Professor Spotlight: Christoph Geiss’ Roles as Professor of Environmental Science, Faculty Liaison, and Mentor

5 min read

Hannah Feinberg ’24

Contributing Writer

Ask just about anyone on Trinity’s campus if they know Professor Geiss and they’ll probably light up. Through his German accent, he chuckles and jokes and always has a happy demeanor about him. It is nearly impossible to run into him without a happy demeanor.

I have known Geiss since my freshman year at Trinity. He is the academic liaison for the women’s ice hockey team and tennis team on campus. He always sends emails to the team at the beginning of the year and even hosts us for a back-to-school BBQ at his home in Wethersfield, where he has his unforgettable “dinosaur cake”: a lemon glazed pound cake molded into the shape of a dinosaur. 

I met with Professor Geiss in his office on the second floor of the McCook building. It is an unusual spot for an environmental science professor’s office to be located, as he is sandwiched in between public policy and law professors. His office wall was littered on one side with these magnificent, high-resolution pictures of various aspects of nature. On the other side, his shelves were lined with an assortment of environmental science and geophysics books, one of which he pulled out and showed me that his PhD advisor wrote. He still keeps in touch with this advisor many years later, and Geiss credits him for his success in completing his master’s at the University of Minnesota; his advisor was the one who convinced him to pursue further education in America after receiving his bachelor’s degree at university in Germany.

Three of my teammates and I enrolled in his class last year called The Earth’s Climate. We met at eight in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Every morning, the four of us, half-asleep, would meander to the back of the class and sit together. Geiss, who is often up and even responding to emails at 5:30 in the morning, would energetically wander back to the area where we sat to see which of the four of us showed up that day. It was more than he did for many of his other students in the class. It was almost as if we were now the wily children and he was a nun trying to keep her students in check. Remembering this experience after hearing about his story, I had the realization that it was a full circle moment for Geiss even though he probably didn’t notice it.

Geiss fell into the position of faculty liaison sort of haphazardly. Faculty had to complete service outside of teaching and were told they should do service that they enjoy doing. Somehow, he stumbled into athletics despite never playing sports in school. Robin Sheppard, the associate A.D., made a pitch to the professors to become a faculty liaison in a professor seminar. Geiss dismissed the idea at the time, but through teaching classes he discovered his favorite and best performing students were student-athletes, because “you’re spending 20 hours on your sport that some nerdy kid can spend on studying geophysics, as they should.” He found in his interactions with them that they always had great attitudes.

Many years later Sheppard pitched the idea again, and, this time, Geiss approached Sheppard about a position and she enthusiastically asked him which team he would like. Geiss had no preference, except for swimming to which he went “swimming…swimming is kind of like having a goldfish for a pet!” 

He believed it’s more fun to see students he knows and watch them doing what they love, it didn’t matter which sport. He first became the faculty liaison for women’s tennis. 

Eventually, he had a women’s hockey player in his first-year seminar. Her two goals, he repeated, were to graduate from Trinity and to become the best division three hockey goalie in the nation. Around Christmas time he figured he better check out what the best goalie in division three looks like. He met her friends and parents and had great interactions with them, so he started watching more games. The former women’s hockey liaison, who was leaving to become Dean of Students, saw Geiss in the rink and asked if he wanted to be our liaison as well. From there, it was history; Geiss has been our liaison ever since and the team loves him.

Geiss is the epitome of a father figure. He is there to laugh with us, cry with us, or even just to sit down and have a conversation over coffee. Professor Geiss is an example of a professor who goes out of his way to interact with his students. He wants to ensure their success and is always available to help students achieve their best. His face lights up when he sees his students, an indicator of his intense passion for teaching. It is a special connection to be able to know your professors in the capacity that we do on campus.

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