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Rene Castillo at GSA 2021OTF showed Rene Castillo that there is a community of scientists who are like them and are doing amazing things. They are inspired to continue their educational and scientific goals to solve the problems in the world around them with science.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The most impactful aspect of my OTF experience was the OTF dinner at GSA. I got to meet everyone in person from our preconference Zoom meeting. I met the president of GSA and many other students and professors and had some really great discussions. By getting to see in person that there is a population of students like me who struggle with the same things and come from the same background, I felt like science was something I could continue to pursue. Meeting all those people, especially the professors and industry professionals showed me that there is a support network of people who want to mentor and invest in the future of geoscience. I made connections I never would have gotten if I hadn’t attended GSA’s annual meeting or been a part of OTF. It gave me hope that one day, there will be more scientists just like me.

What do you remember most from GSA 2021?

What I remember most from GSA was all the good conversations and advice I got from not just my GSA mentor but the other OTF mentors. I was so scared to go to the conference because I have been intimidated by talking to professors. But everyone I spoke with was so excited to interact with students and speak about not just the really cool science that they do, but to speak about experiences and opportunities and genuinely connect with students. My mentor for OTF wasn’t necessarily in the career field I am interested in, but she made it a point to get to know what I was interested in and then find me connections at the conference and help start a conversation with people who do the science I want to do. I will never forget the passion my mentor and the other GSA attendees, students, professionals, and academics alike had.

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

At first, I was worried about my mentor because I was intimidated by the virtual introduction through email. But after getting to meet Mrs. Amber Steele, I was inspired. She was so passionate about everything and walked me through the conference as I have never been to GSA before. She truly did want to help me succeed, whatever that looked like for me, either in a job or continuing my education, and made a point to help me find connections. I am so thankful to get to know her and have her in my network, and I hope to be a mentor like her in the future, because she refueled my passion for what I do and got me excited to go home and work towards my education goals.

How do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

Before OTF, I wasn’t sure I wanted to complete my Master’s or continue in geoscience in general after the pandemic and experiences I had in higher education. But after all the people I met and the hydrogeology and geophysics sessions I attended, I was reminded why I love science. OTF showed me there’s a community of scientists who are like me and who do amazing things. I am inspired to continue my educational and scientific goals to solve the problems I see in the world around me with science.

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

OTF is an experience that allows students who normally wouldn’t have such an opportunity to experience science in a new way. Getting to be a part of OTF can literally change students’ lives. I was going to most likely quit after one semester of graduate school, but by participating in OTF I found a community and network to support me to continue to pursue my passion for science and believe that the work I do is important. I promise that it means the world to students who are accepted as OTF participants and they are forever grateful for the opportunity and your support.


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