Nora Bauer, DSHA ’19, always knew she was smart. And she also saw herself as a self-sufficient student. Her thought process toward grade school and into early high school went something like this: step 1.) work hard and put in the time; step 2.) figure things out on your own; step 3.) because of steps one and two, do well and get good grades.
This formula worked for Bauer for the bulk of her academic career which began at Christ King School, followed by middle school graduation from St. Jude the Apostle, both in Wauwatosa. But then things shifted — a significant shift in mindset occurred which Bauer attributes to DSHA Science Faculty Cathy Loehr’s AP Chemistry class her junior year.
Discovering the inner problem-solver
When reminiscing about the beginning of her junior year — AP Chemistry, in particular — Bauer says, “I remember thinking, ‘I just can’t do this.’ It was so frustrating. I was used to understanding concepts more quickly.”
Despite the discouragement at the time, Bauer views this past struggle with the beauty that can often arise from significant transformation sharing, “I ended up loving it when I did not understand something right away. Over the course of the year, moving from a lack of understanding and toward being able to wrap my brain around the problems became my favorite part of the class.”
In essence, Bauer discovered something well beyond her ability to solve problems involving the structure of matter, gas chemistry, and thermodynamics. She discovered that she was a problem-solver at her core, with the ability to critically think her way through concepts and toward solutions.
But she didn’t arrive to this conclusion on her own.
You’ve got a (critical thinking) friend in me
Freshman year, Bauer met Kelley Schlise, DSHA ’19. Schlise was also given the prestigious National Merit Finalist recognition, and for the past four years, the two have formed a special bond during their time together as Dashers.
Bauer speaks about Schlise with such admiration and attributes much of her academic success and evolution as a true critical thinker to their friendship.
“I used to think that competing with other girls was the goal. I saw my classmates as my competition. Kelley helped me understand that we should view each other as the best support system — especially because we all have such different gifts and interests and abilities,” Bauer shares.
“I attribute a lot of my success to Kelley. We pushed each other in class; we’d meet in the ALPHA (Academic Learning Place for Higher Achievement) Center and write out huge equations together. She showed me that it isn’t just about working hard — and she is the hardest worker I know. She showed me the value of working in partnership and of asking questions. Because that is where you become a critical thinker.”
A mathematician in the making
Bauer also points to a third party when thinking about the collaborative efforts that have helped mold who she is as a student. DSHA Mathematics Faculty Rissie Lundberg, DSHA ’93, has taken both Bauer and Schlise under her wing. And as a result, Bauer has developed a deep love of math — including a love for the challenges that it can bring.
“I was always good at math, but never great,” Bauer says. “There were times early on where I would feel like I was drowning, but Lundberg was really a mentor for me. She cared about women in mathematics. And she pushed us.”
Bauer describes how Lundberg would often put a problem on the board and not tell the students how to solve it. Rather, she would invite her AP Calculus (BC) students into their own teaching and learning – to practice their critical thinking. And Bauer will attest that she is better off for this type of challenge.
“I don’t know any other teacher who has pushed me this way. I’m so thankful for her. She has believed in me; allowed Kelley and me to do math puzzles in her room over lunch; cared about me as a person; and most importantly shown me that women can be successful in math.”
Calculating what’s next
And a woman who is successful in math is what Bauer plans to be. This fall, she will attend Princeton University where she plans to study economics with a concentration in math. She would eventually love to move to New York City to work in finance at the New York Stock Exchange.
Until then, Bauer will look to find female mentors at Princeton similar to Schlise and Lundberg. And will live each day grateful for “understanding that I am capable, because the support system around me has allowed me to develop, and has challenged me in ways that my DSHA-freshman-self would never have believed possible.”
CLASS OF 2019
DSHA National Merit Finalists
University of Wisconsin– Madison
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
University of Notre Dame
Loyola University Marymount
DSHA Quality of a Graduate: She is a Critical Thinker — She is a CRITICAL THINKER who solves problems, improves processes, and sees what others cannot. She is innovative and creative, her wise counsel and enlightened perspectives are highly sought-after. She is an adaptable, analytical, and curious intellectual who pursues deep understanding and trusts her instincts and experience.