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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

NE professor inspires, rocks geology classes

NE geology professor Meena Balakrishnan shows off some of the volcanic rocks she collected from Hawaii.Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
NE geology professor Meena Balakrishnan shows off some of the volcanic rocks she collected from Hawaii.

Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

By Tabitha Redder/ reporter

NE geology professor Meena Balakrishnan’s passion for science is surpassed only by her devotion to her students.

“Why geology? Why not? It’s cool!” she said, laughing.

NE geology professor Meena Balakrishnan shows off some of the volcanic rocks she collected from Hawaii.Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian
NE geology professor Meena Balakrishnan shows off some of the volcanic rocks she collected from Hawaii.
Katelyn Townsend/The Collegian

This year’s Chancellor’s Award winner on NE Campus has a bachelor’s degree in zoology, a master’s in marine biology and another master’s in environmental sciences.

“I started out as a biology major, but I realized they all came together in geology,” she said. “I get excited about these things. I’m very passionate.”

Balakrishnan’s enthusiasm for teaching translates to her classes.

“My primary goal is to see my students succeed, and it’s like the greatest thing ever for me,” she said.

NE student Marybeth Shepard took oceanography and geology with Balakrishnan and said she was vital in influencing her major.

“I was actually dreading going back to school, but she is the one who got me to realize how much I enjoy geology and the sciences,” Shepard said.

Shepard praised Balakrishnan’s teaching style and said it is easy to understand the material.

“She doesn’t sit up there and spout off a whole bunch of words that as an undergraduate you wouldn’t have heard before,” Shepard said. “She relates concepts to everyday things.”

Balakrishnan said she likes using food analogies because everyone can relate to them.

“They know what a Rice Krispies treat is,” she said. “Some may not know how to make it, but once I tell them, they know what it means when I say sedimentary rocks are like Rice Krispies treats.”

As the geologist for the TCC-sponsored Hawaiian summer field studies program, Balakrishnan advocates the trip because of the valuable fieldwork. In the program, students can earn up to 12 science credit hours leading up to two weeks of intensive study in Hawaii.

“It’s not just class. It’s an experience,” she said. “You can see everything there except the glaciers, so everything I want to cover is there.”

NE student Ashley Pharo has participated in the Hawaiian trip twice.

“I don’t think I could ever go back to Hawaii and do the vacation scene because I’m so involved in the biology and geology now,” she said. “Seeing the glow from the volcano was great!”

Shepard has also traveled to Hawaii for the trip and valued the experience.

“It was the best time of my life, ever,” she said. “I would do it every five seconds if I could.”

Although she advises the C Club, an environmental awareness club on NE Campus, Balakrishnan said she lets the students lead the group’s activities.

“I may or may not be [at the meetings], but the students will bring different scientific articles that they will discuss, and it’s absolutely wonderful to watch them do that. It’s just amazing,” she said. “I told them they have to decide what they want to do and what their goals and ambitions are.”

Earth science major Leah Miller said she traveled to Canada with Balakrishnan last year after Balakrishnan helped her and another student get an abstract article published by a geological society.

“She encouraged us to do some research during the Hawaii field studies program,” Miller said. “Meena went out of her way to help us make a poster and got us funding from the school.”

Miller raved about Balakrishnan’s kindness.

“If you need anything, I would guarantee that she’d give you the shirt off her back if you needed it,” she said. “I always recommend her to people who need a science class.”

Shepard shared a similar opinion of Balakrishnan’s dedication to her students.

“I haven’t even taken one of her classes in three or four semesters, but she still reaches out. She still sends emails asking how we are doing,” Shepard said. “You can really just tell how much she cares.”

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