By Anabel Winitsky, graduate of Warren Wilson College and the University of North Carolina Asheville
As the end of my undergraduate degree loomed ahead, I started looking towards the future. I found the Geological Society of America’s On to the Future program (OTF) while searching for internships. Having attended GSA’s Southeastern Section meetings in the past, I knew that the Society was a great resource for students and early career professionals. I knew that attending a GSA Annual Meeting could be a chance to meet employers and schools face-to-face. What I couldn’t prepare for were the relationships that I built through the meeting.
From the start, my GSA Annual Meeting experience was shaped through conversations. Through the “Showcasing the Best You” workshop and daily morning meetings offered to OTF scholars, I was informed about a wide array of internships, field experiences, and other programs open and eligible to students and early career professionals. Beyond the information itself, there was also an open invitation to communicate with the professionals that had dedicated themselves to developing those resources. The room was always full of mentors from different backgrounds who had come to give us guidance. They acted as an open ear and were available to answer our questions while we focused on worksheets, cover letters, and developed representations of our unique paths through geoscience.
Through the mentorship component of the OTF program I was able to connect with volunteers who were looking to help young GSA members like me navigate the hectic meeting. I was matched with a geoscientist with experience in industry, research and education, with a longstanding interest in addressing climate change through her work. My mentor introduced me to many people involved in GSA and academia, I was able ask questions in an explicitly supportive environment. Moving through the event venues with my mentor also gave me a new perspective on how to communicate directly with various professionals and organization representatives. By getting to know my mentor over the course of the week I was able to voice concerns that have weighed me down as I look ahead. Her thoughtful feedback helped me refine my goals, both during the meeting and afterwards.
Finally, OTF was an amazing way to meet other students and early career professionals at a similar point in their geoscience career. Though we all landed at GSA together, not one of us has the same story. Each of us came from unique backgrounds, and our paths led us to our passions. Discussing these passions with such a diverse group of scientists and being part of this fabric of new faces in geoscience was moving and intensely motivational.
Entering the conference, my interests were broad, and my direction convoluted. Coming out the other side of the OTF program, I am prepared to target my focus and engage in my future with determination. Through OTF and the resources available in GSA’s GeoCareers center, I gained confidence in the value of the skill set that I’ve developed throughout my life, and in my ability to articulate my value to employers. I am reaching out to potential graduate advisors, with excitement and without fear. The next few years are still uncertain, but I look forward to the continuing support of the community that I found at GSA.
On To the Future is a GSA program that supports students and recent graduates from underrepresented groups to attend their first GSA Annual Meeting. GSA is currently accepting applications for this program through 29 May 2020.