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Ganiyat Shodunke at GSA ConnectsThanks to the support of donors, Ganiyat Shodunke was able to attend GSA Connects, where she had a great experience meeting and interacting with people, learning, and getting a chance to further professional and personal development. 

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience? 

I would say that networking and mentorship were the most impactful aspect of my OTF experience. The people I met, including my mentor, helped me to better understand how my Ph.D. program is a great asset for me and how to pilot it to what I want it to be.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

I remember the “welcomingness” of people I met. I got to chat with some professors and learn more about their research and life experiences. I also met an OU alumnus with whom I had a long chat about research.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor? 

One of the main reasons I was drawn to apply to be a part of the OTF program was the mentoring opportunity. I got matched with an amazing mentor, Dr. Kathryn Murdock, who is a geophysicist like me and who has been through a Ph.D. program. She reviewed my résumé professionally and gave me useful feedback on things to make it better. Kathryn also gave me advice on the many opportunities that a Ph.D. program in geophysics has to offer. I was encouraged to explore other divisions of GSA, such as the Environmental and Engineering Division (EED). Before this, I had only been a member of the Geophysics Division or Energy Division. It was great to have an opportunity to sit and have a chat with a professional in a safe and encouraging space.

I would definitely sign up to be a mentor. I am willing to share my experience with fellow students, especially undergraduate and graduate students, who are currently navigating a path that I have previously taken. I am hopeful that they might find some of my experiences useful as they navigate their student career.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF? 

I am grateful for the donors who made my first GSA annual conference possible. Without their support, the possibility of me attending would have been low. I had a great experience meeting and interacting with people, learning, and getting a chance to further professional and personal development. Donors make this possible. Although I didn’t present at the conference this year, I met a lot of other OTF scholars who gave technical talks and presented posters about their research all because of the support provided to them by the OTF program.

 

Lauren and Hannah Heerschap in the fieldBrunton is now a family-owned, geologist-owned— and, for the first time, woman-owned—Wyoming small business.

The Brunton brand is known and sold worldwide, especially in the geology community where a pocket transit of any model is simply called “a Brunton.” The Geological Society of America is eager to continue working with the company under its new ownership. In Lauren Heerschap, GSA has a true partner with deep connections: she received a GSA graduate student research grant while working on her master’s degree, and participated in a GSA Penrose Conference in Taiwan. She became a student member of GSA in 2002 and has attended, presented, and worked at many GSA annual and section meetings since then.

Read our article in GSA Today’s May edition for the full story and be sure to check out the special offer from Brunton available to all GSA members.

Caption: Brunton’s Lauren Heerschap gets help from the littlest field assistant: Hannah, Lauren and David’s daughter, is “now too heavy to carry for miles up into the mountains—she has to hike it herself!”

Jordan AllenAt GSA Connects, Jordan Allen was matched with a mid-career scientist working in academia as a mentor. This mentor helped Jordan navigate the world of science from a different perspective.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

This was my first time attending GSA. I really appreciated OTF for matching me with a mentor for the meeting. This process allowed me to meet a mid-career scientist working in academia. I learned so much about my mentor’s story and how to navigate the world of science from a different perspective. Dr. Suarez came to my poster to learn about my research. She also invited me to her poster. I made sure to reach out to her after the conference and we will continue to keep in touch.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

I will remember the new young and motivated scientists I met during the conference. We all have very different backgrounds and interests, some wanted to pursue careers in policy, academia, industry, and entrepreneurship. I think one of the things that I took away from our discussions and interactions was that we all wanted to make a difference in our field of study as well as in the world. I have no doubt that we will.

I also will remember attending the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee meeting. I thought the meeting went well and there were some great ideas. I am looking forward to the action plan set by the committee.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

My mentorship experience was phenomenal. Please provide everyone with a mentor. We all need guidance in some way.

I would love to return and serve as a mentor.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

This experience really gave me the confidence to continue my science journey and complete my Ph.D. I had so much fun talking about my research during the poster session and meeting new people. I also learned about other students’ research. This experience will impact my future through mentorship and networking.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

We need this program. Please provide funding for more students; just give it time and you will see the success of students from OTF.

 

Courtenay Duzet in the fieldBeing a student, Courtenay Duzet sometimes feels that their lack of experience can make it difficult to integrate into the geoscience and research community, but the GSA 2021 community welcomed any and all questions they had and made their input feel wanted.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

Without a doubt, the most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was having a mentor and getting to meet and talk with her throughout the meeting. When I applied, the mentorship aspect was what intrigued me the most, and it did not disappoint. Being able to speak candidly with someone with years of experience in geoscience and research, I feel truly helped me through some tough situations regarding what I wanted to do with my academic career. It was truly a priceless experience and I would be honored to one day repay the favor and serve as a mentor myself.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

I remember how welcoming everyone in the GSA community was. Being a student, I sometimes feel that my lack of experience can make it difficult to integrate into the geoscience and research community, but the GSA 2021 community welcomed any and all questions I had, and made my input feel wanted. In return, I feel that I learned more at GSA than I have at other science conferences.

