In the beginning of student expositions – even before the beginning, really – there were two women in an office: a mentor and a student.
And one idea.
“My memory of the beginnings of the student expo in association with the AAPG,” said AAPG member Susan Morrice, chairperson of Belize Natural Energy Ltd, “are centered around Marybeth and her desire to make it easier for students, especially those from less well-known schools, to meet and present their best to companies.”
The “Marybeth” to whom she referred is Marybeth Hatteberg (then Marybeth Davies), who was at the time a student at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls, looking for a job.
Check that: She was an all-consuming, never-take-no-for-an-answer student looking for a job.
“I believe I met her professor, but perhaps not her,” Morrice said of the meeting nearly 20 years ago. “Her professor told her about my work and passion to make a difference in the world.”
She liked what she was hearing. It was then that the young graduate student made herself known.
“She began tracking me down to come for an interview,” Morrice said. “Marybeth was relentless and sent me all sorts of letters and cards to grab my attention. She wanted that job and pursued me.”
Hatteberg, too, remembers it all well.
“My undergraduate geophysics professor (Ian Williams - UW River Falls) strongly encouraged me to connect with Susan. He said there was something very similar about us – an enthusiasm – an excitement for life and exploration. So I made it my hobby to try to get her attention. It took me a long time and a lot of persistence to get Susan’s attention. I did a lot of goofy stuff. My office mates thought I was off my rocker.”
More Than a Job Prospect
The Hatteberg/Morrice relationship in a sense, then, was similar to the relationships between all those who want a job and all those who have one to offer.
“Maybe,” Hatteberg thought at the time, “I should start working for her before she hires me,” so she started doing research in Morrice’s field area: Belize.
It worked. She was hired.
“I think in her heart,” Morrice said, “she wanted to make this process of getting in front of potential employers easier for other students. She saw it as a necessity and that is the mother of invention.”
“That’s what the student expo is all about,” agreed Hatteberg. “Helping the students get the attention of potential mentors.”
And then fate took over.
“I think it was a year or two before Marybeth came to work for me that I had the idea of the international pavilion and had very successfully executed it at the 1994 AAPG Annual Meeting in Denver,” said Morrice.
(The International Pavilion, held at the AAPG Convention in Denver in 1994, brought together, for the first time, 52 countries that exhibited their energy potential. For this, Morrice was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the AAPG as a Global Visionary.)
“I was very aware that good ideas needed to be acted upon, otherwise they are useless; and when Marybeth came to me with her idea of the student expo, I was delighted, and encouraged her to focus all of her time into making it happen.”
Hatteberg followed her instincts.
“I started the project by contacting geology club presidents and their faculty advisers to see if there was interest. Then I contacted industry folks to see if they were interested, too. It really started as a mentorship program: students finding a mentor to help them get a foot in the door. What I learned from that situation was that once you have someone’s attention, you need to show him or her how you could be an asset to their organization. That’s what I tried to communicate to all the students who came to that first expo.”
That first expo was in Denver in 1997; the second, the following year, was held at Rice University in Houston.
“I remember that first year,” Hatteberg said, “our office was turned into a viewing gallery for companies to come and meet the students and also see their work firsthand.”
And while Hatteberg is somewhat modest about her contribution and her imprimatur on student expos, Morrice will have no part of it.
“She was so much more to all the students. She guided them in how to best present themselves, even what to wear.”
“Some,” Hatteberg said, laughing, “didn’t get the memo about being clean. I did tell them, ‘No holes in your jeans.’ Students slept on my apartment floor. Others were put up by Susan Morrice, Robbie Gries (past AAPG president) and Deb Sycamore (AAPG member).”
“Her energy and passion for those students was infectious,” Morrice said, remembering how her former hire hounded her to find friends at companies to come to the first student expo.
“In essence, although she was young yourself, she was like a ‘mother hen’ to all of them.”
More Than a Job Fair
Looking back, Morrice, who still considers herself an educator, said the idea – a simple one then – still makes inordinate sense.
“The student expo/job fair is a great way to really see the future” and to harness the energy and creativity of the next generation of geologists in what she calls a “balanced, holistic way.”
Morrice said it didn’t happen by accident and it wouldn’t have happened at all without Marybeth Hatteberg.
And here she wants to relay a personal message to her friend.
“Definitely do not underestimate that leadership role you played at the very beginning.”
To Morrice, though, when all is said and done, the student expo, even though they now attract almost 700 students and 33 companies, is not just the place to get a job.
“I have continued to explore the mind to understand why some people soar with great ideas and others are reluctant to come forward and are stifled,” she said.
“I am a great believer in Wallace Pratt’s famous phrase, ‘Oil is found in the minds of men.’ When our mind is freed up of the clatter of baggage and we can think clearly and creatively, then all sorts of ideas are uncovered and oil is discovered.”