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Cissy Ming in the fieldIn spite of ongoing precautions due to COVID, Cissy Ming’s field camp at Penn State University rounded out her geoscience studies and helped her gain experience in some of the new technologies that geoscientists use to study the Earth.

Where did you attend field camp?

I attended field camp at Penn State University. Over the duration of field camp, I lived in State College.

How did COVID-19 affect your experience of field camp?

Due to ongoing university rules, the course was mostly delivered online with several field trips around State College. The lessons focused more on software skills than teaching field geology techniques. Unfortunately, we were not able to travel to the usual field camp destinations in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah. Social distancing regulations also limited the field locations we could visit in-person because the department needed to transport the class on two coach buses.

What did receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship mean to you?

The cost of tuition alone was nearly $6,000, which would have eliminated nearly all of my personal savings. Going into graduate school, I hoped to maintain my savings as an emergency fund and source of money to pay the costs of living before I received my first paycheck. Neither of my parents are employed and I have a younger brother who is approaching college age, so I did not have substantial family resources to fund field camp. The generosity of GSA donors made it possible for me to fully engage with the field camp experience without worrying about my financial situation. Given that I was chosen to receive the scholarship out of a large applicant pool, I feel honored that the selection committee believed in my potential as a geoscientist and recognized my academic efforts.

What did that experience teach you about the geosciences, yourself, and your future career?

I learned about some of the ways that geoscientists use new technologies to study the Earth. Prior to college, I perceived geologists as doing nearly all of their work in the field and regularly embarking on outdoor adventures in rugged terrain. In terms of personal development, I learned that I could still gain a lot from an experience that did not fit all my initial expectations.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

The short turnaround times for assignments pushed me to focus and optimize my schedule so I could keep up with the workload. I also had the opportunity to visit sites that were new to me and learn from faculty who I never interacted with prior to field camp. I gained geologic mapping and remote sensing interpretation skills not covered elsewhere in Penn State’s geosciences curriculum.

In your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Field camp rounds out the experience of upper level geosciences majors, offering unique opportunities to apply their classroom learning in novel contexts. No amount of lecturing can replace the benefits of an intensive, applications-based course.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Despite the importance of field experience for aspiring geoscientists, field camp is often a substantial financial burden. Ideally, lack of money should not stop students from realizing their educational goals.

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