Initial Publication Date: May 3, 2021
Volume 10, Issue 1 | Spring 2021



In this Issue:

From the President

Reflecting on the Past and Looking Towards the Future

by Sean Tvelia, Suffolk County Community College, NY

Here at Suffolk County Community College we have reached the halfway mark of our spring semester. In most semesters, this serves as a time of reflection. As midterms are returned, students contemplate the changes they need to make to be successful in courses and we faculty contemplate what we need to do to help students be more successful while also determining how we are going to fit in the remaining topics. In that sense I think this semester isn't much different than most. Well, if only that were the case.

Thankfully, the planning occurring this March looks very different than the planning that took place last year. As the pandemic shows signs of waning and more people are being vaccinated, we are trying to imagine what a return to traditional courses might look like. More and more we are also realizing that it may not look all that traditional—and this may not be a bad thing.

Talking with colleagues across the nation, it seems we are making similar plans that include some mix of face-to-face and asynchronous/synchronous courses. Many of us are realizing that that normalcy we are looking forward to will not look that normal.  The pivot to remote learning last March was quite possibly the greatest and fastest change ever experienced in any educational system. The speed at which both faculty and students adapted was stunning but nonetheless placed serious strain on all levels of our educational system, our colleagues, and most importantly our students.

2YCs, by far, have borne the brunt of that strain as we enroll student populations that were disproportionately impacted by both the health and financial ramifications of the pandemic, not to mention the threats to the 2YC funding structures which were also adversely impacted by shortfalls in state and local government budgets.

Although many of the issues faced by our students are not new — 2YCs across the country have been working to address issues of food insecurity, accessibility, success, and inclusion for years — the pandemic spotlighted how disparities in access, transportation, home life, and inclusion impacts all of our success. Transitioning back to more traditional classes will surely alleviate some strain in the educational system, but it will not address the social inequities that unfortunately persist.

Over the last year, the transition to remote learning evolved for all. For the first time, all educators gained experience teaching online/remotely. Over the course of a year we experienced multiple modalities, gravitated to those we were most comfortable with and, most importantly, perfected them to the best of our ability. It has been difficult, frustrating, and at times flat-out exhausting. The experience has even led some to leave education altogether.

Substitute the words "student" and learning for the words "educators" and "teaching" in the statement above to see that the student experience was no different.

Yet we as a community of educators made great strides addressing some of the social disparities that exist within our system. Consider internet connectivity: at the onset of the pandemic, the biggest hurdle our institutions faced was providing internet access to students at home so that they could participate in remote courses, something many of us just take for granted when we ask students to complete the online homework or read the online article in our traditional class. It took a pandemic for us to ensure that all students had the same level of access to the resources we require. We know this situation will persist, and our students will still need that same access to be just as successful as their peers. As much as we like to think we provide the same service in the form of on campus computer labs and libraries, the reality is that doesn't necessarily meet the needs of those students who also work multiple or full-time jobs or have other family obligations.

This is just one example. We also ensured that all digital resources were ADA accessible, that remote students had access to tutoring services, that those in rural and far-flung communities could finally attend synchronous classes or programs where they can speak to and work with their professors and peers. The switch to remote learning also showed us that we can invite diverse speakers to our classes and provide opportunities for students to work with and speak to their peers at other institutions.

And just as we adapted our teaching, students adapted their learning. Although the first semester of remote learning was, well, let's just say interesting, this spring educators across the country have been commenting on the increased participation, conversation, writing, and office hour visits amongst students. Students have also participated in online research internships and independent academic projects and have had the opportunity to present at and attend regional and national conferences.

The pandemic revolutionized how we do education by creating access; we cannot let the return to normal diminish that. As I look to the fall, I know it will be different. Education has been forever changed by this experience not only in terms of how we approach our classes but also in terms of what students expect in a course. In the coming months, many institutions will be returning to the "new" normal, and many of us will be utilizing the lessons we learned from our remote experiences and from our online colleagues to supplement and enhance traditional classes. Although exactly what college will look like in the fall is unknowable right now, one thing I do know is that members of this division will continue our conversations, share our expertise, and help one another navigate that new normal.

