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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.

photo of Joseph NolanJoseph Nolan, a Ph.D. student at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, shares with us his experiences as a participant and mentor for On To the Future, and how the program has deepened his commitment to the geosciences and to GSA.

What attracted you to the On To the Future program?

Originally, I was introduced to the On To the Future (OTF) program by a professor who wanted me to be involved in GSA and to experience a conference first hand. Like many undergraduates, I was unable to afford travel to a conference on my own. OTF allowed me the opportunity to travel to a conference and begin networking into my career.

What impact has your participation in the program had on your career in the geosciences?

I have always been passionate about seeing more representation of other backgrounds and lifestyles in STEM fields. During my application and acceptance process, I was expecting a one-and-done grant. I was blown away that I was committing to an entire community of extraordinary individuals. This experience was so rewarding and invigorating that I contacted Tahlia Bear almost immediately upon returning home to be a mentor.

Not only have I had the privilege of meeting so many great people, I have learned so much about being a mentor for all sorts of individuals, especially those different from myself. I have not taken these lessons lightly. Since starting with OTF, I have met so many wonderful students from across America, and last year had the opportunity to meet an entire group from Puerto Rico.

I was able to hear firsthand the paths and trials these wonderful people went through in order to earn their degrees. We did a story-board diagram, which detailed many of these paths from the past up through their long-term goals. These students had so many things in common—born in a similar area, of similar socioeconomic status, etc.—yet they all had very different pasts and goals. That experience really showed me that a mentor needs to look beyond the obvious similarities of students and look for the differences in order to help them individually. OTF has prepared me to be a better support system, not just my students, but also my family and friends interested in getting back into college.

As an OTF participant, how important was the community aspect of your experience?

The community aspect was the most important part of my experience. It is great coming back conference after conference to hear how students have grown, as well as to meet new students with new challenges. It creates a feeling that we are not alone in our struggles. Tahlia and her team have been supportive and passionate about every student they work with. I am not someone who really participates in large communal activities—it’s just not my thing—but I feel like OTF is a second family. We all learn from each other, support each other, and now communicate semi-regularly through the OTF forums.

How has your experience of the GSA and OTF communities changed or deepened since serving as a mentor?

Professorship has been a lifelong goal; I love teaching and mentoring. I never feel more fulfilled as a person, both career-wise and emotionally, as I do when I see a student succeed in reaching their personal goals. OTF has provided a place and source of knowledge I can use to hone those mentoring and guidance skills. Despite my own goals and passions, I have always been uncomfortable when starting a mentoring relationship with anyone. Now I look forward to it.

What would you say to someone who is thinking about supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?

There is simply a plethora of groups out there who claim and tout all the merits and positive effects of their programs; many fail to produce, and many more underproduce. However, OTF has built a remarkable and successful program developed around inclusivity, education, and support. When something works it works, but unfortunately even the most successful programs in the world need a little help. OTF teaches students and mentors how to be successful, which in turn helps us teach others to also be successful. This amazing group of people are touching lives and creating lasting effects in our communities. Please considering helping any way you can so we can keep paying these lessons forward.


The Geological Society of America Foundation is pleased to announce the creation of the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship Program Endowment, made possible through the generosity of Dr. David Lowell, renowned field-based mineral exploration geologist.

The $500,000 contribution establishes an umbrella under which GSA’s existing field camp scholarship programs will reside, as well as creates structure for new named field camp scholarships. Read the full press release here.


photo of Margaret EggersThere are many communities of support in GSA. Recently, you read the stories and inspirations that drive the GSA Foundation’s trustees to give back to their science and the Society as volunteers and donors.

Over the next weeks, we look forward to sharing with you the testimonials of members who give back to the Society as mentors. GSA mentors provide critical aid to the Society’s student members, offering their wisdom and experience, and giving feedback and career advice. Whether as an OTF mentor or participant in the Women in Geology Career Pathways Reception at the annual meeting, or at one of our drop-in or résumé mentor sessions, these individuals forge relationships that support emerging geoscientists.


For Margaret Eggers, GSA’s Councilor, past–GSAF Trustee and Board Chair, and principal at Eggers Environmental Inc., serving as an OTF mentor has been rewarding, allowing her to share her experience and perspective, while learning more about the challenges that are facing students and early career geoscientists.

What attracted you to serve as a mentor for the On To the Future program? How would you describe your experience?

The enthusiasm of the first group of mentors was infectious. I wasn’t sure I had the right experience to be a mentor, but was encouraged by the experiences of colleagues who jumped at the chance to mentor the first OTF students. I have now mentored at least one student for the last several OTF cohorts. Each student seems to connect with different parts of my work history. Different discussions and perspectives resonate with each individual student, and seem to be helpful to them in figuring out which path is best for them. It’s been a surprisingly enjoyable experience for me personally—the best volunteer activities seem to unexpectedly have their own reward.

