September 19, 2004

Dr. Patricia Manley will receive the 2004 Association for Women Geoscientists Foundation (AWGF) Outstanding Educator Award at the AWG breakfast to be held at the Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, CO on November 8, 2004.

There is pride and passion in her voice when Patricia (Pat) Manley talks about her role as educator at Middlebury College in Vermont. This is especially true when the subject is the research projects she shares with undergraduate students. “People just don’t believe the kind of research undergraduates are capable of conducting.” And no wonder: how many undergraduates get to participate in research cruises to the North Atlantic or Antarctica? Many of Manley’s students do just that. All in all, in the fifteen years she has taught at Middlebury, she has supervised thirty-five senior theses, with many of these students also presenting their work at regional and national scientific meetings. One of her former students wrote of Manley that” One of her best assets as a professor is that she treats students like colleagues…” Another (female) student wrote, “…Pat realized in me a potential that at that time, I did not realize in myself.”

Some of Dr. Manley’s interest in undergraduates comes from her own discovery of geology as an undergraduate at Kent State University in Ohio. This was not her intended field; she had started college as a math major, switched to music and then to elementary education. But the earth science course for elementary school teachers she took to fulfill a science requirement fascinated her. She decided to take the regular Introduction to Geology course taught by Glenn W. Franks. Even though this was a large lecture course, Franks’ dynamic style, his use of visuals, and his and discussion of practical applications got Manley her hooked. Franks took an interest in the newcomer, encouraging her to become a geologist.

As a late major, Manley had a lot of catching up to do to earn a B.S. There were courses in physics and math to complete, in addition to the full complement of traditional geology courses. She had to go to summer school. Besides hard work, however, her change in focus also brought opportunities. During the summer before her senior year, Manley won a spot in a research project in Cenozoic volcanology with A. W. Laughlin that took her to Arizona and New Mexico. She found this work so interesting that she considered pursuing a graduate degree in planetary geology or volcanology at the University of Arizona or the University of New Mexico.

In the end, Manley opted for another path. There wasn’t much feminine company in her department at Kent State; Manley was one of just two or three female students in a group of 70 undergraduate geology majors. She had, however become close to one of the male majors, Tom Manley, and when the time came to choose between Tom or moving on immediately to graduate school, she chose Tom. They had their honeymoon at field camp in the Black Hills of South Dakota and celebrated thirty years of marriage in June.

Pat joined Tom at his graduate school, Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory, where she took a position as a research assistant, working on various marine geology projects. There, encouragement from some, such as Walter Pitman and George Bryan, and discouragement from others (girl’s can’t do it), spurred her on to apply to Columbia herself after her husband graduated. In 1984, ten years after receiving her B.S., with a six-year old girl and a two-year old boy, she entered Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Geological Observatory. Juggling two-children, long intervals as a single mother (her polar oceanographer husband regularly went to the Arctic for four months at a time), and her own sea schedule, Pat finished her Ph.D. in marine geology and geophysics of deep-sea sediments under Roger Flood in 1989. “Roger was a fantastic advisor and mentor.” Manley notes. “He taught me solid research skills and a thirst for wanting to understand more.”

Both Manley’s applied for jobs during 1989 and had offers. Pat was offered the prize job at Middlebury College. At decision time, her husband said, “It’s your turn.” and the family moved to Vermont. There she has become a star, an outstanding educator with an impressive record of research. She has co-authored over twenty-four refereed publications and co-edited two volumes of research on Lake Champlain, including an AGU Water Series Monograph.

Pat credits part of her success at Middlebury to the mentorship of Ray Coish, department chair when she arrived. He helped her with preparing syllabi and lectures and continues to be a resource for teaching. Among her advice to AWG members is the importance of finding a mentor and friend at all stages of your career. Such a person can help you through the “discouraging low spots, which we all have” and to establish a career plan that fits your personal and professional needs. Now as an established professional, she believes that it is equally important to take the time to be a mentor to others and not to skimp on praise.

With only undergraduates in her classes, Pat has ample opportunity herself to become a mentor. During her years at Middlebury her zeal for thinking of geology as the one true path, has mellowed. When she began teaching she thought success required all students to become geologists. Today, realizing that her’s may be the only college science course a student will take, she has a somewhat different goal. She wants to ensure that anyone who takes her class, especially science phobic students, leave with an appreciation for science and how science is done. She’d like them “to look out the window and say – How did that get there? Where did those mountains come from? What impacts are humans making on the Earth?”

As a professor at an undergraduate institution, Manley feels privileged to be in a position were one person can make a positive difference in someone’s life. Her students respond by feeling privileged to have had contact with her, “ Professor Manley has shared her memories, victories and challenges … we have talked extensively about the many challenges that face women entering the sciences. Every step of my undergraduate career, she has been there to support me, answer my questions and calm my fears. She is the reason that I, too, have a future in the sciences.”

AWG is proud to recognize Dr. Patricia Manley with the 2004 AWGF Outstanding Educator Award. Please join us at breakfast on November 8 to honor this truly outstanding educator and inspirational role model.

For additional information and photos visit AWG.

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