With Top Director Leaving, Geological Society of America Begins Search for New Executive Director

Boulder, Colorado, USA: The face and backbone of the Geological Society of America, Executive Director Dr. Vicki S. McConnell, has announced her intention to retire at the end of 2022. For the past seven years, Dr. McConnell has served the Society as its leader. Her passion for all things geologic, her ability to keep all GSA activities at the forefront, and her leadership skills have elevated GSA in the international community. She meticulously oversees all aspects of GSA’s activities, its hundreds of volunteers, and tens of thousands of members. She is a skilled negotiator and a patient mentor as she diligently works with each new president upon their annual rotation and the new Councilors. She readily corresponds with members and gets to know them.

During her time at the helm of GSA, GSA became a more vital and financially sound organization, developed an overarching strategic plan, implemented a number of initiatives, and expanded GSA's international reach and presence. A few of the many GSA achievements during her tenure include:

  • Development of a Decadal Strategic Plan for GSA and its implementation;
  • Development and implementation of a new Code of Ethics for members, including processes and procedures for dealing with professional misconduct;
  • Appointment of GSA’s first Associate Director of Diversity to assist with the Society’s reforms in areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI);
  • Revamping of processes and procedures to embed DEI in all aspects of GSA, including its awards, nominations, fellowships, and committees; and
  • Implementation of measurements and metrics for evaluating GSA’s improvements in DEI efforts in the short term for long term value creation.

Perhaps most noteworthy is that she successfully guided GSA through the COVID-necessitated transition to a remote office environment and to become a leader in online scientific conferences.

With her exceptional staff, GSA’s publications continue to lead the scientific community, with GSA’s journal Geology ranked as the #1 journal in the field of geology for the past 15 years. Under her leadership, open access to journals increased; nearly 45% of the Geology articles have been open access. Social media presence has grown with over 270,000 Facebook followers and 1.5 million page views on the website. Together with the GSA Foundation, the support of graduate students via research grants has grown steadily, with nearly US$700,000 awarded in 2021 alone to support more than 300 graduate students.

The larger scientific community has also recognized McConnell for her many achievements. Recent awards earned during her time at GSA include:

  • University of Alaska Fairbanks Alumni Association’s 2015 Alumni Achievement Award for Business and Professional Excellence;
  • The Association of Environmental and Engineering Geologists 2017 AEG Publications Award;
  • American Geoscience Institute 2019 William B. Heroy Jr. Award for Distinguished Service to AGI;
  • Elected AAAS Fellow, 2019; and
  • The Geological Society of America 2020 E.B. Burwell, Jr., Memorial Award in Recognition of Distinguished Contribution to Engineering Geology.

President Barb Dutrow states, “Vicki is the heart and soul of GSA. She embodies the passion of GSA members and pushes our mission forward relentlessly. It is an honor to work with her as well as a pleasure. Her quick wit never disappoints. She will be sorely missed.”

Dutrow has established a search committee composed of present, past, and future GSA leaders with extensive knowledge of the Society and its needs, led by immediate past president Doug Walker. The committee will undertake an international search to find the next leader of GSA.

Walker notes, “Vicki led GSA through the most tumultuous time it has experienced in decades. The actions she took in response to the Covid crises were brave and spot-on. This was on top of the other reforms she championed as well as putting the process of relocating the GSA headquarters in place and nearing fruition.”

Said McConnell, “It’s been a real privilege and such a pleasure to work with so many dedicated Councilors, volunteers, and staff at GSA. My hope is that I have made a positive impact on the lives and careers of my colleagues in the geosciences and beyond.”

About GSA

The Geological Society of America (GSA) unites a diverse community of geoscientists in a common purpose to study the mysteries of our planet (and beyond) and share scientific findings. Members and friends around the world, from academia, government, and industry, participate in GSA meetings, publications, and programs at all career levels, to foster professional excellence. GSA values and supports inclusion through cooperative research, public dialogue on earth issues, science education, and the application of geoscience in the service of humankind.

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For Immediate Release
6 December 2021
GSA Release No. 21-72

Christa Stratton