Constance M. Soja ’77

B.A., Denison University
Ph.D., University of Oregon

Professor and Presidential Scholar
Colgate University
Erieville, N.Y.

Citation awarded June, 2013

Constance M. Soja earned her earth science degree from Denison in 1977 and her Ph.D. in paleontology from the University of Oregon in 1985.

As professor of geology at Colgate University, she teaches courses on evolution, paleontology, Darwin and the Victorian Age of Discovery that takes students to the U.K., a seminar on reefs that includes a field course in the Bahamas or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and a first-year seminar on “The Sixth Extinction: a modern biodiversity crisis.” Dr. Soja offers science education workshops on biomimicry to high school teachers and on dinosaurs to elementary school teachers and their students. She has also directed Colgate’s study abroad programs in England, Wales, and Australia.

Her research on fossil reefs, with nearly 50 Colgate and other undergraduate students contributing, were funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, National Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Keck Geology Consortium. Dr. Soja’s articles have been featured in dozens of publications and she has presented at many conferences about her field expeditions to Alaska’s north Pacific coast, the Australian outback, and Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. Her contributions yield new insights into novel ecologic relationships in ancient reefs and how past environmental transformations help predict global change in reef communities today. In the Ural Mountains and Siberia, she and her U.S. and Russian colleagues have established the first-ever documented links between the geology of Russia and Alaska. With Colgate students, she has also published research on dinosaur eggs and the conditions that favored their preservation in the fossil record. She is completing a book on based on her article, titled “The Last Good Buy: Evolution in the New Age of Extinction,” to focus attention on endangered species around the world.

Dr. Soja is the past president of the Paleontological Research Institution, associate editor of the paleontology journal Palaios, Colgate’s Professor of the Year in 2007, and a Smithsonian lecturer on board celebrity cruises. She thanks Denison for this award and for an intellectually vibrant liberal arts experience. She also expresses additional gratitude to her family, husband Brian White, Nancy Rhodes and Denison roommates, Colgate colleague Di Keller, and to Ken Bork and faculty in Denison’s geology department for their support and encouragement.