SAGE Musings: Fostering A Broader Network of Geoscientists Through Career Mentoring Workshops

Karen Layou, Reynolds Community College
Author Profile
published May 24, 2018 12:02pm

One strategy of the Virginia Change Agent team is to leverage currently existing opportunities for geoscientists across the state to advance the broader goals of the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project. Each year, the Virginia Geological Field Conference (VGFC) provides an opportunity for geoscientists to come together to do what we love—get out and see the rocks while discussing some of the latest research on the various physiographic provinces of Virginia. Traditionally, conference attendants are primarily academic and professional geologists, with a few graduate students, and even fewer undergraduates thrown in the mix. In recent years, members of the Virginia Change Agent team have served as leaders of the field conference, and have begun to encourage their two-year college students to participate. This is a fantastic chance for two-year college students to not only interact with other two-year and four-year college students, but also to network with a variety of geoscientists and to see how geology works in the field. After one recent trip, a student commented that while some of the content was beyond his experience, he loved hearing scientists debate in the field and argue for their interpretations at a given outcrop.

In an attempt to encourage more student attendance and highlight geoscience careers, the Virginia Change Agents team upped the ante last fall by running a career mentoring workshop in advance of the VGFC. We contacted six professional geologists, who are personal professional contacts to the Virginia Change Agents, and were also likely attending the field conference. Amazingly, all replied that they would happily participate. These were a diverse group of geologists in terms of employment, educational background, race, gender, and age. The workshop was held the Friday afternoon before the Saturday day-long field trip, in advance of a business meeting and social that opens the conference. Nineteen students participated, and eight were from two-year colleges. Three additional professionals who were attending the conference heard about the event and joined in the discussion, too! Students who participated brought resumes for the professionals to review and received quality feedback on how to structure their experiences, as many of the professionals are responsible for hiring in their respective positions. Two panel discussion sessions followed where students were able to ask the professionals about their daily work responsibilities, their educational backgrounds, and more. We initiated the conversation with questions we asked the panelists to respond to in advance, and the students provided many diverse questions of their own. At the end of the sessions, all parties agreed that we would like to do this again, so this fall, the Virginia Change Agents are working with VGFC to plan another student mentoring workshop.

Students appreciated hearing about the diverse applications of geoscience, and were surprised to hear about how much on-the-job learning and training happens. The professionals enjoyed the opportunity to share their experiences with students as many commented they wished they had more exposure to various geoscience options earlier in their careers. As Change Agents, we found it to be incredibly exciting to see the interactions in the rooms, not only among students and professionals, but also among the two-year and four-year college students. These social interactions seemed to pave the way for more engagement during the Friday evening social, and on Saturday's field trip as well.

For more information, check out our workshop website.

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