Thinking about coming to UH Hilo to major in Geology? You’ve made the right choice! Here’s some advice from students who have gone before you, with their experiences, either as Transfer Students, or with programs like WUE or NSE, or as folks who have grown up here in the islands.

On this page:

Transfer Students

Sadie Nguyen

Sadie rests at the top of a ridge, with mountains and clouds beyond.

Hello! My name is Sadie Nguyen, a current student at UH Hilo with the desire to receive a B.S. in Geology by May 2022. Before coming to UH Hilo, I was a Running Start student living in Washington State. Running Start is a dual-enrollment program that allows high school students to start college during their junior year of high school. At Highline College I received my A.A. degree in geology, where I was enrolled in the geology course equivalents to UH Hilo’s Understanding the Earth (GEOL 111-111L) and History of the Earth (GEOL 112-112L). The A.A. degree allowed me to bypass the majority of UH Hilo’s general education requirements, as well as putting additional credits into my geology degree for courses such as chemistry. Using college in high school programs to my advantage, I am currently a junior year in college, with a senior credit standing.

I began my interest in geology during my 7th grade science course. Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with the question, "what happens when you touch lava?" Of course, answering this question is not advised, but when you live on the Big Island, the active volcanoes become very intriguing. I chose UH Hilo’s geology program because when exploring their course descriptions, I found that they had a variety of courses allowing students to broaden their geological education. From volcanology, hydrology, coastal geology and more, you’re allowed the opportunity to see every side of Earth’s wonderful geology.

As a Washington State resident, I got to broaden my interest in geology through the Cascade range, Olympic mountains, Cascadia Subduction Zone, and more. Quite the beautiful benefit, the one I’m most thankful for is being eligible for the WUE program at UH Hilo. This program allows students from many states the opportunity to pay lesser tuition rates. Joining us at UH Hilo as a freshman or transfer, you’ll find that living in paradise with an amazing geology program is exactly what you need!

Kim Hutchinson

Kim Hutchinson stands in front of a framed photo of an eruption Hi! My name is Kim Hutchinson, I graduated from UH Hilo with a B.S. in Geology in May 2020. I transferred to UH Hilo with my A.A. degree from Olympic College in Washington State via the Running Start Program. All of my credits transferred easily and getting my prerequisites out of the way allowed me to take a bunch of extra classes that interested me. For example, instead of English and History classes, I took extra geology and astronomy classes which helped me gain a broader understanding of my field and explore my interests. With my transfer credits, I was able to take my time to attend extra classes and study abroad while still graduating in the standard four years. At UH Hilo, I loved the small classes and close relationships with classmates and professors. I would highly recommend attending UH Hilo as a transfer student to anyone looking for a wonderful and supportive community on your way to attaining your degree.

Brenna Halverson

Brenna Halverson in Iceland Hi Everyone! My name is Brenna Halverson. I graduated in 2016 from UH Hilo with my BS in Geology. At age 18, I came to UH Hilo as a Junior pseudo-transfer student, as I got my A.A. from Southern Utah University while in high school. Since it was my first year at college, it was confusing for the administration at first, but everything transferred well eventually, and it was great!

From the age of 5, I knew I wanted to work with volcanoes. But attending UH Hilo as an out-of-state student would be expensive. The WUE program, and earning an AA in high school, took two years off of my degree allowed me to afford to go to UH Hilo, and gain hands-on experience with volcanoes. Attending UH Hilo was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it was due to those two programs. A lot of the opportunities I’ve had since then have come from my field experience gained at UH Hilo, and from my wonderful contacts there!

Once I began studying Geology at UH Hilo, I took advantage of the National Student Exchange (NSE). I thought I might want to go to the University of Oregon for graduate school, and so I decided to finish my degree in absentia on exchange at UO. The NSE program let me branch out into other areas of geological science, and ‘test-drive’ a university and culture to see if they were a good fit for the next step in my career. It was a great experience, and one that set the groundwork for every academic step I’ve taken since.

After Oregon, I got my Masters in 2018 from the Georgia Institute of Technology and am currently a PhD student at the University of Texas in San Antonio, working on the rheology of the 2018 Kilauea lava flows. My plethora of field experience at UH Hilo led me to a field-rich career, where I’ve done field work all over the US (especially HI, NM, AZ, OR), and also Kamchatka, Russia; Colima, Mexico; and most recently, Askja Volcano in Iceland (My photo is from this trip: this is the crater lake Öskuvatn of Askja).

