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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thom

Finding your HOME: A visit to Lawrence University

Main Hall on the Lawrence University campus
Main Hall is one of the most prominent academic buildings at Lawrence University

There is a difference between being familiar with something, and knowing something. While these words are often bandied about interchangeably, there is an important difference. Grammatically, familiar is an adjective, used to describe a noun, while knowing is a verb, signifying action. There’s some distance between us and things with which we are simply familiar, whereas things we know are always held closer to us. That closeness is earned from taking action.

I have been familiar with Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin for much of my career. A dear friend and colleague, Ken Anselment, was the Chief Enrollment Officer at Lawrence for more than 10 years. Several of our GEC team members are graduates and/or former (and current) professionals at the university. The love of this campus shared by these wonderful people combined with the reputation of Lawrence as a part of the famous Colleges That Change Lives consortium has always impressed me. But until now, I have never made the journey to Lawrence, and thus, have never really known it. 

Lawrence University is located in the surprisingly bustling and endlessly charming town of Appleton in eastern Wisconsin, roughly equidistant from Osh Kosh and Green Bay. The heart of the Lawrence campus perches alongside a cliff overlooking the Fox River, which actually bisects the campus, with athletic facilities on one side, and the academic/residential campus on the other. The nearly 1,500 undergraduates at Lawrence (called Lawrentians) all live on campus for the full four years, in a range of housing options including the soon to be completed Fox Commons, which will feature loft-style living for upperclass students. The Lawrence University Vikings athletic teams compete in NCAA Division III and are cheered on faithfully by Blu, the Viking-helmet wearing antelope.

Blu, the Lawrence University mascot
Dr. Thom can confirm: the 'Lope is Dope

As we normally do, we break down the seemingly enormous task of decoding a college community by using a simple shortcut, an acronym that encourages you to focus on markers of healthy college community

Remember, when you visit a college, remember that a good college is:


Open & Welcoming




A college community should be immediately embracing of you as a visitor, because after all, a healthy community sees you and seeks to help. The admissions office at Lawrence is easy to find and tours are widely (and creatively) available, including “Twilight Tours” that allow busy families to visit campus between 6-8 pm (central time) on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Signage is common throughout campus and the greater Appleton area and anyone who looks lost will almost certainly experience “Wisconsin nice” and receive directions followed by a “you betcha!”

Open & Welcoming

Whenever I visit a campus, I am always looking for 1) are there spaces for students to congregate, and 2) are there students in those spaces at times you would expect them to be there? A study from 2022 indicated that a majority of college students reported an increase in loneliness since the COVID-19 pandemic as students continue to transition from a period in which social activities were actively restricted to the current period in which students are self-restricting those social interactions. To combat this, Lawrence has created multiple themed housing options (like the Gaming House we saw on our tour), hang out spaces throughout campus, and through a revised pre-orientation program featuring affinity-based group activities like kayaking and street mural art projects that allow new students to connect with each other over a shared interest.

Lawrence University themed gaming house
Themed housing is available at Lawrence and allows students to connect with each other based on a shared interest, like gaming.


The Lawrence campus is highly manicured and tended to with very little wear showing on even the oldest of buildings. Campus architecture is highly consistent with buildings sharing a common palette of sandy fieldstone with white accents. While there are plenty of modern glass-forward buildings like the Warch Campus Center and the Steitz Science Hall, the most prominent buildings on campus like the domed Main Hall and the spired Memorial Chapel feature a mixture of Federal and Georgian Revival architectural styles with many classic, clean, symmetrical lines. Though we were visiting on a rainy day, it’s not hard to imagine the white peaks of Lawrence shining clean against a big Wisconsin blue sky. 

The Steitz Science Hall at Lawrence University
The Steitz Science Hall is a beautiful 78,000 square foot modern teaching and research facility right in the heart of Lawrence University.


While some colleges and universities encourage their students to focus their education, Lawrence embraces the breadth and versatility of a liberal arts education. Nearly every student we met during our visit was double-majoring or engaged in multiple academic endeavors.

Oftentimes, we meet students who are double majoring in disparate and unique fields and will shy away from their interests slightly and offer up a sheepish, “I know that sounds weird.” Not at Lawrence. Whether it was economics and environmental science, or Chemistry and Japanese combined with community gardening, every student we met simply could not wait to explain all of the ways they nerd out.  

This is perhaps most fascinating in the prestigious Lawrence Conservatory of Music, in which non-music academic pathways are not just tolerated for music majors, they are actively encouraged. We had the pleasure of meeting with Brian Pertl, Dean of the Conservatory of Music, as he described how his background in ethnomusicology allowed him to lead a creative team over 10 years at Microsoft that pioneered the use of sound in multimedia software. According to Dean Pertl, “The world needs music more than ever, but it also needs a new kind of musician. Our fast-changing, unpredictable world, requires top notch players and educators who are also, agile, adaptable, entrepreneurial, and infinitely creative.”

Finally, any trip to a college campus that can be accompanied with a visit with a GEC team member is automatically going to be a winner. Seeing Rosie Cannizzo, who serves as the Director of Conservatory Operations at Lawrence in addition to a GEC Essay Specialist, was a real treat.

Rosie Cannizzo and Dr. Thom at Lawrence University
Dr. Thom was able to meet up with GEC Essay Specialist Rosie Cannizzo

When it comes time to suggest colleges to our GEC students, our team of consultants maintain several lists of schools that share certain characteristics. These lists help our team make that perfect college recommendation for our students and have titles like “Colleges for Outdoor Enthusiasts,” “Allergy-Friendly Colleges,” and my favorite, “Happy Colleges.” This last category is our list of colleges known to feature a high quality of life that results in happy, less-stressed students. Now knowing Lawrence like I do, there’s no doubt it will go on our “Happy Colleges” list.

Not working with us yet? Feeling stressed by the college search process?  Let's chat.

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