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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.

 

A lifelong commitment to promoting young geoscientists is a passion for a couple who met early in their geophysics careers.

When Carol and Seth Stein crossed paths at the California Institute of Technology in the late 1970s, Carol was an undergraduate whose brother shared an office with fellow grad student, Seth. One of the first women to receive a degree in geophysics at Caltech, Carol explained that at the time, most computing was done in a computing center: “You handed in your cards and waited an hour.” Those hours allowed time for the two young geoscientists to get acquainted, although it wasn’t until Seth was working on his post-doc and Carol went to grad school, that the two started dating. Seth took Carol on her first backpacking trip in the Sierras; with smiles, they still recall the bear who went to great lengths to devour their tree-stashed food in Yosemite.

Now married 39 years, the Steins are grateful to have benefitted from enormous encouragement early in their training. Both are esteemed geophysicists: a professor in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Carol has been an editor for AGU’s Eos, is a GSA Fellow, and served as chair of GSA’s Geophysics and Geodynamics Division. Seth, William Deering Professor of Geological Sciences at Northwestern University, has received prestigious medals and awards from GSA, AGU, EGU, and the Royal Astronomical Society. He has served as scientific director of UNAVCO and visiting senior scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Much of their careers has been spent working side-by-side, maintaining the scientific integrity that sometimes means brutal honesty and vigorous articulation of differing perspectives, while recognizing that scientific disagreement and spirited discussion did not translate to animosity in their personal life and family. This understanding has allowed for an unusual extent of gratifying scientific work together.

For all of their shared work and interests, their differences contributed to rewarding scientific collaboration. Although each one’s greatest research interest is in plate tectonics, Carol was trained as a marine geophysicist, and Seth’s training was heavy in mathematics and physics. Carol describes her husband as more process oriented, while Seth values her field-based background. The couple has found it “very useful to bring different ways of thinking about the world” into their shared work. They learned to appreciate the value of jointly looking for a solution, rather than one or the other being right, and carried this guiding principle over from work to their home lives.

For the last decade, the Steins’ vacations around Lake Superior led to extensive research on the 2,000-mile-long Midcontinent Rift that underlies the lake and is responsible for much of the region’s beauty and growth. As their work focused on this major feature of North American geology, their involvement with GSA increased. Although the Steins have both been heavily involved in other organizations, the greatest overlap between them is with the Society. With this new project, they started attending GSA’s annual meeting together and discovered many things they enjoyed. Seth appreciates GSA as a “human-scaled entity.” For instance, he often meets GSA officers and leadership sitting next to him at technical sessions.

During Carol’s service as chair of the Society’s Geophysics and Geodynamics Division, she started the division’s best student presentation awards based on talks and posters at the annual meeting: “It’s a way of acknowledging that this is very important. It’s saying ‘We really value our young people.’” Now, Carol and Seth are generously giving back as a couple through the Seth and Carol Stein Early Career Award in Geophysics and Geodynamics. The Steins are passionate about encouraging and supporting the next generation of scientists and these efforts are an important part of what they do together.

If you are interested in learning how you can help the next generation of geoscientists thrive and flourish in your footsteps, please contact Debbie Marcinkowski at (303) 357-1047 or dmarcinkowski@geosociety.org. We are grateful for those in a position to give back like the Steins, and we are pleased to help you find the right fit for your interests.


Carol and Seth Stein, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, 2014
Carol and Seth Stein, Arches National Park, 2019

Captions (left to right): Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (above the Midcontinent Rift), 2014; Arches National Park, 2019.

Rayann Rehwinkel in the fieldRayann Rehwinkel was refreshed in her love of geology at field camp after spending the last year stuck inside.

Where did you attend field camp? 

Wasatch-Uinta Field Camp in Park City, Utah

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

Due to COVID-19, I missed a lot of field experiences in my courses prior to field camp. Camp was really my first big field experience creating my own projects. There was definitely a learning curve for most of us in transferring online learning to in-person geology, but the experience and help of all the faculty definitely helped to overcome that.

