The Jackson Summer

By Zachary Bennett

The halls are quiet at the Jackson School of Geosciences, but people are still working, professors are still teaching, and some formal classes are still in session.

The Jackson School of Geosciences is one of the smaller schools on campus, but work goes on. According to its website, they have 650 students, and 56 faculty members at the school. However, early afternoon on a Monday at Jackson is a one-horse town compared to its spring and fall semester traffic.

“For geologists, summertime is usually when major field programs are underway,” Dr. Mark Cloos said in an interview. Cloos is a professor and Getty Oil Company Centennial Chair in Geological Sciences at Jackson’s Department of Geological Sciences. Cloos has been teaching at Jackson for 36 years.

Cloos said that summer semesters at Jackson has very little formal courses, and many of the students are doing their field projects. Field courses dominate the summer allowing the student to get hands-on experience in the geology world, and a “large fraction of the department is off doing something.”

It is not only the courses that are few. Cloos’s emails can go from over 100 emails a day during the spring and fall to only around 30 emails a day during the summer. Cloos said that there are not as many students at the school during the summer as there were in previous years, and that the mentality of the students may have changed over the years.

“It didn’t used to be this way,” Cloos said. “Twenty years ago, there’d be a lot more people around and, what we are really missing, are the students.”

“There has been a gradual change,” Cloos said. He said that the change was a decrease in students over the summer. He had a specific hypothesis in mind that maybe it is partly due to many students’ way of thinking about geology as a career.

“There’s a change in the mindset in terms of the idea that it’s like an 8-to-5 job. I think there’s a lot that are in it that’s like, ‘Ok, it’s 5 o’clock, it’s time to go home,’” Cloos said. He emphasized that science often requires the scientist to always be that scientist. He said that they need to know why they are collecting data and putting in the extended time to tell stories with the datasets.

For the actual “8-to-5” jobs at Jackson, there is not much to do during the summer.

“Everyone is relieved that all the students are gone, and it’s not crazy, but it’s boring,” said Cody Wilson, a barista at the Pangea Café inside the Jackson building.

“Spring and fall are super busy,” Wilson said. “We get good tips during those seasons, but it is also nonstop work.”

Wilson said that, during spring and fall, the lines will reach all the way to the door, but work during the summer rarely gets busy at all.

Erin Negron, Events Coordinator at Jackson, agrees that things at the school have slowed down.

“There is always a significant difference because there are less people,” Negron said. “So, you have less faculty. You have less students. So, in general, your traffic is reduced in terms of people needing things from you, and just things happening and the pace of which things happen.”

Negron said that the student side and faculty side slows down, but, like all the other places on campus, work continues for everyone at Jackson. Negron’s work gets quite a bit slower during the summer except for a small number of events. Much of her work involves getting ready for the busy fall semester and the events that lead up to that semester.

“It’s not necessarily that staff don’t have work to do, it’s just less frenetic and less busy because we don’t have the foot traffic,” Negron said.

Cloos said that summer offers an important advantage to the students enrolled in summer courses.

“This is our time for thinking,” Cloos said. “This is the time when you should be maximizing the bang out of whatever it is that you’ve been doing the rest of the time because, hey, hardly any other distractions.”