Campus / News / September 28, 2011

Digging deep for new minor program: Earth Science

Earth Science is a new minor coming out of the woodwork for Knox students, but it may be coming a little too late for those students who originally pushed for it.

Approved last spring, the minor requires classes in geology, chemistry, natural resources and climate science as well as a cross-disciplinary class to allow students to view a wide range of applications for earth science.

The Earth Science minor is the brainchild of Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Katherine Adelsberger. She holds a Ph.D. in Earth and Planetary Sciences, and she said earth science as a whole has long been an interest of hers, but she pushed for the minor after having a number of students come to her looking to study and feeling regret when she didn’t have a set program for them to take.

She said she was disappointed seeing Knox students either not getting the background they wanted, or needing to take classes at other colleges before looking at graduate school. Adelsberger did not want to push for a new program so early in her teaching career (she is currently in her fourth year), but felt it was necessary to get Earth Science off the ground before many more students graduated and missed out.

“I don’t want to take away from the Environmental Studies major,” Adelsberger said. “The goal is to provide the best background possible [in Earth Science].”

She continued to say that the major difference between Environmental Studies and Earth Science was that the minor is a pure science, without the focus on the ethics or ecology. Also, while the minor does not give comprehensive knowledge of earth science, it will give students a basic, working knowledge that will allow future pursuit. She said not only will the minor give people a background, but the interdisciplinary nature will also give students a taste of all the different parts of earth science.

Adelsberger pointed out that the minor would allow people to answer for themselves questions like, “Why do I care about rocks?”

Surprisingly, earth science and geology aren’t new to Knox. Knox had a more prominent geology program in the past that was shut down in the 1980s due to budget constraints and low student interest.

Adelsberger said this history, however, provides valuable ground to stand on for the blossoming program as alumni who majored in the geology program lend their support.

“It was nice to have a starting point,” Adelsberger said.

Another rock to stand on is Dewey Moore (whose field trips are on the list of “175 of Our Favorite Things About Knox”), who was a Geology Professor at Knox before the program ended. Now he works with Knox students during Green Oaks terms for a “Geology Week.”

She said there are rock samples buried in the basement of the Sharvy G. Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center, which will be a valuable resource for the growing program.

Senior Kathryn Quesnell, an Environmental Studies major who gave input on the program, but for whom it was approved too late, is looking forward for the opportunities of future students.

“It’s the application in the environmental field, it’s more tangible than the social aspects … and gives me something to do about the problems [facing the environment],” Quesnell said.

The focus on the physical aspects allows the Environmental Studies department to “branch out in a beautiful way,” Quesnell said. She also praised the holistic approach the minor takes.

Ian Malone

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