How has being an OTF mentor impacted your engagement with the geosciences?

It’s made me more conscious of the challenges today’s students and early career geoscientists face, and to really focus on what can we do to make sure this career, that so many of us have enjoyed over the decades, is available and viable to those just starting out.

How has it deepened your experience of GSA as a community?

It’s been really touching to see seasoned geologists with long careers reaching out to our next generation of geologists. The combination of providing the benefits of experience of a long career, with the unexpected benefit of being taken back in time to when we were all in the shoes of these young scientists today, is a win-win for everyone. By talking with and listening to new geologists, and giving tips and advice that we wish we could have had at that stage, there’s lots that build community across the entire age range of GSA membership. You really see a community connecting senior members who possess a whole range of career experience with early career folks who may not have access to senior career professionals.

What would you say to someone considering supporting OTF, either as a mentor or a donor?

Just DO IT! As a donor, it’s a wonderful way to jump-start a student into a career we love. As a mentor, you don’t realize how much your experience can provide perspective to someone just starting out. Yes your experience is different; everyone’s is. But talking about choices you made—the good, the bad, the confusing—shows that there are options that a student might not have thought of, or considered.


photo of Tom HolzerTom Holzer, GSA Foundation Trustee and Board Treasurer, as well as a Consulting Professor in both the Departments of Geological and Environmental Sciences and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, shares with us what inspires his gifts of time and resources to the Foundation.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?
I am paying back a debt that accumulated while I was building my career. I appreciate now more than ever the time that senior colleagues devoted to GSA and the Foundation that guaranteed a smoothly running organization that provided valuable support to me and other members.

What motivates you to give to GSA?
A significant part of the GSA budget goes to support student research, professional development, and contributes to rational public policy. All of these are important to the future health of the geosciences.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?
Think about what matters to you professionally and whether those interests align with those of GSA. If you are unable to give now, think about a bequest.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?
Thank you. I am impressed by your generosity of both time and money. It has been a pleasure getting to know you and working with you to support the Society.


Jack Shroder, GSAF Trustee, Research Coordinator at the Center for Afghanistan Studies, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Nebraska Omaha, shares how his desire to see the geosciences prosper inspires his service to the Foundation.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?

The flip answer is that being able to schmooze with people who can give scholarship and other monies to GSA to help students is right up my alley. A more measured response would be that I enjoy being able to hear what is going on in the discipline as a whole. This fulfills a certain hunger to see that the discipline that I started to learn when I was so young (picking up quartz crystals in outcrops and outwash in Vermont in my childhood, Boy Scout merit badges) prospers; the fact that my beloved discipline actually appears to have a good future pleases me.

What motivates you to give to GSA?

It seems to have started back in early graduate school, when I could foresee that I wanted eventually to be able to have enough financial wherewithal to donate to the discipline after I retired, even if retirement was going to be after a fairly low-paying salary as a college faculty member. One possible way to do this, I thought, might be to purchase antiquarian geology materials if they were cheap enough and I had a little extra money to pay for them. This enabled me to haunt old bookstores in whatever city I was traveling in all over the world on my many geology field trips in the United States, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In short order, in fact, I started to find real antiquarian treasures, so that eventually I worked my way up to the likes of Lyell, Hutton, Smith, and lots of other names we all know. I sold that collection recently for enough monies to fund the Shroder Mass Movement Award.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?

You could give your money in a variety of ways or to a lot of different organizations, but your donation to GSA can be followed from donation, through student application, to recipient, so that you can see where it goes or what it is being used for.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?

Donations of time or money to GSA seem to give you more “geo-bang” for your buck than elsewhere. After all, where else can you see your hard-earned dollar go so directly to students in need?



photo of Jeff OslundJeff Oslund, Vice-Chair of the GSA Foundation Board of Trustees and retired manager of Geoscience Career Development and Recruiting at Anadarko Petroleum, shares with us his belief in GSA as a comprehensive society capable of connecting geoscientists of different backgrounds to address the issues facing our world today.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?

I know how important it is to give back to the profession that inspired me to get involved with the search for much needed energy resources for society. The GSA Foundation is an entity that helps to raise funds to provide training for future geoscientists and to fund research for all geoscientists who seek to improve living conditions for future societies, whether it is energy resources, environment, natural hazards, water resources, government policy related to geoscience, etc. I am personally involved because I believe GSA is the society that has the people and resources to connect industry, academia, and government in order to address all facets of geoscience.

