Spring 2010


Alum Named Top U.S. Professor

Robert Thomas

HSU ALUM ROBERT THOMAS (geology, ’85), professor of geology at the University of Montana Western, has been named a 2009 U.S. Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

Thomas and three other winners were honored at an awards ceremony in November in Washington, D.C. for “actively engaging their undergraduate students in hands-on research and extensive team work.”

During his tenure at Montana Western, Thomas has helped the campus evolve from a traditional state “normal school” into an experiential learning university that uses an immersion scheduling system, in which students take one course at a time in an 18-day stretch. Students build portfolios of what they can do, documenting their professional skills and equipping them with “a tremendous advantage over a transcript listing classes,” he says.

Lori Dengler, chair of HSU’s Department of Geology, said, “The best thing about my job is the absolutely top-notch students we get to interact with and [Rob Thomas] is in the elite group at the top. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.”

As part of his public outreach, Thomas has helped lead 10 “Geo Venture” field trips for the Geological Society of America, and the society recognized him with a Distinguished Service Award.

Thomas’ professional service includes many years of teaching the Princeton University geology field camp. He has been president of the Rocky Mountain Paleontological Society and edited Northwest Geology and the Journal of Geoscience Education. He is a 2008 recipient of HSU’s Distinguished Alumni Award.