As Ryan Venturelli took in the mountainous view while surveying rock formations in South Africa recently, she may have thought back to her first days at Indiana University Northwest, when she decided to nix her initial plan to become an accountant and instead pursue geology.
“I like that I won’t have to be sitting at a desk for the rest of my life,” said the 23-year-old from Schererville, who earned a bachelor's degree in geology in May. “There are so many different directions you can go and I love that.”
Fresh out of her undergraduate experience, Venturelli’s bold career moves are already taking her from ocean depths to mountaintops and everywhere in between.
Having recently returned from a second stint mapping geologic structures in South Africa, Venturelli recounted her most recent six-week teaching assistantship at the University of Capetown, as well as her field experiences in South Africa as an undergraduate, from her new apartment near Indiana State University in Terre Haute, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in oceanography on her way to a Ph.D.
Two years ago, Venturelli’s first international undergraduate experience taught her to use mapping software to plot coastal landscapes and structural deformation of the Western Cape of South Africa.
“It’s crazy how much you learn when you are in the field doing things rather than learning them from a book or from one of your professor’s lectures,” she said.
On her recent trip, became a teaching assistant helping others learn the mapping technique. Venturelli and her students developed a map, not for the common hiker, but a scientific map that geologists would use.
Something else that Venturelli learned while in South Africa during her first experience was the severity of the world water crisis. Living in Africa opened her eyes to something she hadn’t been aware of living near the Great Lakes.
Returning to IUN, she quickly breathed life into the IUN Geology Club and, with classmate Courtney Targos, founded the “Walk for Water” to draw attention to the world water crisis.
The students raised awareness by simulating the plight of many in countries with scarce water. They walked from a park to Lake Michigan, filled jugs with water and carried them back to the park. In Africa, people on average have to walk one kilometer to reach a clean water source.
In the event’s inaugural year, the students raised $2,500 to repair a well in Sierra Leone. This year, they raised $5,000 to build a well in Kenya.
“If anybody at IU Northwest were to learn anything from me, it would be to embrace your experience there and really take what the professors have and what the (university) is giving you.”