Beck delivers Matriculation Convocation

Beth McHenry

Lawrence’s convocation series for 2006-07 kicked off on Thursday with President Jill Beck’s third matriculation convocation.
Beck’s address, “Liberal Philosophy, Free Discussion, and Individualized Learning at Lawrence,” presented the tenets of liberal education that Beck has fostered for the past two years, this time through the ideas of liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill.
The program began with musical selections featuring the Lawrence Brass and the Welcome Week Choir. After Wallace Stevens’ “The Poems of Our Climate,” read by Professor Howard Niblock, Associate Professor Edmund Kern introduced President Beck.
Beck’s main goal was to outline the necessity of free discussion in education. Beck pointed out that the forms of individualized learning that Lawrence offers, such as small tutorials, encourage this free discussion.
To further express this position, Beck referred to the educational philosophies of John Stuart Mill. Mill believed that only free discussion can foster true education, and only through discussion can people know if their opinions are fallible and explore their own claims to truth.
Discussing our own opinions with those who hold different viewpoints can help us learn more about each position and make an informed decision. Several minds are required to find the real truth.
Beck finished her address by highlighting several individualized learning programs from Lawrence’s 2005-06 academic year. Many of these programs combined the sciences and the arts.
Assistant Professor of Biology Jodi Sedlock and students traveled to the Philippines to study bats. Students also created posters to educate and inform locals, particularly farmers, about their local ecology.
Beck also cited the work of biology students in two other programs.
Students of Associate Professor of Biology Bart DeStasio conducted field sampling in lakes and rivers of Wisconsin. Associate Professor of Biology Beth DeStasio headed a cancer research tutorial in which students gathered and presented information about the molecular basis of cancer.
Beck’s final example was the efforts of former student David Werfelman. With the help of faculty mentors Joanne Metcalf, Fred Sturm and David Becker, Werfelman composed a 12-minute piece to accompany a silent film from the 1920s, “The Black Pirate.”
Werfelman also conducted a group of 52 Lawrence students to record the piece, an excerpt of which concluded Beck’s presentation.
Before his introduction of Beck’s address, Kern, chair of the Committee on Public Occasions, announced the rest of the year’s convocation speakers.
In November, neuroscientist and author Robert Sapolsky will speak in the year’s second convocation. Sapolsky is a professor of biology and neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University. He is also a research associate for the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya.
Each year, his work takes him to the Serengeti of East Africa, where he studies the connection between personality and stress-related diseases in a population of wild baboons.
Lawrence will welcome Juliette Kayyem, terrorism expert, in February. Kayyem lectures on law, homeland security and national security at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
A graduate of Harvard Law School, Kayyem has worked as a trial lawyer, a journalist in South Africa, and legal advisor to Attorney General Janet Reno. Kayyem testifies frequently before Congress and appears regularly as a national security analyst on NBC News.
In April, theater producer and former Lawrence student Theodore S. Chapin will share some of his experiences in direction and production on Broadway.
Chapin is currently the president and executive director of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization, which represents not only the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein but also artists such as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Under Chapin’s guidance, R & H has received three Tony and two Drama Desk Award nominations for Best Musical Revival. Chapin has also served as a Tony Award nominator, a visiting lecturer at Oxford University, and panelist or chairman for numerous programs and organizations promoting the arts.
This year’s Honors Convocation will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Susan Faludi. Faludi’s work focuses on the changing roles of women and men in American society.
Faludi’s journalism credits include articles for The New York Times, The Miami Herald and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her first book, “Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,” explored reactions against feminism, particularly negative stereotypes against career women.
In her second book, “Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man,” Faludi looks at gender perceptions from a different perspective using interviews with a variety of men, from Marines to porn stars.
The Honors Convocation will take place in May.