Education AGU News

AGU Student Travel Grants Help Underrepresented Groups

Financial support from the American Geophysical Union's travel grants programs increases opportunities for women, underrepresented minorities, and international students to attend Fall Meeting.

By Kelsey Meisenhelder and

The deadline to apply for Fall Meeting student travel grants is less than a week away. The American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) travel grants provide financial assistance to young scientists, primarily students, with financial need who are presenting as first authors at an AGU meeting. AGU will accept applications for grants until next Wednesday, 10 August, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Fig. 1. Number of AGU Fall Meeting General Student Travel Grant winners over time.
Fig. 1. Number of Fall Meeting General Student Travel Grant winners over time, 2008–2015. Credit: AGU

The largest grant program is the General Student Travel Grant fund, which is dependent on donations and provides support for an average of 170 students each year to attend Fall Meeting (Figure 1). In 2012, in alignment with AGU’s commitment to increasing diversity in the geosciences, the selection process pivoted to give priority to women, underrepresented minorities in the United States, and international students. The result has been a dramatic increase in opportunities for these groups to share and receive feedback on their research (see below).

Percentage of women who won Fall Meeting student travel grants.
Fig. 2. Percentage of women who won Fall Meeting student travel grants, 2008–2015. Data for 2009 and 2010 are not available. Credit: AGU

Women

Women are traditionally underrepresented in the geosciences and in 2015 made up only 27% of the U.S. geoscience workforce. AGU Fall Meeting attendance figures are comparable, with women totaling about one third of all participants. Among students, however, the percentage of women attending has risen to 43% in recent years. The percentage of student travel grants awarded to women doubled in 2012, and since then, more than 80% of the recipients annually have been women (Figure 2).

Percentages of international student grant winners and attendees.
Fig. 3. Percentages of international students who won general Fall Meeting student travel grants and of Fall Meeting attendees whose primary citizenship was not from the United States or Canada, 2010–2015. Credit: AGU

International Students

Approximately one third of Fall Meeting attendees, including students, are scientists from outside the United States and Canada. As part of creating a more diverse and inclusive community in the geosciences, AGU instituted a change in travel grant criteria in 2012 to increase support for international students. Today, preferential support continues for students traveling from countries outside of North America. In 2015, 78% of all student travel grant winners were international students (Figure 3).

Underrepresented Minorities

AGU weights for a greater chance of selection the student travel grant applications it receives from members of underrepresented racial or ethnic groups in the United States. A preliminary evaluation of the effects of such weighting indicates an increase in the percentages of grant winners from most minority racial and ethnic groups. To date, however, we lack sufficient data to confirm these trends. To address this lack of data, AGU is conducting a survey of past student travel grant winners to examine U.S. minority participation and how attending Fall Meeting on a travel grant influenced students’ research and professional development.

Are you a past travel grant winner but did not receive a link to the survey? Click here to help us assess the impacts of travel grants.

Travel Grants and Research

AGU is evaluating whether attending Fall Meeting on a travel grant encourages students to continue research in the geosciences. Current employment, professional meeting attendance, and publications in research journals will serve as indicators. Initial data reveal that 22% of travel grant winners publish in AGU journals after their first meeting. The results of the survey mentioned above will further supplement this investigation.

How You Can Help

It’s easy to make a big impact through the General Student Travel Grant program. Gifts of $500 or $1000 can help fund an additional domestic or international student’s travel, respectively, to Fall Meeting. A contribution of any amount helps. Visit the AGU giving page to make your gift today.

—Kelsey Meisenhelder, AGU Student Programs Intern; and Erik Hankin, AGU Student Programs Manager; email: [email protected]

Citation: Meisenhelder, K., and E. Hankin (2016), AGU student travel grants help underrepresented groups, Eos, 97, doi:10.1029/2016EO057163. Published on 04 August 2016.
© 2016. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0