Professor Ronald Janke leads a geomorphology class on a field trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
Professor Ronald Janke leads a geomorphology class on a field trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

Long before Valparaiso University existed, weather was already shaping life on campus.

“We are on a terminal moraine, which means when the glaciers formed, they worked their way to Valpo and stopped,” says Grace Roman ’17, a geography major. “The melting ice deposited till, debris, and rocks and made a nice big hill,” she explains.

During the ice age, wind and sunlight converged to create an atmosphere perfect for budding geographers. In addition to Valpo’s location on a terminal moraine, the Chapel of the Resurrection is built on a kame, a hill formed by sediment that falls through a hole inside a glacier. And erratics, rocks moved to a region by melting icebergs, litter campus — from tiny pebbles to boulders like Founder’s Rock.

“Students who study geography here are definitely at an advantage,” says Professor Ron Janke, who teaches geography and geomorphology.

“This county has a variety of landforms. We have features formed by glaciers and wind, desert landform features, the Kankakee River, sand islands, and this area has four out of the five types of dunes in the world,” he says.

To ensure students experience these unique land features, Professor Janke dedicates one month of his geomorphology class every semester to field trips.

“That’s the highlight for students,” he says. “They tweet constantly about where we’re going, what we do on the trips.”

Grace is still in the process of discerning exactly what career she will pursue with her geography degree, but her experience on campus has already taught her enough to give her plenty of options. “I’m learning so much just being in this area,” she says.