Prof. Michael Cummings wins national geoscience teaching award
Author: National Association of Geoscience Teachers/PSU
Posted: June 12, 2013

Michael Cummings, professor and chair of the Geology department at Portland State University, has been awarded the 2013 Neil Miner Award by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) in honor of his exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth sciences.

The award will be presented at the NAGT and GSA Geoscience Education Division Awards luncheon at the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, October 29, 2013, in Denver, Colo.

According to the award committee, "Cummings has enthusiastically introduced the Earth sciences to thousands of students in his home state. His impact is based on a staggering number of small group and individual interactions both on and off campus."

"I am so proud to have a professor like Michael in the College," says Sue Beatty, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at PSU. "We celebrate his dedication to student success, ability to get students excited about science, and enthusiasm for taking the show on the road (literally!) to give back to the community and serve K-12 education as well." 

"Mike has labored long and hard to bring geoscience education to the middle schools in the Portland metropolitan region and to the rural schools of eastern Oregon and I'm pleased that the profession has acknowledged his herculean efforts," says Andrew Fountain, professor of Geology and a long-time colleague of Cummings.  "Mike is a low-key, under-the-radar kind of person, which makes this honor even more satisfying."

On campus Cummings serves as a professor, mentor and adviser. He is the driving force behind the PSU Geology Honors program, he is the sole undergraduate adviser for both the Geology Department and the Integrated Science program, and he has advised an army of graduate students, many of whom will attest to his careful mentorship made manifest by their success in the geologic discipline.

Off campus, Cummings promotes the Earth sciences through extraordinary support for the rural K-12 school districts across the state of Oregon. Despite the time and effort required to visit these school districts, he gives them the same level of individual attention that he does with his PSU advisees. During these visits he meets with each science and math teacher to assess the teacher's curricular goals and barriers and then brainstorms with the teacher to identify solutions. His mantra is "face time is critical." Cummings is well known for this exceptional work and his visits are much anticipated. 


Since 1953 the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) has presented the annual Neil Miner Award to an individual for exceptional contributions to the stimulation of interest in the Earth sciences. The Award commemorates Neil Miner's concern for personal excellence and effective teaching. Miner's ideals, his notably unselfish outlook on life, and his personal philosophy inspired his fellow teachers as well as his students. The Neil Miner Award is presented at the NAGT luncheon during the annual national meeting of the Geological Society of America.

NAGT is a member-based non-profit organization whose mission is to foster improvement in the teaching of the Earth sciences at all levels of formal and informal instruction, to emphasize the cultural significance of the Earth sciences and to disseminate knowledge in this field to the general public. 


The School of the Environment is comprised of Geology, Geography, Environmental Sciences & Management, and Systems Science, as well as the U.S. Geological Society's Oregon Water Science Center and the Institute for Natural Resources-Portland. Based in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School promotes and enhances environmental research and education through contributions from faculty, staff, students and community partners.