Career Profile: Joshua I. Villalobos

El Paso Community College

El Paso Community College is a two-year college.

Joshua I. Villalobos
is one of the leaders of the 2012 and 2013 Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences workshops. Prior to the workshop, we asked each of the leaders to describe their careers, for the benefit of workshop participants, by answering the questions below.

Click on a topic to read Joshua I. Villalobos's answer to an individual question, or scroll down to read the entire profile: Educational background and career path * Current job responsibilities * Best part of the job * Challenges and strategies * Qualifications * Balancing work and life * Advice

Briefly describe your educational background and career path.

2011-Present-Associate Professor, District-wide coordinator for Geological Sciences, El Paso Community College (EPCC)
2006-2011- Associate Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, EPCC
2003-2005- Adjunct Professor, Department of Geological Sciences, El Paso Community College
2003-2005- GIS administrator/Geologist for Texas A&M University Agricultural Experiment Station - El Paso County
1998- 2002- Researcher, NASA-PACES (Pan-American Center for Earth and Environmental Studies)
2002- M.S. in Geological Sciences at University of Texas at El Paso
1999- Received B.S. in Geological Sciences at University of Texas at El Paso

Briefly describe your current job responsibilities, perhaps by describing a typical day, week, or semester.

As an associate Professor at EPCC I typically teach 5-6 introductory level geology labs and courses (Physical and Historical geology) per semester and one capstone course (Geological Field Methods) in fall semesters.

As District-Wide Coordinator (DWC) for the Department of Geological Sciences at EPCC I am the main representative of the Department for EPCC. As DWC I regularly meet with the administration to discuss changes or issues regarding the discipline or degree plan and ensure that any changes are addressed and disseminated to fellow department faculty.

My position as SOLARIS Program director has me overseeing the progress of 9 student projects that are funded by an NSF OEDG (Opportunities in Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences) grant. I also assist the student in their project designs and data acquisition if needed. My Fridays are set aside as field days for me to meet with program students and assist in their projects by helping process or collect data. As part of ensuring the success of the program, I schedule monthly program meetings with SOLARIS students to
disseminate information regarding the program, the progress of their projects, or to discuss various career opportunities.

What do you like best about your work?

To me, teaching at a 2YC is the most rewarding job I have ever had. Geology is such a dynamic field that affects all our lives that teaching a particular topic is never the same from one semester to the next. Seeing how my students can change their view of the world or their understanding of a natural phenomenon all in one semester is a great joy.

By far the most rewarding experience teaching at a 2YC is having the ability to help students who are non-traditional. Many 2-yr college students are overcoming social, economic, educational, or family barriers that often give them a greater reason and passion to succeed in college.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work? What strategies have you developed for tackling that challenge?

Teaching non-traditional students means I have to change my teaching or mentoring style to accommodate various individuals. I think the greatest skill a 2-yr faculty member needs is the willingness to adapt and change to accommodate their students. The learning style a freshman high school graduate is not the same as a parent of three who is going back to school, but both may be in the same class.

Another challenge that faces faculty in the 2YC community is stagnation. Teaching the same courses year-in year-out can become repetitive. To overcome this I incorporate the latest news on the subject and try to rewrite all my lectures every 3 years. The most effective strategy for me has been doing research projects with my students. It has kept me involved with my love of research, being outdoors, and has allowed me to keep up with the trends within the field of geology. Seeing 2YC students doing work that 4YC students do is a wonderful joy and has given me great material to add to my lectures!

What qualifications do you think made you competitive in your job search(es)?

I think a unique qualification I have was coming from a minority community and background gave me a distinctive insight on students with a similar background. Before I received the tenure-track position I was an adjunct for several years and tried my best to keep in contact with fellow faculty and with department issues and changes.

Many of the graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in these workshops are interested in balancing a family and career, in dual career couple issues, and in how other personal choices affect the search for a fulfilling career. Please share information about your situation, your ideas and experiences.

When my wife and I were first married we were a dual career couple. After receiving my tenure track position we had our first of two children and made the decision that she would leave her job as an engineer and become a full-time mom. Having both our children during my tenure process was very difficult, but manageable. We knew that many sacrifices would have to be made if our future goals were to be achieved. For me, learning to prioritize my activities and defining what is most important in life has made my career fulfilling and manageable. My advice for someone just starting out and who wants a family or dual career is to realize from the beginning that many sacrifices will need to be made, but if there is a common goal, mutual support, and lots of patience from each person, your goals come sooner than you will expect.

What advice do you have for graduate students or post-docs preparing for academic careers in geoscience? What do you know now that you wish you had known as you started your career?

  • Be willing to still learn and to take advice from others.
  • See your lectures, exams, and teaching style from your students' perspectives and not through a graduate student's eye.
  • Students want to learn not be talked down to.
  • Your level of enthusiasm about your job and geology will be contagious.
  • The first day of class sets the standard for the rest of the semester so begin prepared!
  • What I know now that I wish I had known when I started my career is that rock samples can fill a small office very quickly!