New lecture series spotlights faculty research

Molly-Judith Wilson

Monday, Feb. 6, Lawrence University’s senior honor council, Mortar Board, launched a new lecture series titled “Professor Soapbox.” Mortar Board’s usual activities range from volunteer projects to fundraising to promote literacy. The organization hopes that Soapbox will benefit Lawrence in a positive way.

Assistant Professor of Government and Stephen Edward Scarff Professor of International Affairs Jason Brozek started the series off with a lecture on war and comic books which, as the topic implies, was not drawn from his class lecture notes. In fact, a main goal of the series is giving a voice to the research and writings of professors that might otherwise go unnoticed by students.

Senior Katie Van Marter-Sanders, Mortar Board Chair of Faculty Outreach and head of Professor Soapbox, explained, “We want to open up those little projects that professors do and let the entire campus see them.” She continued, “Our goal is to have professors talk about things that they’re passionate about, without taking away from class time.”

Senior Jenna Budde, a current member of Mortar Board, agreed. “All of our professors are talented in their fields, and Soapbox will give them a chance to speak about something that they’re passionate about outside of the classroom.”

Because the topics of the lectures will be unrestricted, interdisciplinary mingling is both expected and welcomed. Said Van Marter-Sanders, “Last night [the lecture] was on comic books, yet afterwards students from the anthropology department were talking to [Brozek] about how it related to their interests as well. [This series] is an opportunity to have students look at their professors in a new way, and to see what sort of resources they have on campus.”

Budde stressed that the lectures are not only intended to give professors the time to talk about their projects but also to help students better understand their professors’ interests. “It’s really an opportunity for you as a student to learn more about your professors and what they’re interested in, and maybe it’ll be something you’re interested in too,” said Budde.

The Soapbox series does not intend to add stress to the lives of Lawrence’s already busy professors. This is why professors are encouraged to simply gather notes from their latest conference, paper or book and present them informally in a half hour session.

“It’s supposed to be relaxed and non-stressful, and though there are benefits [to doing the lectures], they’re not meant to stress anyone out,” Van Marter-Sanders insisted. “The lectures will be informal, with powerpoints if [the professors] want, but really it’s just an informal talk geared towards a broad audience.”

Both Van Marter-Sanders and Budde are hopeful for the success of the Soapbox series. Having the lectures once a week “would be great,” according to Van Marter-Sanders, but she understands the busy schedules of Lawrence’s professors. She stressed the “relaxed” tone of the series, and noted her hope that professors take their chance to stand up on a soapbox for half an hour to discuss their projects outside the classroom.

Professors are encouraged to contact Van Marter-Sanders at vanmartk@lawrence.edu if they are interested in giving a lecture, and students also are encouraged to nominate professors if they know of interesting research being conducted.

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