November 4, 2015

What does it mean to be a “Fellow” of a professional organization?

Posted by Laura Guertin

IMG_0096Earlier this week, I had the honor of being recognized as a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Myself and 72 additional scientists were elected to fellowship by the GSA Council in April 2015. When I told my undergraduate students that I was off to a conference where I would attend an awards ceremony to be recognized as a society fellow, I was met by blank stares. So for my students, and for all other students that have no idea what it means to be a “fellow” – this post is for you!

The following is the definition provided by the Geological Society of America (GSA), the organization that recently voted me to fellowship:

Society Fellowship is an honor bestowed on the best of our profession by election at the spring GSA Council meeting. GSA members are nominated by existing GSA Fellows in recognition of their distinguished contributions to the geosciences through such avenues as publications, applied research, teaching, administration of geological programs, contributing to the public awareness of geology, leadership of professional organizations, and taking on editorial, bibliographic, and library responsibilities.  —  from New GSA Fellows

To be considered for society fellowship, there is a detailed application process and requirements that must be met. A nominee for Fellowship must have had an established career; typically this means least ten years of professional experience past their terminal (highest) degree in geology or related fields. The nominee must also be a member of GSA and continue their membership after election.

There are several Election Categories that are listed for consideration to fellowship. The primary nominator must indicate the category or categories that most accurately describe the distinguished contribution(s) of the nominee. All supporting letters must address one or more of the selected election category for nomination and collectively all selected categories must be addressed.

  1. Publication of the results of geologic research: This category should include the development of new data and interpretation of data in some aspect of geology reported in standard publications appropriate for the discipline.
  2. Applied research: The practical application of geologic knowledge to significant problems concerning geologic resources, natural hazards, and/or environmental problems is an avenue of contribution to the science of geology that may be made by geologists in academia, industry, or governmental agencies at all levels.
  3. Training of geologists: Teaching geology students in either graduate or undergraduate formal education programs constitutes an important contribution to the science. In addition, participation in presentation of specialized training in applied programs, short courses, etc., may also be recognized. Preparation of educational materials (textbooks, laboratory manuals, short-course guides, field guides, etc.) may also constitute a contribution.
  4. Administration of geological programs: A wide range of administrative positions provides an opportunity to make a contribution to the geological sciences. These include effective administration of distinctive academic programs, leadership of research teams, coordination of research programs, supervision of industrial programs involving application of geologic principles, and in general, supervision of a significant number of geologist employees.
  5. Public awareness of geology: Presentations of geological work to governmental agencies (legislative bodies, courts, committees, etc.) as well as to the public in general may provide the basic support for important advances in geology.
  6. Professional organizations: Participation in the leadership of professional organizations, particularly GSA.
  7. Editorial, bibliographic, and library responsibilities: The dissemination of geologic knowledge contributes to the advancement of the science, and unique activities in these areas may provide qualification for Fellowship.
  8. Other: The opportunities available to GSA members to make a contribution to the science of geology are as diverse as geologists are and indeed as geology itself. Therefore, a nominating sponsor may present activities that do not fit into any of the ordinarily prescribed categories.

IMG_0678I do not know what was said in the nomination letters, but I am so honored to have geoscience colleagues that feel I have accomplished enough to deserve such an honor. Here is the short citation GSA published from my lead nominator, Dr. Timothy Bralower (Penn State University Park):

Laura A. Guertin (Penn State Brandywine):
For her complete devotion to undergraduate education on the local and national stage, for her dedication to training the next set of geoscience teachers, for her cutting edge research involving technology in geoscience education, and for her leadership in the geoscience educational community.
— Timothy J. Bralower

You can view the complete list of GSA Fellows online, as well as the 2015 Class of AGU Fellows and Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) Fellows.