities” and remarks that, “Advising keeps you in touch with the university.”

When asked what her advice to students would be, Hemwall replied, “Take time off from school after college… think about what you want to accomplish, who you are, and what your values are.” From such a multi-faceted woman, it sounds like a great suggestion.