If you are a high school student, I suggest taking college credits in high school. It can get the non-degree classes out of your way, and maybe relieve some of the financial burden. The WUE is amazing if you are from a west coast state looking to attend UH Hilo. If you are thinking of an exchange, either to or from UH Hilo, it can be a fantastic experience and the next step in your career, or just give you a different way of thinking for a while. Congratulations and Good Luck!

Note: In Hawaiʻi, the program that allows you to earn college credit while in high school is called Running Start.

Michelle Mazzetti

Michelle Mazzetti standing in front of active lava

Hi, I’m Michelle Mazzetti. After graduating from Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy, I dreamed of attending UH Hilo, but ended up attending Chapman University instead, to study Film Production. Eventually, I changed my major to Geology and transferred to UH Hilo. My goal to continue working in both Film and Earth Sciences was facilitated by professors Ken Hon and Cheryl Gansecki, who at that time ran a scientific and educational production company, and they gave me the opportunity to work with them. I took this vision to a new level when I was presented with the opportunity to work with Masters Students in the Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization (SDAV) Lab. This project involved studying the 2018 Leilani Estates eruption, by flying an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to map and photograph the changing conditions of the lava flow. The team was able to report their findings to USGS and the local Civil Defense Agency, thereby assisting in disaster mitigation, and providing potentially life-saving data to help with emergency planning. After graduation in 2021, I will continue to live on the Big Island and I am considering joining UH Hilo SDAV as a Masters Student.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE)

Ski Meacham

Ski Meacham poses in Kilauea Iki crater Hi there, I’m Ski Meacham, currently a Geology major and a TA for Intro Labs. Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been obsessed with volcanoes. That obsession followed me through life, and when it came time to choose what college I would go to it seemed obvious. Who wouldn’t want to go to a college that’s on a volcano? Literally. Especially one with such a tight-knit and personal geology program. One of my favorite things about being here is that there is so much opportunity for one-on-one help here, and the professors are dedicated to your success. I also really enjoy the field trips, since there is so much to see on an active volcano! Between trips to the national park, the local caves, and the top of the Maunas, there is never a shortage of things to do and see.

I was really only able to come here and do all of this because of the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Applying was an easy one-time process, and I saved so much money compared to going to universities in my home state of California. As an undergrad, moving this far from home was harder than I thought, but if you meet people and make connections within the program early, you won’t struggle at all!

Nels Iverson

Nels Iverson stands in the foreground, with Bryce Canyon behind.

I’m Nels Iverson. I am originally from a small farming community in Eastern Washington. The town of Palouse is 2 miles from the Idaho border, and I came over to UH Hilo as a freshman in the fall of 2005 on the WUE program. I wanted to go to UH Hilo to try something new and always thought, if I didn’t like it, I could always come home. Needless to say, I loved it. So much, in fact, it took me five years to finish my B.S. in Geology. Part of that was because I came to UH Hilo as a Sports Management major. It took me a few semesters to figure out it wasn’t for me and to find my new passion - Volcanology.

The class that changed my world was “Geology of the Hawaiian Islands” taught by Professor Ken Hon. He and the other amazing professors in the Geology Department showed me a different way to look at the world and all there is to discover about the earth. The Geology Department is unique because there is so much interaction between the students and the professors. Many geology majors do research with the professor, or work for CSAV. I was a TA in the department for three semesters and spent one summer working for CSAV and the International Volcanology training course. That may have been the best summer of my life. I graduated in 2010 and went on to New Mexico Tech, where I received a Master’s and then a Ph.D. in Geochemistry working on volcanoes in Antarctica. Now I am a research scientist and lab manager at New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech.

UH Hilo is an excellent place to start a career in geology. Having Kilauea actively erupting less than one hour from campus provides an unparalleled natural classroom for learning. At UH Hilo you get amazing instruction from professors, and sometimes research scientists from The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The memories and friendships I made in the department are life-lasting, and I always try to meet up with my old classmates and professors at scientific meetings - like AGU and GSA.

I would definitely encourage students to come to UH Hilo for an education in Geology, either as freshmen, transfer students, or via the NSE. This program is awe inspiring and life-changing!

Seth Swaney

Seth Swaney stands on a mountain, with the full moon in the background.

Aloha, my name is Seth Swaney. I am originally from Ventura, California, and came over to UH Hilo as a transfer student in 2018, on the WUE program.

