Opinion: All University of Iowa students should take an earth science class

Students should use their natural science general-education requirement to be educated on our planet.


Roman Slabach

The Old Capital from the roof of UIHC in Iowa City, Iowa on March 25, 2019.

Becca Bright, Columnist

The sciences are not my strength.

Sure, astronomy fascinates me, and physics was one of my favorite classes in high school. Even so, I always gave a small groan at the science requirements at the University of Iowa. I’ve been reluctant to embrace the idea of spending semesters on a subject that isn’t relevant to my future career.

I know my skills and what I want to pursue, but I recently changed my attitude.

In today’s literal political climate, there is a particular field in the sciences that all students should be educated in: earth science.

Whether your major is business or creative writing, UI students should take at least one earth-science course during their undergraduate career. As a part of the general-education requirement, all students must take two semesters of a natural science and one semester of a social science.

Even though it is part of the requirements to earn a degree, students have some freedom. There is a wide variety of specific fields to explore such as psychology, chemistry, and anthropology. Out of these available courses, all UI students should at least consider specifically taking a class within the earth sciences. I did, and I genuinely enjoyed it. Learning basic knowledge in geoscience provided a much deeper understanding of my role as a human relying on the natural systems of this planet.

I talked with Tori Cassidy, a senior double-majoring in microbiology and biochemistry, about this realm of education. She and I discussed what the UI Geoscience Department have to offer for students.

“Professors really take students under their wing. They offer an extremely wide array of classes for how small the department is, and they’re open to students of all majors,” Cassidy said.

She had me take a look for myself on MyUI’s general-education class list to see how wide the variety of subjects was. As we scrolled together down the result page, we discovered classes were being offered for oceanography, natural disasters, botany, basic geology, and more. Professors had even designed courses that were focused on field trips and research, working with the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates.

Cassidy saw that I was both impressed and surprised by the resources being offered.

“You would think more recognition would be given to these efforts to educate students, but it isn’t,” she said. 

Being enrolled in a geoscience course also provides opportunities for students outside of a classroom. Through these courses, students can become involved in environmental volunteer work. Most are connected with local organizations that work to keep Iowa City cleaner, such helping to clear litter from public land or the Iowa River.

It’s clear that the Geoscience Department is an under-appreciated resource for the UI community.

Students’ choice of learning an earth science is a better way to fulfill a gen-ed requirement that contributes not only to their degree, but to the Iowa City community.

All fields of study at the UI open students to a wide net of opportunities and tools to understand the world. The geosciences offer many opportunities to bolster the student experience.

By taking an earth-science course, students understand our role as human beings and our influence on this planet. Students can also use this education to directly benefit the environment.

Whether the sciences are your strength or weakness, investing in them for at least one semester of your college experience will make you smarter, and more of an activist.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.