Elizabeth Safran, Professor of Geological Science

“I like to learn about a place by not just visiting the extraordinary sites but the ordinary sites too. There is something rich about seeing a place from within, how people really live it. I like to get a feel for what life is like somewhere else by going into the hardware stores and the grocery stores, sitting in the unnamed park on the corner, and walking endlessly through ordinary neighborhoods. I like a combination of seeing the places that need to be seen and the places that aren’t touristy.” – Liz Safran

If you can remember back to a time in your childhood when the whole of the outdoors was your playground, then you and Associate Professor of Geological Science Elizabeth “Liz” Safran would have been very good friends. “I was a tom boy as a young child. I was very into animals. I spent a lot of time outside picking berries, looking for mushrooms, looking for frogs or lizards or snakes, hanging around in the tops of neighbor’s trees, a lot of time playing and running around outside. If you scratch any geologist you will find somebody who loves to be outdoors.”

In college, those impulses were married to intellectual curiosity. “Once I got to college and was flipping through the catalog, I found geology required you to spend a summer at field camp where you learned about field mapping. In the intro courses you get to leave the campus and go off to these really cool places where there are fossils. I was like, sign me up, that’s perfect! You get to experience the worlds beneath the world, the world most people don’t see. That tickled all my early exploratory impulses that I had as a kid.”

After getting her undergraduate degree, she knew she wanted to continue her education. “I had to decide if I should go to grad school in biology or geology. There was something about geology that is not in the mainstream. Biology is very common. I think I was drawn to doing something a little bit different.”

The nascence for her interest in Lewis & Clark was born by a chance encounter with someone sporting a Lewis & Clark College sweatshirt. When she asked him about it, he described L&C as a great liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon. He described a cool community populated by committed and interested students. Liz thought that sounded really good and in retrospect appreciates how that chance encounter shaped her life. “I am teaching people who were like me when I took my first geology class. Being there when their eyes are opened, that discovery, the world they could never see before but is right in front of them, getting to see that a place is richer and more layered, that’s my favorite thing.”

“Alumni have their own rich perspective, drawn from their own life that they can bring to bear on their experience. It’s a deeper fuller version of what our students bring. People have had more life to be the mill for these experiences. The openness and adventuresome quality that they bring is really special about our alumni and our community members. It makes for some fun stories and perspectives.”