To me, geology is the quintessential liberal arts degree. I can find a link between geology and almost everything else, and my interests touch almost every discipline or current event. But geology is not only about the present. That is one of the beauties of a geological understanding. Time becomes an enormous backdrop, and instants in time, while engaging and even important, take on a different significance when seen in the context of millions or billions of years.
I'm also interested in change, how the earth changes, how rocks and minerals change when subjected to different environments, how societies and cultures change, and how we as individuals change. Geology lets me explore some of that in great detail, and I find that what I learn about change in rocks actually helps me to understand change in myself or in society.
I grew up in a land of agricultural richness (east central Illinois) whose bounty was built on the glacial plunder of nourishing soil minerals from Wisconsin and Canada. The cultural environment in my hometown, Champaign-Urbana, was also rich. I didn't take any persuading, when given the chance, to spend what would have been my senior year in high school with my family in an upcountry village in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in 1966. I still draw on that experience today.
Returning to Wisconsin after my year in Africa, I earned a B.A. at Beloit College. It was there that I first learned about geology and discovered that I really loved it. Key to that experience was the close interaction I had with faculty mentors, who respected and challenged me from my first class, and the outstanding opportunities I was given to see rocks in the field. Those experiences, too, color my approach to teaching and learning.
After Beloit, a 2-year interlude doing alternative service, and getting married, I continued my studies at Harvard University, spending one summer of field work in western New Hampshire and three more in the metamorphic core to the Canadian Rockies, the Shuswap of British Colombia. My five years at Harvard were enriching and stimulating, but after finishing my Ph.D. I was ready to return to a small community.
Since the fall of 1978 I have been teaching in the geology department at Juniata College. My academic interests have evolved from a focus on structural geology to petrogenesis, crystallography and crystal chemistry.
I currently teach courses in Mineralogy, Petrography, the Petrology of Igneous and Metamorphic Rocks, the Geochemistry of Natural Water, and Weather and Climate. I share responsibility with my colleagues for our introductory physical geology course. Though my disciplinary home is the Geology Department I am drawn both to Environmental Science and Studies and to Peace and Conflict Studies. In recent years I have supervised student research projects that examined the geochemistry of Raystown Lake water, and that have explored the technique of fluid inclusion geothermometry in several different settings. I was the lead author in a grant proposal that acquired for Juniata an analytical SEM, and look forward to developing student research projects that utilize this powerful tool for petrologic studies.
Outside of my academic life, I am deeply involved in Quaker activities, the work of the Huntingdon County Planning Commission and the Huntingdon County Arts Council. I delight in outdoor activities, playing traditional American and Celtic music, the textile arts, and beekeeping.
I am married to Virginia Mutti, and have two daughters, Laurel and Johanna.