Month: July 2021

UConn Geoscience: Earth’s Dynamic Planet



By Robert Thorson, Ph.D., Department Head

and Faculty Coordinator, Earth Science


We know that high school and college students are manifestly anxious about the current climate crisis.  But how many also know that Earth isn’t fragile?  That climate comes from underground?  That ecology is only one part of earthly operations?  That radioactive decay keeps our planet habitable?  That petroleum is no less natural than water?  That oxygen was originally an exhaust gas pollutant?  That humanity’s most expensive mistakes involve ignoring the deep time of planetary history? 


NASA Image of Earth from the International Space Station. Reid Weisman, Sept. 4, 2014.


It’s an ongoing and societally expensive tragedy that few U.S. citizens know how the Earth works as the whole pie, rather than pieces carved up into arbitrary disciplines.  Typically, they were taught only nuggets of old-school geology in grades 8-10, rather than the mother lode of new school geoscience that remains undiscovered for most. I call this new school “whole earth environmentalism”, the idea that understanding how the planet works as a beautifully coherent integrated system is a prerequisite to best-practice management of the specific environmental problems that capture media attention.


UConn ECE is now offering an opportunity for students to learn about how it all works with a course that educates and also puts them on a pathway to important careers that will make a difference. 


Meghan Kinkaid, UConn ECE Instructor from CREC’s Academy of Aerospace and Engineering, is a pioneer.  This past year, she was the first instructor in Connecticut to offer UConn’s popular introductory geoscience course Earth’s Dynamic Planet (GSCI 1051). Her students now know that they are “impacted by geosciences daily and that this course gives us an opportunity to make them aware, take interest, and possibly plan a career around it.”


They’ve also learned that good jobs, high salaries, and rewarding careers are increasingly available, given the near-future shortfall of 175,000 geoscientists estimated by the American Geosciences Institute.  Beginning with this UConn course offered through UConn ECE, the vast majority of UConn’s geoscience majors following one of three tracks (Earth, Environmental, Atmosphere) go on to successful scientific careers: mitigating natural hazards, improving risk assessments, restoring landscapes, accessing clean water, obtaining mineral resources, developing geothermal energy resources, science communication, and education.


The other high school teachers in Meghan’s pioneering cohort of UConn ECE-certified instructors—Lewis from the Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy and both Christopher Tait and Harold Condosta from Ridgefield High School—were ready for takeoff last fall, but the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic forced their administrations to delay.  Five high schools, including New London High School and Plainfield High School, have certified instructors. Next year, four schools are scheduled to offer GSCI 1051.  With school returning to in-person for the fall, Meghan McNichol (New London High School) quipped, “we won’t have to work twice as hard to accomplish half as much.”


Though Meghan Kinkaid is our pioneer, Kim Glazier, a science teacher from Plainfield, is our visionary. “Going forward,” she wrote, she “would like to see all of our AP classes replaced with ECE options.” AP or Advance Placement courses are those which high school students master content to “test out” of a college course during a grueling three-hour exam, provided the college accepts them, and they get a high score. UConn courses taught through UConn Early College Experience are those where the students experience the actual college course being taught in the comfort of their own school by a familiar teacher being supervised by a caring university or college faculty member. Kim’s vision aligns with our growing awareness that sit-down standardized testing is less accessible to under-represented groups, and less accurately reflects the diversity of approaches needed for STEM science careers. When reviewing the GSCI 1051 course description, Kim realized that UConn’s Earth’s Dynamic Planet “would meet the requirements of our required Integrated Science class and thought it would be awesome to offer a course that can lead to college credits for something the students have to take anyway.”


During our inaugural UConn ECE workshop of May 26, 2021, six of us—Meghan, Meghan, Jared, Harold, and me (with Kim included later)—bonded as a team dedicated to increasing the quality of geoscience education in Connecticut high schools. We invite you to join us by reviewing the GSCI 1051 course that unites us and contacting any of us for more information.  As UConn’s ECE Coordinator for Geosciences, I’m a good first contact. I look forward to hearing from you.






