Head shot of Gigi Richard
Gigi Richard, PhD, is a professor of geology and the director of the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center.


Gigi Richard named 2017 Distinguished Faculty

Words like "effective and talented teacher" and "knack for presenting complex material in a natural and accessible manner” and "in touch with new types of instructional approaches" might have described any of the faculty nominated for the 2017 Distinguished Faculty award.

But when Vice President of Academic Affairs Cynthia Pemberton said, "She is tireless" when it comes to providing her students with "opportunities to connect with water issues," everyone in the audience at CMU Spring Recognition & Awards ceremony, knew Pemberton had to be talking about geology Professor Gigi Richard.

That's when President Tim Foster dropped his poker face and placed a medal over her head.

“I got kind of choked up,” Richard said after the ceremony.

Richard has been teaching at CMU for 15 years. She serves as the director of the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and went on to earn her Master of Science and PhD in civil engineering from Colorado State University. Before earning her master's and PhD, Richard spent a few years exploring professions including leading horseback rides, owning a grocery store and running a civil engineering business.

Two moments stick out to Richards when she thinks about why she wanted to be a teacher, she said. Her high school biology teacher first told her she would make a good teacher after a presentation in an AP class. The second was when she was able to teach an entire summer class in graduate school — an engineering dynamic class.

“I loved it, that was really the beginning of when I learned what I wanted to do,” she said.

Her pursuit of education and passion for water and the environment afforded her the opportunity to travel all over the world including a post-doctoral in New Zealand, sabbatical in France and conference in Brazil. She has also traveled to Turkey, Costa Rica and, just a few weeks ago, to India, which gave her an even greater respect of the access to clean air and water in the U.S.

Richard incorporates her worldly experiences into her courses. She teaches Environmental Geology, Basic Hydrology, River Dynamics, Intro to GIS and more than 10 other courses and seminars.

“One of my favorite moments is in that intro class and the light bulb goes off. When they realize science isn’t such a horrible thing,” she said with a laugh.

She will continue to work towards helping students understand their connection to water and environment this summer. A recently awarded grant will allow Richard and a few of her students to continue their work on the Grand Mesa collecting data on snowmelt and stream flow generation.

“Dr. Gigi Richard exemplifies what it means to be a teacher-scholar,” Pemberton said. “She is truly outstanding in the classroom, simultaneously engaging in highly relevant research that can and does impact our region. Dr. Richard is very, very deserving of this honor.”

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