Rock Steady: Cole's Educational Path

Hi, my name is Cole. I was born in 1985 in St. Louis Park, MN, a suburb of the Twin Cities, and lived the first nine years in nearby Minnetonka, MN. I am mildly autistic and am diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. My main difficulty is socializing with peers; for example, making small talk is extremely challenging. I also have minor sensitivities to fluorescent lights and am very uncomfortable in crowded places for a sustained amount of time. My family background is largely rooted in the small, family-owned agriculture business. Both sets of my grandparents owned and operated farms. My parents grew up in the rural Midwest way of life, in the shadows of silos, barns and hay bails, but both diverged to other career paths in their post-collegiate life. I represent the first generation in my family that was born into suburban America. My parental units (and I) moved out to Beaverton, Oregon in the middle of my 2nd grade school year, due to a job-transfer my mom was offered.

My interests and hobbies have changed throughout my life, but there are a few constants: the love of rocks and the outdoors (I am an Eagle Scout), rock climbing, the admiration of volcanoes and what they can do to transform landscapes, and last but not least - spotting aircraft at busy airports. My parental expectations of me are to eventually live an independent life and contribute to the community in positive ways.

I went to a small magnet high school in Beaverton, OR called the School of Science and Technology (SST). This was the place where I could focus more on my interests and abilities. An important aspect of the program was that during junior and senior years, students were placed in community internships that we attended, instead of school, every Friday. For my junior internship, I interned at Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and during my senior year, I interned at the David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory across the river in Vancouver, Washington. At SST, teachers had high expectations of students. They wanted us to be self-motivated, but they could always be turned to for assistance when needed. My main accommodation during high school was extended time on examinations and occasionally more time on lengthy assignments. My brain works through things slower than 'normal' people so the time-extension plays into that accommodation. I cultivated some friendships with other autistic students during my high school years and that has helped me immensely.

Through DO-IT I have an online outlet to share experiences with others. It helps me see that I am not the only one that experiences challenges. The use of technology has meant a whole lot to me. I honestly cannot fathom how previous generations did it without the technology we use today. With my laptop, I can communicate over email with other people without having to do so face-to-face. It has allowed me opportunities to connect with other like-minded people in disparate geographic locations, as well as allowing me to research interesting topics, like volcanoes.

DO-IT also helped me get an internship with the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Oregon as well as an internship at the University of Alaska - Fairbanks. These internships have allowed me to get a clearer picture of what it is really like to be in the volcanology business, instead of deducing it from Discovery Channel programs. In geology, I learn something new everyday. Learning new stuff that can be potentially useful down the road, or solving geologic problems is personally gratifying for me.

The main motivation behind me going to college to become a volcanologist, is making sense of the very (and I mean very) complex planet we call home. More specifically, how volcanic processes work and shape the landscape. This way I’m doing what I love to do -- being one with those loads of gneiss rocks!