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award

Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award Winter 2021 Honoree
Jeff Simpson, Chandler Gilbert Community College, AZ

by KT Moran, Polk State College, FL


The OAFA Committee is excited to recognize Jeff Simpson of Chandler Gilbert Community College as our Spring 2021 Honoree.

Jeff teaches both Introduction to Geology and Environmental Geology and Disasters courses at CGCC. He has created two Canvas geology master shells for common use.  Each shell includes new labs that emphasize observation, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. He and his colleagues have created an online GLG 110 class featuring clear objectives, instructional videos, and new practical labs that emphasize higher order thinking skills.

He is a member of GSA and AGU and was recently featured on the Arizona Geological Survey's blog for the Arizona Geologic Hazards Lab he created using GIS resources provided by the AGS.

In a self-nomination, Jeff writes, "After attending an NAGT workshop in increasing research opportunities for undergraduate students, I wanted to explore sustainability more at CGCC and interdisciplinary work. To work with the trades, bringing more students into a peripheral research area, I have submitted to our administration a proposal to experiment with and make both wood chip blocks and compressed earth blocks that can be used for structures for local indigenous communities."

Additionally, Jeff has created field trips for and led students in studies of the geology of the Phoenix Mountains, North Phoenix, the Marcus Landslide, South Mountain, and the West Phoenix Gas Plant, and has accompanied other CGCC staff on field trips to the Superstitions, the San Francisco volcanic field, and Pinto Valley Mine.

As you can tell from the photograph Jeff provided, he is also an active gardener!

Jeff, we are grateful for your service to the Geo2YC Division and appreciate all you do for your students!  We are pleased to support Jeff with a one-year complimentary membership to the NAGT Geo2YC Division, and he will be entered into the pool of honorees under consideration for the Annual Outstanding Faculty Award, which is sponsored by a professional development stipend of up to $750 from Pearson Publishing.

To our readership—tell us about yourself or your adjunct colleagues!  What wonderful ideas and strategies are you bringing to your corners of the geoscience world?  Please complete an Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award nomination today: 

Adjuncts Article

Pandemic Experiment:

What have we learned this past year in Higher Education?

by Bridget James, De Anza College, CA

Equity, inclusiveness, accessibility and engagement are all topics we concern ourselves with in higher education, and one area in need of improvement has been relationships between adjunct faculty, tenured faculty, and college administrators. Before the pandemic, adjunct faculty often taught evening courses that put them on campus when their colleagues and most administrators have gone home for the evening, or the adjunct faculty member taught fully online and rarely made it on to campus at all. This dynamic often made it challenging if not nearly impossible for meaningful conversations regularly with either their colleagues or administrators.

As colleges and universities started moving to remote instruction in March 2020, there were some understandable concerns that the ability for adjunct faculty to engage with colleagues and administrators on campus would be reduced further.  However, what I have observed has been quite different.  Equity, inclusiveness and accessibility have all greatly increased. With the sudden and heavy usage of Zoom at colleges and universities across the country, adjunct faculty were suddenly present along with their tenured or tenure-track counterparts at college-wide meetings, faculty meetings and at professional development workshops in large numbers. Not only are they present, they have also been regularly engaged.

What made the difference for adjunct faculty before the pandemic vs. now? Not only did campus leaders make an intentional effort to invite adjuncts to faculty meetings and professional development activities, they also provided an online platform that allowed adjunct faculty to sit equitably with their colleagues at these meetings. Now that all faculty, regardless of rank, were teaching classes from home, showing up to campus was no longer a factor. Suddenly, we were all experiencing our teaching loads in a remote environment that was new to almost everyone. We were all helping each other in an equitable environment to get our virtual classrooms ready for students who were also dealing with a pandemic. As a result, this situation inadvertently but successfully increased equity, inclusiveness, accessibility and engagement between all faculty.

