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Meet the Professors

Ryan Cumpston
Instructor, Earth Sciences

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2009; previously taught for a year in a full-time, term limited position. He also taught at Northern Illinois University.

Other professional experience:  Professor Cumpston has conducted field work in a variety of geologic settings including: the Arctic (Ny Alesund, Svalbard), desert (Death Valley, Calif.),  mountains (Black Hills, S.D.), jungle (Izamal, Yucatan Peninsula), and rainforest (Belize and Guatemala). He also has conducted research on glacial sedimentology, the impact of drilling fluids on underground  microbial communities under the Antarctic Ice Sheet.  In addition, Professor Cumpston has researched, by using cave formations, climate reconstruction to determine the impact of climate change on the fall of the Mayan Civilization.

Courses taught:  Physical geology, environmental geology and oceanography.

Education: A.S., McHenry County College; B.S. and M.S., Northern Illinois University.

Most memorable teaching experience:  I once taught someone who finished with high marks after receiving failing grades in the first half of the semester. It was great to watch a student gain confidence and have success when she initially thought she could not.

Eric Priest
Instructor, Earth Sciences

Specialties: Meteorology and astronomy.

Teaching full time at CLC since: Fall 2008; also taught earth science at McHenry County College; served as a U.S. Air Force weather officer in Kentucky and Nebraska; worked as an aviation meteorologist for United Airlines.

Courses taught at CLC: Earth science, meteorology and astronomy.

Education: B.S., Pennsylvania State University; M.S., Creighton University.

What I do to engage students: I try to relate course concepts directly to real life. For example, there are real-time weather discussions in my meteorology classes, where students see how the course material applies directly to the weather that affects their lives. Teaching a student the concept of the dew point is one example. When I can show how the dew point is affected by a particular weather pattern, students obtain a better understanding of how it relates to their own comfort or discomfort.

Xiaoming Zhai
Instructor, Geology

Specialties: Earth’s materials and various dynamic features, geologic field studies, international education and reaching out to K-12 schools.

Teaching full time at CLC since: 2001; previously taught at Lincoln Land Community College, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, the University of California at Davis and Jilin University in China. Dr. Zhai was a finalist for a master teacher award at Lincoln Land Community College; received an award for innovative teaching in online courses at CLC; has given several presentations on K-12 outreach and high school dual-credit programs at national conferences.

Courses taught at CLC: Earth science, environmental geology, field geology and great mysteries of the earth.

Education: B.S. and M.S., Jilin University, Changchun, China; M.S. and Ph.D., University of California-Davis.

Main goal in teaching:  Teaching is not just about sharing knowledge, but–most importantly–inspiring students and helping them become life-long learners.