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Since 2003, the standard igneous and metamorphic petrology class at Fort Lewis College has been taught as a field-based, inquiry-driven course focused on topics in three different field areas (Ship Rock, Western Needle Mountains, San Juan volcanic field). This format allows undergraduate students to investigate advanced topics in petrology through field research while developing skills for continuing education and scientific careers. These courses serve the needs of the students by promoting critical analysis and inquiry, and building on content taught in previous courses to solve actual geologic problems. Many of the students also find enthusiasm for continued research and make further contributions to the geologic community.

A research-focused field course at the undergraduate level allows students to engage in all facets of research in the context of natural geologic complexity. In addition, these students can collaborate with professional geoscientists to network and find opportunities that are not readily available to their peers outside the course. Engaging undergraduate geoscience students in authentic research projects is a benefit to their education and career development.

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