As colleges and universities start to open in-person operations again, is there a way to continue this equitable, inclusive and accessible engagement with adjunct faculty or will it slowly start to fade away? I would hope that this value that our adjunct faculty have brought to these faculty meetings this past year will be enough to motivate administrators and tenured faculty to have this engagement continue. As a fully online educator for the past 13 years who lives 3-4 hours north of where I teach, I feel very strongly about having this new way of communicating with my colleagues continue. It's brought great value to me personally, and I hope my input would bring great value to my colleagues as well.

Online Rock/Mineral/Fossil Resources

Virtually all the fossils you need

by Karen M. Layou, Reynolds Community College, VA

In my normally face-to-face Historical Geology classes, we typically spend a few days running through common fossil invertebrate groups of the Phanerozoic. Groups of students are provided a set of specimens including trilobites, brachiopods, bryozoans, crinoids, mollusks, and more. We talk about them as living organisms, considering their sizes and shapes, speculating on the purpose of morphological characteristics. Students are encouraged to sketch these three-dimensional critters as a way of gaining a level of intimacy and knowledge of traits of each phylum. The goal of this exercise is to create a foundation of knowledge to draw from as we later discuss changes in diversity over time, mass extinctions of the fossil record, and highlight the impact of Earth's tectonic history on its evolutionary history.

Enter the pandemic! I quickly realized I would have to restructure this important section as I have not yet taught this class in a fully online setting. I debated creating fossil kits for students to pick up from campus, but I don't have enough of all specimens to go around. I began searching online and wow—there is fantastic material out there!

For my needs, the most complete and useful resource I have found is Paleontological Research Institute's (PRI) Digital Atlas of Life and their 3D Virtual Collection viewable via their SketchFab page. All the usual suspects of Phanerozoic invertebrates are there! Using photogrammetry, specimens from the museum's collection were digitized into three-dimensional manipulative models. Students can rotate the images to view the fossils from multiple directions, see interior and exterior views of shells, zoom in on details, read morphological annotations on many images with digital labels, and most importantly, mimic the experience of handling the fossils with their own hands. The models are all free use via Creative Commons licensing and are even available for 3D printing. When we get back to campus, I hope to work with my engineering department to print a few of these models to complete my collections!

There are other virtual collections cropping up as organizations have responded to needs created by the pandemic. Check out MyMicroEarth site for a list of various fossil, outcrop and thin section imagery from around the world and the Smithsonian's 3D virtual collections, too.

Have you been making use of a new digital resource due to COVID? Share your finds with us here!

Geo2YC Pencil Photos

Yellow NAGT Geo2YC pencil against a cross-section view of gray mound-shaped stromatolites.
Cross-section of Precambrian stromatolites, Glacier National Park, by Karen Layou[creative commons]
Provenance: Karen Layou
Reuse: This item is offered under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license You may reuse this item for non-commercial purposes as long as you provide attribution and offer any derivative works under a similar license.

Community Announcements

Earth Educator's Rendezvous

Register now for the Earth Educator's Rendezvous! The seventh annual EER will be online this year, and submissions are still being accepted for late Poster and Share-A-Thon Presentations. Early registration deadline is Tuesday, May 4 but you can still register after that as well.  Consider joining in for a single day or more!

Earth Educator's Rendezvous - register here


Geo2YC Faculty Development Grants 

Deadline extended, due May 31

The Geo2YC Division would like to support your efforts to promote geoscience education in two-year colleges. Towards this end, we will award:

  • Mini grants up to $500 to support an activity (workshop, field trip, etc.) which benefits faculty from multiple institutions.
  • Travel grants of $100 to help an individual attend a professional development activity.

Geo2YC Faculty Development Grants - apply here

Future Newsletter Deadlines

We are pleased to announce a new form for contributors to submit articles, images and items of interest to the newsletter.


Questions about the submission form? Please contact Bridget James:

Questions about the newsletter? Please contact Andrea Bair:

Deadline for submission to next issue of the newsletter:

  • June 30, 2021 (Summer issue)