S1E16 - On A Mother's Legacy w/ Dawn Wright

Episode 16 May 10, 2023 00:41:13
S1E16 - On A Mother's Legacy w/ Dawn Wright
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S1E16 - On A Mother's Legacy w/ Dawn Wright

May 10 2023 | 00:41:13


Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this podcast episode, Aisha and Dawn discuss Dawn's life and career. Dawn is a chief scientist, keynote speaker, and author who became the first Black person to go to the deepest part of the ocean. Aisha and Dawn discuss the struggles of being the only Black person in their respective workplaces and the importance of diversity and representation. They also talk about the impact of Dawn's mother on her life and career, and how her mother's words of encouragement have stayed with her throughout her life. Additionally, they touch on Dawn's experiences growing up in Hawaii, her work as an ocean-going science technician, and her pursuit of a PhD at UC Santa Barbara, which led her to discover her passion for GIS. Overall, the podcast is a heartfelt conversation about the challenges of navigating academia and science as a person of color, the importance of mentorship, and the impact of supportive parenting.

To learn more about Dawn's Expedition:  


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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] I'm here today with a lovely guest. You might not know this about me, but I am one of a few black employees. I consider myself part of the Black Employee Welcoming Committee in my office that I work out of. I'm that person where if I see a black face, I'm gonna smile. I'm gonna wave, I'm going to, to jump up to make sure that you know that you are welcome here. I work in tech, so still majority white spaces. And I feel that it is my business, my honor, my privilege to reach out and extend a warm welcome to new [00:01:00] black employees because I was one at one point in time and it always felt nice to, feel welcome and to know that there's somebody there who's walked in your shoes before. When I met our first guest in person, I was in my office and when I heard that you were coming to visit my regional office, I was so excited. You were coming to give a talk and I knew that I needed to be there, so I made an appointment on my calendar to make sure that I was there. I was a little bit late getting to the room, so I didn't get a front row seat, but I got probably like a third row seat. And so I was just like, I was so excited and I'm not even sure if I registered to you when you were given the presentation and I was just smiling and I was so happy to see you there. I was so proud that you were there. Because it's a rarity in the niche market that we're in. it's a stem profession. It's the highest level in our company. And to have you there representing, and I hate to put that pressure on black women, but it felt like my sister was representing and I was just like, I need to be there for it. So today I have with me Dawn [00:02:00] Wright. Dawn Wright is a chief scientist, a keynote and author, and all, all together bad ass and the first black person to go to the deepest part of the ocean. Still we're having first, which is mind blowing. But to me, Dawn is a mentor, a friend, a coworker, a fellow scientist, someone I greatly admire. I only grew to appreciate you more over the past couple of years in terms of being a confidant that someone I can go to where I'm just like, this can't be it. What should my next steps be? And you'll tell me, stay the course, you'll tell me, you know, hold for now. And I really appreciated that because you are one of those people who get to, be in rooms that don't always have a lot of black people in them. And so to have you take some of that time to give me those cues and that guidance, I've greatly appreciated it. So Dawn, oh, Aisha, thank you so much. I am truly honored to be here, and I saw you, [00:03:00] I saw you in the audience and it gave me great encouragement and strength. So, so I am so blessed to be on your podcast and for your listeners. I, I am that fellow it professional with Aisha. I also still a professor at Oregon State University. And when I was hired at Oregon State University and then left that post full-time to come to Esri, I remained the only black person on the faculty. On the tenure track faculty in my college at Oregon State University. So yeah, they, we are, we are still in the era of, first, you know, I grew up in the sixties and I thought this was all gonna be solved by the time I got to college. Ooh, no. We, we are in, in some ways, we are, we are in the struggle and it, it, it's going to, this is a, a lifetime effort for us and for those of us who, who are parents, you know, you are my hero. Aisha, because of the beautiful young ladies that you are raising as a single mom. And my mom raised me as a single mom. I [00:04:00] don't know how you do it. All I can manage is to, to raise my puppy dog. So that's my contribution to raise this this dog who, who makes people happy, and so, okay. So, so Dawn's a dog, mom. What's your dog's name? My dog's name is Riley. Riley is named after the daughter of Stephan Curry. The star point guard for the Golden State Warriors and mm-hmm. Living in California, well, probably