Making a Difference
All donors make a difference.
Through the generosity of our alumni, we have been empowered to think big. We are creating a new kind of program, one that encompasses the whole broad sweep of the geosciences and does so at the highest possible levels. We seek to excel not just in academic research, but also applied research; not just graduate education, but undergraduate education; not just supplying tomorrow’s workforce for the petroleum industry, but also for government, academic and environmental industries. Each donation allows us to cast our net wider. Imagine how much more we can accomplish with increased support.
We invite you to read about people, just like you, who have made a significant difference in moving the school forward.
Glenn Swenumson started work on a seismic crew for Conoco in 1948. He reckons that over the next 38 years, he and his growing family lived in 22 places. His son was born in Louisiana, his first daughter in Colorado and his second daughter in New Mexico. He wistfully recalls those days as a doodlebugger.
“Everybody was just out of the military and everyone was broke and had little kids and we’d hit a new town two or three times a year and we’re all looking for places to live,” he recalls.
“We had a spirit, and we still do,” he adds. “I had affection for all the people and their families, the old grizzled dynamite shooters and the shothole drillers.”
He worked his way up to party chief, then seismic supervisor, division geophysicist, and finally area geophysicist with responsibility over several divisions. He retired from Conoco in 1985 and lives in Houston.
This past Father’s Day, his daughter Carol Swenumson Baker (B.S., 1984) surprised him by revealing that she had created an endowment at the Jackson School partly in his honor. The Swenumson-Baker Geophysics Excellence Fund is designed to “promote excellence in the geophysics program, including support for equipment, travel and other expenses associated with geophysics field trips and field courses.”
“It was a heck of a nice surprise on Father’s Day,” he says. “I asked her how did Swenumson get ahead of the Baker in the name? And she said that’s just how she wanted it.”
In 1984, Baker went to work for Exxon as a seismic data processor. Now she works in information technology supporting geoscientists and managers across the company. ExxonMobil matches all employee charitable contributions three to one. The Jackson School matches certain contributions (including corporate matches) one to one. Together, these matches magnify her gifts eightfold. For example, a gift of $1,000 is raised to $4,000 with the corporate match and then doubled to $8,000 with the Jackson match.
“I had already been giving each year to a geophysics fund and I started very early on in my career,” she said. “I started small because I wasn’t making much money then and as I could, I increased that. I had never even thought about giving an endowment until Ann Flemings approached me about it last year and explained how you don’t have to be Bill Gates to create an endowment, someone at my level could do it.”
Her father never pushed her towards petroleum geophysics, in fact he was surprised when she told him that that’s what she wanted to study in college. But she says he did pass on his love of geology in subtle ways, for example pointing out interesting geological features on family trips to the mountains, national parks, and his South Dakota birthplace.
Baker says this fund is her way of giving back to an institution that made such an important impact on her life.
“It was a very special time in my life,” she says. “The group of friends I made in the department, we remain friends to this day. We spent weekends cramming and studying together. The whole experience was great. The caliber of the institution and the people are top notch and I’d like to see them grow even more.”
The Darwins believe in the importance of promoting the early success of future earth scientists. That’s why Pam (MS ’84) and her husband Barnes led the way in creating the first formal endowment for the GeoFORCE Texas program.
“We know that what we have done is a small token, but we hope that if others join this effort it will make a broad impact on the future of so many wonderful students,” says Darwin, Vice President at ExxonMobil.
GeoFORCE Texas, the nation’s largest college prep program for earth sciences based at The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, fills a critical need by inspiring the next generation of geoscientists. It also fosters increased diversity in the U.S. workforce. The program rewards outstanding students from select South Texas Independent School Districts and Houston schools from grades 8-12 with the chance to travel the country, meet inspiring people and learn about opportunities for careers in the geosciences.
Darwin attended her first GeoFORCE event last year. The program has long been supported by her employer, but it was the first time she was able to meet these extraordinary students and hear their stories. The encounter prompted her to find ways to support the program.
“This was the first time that many of the students had ever traveled outside of Texas ” she says. “They were so excited about what they’d seen and their parents were excited too. The kids were at the top of their respective classes, but they hadn’t had exposure to a lot of other kids who liked math and science. So it was very fulfilling for them. And it was touching for me.”
