Abigail Carroll is a visiting assistant professor of geology. She holds an associate’s degree from Greenfield Community College, a bachelor’s degree from Smith and master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of New Hampshire.
Q: Tell me about your experience as a faculty member.
A: So far, it’s been wonderful! I have only taught three or four classes so far, and my interaction with Amherst students has been amazing. As a matter of fact, I do field work every summer in Wyoming, and I’ve already taken a student out to do field work with me. It was just a really great introduction to Amherst students. The work went really well, and working with this student was particularly wonderful; she was hardworking, confident and really set the bar high for when I came here. All of the students are like that so far, actually, so I’m just having a great time getting to know my students in class and just having fun with it.
Q: How did you get into geology?
A: I grew up here in the Valley, in Easthampton, which is only 20 minutes away. I grew up being surrounded by dinosaur footprints and fossils and visiting all the cool geology museums in the area. As a little girl, maybe five years old, I pretty much decided that I was going to be a paleontologist and geologist, and followed through with it. I took classes at Greenfield Community College, then transferred to Smith College to major in geology. Then, I went on to get my masters and Ph.D. at [the University of] New Hampshire, the whole time being fueled by my passion for paleontology. Through that, specifically during my Ph.D., I started studying fossils of early mammals from about 55 million years ago. I was looking at how these fossils were changing, and how these animals were being impacted by an extreme global warming event occurring at that time. Because of that project, I ended up becoming very involved and passionate about both paleo-climate and modern-day climate.
Q: What classes are you teaching?
A: The class I’m teaching is called “Climate Change, Global Warming and Energy Resources.” The material is mostly centered around climate change itself, and the enormous impact of humans on these trends. I am really excited to be teaching this class because I have taught a version of this class several times already at the University of New Hampshire. I am particularly passionate about the material because it concerns what is happening to our planet right now. It’s all going really well so far.
Q: How do you think your time at Amherst will compare to your previous professional experiences?
A: I think being at Amherst is going to strengthen my teaching. I pursued a Ph.D. not only because of my love for paleontology and geology, but also because I wanted to eventually teach at the university level. I love working with undergrads — I had a great experience as an undergrad with my professors. I think that Amherst is an excellent place for me to be because teaching is highly valued here. There are great resources here for me to learn to be a better teacher, there’s room for me to experiment with my teaching methods and I also get the chance to advise a student for her senior thesis. So I get this more broad training in terms of teaching, but I also get this experience in advising and helping a student move through her thesis.
Q: What’s it like being a visiting member of the faculty on campus?
A: Honestly, in my department, I feel like I belong. I can’t compare it to being a permanent member of the faculty, but at this stage I feel very welcome. At the Amherst faculty orientation, the visiting faculty members are not treated any differently than the tenure-track faculty members. I feel very much a part of the community, and I definitely think the faculty in the geology department specifically make it even better.
Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?
A: I have an eight-month-old baby at home, so my husband and I love to spend all our time with him. Whenever we get the chance, we like to take him outdoors, and go on hikes. Pretty much anything we can do outdoors we do with our son. Also, when I find the time, I love sewing. I make a lot of my own clothes, and I really enjoy doing it as a personal hobby.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: One thing to note about myself is that I am both a first-generation college student and a transfer student — from community college to Smith. There is a large population of students here with a similar background; if they ever need someone to talk to, I’m happy to talk about my experience. I am very passionate about both experiences, being first-generation and being a transfer student, because it was a challenge for me when I transferred to Smith and there wasn’t any network set up for something like me. I just want to be able to help other kids. I am so happy to know that support systems for these types of students exist here, and apparently, it’s a new program. I think it’s going to be an incredible resource for students, and I wish it existed for me when I was at that stage of my life.