President Obama Honors Jackson School Geosciences Mentoring Program

2012 Southwest 10th grade Young Geo_MSI and Katy Boat Ride 042
Tenth graders on a GeoFORCE Texas field trip to Florida. The UT Jackson School program introduces high school students from disadvantaged areas to the geosciences. President Barack Obama has honored the program.

President Barack Obama has honored The University of Texas at Austin’s GeoFORCE Texas program with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, the highest such honor from the United States government.

GeoFORCE Texas, an outreach program of the university’s Jackson School of Geosciences, takes high school students from disadvantaged areas of the state in inner-city Houston and rural Southwest Texas — on field trips each summer throughout high school, visiting geologically significant sites across the country. As a result, potential geoscientists are introduced to the profession, and students from disadvantaged areas find a path to college and rewarding careers.

“We are thrilled that the president has honored the program,” said Jackson School Dean Sharon Mosher. “GeoFORCE plays such an important role in shaping and improving young lives, particularly from underserved populations. There is nothing more fulfilling for an educator than helping young people achieve their full academic and personal potential. GeoFORCE is a wonderful example of a program doing just that.”

Eighty percent of GeoFORCE participants are members of minority groups. Since its inception, GeoFORCE has been a robust success, with 100 percent of students graduating from high school; 96 percent going on to college; 94 percent staying in college through their sophomore year; 64 percent focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) majors — more than double the national average; and 16 percent majoring in geoscience — more than 50 times the national average.

The Presidential Award recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering — particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in these fields. A GeoFORCE representative will receive the awards at a White House ceremony later this year, and the program will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

“These educators are helping to cultivate America’s future scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” President Obama said in a press release honoring all of this year’s recipients. “They open new worlds to their students and give them the encouragement they need to learn, discover and innovate. That’s transforming those students’ futures, and our nation’s future, too.”

GeoFORCE began in 2005 and has served more than 1,500 students. The program is more than an introduction to the geosciences. It also offers high school students support through high school, help preparing for the SAT and ACT, guidance applying for college, and has awarded more than $2 million in scholarships. After high school, GeoFORCE continues to mentor students through college, into internships and the workforce.

Longer version of the video: includes a more in-depth look at students’ experiences in the program and how they learn in the field. 

More information about GeoFORCE Texas.

White House media release.