Harvey Henson

April 10, 2014

Harvey Henson passionate about students, science, service

Although nearly 2,000 miles away, the recent earthquake and aftershocks in Los Angeles serve as reminders that our proximity to the New Madrid and Wabash Valley fault lines means we also are at risk. The message from Harvey Henson, Jr., assistant dean of our College of Science and geophysicist, is that while we can’t predict earthquakes, we can be ready for them.

“We shouldn’t be worried,” he said. “We should be prepared.”

An Indiana native, Harvey came here for a research assistantship in geology in 1985. He was a research project specialist in the geology department from 1990 to 2008, and he has been a geology instructor since 2001.

Harvey has been sharing his expertise in earthquake seismology with local officials, emergency responders, and school and community groups for more than 20 years. In addition, working with a colleague at Oklahoma University, he has received a number of grants from the state and federal emergency management agencies in recent years that have funded public service announcements and the DVD, “Suddenly on an Average Day.” He is happy to provide the DVD to individuals and groups; you can e-mail him at henson@cos.siu.edu

Thanks to a new $230,000 grant, Harvey and his colleague will expand the outreach effort with more public service announcements and educational DVDs.

“We want to help people learn how to do the things they need to do to be prepared,” Harvey said. “We know it’s a good idea to strap your water heater to the wall. But nobody shows you how to do that. That’s an example of what we want to accomplish with these videos.”

In addition to his ongoing earthquake research and outreach, Harvey serves as assistant dean for recruitment, retention and outreach in the College of Science. His passion for the college, SIU, and the importance of educating the next generation of scientists is apparent every time I talk with him.

“We have so much to offer to students who want to study in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields,” he said. “As a research university, we give students an opportunity to learn by doing.”

I know how hard Harvey and his colleagues have been working at student recruitment, and enrollment in the college has been growing. In fact, it is up 27 percent over the past five years. That’s important for our university, and for our nation, because of the need for more STEM professionals.

Harvey looks forward to participating in our open houses and other recruitment efforts because he enjoys the interaction with prospective students and their families. But, as he has told me, he also recognizes, “I’m the old guy. It’s the parents who want to talk with me.” So over the past five years, he has put a priority on building and mentoring the Saluki Science Ambassadors, science majors who can share their Saluki experiences with prospective students.

“When we created that group, we had 14 students,” Harvey said. “We now have more than 300 ambassadors, and it is the largest student organization in the College of Science.”

I appreciate Harvey’s commitment, and that of faculty and staff throughout the university, to our students and to this region that we all call home.