Spotlight

Suzanne Walther

Suzanne Walther is a first generation college student and first generation American working in the Environmental & Ocean Sciences Department. Her experiences going to college help her understand the challenges that students in similar situations face and she joined the First-Gen group as soon as she learned about it.

She left home at 17, going across the country to earn her B.A. in Political Science-International Relations from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she learned not only new things academically, but also how the system worked (sometimes too late), as well as the many household terms she did not know in English (thanks roomies!). A number of years later, she returned to school to earn an M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Virginia, and a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Oregon. She did her research on sedimentary processes in the northeastern lakes of South Africa and on the large rivers of Oregon. She worked in the Earth Science department at Utah Valley University for four years, during which time she served as a research mentor for a number of non-traditional students.

Now at USD, she teaches courses in physical geography, geomorphology, and geospatial techniques such as geographic information systems (GIS). Her research focuses on river systems (fluvial geomorphology), using a variety of methods to study the role of natural disturbances and human land use in shaping river system dynamics. She has mentored SURE and McNair students on research in the Tijuana River Estuary, Los Peñosquitos, the San Diego River, and in Nepal. She is particularly interested in increasing opportunities for first-generation, minority, and female students in the sciences.

Check out our archive for more stories of first-generation students and graduates!