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A Two-Way Street: Leveraging Youth and Diversity in the USGS

By Michelle Y. Chang, Natalie Latysh, and Jean Freeney

Photo of Denver-based students, James Curry, Adelita Romero, and Sterling Powers James Curry, Adelita Romero, and Sterling Powers enjoy working together
in CSAS.
Photo Credit: Grace Dominguez

The USGS has long recognized that a talented and diverse workforce is vital to its success. In addition, the USGS is committed to engaging and mentoring the Nation's youth to be the next generation of scientists and leaders who can address future science needs.

Core Science Analytics and Synthesis (CSAS) has made both topics a priority by actively recruiting a diverse group of talented and motivated students from across the Nation. This cross-organizational student involvement has enriched individual programs and has the potential to contribute exponentially to the organization as a whole.

An important component of the CSAS mission is to help provide a reliable, comprehensive view of USGS data that accelerates scientific discovery and reveals new connections to increase our understanding of Earth's natural systems. Among other activities, CSAS facilitates the USGS Community for Data Integration (CDI) and supports the John Wesley Powell Center for Analysis and Synthesis (be sure to see this issue's separate article on the Powell Center). CSAS relies upon its thriving student group to help implement many of its programs.

The CSAS student population includes individuals from a variety of colleges and disciplines, from geology to computer science to business and finance. Such diverse backgrounds bring unique perspectives and new insights to the Core Science Systems (CSS) Mission Area. The students' involvement within CSAS is equally diverse, from data mining and tool development for CSAS's most prominent national products to providing administrative support and program development to further CSAS goals. The newly formed CSAS student group meets biweekly and engages with staff throughout the organization. Ricardo McClees, who attends George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., helped spearhead the group, which invites participants from across the USGS to brief them.

In collaboration with the USGS National Youth Program, CSAS has established a student development/internship agreement with MSU Denver. Serving approximately 24,000 students, MSU Denver is committed to promoting accessibility to education for diverse groups. Numerous awards recognize its outreach efforts to Latinos and other underrepresented minorities (; in particular, MSU Denver hosts the Colorado Alliance for Minority Participation (CO-AMP) in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Program sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation. CSS Associate Director Kevin Gallagher sees the USGS-MSU Denver partnership as "an opportunity to attract the best and brightest students who will contribute their enthusiasm, skills, and abilities to ensure a USGS workforce that meets future societal needs."

Participation in the USGS-MSU Denver partnership has been extended to the Southwest Region. When CSAS staff members Abby Benson and Natalie Latysh attended a CO-AMP event along with Denver-area science center directors and others in April, approximately 80 students attended. Subsequently, CSAS hired third-year computer science major James Curry and Adelita Romero, who is working on a certificate in social work. According to CSAS Director Cheryl Morris, "The range of information and products CSAS makes available—from USGS publications and scientific reports to occurrences of terrestrial and marine species—presents a great opportunity to utilize these diverse resources in new and novel ways."

The partnership with MSU Denver presents CSAS—and all of USGS—with a valuable opportunity to diversify its workforce and promote innovation by soliciting student apprentices who are learning current, cutting-edge technical skills and techniques. USGS employment offers these students the chance to learn about Federal Government operations, scientific pursuits, and the valuable contributions the USGS makes to society.

Leading through example, CSAS hopes to demonstrate that leveraging student participation and fostering relationships with educational institutions will not only help us remain nimble and creative by bringing fresh talent to the USGS, but will also make lasting impressions and provide a positive working environment for America's youth.

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