SF State News {University Communications}

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White honored by Geological Society of America

October 6, 2008 -- While studying art and photography as an undergraduate at SF State, Lisa White found her life's passion in an introductory geology class. Since 2001, White has provided similar opportunities in the geosciences for underrepresented minorities through the SF Rocks program.

A black and white photo of the San Francisco State student strikers marching and holding strike placards on campus.

Lisa White, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

For her dedication to opening the geosciences field to other minorities, White, associate dean of the College of Science and Engineering, was honored with the first Randolph W. "Bill" and Cecile T. Bromery Award for the Minorities at The Geological Society of America's annual meeting in Houston on Oct. 4. The award recognizes and supports individuals from minority backgrounds who have made significant contributions to research in the geological sciences or those who have been instrumental in opening the geosciences field to minorities.

"With science, the more you're able to engage in a research context, the more you become enlightened," said White, who is also a professor of geosciences. "For a lot of students, they continue to see science as it's presented in the textbooks. I've seen students in our SF Rocks program change their attitudes about science when they engage in the field."

Student Claire Bailey joined SF Rocks in high school and came to SF State with White's encouragement. Bailey said White's passion for geology is obvious in the classroom. 

"When I see how much she enjoys geology it rubs off on me and lets me know that it is something I want to do with my life," Bailey said. "She is an excellent mentor and she truly does love teaching geology. I see it all the time when she is teaching and talking about her experiences."

White said undergraduate students entering the geosciences benefit from attentive mentors, research experience with professionals and support from friends and family. It's something that must continue to occur more frequently with minority students, who White said choose geosciences less frequently than other scientific disciplines. "For an African American young person, these kinds of experiences in science continue to be more unusual and much needs to be done to increase the pipeline of underrepresented minorities to the geosciences," she said.

White credited her parents with showing her the importance of providing access to educational opportunities. Her father is Joseph White, a former dean of undergraduate studies at SF State who helped found the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP), which grew into a statewide program providing supportive pathways for disadvantaged students to study at CSU campuses. He was also influential in establishing the Black Studies Program, the first of its kind on an American four-year campus.

-- Michael Bruntz


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