Sigma Gamma Epsilon Aims to Build Awareness

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Callie Shipley, Coordinator for Junior Reporters

With a shared passion for learning about and protecting the planet, students of the geosciences come together in hopes of making a difference.

Sigma Gamma Epsilon “was established to recognize scholarship and professionalism” in the earth sciences, according to the organization website. Secretary/Historian Kara Mjølhus reinstated the local chapter, Sigma Gamma Upsilon, at West Texas A&M University in February 2013. After establishing a foundation for the organization, Sigma Gamma Upsilon hopes to increase its impact in the geosciences and around campus.

Mjølhus started at WT in 2011 as a Biology and Secondary Composite-Science Education major; however, she changed her major to Geology and Biology after taking Dr. Gerald Schultz’ earth science class.

“I have always had a fascination of rocks and nature, but to understand the processes and the history ignited a passion in me that I could not ignore,” Mjølhus said.

After being elected president of the Geology Society in 2012, Mjølhus began to research the possibility of a geoscience honor society. She discovered WT once had a local chapter of Gamma Upsilon but that the chapter had not been in operation since the 1970s.

Mjølhus spoke to advisors, to the national office of Sigma Gamma Epsilon, and to students in order to reestablish the organization at WT. Gamma Upsilon started with five members, and Mjølhus was elected president, a position she held until she stepped down in the fall of 2014.

“I am proud to say that we have grown to a current total of 20 Graduate and Undergraduate students and have several Associate members,” she said. “Since 2012, we have had 11 students graduate from West Texas A&M University with our honors and we expect to have [six] more graduate in May 2016.”

Plans for the rest of the semester include a trip to Arizona with the WTAMU Environmental Society, Geology Society, and Wildlife Society to work with the Arizona Game & Fish Department in the conservation of the black-footed ferret. Environmental Science major Kimberly Culala, the current president of Sigma Gamma Upsilon, became involved with the organization during last year’s trip to Arizona.

“I met several great people who invited me to get more involved in the societies,” Culala said. “Before, I stayed to myself and focused on my work and didn’t get involved with much. I am so glad I went on that trip and met everyone. It has made an immense impact on my college experience and my future career as a whole.”

In April, the groups will travel to South Padre, Texas, to assist Sea Turtle, Inc., and Gamma Upsilon will work with local Girl Scout chapters and the Upward Bound Math-Science program during the summer months. Culala said this marks the first semester that the organization is “really getting more involved” and carving out its place on campus and in the community.

“The interesting thing about Gamma Up is that we have such a plethora of different majors involved,” Culala said. “We are all geoscience but focus in many different areas, therefore we can have an impact on many different fields.”

Culala enjoys the collaboration of the variety of views and specialties as the group prepares for their futures as scientists and colleagues.

“Caring for the earth takes all kinds and our society is really indicative of that,” she said. “It also is a great way to meet people and learn networking. Many of us are quite introverted (as many scientists naturally are) so this is a fantastic way for us to practice and establish confidence to put ourselves out there and really work with people which is absolutely necessary in our field.”

Mjølhus said the members of Sigma Gamma Upsilon aim to build awareness about their organization as they increase their involvement around campus.

“I love the people I have met, not only do I get the honor of calling them my colleagues, but I get to call them my friends,” Mjølhus said. “Most of all, I love that I get to share my knowledge by teaching others what I am so passionate about. We are the stewards of this planet, it is our duty to teach to act, protect and preserve it for the future generations.”

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