By Carissa Rutkauskas


We asked UConn ECE Students how they’re planning on spending their summer and UConn ECE Alumni on advice that they would give current students. Here is what they said:


Summer Plans


Esther Deutsch
Bais Yaakov of Waterbury
Favorite UConn Class: ENGL 1011: Seminar in Writing through Literature
This summer I will be heading to Camp Kesher, a camp for children with special needs, where I will be a counselor for a child with special needs for four weeks. I view this a chance to give back, for so many people have helped me and guided me throughout my life; supporting me endlessly and caring and loving me. Now I will have a chance to help, support, and love a young child with special needs.


Isabella Maglio
Plainfield High School
Favorite UConn Class:  MARN 1001E: The World Around Us
This summer I will be diving straight into Marine Science Books and SAT practices to continue to educate myself and get ready to get that perfect score I need for college! I will also be working hard at Gus’s Pub to earn some money for college savings while continuing to cheer at East Celebrity Elite to keep my physical and mental health up to par for my busy schedule!


Alumni Advice


Fizza Alam
Waterbury High School
Class of 2017
Relax. Spend time with friends and family. College is a new chapter so just enjoy your present. Update your resume, personal statement, and cover letters before entering college, you may need these for work-study or programs your first year.


Andrew Connolly
Shelton High School
Class of 2019
Take the time to network and gain experience. Try to secure a summer internship, shadow a professional in your field, or take specialized courses and certifications. Learning and growth are continuous processes, and the summer is the time to capitalize on this, where you have the flexibility to choose what you want to do.


Adam Kajzer
Berlin High School
Class of 2020
Find an exciting summer job! I spent all my summers through high school working as a lifeguard, which taught me lots of skills that I have transferred outside of the pool and into my studies and professional development.


2021 UConn ECE Wallace Stevens Poetry Contest Winners



By Sean Frederick Forbes, PhD

Assistant Professor-in-Residence

Director, Creative Writing Program

UConn English Department


As my fellow judges and I read through the submission packets for this year’s UConn ECE Wallace Stevens Poetry Contest, we were impressed by the varying subjects and topics that students chose to write about. What the three of us discovered was that many of the poems moved us to think about why one chooses to write poetry and what does one hope to convey in poetic verse? We considered why poetry, if not the written word in all genres, matters as we continue to live through a devastating global pandemic. As I write this, I’m reminded of the last two lines of the poem “The Summer Day” by the late Mary Oliver, in which the speaker invites the reader to ponder this direct and undemanding, yet highly philosophical, question: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” If one is a writer, especially a poet, the theme of “Finding Joy, Finding Beauty, Finding Purpose” might very well be an earnest and awe-inspiring response. It’s a theme that best conveys how I’d like to introduce the first, second, and third prize-winning poems, respectively.


In Rachel Brooks’ “R at the Whaling Exhibition,” written in ten couplets, one notices the tight economy of language employed in each line and the careful execution of alliteration, consonance, and internal rhyme that surprises and thrills, especially when read aloud, with phrases such as “billowing, bloody worry” and “fragmented fabric.” Brooks captures evocatively the wondrous memory of visiting a New England whaling exhibition with a friend named Raven in this beautifully crafted poem.


Charlotte Watts’ “After ‘Chinese Satellite’ by Phoebe Bridgers” is an ekphrastic, usually a poem that describes, or is inspired by, or speaks to another work of art, typically visual art, but here we have a poem based on a song by a 2021 Grammy-nominated musician. A reader’s first impulse might be to listen to Bridgers’ song, but the splendor of this poem is in engaging with the images and phrases, and also the myriad narratives Watts creates throughout in lines such as: “maybe I would sleep easier if / there were ufos over my street.”


Zara Williamson’s “To Find God in Me” is a spoken word poem that acts as a homily for a speaker who confronts and analyzes how body image, the mother/daughter relationship, and religion affect a teenage girl’s life. Williamson uses the pivotal refrain “But Momma says” three times in the poem to convey that despite any misunderstandings, tensions, and upheavals that the speaker may have in her teenage life, her mother listens to understand, thus allowing the speaker to write confidently with lines such as: “I talk to the sky sometimes / I imagine She listens with her ears open as my heart / Loud as my voice ringing in the Church bathroom.”


A reader will find joy, beauty, and purpose in these three poems since the personalities and voices of each speaker convey so acutely what it means to live and write in the 21st century.