throughout the country. Riley, his, his little girl Riley, showed up with him in several TV commercials and just captured hearts everywhere. And so when we, when my mother and I decided to, to get a, a new puppy, she said, well, you should name this dog Riley. You know, we are both fans of the Golden State Warriors and of Stephan Curry in particular. So that's where comes from. And so we are currently in the process. We're about a year out from getting a family pet. We've decided on a dog. And so I have two girls. My daughter, my oldest she'll [00:05:00] be nine this year, and the youngest will be four in a few months and we've decided on a dog as a family pet. Yeah. And right now my daughter is leaning toward a boxer or a boxer mix. Mm-hmm. And because she Googled and she said, what's a good dog for kids and a family? And she came up with boxer. And so Oh. So we'll see how that pans out, but yeah. Well, well, I think that's wonderful. My next door neighbors had two boxers. Mm-hmm. For, for quite some time. Okay. And were they easy to manage? I have no idea. I, I've always had shelter dogs. Mm-hmm. Dogs with with a mix. And you don't know what their background is. But this time. We, I, I had for, for years had heard about how wonderful golden retrievers are. Mm-hmm. I mean, all dogs are, are wonderful. Mm-hmm. But I really wanted to try the golden retriever. Mm-hmm. And their nature is so, so loving and they're, Riley is happy all the time. She's affectionate. [00:06:00] Mm-hmm. Just really please, she's five years old now and Okay. She, she is doing just wonderfully. Yeah. Yeah. I had to, I, I ended up having to tell my daughter, well, you know, we'll see what they have because all of my friends were like, you know, get a rescue dog. You know? Mm-hmm. You'll, you won't know what you have. Yeah. And, but if you talk to the people there and you tell them your, your living situation and like, I want a dog that's going to be good with kids. Yes, yes. And, you know, that's that. And, and a medium, medium. My daughter Uhhuh said, I can't get a small dog and she wants a large dog. And I said, it's going to be a medium dog. Yeah. So maybe something about that's far 40 or 50 pounds maybe. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So, so that's, that's, that's where we are. I will keep you posted on how the dog situation evolves. But the reason why I brought you on today was yes, I definitely wanna come back to the evolution of your career, how you got to go to the deepest part of the ocean. But I did wanna talk about your mom. So this is the Mother's Day [00:07:00] episode and let me take a step back to get on my parenting journey was not an easy decision for me to make. But I'm here and, and I did it and I did it intentionally as a Single Mother by Choice. And once the children arrive, You get a second chance at one reliving a childhood, you get a second chance at being a human being in society, and how you want it to go and what legacy. So legacy is a big part of my parenting approach. I, I wanna raise, you know, wonderful people in the world, but I also want them to look back and say, I had a wonderful upbringing and my mom, you know, these are the things that I really appreciate about my mom. And so when you let us know that your mom passed away and you were having a, a memorial service to listen to you speak about your mom. I was like, Now, how does one get to be remembered like that, you know? And so I wanted to bring you on and for you if you could share a little bit about your mom, [00:08:00] the way you shared it with us, because it was really touching. Yeah. So if you can kind of start there and we'll go. Yeah. Well, thank you. And I'll try to keep them crying. Because one, one of the things that we, that we all, you know, there's some things that we just never get over. Mm-hmm. And, and we will always experience loss. The, the pain and the loss lessons get, gets smaller over time. But with, with people who are truly special in our lives like our moms, like the, the way that I'm sure you will be to your, to your daughters mm-hmm. There's this, this presence and this assurance that is always there. And I think with, with my mother, we. She gave me a birthday card when I was five years old, and it was a Batman and Robin and I was already a Batman comic book fan. At that young age. And the card said, it's you and me against the world. And also at that time there was a hit song, Helen Reddy. So this is gonna date me. This was in the sixties. Helen Reddy had a hit song, you and Me Against the [00:09:00] World. Mm-hmm. And we have just been good friends. I, I know there are, there are situations where, the parent has to be the authority figure, of course. But it's so nice when that authority figure can just be your friend too. So my, my mother had the perfect mix of being a leader. An authority figure a protector but also just my best girlfriend. And for, for us, we had that by necessity because she had married someone who just completely failed. He, he was just that just didn't work out. Mm-hmm. He was not a good father. He, he pretty much left us when I was when I was 11. But he was, he was, even up to that point, he had not been a good father. And during that, year where I got the birthday