Southern Utah University geoscience professor Casey Webb has dedicated himself to fostering student curiosity about the natural world.
Webb traveled a winding path before landing at SUU and taking on this mission, but throughout his journey, the constant in his life has been his connection to the national parks.
During Webb’s childhood, he and his family would never vacation at amusement parks — they preferred to explore Utah’s stunning wilderness instead. His love for the outdoors sprouted on these trips to parks like Bryce Canyon, Zion and Canyonlands.
“In the parks, I would bounce around all over the place. I loved exploring, and I would collect rocks everywhere I went,” Webb said. “I was constantly curious about my surroundings.”
That curiosity remained as he transitioned to college, and the appeal of southern Utah’s red rocks and canyons eventually convinced Webb to transfer to SUU from Utah State University.
The new T-Bird initially started out as a business major, pushing the outdoors into his background. By the end of his freshman year, Webb realized that he lacked passion for business and that it wasn’t the path he wanted to take.
“That’s when I knew I needed to major in something that I was genuinely interested in. I looked at all the degree offerings across campus and noticed geology,” Webb said. “I’d always been fascinated by landscapes and wondered about how these cool features we see develop, so I changed to that the next semester.”
Once he earned his degree, the young geologist wasn’t sure how to make his start. He bounced around between different options before learning that his favorite part of all his jobs was sharing his passion with others. After a quick trip back to college, Webb obtained a teaching certification to start teaching middle school geology.
“One of my main goals in teaching geology is for my students to see Earth differently,” Webb said. “I want them to be able to go outside and not look at the mountains or rocks the same way they did in the past.”
He continued to develop his teaching talents before returning to college for a third time to acquire a master’s degree so he could have as many open opportunities as possible. While he finished his degree, a teaching job opened at SUU, and he jumped on the opportunity upon graduating.
Webb has taught at SUU for five years now and has taken the chance to share something he loves by teaching several Geology of the National Parks classes. The class is accompanied by an optional lab where students explore nearby national parks through the eyes of a geologist.
“I love actually being in geology and using that as a learning resource,” Webb said. “It’s one thing to show a picture of a geological feature, and it’s another thing to actually see it in person.”
Getting his hands on rocks isn’t only part of his career, it’s also Webb’s biggest hobby. An avid rock climber, he tries to go climbing at least once per week, surrounding himself with the landscapes he loves.
On top of that, he also has regular meetings with the SUU Geo Club, which was designed to gather students with a common interest in geosciences. Webb leads the Geo Club’s outreach program, connecting with youth in the area.
“Since I do have a background in K-12 education, I am pretty passionate about helping that age group to become more scientifically literate,” he said.
Webb focuses on creating a personal bond with his students, along with youth across Iron County, in hopes of guiding them to a journey of curiosity like his.
Article by: Kale Nelson
Photo courtesy of Casey Webb