ESCI Takes on AGU

-By Jen Petrie, Graduate Program Coordinator, Student Personnel Coordinator

The bean

Since I started working in ESCI back in 2014, I had heard how large the American Geophysical Conference was; How many people showed up to this conference that typically took place the second week in December. Everyone who went seemed to come back with fun swag and a cool NASA calendar. While at the Geological Society of America Conference in Denver this year, I was talking to my booth neighbors from Vanderbilt University about the differences between GSA and AGU and I was intrigued. 

Chicago river

While waiting for someone to stop by our booth, I hopped on my laptop to see where AGU was this year, turns out it was in Chicago. A quick plane ride from campus. I contacted AGU to reserve a booth and it turns out they had two booths left for the conference. It seemed like destiny that I had to attend this year. Although, they had told me another school was likely to book one booth, so I better reserve sooner than later. Of course, our department head Justin Revenaugh, was on a plane back to campus from GSA. The clock was ticking. Would I be the one to secure the last booth in the Academic Connections area?  As it turned out, it ended up going to another school. Good news for me was that AGU said that if I wanted to, I could select any other booth on the floor plan in “blue”. I happened upon a larger space right in front of the puppy de-stress area. WIN, WIN! I was now headed to AGU in Chicago to represent the university and our department and be by puppies. I could not wait! 

Holiday's in chicago

Luckily, I was able to leave a few days before the meeting started to see some of the sights of Chicago, as well as see Chicago decked out for the holiday season. Once Sunday arrived, I was able to head to the McCormick Place Convention Center and set up our booth. To say AGU was huge was an understatement. When I walked in there were still booths being set up. Forklifts were dancing around one another to ensure each booth had what items it had requested. 

The NASA booth at GSA was big but the one at AGU was MASSIVE. After our booth was set up, I took a stroll around to see what other universities, non-profits, national labs, and companies were there. I couldn’t wait until Monday afternoon when the Exhibitor floor opened to see how busy AGU really was. 

I arrived on Monday afternoon an hour before the Exhibitor section opened. The conference started early that day with posters and talks. The poster section was like nothing I had ever experienced. The poster rows kept going and going. 

our booth

The clock hit 3:00 p.m. A rush of people entered the exhibitor hall of the convention center. Everywhere you looked there were people, more and more people. It was great to see so many familiar faces of alumni, adjunct professors, students from other departments at the U, (like our building neighbors from Physics). BeforeI knew it, it was 6:00 p.m. and time to head home to get ready to do it all over again tomorrow for the full day. 

Model Chicago

I was very fortunate to have a good mix of graduate students, post-docs, and faculty tabling with me at the booth for the few days while I was there. It is always nice to have the company but even better to have someone else talk about the work being done in the department when a potential graduate student stops by the booth to ask about what projects are going on in the department. The number one question I always get at conferences is “does it really get that cold there.” I always laugh it off when I am asked that question. I always tell people it does get cold but if you dress for it; it won’t seem that cold. I’m not sure that’s the response they’re looking for. 

I always enjoy talking about the department and the university to potential students. This year, a handful of students who had already applied to our department for graduate school, stopped by to talk about working with various professors or they wanted to know what living in the Twin Cities would be like. For me, this is one of the top reasons I love having a booth at conventions is the face-to-face aspect of speaking to a potential student. 

science leads the future sign

Since we were going to be by the puppy de-stress area, we had ordered doggy waste bag holders for our fellow dog lovers attending AGU to take home. Unfortunately, on day two I found out all the puppies that had planned to be in attendance were adopted, which meant no puppies for the attendees of AGU. Although, it was great news for the puppies!

On my break times away from the booth, I was able to score the coveted NASA calendar that everyone told me I had to get. I was even able to pick up a couple different NASA bags. There was a lot of great swag at AGU and I won’t need to buy pens for a couple years! 

We had amazing department swag, thanks to Kaleigh Swift, ESCI Communications Specialist. Our department stickers and tattoos went fast, along with the core bookmarks from CSD Facility. Chip clips and carabiners were next popular items on the list and we only had a few pens to take home with us on the last day. 

I’d say the first trip for ESCI to AGU was a success! I talked to so many people. Almost everyone I spoke with had some connection to Minnesota or the university. It was great to hear what an impact the place I call home has had on so many people. I cannot wait to head to AGU this year in San Francisco! I hope to see you there!

see you next year sign