card from my mother, and it was you and me against the world. She had just moved us. To Canada. Mm-hmm. She was pretty much the, the leader of our family because she was getting the teaching positions at universities. And my father was a basketball coach. He wanted to play in the n [00:10:00] b and he got a, tryout with the, the Detroit Pistons. And, and he didn't make it. Mm-hmm. Certainly no shame in that. But he became a coach. He was a very successful high school basketball coach, and because of that, he could pretty much get a job coaching at the high school level, wherever we ended up going. So she made the decisions in terms of, where, what was the next step for our, our family. And so we were in Canada during that, year. And he was just not around. Things were starting to really fall apart then. and I could see it as a very little girl. I, I could see that I really only had one parent. And so when she said, it's you and me against the world, I was like, yeah, I'm in. Yeah, let's do this. And because I think she was a mother too, and I was a little girl, there's something very special about mothers mothers and daughters. Mm-hmm. Of course, there's something special about fathers and daughters or mothers and sons, but I can only speak from, from my experience with the the special situation that is a mother and a daughter. And she was able to pretty much [00:11:00] be everything. That's all that I needed was a good mother. Mm-hmm. There were other men who came into my life such as coaches. I was in basketball and track growing up. So I had some very good coaches. I had some very good teachers throughout my schooling. In fact, I remember it was so unusual to get a male teacher. Mm-hmm. In, elementary school. And we had a fifth grade teacher. I can al almost remember his name, Mr. Mr. Matsuyama cuz this was in Hawaii. So most of our teachers were, were Japanese and our whole class was just excited that we were getting a male teacher. He was our fifth grade teacher and he was, he was wonderful and, very nice role model. Anyway for me that, was the special relationship that I had with my mother as a single parent. Mm-hmm. Different circumstance, but a single parent. And I think it was just the quality and the, the strength her integrity, her character, especially during this time in the 1960s where there were many universities many scenarios [00:12:00] throughout American culture where if you were a single black woman, there was no, no chance. And yet she, not only did she strike out, she went to Canada, and what she, she got a teaching position and this university hired her. She used to always tell me that they're always, when a, a door. I don't think this originated with her, but she, you know, the saying when a door slams in your face, there's always the window and go through that window. Mm-hmm. She was very good at finding, windows. Can I pause you there for, a minute? Sure. So it sounds like your mom, you and your mom were already on a path to the non-traditional right .And so, yes. Yes. Because y'all were pioneers, you know, single mom, one kid, a mom and kid family is what we call it. Mm-hmm. And just kind of going out and striking out in the world to wherever the adventures took you. Mm-hmm. And I'm, curious, because between your mom's lifespan and your lifespan, you are covering like a huge swarth of history, right. And so did you [00:13:00] encounter different types of dynamics from when you were in the states to when you moved to Canada, to what you experienced in Hawaii in terms of how your family structure was welcomed or not welcomed? Well Canada, we were only in Canada for one year, and I remember only good things about Canada. You know, it's Canada, and especially recently, we now look to the north. Right. Some of us to our salvation. You know, if things go south, if things just get intolerable here in the United States, given our political situation or whatever is going on in our country. Maybe there's a place for us in Canada. I know. I've thought about that. Although, yeah, although the Canadians have their, problems too, because it's the indigenous people that they really have had trouble with and have mistreated along with the way that we have treated our indigenous people the native people. But that's another podcast. But we, we were welcomed there, it was a wonderful experience. And then when we moved to Hawaii, Hawaii was an eye opener because [00:14:00] Hawaii is known as this cultural and, and ethnic melting pot. Mm-hmm. With all of these different. Groups, all of these different ethnicities of people there, the different mixtures of people in Hawaii, in fact as a little girl I remember in the schoolyard at recess, if you were new or if you introduced yourself, if you wanted to introduce yourself to someone else, you would say your name and then your ethnicity. Oh. So I remember like a little boy would say, my name is chemo and I'm part Hawaiian, part Chinese and part Filipino. And I used to say, well, what am I gonna say? Mm-hmm. Because they don't know anything. And, back then, when my mother was teaching me about black history, she was using the term American negro. Okay. And she used it very intentionally because of the history. We are Americans, we are not Africans, but