Students learn expertise in the geosciences by being involved with classroom learning experiences and undergraduate research.
Our location and small class sizes give us the opportunity to break from the traditional lecture method of teaching. We believe that students learn best when actively participating. Students work on meaningful projects in class and lab even at the introductory level, and through experiences students learn skills that are directly applicable to their careers. We also strive to get students in the field whenever possible to experience geology and apply their education.
Each student, individually or as part of a small team, completes an original research project, under the guidance of faculty, that demonstrates to employers and graduate schools the ability to complete a major assignment, to work independently, analyze information, and to write and speak effectively.
The senior capstone requirement (3 to 6 credits) may be achieved in several ways, reflective of the diverse interest and background of the student body: a senior thesis (GEOL 499; 4 or 6 credits), a Senior Seminar in Geology (GEOL 495; 3 credits), an internship with research responsibilities, or a summer research program.
In each case, there must be faculty approval of the experience as a capstone course prior to the beginning of the project. Although the capstone experience is largely independent work, it is expected that, as with a traditional course, the amount of time expended to the capstone will be proportional to credit. For example, a 3-credit capstone course could require at least 9-12 hours of work per week.
We highly value field experiences in all of our classes, from our introductory geology Liberal Studies courses to topical courses at the upper level. There is no better place to see geology and learn how to make appropriate scientific observations, apply classroom knowledge, and hone skills than outside in our local and campus environment, on field trips to nearby areas such as the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, or even on trips to a different continent! Through class field trips, projects, and research, our students gain valuable experience that allows them to become competent professionals upon graduation.