Russell O. Colson - Student Introduction

Tabb Christopher Prissel
Former Student of Russell O. Colson
2010 Outstanding Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year
Willard Intercontinental Washington Hotel
Nov. 18, 2010

I should begin by telling you that throughout my K-12 education, I hated science. At least I thought I hated science. Even though much of my early childhood was spent outdoors collecting rocks and dreaming about volcanoes, these interests were never allowed to fully blossom in the classroom. To me, science was just some old, boring book on the shelf.  That is, until I met Dr. Russ Colson. 

I’ll never forget my first course with Dr. Colson—Historical Geology. It was the first time I sat in a science class, both having fun and excited to learn more. And let me tell you, nothing jump-starts the morning like watching your professor leap up onto the front table of the classroom and pretend to be a velociraptor. 

I suspect Dr. Colson has always taught science in this way, with a wise mind and a youthful heart. His classroom, never void of participation, was a treasure trove of learning. I can still see the magmas ascending through the Earth’s mantle on his chalkboard. And I can still hear students chuckling about his uncanny ability to incorporate phase diagrams into every discussion. Whether he was empowering us to ask questions on field trips or he was a dinosaur on top of a table, Dr. Colson simply found a way to captivate each class and engrain each lesson in a unique and memorable way. 

His innovation and dedication extends far beyond the classroom as well. Dr. Colson strongly encourages each student to participate in his research group. Here, students head their own projects in the Experimental Petrology and Electron Microprobe Labs that Dr. Colson singlehandedly built and facilitated.  This is a rare opportunity to gain hands-on experience at an early undergraduate level. Furthermore, each project is linked in a collaborative environment, allowing us to not only seek advice from Dr. Colson, but also from each other. It’s a great feeling of independence while also knowing you’re contributing to a larger whole.

I could go on about Dr. Colson’s credentials, which includes developing the entire geosciences program at MSUM. However, I believe that what sets him apart won’t be found on a list of accomplishments or curriculum vitae. What these things cannot accurately depict is his honest, caring and passionate heart for each and every student that walks through his door. This is the foundation for his success and also the successes of his students. He quickly becomes more than a professor, mentor, academic adviser and research advisor; he becomes a true friend.

Most importantly of all, Dr. Colson has instilled in me the knowledge and confidence to take myself further than I’d ever dreamed. After finishing up an internship with NASA, I was awarded a university fellowship into the Geological Sciences PhD program at Brown University where I am currently studying. I have Dr. Colson to thank for these accomplishments and more. While I may never be able to thank him enough for all that he’s done, I ask that you join me in congratulating Dr. Russell O. Colson as the CASE 2010 Outstanding Master’s Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year!


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