we we descend proudly from African people. We are of the negroid race and using pronouncing, she was a speech teacher, so to use the word. It's a proud word. and speak it [00:15:00] correctly. She did not actually like the term black because she said, look at our skin. we have brown skin. Mm-hmm. We are brown people and we are a mixture. We are, this color because we are a mixture of African slaves who were, who were raped by their slave owners, or there were, there were mixtures. There's probably native. Heritage in there. There are all kinds of mixtures, and so the American Negro is a unique group of people and be proud of that. Mm-hmm. So that's how I introduced myself. I said, my name is Dawn and I'm part American Negro and Part Indian. Mm-hmm. Because we were trying to research background for, for a little bit. And we can only go back to probably my grandmother, my great grandmother's time and only on my mother's side. Mm-hmm. At any rate that my experience overall in Hawaii. Was good after the first year, the first year that we were, the second year that we were there, the first year we were in Honolulu and she was teaching at the University of Hawaii. She had gotten the teaching post there. [00:16:00] Honolulu is very cosmopolitan city. It's a city, and, and we were welcome there. It blended in. Everything was wonderful. My father was playing semi-professional basketball and doing well, but then she was doing so well that they assigned her to one of the neighboring islands. Mm-hmm. So, so we w we moved to Maui and back then Maui was extremely rural. Maui is, was, was nothing like the way that it is now as a major tourist destination. She had to start this program from scratch a curriculum in speech communication. At any rate, we, we had some difficulty renting a house at first. And I was bullied in school and it was my mother used to say, it's sort of like what's playing out on tv at this time with the, the race riots, Watts and, and so forth. It's like the people here are seeing what's on TV and they are putting that on us. We were the first black family to move to Maui. Okay. And so people had never, they'd never had black people living in the community. But, you know, our physical [00:17:00] features, people used to think she was from Tonga or Samoa. Mm-hmm. Because we, we are that we have a lot of similarities with. With with those people or people from Fiji mm-hmm. Have a similar textured hair. Mm-hmm. So it was, it was just ironic and it was painful, but it only lasted for, for the first year. Because we stayed there and contributed to the community, she became a very popular professor. My father became a very popular basketball coach. I loved being in school. In fact, I was bullied by an older boy who was not in my class, Uhhuh. I was a second grader and he was a fifth grader. And I look back at him now, I say, shame on you. You should be a shame in yourself. And he actually, I became a, track star. On the island. And I was on track to go to the 1980 Olympics and I had acquired a, a coach, someone who was coaching me for free. Mm-hmm. And so I was well known on the island by the time I got to high school that guy ended up asking for my autograph. You know, I don't think he remembered. He didn't remember [00:18:00] you. He was the big, bad fifth grader who bullied me as a little second grader. I'm so, it's so interesting. I ran a track too in high school. what were your events? I was a sprinter. the 400 meter was my event and also the jump. So I did high jump and triple. Oh my goodness. Oh, I would've loved to seen you in action. I I was 100, 200 and long jump. See? Yes. And I always admired 400 meter runners because you have to be the strongest athlete to make 400 meters. I mean, it's a combination of sprinting and distance running. Yeah, It's, it was hard. Yeah. That is the, it is just the, the right distance to be absolute agony. So Yes, yes. You are awesome. And triple jump you go girl. You I have such fond memories of being an athlete, being an, on the track team. I still am in contact with many of the members of my track team. Oh. So it's, it's a love. Yeah. [00:19:00] Dawn how did you get develop a love of science? Like how, how does a mom raise a kid who loves science? And especially you say your mom was in language and communication. How does that happen? Yes. She was a total liberal arts she mm-hmm. She was a, a speech major. She, she, she got a bachelor degree in speech. Mm-hmm. And then went on to get a language arts master degree, but, but still with a speech con concentration. And she did oral interpretation of literature. So she was totally on the humanity side, but always admiring science. I think sciences and the humanities, all of these areas, they can reach all of us. Mm-hmm. And so you can be a parent if, if I were, if I had a, a child who wanted to be a writer, Or to make film mm-hmm. Or to, to be a historian, I would be all over that. I would love that. I would encourage that child because I so adored those subjects in school, even though I knew that I was not going to [00:20:00] go into that area Uhhuh. But I loved my, history classes. And, and so that, that's what she did. She just realized what my, my interests were, and I shared my interests with her. And