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.
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.