Student digging into geology curriculum

Release Date: December 17, 2009

PLAINVIEW – Hailey Clark could have been done by now.

As a student athlete at Wayland Baptist University for four years, Clark was well on her way to complete her bachelor’s degree in history on schedule. The only problem? She wasn’t really sold on the prospect of teaching history as a career.

“I panicked and didn’t know what to major in,” Clark explains of her degree choice when she entered Wayland. “It wasn’t what I was passionate about.”

A senior from Lubbock, Clark’s real interests have always been in the field of earth science. She took a lot of science classes in high school and enjoyed trying to figure out how the earth “works.” Her interest sparked as a child when she was fascinated by a trip to Carlsbad Caverns.

But with four years of volleyball and most of her required courses behind her, everything changed for Clark as she entered what was to be her final year in the fall of 2008. A new geology degree was added to the offerings in the School of Math and Sciences.

“I took earth science and just fell in love with it all over again,” Clark said. “I talked to Dr. (David) Schmidt (assistant professor of earth sciences and biology), and he thought I should pursue it. I thought so, too.”

Already enrolled in her final two classes required for her history degree, Clark decided to double major, meaning she would spend an extra three semesters at Wayland to pick up a second field. It was an easy choice for Clark, who excels in the classroom.

“I love it,” Clark said. “I love everything about it.”

The relatively new program has also sparked interest among community members as the school is well on its way to endowing its first student scholarship specifically for geology students. The scholarship is in memory of the late Eldon Milstead, the former owner of Milstead Hardware in Plainview. It was started by Milstead’s son, David Milstead, who is proud that his father can be a part of the program.

“This is something he would have done had he lived longer,” Milstead explained.

Both Eldon, and David as a boy of about 12, were charter members of the High Plains Gem and Mineral society. The study of rocks and minerals was more than a hobby for the elder Milstead. As his health began to fail, he would work with the rocks as therapy, studying them and creating things using their beauty. Through his hardware store, Milstead also began to buy and sell equipment for working with rocks. He also donated equipment to the Wayland science department where it was used by former professors Dr. Harold Reese and Dr. Harold Temple.

When Eldon passed away in 1997, David sold much of the equipment and used the money as seed money for a student scholarship. At the time, students could take a few earth science classes, but were not able to dig deeper into the subject. Through the years, the scholarship fund has continued to grow and is more than halfway to the $25,000 required to become fully endowed. It has also been marked as a scholarship for geology students.

“Dad felt the need for younger kids to understand what the gems and rocks could do,” Milstead said. “He wanted to be sure that kids had a chance to continue this field of education.”

For Clark, the field of study has been fascinating and is helping her to grasp a better understanding of how the world is affected by people’s actions.

“I’m very interested in environmentalism and conservation,” she said. “This helps me to understand the changes we need to make to keep the earth where it is. We have to start taking better care of our earth.”

Clark is now on schedule to graduate in December 2010. She then plans to attend graduate school and is currently exploring those options. Although she isn’t sure what field related to geology she will pursue once her education is complete, Clark knows there is a wide range from which to choose whether it be working with oil companies, working for the state or in the field of conservation.

“I still have to narrow down what I want to do,” she said. “I have a lot of options.”

Anyone interested in supporting the School of Math and Sciences, or in donating to the Eldon Milstead scholarship fund, may contact Wayland’s Office of Advancement at 806-291-3425.