Laura Lukes

Laura Lukes
George Mason University

2017 Biggs Award for Excellence In Earth Science Teaching

Presented to Laura Lukes

Citation by Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft

It brings me great joy to tell you about the amazing Laura Lukes. I first met Laura when we both taught at a former community college. She was teaching at the local high school full time and “moonlighting” as professor at night. She was tireless in her energy of student advocacy and ongoing learning. She volunteered to drive for a field trip to the Grand Canyon, and was taking these weird sets of photos while she also kept students motivated and informed. It wasn’t until I attended her talk at the local NSTA conference did I realize she was creating virtual field trips for her students. She volunteered to join Merry Wilson and me on a day of collecting rock samples so she could build her sample collection for her high school students. I’m not quite sure she realized what she was getting herself into, as Merry and I realized after an hour into the drive that we had no maps. Some geologists we were! Laura calmly purchased a road map at the first gas station we stopped at so we could at least find our way home. Laura’s calm demeanor and openness to adventure, led to her next great adventure, the Einstein Fellowship in Washington, D.C.

Her passion for her students moved to a national level as she worked on advocacy for students with the Polar program, which led her to the graduate program in geoscience education with the esteemed David McConnell. I had the good fortune to collaborate with her again as we were both working on our Ph.D.s around the GARNET project at the same time. I always joked that she took the hard path by doing qualitative research. She was determined to do it right, and right she did, producing multiple papers from her degree and leading to her current position at George Mason University.

She continues to balance multiple roles on her new campus as both the assistant director for teaching and faculty excellence and as a faculty member in the geology department. She serves as a model for what teaching should look like, continues to advocate for her students, and now her faculty. Laura is quiet and unassuming, but make no mistake—she is a force of nature and for that we are all a better community for it.