Anna Stanczyk, geology major
Hometown: Denver, CO
Fun Fact: Lived in France for two summers while earning a bachelor’s degree in French literature.
What happens on family road trips when you’re the daughter of a geologist and geophysicist? Well, you slump down in the back seat with your sisters when your parents brake for interesting rocks and natural phenomena.
“My sisters and I were always so embarrassed that we were pulling over,” said Anna Stanczyk. “We were like, ‘No one else does this!’”
When it came time for college, Anna worked really hard to not become a geologist, instead delving deep into the humanities. She opted to stay in her home state of Colorado to study French at University of Colorado-Boulder (CU-Boulder), where she earned her B.A. in 2012.
“The thing with French is I never really had ideas for careers I wanted to go into,” said Anna. She enjoyed it, but by the time she realized it wasn’t her passion, she was already crossing the finish line. After graduating, she took a desk job at a law firm, which helped her do two things: understand that she did not want to spend a lifetime behind a desk, and save money for her return to college to pursue a degree that would give her that new opportunity. She’s on the I-brake-for-interesting-rocks course of study at UAA this time around.
“One day I was online looking at a government website of career descriptions and I clicked on geology. It said, ‘Do you want to travel and work outside?’ And I’m like, oh my god, why didn’t I think of this before?” she said.
‘So far, so good’
Anna decided it was time to say goodbye to her beloved Colorado and try out a new state while she pursued a geology degree. Her only caveat? It had to be a mountain state. Montana and Alaska topped the list and Alaska won the draw.
She made her way up the Alcan in late-May and early-June and has been settling in as a new student this semester taking chemistry, statistics and historical geology. She’s working toward a Bachelor of Science degree, which will take her about three years, rather than the usual four. She’s already met all of UAA’s general education requirements—100- and 200-level classes like English and history—with her bachelor’s degree from CU-Boulder.
“So far, so good!” she said. “There were very light science and math courses in my first degree, but my first round of midterms went really well, so that’s reassuring and gave me a confidence boost.”
Although she experienced some new girl jitters in her science classes, one of the benefits of coming back to college for a second degree, Anna said, was understanding just what it takes to be a college student. This time around she feels more focused.
“I’m one of those kids in the front row, answering all the questions,” she said with a laugh.
After her first couple months of chemistry, she even has a new perspective on homework. How is it that something she thought was such a drag in high school is now something she relishes?
“Now I see the value in it,” she said. “It has nothing to do with the grade. I’m doing the homework so I can learn, so I can practice. It’s rewarding to realize why we’re doing it and to want to be here.”
Now that she’s got her feet under her in classes, she’s starting to dip into extra-curricular opportunities. She’s just taken over as vice president of UAA’s Geology Club and she has her eye on a running group called GRIT (Great Runners in Training) and is germinating some ideas to bring to the Sustainability Club. She’s already an avid hiker and snowboarder, but she’s looking to add backpacking, climbing, alpine skiing and Nordic skiing to her repertoire in the coming seasons.
“I have this issue where I want to do everything,” she laughed, joking that she’ll end up a jack of all trades, but master of none.
The other way to see it? She’s grooming herself to be a true Renaissance woman—a French-speaking scientist working toward a greener planet who understands art and literature and can set the pace for her colleagues in even the most rugged field camps.
But she doesn’t want to get ahead of herself. Right now she’s just trying to keep an even pace in class and an eye on the future. She wants to let her niche interests in geology develop organically.
“I know there are a lot of opportunities here so I’m going to plan to take advantage of that and see how it plays out,” she said.
And she’s definitely going to take time to stop and enjoy Alaska along the way. It might mean pulling the car over to get a good look at some rocks.
Written by Jamie Gonzales, UAA Office of University Advancement