By Matt Hudson, GSA Member Communications Manager
Clay mineralogist Warren Huff attended his first GSA Annual Meeting in the 1960s. Since then, he has attended another 50. When Huff was profiled in the January 2019 issue of EARTH Magazine, he mentioned his long-term interest in getting University of Cincinnati alumni together at these events. We followed up with him to learn more about these alumni gatherings and how GSA meetings have impacted his career.
GSA: Hi Warren, what comes to mind when you think of the GSA Annual Meeting?
WH: The first thing that comes to mind is people. Interacting with people. It’s the one time of year that I see a lot of folks that I don’t normally see the rest of the year. It’s not just our alumni, but a lot of colleagues from other areas, so I really look forward to interacting with these folks.
The only problem is, when you want to go to a session, and you’re walking down the hallway, there comes someone you haven’t seen in ages and you stop and have a great talk and so much for that session. I really enjoy that part of the meeting.
GSA: What’s unique about GSA meetings, or what keeps you coming back year after year?
WH: One of the things about GSA is the diversity of subject areas that are covered. It’s a good way to learn about geology and geoscience. For example, I don’t talk to seismologists very often, but I want to know what’s going on in the earthquake world. A GSA meeting is a good place for that. If I go to GSA, I can explore some areas of the geosciences that I don’t normally have a lot of contact with. It’s the diversity of topics in the geosciences that really is attractive.
“I can explore some areas of the geosciences that I don’t normally have a lot of contact with. It’s the diversity of topics in the geosciences that really is attractive.”
GSA: Do you recall any specific moments that were particularly impactful on your career, perhaps a session you attended, a presentation you gave, or a chance encounter that led to further research?
WH: Oh yes. I can recall talking about my work on Ordovician K-bentonites and getting some great comments and questions from several people who were outstanding in the fields of volcanology and clay mineralogy. These were in the days before posters, so all presentations at the Annual Meetings were oral and the meeting rooms were generally packed. Once the session was over I was able to interact with some well-known experts who had ideas and suggestions. These led to all sorts of endeavors, including tracing K-bentonites in Canada, the UK, central Europe, China, Brazil, and Argentina.
GSA: Let’s get to those alumni gatherings. You taught at the University of Cincinnati for 55 years, and you’re still the organizer for these alumni events. What do you enjoy most about them?
WH: For me the real pleasure of these alumni receptions is reconnecting with former students and faculty. In fact, it is these kinds of networking connections that led us here in the department to start scheduling our annual Careers Day lectures. For these, we invite our former students whose career paths have gone in interesting, productive, but unexpected directions. The main point is to let our current students know that they may think they know what they will be doing 10–15 years after graduation, but life doesn’t work that way. And, therefore, you have to learn to be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances that may occur.
GSA: Besides the alumni event, do you have a favorite part of the meeting? The technical sessions, seeing familiar faces?
WH: Every year GSA has an Associated Societies meeting. [Representatives of all 74 Associated Societies are invited to a discussion about the issues affecting our science.] As the secretary of the Clay Minerals Society, I’m the representative that gets to attend these meetings. I really like to go to these because, again, I can interact with people that I don’t normally come into contact with. It’s a great opportunity to learn what is going on in all the different societies because it’s a long list.
I also like to go to the exhibits. The Clay Minerals Society usually has an exhibit booth, as do many other societies, and sometimes I put in time managing those booths. But I do like to go around and look at things that are on display in the exhibits.
“We really encourage our students to go to as many of these meetings as they can.”
GSA: Thanks for sharing your comments, Warren. We look forward to seeing you again in Phoenix. Any final thoughts?
WH: I’m really pleased with the way GSA has organized itself and developed not only its technical aspects—journals and so forth—but in terms of meetings, regional conferences as well as the annual conference. They do a terrific job. We really encourage our students to go to as many of these meetings as they can.
Editor’s note: This interview was edited for brevity and clarity.
Each year, more than 40 colleges and universities hold alumni events at GSA Annual Meetings. As Huff noted, these are great opportunities to network with fellow alumni. More than just friendship, the connections made at alumni events can often stir up new scientific collaborations and discoveries.
Universities in the Exhibit Hall
The Campus Connection in the exhibit hall is also a quick way to meet with representatives from dozens of different geoscience programs. Stop by to visit with a notable professor or get the inside scoop from current students.
Learn more on the GSA 2019 website at https://community.geosociety.org/gsa2019/home.