Episode 215: Strengthening Diversity in the Geosciences w/ Dr. Isaac Crumbly

“I’ve learned much more from my mistakes than I ever learned from my successes, because it was my mistakes that helped me to have successes.”

Meet the man behind the mission to diversify the energy sector. Dr. Isaac Crumbly shares the journey of the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program (CDEP) at Fort Valley State University, a program designed to pave the way for African American students into the energy industry.

Dr. Crumbly has been pivotal in diversifying the energy industry’s workforce since 1983. Dr. Crumbly’s innovative approach recognized the value of internships and strategic partnerships to introduce African American students to the energy industry. At a time when energy companies in the Deep South rarely recruited African American college students for internships, Dr. Crumbly took matters into his own hands, reaching out to the industry and advocating for his students.

One of his most inspiring creations is the dual degree program in geosciences, which was born out of necessity when Fort Valley State University couldn’t offer geology or geophysics degrees. Dr. Crumbly’s solution was to partner with universities in energy-centric regions, like the University of Oklahoma, to create a program where students could earn degrees critical to the energy industry.

The impact of Dr. Crumbly’s work is undeniable. President Reagan and President Obama have honored CDEP, recognizing the program’s contribution to STEM and the importance of expanding representation in the geosciences.

As he shares his vision, Dr. Crumbly challenges the geophysics community to embrace the perspectives of minority individuals and support the journey toward a more inclusive industry. His story is a testament to the power of determination and the lasting change that can be achieved through dedicated effort.

Seismic Soundoff · 215: Strengthening Diversity in the Geosciences w/ Dr. Isaac Crumbly

Episode Highlights

  • The mission and origins of CDEP at Fort Valley State University
  • The inception of the dual degree program and the importance of partnerships
  • Dr. Crumbly’s journey from farm life to academic innovation
  • The impact of CDEP and the success of its geoscience graduates
  • The ongoing challenge of funding and recruiting academic “blue-chippers”
  • Dr. Crumbly’s motivation and the legacy he aims to leave
  • A challenge to the geophysics community to understand diverse perspectives
  • The concept of perseverance as the cornerstone of Dr. Crumbly’s journey

Episode Links

Guest Bio

Dr. Isaac J. Crumbly, associate vice president for Careers and Collaborative Programs, is the founder and director of the Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Developmental Energy Program (CDEP). He has served Fort Valley State University as a faculty member, director, dean of Arts and Sciences, associate vice president, and vice president for Careers and Collaborative Programs. Dr. Crumbly has succeeded as a developer of innovative programs and a researcher, teacher, and mentor.

Via CDEP, Fort Valley State University students have participated in over 850 internships with the public and private sectors of the energy industry, gained over 320,000 hours of hands-on work experience, and earned over $4.5 million to help finance their education. Since 1992, CDEP has awarded over $11 million scholarships to academically talented minority and female students.

In 1992, he developed dual degree programs in engineering and health physics at Fort Valley State University and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. The same year, he developed dual degree programs in geology and geophysics between Fort Valley State University and the University of Oklahoma. As of 2017, the dual programs have been expanded to include the Georgia Institute of Technology, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Arkansas, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Texas-Pan American. 

These dual degree programs have graduated 107 minority engineers, 39 minority geoscientists, and nine minority health physicists. Also, due to CDEP, Fort Valley State University ranked number one in the nation in graduating African Americans in Mathematics and Statistics in 2011, 2014, and 2015. FVSU-CDEP has recruited and graduated 154 mathematicians, 54 chemists, and 24 biologists. 

In 1993, he implemented a 9th through 12th grade pre-college STEM pipeline program called the Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Academy (M-SEA). Upon completing the four-year M-SEA program, M-SEA scholars can follow one of CDEP’s collegiate dual degree programs. Many have graduated with STEM degrees and are now employed as engineers and scientists in STEM-related industries.

He has been recognized nationally for his creativity in introducing innovative programs. He has received numerous awards, which include recognition by two presidents: A letter of commendation from President Ronald Reagan in 1988 for exemplary achievements as an educator, researcher, and role model. In January 2011, he received President Obama’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

Dr. Crumbly has been married to his wife Dorothy for over 50 years; they have two sons, two daughters, and six grandchildren.

Show Credits

Seismic Soundoff showcases conversations with geoscientists addressing the challenges of energy, water, and climate.

SEG creates these episodes to celebrate and inspire the geophysicists of today and tomorrow.

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This episode was hosted, edited, and produced by Andrew Geary at TreasureMint. The SEG podcast team is composed of Jennifer Cobb, Kathy Gamble, and Ally McGinnis. 

Transcription and episode summary support provided by Headliner.

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