I transferred here from Ventura College and will graduate after 3 years at UH Hilo. Everyone on campus, along with the whole town of Hilo, is very friendly and welcoming. Hilo is a smaller school but is nice because it feels like no one gets left behind and everyone is accepted for who they are no matter what.

The Geology professors here are very kind and will take the time to help a student in need. There are also many field work opportunities which are great to get to know your fellow classmates and form a Geology community. I have made several great friends through this program, many more than I expected.

I would definitely encourage students to come to UH Hilo for an education in Geology, either as freshmen, transfer students, or the NSE.

Cody Gibson

Cody Gibson is in the foreground, on a boat, with Augustine Volcano in the background.

Aloha! My name is Cody Gibson, and I graduated from UH Hilo with a degree in Geology in May 2011. I transferred to UH Hilo from a community college in Sacramento, California, where I started my college career slightly later in life, at 26 years old. After finishing a couple semesters at the community college I did a bit of research into schools with geology departments and was drawn to the idea of studying geology in Hawaiʻi. I transferred to UH Hilo on the WUE program which allowed my tuition to remain nearly the same as in-state tuition for California. My transfer over was seamless and the Geology Department professors were extremely helpful during the transition. The laid-back lifestyle in Hawaiʻi coupled with a great professors made for an incredible experience. After graduation I made my way to Seattle where I got a job for a mid-sized Engineering Geology and Geotechnical firm. After a few years working I decided to go back to school. I was able to keep my job while going to Grad School at the University of Washington.

My time at UH Hilo gave me a solid foundation to start my career and great memories with amazing professors. Some added benefits to the UH Hilo Geology Department include the opportunity to work closely with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and proximity to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. I highly recommend UH Hilo for an education in Geology. A great education in an incredible location.

National Student Exchange (NSE)

Meghann Decker

Meghann wears a hard hat as lava erupts in the distance.

Hi! My name is Meghann Decker and I graduated from UH Hilo with a BS in geology in the spring of 2013. I came to Hilo as a junior in the fall of 2011, on the NSE program. Previously, I had been attending the University of Rhode Island and decided I wanted to spend a year doing field work and studying volcanoes rather than Rhode Island’s glacial geology, so I signed up to do a year at UH Hilo. During my first semester in Hawaiʻi, I had the opportunity to hike out to the Puʻu Oʻo lava flows in Kalapana. Witnessing an eruption, even an effusive one, was profound and life-changing. This experience, and the relationships I built with the faculty and students within the department, were pivotal in my decision to transfer to UH Hilo and not return to Rhode Island.

One of the best things about UH Hilo is that the class sizes are small, which fosters great relationships with the faculty and the department. Having transferred from a larger state school, this had a huge appeal to me, as all of my previous classes were much larger. Another great thing about UH Hilo: the various unique internship opportunities. During my junior year I had the opportunity to work at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park through the youth internship program as an interpretive geologist park ranger. Following graduation, I worked with CSAV as a petrographic core technician on the Humu’ula Groundwater Research Project. In 2014 I went on to California State University, Northridge where I received a Master’s in Geology studying arc magmatism in Fiordland New Zealand. My geochemistry and geochronology research provided ample time in the laboratory using the SEM and LA-ICP-MS. As a result of my experience working with mass spectrometry, I was able to find a job in Kona as a lab technician working with LC-MS/MS. Currently, I am a lecturer and science lab coordinator at Hawaiʻi Community College. Anyone with an interest in volcanoes should look at UH Hilo for an education in Geology!

(Note: Photo of Meghann Decker is from the 2018 eruption in lower Puna, where she assisted UH Hilo Geology Professor Steve Lundblad and geology students, in a precise leveling project to learn details about the magma plumbing system in the area.)

Born & Raised in Hawaiʻi

Stuart Featheran

Stuart in front of a Green Screen Start Featheran: I came to UH Hilo as a transfer student of Windward Community College on Oʻahu. I chose to continue my education here because of all the geological activity that took place on Hawaiʻi Island, past and present, and I wanted to see what it was like living on my own. What is great about the program is that you have access to various places on the island that would otherwise be restricted to the public and get to really see what is going on in Hawaiʻi through a geological lens. Another thing is that you have teachers who are willing to help you out, but only if you ask for it. My advice is if you do come to this school, don’t be afraid to ask questions and for advice from the teachers.

Lima Morikawa

Lima sits on rocks at Death Valley

Talofa! My name is Lima Morikawa, and I am a 2015 UH Hilo graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology. After graduating high school in 2011, I knew that I wanted to study geology, but wasn’t sure where to go. However, I knew that I didn’t want just a classroom learning experience. With a major like this, I wanted to be out in the field!

