Professor of Environmental Science
‘I enjoy seeing students advance and – more important – become community-minded adults’
Since joining Alaska Pacific University in 1980, Environmental Science Professor Rusty Myers has instilled in his students an appreciation for ways that the natural and urban environments coexist. Rusty’s convergent interests are reflected in his academic degrees in chemical engineering, environmental engineering, physical oceanography and science education.
Rusty has won APU’s Outstanding Faculty twice. His volunteer work includes 20 years with Habitat for Humanity and helping to drill a community water well in El Salvador Chile. An athlete who likes to ski, run and bike, Rusty says triathlons may be his next challenge.
How does the Environmental Science Department help students succeed?
Alaska Pacific University helps students with wide-ranging interests by allowing them to combine academic fields to tailor their degree for their specific interests. That’s important to ES students who may want to pursue varied careers over a lifetime.
For example, ES majors often enroll in APU’s Outdoor Studies courses, which qualify our students to do rigorous work required of field techs. ES students who may someday want to start their own business may take classes in APU’s Business Administration Department and have those credits count toward their ES degree.
Looking back on my own undergraduate education, I wish I’d known about this sort of flexibility and about how a particular degree may be used in many ways to advance a career.
Rusty, you’ve said that Anchorage, the state’s largest city, offers good opportunities to pursue your research interests. Why is that?
I like to look at problems in the urban environment and how the urban environment relates to the natural environment. Anchorage is a place where urban and natural environments are so intimately connected that it’s common to see moose strolling through downtown neighborhoods.
What keeps me passionate about teaching at APU is the ability to continue to learn about new subjects and apply what I’m learning in my teaching and research. I like the challenge of taking hard subject matter and making it understandable to students. I relish the times when I can help guide students to think about problems so they truly understand basic concepts.
You’re among APU’s most veteran professors. What makes teaching here so rewarding?
When students go on to continue their education with a graduate degree or take a job in the field and we end up working together on a project, that’s when I’m reminded that teaching at APU is where I want to be. I enjoy seeing students advance in their careers.
More important though is to see them become community-minded adults with families who acknowledge gratitude to you as a former teacher. I’ve had that happen. It’s rewarding every time.
What are your hopes for the ES Department and its graduates?
I hope that ES at Alaska Pacific University will gain wider recognition as a place that meets the needs of Alaskans. That we work with individuals and groups to provide timely answers to environmental questions and that department grads can fulfill their dreams and achieve their own goals to make the world a better place.
I hope that when our students leave Alaska Pacific University, they know that earning a degree isn’t the end of learning. I hope that they’re capable of teaching themselves and willing to pursue ideas they’ve been exposed to at APU.