Dear IAGD Community,

On October 29th, during our annual meeting, I stepped aside as Executive Director of the IAGD. During the past 13 years, I have witnessed a transition from traditionally exclusive approaches to teaching and learning in the geosciences, to more of a focus on inclusion and access. While we still have a long way to go, and so much more work to be done, this growing awareness feels energetic and empowering.

Shortly after forming the National Advisory for Geoscience Diversity (NAGD) in 2008, I was questioned by a very prominent field scientist, “why are you working so hard for so few students?” Many of you have heard me speak of this singular moment as a catalyst to push this grassroots effort further. I was lost for words at the time, and probably fumbled with a response. But the truth of the matter, then, and now, is that there are countless students, faculty and practitioners who have disabilities, and have quietly struggled to fit in to the rigorous work hard, play hard, field-hardened culture, or have decided against pursing a geoscience degree altogether. Maybe there are so few because we expect anyone entering the geosciences to fall in line regardless of any interest in pursuing other non-field focused specialties of the discipline. Sure, the geoscience community is open and welcoming to diversity, as long as they assimilate into the traditional culture and curricula. Perhaps I am over generalizing. Perhaps not. But with roughly 20% of the U.S. population having a disability of some kind, we all should realize that students in all of our classes, colleagues in all of our workplaces, have disabilities of some kind, and that not all of these are apparently obvious. We can no longer assume that there are “so few” simply because we cannot see them. We need to assume that disabilities are present as we design instruction and prepare all of our students for geoscience careers. NO ONE should be criticized for needing an accommodation to participate or successfully complete an activity.

Today, we see students, academics, professional geoscience practitioners professionals with disabilities are not only out there, but demanding inclusion and accessible opportunities. The International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD) has become a community for everyone to belong to and collaborate on the advocacy that needs to be done to continue to push broadening participation not only forward, but towards greater accessibility. As an organization, we too must continue to evolve and strengthen.

As of October 29, 2021, the IAGD is now in the very capable hands of Dr. Anita Marshall at the University of Florida. Anita has the passion to move this organization forward for years to come. The Executive Committee has many solid ideas to build from, but Dr. Marshall has a new spirit of leadership and a focus not only on disability, but an emphasis on strengthening the IAGD and the greater geoscience community through an intersectional view of disability that invites and supports all identities in the geosciences and other field-focused science disciplines.

I thank you all for your support and encouragement over the past 13 years. I am so fortunate to have been able to collaborate on the development of a community that will continue to grow under amazing leadership. As I transition to focus my efforts on the development of the IAGD Foundation, I am privileged to continue learning from and working with so many strong, courageous and active students and colleagues who see the potential in accessible and inclusive science. Please join me in congratulating Dr. Anita Marshall as she takes the reigns and leads our community into the next chapter.

Chris Atchison
Director, The IAGD Foundation

Anita and Chris smile for a selfie. Both are wearing ball caps, backpacks and cool weather gear. Students are working on documenting a rock outcrop in the background.

Anita Marshall and Chris Atchison smile for a selfie during an IAGD-sponsored accessible field course in Ireland.

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Disclaimer: This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0939645. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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