Donald Lawrence, a TRU visual arts professor has been employed by the university for thirty years and in fact just recently he received his thirty-year pin. For the same amount of time, Lawrence has been mentoring students, pushing them to explore and be creative in their artwork.
Last month, Lawrence received the Arts and Humanities Faculty Mentor Award from the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) for his mentorship. CUR is an internationally-recognized body that supports faculty development for high-quality undergraduate research.
CUR Executive Officer Elizabeth L. Ambros went as far as calling Lawrence a “culture changer” in the field of visual arts.
“Professor Lawrence’s students have been profoundly influenced by his dedicated modelling of artistic inquiry and creative scholarship as an artist-researcher, incorporating what they have learned from him into their artistic practice and teaching,” she said in a press release. “His teaching, mentoring, and collaborative scholarship have distinguished him as a transformative ‘culture changer’ in the advancement of undergraduate research in the visual arts.”
Though Lawrence had previously received TRU’s Undergraduate Research Mentorship Award in 2017, winning the CUR award came as a surprise.
“I was nominated by the university, by the research office. Then I was shortlisted based on their nomination,” Lawrence said. “It’s the inaugural award for this. The Council on Undergraduate Research has had mentorship awards in the sciences for a while but I think this is the first year where they’ve introduced it on the humanities side.”
While Lawrence, much like many other TRU professors and instructors has been mentoring prospective students for much of his time at the university, his methods of mentorship tend to differ slightly from the norm.
“I think that what TRU does, the one thing that TRU does well is looking to create these research opportunities for undergraduate students. That is something I’m not doing alone,” he said. “What I bring to it specifically is looking at how opportunities for undergrads in research can happen in visual arts settings and within our visual arts community. Then I localize that further and this was the case I made to CUR.”
Examples of this include a camera obscura project Lawrence is currently working on it Nanton, Alberta and helping create youth programming at the Kamloops Art Gallery with the help of TRU alumni and undergrad research students. While “localizing” doesn’t exactly mean working locally here in Kamloops, Lawrence has strived to add a touch of community involvement to all the projects he conducts with students, no matter where they are.
In addition to winning the CUR Faculty Mentor Award, Lawrence is also starting another term as chair of the department, a role he has taken on in the past. In regards to his award, he’d like to thank friends, students and colleagues in and outside of TRU for their support.
“[I want to] thank TRU for its supportive undergraduate research and my nomination for the award and to thank all of the alumni and current students that have been a part of this. As well as colleagues in and outside of TRU.”