Community Perspective: An H’burg Graduate Today

A community perspectives piece by Tom Arthur

After almost a half-century of teaching in an area with four institutions of higher learning, this retired educator keeps learning about what students here have achieved.

A week ago, a former School of Theatre and Dance graduate, Wendy Bohon, visited Harrisonburg and I was able to meet and talk with her. 

Wendy was a good student and talented performer while she was in school but during her junior year took a geology class as a gen. ed. requirement and ended by majoring in that field as well. 

Upon experiencing an earthquake in LA where she had moved to continue performing, she, volunteered for work at USGS (United States Geological Survey), was good at it, and eventually was hired to do Outreach and Education in the field. 

She then returned to school at Ohio State for a Masters in Geology and Arizona State in Tempe for her Ph.D. in the field.

These days Wendy, now Dr. Wendy Bohon (pictured above), is a geologist endeavoring to improve communication before, during and after rapid onset geologic hazards (earthquakes). 

Her research interests include geomorphology, landscape evolution, geologic hazards communication and geoscience education and she has worked on tectonics related projects in Southern California, Northwestern Argentina, Bolivia, Argentina and the southwestern margin of the Tibetan Plateau in India.

She is currently the geologist and Senior Science Communication Specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology. 

You may have seen the now-Dr. Bohon on national-level television as the Senior Communication Specialist for the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology.  “My theatre training had given me the skills and the confidence to speak to various audiences from the podium to the classroom to the small screen,” she says. 

I knew how to read an audience, how to hold my concentration and 

focus in front of a crowd, how to maintain composure during stressful 

circumstances. Scientists aren’t taught to communicate or speak in 

front of people and my theatre background gave me an edge.  

As a “hazards scientist,” she feels an obligation to mediate between the scientific community and ordinary people to “help all of us understand our active earth.”

In addition to giving workshops, writing articles, creating social media content and more, she is part of the Executive Leadership Board of a group of 500 Women Scientists.

During the recent Women’s History Month, she visited science classes to talk about her work and how geology changed her life. 

“Science students often ask me what classes they should take to set themselves up for success — and are shocked when I say theatre,” she says. “It makes sense though. Scientists are trained observers like theatre artists but use a different lens.

Theatre training provides the skill set and the confidence to stand in front of people, to talk to a crowd, to perform.” And she adds with a twinkle in her eye, “Like sales, communication can sometimes be as simple as the transfer of enthusiasm.” 

When students now ask Dr. Bohon who lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter, twin boys and a “menagerie of animals” how she balances family life, work, she answers, “All of us should follow our interests wherever they may lead, say yes to things that scare us, and always, always find our light.”

That statement reflecting educational growth in our area fills this retiree with satisfaction.

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