Representatives from Blaise Pascal University in France visited the New Mexico Highlands University campus June 23 as part of a geology student exchange program the two universities established earlier this year.
The exchange program provides students with broad-based undergraduate education in the geosciences while promoting quality field and laboratory research and international experience.
Highlands University environmental geology professor Michael Petronis and Blaise Pascal University geology professor Benjamin Van Wyk de Vries developed the exchange program.
“Dr. Petronis was instrumental in establishing the collaboration with Blaise Pascal University and is also responsible for opening up a range of international research opportunities for Highlands University students,” said Linda LaGrange, associate vice president for academic affairs. “What we hope to achieve in our meeting with the representatives from Blaise Pascal is an expansion of these international study opportunities that will include Highlands’ students from a variety of other disciplines.”
Rhonda Trujillo, a Highlands University geology graduate student, is the first to participate in the exchange program. This summer she conducted field research on extinct volcanoes in the Chaine du Puys mountains of south-central France.
Trujillo worked in Blaise Pascal University’s Magma and Volcano Laboratory, and presented guest lectures about the geology of Northern New Mexico. She also assisted with an English language class.
Van Wyk de Vries supervised Trujillo’s research at Blaise Pascal.
Marine Foucher is a graduate geology student from Blaise Pascal and the first from her university to visit Highlands for the exchange. She’s conducting research this summer at the Cerros del Rio extinct volcano field west of Santa Fe and is working in Highlands University’s Paleomagnetic Laboratory.
Foucher will also assist with an ongoing paleoclimate research project Highlands University is conducting at the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge.
Petronis is supervising Foucher’s research at Highlands, which will be integrated into her master’s thesis.
Foucher will join a research team from Highlands that includes Petronis, fellow geology professor Jennifer Lindline, and several geology students. The team will conduct geological fieldwork at New Mexico sites including the Cerros del Rio, the Valles Calderas National Preserve, and the Jemez Mountains.
“This new exchange program gives students an opportunity to gain global competency, gain international research experience, and develop contacts and mentors at the international level,” Petronis said. “They complete a research project tailored to their interest and aligned with their mentor’s expertise.”
Highlands University’s portion of the exchange program is partially funded through a grant Petronis secured from the National Geographic Society. The university’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects also provides financial support, along with some funding from the Blaise Pascal International Research Office.