By Sumaya Hamdi, Contributing Writer
We students in the geology program were angry and highly offended by the article, “UMF Says Goodbye to Geology,” published on April 20th in the most recent issue of the Farmington Flyer.
The comments of the Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences, Dr. Mariella Passarelli, were particularly offensive. She states that, “we evaluate ourselves every seven years, if we did something wrong, we change it.” This statement about the program review process is misleading.
According to Geology Club advisor Dr. David Gibson, the last program review was done in 2010 by Dr. David Westerman of Norwich University. We read the review and found that it has nothing but praise for our geology program. Westerman states that “the geology program very clearly helps the UMF fulfill its mission.” He goes on to say, “small class sizes, combined with caring, outgoing and engaged faculty, result in inspired students who graduate ready to make a positive difference in the world.”
In regard to its size, standards, and quality, Westerman writes, “The geology program at UMF is well within the norm for small educational institutions offering a bona fide degree in geology.” There is nothing in this document to suggest that there was or currently is anything wrong with our geology program.
We have never been informed of the true reason for this amalgamation with environmental science but suspect that it had more to do with economics than a desire to “unify the department.” We ask, would these changes have been made had there not been a recent budget crisis?
Dr. Passarelli needs to realize a few things. Geologists dominate the field of climate science and environmental remediation. Geology graduates work in fields such as geomorphology, glaciology, climatology, hydrogeology, volcanology, seismology, geo-engineering, geophysics, and geochemistry, to name a few. These fields require a geology degree.
While it is true that many geologists are involved in the extraction of resources in the oil and mining industries, it’s important to remember that this is not driven by geologists, but by consumers. Furthermore, renewable energy resources are dependent on rare earth element minerals, the supply of which would not be possible without geologists.
In March, I attended the annual Geological Society of America meeting in Pittsburgh and met many hard-working scientists working to solve a range of geotechnical and environmental problems from acid mine drainage remediation to slope failure. All these scientists were geologists.
A recent report by the American Geosciences Institute indicates that the gap between employment needs and graduates is widening. UMF cannot afford to lose its geology program or weaken its position. It currently is and will continue to be an important science as we face the challenges of the 21st century.
From an admissions perspective, Westerman wrote in his report that geology, being a visual, comprehensible and adventurous science, “could very effectively highlight this program.”
We would like to have a meeting with our Admissions Office to coordinate school visits to our local high schools. Passarelli promised to meet with us in response to a petition presented to her in May 2015; she never has.
We would like to meet with her and have our concerns regarding how the changes to the department will impact future graduate school admissions and employment opportunities addressed.
I would like potential future students of geology to know one thing; studying geology has been the greatest honor of my life thus far, and there is no title I will ever hold as proudly as “geologist.” We will not be giving up easily, for the earth’s sake.