The following summary was read at the 25-year celebration of the founding of the Geoscience Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research.  A reception and award ceremony was held at the 2011 Geological Society of America Annual Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  GeoCUR Councilors and CUR’s Executive Officer Nancy Hensel were in attendance.


GeoCUR – 25 Years of Reflecting on Our Beginnings and Our Future

The year 2011 marks the 25-year anniversary of the Geoscience Division of the Council on Undergraduate Research.  Let us journey from the division’s humble beginnings through its rich history to its current stop here today in Minneapolis.

CUR’s Geology Division, our original name, began in 1986.  Our earliest recorded Division President (the former name for division chairs) was Barbara Tewksbury, from 1992-1994.  The title of Division Chair appeared in 1994 with Don Woodrow taking over the GeoCUR leadership, along with a change in the name of the division from Geology to Geoscience.  Next came John Creasy, followed by Jill Singer, Lori Bettison-Varga, Lydia Fox, Jeff Ryan, Laura Guertin, and our current division chair, Ed Hansen.  Several of these individuals have served more than one term as division chair, allowing the division to have consistent, quality leadership during its growth.  How fascinating would it be to sit around and have a campfire conversation with the past division chairs and discuss mentoring strategies and best practices in undergraduate research.

From our early days, it did not take long for the division to have a presence at discipline-based regional and national conferences.  In spring 1992, Division President Barbara Tewkesbury arranged for the first GeoCUR poster session at the Northeast Section meeting of the Geology Society of America (GSA).  Approximately 30 undergraduate students presented their work at that meeting, and CUR has sponsored undergraduate research poster sessions at the GSA section meetings ever since.  We also purchased our first booth space at the Geological Society of America national meeting in fall 1992 to promote the activities of our division and the overall organization.

The next year saw the division expanding and offering workshops for faculty.  Our first workshop was at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in 1993 and titled Successful grant writing.  In the following years, the division offered workshops titled What might your Dean do to foster undergraduate research on your campus and Implementing research as a capstone experience for undergraduates.  We still lead one-to-two workshops at the GSA annual meetings every year, with the most successful workshops focusing on How to get started in undergraduate research.  In 1998, GeoCUR sponsored their first theme session at GSA, another activity that has continued to the present, sometimes with co-sponsorship from the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and the Geoscience Education Division of GSA.

Although the majority of geologists attend the Geological Society of America meetings, there are many geologists and faculty in related disciplines that attend the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  In 2003, GeoCUR began proposing and chairing sessions on undergraduate research while continuing with our successful workshops for faculty development.  In 2004, Councilor Jeffrey Marshall began conversations between the division and the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans (SACNAS).  In 2005, Councilor Deanna van Dijk co-organized a session with Social Science Division Councilor Julio Rivera on undergraduate research at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) meeting.  The CUR presence at AAG has continued with hosting a booth in the exhibit hall at the 2009 annual meeting, organizing sessions focused on undergraduate research, and leading workshops.

GeoCUR sought external funding for the first time to support its mission in 1993. Former Councilors Don Woodrow and Jill Singer, in conjunction with the CUR National Office, received funding from the National Science Foundation for Summer undergraduate research experience fellowships in geosciences (Award Number 9623451).  Lydia Fox and Laura Guertin secured a NSF-CCLI grant titled Faculty development workshops to support engagement in undergraduate research (Award Number 0841267) to continue GeoCUR workshops at GSA section meetings and the AAG national meetings.

Our division is Web 2.0 friendly.  On February 9, 2009, our division website went live, documenting our activities, introducing our councilors to the membership, and sharing Voices of Undergraduate Geoscience Research, our podcast series that contains interviews of undergraduate students at different stages of research and dissemination.  We have a Facebook group, and we have a photo group in Flickr.  On June 19, 2010, we posted our first tweet from the CURGeoscience Twitter account.  It read:

Welcome to GeoCUR! Currently, the GeoCUR Councilors are at the Business Meeting at Weber State. Follow us for notes, updates, more! #cur2010

But today is an event that marks an enormous sense of pride and accomplishment for our division, and not just because it is our anniversary.  Years ago, the GeoCUR councilors began the conversation of establishing a division award for excellence in undergraduate research mentoring.  After engaging and thoughtful discussions, along with hard work and dedication by the councilors and support from the CUR National Office, we are now awarding our first GeoCUR Undergraduate Research Mentor Award.  How thrilling for us to be able to recognize John Brady of Smith College with this award at our 25-year anniversary celebration.

Where is GeoCUR going in the future?  It seems as if we haven’t stopped to catch our breath, organizing at least 14 topical sessions at GSA alone and over 13 workshops in our division’s history!  We realize that as a division, we have a passionate group of councilors and members with so many talents and areas of expertise that we can continue to sustain our current slate of activities and expand our reach.  We are seeing more discipline diversity among the 79 individuals that have served as division councilors past and present, with the recent addition of geographers and planetary geologists helping us sustain the connection to AAG and forging new connections with the American Geophysical Union (AGU).  We are excited about the possibilities and opportunities for GeoCUR in the future and hope you jump on board the GeoCUR train as we continue to move full speed ahead.  Thank you.

— Authored by Laura Guertin, 2011

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