My own first day at Lawrence seems, in some ways, like it was just yesterday. Truth is, 20 years have passed since my freshman year, which has given me plenty of opportunity to reflect on my Lawrence experience. As an alumna, I look back on my years at LU with a combination of satisfaction for having made the right choice in attending Lawrence, and regret for not having taken advantage of every single opportunity I could. Hindsight is 20/20, after all. So here are a few gentle suggestions from someone who wishes every good thing on those lucky enough to have their entire Lawrence career before them, shiny and new.
1) Remember: Your business here is to learn. These words from Richard Warch, president of Lawrence University during my student years, were spoken every fall to incoming students. The message was clear: You will have life-changing, challenging, meaningful experiences here — in and out of the classroom — but your primary activity should be learning. And this is a great place to do that.
2) Get to know the faculty and staff. Their business here is to teach and to serve. Be aware that they have a lot of faces to remember, so make it a habit to announce your name every time you see them, as in, “Hi, it’s Cathy from your Freshman Studies section”, whether you run into them at the Warch Campus Center or stop by during office hours. This spares them the awkwardness of trying to place you among the many students with whom they interact each day until they are able to address you by name first — which you’ll find many will do. And thank them, whenever and wherever you can. I’m still thanking them, 20 years later.
3) Use the library. It is awesome. I know, I know: You have a tablet or iPhone, but there is no replacement for the people and resources there. Stop in and get to know the place. They have great programs. Plus, it is a good place to find a quiet study nook hidden away from that well-meaning new friend who keeps distracting you from your business here — see Suggestion 1.
4) Go abroad. I almost didn’t go myself, as a student, but an alumna overheard me talking to friends about how I figured I wouldn’t be able to afford the time and resources. She said, “I had the chance to go when I was a student, and didn’t. I’ve always regretted it. You NEED to go.” I did. It was worth it.
5) Get engaged. Not to your significant other, though that could happen, too; there are plenty of great relationships that started at Lawrence. What I mean is, if you’re a connie, go to a history lecture. If you’re a bio major, cross College Ave for a concert — or, better yet, join a music ensemble. Volunteer for a community organization — the sooner you get out and see the rest of Appleton, the better.
6) And speaking of crossing College Ave, do it safely. Yes, pedestrians have the right-of-way and all that. But if you just step out into the street with no regard for the distance, speed and quantity of oncoming vehicles, you are taking a risk. Cars are big. They need adequate time to stop safely. And just because one car slows for you doesn’t mean the car in the next lane over has seen you. We’d like you to be around for your own reunion weekend someday.
Ok, that’s probably enough. You’ll figure a lot out on your own. But my last suggestion is this:
7) Know that the alumni of Lawrence University are here for you. If you attend Lawrence for at least a year, once your class has graduated you automatically become a member of the Lawrence University Alumni Association. Ask the Volunteer and Community Service Center to help you find an alum who can be a resource for your service trip to Costa Rica or Ghana. Go to the Career Center to get connected to alumni with internship and job opportunities in New York or Appleton.
Check out the Class of 1965 Student Activity Grant to support a student-led event on campus. Be aware that alumni contributions to the Lawrence Fund, large and small, help cover part of the cost of your tuition, room and board. There are thousands of us around the world, and we are so glad you have made the decision to come to Lawrence. Make the very best of it, and know that now and in the future, we are here to help.