In the GeoDecor quarry near Kemmerer, Wyoming, GeoPathways student Jesse Clah hunts for fossil fish in a slab of Green River formation limestone. 
(Photo: Jesse Clah)
In the GeoDecor quarry near Kemmerer, Wyoming, GeoPathways student Jesse Clah hunts for fossil fish in a slab of Green River formation limestone. (Photo: Jesse Clah)

Internships Give a Career Boost to Geosciences Transfer Students

The UA Department of Geosciences program provides transfer students from community colleges with paid internships with Tucson-area businesses and agencies.
Oct. 12, 2016
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For information about participating in the GeoPathways program or about offering an internship, contact Emily Alexander at emalex13@email.arizona.edu or Karl Flessa at kflessa@email.arizona.edu

The first group of UA GeoPathways students completed paid internships at six local geoscience-related agencies and businesses this summer. Two students received offers of continued employment after their internships ended.

"I got experience in everything from mining sites to residential water use to analyzing geophysical data," said Geopathways student Vincent LeBlanc, whose internship was with Clear Creek Associates, a hydrogeological consulting firm.

A partnership between the UA Department of Geosciences and Pima Community College, GeoPathways recruits, mentors and provides paid internships for students who transfer to the UA Department of Geosciences from Arizona two-year colleges. The National Science Foundation funds the program.

"It gave me insight into the industry–there is a lot of versatility," LeBlanc said. Because of his internship, LeBlanc is interested in pursuing a graduate degree in hydrology after earning his undergraduate geosciences degree.

Alison Jones of Clear Creek Associates said her firm's experience as an internship host was very positive.  

She said about LeBlanc, "We were matched up with a very hard worker who will make a great employee after he graduates. He worked on a variety of tasks in a relatively short time, while helping us to provide value to our client. It was definitely a win-win."

Jesse Clah, who transferred to the UA from Yavapai Community College, spent the summer at the Green River Formation in Wyoming, working onsite to identify and extract Eocene fish fossils for GeoDecor, a Tucson company that provides fossils for designers, collectors and research.

"I got to see how geology can apply to commercial business," Clah said.

Karl W. Flessa, UA professor of geosciences and GeoPathways co-director, said, "By all accounts this first batch of student internships was a great success, from the perspectives of the students and the hosts."

Student internships were as diverse as the field of geosciences. In addition to LeBlanc's and Clah's positions, students interned with SRK Consulting and Montgomery and Associates, tested soils at the mines near Patagonia for the U.S. Geological Survey, and worked in water quality regulation and water supply at Metro Water.

Noah Fay, GeoPathways co-director and Pima Community College instructional faculty, and LeBlanc discussed the program's successes at a symposium for National Science Foundation-funded programs for geosciences transfer students at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in September.

"We've had a very successful first year with about a dozen geoscience undergraduates receiving extra academic and career mentoring, three acting as mentors to PCC students, and six participating in summer internships," Fay said.

About the symposium, Fay said, "I was impressed with the range of activities and innovative ideas other institutions are pursuing."

GeoPathways is one way the UA Department of Geosciences is contributing to the UA's 100% Engagement initiative, part of the University's Never Settle strategic plan. The 100% Engagement initiative promises all undergraduate students an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their chosen field before they graduate.