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Rachel Beane: a trailblazer through the years

May 6, 2022

This piece represents the opinion of the author .
Kyra Tan

Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Natural Sciences Rachel Beane has had an impressive 24 years here at the College. Beane, a recipient of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Neil Miner Teaching Award, studies the microscopic textures in minerals to interpret magma processes.

Although her research has brought her to Russia, Greece, Kazakhstan and beyond, Beane holds a special appreciation for teaching in Maine.

“We are so privileged here to have all of the rocks along the coast and the interior and all these different settings where we can make real observations and interpretations. It’s different from a standard fixed laboratory setting,” she said. “Maine is amazing.”

Beane also appreciates Bowdoin allowing her to support her students more holistically and personally than at larger research universities.

Beane earned her bachelor’s in Geology from Williams College and her doctorate in Earth and Environmental Science from Stanford University. During her time at these institutions, Beane gained an appreciation for collaboration among peers and the ability to conduct research projects in diverse settings.

Beane has enjoyed getting to know people in different settings and communities throughout her years spent in the greater Brunswick area. She lives in Harpswell and connects with her community through the local church and through the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust—a non-profit dedicated to preserving the natural and cultural resources of the region. She conducts a community talk at least once a year in Harpswell or Topsham, and this process has made her appreciate the people she has engaged with in these communities.

“One of the things that’s really fun as a geologist is that in Maine, compared to some other places, people are really interested and they want to talk to you and want to know what’s in their backyard,” she said.

Beane has also devoted her spare time to furthering faculty development. She has worked to consider different ways of teaching and conducting research as well as making geoscience more inclusive and equitable.

“When I became a faculty member, being a female faculty member in the geosciences was really unusual,” Beane said. “I was the first woman tenured in the state of Maine in the geosciences, and so I had a recognition of what it means to be kind of alone in your identity in some place.”

Her work developing and leading workshops to expand faculty diversity and increase faculty support at Bowdoin and beyond ties back to her hopes of bettering the lives of students. Some of her contributions to this effort have consisted of leading science education workshops through the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and through a National Science Foundation funded project called “On the Cutting Edge.”

“If I can share ideas with a few faculty, then think of how many students that that benefits later on,” she said. “I think it’s the idea of taking my teaching in a different direction, in the sense that I’m supporting faculty who are then supporting students.”

Beane’s interest in the geosciences was sparked during her second semester at Williams. In her hopes of learning more about the mountains in Williamstown, which sharply contrasted the flat lands of Iowa—her home state—her passion was born. She especially appreciates the creativity and variation of the field.

“I loved being able to think globally and recognize there’s processes influencing our Earth and to be able to make observations outside in the field as well as under a microscope,” she said.

Beane has met many Polar Bears throughout her years at the College, and she has noticed many things about them.

“One of the things that I’ve really noticed is how interested in learning Bowdoin students are,” Beane said.  “When I talk to my colleagues at some other institutions, I realize just how fortunate we are to be at Bowdoin and surrounded by students who love to learn and it’s really exciting to be part of that.”

To students graduating soon, Professor Beane offers words of guidance.

“I really, truly feel that the liberal arts education that you receive here allows you to keep learning and to take on new interests and serve communities in different ways that you might not have known about before.”

In her 24 years at the College, Professor Beane has made many efforts to broaden support for both faculty members and students alike, and her impact has resonated throughout the years. Thanks for all you do, Professor!


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