The 2022 Wallace Stevens Poetry Contest will open in January 2022 and is open to UConn ECE Students in any discipline.Look for e-mail correspondence sent directly to your school.

R at the Whaling Exhibition


Stop and stare at this morbidity,

Raven. Look, an unsteady ship,


muted in the ankle of an easterly

hail, men on boats, barques keeling


over, the head of a sleek sperm

whale—billowing, bloody worry,


boldly thumping as its tail emerges,

reddish and unrefined. Raven,


when the whale falls to the floor

with the fit and crack of old


harpoon, can you carry the force

on your back? The fragmented fabric,


the fray. The sadness of your dress

hides in the blubber of the night’s


callous hook. See the vertebrae,

the rostrum, the beak? Artifacts of


fortitude, these sloping relics

of permanence. Roots. Oh, the square


of a whale’s blue back, the squall,

the squirm, the small of steady lack.




Rachel Brooks is a high school senior at Christian Heritage School in Trumbull, Connecticut. She is a 2021 U.S. Presidential Scholar and a 2020 National Student Poets Program Semifinalist. Her poetry is found in Barren Magazine and the 2021 Hippocrates Prize Anthology, among others, and she is the first author of a medical research study appearing in Rheumatology (Oxford University Press). She will attend Princeton University this fall.


Context of Poem

I’ve grown up spending summers on the North Shore of Massachusetts. I wanted to capture that New England spirit—whales, unwelcome winds, everything they’re worth in the waiting and the wanting.


after "chinese satellite" by phoebe bridgers

maybe i wouldn't cry like i do

if i thought someone

could hold me close, whisper

the sky was carved, the mountains

whittled, the plains roped out;

all for you.


if they could forgive me

(when i was twelve and my genes were poisonous

fifteen and couldn't look at a boy while i broke his heart

seventeen and speeding serotonin out of myself)

if they could know everything bad in my bones and love me still.


i wish 'want' would turn over easy to 'belief'

but i was never skilled at self-persuasion


maybe i would sleep easier if

there were ufos over my street -

grand government conspiracies or just a lonely cryptid

making his way through a distant forest,

anomaly eyes locked on the same moon.

i want to be made by more than coincidence,

to have some code built within my bones, saying

here is what you do. here is what is all means.

i knew you the whole time.




Charlotte Watts is an 18 year old writer from Windsor, Connecticut. She has read at Sunken Garden and was a finalist for the 2020 Smith College High School Poetry Award. She is going to Lesley University in the fall to major in Creative Writing.


Context of Poem

As a lifelong agnostic Quaker, my relationship with faith is complex and fluid. In this poem, I wrestle with the emotional consequences of non-belief, as well as the longing to know a higher meaning.


To Find the God in Me


I wear this body like my Sunday morning Church dress

Like this mahogany skin does not sit right on my bones

This hair -- tight coils that dance along my scalp-- fits like a bright pink bonnet

Too tight and too much

But momma says I'm pretty

My reflection looks a lot like stained glass these days

Where my face is a puzzle of pieces that is almost unrecognizable most of the time

But momma says she sees God in me

I suppose these hands are like my Church gloves

Palms white and soft as silk

These are prayer hand s, you see

I talk to the sky sometimes

I imagine She listens with her ears open as my heart

Loud as my voice ringing in the Church bathroom

Asking what I will be

But momma says God hears me

So I earthquake the Church floorboards into pixie dust

Momma, God and I dance on top of clouds and my Church dress fits just right

I peer into the stained glass windows

And my reflection looks like someone I know




Zara Williamson is a rising senior at Westhill High School and has had a special interest in English and poetry from a young age. Throughout high school, Zara has been involved in various community service programs at Westhill and in Stamford, including her role in organizing a local poetry slam in honor of Juneteenth. She hopes to continue to be involved in the broader Stamford community through her love and involvement in the arts, and wants to thank UCONN for considering her work.


Context of Poem

“To Find the God in Me” explores the stressors of the teenage experience, including the developing and nonlinear journey towards positive self-image. The poem, written from the perspective of a young teenage girl, analyzes the role of religion and motherhood in soothing stressors, specifically that of imposter syndrome and body dysmorphia.