Meet GEN: A new JSG organization for change

By Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati, PhD 2020

Hima Hassenruck-Gudipati brings us this post on behalf of the Geoscience Empowerment Network, a new organization that brings together students, staff and faculty to address issues of equity and diversity. GEN is currently raising funds to take action and invites anyone interested to join our network.

It has only been four months since our first Geoscience Empowerment Network (GEN) meeting. We are impressed by how one email from Professor Ginny Catania to address common academic struggles has grown into a UT Austin Jackson School of Geoscience (JSG)-wide effort to improve and support diversity throughout the different levels in JSG. The effort was started at a time when JSG faculty and students were beginning to think about what JSG could do to address the lack of diversity both within our department and the geosciences in general. Rachel Bernard, a JSG PhD candidate, wrote about her work on the lack of underrepresented minorities in the Geosciences. Professor Liz Catlos also compared the 2017-2018 graduate student application and last year’s enrollment data to highlight the need for a coordinated recruitment effort of underrepresented minorities. At the same time, the JSG’s Graduate Student Executive Committee released the findings of their graduate student survey that highlighted the need for a forum to work out issues related to student-faculty relationships, mentoring, career preparation, and diversity. The themes highlighted in this survey resonated with many on the JSG faculty, particularly female and early career members. Through Professor Catania’s leadership, we aspire to use these common themes to start an organization that would both serve as a community to talk about career strategies and to provide additional resources and suggestions to JSG on diversity.

Over the next four months we developed three programs that we would like to promote in JSG:

  • Building pipelines to JSG
  • Minority recruitment
  • Minority retention

We have been iterating over GEN’s vision and concrete efforts over the last 5 meetings. We as graduate students are interested in creating retention resources that would provide graduate student support and career strategies development (i.e., networking, leadership training, conflict resolution). As these resources are being developed, GEN will be able to start shifting its focus to recruitment efforts by providing funding to minority students to visit the Jackson School during Prospective Student Weekend and for faculty to attend minority-serving institutions and meetings. In the long run, we hope that GEN’s efforts will improve diversity of JSG starting with the graduate school level.

GEN is currently raising $8,000 to start some of the programs mentioned above. Donate or just check out our HornRaiser site here.

This blog post represents the views of the author as well as Kiara Gomez and Rachel Bernard, grad students who contributed to this post. These views are not the official positions of UT or the Jackson School of Geosciences.