 

John AkudikeJohn Akudike wants to see more students become professional geoscientists and help resolve geoscience challenges globally. John is excited that OTF is helping make that dream a reality for more students.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was the opportunity GSA afforded me to connect with students and professionals alike, learning about their research and sharing mine too.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

I remember going all-out at GSA 2021. I felt like there were no holds barred as everyone was given equal platform to voice their opinions and each person’s opinion was considered.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

My mentorship experience was awesome! I was matched to my mentor through OTF, and we developed a good professional relationship before finally meeting at the conference.

I look forward to returning to serve as a mentor in the coming years.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

I’m doing my best to maintain the relationships and connections I made through OTF, as I believe together, we can all scale our impacts in the geosciences and beyond.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

The OTF program afforded me the opportunity to attend my first international conference, and for that, I am immensely grateful. With your support, more students’ dreams to become professional geoscientists would be achieved and they would be able to make some impact in the world—helping to resolve geoscience challenges globally.

 

Emily True at GSA Connects 2021Emily True’s career path was honed by her OTF experience, and she now knows what field of geology she wants to do for the rest of her life. Emily is now prepared to finish her undergraduate degree with more focus and confidence. 

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was being able to meet like-minded individuals and find opportunities with these people outside of the conference and in the future.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

My mentorship experience was fantastic! Although it was difficult to get a mentor until right before the conference. Regardless, I ended up with a mentor who was perfect for me in the current position I am in life and my career. We met twice over our time at the GSA conference, and both times, we had invigorating conversations about geology, life, and career paths. I would absolutely consider returning as a mentor once getting a little more life experience.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

OTF helped me narrow down the field of geology that I want to do for the rest of my life. Because of this, I’m able to finish my undergraduate degree with more focus and confidence that I will have a successful future

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

OTF gave me an opportunity to better my future and the trajectory of my career path. Not only did it provide me with networking opportunities, but it also provided me with new knowledge by sitting in the lectures, attending the poster sessions, and having conversations with people I met along the way. Without OTF, I would not have been able to attend this conference and broaden my understanding of the field. I look forward to continuing my involvement in GSA, and I want to thank the past donors who made this experience possible.

 

Fai Chanchai in the field.

Fai Chanchai was intimidated about participating in their first conference, but the OTF program smoothed the path for them to meet new people and openly share their background and experiences.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

As a second-year graduate student, I had never attended any academic conference in person. OTF provided me with an opportunity to participate in GSA 2021 in Portland, Oregon. This experience allowed me to meet and hang out with many interesting scientists outside of academic settings. I made new friends and professional relationships with colleagues in my research field. During the OTF & DEI reception, I made a few friends, and we had fascinating conversations, such as how to challenge scientific ideas to build community and how to open up space for women in science. This excellent opportunity encourages everyone to discuss openly, because we know that OTF represents a safe space where people are welcoming and inclusive of differences and diverse ideas.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

One of many special memories happened when I decided to get lunch with two friends. While we walked to the restaurant, we bumped into our colleagues, and they decided to join our lunch. We ended up with more than ten people at the table, and we had a chance to get to know each other better and form personal connections. For me, this was a beautiful aspect of having an in-person conference, as I had made long-term connections. Perhaps, one day these new friends will become my research collaborators and further our scientific field.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

I was introduced to Nancy Riggs through the OTF mentorship program. She is a strong, impressive, hard-working scientist who also genuinely cares about mentoring. She ensured that I had a great experience during the GSA conference. We met a few times during the conference, and she provided me with guidance and suggestions for my future career in geosciences. I was touched by her informal style of mentoring, and I will continue our relationship in the future. We exchanged contacts and plan to meet for the next GSA meeting in Denver, Colorado. If I have the chance, I will definitely consider returning to be a mentor for future OTF recipients. I highly value mentoring undergraduate students because they are future generations of scientists.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

The OTF program positively impacted me during the GSA meeting. I had opportunities to meet new people and learn new things. I learned so much from oral presentations and posters. The cutting-edge science and research provided me with new perspectives on how to approach my research questions and interpret my study data from different angles. This experience helped me become a better researcher and communicator. I was really inspired by these enthusiastic scientists and excited to continue my graduate school education.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

My first time participating in a conference was intimidating, but the OTF program has smoothed the path for me to meet new people and openly share my background and my own experiences. I hope that the OTF program will continue to support marginalized students so they can continue to have this incredible experience. I am thankful and appreciate this opportunity.

 

Angela Fiorito in the fieldOTF provided a space for students like Angela Fiorito to meet other students who are critically underrepresented in geoscience and connect with each other. Meeting these students helped Angela know that even though they are in the minority, they can still make an impact in geoscience. 