she, she encouraged me she said, let's go see this Disney film, or let's go let's go to this museum. I found this article in this magazine. I want you to read just anything like that. And the one thing though, Was that as an athlete and I was developing as, a sprinter in track and a jumper and also as a basketball player. Mm-hmm. But she said, one thing that I think would really help you is to take ballet. And my heart just sank. But I I, I hear that, I hear that quite often. And she, and she said, now just humor me. We have this new program that's come to our island. And it would be, it's a wonderful opportunity and. Give me one year. Just, just try it for, for one year. Mm-hmm. And then I won't, I won't press you further, but I just think it would really help you. It it will help your, your running, it will help your [00:21:00] overall poise and your flexibility for, for everything else. And she was right. And it turned out that I took ballet for two years. I stuck with it for two years, but other than that, she, she was completely behind me in, in everything that I was interested in, including my growing interest of oceanography because mm-hmm. living in Hawaii, the ocean of course is all around you and you can explore and it's just there. And so I loved doing a lot of swimming and body surfing and collecting rocks and shells and mm-hmm. We would go to Hak, which is the national park on the island. And visit that volcano. But during that time, the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau was pretty much on every television screen every Sunday night. Mm-hmm. You know, that was during the days when there were only three networks, and the whole country was unified in a way, was really nice. The whole country was unified. We were getting the same news sources. Mm-hmm. The same three networks. There was no internet to [00:22:00] speak of. There was, there were no streaming. There were there, there was no, of course, nothing the way that it is today. But I was very enthralled with the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau. And I said, well, I want to do that. if there's a way to study, the ocean, I would love to do that. Mm-hmm. So I'm going to try to find out how it's possible to do that. And over the next few years, I, I that Jacques Cousteau is not a scientist. He was really an underwater photographer and also a conservation activist, and he also invented scuba. Mm-hmm. So, so he was an engineer and I really did want science. I, I loved science in, in school along with all the other subjects, but I really love science. At, at age eight, I said, I want to become an oceanographer. So, all right, so funny you say that, Because when I was doing my undergrad, I was a biology major, chemistry minor, and one of the electives that I took was limnology study of benthic ocean environments, right? And so some of my fondest memories [00:23:00] is going out on Lake Erie, preska Bay on the kayaks We were gathering water samples, To come back and look at the algae and the plankton and all of that stuff under the microscope. So I definitely, I'm a city girl. I'm, from New York. New York, right. Originally. So kinda going that far north for school and being in that type of environment was totally different. But similar to you, I think I've always wanted and gravitated toward the sciences, just out of curiosity. And funny you mentioned rocks. I'm like, I was cringing. Cause I was like that, that phase never ends. Like you're an adult. kids go through a stage where they are rock and stick collectors and Yeah. My, my and so, you know, in my parenting groups we ask when will this end? And you're telling me never. No, I've got, I've got rocks on my some rock samples on my shelf here. That's well at least they start going into your pockets and not mine. Yes. okay, so. take us [00:24:00] through, from eight, you knew that you were, you had a love for sciences Jacques Cousteau helped you to further refine that vision for yourself. Can you tell us how, talk a little bit about college, but also how did you get to the, the deepest part of the ocean? Oh, that's a, that's a big arc. I know. L let me see if I can lessen the, lessen the distance. Mm-hmm. Well geology became a love of mine because I, I realized that or I found out by actually sitting in a library, a real library cuz my, my mother used to say when you finish class, walk down the street to the library and wait for me there. That's a safer place for you to be. And it's a library, and I will pick you up when you, when I get off work, I will swing by the library and that's where I will pick you up because I would have to be at the library for an hour or so after school ended. So I couldn't just stay at the school. all the kids are supposed to be picked up right away. So I would, I would walk walk safely a couple of blocks down the street to our [00:25:00] local library and I had an hour to kill. So I would go and read books about the ocean and also about going into space. And I would copy words that I like. Like atmosphere or mm-hmm. Or octopus that I just thought were cool words, I just copy them down into my little notebook. Mm-hmm. Pretending to be a scientist gathering data, I think. Mm-hmm. That's what I was doing. And also reading