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PROFESSOR NAN CRYSTAL ARENS

Harvard Educated Paleoecologist. Educator. Artist.

Chair, Geoscience Department
Chair, HWS Child Care Initiative

Value Students

I have always appreciated working with undergraduates, so HWS is right inline with my values. We try to make our classes and our scholarship seamless, so class work bleeds into our scholarship and vice versa.

Develop Creative Partnerships

Sometimes really interesting ideas come out of the classroom. Right now, I'm working on a scholarly paper with a student who hit on an important idea in a term paper. I like that feedback. It gives me energy.

Think on the Edge

When I'm working with a talented student who is asking questions that challenge the fundamental assumptions about science, it?s very rewarding. Every once in a while, it leads to learning new things about our world.

Study Beginnings

Right now, I am focused on studying the origin and early evolution of flowering plants. They’re everywhere today, but that wasn’t always the case. I want to understand what ecological conditions allowed them to flourish so completely.

Press Pulse

I’m interested in extinctions: how do they happen? My colleagues and I are currently creating a very detailed analysis of the ecology of the end Cretaceous Period, hoping to learn more about what was happening prior to the mass extinction of non-avian dinosaurs.

Be Green

I’m involved in the environmental movement because I’m a historian of the earth, interested in extinctions. I could spend all of my time studying the past, but instead I take what I know about the past and bring it into a sphere where it can contribute to a larger discussion.

Inadvertently Publish

In an effort to save paper, I had all of my handouts and readings for my writing intensive classes bound and sold at the College Store. Someone from Oxford University Press saw it, and they’re interested in making it into a text book.

Know Your Neighbors

Faculty governance is important to me because HWS is not just a workplace; it’s a community. I think we all have a responsibility to join committees and work to build our community in a thoughtful way.

Lead An Initiative

Right now, I’m l facilitating a group that’s trying to bring a childcare facility to campus. By the time this is set up, my children will be too old to be involved, but it’s not about me; it’s about enriching our community.

Open Your Home

I try to live my life by the adage that one should ‘love thy neighbor,’ which really boils down to opening your life up to people. With that in mind, I invite the community into my home often for House Church when I can. It’s a great way to help others feel nourished.

Let the World Astonish You

My husband and I led a term abroad in Australia, and it was awesome. I’ve traveled a lot, but Australia is so different: the vegetation looks strange, the colors seem wrong. Everything is completely unfamiliar.

Gain New Perspective

Our term abroad also took us to New Zealand. The country is like a textbook. It’s all there: compact, drivable and gorgeous. To actually put your hands on a tectonic plate boundary is unbelievable. It changes your perspective of the scale and dynamics of the planet.

Nurture Your Imagination

The kind of science I do is very analytical, but you can’t be successful at it unless you can be creative, too. I think it’s important to cultivate and nurture that creativity, so I sew, quilt and paint watercolors.

Write Limericks

I started writing limericks as an intellectual and creative outlet after the birth of my first child, and I got hooked. I’ve been contributing to the Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form and I begin many of my classes with daily limericks. It’s fun to be creative with words.

Take to the Airwaves

The Natural History Minute came about when I was looking for a way to expand the types of writing my students explore. From a teaching point of view, copy for the radio is short so it seems less intimidating to research and write, and there’s a service learning component to getting the show on the radio, too.