Darwin recalls how a wonderful earth science teacher inspired her to learn about the world around her when she was only 12 years old. She hopes GeoFORCE will have that same power to inspire these students.
“It doesn’t matter whether they go into math or science,” she says. “What’s important is that it offers them a view into science. They can see what it’s like to be a scientist, hear what graduate school is like and learn what people in industry do. It’s a great opportunity to go beyond what they get in the classroom.”
Darwin enhanced her family’s gift by using ExxonMobil’s 3:1 matching program and the Jackson School’s own 1:1 matching program. This immediately grew their fund to $100,000.
The Darwin Family GeoFORCE Texas Fund will assure the long term availability of resources so students admitted to the program can continue their geosciences journey throughout high school, into college and beyond.
First GeoFORCE Grads Go to College
This fall, the first cohort of 80 students to complete all four years of the GeoFORCE Texas program—all graduates of southwest Texas high schools—are heading to college. A whopping 90 percent were accepted into colleges and universities, with 63 percent majoring in science, engineering or math.
In the last 10 years, no student from the southwest Texas high schools making up the GeoFORCE network went on to graduate with a geosciences degree from the University of Texas at Austin. This year, 12 GeoFORCE graduates are attending UT Austin, 5 of which are pursuing majors in the Jackson School.
Learn more about GeoFORCE Texas.
The war had just ended and universities swelled with record enrollments as returning soldiers took advantage of the G.I. Bill.
When Jeanne Allen Ferrin (B.A., 1948) came to The University of Texas at Austin to study geology in the 1940s, she wasn’t the only woman. Her sister Rosamond (B.A., 1947) was already a student in the program. In the late ‘40s, 18 women graduated from the university with geology degrees.
There were a total of 140 geology graduates in that time. Still, women were increasingly pursuing careers requiring college level education.
Classes were held in the original geology building, now named the W.C. Hogg Building.
Although Ferrin enjoyed her geological studies, graduated, and went on to work in the oil and gas industry in Texas, she and the other women students faced challenges trying to make it in a male dominated field. They were barred from taking field-based courses with their male counterparts. They were instead required to take alternative courses to fulfill their graduation requirements. And they didn’t always get the credit they deserved.
“The men didn’t want us in their classes getting the A’s,” she said. “If you got a good grade, they claimed it was because you were a girl; but that’s not true, we worked hard.”
When Rosamond Haertlein went to work for Gulf Oil in Shreveport, she was the only woman geologist in the company and one of only four women in the local geological society. She said the men didn’t know quite what to make of her.
“I would come back from the field carrying a hammer and ride the elevator with the men and they’d say, ‘What are you going to do with that hammer?’,” she said.
Ferrin’s nephew Albert Haertlein (B.S., 1978), a geologist at SG Interests, an independent oil and gas company in Houston, wanted to make a gift to the Jackson School that would have a real impact. After brainstorming with the school’s development staff, he decided to establish the Rosamond Allen Haertlein and Jeanne Allen Ferrin Junior Faculty Fund in honor of his mother and aunt.
“They were early women in geology, not the first, but certainly at a challenging time,” said Haertlein. “So I thought it would be nice to make sure their names are associated with an effort to promote women in geology.”
According to the endowment charter: “Funds from the endowment shall be used to support untenured faculty members. When it is demonstrable that female faculty are under-represented in the Department of Geological Sciences and to the extent permissible under the law and the University policies, preference should be shown to female faculty members.”
Endowments such as this offer a way for alumni to shape the culture of the Jackson School. They are a way of imparting values and expanding the vision for what the school can achieve.
Out of 43 active faculty members in the Department of Geological Sciences, just five are women (2 more will join in 2009). According to a report by the Association for Women Geoscientists, one of three keys to increasing the number of women receiving doctoral degrees in geosciences is to provide more role models: “Female students look around to see if anybody on the faculty looks like them and has a lifestyle they want.”
“These funds will be very beneficial for young faculty just initiating their research and teaching programs, especially young women,” said Sharon Mosher, Dean of the Jackson School. “Seed funding and extra support makes a world of difference when you are starting an academic career.”