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

I am extremely grateful for having received this scholarship. Because of it, I was able to attend field camp without having to worry about how I would pay for both camp and my typical living expenses while away from work for 6+ weeks. It also helped me to better prepare for my learning by being able to afford supplies for camp.

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

Field camp, for me, really solidified my passion for geology. After not having had much hands-on or field experience due to COVID-19 moving classes online, it was definitely hard to find the same enjoyment and motivation to learn as I had previously. Being able to have an in-person, immersive experience really brought back that sense of enjoyment. It also showed me that I am capable of pursuing a career in geology and in both learning new things and synthesizing things I have already learned to real-world application.

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

One thing that really stood out to me about my field camp experience was the people I met. Meeting so many people from different places who share the same interest and excitement for geology created a really great atmosphere. I also grew closer to my peers from my own school, too. To me, these connections and friendships were the most memorable part of my experience and will likely lead to new opportunities down the road as we all move into further education and/or careers.

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

I think field camp is really an important part of learning geology. It brought together so many concepts for me from different parts of geology; so it really shows how even though subjects of classes may be separated when we learn them, real geology takes all aspects into account to get the full picture of what’s going on in an area of study. While you may think you understand a concept when reading about it in a textbook, there isn’t really anything equal to seeing the geology firsthand.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

I think that it is important to support these opportunities because the experience is so important to synthesizing course materials and preparing one for an actual geoscience career. Because of this, I think it is important that all who want to attend a field camp have an equal opportunity to do so without having to worry about how they will be able to make ends meet.

 

Lauren Livers in the fieldLauren Livers’ field camp experience was the culmination of her undergraduate study and helped her bring together everything she has learned over the last four years and apply it in a field setting.

Where did you attend field camp? 

I attended field camp at four locations around Alaska: Fairbanks, Healy, Red Rock Canyon, and Limestone Gap in the Talkeetna Mountains.

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

Unlike in typical years, we were unable to hire a cook due to COVID-19. Instead we were in charge of cooking all meals for ourselves. As we were usually exhausted from long days, this meant eating a lot of Mountain House and pasta!

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

Receiving the scholarship allowed me to buy the hiking and camping gear I needed for the variable and sometimes severe Alaskan weather. I was especially appreciative of the high-quality hiking shoes I bought that kept my feet safe and dry during even the longest, wettest days.

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

During field camp, I learned so much about working and living as a functioning group. There were a total of 12 students and 3 instructors involved in the field camp, and we all worked hard to come together as a team in order to have the best possible learning experience. I also got acquainted with many of the environmental challenges that come with mapping in Alaska. This includes, but is not limited to snow in July, rain water in our mapping tablets, sudden thunderstorms, and a ridiculous amount of mosquitoes. I learned that even with the myriad of challenges and difficulties, I really love fieldwork and I hope to be able to do more in the future.

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

Attending field camp gave me the opportunity to experience flying in a two-person plane and camping for 2.5 weeks completely in the wilderness. I also learned how to use StraboSpot and a Jacob’s Staff, both things that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. The camp really solidified my ability to use a Brunton as well.

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

Field camp is really important! Writing our final report on Limestone Gap, Alaska, forced me to use skills from all four years of my bachelor’s degree along with the new things I learned while mapping. This showed me how much I’ve learned over the years and it felt great to be able to bring it all together into a final project.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Even though field camp is so important, it is really difficult to be able to go. Not only is the tuition expensive on its own, but the gear that students need in order to have a safe camp experience can be overwhelming. My field camp was over the course of almost two months. This made getting a job this summer really difficult, which put an additional financial strain on me. Some of my fellow students had to take time off of their full-time jobs or leave their families for the duration of the camp. All of these factors make field camp out of reach for some students. It is only through the generous support of groups and individuals that these students are able to attend. It is important that all geo-students have the opportunity to put what they’ve learned in the classroom to the test in the field!

