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Love of Outdoors Leads Alabama Native to Geology Degree

Published: 02/05/2019

By: Carla Nelson

Growing up, Auburn University student Tristan Orndorff spent a lot of time outdoors, camping with her grandparents. Her grandmother loved to tell her all about the rocks around the property they owned on Lake Jordan. Tristan said this is where her interest in Geology began.

“I was interested in it, but I got nervous about going to college to study Geology because I didn’t know anyone who worked in that field,” Tristan said.

When Tristan, who is originally from Millbrook, Alabama, first started her education at Auburn, she decided to study Animal Sciences, but she said that didn’t last very long.

“After two weeks I went to my advisor and said ‘I can’t do this’,” she said. “I needed another direction.”

After looking into a few other degree options, Tristan came back to Geology, and has been a College of Sciences and Mathematics (COSAM) student since.

“As soon as I visited the Geology Department, I knew that was it!,” she said.

Tristan is a senior graduating in May and said she is excited about the possibility of a future career outside of an office, and added that she has enjoyed studying Geology at Auburn University. 

“Everyone that is in Geology is really similar to me,” she said. “We aren’t uptight and we’re pretty relaxed. It’s a different kind of atmosphere.”

While a student at Auburn, Tristan has received a Geology scholarship from Vulcan Materials Company, and won the “Outstanding Junior” Award in Geosciences last year. She has also attended the Geology Field Camp and studied abroad in Scotland.

Tristan is also in Auburn University’s GeoClub, is completing an apprenticeship with a graduate student in Geology, and also works in an Environmental Science lab. For fun, Tristan said she enjoys running and spending time with her dog.

She said some of her favorite classes she has taken at Auburn include Calculus 2 with Daniel Savu and Geology courses with Dr. Charles Savrda.

“He makes Geology really interesting,” she said of Dr. Savrda’s teaching. “He’s really detailed and you know what to expect from him. I feel like we’re learning a lot and we apply it. It’s just not facts that we’re never going to use.”

Tristan hopes to attend graduate school at Auburn University beginning this summer to study Paleoenvironmental Science. She said switching from Animal Sciences to COSAM has been a decision she is proud of.

“It’s been hard,” she said. “But it’s been worth it.”

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