After taking her first geology class with Professor Jacquie Smith, at The College of Saint Rose, it was pretty clear to Lauren Droege ’12 what she had to do. “Right away I saw how passionate she was about geology,” Droege says, “even though three quarters of (her) students weren’t geology majors.”
Droege had intended to become an earth science teacher. She switched fields.
“The more geology courses I took and the more field trips I went on, the more I found myself really enjoying the science,” said Droege, a graduate student at Colorado State University who plans to work for an oil and gas company in Texas.
Steve Zehner ’13, who works for Halcon Resources, an energy company in Houston, says Saint Rose students are blessed with a unique education. “All three full-time professors are very established in their fields,” says Zehner, who traveled to Peru with Smith to assist with her research on climate change. “It’s a small school environment with big school ideas.”
And at a time when many college graduates are scrambling to find jobs, geology is booming. “I don’t have anybody who’s graduated who hasn’t been able to find a job. And if they’re not going into teaching, they’re going on to graduate school,” says Professor Eric Eslinger.
He notes that Saint Rose graduates pursue positions in oil and gas exploration, energy conservation and education. Students credit the professors with exposing them to a wide array of specialties. Eslinger has a background in oil and gas, Smith teaches classes on structural geology and tectonics and Stephanie Maes teaches mineralogy as she researches the formations caused by volcanic events.
“They give three different points of view,” Zehner says. “It helps you to get a feel for what you really want to do.”
Kerry Monahan ‘09 planned to major in business. “As my senior year of high school came around, I decided to take a college-level earth science class. I had a teacher who made me dislike a subject I once had passion for. As a result, I started my college career at Saint Rose as a business major.”
But Monahan still had to fill a science requirement. She turned back to a subject she had once loved: geology. “I was reminded how fulfilling it is,” said Monahan, who majored in adolescence education with a concentration in earth science and teaches in California “I haven’t looked back ever since.”
Eslinger says that what the program really needs is more students. The jobs are not only plentiful, he notes, but often pay very well. The major, in fact, tends to draws more students who opt in than students who enter Saint Rose intending to study geology. This is in part because so many high school students have had little or no exposure to the field.
Smith, who has brought students on trips to the American west and to Peru, is proud of her students’ progress. “More than half of our graduates go on to work in the environmental and, or water resource sectors,” she says. “As climate change alters the balance between abundant and scarce water supplies, both nationally and globally, water resource management is likely to become increasingly important.”
Saint Rose geology graduates, then, have a unique opportunity to help discover new and innovative methods of water conservation and management.
“The geology department is more of a family than anything else,” says Monahan. “Professors and students were all on a first-name basis and truly cared about the success of each individual. If you were struggling in a class or on a specific topic there was always someone to turn to for help. As a member of the geology department, you never felt alone.”