Students gain valuable experience through collaboration with senior leaders and scientists at AGU’s Fall Meeting. Credit: Gary Wagner

Since its inception, the Student Travel Grant program has helped more than 1000 students enrich their careers and expand their scientific networks by attending the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Fall Meeting and other scientific gatherings, such as Joint Assembly, Meeting of the Americas, and Ocean Sciences meetings.

Now more than ever, the program needs your support—and a new challenge issued by its founder will help to meet the program’s goal of providing assistance to every student who needs it.

Founding the Program

The Student Travel Grant Program was founded in the early 2000s, largely through the efforts of Jamie Austin, senior research scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics.

Jamie Austin, senior research scientist at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics and founder of AGU’s Student Travel Grant Program. Credit: J. Austin

As a student member in the 1970s, Austin attended Fall Meetings and began to see them as transforming experiences. The meetings connected him with senior leaders and scientists, helping him gain experience and lay the groundwork for his future career.

In the early 2000s, as a member of AGU’s Budget and Finance Committee (now the Finance and Investment Committee), Austin worked with AGU leadership to create the first Development Board, a team of AGU members and other volunteers charged with helping to codify and support the work that the Development Department was doing to advance the growth of new programs.

As chair of the first Development Board, Austin could see that AGU’s student members were becoming a force within the membership, and he wondered what he could do to support them and to connect them with the breadth of expertise that AGU’s members have to offer. He set to work to create the first Student Travel Grant program, generously founding the program with a large donation to inspire AGU’s members and donors.

The Goal: Assistance to Every Student Who Requests It

Today, Austin continues to see the Student Travel Grant program as something that is intrinsically valuable to AGU’s membership and corporate sponsors. “Growing talent pool is one of the clearest ways that AGU can help impact the future of the Earth and space sciences and of the planet,” said Austin.

In 2014, the Student Travel Grant program received nearly 1000 applications from students who needed assistance to attend Fall Meeting. However, AGU was able to award grants to fewer than 20% of applicants.

“Ideally, we should be awarding assistance to every student who requests it,” said Austin, “but the cost is high.”

A Challenge to AGU Members

As AGU’s student member constituency continues to grow, AGU must find a way to alleviate the financial burden of attending national and international meetings for our young members. With nearly a $500,000 annual shortfall between Student Travel Grant applications and awards, Austin is issuing a challenge to all AGU members and organizational partners.

In a recent conversation with AGU’s senior staff, Austin pledged, “For every $9 committed by AGU donors, I will contribute an additional $1, up to a total of $50,000 to address this shortfall. It will take the collective resources of all Earth and space science stakeholders, but I am certain by AGU’s centennial in 2019, we can bridge the funding gap and award Student Travel Grants to all applicants.”

Join Austin in supporting Student Travel Grants this year by visiting or contacting Development staff at +1-202-777-7434 or to make your gift.

—Jeff Borchardt, Development Director, AGU; email:

Citation: Borchardt, J. (2015), Take the Student Travel Grant challenge, Eos, 96, doi:10.1029/2015EO030897. Published on 11 June 2015.

Text © 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0
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