Recent Entries in Spotlight

geologyvertical.jpgTwelve hearty souls from the SSU geology department took a six-day field trip in early September to the Canadian Rockies in British Columbia and Alberta to explore the world-renown Burgess Shale, a UNESCO world heritage site widely lauded as the most important fossil locality in the world.

This field trip ran in conjunction with the upper level Geology elective course, GEL321: Burgess Shale Paleontology, a class taught since 2003 by paleontologist Matt James.

The fossils of Burgess Shale were discovered in 1909 during construction of the Trans-Canadian Railway. These 505-million-year-old fossils, remnants of creatures that once lived in a shallow sea, are the best record of the period of time after the appearance of modern hard-shelled multicellular animals and have proved pivotal to the study of paleontology. They are located in the majestic Canadian Rockies on the eastern border of British Columbia, surrounded by stunningly beautiful mountains shaped by numerous glaciers--in short, a geologist's heaven!

After a day of travel to their home base in Field, British Columbia, the first full day in the field was spent traversing the massive Athabasca Glacier with a mountaineering guide. The Athabasca Glacier is a six kilometer long sheet of blue-green ice that slowly cascades down a valley connected to the Columbia Icefield, transporting massive sediment loads as it travels nearly 30 meters a year. On an all-day six-mile hike up the glacier, students learned about glaciology, saw fantastic examples of a landscape carved by glaciers, and witnessed firsthand the effects of climate change as the ice retreated up the valley.

Next on the agenda were two days exploring the Burgess Shale on guided hikes to the Walcott Quarry and the Mount Stephen Trilobite Beds. This meant a strenuous 13-mile hike, starting at a waterfall and heading uphill through beautiful forests, followed by traversing a mountain with stunning alpine scenery to the most important of fossil sites, the historic Walcott Quarry, where the Burgess Shale fossils were first discovered. Along the way students learned of exotic Cambrian animals such as the fearsome Anomalocaris, the five-eyed Opabinia, and the otherworldly Hallucigenia.

"The Burgess Shale is also extremely important because it contains our earlier ancestor, the worm fossil Pikaia," said SSU student Sean Storey, who was on the trip. "It may seem like a stretch, but this worm is the first animal in the fossil record that has a backbone--the earliest vertebrate."

The next day featured a steep 5-mile hike up Mount Stephen where there were so many trilobite fossils that we couldn't help but step on them! At both of these sites, students were rewarded for their physical effort with amazing fossil finds and breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

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The last full day of the trip brought students into the world of mountains, faults and glaciers with a hike around the gem of the Canadian Rockies, Lake Louise. A six-mile hike brought students to a fantastic lunch at the Plain of Six Glaciers Tea Hut, a charming, historic and primitive restaurant only accessible by foot.

With bellies full of tea and hot scones, the intrepid geologists continued up the valley to a scenic overlook and discussion of the tectonic formation of western North America. With weary legs, the group hiked down and enjoyed a wonderful sendoff dinner, sampling meat from the characteristic terrestrial megafauna of a North America (Buffalo, Caribou, Elk, etc.) at the Emerald Lake Lodge.

"What I got out if it most was experiencing geology in an exotic location," said Storey. "We walked on the Athabaska glacier and were able to witness geology on a much faster time frame because the ice is basically a more viscous rock mineral."

The sixth day was for travel, but along the way students were treated to a private tour of the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology in Drumheller, Alberta. With a behind the scenes tour by a resident paleontologist, they learned about all the hard work that goes into the preservation of fossils, explored the back room archives and enjoyed a private tour of the main exhibits of the museum.

With more than 30 miles of hiking packed into four full days, students traveled back to campus tired, in markedly better shape than when they began, and with a renewed vigor to continue their geologic education at SSU. There is no substitute for fieldwork and hands-on learning in the natural classroom of the Earth. Students had a great time on this trip, were exposed to beautiful and world-famous geology, and made memories to last a lifetime.

--Phil Mooney

sophmoreyearexperience.jpgClass selection and academic resources are changing for first and second year students at Sonoma State University with the introduction of the voluntary Sophomore Year Experience Program (SYE).

This program, designed to help freshman transition to their sophomore year and prepare for the remainder of their college careers, began last year as a pilot program and is now expanding further among the university this year.

