Case Studies: Academic Geoscientists

This is a collection of essays by, and interviews of, geoscientists in academia. These examples illustrate how each of them has gone about the process of finding (or regaining) balance in their lives. While every person is different, you may find some ideas that you can use in your own life.


In 2006, the essayists below co-led a session on "balancing your life" for the workshop on Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences. In preparation for the workshop, each one wrote an essay about how she approaches this topic.
  • Katryn Wiese teaches at the City College of San Francisco. Setting priorities and using time-saving strategies work for her.
  • Ann Bykerk-Kauffman is an associate professor at California State University - Chico. She builds personal priorities into her regular routine and constructs a time budget.


  • Rachel Beane is a professor in, and chair of, the Geology department at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine. She teaches three courses (with labs) each year, maintains an active, externally-funded research program, and is married, with a two and a half year old son.
  • Eric Baer is an instructor in the Geology department at Highline Community College, in Des Moines, Washington. He teaches 15-18 hours in the classroom per week (including labs), conducts research, and has summers off. He is also a single father, the primary parent to his five-year-old daughter.
  • Jill Schneiderman is a professor in the Geology & Geography department, and is also currently Associate Dean of the Faculty, at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, NY. While her responsibilities as a dean require the bulk of her work time, Jill is still a part-time faculty member as well. She and her partner have two children, ages 8 and 5. In addition, Jill finds time for professional and community service.
  • Rachel O'Brien is an assistant professor in the Department of Geology at Allegheny College, in Meadville, PA. She teaches two or three courses each semester, involves her undergraduate students in her research program, and is takes an active role in her college governance system. She is also an avid contra dancer and caller, helps run a film series in town, and she and her husband are long-term supporters of the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in their area.
  • Kyle Nichols is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Skidmore College, in Saratoga Springs, NY. He teaches, has an active research program, supervises student researchers, and serves on the Environmental Studies Steering Committee. He also has a family (a wife and two teenaged step-children), and he makes time for at least one hour of exercise every day, for medical reasons.
  • Dexter Perkins is a professor in the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering at the University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks, ND. He loves teaching (often taking on overloads), has written a couple of textbooks, advises several student groups, and conducts research. In his spare time, he is an outdoor enthusiast and environmental activist.
  • Mary Savina is a professor in the Department of Geology at Carleton College, in Northfield, MN, and is also the Coordinator of the Perlman Center for Learning and Teaching. She is active in several local civic groups, her church, and several music ensembles.
  • Kristie Boering is a professor in both the departments of Earth and Planetary Science and Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. She teaches one class per semester, has an active research program, and serves on committees and professional organizations. In addition, she is married and has two young children.