What motivates you to give to GSA?

I give to GSA because I have been fortunate to be in a profession that allowed me to apply my geoscience education and make a decent living in doing so. I also know that GSA is striving to be a society that embraces a diversity of backgrounds and provides funding for education and research that furthers careers in all areas of geoscience.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?

Please look at the large number of geoscientists in GSA who represent all ages, cultures, schools, and research topics at every scale—from nanoparticles to planets. The students doing the research of today will be the successful geoscientists of tomorrow in academia, industry, and government agencies. The professors doing research with these students are tackling topics that affect our world both now, and into the future—whether it is energy resources, water resources, searching for rare earth metals, natural hazards prediction and mitigation, or planetary exploration.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?

Thank you for all you do to better the one society that strives to connect geoscientists to one another across industry, academia, and government to further the education and research that will help geoscientists continue to support society in so many critical ways.


photo of Judy ParrishJudy Totman Parrish, GSA Foundation Trustee and Professor Emerita at the University of Idaho, shares with us why she gives so generously of her time and resources to the Society.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?

The GSA Foundation is a fully functioning and effective foundation that supports GSA’s programs. It is a pleasure to serve the Foundation and be a part of developing future resources for that support.

What motivates you to give to GSA?

GSA is a premier geological society that has strong and diverse programs to serve students. Its journals are among the top ones in our discipline, and the membership has a strong appreciation for the continued value of fieldwork, as well as the development and application of new technologies. The meetings are accessible, rigorous, and friendly.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?

GSA is one place where you really can see the impact of your giving.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?

Thank you, and keep up the good work!

Rex Buchanan, GSAF Trustee, Director Emeritus of the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS), and current Director of the Consortium to Study Trends in Seismicity at KGS, explains how his desire to give back to the Society and the geosciences inspires his support.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?

It’s easy to write a check, but I think it’s also important to donate time. And to be honest, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the other GSAF Trustees, the staff (both at GSA and GSAF), and GSA members that I might not have met otherwise. It’s a great group of folks!

What motivates you to give to GSA?

The discipline of geology has been a welcoming professional home to me. I’ve developed relationships in the community that I value highly. Supporting GSA is one way to pay back the discipline for what it’s given me. This is also a challenging time for science and scientific societies, and that makes support of GSA more important than ever.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?

GSA provides all sorts of highly visible services, like meetings, field trips, and publications. It also serves other functions, like representing the geosciences on Capitol Hill through its Policy Office and the Congressional Science Fellow program, which are less apparent but equally important. Those activities benefit all geoscientists and deserve our support.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?

In my time as a GSAF Trustee, I’ve been impressed by the incredible level of commitment that many GSA members have made to the organization, both in terms of time and money. GSA supporters believe in the role of GSA and the geosciences, and they make that support tangible.

Rex Buchanan Rex Buchanan in field
Photo on left, credit: David McKinney; © 2010 The University of Kansas/Office of University Relations.


Lisa RossbacherLisa A. Rossbacher, GSAF Trustee, President Emerita and Professor Emerita of Geology at Humboldt State University, as well as President Emerita at Southern Polytechnic State University, shares how the opportunities she received throughout her career inspire her to invest in the future of the geosciences through GSA.

What inspires you to give so freely of your time serving as a GSAF Trustee?

I know that the opportunities that I have had—in my education, in research, and in professional development—are the result of work that others have accomplished in the past, both in science and in service to our profession. Geologists, more than most people, appreciate the concept of connections through time. I feel that we all have a responsibility to be part of this professional timeline and to help others learn and grow, just as we have benefitted ourselves.

What motivates you to give to GSA?

GSA provides many examples of how the organization helps the profession—and particularly students, who represent our collective future. When I graduated from college 44 years ago, my parents gave me a knapsack, a Swiss army knife, and a membership to GSA. The knapsack wore out years ago, but the knife still opens, in spite of all the peanut butter and cheese in the hinges, and I am still a member of GSA. I was very honored to have been elected a GSA Fellow in 2010. I feel a long-term commitment to supporting the organization and its good work.

What would you say to others thinking about making a financial commitment to the Society?

Contributing to GSA through the Foundation is one of the most direct and effective ways for anyone to support science, scientists, and the future of our planet. Donors have dozens of funds to choose to support, including lecture series, scholarships, awards, field camps, a variety of research areas, travel grants, and “greatest needs of GSA,” which is where I direct my giving.

What would you like to say to other people who donate their time and resources to GSA?

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Organizations like GSA are a critical way in which young people are supported and learn—and more experienced professionals can connect, grow, and give back to the discipline in ways that support careers, society, discovery, and our shared future on this planet—and potentially other planets.


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