GSH Volunteer

With over 100 events a year, the GSH offers unparalleled opportunities to volunteer and
network with like-minded people.

Outstanding GSH Volunteer

Whitney Blanchard was born in Michigan and moved west to Wyoming at the age of 16.  Both parents were teachers at a community college.  Growing up Whitney developed keen interests, which she maintains today, in horses and music.  She attended Montana Tech in Butte, where she obtained a BSc and a MSc in Geophysical Engineering.  She later attended the University of Alabama where she received a MSc in Geoscience.  While in school, she worked at several internships in the US and UK.  One of these internships, and the presence of her future husband, brought her to Houston where she went to work with Schlumberger in 2013.   Whitney married Robert Blanchard, also a geophysicist, in 2015.  Whitney and Robert were graced with a daughter, Charlotte, in 2017.  And just to let you know, darling Charlotte was very active in and around the interview for this article. 

Working at Schlumberger, Whitney performed commercial processing of microseismic data.  She enjoyed the intense geophysical computer application and working with data.  But the industry downturn caught up with her work group, and Whitney was amongst a significant group of people laid off from their jobs.  With other work opportunities being extremely limited in the geophysical profession at that time, Whitney gravitated to a profession near and dear to her family - teaching.  Whitney obtained a teaching certificate, and in the midst of the school year took a volunteer apprentice position in a middle school and began teaching physics and math in an after school program.  By this time the soul searching reached a crescendo; she did not want to leave geophysics behind.  With the support of her geophysical husband, Robert, she began to look for volunteer opportunities in the geophysics realm.  Having been a member of the GSH, Whitney knew that the GSH could provide connections that might find her another paid position in the geophysical industry.   So she approached Nicola Maitland, the volunteer coordinator for the GSH, and the GSH office to see what opportunities might exist for her to help with.  Whitney then helped with the hosting and registration at a number of GSH technical events.  This proved very useful in expanding her network within the geophysical community.  She became acquainted with many and closer to some of the geophysicists in her areas of technical expertise.  But Whitney wanted to do more, so she offered to help out in the GSH office part time.  She helped Karen and Kathy with a variety of tasks, including the utilization of her computer skills in the organization and preparation for many of the frequent technical events sponsored by the GSH.  Her geophysical background also helped Kathy and Karen in the preparation of event notices and summaries.  Her presence in the GSH office provided Whitney with the opportunity to meet many more geophysicists and expand further her geophysical network.  But working in the GSH office provided Whitney another great opportunity, it helped to make her more aware of the many events sponsored by the GSH, both technical and social, and the people that led them.   

Since she was in the office, Whitney took the opportunity to attend some of the monthly GSH Board meetings.  Her attendance at these meetings and her getting to know the leadership of the GSH greatly expanded her working knowledge of how the GSH operates.  Whitney's willingness to help others should now be readily apparent.  Thence, she moved into her next volunteer position; Whitney became the Chair of the events for the Education and Career Development for Unemployed Professionals.  Whitney organized speakers and networking events for the unemployed geophysicists in our area.  She eventually had to pass this role along to someone else when she took time off to have her baby.

Whitney has proven to be a shining example from our younger generation of geophysicists.  These younger geophysicists are often fully engaged in starting and raising families and trying to move forward in their professional careers; they often find it very difficult to find the time to get more involved with the GSH.  Whitney has shown, though, that expending that effort in volunteering for the GSH has benefited her in many ways.  Through some of the people that she met she did get interviews and job offers.  She did get a job from her network, but from someone that she previously worked with.  But this does show the importance of networking as we progress through our careers.  Whitney is currently working for Sigma3 where she is continuing her passion for the processing of microseismic data.  Whitney says that her role with the "Unemployment Forum" expanded her organization and leadership skills, which is a great asset for a young geophysicist looking to move ahead into supervisory positions at their work.  She said that leading these events also helped her public speaking skills and writing articles about the events improved and gave her more confidence in her writing skills.  But probably most importantly, her volunteer efforts with the GSH made her more confident that she should stay in geophysics and not go into teaching as a primary profession.  Her volunteer work rekindled and reinforced her love for geophysics. 

Whitney says that we have to convince younger geophysicists that volunteering will help their careers and advance their careers.  We must help these younger geophysicists understand that there is a bigger geophysical realm than in just their company.  We have all heard that "Who you know" is so important.  In these difficult times when many jobs are on the line, knowing that critical person might make a small or big difference in retaining your job.  Whitney's husband, Robert, had a keen observation. He said that professional chapters in Houston are very large and not as closely knit as some smaller groups; then he said that once Whitney volunteered at the GSH, she became close to many other geophysicists. 

The GSH appreciated the efforts of Whitney and recognized her in 2017 with the President's Award for the GSH "Rookie of the Year".  Thank you, Whitney, for all your efforts for the GSH and the geophysical community.