“On To the Future (OTF) creates shared joy, and a more certain future, for OTF Scholars, OTF Mentors, and GSA overall. The joy is generated the moment new OTF Scholars step into the GSA Annual Meeting space and begin to recognize what they are a part of …scientifically, personally, and through enduring opportunities to contribute to pressing needs.” —Dr. George H. Davis, GSA Past President.
This year we celebrate the ten-year anniversary of On To the Future, GSA’s diversity initiative that began during the Society’s 125th anniversary year. The program supports students from groups underrepresented in the geosciences to attend GSA Connects by offering partial travel funding, meeting registration, one-year membership, one-to-one mentorship, and special sessions with leadership during the meeting.
Dr. Marjorie Chan, who was instrumental in establishing OTF, reflects: “It’s hard to believe it was a decade ago that the On To the Future program started. I was chair of GSA’s diversity committee, and we saw a need for positive actions to increase diversity in GSA. We were fortunate to have the convergence of a great committee, with the support of Wes Ward (GSA Foundation Board), George Davis (GSA President), GSA staff, and many others. We proposed the OTF program to coincide with GSA’s 125th anniversary, and Wes Ward had the brilliant idea to use the first letters of the anniversary numbers (One Two Five), which we called On To the Future. I crafted the proposal to the GSA Foundation emphasizing the importance of this initiative to the future of GSA, and subsequently, George Davis invited me to present the program to the GSA Council. I distinctly remember turning to GSA division reps during the presentation and saying: ‘You’ve been saving money for a rainy day, and the rainy day is now! You need to open up those purses and spend it on supporting this program if you want to continue having a vital GSA membership in the future.’ The divisions and the Foundation responded positively and OTF was launched.”
Marjorie also recalls an affirming experience from the first OTF cohort, “I asked one of the OTF participants about their experience, and the response was: ‘It has totally changed my perspective and I feel empowered!’ Wow, that was exactly the response we wanted and I knew from that, OTF was destined for success.” Every OTF cohort has had a special and impactful experience at the GSA Annual Meeting. Over the next several months, come back here to read about a number of recent OTF recipients and their experiences.
As we look back in celebration of ten years of OTF, we also look to the future. The impact of OTF extends far beyond the year students participate in the program. Since its inception, more than 700 students have received OTF Scholarships. Many of these recipients have had their academic and career paths shaped by the experience. This large cohort of OTF alumni stay in touch with one another and often, with their mentors, support each other as they continue on their career paths. We are encouraged at the program’s success when some even return as mentors.
Our vision for OTF is superbly expressed by Marjorie: “It is my hope that we will continue to grow and expand OTF because it enriches GSA and is an investment in our future.”
You have the opportunity to double the impact of your gift: a GSA Foundation donor has once again offered a challenge and will match 1-1 every gift made to OTF, up to $10,000, this spring. We hope you will help GSA enrich the geoscience profession and community by investing in the future with support of OTF.