Jenny Nakai, a 2013 On to the Future participant, and later both an OTF mentor and member of GSA’s Diversity in the Geosciences Committee, talks about how she first discovered the OTF program, and how her participation in the program as a volunteer has informed and broadened her commitment to mentorship.
What attracted you to the On To the Future program?
I heard about the On to the Future program through another program that encouraged diversity in the earth sciences. I applied to experience the GSA Annual Meeting and to see how the geology and geophysics community interacted at a geology-focused meeting.
What impact has your participation in the program had on your career in the geosciences?
The primary benefit was meeting new people and enjoying the scientific talks and posters. My interaction with the community eventually led to me sitting on the Diversity in the Geosciences Committee for GSA, which was a rewarding experience. Another benefit of attending a GSA meeting was learning about the interaction between geology and geophysics, and I strengthened my understanding of the connected nature of the two disciplines.
As an OTF participant, how important was the community aspect of your experience?
I think seeing that a group of minority (in many different aspects) students exists at a major scientific meeting is helpful for both the students and other attendees, who can grow accustomed to seeing these students in their professional circles.
How has your experience of the GSA and OTF communities changed or deepened since serving as a mentor?
I tried my best as a mentor to set my mentee up with scientific mentors that I knew personally, and I am grateful to the community for sharing their time with OTF participants. I talked with my mentee about what I did, my experience in grad school, and offered any part of my perspective that I thought could be helpful while projecting a positive outlook. I put a lot of effort into being a mentor, and I think it will help my mentee decide if she would like to pursue the geosciences now that she has more information. I am grateful for my mentors that put the same work into helping me. I think the OTF program is a great way to develop mentor/mentee relationships between scientists and students.
What would you say to someone who is thinking about supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?
The OTF program is focused on providing first-time attendees funding to participate in GSA Annual Meetings. This is an important mechanism for introducing students to the geoscience community, who may not have the opportunity to travel to many scientific meetings. It also helps students in related fields to pursue interdisciplinary opportunities that tie different disciplines together. I know several people who have obtained funding from the OTF program, and they are all engaged and active in the scientific community.
Serving as a mentor is an extremely rewarding experience, and I have pursued other mentorship opportunities as a result of my experience as an OTF mentor.