AAPG Foundation's 2021 Inspirational Geoscience Educator Named

Innovative geoscience education was celebrated and a bit of AAPG history was made as Clemencia Gómez was announced this year’s recipient of the AAPG Foundation’s Inspirational Geoscience Educator Award.

Gomez, a tenured professor at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, in Bogotá, is the first educator from Latin America to receive the Foundation’s annual honor. She’s taught there since 2017, teaching courses in geodynamics, field geology, Quaternary geology and the economics of mining and oil projects.

But those classroom experiences are only a part of the impact she’s having throughout her community and entire region. As described by her faculty peers, “she has raised the awareness of all of us of the crucial role that we as geoscientists play in the community.”

And that’s in addition to her involvement with the industry and the profession throughout Colombia. In addition to being an AAPG member, Gomez also is a member of the Professional Geologist Association of Colombia, past president of the Colombian Society of Geology and current president of the Colombian Association of Petroleum Geologists and Geophysicists.

Gomez becomes the tenth recipient of the AAPG Foundation’s Inspirational Geoscience Educator Award, created to honor college and university professors who have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the field of geoscience education. Each year the IGEA honoree receives a $6,000 award from the Foundation, plus recognition at the Chairman’s Reception during the AAPG annual convention.

She also is the third IGEA recipient to teach at a non-U.S. institution; Grant Wach, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, was the award’s inaugural recipient, and in 2016 the honor went to Stephen Bend, professor at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

“It is encouraging and, appropriately, inspirational to encounter examples of outstanding geoscience education that’s being offered around the world, as evidenced by Clemencia’s excellent career,” said Foundation Chair Jim Gibbs. “We also were very impressed by her tireless engagement with the general public, helping them to better understand and appreciate the dynamics of our profession and industry.

“I’m sure most of our supporters know by now that the Foundation actively and passionately supports and encourages geoscience education,” Gibbs continued, “and extending our reach into the international arena is certainly gratifying for all of us.”

Here, There and Everywhere

Clemencia Gómez started her geoscience journey by first receiving a bachelor’s degree in geology from Caldas University (Colombia), then attended Alcalá University near Madrid, Spain, where she received her doctorate in 2007.

Shortly after graduation she became an exploration geologist advisor-coordinator for the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH-Colombia) in frontier and emerging basins, and then from 2011-15 she performed the same duties for GMAS SAS.

Her career as an educator began in parallel with her industry experiences, first as a professor of field geology at Caldas University and then as an assistant professor of palynology at Alcalá University.

She returned to Colombia in 2015 and taught geology at several schools in or near Bogotá, including Andes University, Escuela de Ingeniería Julio Garavito, Universidad Militar Neuva Granada, Fundación Universidad América and the Univesidad Externado de Colombia.

Peers describe her as “passion for teaching (that) has inspired her students to become integral professionals” who seek to change for the better the field of geosciences.

“The combination of this has resulted in numerous student chapters, foundations and thesis projects led by her,” they said of her. “Likewise, she has taken the lead in making stronger the ties between the earth sciences department and national and international organizations, companies, government and other university … key to achieving the sustainable change that our country is asking for.”

And apparently, her legacy is just starting to be built.

“Importantly for an educator, Clemencia continues to mentor her students after they are finished,” said fellow professor Germán Prieto. “The success rate of our students has increased tremendously due to Clemencia’s support and mentoring.”

Prieto also praised Gómez’ creative leadership during the global COVID-19 pandemic, when she started a new series of YouTube seminars called “Quarantine with Geosciences,” which to date has more than 8,000 subscribers and more than 194,000 views.

“Clemencia is an incredible educator, both at the university and within our society,” Prieto said, “both the geoscientific community as well as the general public."