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As Bard senior J. p. Lawrence prepares to graduate in May, he will not be entering the work force for the first time—far from it. The anthropology and writing joint major, Bard Free Press editor-in-chief, and cross-country runner has been a member of the U.S. Army National Guard since 2008. His specialty in the military is photojournalism, and he has served in Kuwait, Qatar, Germany, and Australia, earning several military journalism awards for his work, as well as an Army Commendation Medal. Lawrence was on the ground reporting for the U.S. Army during the drawdown of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2009, and in New York City after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. He has been recognized for his work at Bard, as well, winning the Hannah Arendt Center Award for Excellence in Political Thinking as a sophomore.
Lawrence wants to continue in journalism or broadcasting after graduation, and he’s taken every opportunity to gain experience in the field. On deployment, the Minneapolis native was on a military team that worked with Twin Cities Public Television to produce a documentary about Minnesota soldiers called Iraq and Back. The film, in which Lawrence is a named contributor, was part of a series that won the most prestigious Regional Emmy® Award for its area in 2013, the Upper Midwest Board of Governors Award.
|Blithewood, Bard College ©2013 J. p. Lawrence|
Last summer, Lawrence interned with ABC news, in which he worked the overnight shift for the early morning news programs World News Now and America This Morning. “Their tag line is, ‘World News Now—informing insomniacs for more than two decades’!” Lawrence says. “I was able to pitch stories, and find footage and see my work on air.” One of the pieces Lawrence pitched was a segment called “Yoga Babies,” about mothers who do yoga with their infants. “It was great! I got to write, I got to help on the anchor track. I got to help with editing. It all came together.”
At Bard’s student newspaper, the Free Press, Lawrence and Kurt Schmidlein ’13 organized a series of pieces written by students studying in Bard’s global network of institutions. Students visiting from Smolny College in St. Petersburg wrote articles about working toward free elections in the country, and about the openness of political discussions among American students. “It's really cool that Bard has all these people under its umbrella. We were able to go talk to students basically like us, but who come from a different context. It's one of the reasons why I really like journalism; it's getting to know people from different places and seeing how your ideas can change for the better by encountering new perspectives.”
|Contingency Operating Base Basra, Iraq ©2013 J. p. Lawrence|
Lawrence was accepted to Bard and deferred for two years so he could join the National Guard. He continues to spend one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer on duty. “It’s really interesting because I leave Bard every weekend to hang out with people from a very different socioeconomic context. … I hang out with officers who are lawyers, who work in the district attorney's office, and I hang out with people who are mechanics, plumbers and things like that.” His service offers a fresh perspective on his time at Bard, and has given him a wide range of experience working with different kinds of people all over the world.
For his senior project, Lawrence is following the staff at several of the area’s college newspapers to see how each team works. “My idea is that the different context of each college produces a different lens and affects the way news is processed.” His project will combine anthropology and writing. “I want to be able to write something that really pushes the boundaries of what I can do,” he says.
Lawrence reenlisted with the National Guard this winter and is now a sergeant. He is exploring graduate schools and has made it to the second round of screening for the Fulbright Program. With a Bard education under his belt and a resume of outstanding experiences and awards, he’s ready for the next chapter.
Visit Lawrence’s website to read some of his work and view his photography.