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Richard Burns, Celina A. Suarez, and Yasuko Smith at GSA 2019Left to right: Richard Burns, professor of geology, College of the Desert, California (Yasuko’s college adviser); Celina A. Suarez, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas (Yasuko’s OTF mentor); Yasuko Smith.

Yasuko Susana Smith (Yasuko Hirata), College of the Desert, Palm Desert, California; founder and current club president of the Geology Club on campus; and volunteer with Friends of the Desert—a non-profit organization that manages the Sand to Snow National Monument creating work/field experience opportunities for students to gain while volunteering—shares how her mentor helped make sense of the overwhelming number of options available to her at GSA 2019, helping Yasuko make the most of her freshman experience.

Pre–GSA 2019 Questions

What are your expectations for the annual meeting and OTF (On To the Future)?

I hope to meet others who share similar interests, and to expand my knowledge and experience in my field and to network with others in the geoscience education community.

What do you want to get out of the program?

I want to make myself a more well-rounded student and to further advance my interests in my academic and career goals. I would love to learn about undergraduate research opportunities, internships related to geoscience education and the National Parks department, and any related scholarships.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am really looking forward to discovering more about the role geoscience education plays in the parks department and what role I can play in the future. I am very excited to view all the exhibits and see what research topics are currently being explored.

What would you like your mentor to help with during the meeting?

To help me focus and define my goals. Being a non-traditional student, I’m anxious to earn my degree and begin applying it toward my professional goals. Being focused and having well-defined goals will help me to achieve these goals more efficiently.

 How do you see OTF helping you in the future?

The experiences and knowledge gained will help me in assisting others. I have a deep interest in geoscience and the parks department, rivaled only by my passion in educating people about these topics. I hope to be able to bring these two personal interests together and not stop with educating students, but ignite a passion in them toward appreciation and volunteerism.

Post–GSA 2019 Questions

Did OTF meet your expectations?

Attending the 2019 GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix was an incredibly rewarding experience. As a first-time attendee, I was initially overwhelmed by the vast amounts of information. Part of the OTF program includes a mentorship opportunity, which I found to be extremely beneficial. The knowledge shared was invaluable and will help me in my future endeavors. Honestly, I attended the meeting not knowing what to expect, but was in no way disappointed.

What was the most impactful aspect of your OTF experience?

The poster hall afforded me a glimpse of what will be expected from me in the future, and provided me with an abundance of examples and ideas as to how research posters are presented. The opportunity to meet all the research students and professionals currently working in the field provided me with insight, which I have yet to experience in my academic path. This was very impactful and has motivated me to make it a personal goal to work on a project that I can present at a future GSA conference.

What do you remember most from the annual meeting?

The On To the Future morning sessions were incredibly beneficial as they offered an opportunity for new attendees to be introduced to various key figures in the geo-community, and we were presented with a number of scholarship opportunities, internships, and other programs that would further our personal geo-goals.

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

Meeting my mentor was incredibly beneficial to me as she was able to provide invaluable insight into how the various meetings ran and which of the different events were best to choose to optimize my freshman experience. I would definitely consider becoming a mentor in the future to share what others have shared with me.

After your OTF experience, how do you see OTF influencing or impacting your future?

In the near future, I plan to continue my education at a four-year university and pursue a graduate degree in the field of geology or environmental education. Specifically, I’m looking to becoming a community college professor in geology and/or to working for the parks department, creating environmental conservancy programs for interpretive educational tours and lectures. I feel that every experience and every opportunity that cross my path are tools I can use to further my educational goals and to mentor others; to help others as others have helped me. As a homeschooling parent and a volunteer at my local conservancy, continuing my education not only benefits me, but my children and others like me interested in preserving our world. We cannot simply wait for global problems to resolve themselves. We have to be active participants in finding solutions in order to preserve our children’s future. It was a privilege to receive assistance to attend the GSA 2019 Annual Meeting, which assisted me in learning new ways to connect to the community and the environment.

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