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The Dean of the School of Business, his son, and courageous SSU sophomore Sophie Edwards know the battle against blood cancer well. SSU mounts a team for the Light the Night Walk on Oct. 11 as a fundraising event for cancer research and patient services. 

 When Benji Silver was three months old, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a type of blood cancer. At that point in his life, at such a young age, he was given a 30 percent chance of life. After three years of treatment and constant hospital visits, Benji survived leukemia. He is now healthy and happy 11 years later at age 14. 

His father, Dean of Sonoma State University's School of Business and Economics William Silver, considers his son a "conquerer" for more reasons than one, including his appreciation for life and his strength to accomplish the seemingly impossible.
romesburg.jpgQueer history is about to see the light of day in California's K-12 schools. 

If SSU Women's and Gender Studies Chair Don Romesburg has his way, the story won't just include history-making heroes. 

Professor Romesburg has worked vigorously with other lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) scholars to develop a new framework that weaves analysis of gender and sexuality as social and political forces throughout time.


Since May 2013, Romesburg has steered a rigorous effort to recommend revisions of the California K-12 History - Social Science Framework.

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, he and two co-editors released the groundbreaking report: Making the Framework FAIR: California History-Social Science Framework Proposed LGBT Revisions Related to the FAIR Education Act.

"Students can only truly understand families, communities, social practices, and politics, by understanding how they shaped and were shaped by same-sex relations and gender diversity--and how this changed over time," he says.

picl.jpgThe entrance to the Children's School on the SSU campus is the first step to understanding the power of the environment as teacher.

Some children harvest raspberries as others care for chickens that inhabit the outdoor area that surrounds the school. Pears and other fruits growing in the garden are ready to be plucked soon.Sponsored by the Associated Students, the Children's School offers a one-of-a-kind learning experience for children ages one to five years old, for low income families, and for SSU students and faculty

allacademic.jpgWith another successful year in the books for SSU student-athletes, the Dept. of Intercollegiate Athletics reports that 62 Seawolves earned All-Academic honors by their respective conferences for the 2013-14 school year. In addition, 12 other student-athletes not eligible for conference awards and/or compete on a team not affiliated with a conference earned Academic Distinction for having a cumulative GPA of 3.50 or higher. The overall total of 74 Seawolves earning academic honors is an increase from last year's tally of 64.

nathanrank.jpegStudent research, scholarship and creative activity capitalize on the strength of the faculty and add currency to students' educational experience, says Provost Andrew Rogerson. Aiming to strengthen the major opportunities that undergraduate students at SSU have for compelling research, Rogerson funded 29 grants for faculty-student teams this semester.

kristalraheem.pngKristal Raheem is very passionate about promoting social justice and serving her community.


After witnessing her friends and peers drop out of school, she wanted to create an organization that would help students stay at SSU and earn a degree.

myrnagoodman.pngEmerita Professor Myrna Goodman, Sociology, has spent 17 years as a Holocaust and genocide scholar including serving as Director of the Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide at SSU.

The issues confronting educators today are essentially the same as they were when she first began teaching about the Holocaust and genocide in 1997.

jacklondonserial.jpgLooking for an exciting way to explore Sonoma County history? Then the University Library's Special Collections is the place to start. With thousands of unique primary materials, there are treasures on every aspect of North Bay history. With many items available online, you can start exploring from home.

The best place to start is with the collection materials from Sonoma County's famed historian Gaye LeBaron. The Gaye LeBaron Collection includes a truly eclectic range of items from letters to clippings to photographs, and more, organized into over 800 topics, many of which can be viewed online.

lorenmorimoto.pngKinesiology professor Lauren Morimoto has been named Director of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence at SSU. She applied for the position to reframe conversations about diversity - rather than something SSU "has" to do, as something SSU wants to do. Diversity promotes academic excellence and positive learning experiences for students in- and out- of underrepresented groups, she says.

mophillips.pngMo Phillips says she wakes up every day grateful she works at SSU.

Since 2000, Phillips has served as SSU's Associate Director of Student Development, prior to her current position she was a Residential Life Coordinator of Zinfandel Village from 1997 until taking her most current position.

As an Associate Director of Student Development she is responsible for supervising the Residential Life Coordinators who manage the continuing-student villages, which include Beaujolais, Tuscany, and Sauvignon East.

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