The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Rock on, lucky one
Professor Kathryn Stanton is the only full-time faculty member in the geology department at City College. Mike Nicholson // [email protected]

Robin Fritz | Staff Writer | [email protected]

From interior design to geology, one professor’s journey to City College academia

Kathryn Stanton often accessorizes her work outfits with a stylish, chunky, silvery necklace. It isn’t obvious from across the classroom, but the metal links are actually aluminum pop tabs.

In several ways, that necklace represents her. It’s unconventional, much like Stanton’s education and career path. The piece is made from recycled materials for the Escama Company by women near Brazil and was given to her by her husband.

“He knows that my tastes don’t run to the typical, and, of course, it was sustainably made,” Stanton says. “The better story would be that I drank all the beer and made it myself, but I can’t claim that story.”

Stanton holds a doctorate in paleontology and began teaching at City College in 2004 while still a graduate student at University of California, Davis.

“The job opening came up, so it was either apply or miss the opportunity,” says Stanton.

Teaching geology at City College is her dream job, she says.

“I just never thought I’d get lucky enough to have a job opening here while I was looking for work,” says Stanton. “And when I did get lucky enough that there was an opening, I didn’t think I’d ever get lucky enough to get hired.”

Stanton was a student at City College herself in the late 1980s and again in the ‘90s.

Claire Hanamoto was on Stanton’s hiring committee, and has worked as her lab technician since Stanton was hired.

“Her students love her,” Hanamoto says. “She presents geology in a very fun but knowledgeable way. She knows quite a bit about the nuts and bolts, or rather the nuts and bones and rocks.”

Before finding her niche as a geology professor, Stanton had a career in interior design.

Stanton says the field appealed to her sense of aesthetics, but that she eventually realized that it wasn’t the right fit.

“It was not as intellectually challenging as I wanted,” says Stanton of her interior design work.

“I think the straw that broke the camel’s back was having clients screaming at me on the phone about the fact that the fringe on their $500 pillows was not correct.”

Stanton says she loves teaching and has no plans to change careers

“My real goals for the future are about trying to make my courses as successful as possible,” she says. “I’m working right now, informally, with other folks in the division, on issues of student success and basic skills.”
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Doug Copely, physics and astronomy professor, praised his colleague.

“She’s fantastic,” he says. “Very intelligent, very engaging — a student favorite. She’s great to bounce ideas off of, a great problem solver.”

Stanton is currently the only fulltime geology faculty member at City College, and she also co-advises the college’s SCC Science and Technology Club.

Stanton says she wants more field trips for geology students, such as longer excursions to the Eastern Sierra and to Lava Beds National Monument.

“I’m just trying to be the best instructor that I can be,” she says.

Stanton is not only passionate about education, she is also passionate about her family. In addition to her husband, she has two daughters, ages 4 and 6, and her parents live nearby.

In her office, a photo of the smiling, fluffy-haired girls and another of her husband share a bulletin board with a geology-themed calendar showing a bubbly-textured blue-green rock.

Stanton says that she spends most of her free time with her family. They enjoy taking hikes, biking and family time around the house.

She says her parents were a big influence on her passion for science. They exposed their daughter to nature frequently and kept copies of National Geographic magazine and Time-Life books in their home. Stanton says she loved archaeology early on, then paleontology when she was a bit older.

Stanton says she gained a unique perspective from her parents as well. Her father immigrated to the United States from South Africa, her mother from the Netherlands. Both cultures, she says, have different takes on science and religion.

“In the U.S., we tend to put up artificial barriers between spiritual beliefs and science, and I think in other countries that’s not the case,” Stanton says of her parents’ combination of religion and scientific interest.

Stanton has both hopes and concerns for the future. She hopes to be able to travel with her family to geologically interesting places like Iceland, Hawaii, and Australia in order to expose her children to the wonders of geology.

“Australia has amazing geology,” she says. “Some of the oldest rocks on earth, and the oldest crystal ever found on earth, come from Australia.”

As for her concerns about the future, she says the most pressing is climate change.

“The scientific consensus is that we have about a five-year window to start stabilizing CO2 emissions,” she says. “One of the things that I do is talk about climate change in my class, because [my students] are making decisions and can make informed decisions rather than deciding based on what their friends or their neighbors or their uninformed politicians are saying.”

The topic can be challenging in class, Stanton adds.

“You’re not going to convince anyone with a sound bite,” Stanton says.

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