Claudia Mora, past–GSA President, former GSA Councilor, former member of GSA’s Diversity in the Geosciences Committee, current On To the Future mentor, and Deputy Division Leader, Chemistry Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, shares how serving as a mentor helps her see the future of our profession through the eyes of a different generation.
What attracted you to serve as a mentor for the On To the Future program? How would you describe your experience?
My first GSA meeting (1981!) had a tremendous impact on my desire to be a professional and my understanding about what that life might look like. I grew up in a household where women weren’t expected to work outside the home, and I didn’t have many role models to help me imagine what a professional career might look like. Sitting in the classroom, as one of four women in a cohort of 45 geology students didn’t help much, either. Nothing captures the buzz of a professional community quite like a large professional meeting. The GSA Annual Meetings deepened my understanding of what professionals do, how they interact, and how opportunities could be found or created. Seeing myself as part of that community was tremendously empowering and influential. When I interact with OTF students, I see the same cloud of uncertainty lifting, the same bright light of so much possibility shine on their future.
How has being an OTF mentor impacted your engagement with the geosciences?
I have been coming to GSA meetings for almost 40 years, and still find them a gratifying combination of new ideas and familiar faces. Serving as a mentor helps me to see the meeting—and the future of our profession—through the eyes of a different generation. I love to learn what scientific and societal challenges motivate their hard work and what they hope to achieve. These students are the future of our science and they will bring different experiences and ways of conceptualizing information to our society. GSA has always grown and evolved with its membership. Serving as an OTF mentor gives me a glimpse of that change as it is happening.
How has it deepened your experience of GSA as a community?
GSA is exceptional in its balance between the “professional” and the “society.” GSA continues to be a society that offers opportunities across the career and geoscience spectrum, from student to retiree and from applied science to basic research. More than that, it creates opportunities, like OTF, for members to be involved across disciplines and generations. I love the fact that OTF grew from a grassroots effort. It really drives home the fact that the ultimate engine of GSA is its members. Working together, there is much we can do for our science and each other.
What would you say to someone considering supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?
Just do it! Each of us, at some time and at some level, has greatly benefitted from community support. It may have come from an individual (as time or money), alumni, as corporate sponsorship, or as federal research and educational funding. That support helped us achieve our goals, to gain and excel in our profession, to be able to support ourselves and our families. So, I strongly believe it is incumbent on us to pay it forward, generously and personally. There is no downside to supporting OTF, as a mentor or a donor. Everyone wins!