 

Lauren Breederland in the field
Lauren Breederland’s field camp experience showed her how much she loves fieldwork and inspired her to make it a part of her future studies and career path.

Where did you attend field camp? 

I attended field camp at the Wheaton College Science Station in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

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

Our field camp became a ‘COVID bubble’ of our own. This meant we avoided high-traffic areas to the best of our ability, and we did not go into town. For the most part, however, we were able to participate in almost all of the normal field camp activities, which I am very thankful for!

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

Receiving the J. David Lowell field camp scholarship meant that I was able to attend field camp without as much of the financial burden that is caused by taking a summer-long course, and paying for field camp instead of spending the summer working to earn money. I am very thankful to have received the field camp scholarship, as it lifted a lot of financial pressure for me and my family.

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

Over the course of my summer field camp, I learned so much about what it looks like to conduct field geology, how to use a Brunton compass effectively, how to place myself on a topographic map, and how to create a geologic map by interpreting the rock outcrops in the field area. I also learned how to create a measured section, a weathered section, and cross-sections of roadcuts and outcrops across the Black Hills. From my field camp experience, I learned that I like doing fieldwork! I would like to have a component of fieldwork in my future career. As I am currently applying to graduate schools, I am looking for advisors who incorporate an aspect of fieldwork into their research.

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

By attending field camp, I was able to learn field geology in the Black Hills of South Dakota. This was a new state and area for me, so it was a really cool experience! We were also able to go on a week-long field trip to Wyoming where we got to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, as well as Devil’s Tower National Monument on a separate trip. It was such a special and unique experience to have as a class! We got to see so many cool natural features of God’s creation and have fun exploring together as a class!

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

After experiencing field camp myself, I believe that it is very important for geoscience students to experience field camp! My classmates and I were able to learn a lot about what we might want in a future career through our experience.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Field camp is expensive and time-consuming for students to attend over the summer. However, it is extremely important for students to experience a summer field camp during college. In order to make it more affordable to attend field camp, students like me are so thankful when individuals financially support field camp scholarships!

 

Alexandra Banks in a rock formationAs a non-traditional student, receiving the J. David Lowell Field Camp Scholarship allowed Alexandra Banks to participate in field camp, which helped her find her place in geoscience.

Where did you attend field camp?

I attended the Southern Illinois University Geology field camp. We spent a majority of the time learning field mapping in Montana. We also visited various locations throughout Wyoming and Idaho to learn about the geologic processes that formed some of this country’s most beloved parks.

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

A field course is commonly required to complete a degree in geology, and it is a really important experience for students. Receiving this scholarship alleviated the financial strain due to not only the cost of the course, but taking six weeks away from work. As a non-traditional student, I am primarily responsible for all of my school and living expenses. This scholarship allowed me to focus on all that I had to gain, rather than how I was going to make it through the summer.

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

I learned that the field of geoscience is very diverse. There are many different applications, and I found myself interested in facets that I had never thought much about before. I also learned that I really enjoy working outside. Fieldwork is very challenging, and the hard work makes me feel strong and confident. The physical aspect of many geology jobs is not something that intimidates me. Rather, I look forward to it.

What opportunities did attending field camp provide that you wouldn’t have had otherwise and in your opinion, how important is field camp for geoscience students?

Attending field camp allowed me to be able to apply fundamental geologic concepts to real landscapes and features. Field camp is integral to the success of a geology student, because reading about something, and recognizing it in the field are two different things. Field camp provides the opportunity for students to visit very diverse landscapes and learn in 3D. It also helps students orient themselves in the world of geosciences and really find out what interests them the most.

Why should individuals support field camp opportunities for students?

Support is so important because field camp is such a valuable and important part of our education, and is required for most geology degrees. However, it is quite costly and requires time away from work. The scholarship program that I participate in for fall and spring semesters does not extend financial support for the summer. Students should not have to decline opportunities, or avoid programs that require a field course due to financial strain.

 

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