EWU geosciences faculty and students will continue its 30-year-long relationship with the U.S. Geological Survey thanks to the recent renewal of a 5-year contract with the federal agency.
The contract allows USGS scientists to share geosciences laboratory space in the university’s Science Building, providing the agency with facilities and tools not available in their downtown Spokane facility. In return, Eastern students gain invaluable experience collaborating on research publications and participating in field work with USGS scientists.
Each year Eastern hires at least two students to work with USGS, typically a freshman and a senior. The senior, program administrators say, will have taken more classes and have the background knowledge to be able to jump right in, while the freshman student can work full time over the summer and lean into the position.
EWU is one of just a handful of select American universities with this type of collaborative relationship with USGS, among them Stanford University and the Colorado School of Mines.
Over the years, the collaboration has steered important financial resources to the university while providing priceless professional experiences for Eastern students, says Chad Pritchard, an associate professor at EWU and Geosciences Department chair.
“There are only a few schools that do this,” Pritchard says. “For the students, it’s very rare to get this sort of [collaborative] publication history, research history and work history on a resume — so it definitely takes our students to another level.”
Among the hundreds of students who have benefitted over the years, Pritchard cites two recent EWU undergraduates as examples: Chels Howard, whose collaborative work with USGS resulted in a graduate school position with funding at Utah State University, and Alexander Navara, who found employment at Budinger and Associates, a local geotechnical engineering and environmental science firm, the first day after graduation.
For their part, the USGS geologists love teaching and working with Eastern students. “I think that when you have a PhD, you have this desire to teach,” Pritchard says. “They don’t normally get to do that, so they’re always trying to get a project with a student. It’s a win-win relationship for USGS and EWU.”