Honors Students Get Introduction to Earth Sciences

Posted on 08.23.2015

Faculty in the Department of Geology are striving to introduce all undergraduates, not just geology majors, to the basics of earth sciences. Just as Geology 110 gives non-majors an introduction to geology, so Geology 111 gives students in the honors program the same opportunity.

The Campus Honors Program is a small program within the university for exceptional students looking for a more individualized and challenging undergraduate experience. Classes are generally limited to about 18 students. From more than 10,000 applicants to the University each year, the honors program accepts only 125 new students. They are expected to fulfill some general education requirements with honors courses, which are typically small seminar-sized classes that rely more on interacting with one another than on a large lecture format.

"It has been a real pleasure, the students are highly motivated and quite smart," says Jay Bass, professor of geology, who has taught Geology 111: The Dynamic Earth twice so far.

The course includes a lab and a three-day field trip to the Ozarks where students can see geological formations first hand. Bass notes that the students have a wide range of majors, from music to astronomy. The course has proved quite popular with those who've taken it.

"The best part of the class was the field trip to Johnson Shut Ins (in the Ozarks), says senior Kara Barnes. "We were exposed to many of the geologic structures that we had talked about in the class. Although I haven't taken another geology course, Professor Bass was one of the main reasons I chose the ceramic engineering specialization in my major (materials science & engineering)."

"The way that I judge a good class is by how much material I remember after all of the tests are over," says junior Valerie Funk. "I still find myself looking at the layers in the outcrops along the interstate, and my family got more than a little tired of my geological comments on our trip to the Grand Canyon. Overall, the class was an extremely positive learning experience, and I have highly recommended it to my friends in the Campus Honors Program."

A department that wants to offer an honors course has to apply to the CHP, give a sample talk and provide a syllabus for the proposed course. Only a fraction of CHP course proposals are accepted, and the selection process is very competitive. Courses need to have some innovative aspects, and must be taught by an experienced faculty member.