Mendocino College Faculty in Focus: Steve Cardimona
Earth Science professor Steve Cardimona can hardly believe he is beginning his tenth year at Mendocino College (MC). With new faculty recently hired to replace some retirees, Cardimona wryly notes, "I am no longer the new guy!"
Cardimona grew up loving nature and the outdoors in Greendale, Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor of science degree in applied math and physics from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, followed by a Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Texas at Austin. His first professional job was a civilian research position in an airforce geophysics lab outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where he worked for five years before moving on to Missouri Science and Technology University (MSTU) at Rolla.
To pay his college expenses, Cardimona worked at a bookstore. As a graduate student, he received financial fellowships and scholarships, and he worked as a teaching assistant, helping with labs and grading.
Cardimona explains that he first thought of teaching as a career while working as a research associate for the airforce. "I got to work with faculty and students, teaching science workshops as a volunteer," he says, "and I liked it."
"Although the position at MSTU was half research and half teaching," he says, "the emphasis was on research, while I preferred teaching." After five years there, he began seriously looking for a full-time teaching position.
"When I saw the ad for the MC position in the Chronicle of Higher Ed," he says, I thought Ukiah would be a nice place to live, with the Coast and the mountains nearby. "It is!" he grins.
Cardimona says the best part of his job is being able to give students practical knowledge that they can apply to their lives. For example, students learn what causes landslides, so they understand the hazards of building in certain locations: "useful information when house hunting," he notes.
Cardimona says the most challenging part of his job is providing a balance of information for all students in the class. He aims to make his courses useful and important for science majors, while also keeping them accessible for other students. While only a handful of his students are science majors, Cardimona appreciates their enthusiasm, and the challenging questions they ask. "I am passionate about earth science," he says, "and when I see some of that passion in a student, it motivates me."
Cardimona frequently serves on major college committees, such as the Curriculum Committee, and the Student Learning Outcomes Team. He says he appreciates the opportunities he has had to impact the lives of MC students and faculty behind the scenes.
Cardimona believes many of his students would be surprised to know that he is the author of a historical fiction novel, Godiva and the Golden Dragon. He explains that he wrote science fiction and fantasy short stories as a youngster. "I read a lot," he explains, "and world history has always intrigued me. This book was fun to write because I had to do the research to find out what happened, then use my imagination to fill in the reasons why."
Cardimona looks forward to the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco each Fall. There he keeps up on "cutting edge stuff," and has a chance to share and learn from other college faculty.
Cardimona enjoys spending family time with his wife, Beverly, son, Warren, and their cat, Jasper. He also enjoys traveling, riding his "road bike," camping and hiking with his family, and reading.