GCSU Endowed Professorship Seminar Series set to return

Bailey Ballard

Sep 8, 2022

Georgia College & State University’s Georgia Power Endowed Professorship Seminar Series returned on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

The seminar series promotes environmental research, public education programs and lectures on the Georgia College campus for the local community. The establishment of the endowment was a result of a monetary donation from Georgia Power to GCSU and every endowed professor has the freedom to do different activities related to Middle Georgia water quality. The current Georgia Power Endowed Professor of Environmental Sciences is Dr. Kalina Manoylov who has been planning and hosting the series for the past two years.

This year the series will continue to focus on the theme of the 50-year anniversary of the United States Clean Water Act of 1972. This act established the structure for regulating discharges of pollutants into waters around the United States and regulates quality standards for surface waters. To learn more about the act visit https:// www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/ summary-clean-water-act.

“Dr. Checo Colon-Gaud visited with us for two days and was very impressed by our students, facilities and potential for faculty collaborations,” said Manoylov. “It was great to see a full Peabody auditorium in person for the Georgia Power professorship symposium and despite troubleshooting virtually we had additional web participants.”

The first speaker of the series’ return was Dr. J. Checo Colón-Gaud (Dr. Checo) an aquatic ecologist, professor and associate dean of Jack N.

Averitt College of Graduate Studies at Georgia Southern University. His presentation was titled “Emerging Towards a More Diverse Community of Freshwater Scientists” and focused on talking to students about diversity ‘above the water’ and how to gain experience toward their career goals.

“This talk is really about the diversity in terms of infrastructure and the people that I spend most of my career with as an aquatic ecologist,” said Dr. Checo to introduce the lecture. “I am going to talk about the importance of diversity of why people do science, the stages of functioning and resources available in the field and the services that we get through this work.”

The lecture had an intense focus on broadening participation. As defined by his presentation, broadening participation focuses on nurturing talent where it may be found, putting forth effort to develop talent, promoting diversity and inclusion and reaching out to individuals from a wide range of institutions, geographic areas and more.

“English is my second language, so think in terms of what that diversity means to me and how it’s contributed to my science,” said Dr. Checo, “But also think in terms of reaching out to individuals from a wide range of backgrounds and places and how that benefits that science. In general, having a lot of contributors is going to strengthen our sum. In terms of resources, it’s going to be important in the way these systems function and the way we preserve them for generations to have different lifestyles and values impact decision making.”

Through broadening participation, Dr. Colón-Gaud emphasizes that STEM fields and STEM literacy will be strengthened by engaging and building the capacity of people who contribute to the field. Through the impact of diversity in decision making, there will be a greater yield in innovation and engagement.

“I want to kind of give you an idea as to how my pathway contributed in different ways to the panel of scientists I met in my journey and how that has impacted me now and the type of work that I’m doing,” said Dr. Checo.

The presentation focused heavily on storytelling and taking participants through Dr. Checo’s life as a learning student to the scientist he is today.

He promotes internships, experiential learning and discussion with not only faculty and students but with a wider community in every location a student may travel.

“I want each of you to become aware of our opportunities, for your career or education. Think about the weight of your opportunities and the scientific society you’re impacting the field by broadening participation,” concluded Dr. Checo.

In addition to the seminar, during Dr. Checo’s visit he invited four GCSU faculty to give seminars at Georgia Southern University and offered connections with many aquatic ecologists. Then, in October, he is sending a post-bac student for a week to be ‘GCSU graduate student for a week’ and she will sit in graduate classes, talk to graduate students and participate in research activities where appropriate. Finally, next summer, he has also arranged 10 REU students to visit GCSU Aquatic Sciences Center to research and widen their understanding of aquatic sciences and hopes to open a collaboration with GCSU for the next cycle of the REU Program in Coastal Plain Science.

“The series provides opportunities for students and is informational for the wider community,” said Manoylov. “I like to refer to it as a link and chain of knowledge that inspires those who are interested in aquatic sciences and water quality in Georgia.”

The Georgia Power Endowed Professorship Seminar Series will continue throughout the year with its own diverse range of speakers who aim to educate and inform not only GCSU faculty and staff but the wider community. To learn when the next seminar is, look for it under the events tab on the GCSU Front Page website.