Lawrence University’s 390 newest students packed into the Memorial Chapel for the traditional “president’s welcome” for freshmen, transfer students, and their families.New Lawrence University president Jill Beck delivered the welcome, the first of her presidency. Beck succeeded outgoing President Richard Warch July 1, 2004.
Beck’s welcome address announced a shift to and emphasis upon civic engagement as a component of the educational process. Beck charged new students to pursue moral and civic responsibility, to motivate themselves towards ethically principled choices, and to develop effective communication skills.
Previous classes were met by Warch’s welcome speech mantra: “Your business is to learn.” Beck acknowledged, cited, and agreed with the statement, but encouraged students to move beyond the classroom and towards civically engaged educational opportunities.
After encouraging student involvement in the electoral process (through voter registration drives and other forms of direct involvement, in addition to voting itself), Beck highlighted three specific venues for student engagement with the larger Fox Valley community: LARY (Lawrence Assistance Reaching Youth), PRISM (Partners Reaching Youth in Science and Math), and ArtsBridge (a program coming to Lawrence University in January).
All three programs group Lawrence students with K-12 students within the Fox Valley area in separate various academic areas.
Dean of the Faculty Kathleen Murray welcomed students on behalf of the faculty. While Murray also exhorted students that the university’s “business is to learn,” she also encouraged students to learn beyond the classroom by getting to know at least one additional faculty member or administrator during each term at Lawrence University. Additionally, Murray advised against what sometimes is a typical freshman schedule-that, is, loaded with course requirements, rather than filled with exciting, interesting, or “even scary” courses. Murray then went on to talk about a somewhat scary book.
Murray shared her somewhat frustrating experience reading Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler, a work of modernist literature and the first Freshman Studies work being studied. It was a witty attempt to connect with a freshman audience who weren’t having it.
The sparseness of freshman laughter during Murray’s minute-long riff about the text may unfortunately indicate a particularly long and quiet autumn facing FS professors, but only time will tell.
However, if you believe Dean of Admissions Steve Syverson, there are some bright lights after all among the Class of 2008. Perhaps fittingly given Beck’s theme, this year’s freshmen showed a particularly acute aptitude for volunteering and community involvement, and half were involved in the National Honors Society during high school.
Among the many distinctions Syverson shared with the audience, one freshman is the youngest nationally certified police dog trainer in the United States, and another has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Jan Quinlan, Director of Alumni Relations, shared some traditions of Lawrence University and Milwaukee-Downer College with the assembled, Lambda Sigma President Emily Barlow welcomed and dismissed the freshmen, and super senior Ben Klein presented the Class of 2008 with its color-yellow.