Evolving Education

AAPG’s Education and Professional Development offers a wide array of short courses, schools, field seminars, Hedberg research conferences and education conferences.

It also organizes and operates the AAPG Foundation-funded Distinguished Lecture program, which literally takes geoscience to every part of the world.

But as impressive as those offerings are, even more impressive is the way the department has added new workshops, events and conferences over the past few years that have dwarfed the old offerings.

“We’ve expanded and changed quite a bit in the last few years, and we’re passionate about developing educational events, research conferences, basically all types of professional development,” said department director Susan Nash.

She and her eight-person staff are equally passionate about reaching out to individuals and constituency groups.

“If we can help facilitate the transfer of knowledge, and if people who attend have a chance of really connecting with information, training, techniques and technology that can quantum-leap them to a new level of effectiveness, we are very happy,” Nash said. “We want all attendees to have a very positive return on investment – invest $1,000 in training, and yield $1 million in improved effectiveness. That is, albeit simplistically expressed, what we like to see.”

Getting to this point has meant the department – and AAPG’s entire geoscience education initiative – has had to evolve with the times.

“We have developed a number of new types of events,” Nash said. “All of our events are ’hybrid’ or ’Web-enhanced,’ which means we make repositories of information available.”

And in some cases, that means opportunities for ongoing discussions and social networking. Those would include:

  • Geosciences Technology Workshops (GTWs) – Two- or three-day topic or theme-based presentations by experts and practitioners, with ample time for discussion.
  • Forum Events – One-day “forum of experts” gatherings, focused solving a specific issue or problem.
  • Research Exchange – Two-day research-focused workshop (basically a new directions-focused GTW).
  • E-Symposia – One-hour webinars, with materials for self-study (to be completed in one day for CEUs if the student turns in the required work).

“With the advent of so much new technology and the opening of new plays that were previously unreachable – deepwater subsalt and shale plays being just two of them – we focus on understanding just how we can provide everyone who attends a kind of ’equipment for success,’” Nash said.

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Q&A With Susan Nash

So what exactly is going on with the AAPG Education and Professional Development Department?

Department director Susan Nash took time for a Q&A with Explorer assistant managing editor Brian Ervin:

ERVIN: What are the new things the Education Department is rolling out for fall 2014?

NASH: Six of the 10 FEC courses in November are brand new ones for AAPG. We also have our first Research Exchange program, taking place in September. And two exciting Hedberg Conferences will take place in September and December.

Also, we’ll be offering new courses for the first time at the upcoming Unconventional Resources Technology Conference in Denver.

ERVIN: What are some of the exciting things you’ve done in the past?

NASH: The GTW and Forum programs both have been created just in the past three years and have proven to be very popular. Our E-symposia offerings started just a few years ago and have grown to over 50 archived sessions.

ERVIN: Where do you come up with ideas for courses and field trips and other offerings?

NASH: We spend a great deal of time doing research, reviewing what operators are doing and what they need in order to accomplish their goals. We read journal articles, research studies and recently released publications, as well as new product descriptions and drilling results.

The “buzz” we hear from participants and instructors, current journals and articles, our Education Committee members and other ideas that get proposed to us through our Course Proposal System.

We also attend conferences, sessions, lectures and we listen to the talks and also to the questions posed to the speakers.

ERVIN: How do you choose and recruit the experts to do them?

NASH: We read publications, attend meetings, review abstracts and posters, and ask operators what they are seeing.

We particularly try to bring in experts from other disciplines in order to provide new perspectives. We know our attendees want to be able to implement the new knowledge and to get results, so we try to keep a balance of theory and case studies.

Once we’ve found really good material, we get in touch with the person who produced it. We reach out via email, phone, personal contact as well as through social media. LinkedIn is one very effective venue.

ERVIN: What are some of the most popular programs you’ve offered over the years?

NASH: Our Basic Well Log and Practical Salt Tectonics courses continue to be good sellers every year, as do our Modern Terrigenous Clastics and Deep-Water Siliciclastic Reservoirs Field Seminars, among others.

The GTWs that focus on different shale plays also have been very well subscribed.

ERVIN: Has that changed over the decades? If so, how and why?

NASH: Some topics have a “shelf-life,” depending on current trends, exploration techniques and new technology, and a topic that was popular 10 or 20 years ago already may have served its purpose, so we retire courses when there is no longer a need for them.

Others, like our Basic Well Log course, present information that always will be important, so as long as there is an audience for something, we will try to keep offering it.

ERVIN: What am I not asking that you think I should?

NASH: We always are looking for new, cutting-edge content presented in exciting ways using unique examples and exercises.

Emphasis: Geoscience Education