about the great universities where you could go to learn about the ocean and become an oceanographer. So that's where I discovered that you major in geology or biology. Or physics or chemistry. And then with that degree in one of the basic sciences, you take that knowledge and you go to graduate school, and that's where you can find the best programs in oceanography. And it's still in a sense there, there are many places now where you can get a good bachelor degree in oceanography or marine science, but for a lot of people that that's still the way to do it. You major in one of the basic sciences, [00:26:00] including now geography. And then you go to graduate school for the hardcore oceanography training if, if you're going to become a professional oceanographer. So, I followed that path. A geology undergrad an oceanography MS at Texas a and m. Mm-hmm. Three years at sea. As an ocean-going science technician on a drilling vessel and getting to go all over the world. I had 10 expeditions in the Antarctic, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. So that was a wonderful job. And then going to realizing that I wanted more schooling, so I went back to school and I did a PhD at uc, Santa Barbara. Mm-hmm. And that's where the, the destiny with g i s was forged because I learned about g i s there and also ended up doing a sort of like a double major, but it was a blended degree in physical geography and marine geology and focusing on, on mapping the ocean floor. With G i s, which is very straightforward now, but mm-hmm. But back then, in the [00:27:00] early nineties, it was, it, people were like, you, you're doing what? And then also linking up with some wonderful professors and lab groups in two departments, and getting an opportunity to dive in al as part of that. And, and so that, that lake, that background carried me through many years at Oregon State, but also as a professor, but also teaching g i s and having my own research lab, which was named Davey Jones locker because it was a lab about studying the ocean floor and doing gi s on the ocean floor. And all of my machines were named after pirates. The students loved it. Mm-hmm. The the lab had all kinds of pirate posters and decorations and anyway. That led me to Esri because I was recruited as a chief scientist at Esri. Mm-hmm. And part of that recruitment came because I used to write letters to Jack Dangermond the CEO of Esri, telling him how much better Esri's products could be if they were [00:28:00] more amenable toward studying the ocean and especially if they had the ability to do 3d. I never got a response back. I never, but I but I was always involved with there was a new sig special interest group that was created at the Esri user conference focused mm-hmm. On Ocean g i s that I quickly got involved in and sent my students to the user conference published a couple of Esri Press books. I was really, you know, really in the Esri family, Uhhuh. So one day I got this letter from Jack. And also from Scott Morehouse who was the chief software architect at the time Asking me to consider coming to Esri as a chief scientist and being the liaison for Esri between all of the sciences, and now it's even moved to social science. Yeah. Anyway, fast forward, there's been a lot of work to do that job at Esri and a lot of connections. Some wonderful partners and projects, which led us to a partnership with Callan Oceanic and Callan. Oceanic is the organization that that [00:29:00] has made all of these fantastic discoveries and has taken the special submersible to the five deepest places in the ocean. Mm-hmm. The deepest place in the Pacific, the Indian, the Arctic, the Atlantic, and the Southern Ocean. Mm-hmm. And through that partnership that's how I was asked to participate, to go to Challenger Deep last year. and, and to use Esri technology along the way. so we have data that we're preparing for the Esri ArcGIS living Atlas of the world from that dive of last year. That's amazing. So, lemme pause. And alright, when you announced that you had completed the challenger deep and your, handle is Deepsea, dod, which I love. And I let you know that my daughter's a budding scientist. And so my daughter and I, we talked about you because we were sitting down and we we had these National Geographic books where we talk about the different scientific professions, and she's just like, black, people are not geologists? I said, yes they are. I said, mom's a [00:30:00] geologist. No, you're not. And I was just like, yes, I am. I work with a bunch of black geologists. Geographers. And so she's just like, no, you don't. So I was just like, This is my friend Dawn. Dawn just went to the deepest part of the ocean, the first black person to go. So we, went on this journey with you and then I reached out to you and like, my daughter's so excited and you sent this trading card, you sent us just a whole lot of memorable items. And so now just from that, that spark, you sparked a flame that got me to talking to my daughter about professions in geography, geoscience, geo stem. She took that information and she went to her school like a little virus, and she spread it to all her friends. Like my mom knows the woman who wanted the deepest part of the ocean. She took