Toni Burke did not have high expectations about her freshman astronomy class. 

“I chose this course because I needed a science credit and didn’t want to take anything that would be super hard,” said Burke, now a sophomore Psychology major. 

The class she took was ASTR 264: Stars and Galaxies. Students in the course learn about the stellar births and deaths, properties and sequences of stars, stellar clusters, supernovas, cosmos, and much more. 

“I learned so much about the cosmos, I gained a new perspective about my place in the universe,” she says. “Specifically, learning about light years made me realize just how big and just how old the universe is.

“It was really humbling to get a perspective of just how small I am on the grand scale of time,” said Burke.

The class made a significant impact on Burke’s life, even outside of PNW. 

“I absolutely thought about Astronomy outside of class. Every time I looked up at the night sky, I thought about the things I was learning,” Burke said. “I even engaged my family members with the subjects I was learning about. My in-laws and I spent an evening stargazing one night as I pointed out constellations I had been learning about.”

Though the class was completely distanced at the time, Burke admired the passion her professor had for teaching students about Astronomy. 

Burke had limited interaction with her professor, aside from a few emails.  

“I think it was a shame I didn’t get a chance to know him better, because he really seemed like he wanted to engage with his students,” said Burke. “His comments on my papers often encouraged me to think more or look at things from a new perspective.”

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who needs a science credit or just wants to expand their idea of life,” she said. “[Astronomy] made me realize that the decisions I make today are so important, because I have no idea if there will be a tomorrow.”