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 (retired) Professor Ron Janke, who taught 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 dedicated one month of his geomorphology class every semester to field trips. The geography professors carry on that tradition today. Professor Mike Longan treks into downtown Valparaiso with his Urban Geography class to map city characteristics, while Assistant Professor Jon-Paul McCool traverses fields and streams with his students to study both the glacial moraine deposits and fluvial features.
“That’s the highlight for students,” Professor Janke says. “They tweet constantly about where we’re going, what we do on the trips.”
Grace’s experience on campus gave her plenty of options for the future. “I’m learning so much just being in this area,” she says. In fall of 2017, Grace began her Master’s in physical geography studying fluvial geomorphology. (See a Geography Memoir to read more about Grace and her Valpo journey.)