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Alumni Newsletter: 2012-2013


In the fall, we get to celebrate one of the many transitions in academic life: the arrival of a fresh-faced crop of freshman to campus and new graduate students to our Department. We’re also fortunate that the Department can welcome three junior faculty members this year. Ralph Milliken (Ph.D. ’06) joined the department as an Assistant Professor in June of 2012, Baylor Fox-Kemper joined us in January, 2013, also as an Assistant Professor, and Jung-Eun Lee joined us in July 2013 as an Assistant Professor. As you will see elsewhere in this newsletter, Ralph is spending much of this semester living on Mars time as the first data arrives from the new Mars Curiosity rover. Baylor also brought an exciting academic program with him - in this case by allowing the department to move more deeply into fundamental questions on oceanography

But at this moment, I wanted to ask all of you to recognize the career of one of us poised on the edge of retirement (but not inactivity!). It’s hard to believe, but Jan Tullis moved to Emeritus status in July, 2013. We’re confident that Jan will continue to play an important role in advising undergraduates and promoting excellence in teaching in the Department. But this seems like a good time to say how lucky we’ve been to have Jan as a colleague, friend, mentor and inspiration.

It’s hard for me to overstate the impact that Jan has had on the Department’s culture of teaching and advising. As many of you know first-hand, Jan transforms the life of many, many undergraduates who come into her GEOL-0220 (that’s Geo-22 for many of us!) course. Within a week she’s learned the names of all 80 to 100 students, and she’s soon knocking them out with the clarity of her lectures and the energy with which she invites them into the magic of earth sciences. Anyone who’s taught a reasonably large class knows how impossible it is to obtain rave course evaluations consistently from a heterogeneous group of students. Yet Jan receives these routinely. Her example is contagious for the rest of our faculty. Who would not want to try to capture some of the same enthusiasm? Jan shows us that it’s there, if one is willing to prepare, and distill, and infuse one’s teaching with enough energy and insight. I have no doubt that the high reputation we have in the University, as THE science department that commits itself firmly to excellence in teaching and mentoring, goes directly to Jan’s work.

Most people who go through the Department are also aware of how deeply Jan touches students and colleagues outside the classroom. I rarely pass Jan’s office without seeing a student in her office, bent over with Jan in conversation. She’s a tireless advocate for our students in many aspects of their lives. Jan also plays a central role in the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, which helps to train so many of our graduate students to become effective communicators and teachers.

On June 15, 2013, over 100 alumni, faculty and staff came together to celebrate Jan and her profound contributions to teaching and mentoring. You can read more about the celebration in this newsletter.

As always, we hope to hear from you throughout the year.


Timothy D. Herbert

Professor and Chair