Associate Professor, Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
What year did you start working at NIU?
Where is your hometown? and where do you live now?
My hometown is Carmel, New York, and I live in DeKalb now.
Where did you attend college and what degree(s) have you earned?
B.S., State University of New York-Albany
M.A.T., Cornell University
Ph.D., Michigan State University
In which department(s) do you teach?
Department of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment
What do you like about working at NIU?
NIU is an exciting place to work because of the students. NIU students come from a wide range of backgrounds. Our non-traditional students bring their real-world experiences into the classroom. The diversity of cultures and ethnicities among NIU students provide rich perspectives that make learning more meaningful. I also love working with my colleagues in the faculty. NIU faculty are engaged in cutting-edge research and provide amazing access for students to participate in research.
What advice would you give to students currently attending NIU?
Talk to your professors. Go to office hours and ask questions. Those conversations can help you find out what other students do to be successful. Building a relationship with your professor will make it easier to get help when you are struggling in a class.
Tell us about a research or engaged learning project you have led.
I am most proud of leading the NIU Noyce Scholars program. This $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation is providing $40,000 scholarships for at least 20 students who want to become high school science teachers. Students in this program earn their degree within their science major and also complete education courses and clinical placements in local high school classrooms. The students who graduate from our program are the best trained science teachers around, and the scholarships reduce the financial barriers to taking that pathway. As a former high school science teacher, it is very meaningful to help the next generation of teachers pursue their calling.
What do you hope students take away from your class?
I hope students in my classes realize that geology is relevant to their everyday lives. I hope they feel empowered to make decisions about local geologic issues like water quality and flooding. I also hope they recognize that science is about reasoning from evidence.
What is your favorite campus event?
My favorite campus event is graduation. I love seeing the joy of accomplishment on students’ faces and hearing our NIU Steelband play. We have such a unique collection of people and opportunities at NIU, and graduation is where they all come together.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you currently doing it? If not, what changed your path?
Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher. There were several teachers in my family, including my dad. At first I thought I wanted to teach math, but once I discovered geology, I knew that was my path. My path was not a straight line. Before becoming a teacher, I went to graduate school to be a geophysicist. I realized quickly that path was not right for me and switched into a teaching program. After teaching for several years, I was ready for a change and pursued my Ph.D. to study the science of learning. This led me to my current role where I prepare science teachers and also mentor graduate students studying learning. All along the path, I've always felt that teaching is part of my calling. To teach people well you must care about the person as much, if not more, than you love your content area. While this is especially true in K-12, we must also meet adult students where they are in their path as learners.
What do you do to relax or recharge?
I love to be outdoors hiking, kayaking, snowshoeing or biking. One of my favorite activities is to visit an apple orchard with my family. We also spend a lot of time at the many fantastic playgrounds in town.