MSU’s Department of Geosciences celebrates 100 years

Contact: Karyn Brown

In the last century, the “Geology Laboratory” included the exposed Cretaceous chalk outcrop behind Harned Hall. This 1960s-era photo shows geology faculty and students as they investigate and collect 70 million-year-old marine fossils from the campus outcrop.

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State’s Department of Geosciences is celebrating its centennial and, in honor of this milestone, has planned multiple events for the community to celebrate and learn more about the department’s achievements and offerings.

Events kick off this week, which is recognized nationally as Earth Science Week. The department will celebrate National Fossil Day with a Fossil Extravaganza hosted by the Dunn-Seiler Museum on Wednesday [Oct. 12] from 5:30 –7 p.m.

On Oct. 29, a departmental tailgate is planned at Hilbun Hall before the homecoming game.

“We hope that our alumni who are back in town for the game can stop by our tailgate and reconnect with the department. We will have the building open for tours and display photos to celebrate our 100 years,” said Kathy Sherman-Morris, associate professor.

The department also will co-host the College of Arts and Sciences tailgate before the MSU v. Texas A&M football game on Nov. 5.

“We would like our alumni to help us celebrate this 100th anniversary, and we look forward to seeing some faces that we have not seen in a while. If alumni can't join us on campus for any of these events, they can go to our website and share a memory from their time here, or nominate alumni to be recognized in our top 100 alumni series,” said Sherman-Morris.

A celebration in the spring will conclude the 100th anniversary of the Department of Geosciences. “The exact date will be announced after we know more about the baseball schedule,” Sherman-Morris said.

Associate Professor Renée Clary said, “We are excited to showcase our Department of Geosciences to alumni and friends, and we welcome the opportunity to share our programs and accomplishments with future students.”

The department is celebrating a century of successfully preparing students for a variety of careers, employing faculty who represent a variety of disciplines, and gaining prestige through many accomplishments and programs. The department promotes a deeper understanding of the earth through geology, geography, meteorology and geospatial sciences. It has initiated incredible discovery and research and has created nationally recognized programs.

Sherman-Morris said the department has grown immensely over time and has developed into a unique, impressive academic unit.

“We recognize 1916-17 as the year when our modern department was born because it was a combined department of geology and geography for the first time. I think what sets us apart is that we have continued to foster this combination of disciplines. Not many departments offer the full range of geoscience courses and specialties that we do here at Mississippi State,” Sherman-Morris said.

Clary, who also is director of the Dunn-Seiler Museum, said the department originally offered 16 different courses and 13 labs.

“This has expanded to more than 100 different classes and labs. Our focus includes new disciplines, multidisciplinary research, and innovative technologies and tools,” Clary said.  

A newly endowed faculty position and a new designation as a Geospatial Sciences Center of Academic Excellence are among recent achievements. The department is home to a renowned meteorology program and sends students across the country to pursue careers in many areas of geosciences – from environment remediation to oil exploration to broadcast meteorology to epidemiology.

For more information on the department’s history or on upcoming events, visit:

Donations in support of the department may be made at

The Department of Geosciences is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences, which includes more than 5,000 students, 300 full-time faculty members, nine doctoral programs and 24 academic majors offered in 14 departments. It also is home to the most diverse units for research and scholarly activities, including natural and physical sciences, social and behavioral sciences, and the humanities.

For more on MSU’s College of Arts and Sciences or the Department of Geosciences, visit or

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at