After some research, I made the decision to move from Oʻahu to the Big Island to attend UH Hilo. I knew within the first few weeks that I had made the right choice. I was immediately immersed in numerous field trips that exposed me first-hand to the unique geology of the Hawaiian Islands. The professors had a wealth of knowledge to share in each of their courses that conveyed their passion and decades’ worth of experience in that specific field. The class sizes were enjoyably small and allowed for more one-on-one learning as well as fostering an environment that helped one another along the way. And if I ever needed help or advice from the professors, they made sure I was equipped with the knowledge I needed to continue. Everyone in the department, professor or not, brings so much to the table!

Studying geology at UH Hilo is the ultimate experience. Getting to study it on an island with a highly active volcano is the icing on the cake. The knowledge you will gain plus your own field experiences are absolute gold!

Tyson Takiue

Tyson and his two kids enjoy the view at Kilauea Iki Tyson Takiue: Growing up on the Big Island, we are blessed with beautiful landscapes from the maunas to the valleys, and even an active volcano.

As a child, I was always fascinated in the processes that shaped these landscapes and the island I grew up on. This led me to pursue my curiosities and study the field of Geology.

I thought to myself, there is no better place to study than here at UH Hilo, where else can you find a school with an active volcano right in the backyard.

I’m very happy to have chosen UH Hilo as my home institution. I can’t say enough about the Geology department. The resources provided to me by the professors and staff have been invaluable to my academic goals.

I will forever be grateful for the relationships I have fostered during my time at UH Hilo.

Veronica Coston

Veronica Coston outdoors on a farm.

Aloha! I’m Veronica Coston. I graduated from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo (UH Hilo) with a B.A. in Geology in 2018. I started my academic journey at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College (UHMC), and graduated in 2015 with my associates degree.

After leaving UHMC I wanted to continue on with my education. The search in myself to continue my education was non-negotiable, but determining my major was questionable. I’ve spent some time researching what I wanted to study. A few points to selecting my major were: be outside for field work, mālama ʻāina, and continue to live in Hawaiʻi.

Hilo felt like my second home based on my previous visits. I decided to transfer over to UH Hilo for their geology program. UH Hilo’s atmosphere was friendly, helpful, and you’re able to connect with everyone, not only students but the professors as well. Coming from a small college, I felt as if the move over from Maui to Hilo was the best for me. Having a small class allowed me to ask questions, and get additional help when I needed it. The best part is that the professors were more than willing to provide extra help to anyone that needed it.

My experience and time at UH Hilo has been memorable. I was active on campus with student support service programs (trio), clubs, and exploring other minors/certificates that supported my future endeavors. My classmates and I not only were study buddies, but also long friends. I would highly encourage students to attend UH Hilo not only for their education, but for a supportive community.

Austin Inouye

Austin stands on a road, surrounded by lush trees

Aloha, my name is Austin Inouye and I graduated from UH Hilo in 2020 with a B.S. in Geology. Born and raised on Oʻahu, I learned to respect and cherish the environment we live in. As I was going through high school, this love for our environment grew into a passion to study something environmental in college. Originally, as I was applying to colleges, I was only applying to Civil/Environmental Engineering schools. I managed to get accepted to all the mainland colleges, however, luck would have it that I would earn a decent scholarship from UH Hilo. This led me to explore my options here and see what Hilo would have in store.

I would come to realize that Geology was most in line with what I was looking at for long-term goals (which was to become a hydrologist). At first I was skeptical, but as the years went by and I became close to my peers and professors, I realized that studying Geology at UH Hilo was one of the best decisions I have made. Being local born and raised, I know the feeling of dreaming about one day going to some large mainland university and experiencing life outside of the Islands. Due to the fact that I was on in-state tuition, it opened up the opportunity to study on exchange. I went to Northern Arizona University for two semesters to help facilitate my learning, which allowed me to further grow as an individual, and fulfill the local-boy dream of studying at a mainland university. Furthermore, studying at UH Hilo provided me with a lot of applicable field experience and knowledge to help land a job at home on Oʻahu.

I will always cherish the friends and experiences I made during my time spent at UH Hilo. The Geology program holds true to Hawaiʻi’s culture of tight-knit communities and family-like feel. I strongly recommend anyone and everyone to attend UH Hilo and join the Geology program.