ASU alum combines love of geology, passion to share earth science

By

Kim Baptista

Growing up in Cave Creek, Arizona, Chad Kwiatkowski chose to study geology because he had a desire to learn the geologic story of the mountains that he grew up exploring, located in and around metropolitan Phoenix.

“I knew ASU would be the best place to learn this," the Arizona State University alumnus said. "Additionally, I heard great things about the geology program at ASU from my community college professors. After being given a tour of the School of Earth and Space Exploration’s headquarters and seeing the Center for Meteorite Studies on the second floor, my choice was set in stone.”

Kwiatkowski earned his Bachelor of Science in earth and space exploration (geological sciences) in 2018. He is currently a graduate student in geology at Northern Arizona University.

During his time at ASU, Kwiatkowski was a member of the ASU GeoClub, a student organization that sells minerals on campus to fund geology trips and public outreach events. He also served as the GeoClub’s outreach coordinator during his senior year.

“It was a memorable experience and I made many friends that will last a lifetime,” he said. 

Kwiatkowski was also selected as the School of Earth and Space Exploration Dean’s Medalist for 2018, having earned this award through his stellar academic record, his skills as a leader, and his drive and energy in pursuing his academic passions. 

After Kwiatkowski earns his master's degree, there are two paths he is considering. 

The first is to teach intro geology at a community college or university. “I would love teaching earth science, sharing the wonders of our world with the upcoming generations, and making it accessible and relatable to students,” he said. 

The second path he may take is working as a park ranger at a county, state or national park, where he would still be teaching and sharing geology, just in the outdoors rather than in a classroom.

Here, Kwiatkowski shares what inspired him to apply to ASU and why he credits the School of Earth and Space Exploration for finding his place in the world.  

Question: What impact or value do you believe ASU has had on your life?

Answer: At the end of high school, I had no idea what I would do with the rest of my life. Getting my geology degree at ASU not only taught me about the 4.6-billion-year history of the world, but also helped me find my place in it, specifically as a science communicator who breaks down complex geological concepts into bite-sized pieces that people of all backgrounds can enjoy. The value of figuring this out is literally priceless, and I am so glad I found my passion at a young age. 

Q: Were there faculty or students who made a particularly positive impact on you?  

A: All the professors I had at ASU, as well as many of my peers, had a profound impact on my life. A few professors had such a great impact that they forever changed my views on geology, education and life in general. One of these was Steve Semken, whose knowledge of the Southwest and place-based education approach really struck a chord with me. Another was the dynamic duo of Steve Reynolds and Julia Johnson, whose passion for teaching earth science using techniques informed by cognition research reshaped not only my views on education, but also my perception of the world. Lastly, Christy Till demonstrated the importance of enthusiasm in teaching complex topics, making every class something I looked forward to. Although all of my peers had an influence on me, Devin Keating, Joshua Gonzales, Brooke Kubby, Andres Aldana and Kelly Vote — all in my graduating class — influenced me the most. I will forever cherish the memories we made and know we will remain friends for life. 

Q: Are you involved with nonprofit or charitable organizations?

A: When living near Phoenix, I volunteered for Skate After School, a nonprofit providing skateboard instruction and positive reinforcement to over 200 students in underprivileged areas of metropolitan Phoenix. I also volunteer for Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, running the new volunteer geology training and designing digital and print resources to help enhance the geologic understanding of the area for park visitors. Lastly, I give geology presentations for various nonprofits and other organizations in my hometown of Cave Creek, such as the Desert Foothills Library, Desert Awareness Committee and the Desperados trail club.  

Q: In what ways have you been involved with ASU since graduating?

A: I have continued to work with a peer at ASU, Devin Keating, who is a  graduate student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, using drones to monitor and assess geologic hazards. We have collaborated for a study of debris flows in a mountain range north of Phoenix resulting from an extreme 2014 monsoon storm. 

Q: How do you stay informed about what is happening at ASU?

A: I read articles from the online publication ASU Now to stay informed about the university. I also continue to use my ASU email to be informed about upcoming events.