What does VGP do?
The Visiting Geologist Program is an AAPG service to colleges and universities. AAPG member volunteers visit schools to give students an opportunity to hear talks from working geologists and engage in conversations about careers in geoscience. VGPers or their employers pay travel costs to the sites and schools provide local transportation, food and lodging for stays of a few hours to as much as two days. AAPG supports many visits by publishing and mailing brochures and coordinating requests.
How did last year's program work out?
Very well, even outstanding! Visits were up 27 percent over the previous year, there were 15 international visits and 54 visits in United States. Much of this improvement is due to recruiting efforts by M. Ray Thomasson during his AAPG presidency. As a result, the program now has about 100 volunteers, twice the number of "players" as in the mid-1990s. This meant that for the first time in many years we were able to provide a VGPer for every request!
Further, our "report cards" were excellent. Twenty-five schools sent back evaluations of visitors. Only one of those reports came back "B" all the rest were "A"! That's one measure we don't have to improve.
Based upon extension of response information, we made contact with 5,436 students, faculty members, staff members, etc. That was also a big improvement over the previous year's 2,000 or so contacts.
What's planned for this year?
In mid-August we mailed over 500 new VGP brochures to degree-granting North American geoscience departments and are currently distributing copies to key individuals. The AAPG Web site is a further information source. Individual VGPers are being strongly encouraged to solicit visits instead of relying on requests. The brochure has been revamped to stimulate more interest. For example, the chair's letter has been replaced with a long list of talk titles (some say this is a win-win!)
What's VGP's greatest challenge?
Simply put, we need to visit more schools! In the United States, our 54 visits to 37 schools meant we are getting to somewhat less than 10 percent of degree-granting colleges. Internationally, VGP is just getting going. It is fine that we made many contacts at a cost to AAPG of less than $10/person -- but the best way we can drive these already low unit costs down is visit more schools.
The real strength of VGP are the members themselves who make visits. Two VGPers made five visits apiece last year (David LaRue and Chuck Caughey), and we have a handful of veterans who have made over 25 visits over the years. Clearly, the program is popular and AAPG is coping well.
However, in order to visit more schools VGP needs more members.
How do AAPG members join VGP?
First, any AAPG member is eligible to join. This is a program for practitioners to visit academic environs. Applicants should have good communications skills and be able to present a general and/or technical talk to students as well as discuss industry/working conditions. VGPers are provided packets with career booklets, student chapter information, membership forms, etc., so that they can discuss the many other ways AAPG reaches out to students.
Those interested should contact Cammy McKnight of the AAPG education department (918-560-2621, or Cammy McKnight) and request VGP nomination forms. Potential applicants should also feel free to contact me at (214) 744-3869 to discuss any aspect of the program.
What do VGPers get out of the program?
Terrific satisfaction, sense of accomplishment, rejuvenation of critical "geospirits" and quite a bit of learning. For me, the 20-plus visits have been extremely rewarding!
For AAPG we've spread the word, encouraged young geoscientists and often ended up with more members who in turn contribute to science, industry and the Association.