18 April 2019

Starting the Journey:  AGU Fall Meeting, Getting There Is the First Hurdle

Posted by Joshua Speiser

Kristie LLera, Postdoctoral Researcher, Space Science and Engineering Division at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), San Antonio, Texas and Austin Challenge Student and Early Career Campaign Committee Member

Kristie LLera

My story is not the usual one. For a while, “party crasher” was my so-called handle throughout the AGU community. As a naïve second year graduate student, I inadvertently crashed the newly elected AGU Council President’s gathering. Not a recommendation by any means but, in my case, it turned out to be a rare opportunity to meet extraordinary individuals who not only saw my potential but also helped shape who I am. Some of them continue to play an integral part in guiding my career, even after taking upon a role as an AGU Student & Early Career Council member.

Not everyone, however, has had a positive mentoring experience. Misguided and isolated, some young scientists find themselves questioning their career choices. That’s why AGU’s annual Fall Meeting is so important. As the world’s largest gathering of Earth and space scientists, Fall Meeting provides a forum where anyone can interact with and receive recognition and validation from their peers. It is an epicenter where many attendees present their first poster session or talk, network with key individuals from their specific scientific discipline, celebrate scientific achievements, identify potential future research collaborations, access essential resources, tap into AGU opportunities, and so much more.

I am one of the lucky ones. Academically and with AGU support, I have been able to take part in Fall Meetings throughout grad school. Perhaps you may have been a past travel grant recipient. Grants help students make ends meet, enabling them to travel to and attend Fall Meeting.

However, in 2018, 1298 qualified students applied for travel assistance to present their research. Sadly, AGU’s student travel grant could only award 18% of these in-need students. Students and Early Career make up more than 30% of the membership. So, we can and must do more. An integral part of being an AGU member is that of service to our community. We all have a responsibility to help our up-and-coming colleagues in the Earth and Space Science community to begin their AGU Fall Meeting journey.

To help bridge this gap in travel assistance, Senior Research Scientist at The University of Texas at Austin and AGU Development Board member Jamie Austin has pledged to match all donations to the Austin Endowment for Student Travel up to $1 million through 2019 — AGU’s Centennial year. Whether you were fortunate enough to previously receive a grant or not, the Austin Student Travel Grant Challenge enables you the opportunity to pay it forward now when it matters most by providing young scientists the financial support they need to attend Fall Meeting. Successfully raising this 2-million endowment will nearly double the student travel grant recipients for years to come. We cannot waste such a rare opportunity. My call to you is to give and then to engage other AGU Student and Early Career members to take part in this philanthropic challenge. All of us can contribute and all donations, regardless how small make a difference. And don’t stop there! Encourage your communities, families, and friends to take part. You might choose to join AGU’s “Give $10 and tell friends campaign,” for example.

Together, we can support a student’s career journey. Remember where you started, where you are going, and who helped you along the way. Let’s begin this culture of giving and paying it forward. As a recent graduate, I hope this Austin Challenge is met by the AGU members to help supply this demand and envision a future where we establish the next hurdle- an early career travel grant. But first, I hope all student and early career members will join me in whatever way they can to meet the Austin Challenge and raise $2 million endowment in support of student travel.

Please support the Austin Student Travel Grant Challenge.