By Livvie Avrick ’19

One early Thursday morning, students in the first-year course Dynamic Earth and Global Change made their way to Bear Head Lake State Park in northern Minnesota.

By the time they returned to campus on Friday afternoon, they had gone for a cold swim in Lake Superior, toured the Soudan underground mine, and bonded as a class around a campfire eating s’mores and drinking hot chocolate.

The course, taught by geology professor Kelly MacGregor and lab instructor Jeff Thole,  introduces students to earth processes and how humans interact with these systems. The beginning of the semester focuses on plate tectonics, rocks and minerals.

“We could examine and discuss real-world examples of the geology that we had talked about in class, and we got to see it in the community right around us,” says intended environmental studies major Spandan Buch ’21 (Lexington, Ky.).

Learning about the geologic history of Minnesota and showing students what geologists do in the field were the main goals of this trip. “We took an elevator about a half-mile down into the Soudan Mine, an old iron mine which shut down in the 1960s,” says MacGregor. “It was a really cool opportunity to talk about the history of Minnesota, why they were mining there, and why the rocks are the way they are.”

For Maddie AlQatami ’21 (Boulder, Colo.), who intends to major in mathematics, this course has expanded her ideas of what she can do with a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) major. “I didn’t even consider that there were serious lines of work in STEM that let you travel the world and spend a lot of time outside until I had heard some of Kelly’s and Jeff’s stories about their research,” she says.

The most exciting part of the field trip for intended environmental studies major Josh Stephenson ’21 (Acworth, Ga.) was “the fact that we actually got to camp out as a class with our professor,” he says. “Where else could you actually do that?”

In addition to giving first-years the opportunity to explore Minnesota beyond the Twin Cities, the field trip allowed students to get to know their advisor on a more personal level.

“Professor MacGregor is so enthusiastic about the class. I never thought I would be as interested in geology as I am now, ” says Stephenson. Taking Dynamic Earth and Global Change “turned out to be one of the best decisions ever,” he says.

Through critically examining how humans interact with and exacerbate earth processes, MacGregor engages the students in what it means to be a global citizen in the context of geology.

“Any time that we think about being a global citizen, we are thinking about large scale challenges facing humans and how to solve those problems,” MacGregor says. “In many cases, these challenges are about earth resources such as energy and water and the distribution of these resources. Geology gives you a scientific framework to understand these global challenges.”

November 2 2017

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