In Hindsight: Advice from a Graduating Senior (who should have studied rocks instead)

STOCKTON – On May 10 I will be graduating. GRADUATING. That word evokes feelings of fear, anticipation, and excitement but also feelings of regret. When I entered University of the Pacific as a freshman, I was a Communication major. After toiling with a handful of General Education classes my freshman year, I went back and forth on whether that was the major for me. I considered moving to Psychology after taking Intro to Psychology as a sophomore. I thought about switching to Speech-Language Pathology because I wanted a deeper science foundation. I considered moving to the School of Business and ultimately picked up a minor in Management after learning about its application to my future career. By junior year, I had finally nailed down my area of study: I stuck with my major in Communication and a minor in Management. There was one choice however, that will haunt me for years to come after walking across the stage on my graduation day.

In my senior year, I had a handful of General Education courses left to take including another lab science, which I had evaded without success. To the recommendations of my peers, I enrolled in GEOS 61: Geology of California. They told me the field trip was fun and the professor was cool. Good enough for me, I thought.

The class was phenomenal. Dr. Burmeister was hands-down, the best professor I had had at Pacific. He oozes passion for what he does and he could spot a student with a knack for rocks and plate tectonics from a mile away. He was invested in his students, and he could turn a student’s spark of interest in Geology into a raging fire. He did for me.

Dr. B. talked about his late discovery of Geology when he was doing his undergraduate studies at UCSB. He had been studying pre-med until his senior year when he took a geology course. Instead of pursuing med school, he took a chance and went on to get his Masters in Geology and Vertebrate Paleontology and later his Ph.D. in Structural Geology. He took the chance to pursue his passion.

I talked with Dr. B. for a long time about my options were, even considering piling on research units and additional semesters in order to pick up, at best, a minor in geology so I could continue onto graduate school. Overwhelmed with such an earthshattering (no pun intended) decision, I stayed put. I decided to enroll in Field Studies (GEOS 105), which allowed me to stay involved with the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences through the end of my senior year.

I am greatly saddened when I think of how much I love geology and how I could have made a living doing what I enjoy (check out what the average geologist makes here). And I am not alone. Dozens of students have expressed the same sentiments about geology, wishing they could have changed their major, or stayed at Pacific to complete a second degree.

Recent graduate Tyler Scott (’12) explains that it was late exposure that forced him to stick with his original major of Mechanical Engineering. Margaret Fielder (’12), a graduate of the School of International Studies said, “Though I was incredibly interested in adopting geology as a second major, it would have meant additional years at Pacific, and thus a great deal of additional money.”

Not all of these students have let their hopes of turning geology into a rewarding career slip away. Some have let Geology inspire their work and education. Arizona State University graduate student Kent Linthicum (‘09), is working on his Ph.D. in English Literature and, during his research, has read the writing of many geologists including Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology. Even more still have chosen to go back to school in pursuit of geology degrees. Margaret Fielder (’12), an International Relations graduate, has made plans to pursue a Master’s degree in Geology. Her advice to current students? Just do it now. “As someone still attempting to pursue geology today, when I look back I realize it would have been wiser in the long-run to adopt [Geology as a second] major.”

Geology has opened doors for me that I had no idea existed: doors leading to travel, to history, to science. The program has so much to offer and I have only been able to reap the benefits in these few short months. I hope that students continue to see the value in this program and learn from the mistakes of us who are just slightly older and wiser. We, the graduating seniors and graduates of years past, wish you the best of luck as you start your journey at Pacific and we hope that you get to take advantage of this awesome program.