Geologist Marcia Bjornerud Selected for National Outstanding Educator Award

Teaching, mentoring and research contributions to the study of geology have earned Lawrence University’s Marcia Bjornerud the 2011 Outstanding Educator Award from the Association of Women Geoscientists. She will be recognized Monday, Oct. 10 at the national meeting of the Geological Society of America in Minneapolis, Minn.

Presented annually since 1988, the award honors college or university teachers “who have played a significant role in the education and support of women geoscientists both within and outside the classroom,” including encouraging women to pursue careers in geoscience, providing field and laboratory experiences and serving as a positive role model.

Marcia Bjornerud

Honorees also are selected on the basis of their professional contributions to the study of geology, their involvement with professional societies and participation in science education programs in their community.

“This award is especially meaningful because so many current and former Lawrence students — both women and men — worked together to nominate me,” said Bjornerud, a structural geologist who joined the Lawrence faculty in 1995. “Teaching is a pleasure when one has such wonderful students.”

Professor of geology and the Walter Schober Professor in Environmental Studies, Bjornerud has honed her craft through more than 20 years of teaching experience, adopting the mantra “Teach less better,” with a focus on a more organic and deeper approach to the subject material, integrating and connecting concepts along the way. For more than 10 years, she has contributed to community science outreach programs for Fox Valley elementary and middle school students.

The recipient of Fulbright Senior Scholar Fellowships in 2009 and 2000 for field research in New Zealand and Norway, respectively, Bjornerud was instrumental in the creation of Lawrence’s environmental studies program in 2000 and served as its director for six years.

She is the author of the science textbook “The Blue Planet” and the 2005 book “Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth,” in which she provides a tour of “deep time,” chronicles the planet’s changes and examines the toll human activity is exacting on Earth. She was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2003 and was recognized with Lawrence’s Excellence in Scholarship or Creative Activity Award in 2007.

In addition to her award, Bjornerud also will make a presentation at the meeting on the question of when modern-style plate tectonics began on Earth. She will be one of seven Lawrence presenters at the national conference. Joining Bjornerud in research presentations will be associate professors of geology Jeff Clark and Andrew Knudsen, 2010 Lawrence graduate Katherine Cummings and current students Katharine Gurke ’12, Adam Kranz ’13 and Breanna Skeets ’12.

Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a world-class conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. Ranked among America’s best colleges, it was selected for inclusion in the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Individualized learning, the development of multiple interests and community engagement are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,520 students from 44 states and 56 countries.