Initial Publication Date: February 10, 2014

Geology, Calvin College, Calvin College

Information for this profile was provided by Deanna van Dijk, Calvin College. Information is also available on the program website. Students in this program are pursuing a bachelors degree.

Program Design & Assessment


The geology program at Calvin College combines excellent teaching and research with thoughtful Christian reflection on geology. Students are mentored through the program by caring and accessible faculty. Field trips, research experiences, and a world-class mineral museum are a few of opportunities available to students in the program. Alumni report that the program prepared them well, and numbers of geology majors are currently rising.

Strengths of this program
The program offers a rich learning experience in geology with a comprehensive major, first-rate facilities, field trips, accessible faculty, and world-class mineral museum. Students are encouraged to participate in active faculty research programs, beginning with a research-based course for first-year students. Geography and environmental studies programs in the same department provide additional opportunities for geology students, such as courses in GIS and remote sensing.

Types of students served
The geology program serves the student population of Calvin College, a comprehensive liberal arts college in the Reformed tradition of historic Christianity. The program attracts students who are drawn to geology and want an education shaped by Christian faith, thought and practice.

Program Goals

The goals of this program are as follows:
The goals of the geology program are to provide students with a thorough technical training in geology as preparation for employment or graduate study, to assist students to develop a Reformed Christian perspective on geology, and to equip them to put that perspective into practice. The program also teaches general college students the core concepts of geology in order that they may understand the basic nature of God's creation, grow in appreciation for, understand their place in, grasp their impact upon, and function effectively as stewards of God's world.

The learning goals were informed by the following resources:
The program developed in response to a denominational need for excellent geology teaching and scholarship to inform Christian faith, thought and practice, and vice versa. Calvin College remains one of only a few US Christian colleges and universities to offer a geology major.

How program goals are assessed
The department convenes an advisory committee every few years to examine course materials, student performance, and questionnaires administered to graduates and their employers or graduate studies supervisors.

Design features that allow goals to be met:
Student learning objectives for the geology program, with corresponding assessment instruments and criteria, enable the advisory committee to evaluate whether the program is meeting its goals.

Alumni Careers

Graduation rate
From 2009-2013, the geology program had 10-14 majors each year, with 4-6 majors graduating each spring. In Fall 2013, the number of geology majors increased to 24. This steep increase, following the slightly-fluctuating enrolments of previous years, shares similarities with increases in the numbers of geography and environmental studies majors. Several factors may contribute to the rising numbers of geoscience majors: curriculum redesigns that made the programs more "user-friendly", a strategy of reserving seats for first- and second- year students in introductory geology courses, growing recognition of the job market growth in geology, and an innovative new course for first-year students which allows them to explore Earth science disciplines (

Careers pursued by our alumni
Almost half of our graduating geology majors continue on to graduate studies and the rest pursue employment in fields such as oil and gas, mineral exploration, park service and resource management, and environmental geology. Program alumni report that they were well prepared for their graduate studies or employment.

Courses and Sequencing

Diagram of course sequencing and requirements

Entry into the degree
Geology 151 Introduction to Geology
Geology 153 Big Sky Geology: Montana Field Experience
Geography/Geology 120 Earth Systems
Geology 112 Earth Science for Educators
Students might also start with Geography 181 "Research in Earth Sciences" (which is an elective in the geology major) before taking one of the above introductory courses.

Core Courses
Geology 151 or 153 or 120 (see above for titles)
Geology 152 Historical Geology
Geology 212 Structural Geology
Geology 215 Mineralogy
Geology 252 Geomorphology
Geology 316 Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Geology 317 Sedimentation and Stratigraphy
Geology 387 Geology as a Vocation

Elective courses and Requirements
Students must complete two electives from the following list:
Geology 251 Oceanography
Geology 304 Geochemistry
Geology 312 Environmental Geology
Geology 313 Paleontology
Geology 322 Coastal Geomorphology
Geology 325 Hydrogeology
Geology 386 Seminar in Geology
Geology 390 Independent Study
Geology 395 Research in Geology
Geology 396 Research in Geology
Geography 261 Geographic Information Systems and Cartography
Geography 361 Advanced Geographic Information Systems
An approved interim course

A physical science senior capstone course is required. Typically students take IDIS 310 History of Physical Science

Supporting Science and Math Courses
The following cognates are required for the major:
Chemistry 103 General Chemistry I
Mathematics 143 Introduction to Probability and Statistics or Mathematics 171 Calculus I
Students who wish to pursue a career or graduate study in geology are encouraged to take additional courses in chemistry, physics, calculus, English (a technical writing course), and a geology field methods course.

Other key features of this program:

Supporting Materials

Information for this profile came from an interview with Johnathan Bascom (department chair), the department website ( and the State of the Department Report from Fall 2013.