When Niya Davis was in the fourth grade, she traveled to the NASA Space Center in Houston for a field trip. That day, she fell in love with geology.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Niya recalled. “I saw all these minerals, and I was like, ‘I’m gonna be a petrologist.’"
"I’ve always had a curiosity about the earth and how it was formed and why it looks the way it looks.”
Niya uses one word to describe her experience as a geology major: “hands-on.”
“I feel like you cannot learn geology if it’s not hands-on. There are a lot of labs in geology, and as you get into minerology and petrology, you get to hold the minerals and learn how to identify them,” she said.
“It’s so hands-on that it makes sense – you’re not only looking at the name of the mineral but then also seeing what it looks like in person. Once you see it in person, it sticks!”
Learning in the Mountains
Through the School of Geosciences Field Camp, Niya traveled with other geology majors to national parks across Wyoming, Montana, and Utah for six weeks — an experience she said was transformative.
“Being able to understand how a fault forms and getting out of the textbook and seeing that coming to life was awesome,” she said. “Actually being able to touch it and break pieces of rock off — and being able to identify and explain and actually make sense of what you learned was so cool.
“I was overwhelmed with joy. Standing on top of a mountain and realizing how big this world and earth is and how complex it is — it’s not something that everyone understands,” Niya said.
“And you have to be ok with not knowing everything — it’s a constant discovery.”
Finding Connections on Campus
Back on campus, Niya has immersed herself in student activities. She’s in the Pride of Acadiana, an assistant pastor for Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, and a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society.
She’s also a student worker in Dupré Library’s Special Collections, where she works with rare books and geological maps and organizes collections of Louisiana postcards. These projects make her feel more connected to the University and the community.
“I fell more in love with the community and the campus itself,” she said. “To be able to see the families who donate their stuff — it’s generations and generations of pedigree charts. You literally get to look at family trees. You can see journals and diaries people bring, family photographs. To hear people talk about it and watch the development of it — you should have seen some of those pictures!”
Being involved on campus has taught Niya how to be a better student and a better person.
“It helps me with communication, organization, time management. I value community, so I value spending time with people, so I have to learn how to manage spending time with people and getting all my homework done,” she said.
“I like to make friends and let somebody know they’re there for them. I really value community and fellowship. You just can’t do it by yourself.”