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Faculty Spotlight: Robb Houston

Robb Houston with StudentsRobb Houston has been providing students at NMC an opportunity to gain a rock solid foundation in the geosciences since 2001.  He received his BS degree in geology from Central Michigan University and his Masters from Rice University in Houston, Texas.  After completing his education he worked for several years as a hydrogeologist at URS where his focus as a project manager was remediation of ground water contamination.  His experience in industry has truly been an asset as an educator.  Robb currently teaches Physical Geology (ENV 111), Historical Geology (ENV 112), Life of the Past (ENV 104) and Oceanography (ENV 131), a course that he developed shortly after arriving at NMC.  He also offers two week-long field courses on alternating years.  One is Michigan Basin Geology (ENV 270A), which focuses on the geology of Northern Michigan and eastern Upper Peninsula; the other is Precambrian Geology of Michigan (ENV 270C) (another class that Robb developed) where students investigate rock exposures in the western Upper Peninsula.  If you do not like the outdoors, these courses are not recommended.  Robb and his students spend the week outside and do not stay in motels; camping is required, AND its early May.

All of Robb’s courses have an outdoor component.  When asked what importance he places on field experiences for students, he said, “Its essential that students relate course content to real world issues.  When they experience something for themselves it greatly enhances students ability to learn and comprehend the geosciences.  This is why we stress field activities in our ENV courses.”  Robb often tells his students, “Touch it–pick up a hand full of that dirt, grab that rock and hold it in your hand.”  Students typically remember their learning experiences in the field for many years and very often express an appreciation for the opportunities he provides.  In addition he put together an optional 3-day field trip during fall semester for his Physical Geology students to the Wawa, Ontario region.  Robb has also continued an NMC tradition stared in the mid-seventies by his predecessor, Dick Cookman.   It’s a 4-day trip to the Elliot Lake, Ontario region that is required for his Historical Geology course.

I chaired the selection committee that hired Robb, and I think we made an excellent choice.

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