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Monday, June 24, 2024

Best GE class: GEL 025, Geology of National Parks

A look into this year’s best general education course, according to students


By ZOEY MORTAZAVI — features@theaggie.org


Even if you do not consider yourself a particularly outdoorsy person, national parks are something that people from all walks of life can appreciate. This year, the Best of Davis award for UC Davis’ best general education (GE) course was granted to GEL 025: Geology of National Parks. 

This course is taught by Professor David Osleger, who has expressed a long-time love for national parks and the geologic time frame behind them. He typically teaches the course, which meets three days a week in 50-minute lecture periods, during fall or spring quarter, and many students take it for GE science and engineering credit. After the course received the award, Osleger spoke on his class philosophy.

“I’m thrilled to hear that students have this kind of feedback about the class,” Osleger said. “The common denominator is, almost everyone loves national parks, and [almost] everyone loves being outside. My philosophy, which I always talk about in class, is this: Wouldn’t it be nice to go to these national parks and actually understand a little bit about where they came from? My ultimate goal is for you guys to take road trips and go see some of these places for yourselves.”

Receiving 30.2% of votes in a tight race for this category, GEL 025 won against some of Davis’ longest-running, most popular GE courses, including ECH 001: Design of Coffee and GEL 012: Evolution & Paleobiology of Dinosaurs. 

Osleger stressed that there are no prerequisites for the course; ideally, students should come equipped with an interest in nature and the outdoors, but nothing beyond that is required. 

After taking this class, students should gain an in-depth understanding of how some of our world’s most iconic natural locations came to be. Osleger hopes that exposure to some of this knowledge will help grant students a deeper appreciation for nature and its functions. 

“All that being said, this is a college GE class; maybe you get some credit for it, maybe you have a good time, and maybe you learn something while you’re in it,” Osleger said. “But maybe more importantly: you guys are 20 years old. You have 60 to 80 years — maybe a little more — left to visit these places. I know it sounds ridiculous, but pretty soon many of you are going to be visiting them with your kids or your grandkids.”

Osleger wholeheartedly believes in the long-term value this course holds for students. 

“To me, I love teaching this class because it’s the ultimate lifelong learning,” Osleger said. “So this is information, knowledge, awareness and a little bit of geologic understanding that can stay with you for a long time in your lives. To me, that has a lot of value.”

Mikaela Abella, a first-year marine and coastal science major, took GEL 025 in fall quarter of 2023 and shared some of her thoughts on the course. 

“I took this class because the course sounded unique, and I grew up going to national parks, so I was interested in learning more about them,” Abella said. “It ended up being my favorite class at UC Davis. Professor Osleger does a really great job at keeping the material engaging and it sparked a lot of inspiration to plan my own national park trips, which is one of the main things he wants his students to take away from the class.”

Abella recommends this course to anyone interested in the subject of national parks or just for anyone who is looking for a science-based GE course. 

“I would definitely recommend this class to everyone I know, and I’ve talked to a ton of people about it already,” Abella said. “It’s such an interesting course. It’s a manageable workload, and it’s really helped to grow my appreciation for the outdoors, which is everything to me at the end of the day.”


Written by: Zoey Mortazavi — features@theaggie.org 


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