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Sydney Cloutier at GSA Connects 2022Sydney Cloutier made invaluable connections at the GSA Connects meeting that have the potential to launch her career post-graduation as a result of her participation in the OTF program.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The funding was a significant aspect of my OTF experience, as without that, I would not have been able to attend GSA Connects. At the meeting, the program offerings that GSA ran for us were incredibly impactful for me. I was exposed to a vast number of awards and internships that I otherwise wouldn’t have known of and was presented with in-depth information on topics such as the [NSF] GRFP, which I will be applying for in the fall. I also had the chance to speak with a representative for NASA, which is where I hope to work in the future. Additionally, through the OTF programs, I met with a representative from ASBOG, who helped me to begin designing a course for undergraduate seniors and graduate students to prepare for the Fundamentals of Geology exam at the University of Miami. I also found out that my school’s Sigma Gamma Epsilon (Earth Science Honor Society) chapter is currently inactive, despite us holding meetings. Representatives of SGE were able to aid me in the reactivation of our chapter.

What do you remember most from GSA 2022?

One day, I decided to walk to a sandwich shop for lunch. I got lost along the way and did an extra lap around the block. Unbeknownst to be, that delay placed me right in front of a planetary geology graduate student in line. When it came time to place my order, the graduate student overheard the cashier asking me what field of geology I wanted to pursue. After ordering, he asked to sit with me, seeing as how all the tables were full, and I was able to form a great connection and pick his brain about graduate school. I also want to study planetary geology, and it turned out that the school he was attending is my first-choice school. It was an incredible and bizarre experience, but one I won’t forget. I feel that it speaks volumes about the impact GSA can have on our lives and the opportunities that can present themselves at the conference if you are willing to step out of your comfort zone.

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

I ended up not getting much of an opportunity to connect with my mentor. That said, I would love to return as a mentor one day. I feel that a lot of aspects of the field of geology are very word of mouth. It’s hard to understand what grad schools, employers, and award committees are looking for if you aren’t in the know. Once I enter grad school and gain some experience, I want to become a mentor for GSA. I know how hard it is to figure everything out for yourself, so I want to pass my knowledge and expertise down to the future generation of geologists.

Why should donors support programs like OTF?

Donors should support OTF because it provides the next generation of geoscientists a chance to jumpstart their careers and education in a setting that otherwise may not be feasible for them. Attending GSA can be costly, particularly for full-time students. Donating what may seem like an insignificant amount can ultimately be the start of a young geoscientist’s career. Supporting us supports the future of geology.


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