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was being able to attend GSA for the first time in-person. It was incredible to see such a broad scope of poster topics when I walked through the poster exhibit. The other oral presentations were informative, and I liked watching talks for topics that I have never studied. The OTF activities were great because I was able to meet so many fellow students and learn about their research.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

What I remember most from GSA 2021 is when I presented an oral report on my research, “Preliminary Conodont Biodiversity Data from the Givetian–Frasnian ‘Frasnes Event’ Interval in the northern Antelope Range Nevada, USA.” That was the first time I have ever given an oral report at such a large venue, and I was quite nervous. Knowing that I had some fellow OTF recipients in the audience made it easier to present, and I enjoyed watching their presentations as well.

What was your mentorship experience like?

The mentor program was my favorite part of OTF. My mentor was quite helpful and personable. I told him about how I want to transition from geology to GIS and he explained the different types of jobs available in GIS. He also gave networking tips and introduced me to some of his colleagues who were at the meeting.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

The OTF program was a great opportunity for me to attend GSA and present my research. I met a bunch of fellow graduate students from different schools and my mentor was very helpful in giving me job-hunting tips. After completing the OTF program, I feel more confident in my ability to start my career after graduation.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

OTF is an incredible opportunity for minority students who are critically underrepresented in geoscience to connect with each other, and know that even though we are in the minority, we can still make an impact in our field. If not for OTF, many students would not have had the funding to present at GSA. If possible, please consider donating to OTF and similar programs.

 

GSA Foundation Death Valley Rendezvous, looking at the Kingston Peak Formation with trip leader, Darrel Cowan.Death Valley, California, Rendezvous.

Who do you picture when you hear the word “geoscientist”? For many, their image does not match who they see every day in the mirror and in their communities. It is no secret that geoscience is one of the least diverse of all the scientific fields. GSA is aware of this disparity and has a long history of working to address it. One of the more recent ways the Society has endeavored to expand representation in the geosciences is through the On To the Future (OTF) program, which began during GSA’s 125th celebration at the 2013 annual meeting. Since then, over 650 students have received OTF scholarships. 

Recognizing the importance of the OTF program, a long-time, generous GSAF donor is committed to making sure other people don’t run into the same problems she did when trying to become a geologist. Challenging fellow members, she will match every gift made to On To the Future one-to-one, up to $10,000, between now and 30 June. Please consider making a gift today to provide students with an On To the Future scholarship. Every gift helps students become a part of the geoscience community with others like them and broadens the image of who a geoscientist is.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing the experiences of several OTF students who attended GSA 2021 in Portland, Oregon. Bookmark this page and check back every Thursday through June for a new post. The first, from Yueyi Che, is available below right now.

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Yueyi Che presenting at GSA Connects 2021Yueyi Che says that receiving the acceptance letter from OTF was one of her happiest moments, and as an OTF alumna, she is grateful for the support of the OTF community even after GSA Connects.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

My most vivid memory from GSA 2021 was the moment I spoke into the microphone when I was on stage giving my first oral presentation. My voice sounded a bit high-pitched with occasionally a little giggle because I was shy and excited at the same time. The voice from the microphone sounded just like me, but it sounded so unfamiliar to me. At that moment, I realized that I have never associated the voice from a podium with the sound of a young woman. I realized how deep the stereotype of a scientist was embedded even within myself. I guess that is why we need to bring more diverse people to the podium. We need to hear their voices more, so we will be used to listening and sharing different perspectives. I think that is what a meeting is all about, bringing voices from around the world together to generate new ideas.

What was your mentorship experience like? Would you consider returning to serve as a mentor?

The mentorship was the most impactful OTF experience I had. I was very lucky to be paired up with my mentor, Benjamin, who is a postdoc at Columbia University. Benjamin happens to work for the Columbia professor I was planning to apply to for Ph.D. programs that fall, so he gave me a lot of insight and advice on applying to Columbia, which was incredibly helpful during my application process. GSA 2021 was my first in-person GSA meeting and it was quite overwhelming. I also felt lonely when I came to the meeting because I knew very few people. Meeting OTF students and my mentor was my emotional anchor and provided me with a sense of community at the GSA meeting. Benjamin also encouraged me to pursue my interests outside of academia and inspired me to have a healthy work-life balance, which was critical for the following months of applying for grad school. I would not have been so smooth in navigating the meeting and applying for grad school without the help of OTF. In the future, I would love to return as a mentor and give back to the program. I want to guide more underrepresented students through the door and become their resource in and outside of GSA.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

Thanks to my OTF mentor, I had more confidence and resources in applying for graduate school. In the long run, my mentor also helped me reduce my imposter syndrome and anxiety about being in academia. I also got to talk to peers with different backgrounds during the reception. Seeing diverse representation in the room allowed me to imagine how great it could be in a more inclusive geoscience community. The reception gave me a lot of hope and motivated me to get more involved in DEI work in the future. I learned about the value of not only representing my community, but also being a strong ally of others who need help.

What would you like to say to donors thinking about supporting programs like OTF?

I would like to tell the donors that OTF is truly an impactful program that is worthy of your support. Receiving the acceptance letter from OTF was one of my happiest moments and I hope more students can have the wonderful experience that I had. Now as an OTF alumna, I am grateful to be a part of this community even after GSA. Your donation can help this community keep growing for years to come and benefit many more beyond the GSA meeting.

 

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