February 28, 2018

Rockstar Educator


For Assistant Professor of Geology Holly Peterson, hands-on learning and field trips are more than an occasional treat for her students.

“Our curriculum is so, so, so hands-on,” Holly says emphatically. “Today, for example, my class is designed to alternate between discussing a topic and students identifying rock samples in our lab.” 

She teaches a number of Geology courses, some core courses, like Hydrology and Structural Geology — the study of how water works and the study of how features like mountains, folds, and faults form — and others unique and interdisciplinary, like the Art and Science of Clay — a team-taught course with Art Instructor Charlie Tefft that literally exposes students to the art and science of local, wild clay through experiments and sculpting.

“My teaching philosophy centers on asking students to take ownership of their learning. It’s inquiry-based and interactive. Even in my lectures I’ll say, ‘You tell me what the answer is. Better yet, let’s go out in the field and you can show me!’” 

She’s caring. She loves learning communally with us, instead of lecturing us. She’s the best professor I’ve ever had.

Thomas Soiles '18
Geology and Earth Sciences

And go out into the field, they do. Guilford graduates with Geology degrees go on to a number of practical, applied professions. 

They work for NGOs who are working to promote clean water and water conservation. They work in resource extraction — coal, oil, natural gas — using their expertise to make mining practices cleaner. They work in environmental consulting, clean up oil spills, and help companies and government agencies better understand building materials and natural disasters. According to Holly, Guilford students are especially suited to this work. 

“Guilford students are inquisitive, engaged and ready to take on the challenges and make a change in this world,” Holly says. “With a Geology degree, they can do that through industry, consulting, academia, nonprofit and government work.” 

Holly’s teaching experience — like many student experiences at Guilford — is like none other. She gets to teach, design and re-design courses to emphasize learning from both a community and global perspective, benefitting from Guilford’s impressive study-abroad programs. Holly team-taught a course in Rwanda on social and environmental justice, and another in the Galapagos on the dependence of and conflict between humans and the natural environment.

“The opportunity to take students to other countries and see them have these ‘ah-ha!’ moments, and to do that with such amazing colleagues from other disciplines, is amazing!”

Interested in understanding how Earth’s processes relate to climate change? Do you have a passion for solving some of the most pressing natural resource issues of our time? Visit Guilford College and learn how a Geology and Earth Sciences major can put you on the path to a rewarding career.