Meet your professor

Samuel “Sammy” Castonguay, Geology



Story by Courtney Roszak, Staff Writer

Courtney Roszak: Tell me about yourself and your background.
Samuel Castonguay: Well, I was born in Southern California, about a stone throws away from the San Andres Fault. So I went through a lot of earthquakes when I was young so probably inspired some of my interest in geology. Then I grew up in South Dakota on a horse and cattle ranch and also spent a lot of time on the landscape, looking at creek draws and more things like that. I did most of my higher education in Oregon next to the active Cascade Volcanoes. So I’ve really been surrounded by rocks and geology most of my entire life. Oregon is where I met my wife, and we got married in a creek, it’ll be eight years in September. We have a five-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter.

CR: How did you end up in Eau Claire?
SC: My graduate advisor taught here 1994 to1996 just after receiving her doctorate degree from University Washington. She came out here and taught for a few years, and then left for reasons, which I am not sure on. Anyways, she has always raved about the place, and it was her first established position and taught her really good teaching practices, since it’s a teaching institution. When I was finishing graduate school and worrying about a job, I was applying for all kinds of jobs. When out of the blue this announcement for a sabbatical 1-year position came out for UW-Eau Claire. I took the announcement to her and said “Look, there is a job at EUU Claire, and she said to me, Sammy how many times do I have to tell you, its EAU Claire.” That started the ball rolling, to have her support and influence meant a lot. She knows some of the faculty too- Kent Syverson and Laurie Snyder. She called Kent and said I have the perfect person for you, he loves to teach. I went through the interview process with Kent, but with the glowing recommendation from someone he knew personally, I ended up her because my advisor loves the place.

CR: How long have you been teaching here?
SC: Just since August, this is my first year here. I just finished graduate school in September, so this is my first year teaching, my first year at Eau Claire. My position is a one-year sabbatical replacement for Phil Ihinger. Because of the responsible mining initiative that started here recently, there is space that has opened up for me next year as well.

CR: What got you interested in teaching geology?
SC: Teaching geology is a whole different thing. When I got into college my first class was geology, I was a natural resource major, but when I took geology it just all sort of clicked. What got me into teaching geology is my original firey passion for it. I love to be talking about it all the time; I loved to talk to my peers in my geology class about it. Then I hung around the geology stock room a lot, and I got a job there as the geology assistant. I was seeing people come in, and I would interact them and I would get wound up talking to them about geology. I found myself in the community college atmosphere trying to be involved with anybody who was interested in geology. I set up a learning community credit so I could learn from my 200 level geology professor some good teach practices. It was then that I realized that is what I want to do; I want to teach intro-level geology.

CR: What advice do you give to your students?
SC: To general students to look at college as just not an experience that will get you a job by the end of this. It’s a personal growing experience. You’re here to become a more educated individual in the population. You’re not just hear to get a marketing job; yeah sure you want a job at the end of this. But use this experience to become a well-rounded individual. My students I want to send them away with an idea on resources. Think about your resources all the time and think about the impact you have on your environment, and then to go off into your business world and always have the perspective.