AAPG’s popular, long-successful Visiting Geoscientist Program (VGP) is perhaps more important today than ever before as companies scramble to find and encourage new talent to keep the vital oil and gas industry running at top speed.
The VGP was developed in 1974 by AAPG’s academic and industrial advisory committees to give students an opportunity to meet practicing geoscientists and to discuss geoscience career options. More than 200 colleges and universities have participated in the continually expanding program, which is funded via the AAPG Foundation.
The VGP’s principle objective is to provide a means for better communication among students, faculty members, university administrators and geoscience professionals.
Fred Schroeder, a Houston-based VGPer, initiated a series of short courses that have become very popular with students. Photo courtesy of Chuck Caughey
“The VGP introduces students to career paths and shows them how to prepare for their future in geology and geophysics,” said Chuck Caughey, outgoing chair of the VGP Committee. “Additionally, interaction with faculty and administrators provides guidance regarding courses and field experiences needed by students to land jobs and become effective geoscientists.
“The program fosters a positive image of geoscience professionals and demonstrates advantages of active participation in AAPG.”
Caughey noted that the number of VG visits increased from 47 to 63 for 2007-08, exceeding the goal set by the AAPG Executive Committee.
Technical presentations by the VGs can include a variety of topics, such as environmental geology, seismic stratigraphy, sequence stratigraphy, hydrogeology, energy minerals and more. The business aspects of the industry often are addressed as well.
Arranging VG visits entails connecting the geoscientist volunteers with students and university officials worldwide – not always an easy task in past years.
In order to facilitate the effort, the VGP committee recently expanded to include one designated VG coordinator in each of the six AAPG Sections in the United States as well as in the six international Regions.
“The challenge is to connect people who need the service with those who can provide it,” Caughey said. “We have a lot of willing visiting geoscientists and a lot of universities that want someone to come and tell them about geoscience careers – it’s a matter of connecting the dots.
“It’s very effective to have local representation,” he said. “These are people who know the universities and know who may be traveling into their area and can arrange visits.
“Speakers often can make multiple visits when in one area.”
The VGP has proved to be high impact in terms of getting students involved in careers and in professional activities, and it provides a boost for student chapters, according to Caughey.
He noted that when he is on campus in the role of a VG, he takes advantage of the opportunity to show the students how to do many things on their own, such as locating and securing speakers.
“The ultimate result is the students help themselves,” he said. “The universities provide a fine technical education, but the VG program helps the students build soft skills in putting together budgets, inviting speakers, making cold calls – the things that help them develop professionally.”
The visiting geoscientist can play a vital role telling students what companies look for when they interview, and also informing administrators and professors about what the industry wants to see in students and, in turn, help to make sure certain courses are available.
One of the issues confronting the VGP Committee members has been the need to get the geoscientists into new areas, such as Africa, South America and even some parts of the United States.
“Now that we have volunteer coordinators who live in those areas, they can take responsibility for coordinating visits there,” Caughey said, “and it’s becoming a much broader program.
“The program has expanded not just by moving into new areas and reaching new universities,” he said. “It’s also expanded in terms of going beyond the typical VG one-hour technical presentation and one-hour discussion on careers and lab visits and those sorts of things.
“In some cases, we’re now able to offer short courses as well.”