On Dec. 8, 2022, Eastern Michigan University professor Steve LoDuca received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Michigan chapter of the American Institute of Professional Geologists.
LoDuca grew up in Wisconsin and received his bachelor’s degree in geology at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh in 1984. He then got his master’s degree in paleontology and petroleum geology at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in 1986.
Now, he teaches paleontology, sedimentology and stratigraphy at EMU.
LoDuca said he originally wanted to be an oil geologist but became interested in teaching while completing his Master’s. During his graduate studies, LoDuca worked as a graduate assistant teaching labs for paleontology courses.
“I was terrified at first because I had never done any teaching before, but then as I got into it I discovered that I really enjoyed it,” LoDuca said.
Just two weeks after completing his doctorate in paleontology and sedimentology geology at the University of Rochester in 1990, LoDuca started working at EMU.
The professor has traveled to China and Estonia to do paleontology research with his colleagues and has also gone to Canada and various places around the United States to advance his research.
“My true dream was to always become a paleontologist and so far I have had a very satisfying and rewarding career,“ LoDuca said. "I have been able to do a lot of research in paleontology. More than my wildest dreams."
Professor Chris Gellasch, a member of the geologists institute, nominated LoDuca for the award. Gellasch is a colleague and a former student of LoDuca from his very first class he taught at EMU back in 1990.
Before winning, LoDuca had no prior knowledge that Gellasch nominated him.
“I was home on a Thursday evening and I checked my email to see if any students needed help with anything, then I saw an email from someone I didn’t recognize and that is how I found out about the nomination," LoDuca said. :I turned to my wife and said there must be some mistake. It was very nice and very surprising.”
LoDuca puts his heart and soul into his job and career, stating that he has managed to work it out so that he is living the dream by teaching paleontology and having opportunities to research more in-depth about it too. He finds it gratifying to get recognition for the work he does at EMU, and he stated that it means a lot to him.
“Every day is an award for me just by getting to come to work and do what I do. This award is like icing on the cake,” LoDuca said.
EMU does not have a graduate program for geology, which gives LoDuca a chance to put all his focus on undergraduates. He has been able to work on senior theses with his students and watch them move up in the field. Some students he has worked with went on to receive doctoral degrees at the Colorado School of Mines and Virginia Tech.
“It is wonderful to see former students continue to grow and develop and reach very high levels in the field. It was also amazing to see Dr. Gellasch become a part of the faculty here at EMU and come full circle,” LoDuca said.
The institute’s event was hosted at the Weber’s banquet hall in Ann Arbor. During the event, LoDuca was able to attend the regular geologists meeting and was a guest judge for student poster presentations.
Apart from the Outstanding Educator Award that Gellasch presented to LoDuca, awards were also handed out to long-term members of the institute. LoDuca said to everyone at the event that this award is more of a reflection on the quality of the geology program at EMU rather than him individually. He stated that he considers himself very lucky to work in a department that is very supportive and has great faculty.
“It’s a team effort as much as anything else,” LoDuca said.
LoDuca teaches a variety of courses at EMU and is an advisor for geology majors and minors. If you would like to learn more about the geography and geology program at EMU, visit emich.edu/geography-geology.