Herb Larson; Featured Alumni
- Hometown/High School?
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin
- Where do you reside now?
Port Washington, Wisconsin
- What degree(s)did you obtain from UWM and when?
B.S. in Geology/Geophysics, 1995
M.S. in Geosciences, 1997
- What was your field of interest in Geology at UWM?
I was interested in almost all aspects of Geoscience. I took anything and everything accept Hydro classes. I particularly enjoyed Geophysics.
- What brought you to UWM to study Geosciences for your degree?
I grew up in Southeastern Wisconsin and chose to stay local for college. I began as an Engineering major but decided to change directions my sophomore year and major in something I enjoyed.
- What did you enjoy most about the department, UWM, and Milwaukee?
I enjoyed the atmosphere of the department. Both the professors and the students made a point to establish a sense of community within the department. We always made it a priority to go out on Friday nights and spend time together outside of school. Some Friday nights we would have 30 or more students and professors that would get together to talk, eat, drink and get to know each other. I really miss that.
- What is your current job (or field of study) and how would you describe it to one of our current students (e,g,m what do you do, how rewarding is it)?
I am a high school science teacher. I teach Earth Science, Physics and an Astronomy/Geology class. I get the opportunity to teach people about the incredibly dynamic history of the Earth. Most students have no idea about the changes the Earth has undergone over its lifetime. I get to inspire a sense of awe and wonder in my students every day and I hope I am starting at least a few off in their careers in Geoscience.
- Why did you choose this career?
Funny story - I had no idea I wanted to teach for a living. I actually had a pretty intense fear of public speaking. In grad school, I was a T.A. The first year I had two upper level classes, Structural and Intro to Geophysics. The few times I actually had to talk to people it was no big deal because they were all my friends. The second year I got stuck with Geo 100 labs. On the first day, I was so nervous before class I almost threw up. After the class was over, I realized I actually had a really good time. By the end of the first semester I developed a passion for teaching. I was sure at that point I wanted to teach, I just didn’t know at what level. I thought about getting a Ph.D. but that seemed like too much work and I wasn’t sure I could get a job.
- What's been your best experience in geology (or your career) so far?
The best experience I had in geology so far would have been field camp. Someday I hope to offer a class where high school students could have a similar more age appropriate experience.
- In your career, have you gotten the opportunity to travel or to work with people as part of your job?
As a teacher I get to travel all summer. It isn’t necessarily work related but I do get to go to some great locations. For school, I take all of my classes to Devil’s Lake and Parfrey’s Glen. I am amazed at the number of students that have never been to a place like that.
- What trait or thing(s) that you learned while in Geosciences at UWM has allowed you to succeed in your career?
I hate to admit it but most of the material and the way I teach my classes are copied from my past professors. My Astronomy / Geology class is a shortened version of the Historical Geology class, taught almost the same way as when I took it long ago. The students seem to love it as much as I did. If it wasn’t for the great professors in the Geo Department, I wouldn’t have an excellent teaching model to copy.
- Do you have any advice that you would give to our current students about their education or in selecting a career once they graduate?
There are two basic philosophies on selecting a career. One is to choose something that will get you a good paying job, the other is to do what you love. I chose to do what I love. Now I have a good paying job, with great benefits and tons of time off. If you are willing to work hard and be patient, following what you love will pay off.
- What is/was the hardest thing that you had to do in your career?
The hardest part of my career is getting up early in the morning! 7:30 is way too early to teach. I think they should switch to a college schedule where most people can avoid the dreaded early classes.