ASU alumna to use national role to represent diverse voices in geosciences

Niccole Villa Cerveny is the first community college representative to serve on prestigious National Academies of Sciences committee

Portrait of ASU alum Niccole Villa Cerveny.

Niccole Villa Cerveny


Niccole Villa Cerveny, a PhD geography alumna in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and professor at Mesa Community College for more than 20 years, has been invited by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to serve as a member of the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Geosciences.

Cerveny will become the first community college representative to serve on this prestigious national committee.

The U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Geosciences serves as a focal point for national discussions on how to promote the advancement of geological sciences, such as geology and geography, both in the United States and around the world. 

The eight-member committee works in cooperation with scientific societies to inform policy and guide the direction of the geoscience community through discussion, support and resources, and represents the United States geoscience community in the broader international geosciences community worldwide.

“The opportunity to participate as a geoscientist on both a national and international stage is a great honor,” said Cerveny, who also earned her master's degree in geography from ASU. “I hope to represent community college students and colleagues by demonstrating the potential and excellence that is prevalent throughout our systems. I hope that this is a beginning for the U.S. National Committee to identify the innovators at two-year colleges.”

At ASU, Cerveny’s research largely examined rock weathering — a process by which rocks decay — as it relates to helping preserve Native heritage in stone, like petroglyphs. 

“Niccole is one of the very few who have mastered research at both (microscopic and field) scales, hence, when she sees what's happening in the field, it is with the eyes of an electron microscope. When you add to that vast experience with different field sites around the globe, it means that she is one of a handful of scientists who deserve to be on this committee,” said Ron Dorn, who served as Cerveny’s adviser and is a professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “She is a valued colleague, and it warms my heart that she has been given this recognition. Her understanding of the issues of rock decay is world-class and state-of-the-art.”

Over the course of her career, Cerveny has been a vocal advocate for bringing more research into community college settings and to populations of students who may be the first in their families to receive any kind of higher education. 

“I am a first-generation Hispanic student and the only person in my family to attend college or achieve an advanced degree. Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning faculty helped to build my intellectual confidence and prepare me for the rigors of the discipline of geography,” Cerveny said. “I credit Dr. Ron Dorn for his support during my time in the school and his continued support into my professional life. My mentor is a true colleague and a valued member of my academic family tree.”

With her new role on the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Geosciences, Cerveny is motivated to use her experiences and perspectives to continue to pay it forward. 

“With a deep respect for local and indigenous communities that developed through serving both the public and academia from my institution, I hope to further the work of the committee on geoheritage efforts through a mindset of inclusion,” she said. “I am enthusiastic about the things I will learn and the amazing colleagues that I will meet while serving on this committee.”

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