Geosciences professor earns Outstanding Educator Award

Diane Smith, Geoscience department chair and professor received the Outstanding Educator Award on Oct. 28 from the Association of Women Geoscientists. Smith has been at Trinity for nearly 30 years and has served as the department chair from 1998 to 2004 and since 2012.

For Smith, the award was a great gift, as well as a reflection of her dedication to the University.

“I’ve been working at [Trinity] for quite some time and the award is a really nice affirmation of my career as an educator and a scholar,”  Smith said.

Smith has been hailed by both colleagues and students as a great mentor and an outstanding professor. Colleague and associate geoscience professor Kathleen Surpless, recommended and nominated Smith for the award, stating how important she is for the department and the school.

In her letter to the association, Surpless stated how much Smith cares for her students and the University: her passion makes her a wonderful professor.

“Diane truly cares, and that makes a tremendous difference, both in and out of the classroom,” Surpless said.

Along with her passion as a teacher, Smith was recognized as a figurehead and model to women, professors and students alike.

“Many of the letters I received when writing the nomination spoke volumes about her ability and her accessibility to students,” Surpless said. “What stands out is her mentoring and her ability to really be there for current students as well as recent graduates.”

Smith is seen as an outstanding professor and mentor, both in and out of the classroom, to both current and former students.

In the letter of nomination, a former student cited Smith as epitomizing “what it means to be a truly effective teacher, a caring student advisor [and] a meticulous research mentor.”

This attitude is shared by former students, both in their opinion of Smith and in their interest and respect for the department.

This award comes at a time when the geoscience department is growing in graduates and participants. The department offers two majors; a Bachelor of Sciences in Geoscience and a Bachelor of Arts in Earth Systems. Being a relatively new department –  introduced only in the last 50 years – the growth is seen positively.

“We have been growing recently over the past years,” Smith said. “We are also getting more freshmen coming in already interested in a geoscience major.”

Alongside the great faculty in the department, the courses and opportunities offered in the geosciences are seen by many as promoting and creating very marketable and applicable skills in today’s society.

“Right now there are wonderful opportunities in various sectors, including energy but also environmental consulting and hydrology,” Smith said. “Many of the major problems we are facing such as climate change, energy concerns and food supplies can be connected to the areas of geosciences.”