Last Updated: December 21, 2017, 3:53 pm

DSU field institute boulders status quo


The Dixie State University Department of Physical Sciences continues to give students opportunities to make their résumés rock solid.

The Colorado Plateau Field Institute, founded in 2009, helps students and faculty and staff capitalize on DSU’s “extraordinary natural setting,” said Gerald Bryant, geology special projects coordinator. After four years of development, the CPFI runs programs through experiential learning — meshing classroom instruction, research projects and hands-on participation.

Bryant said he assumed the role of developing the institute in 2009 after Donna Dillingham-Evens, former vice president of academics, spearheaded efforts to advance geoscience education at DSU. The CPFI’s initial opportunities were limited. Now formalized, its docket includes numerous events in the near future, Bryant said.

“Our first major partnership within the DSU curriculum will be offered next summer as a seriesof field camps,” he said. “These two-week courses will provide capstone experiences and laboratory credit for introductory geology, biology, and outdoor recreation.”   

Such field-based learning bridges boundaries students face in a classroom setting, particularly science students, Bryant said.

Kelly Bringhurst, physical science department chair, said the CPFI’s programs advance science education at DSU because “experiential learning and field research are a critical component of science education.”

Putting students in practical situations helps students’ problem-solving and analytical skills when researching, Bryant said. He said he likens the CPFI’s opportunities to examining vast geographical features rather than just reading about them.

“Exploring a volcano and interpreting its products is different than classifying one on the basis of someone else’s description, for example,” he said. “This difference is particularly notable with regard to the research-based programs that we run: skills development and theory can be targeted to the practical needs of a particular situation.”

Students interested in learning about future CPFI endeavors can contact Bryant at [email protected] or visit Bringhurst said that being involved in the institute’s future provides students an all-encompassing research experience.

“It will continue to expand to create opportunities for students from here and abroad to develop research and observational skills,” Bringhurst said. “Future research will likely expand beyond the geological sciences into biology and environmental science.”