Geology Students Test Their Skills in the Mountains of Montana with Alumni Support

Aug, 2017
Geology Students

August 31, 2017—This summer, a group of HSU Geology students braved the blazing sun and rugged terrain of southwestern Montana to test their skills as geologists. During this immersive five-week experience, students explored mountains, canyons, and valleys, using what they learned in the classroom to decipher billions of years of geologic history written into the landscape.

This capstone course for Geology majors—known as field camp—provides practical experience not found in the classroom and typically costs the average student around $2,500. Inspired to make the program accessible to more Geology students, Randy Moory (Geology ‘72) established the Geology Department Opportunities Fund with a recurring annual gift of $6,000. With the support of Randy’s gift, the department created the Geology Field Camp Scholarship, which allowed three Geology students a chance to go to Montana for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

One recipient is Sarah Shaghasi. “Coming off field camp has left me feeling ready to tackle the professional world," she says. "Field camp was an amazing, fun, and challenging experience. I feel like I truly grew as a geologist and as a person overall, and that the memories I have from field camp will stay with me throughout life.”

As a student at HSU in the early 70’s, Randy, too, benefitted from the Geology Department's program. He says the department was well-suited to support his interest in environmental work while providing him a strong foundation throughout his career. Randy recently retired from UC Davis, where he directed IT Policy.

Randy believes in field camp’s benefit and recognizes the financial obstacles it presents. “HSU is one of the few schools that still offers its undergraduate students field camp. To me, that’s where education leaves the books and enters practical reality,” he explains. “It’s an extraordinary experience. Classroom learning can be so specific, but field camp challenges students to integrate four years of learning and tests their skills in a holistic way.”

The course, though costly, is often regarded by students as one of the most rewarding experiences of their academic careers. “Unfortunately, the financial cost of learning opportunities like this has forced many universities to abandon their field camp programs” says Geology Professor Brandon Browne. “We are so very lucky to have the generous support of our alumni, who recognize the unique and profound benefit of our field camp program.

“It’s a very satisfying experience to be in the field with students that you have known for the previous several years and watch them grow into professional geoscientists.”  

Geology Professor Melanie J. Michalak, who partners with Browne as a field camp instructor, feels similarly about the importance of taking education beyond the walls of the classroom. “It’s incredibly rewarding to work with students in an immersive ‘24/7’ experience, as we eat together, work in the evenings, chat around the campfire, and spend our days on exciting geological field trips. Students don’t get to see this kind of holistic problem-solving in a 50-minute lecture.”

Randy encourages other donors and alums to contribute to the Geology Opportunities Fund to support field camp and other immersive learning opportunities available to students.

“When I was there, HSU was delivering some of the best educated geologists at the undergraduate level. It’s important to foster and keep that kind of education alive,” he says. “Some students don’t have the resources or support systems to help them through college and they are carrying that burden on their own. That’s why it’s important for past alumni to give them what they need.”

If you’d like to join Randy in supporting the Geology Department Opportunities Fund, you can visit the fund’s giving page here. If you have questions about giving, or would like to learn about other ways to support HSU students, visit, email the Office of Philanthropy at, or call 707-826-5200.