your trading cards and she showed it to her teachers and it just, you know, sparked an entire conversation amongst her and her classmates. And that's the value of diversity, diverse experiences. [00:31:00] So she's able to take her mom being one of a few in a, a traditionally white space. And having to, demystify for her that yes, there are black people in this profession and I know one, and then she's able to tell her friends about it. And she, she loves books she went to the library one day and she got a book on oceanography and she's like, look, mom, what made you pick that book? She was like, because your friend is an oceanographer. So I had to make sure that I took a picture. But yes, that touched me. Let's talk a little bit about the work that you do with kids, because you're not just this untouchable chief scientist, you're like this real down to earth person who will get in with the kids and get muddy and dirty. Tell us a little bit about, what you do with the K-12 audience. Well, I don't really have a special. Program or organization or, anything structured. Mm-hmm. I get asked to do things with kids, and I just love doing it. Yeah. I take [00:32:00] cues from our BK through 12 education team that we have at Esri, where they develop curricula and they're in the classroom with students. they are K through 12 teachers. You know, they, they are elementary school teachers or high school teachers in their, in their backgrounds before coming to Esri. So it's always been a pleasure to work with them. But g i s day has been a real catalyst, I think for, for me and for a lot of people because for, for many of us, well, I first learned about G I S Day, which is a special day. It's always the second week. It's always the Wednesday of November, so it's right in the middle of Geography Awareness Week. And I had entered a geography department for the very first time in my life having been at uc, Santa Barbara. And so uc, Santa Barbara had at that time and still has a wonderful G I S Day program that sends the students out to local schools to tell them about G i s and to tell them about mapping. And so I signed up for that as a graduate student. And at that time, I had already had [00:33:00] one dive in Alvin. Mm-hmm. Submersible, which is famous a lot of people know about Alvin because it was used to. take the first photographs of the Titanic once the rec of the Titanic was finally discovered in the 1980s. At any rate so I had that to talk about and to tell the kids about the ocean and how you go to the deepest parts of the ocean and how you make maps of the ocean. And so, for kids that is like, oh, you know, they're gonna be interested in that. I, I already have a winning topic. And then to bring them like the shrunken styrofoam cups, that gets a kid every time. And so I also had discovered that talking to fifth graders was my, my jam. Mm-hmm. Fifth graders are old enough to. To understand what you're talking about. Mm-hmm. but are young enough to not be so jaded. Sometimes high school or middle school audiences can be, but I really have not had a bad experience with any age group, but, I seem to be able to communicate the best with, fifth graders. Mm-hmm. Or fourth graders? [00:34:00] Fourth and fifth grade. All right. All right. I've got a, soon to be fourth grader and she would be a fifth grader. But yeah, so, so recently with Challenger Deep was a a wonderful opportunity because there, I had to do so many media interviews and got so many requests and even through some of the articles that were, printed in black only, or, primarily black audience magazines. Mm-hmm. The, then I started getting these requests by email. Can you come to our school? Mainly can you come to our school? And of course you know, I don't have a, I don't have a program. I don't have an agent, I don't have the infrastructure around me to do that, but I just try to respond wherever I can. Or like, when, when you sent me the information about your daughter mm-hmm. You know, it just little opportunities like that and, you know, send the trading cards and the stickers. And there's one little boy who wrote to me from New Mexico, he's in the National Society for Black Engineers junior Club. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. For, for kids on, on the weekends. And they're, they're called Justice Code, which I, I love. And you say, can you pl [00:35:00] He said, can you please come to Albuquerque, New Mexico and, and talk to us? And I said, oh my gosh, I would love to come to Albuquerque, but I just can't. I, I don't, I don't have I don't have the. The bandwidth and my schedule. But I will do a Zoom, mm-hmm. I'll do a zoom session with you and I'll tell you all about the dive. I'll show you the videos. We can do that as part of your Saturday club session. Oh. And then I'll also send you you books and stickers and so forth. So I just use this little boy as an example because we now have a sort of a, a relationship. He's written back to me and he's told me about going to a competition in Missouri, a science competition. Mm-hmm. He sent me a picture of all of the, the little children who went, they won 12 awards. Esri was. The Esri had a little career booth there, so he sent a, picture was all of them in front of the, the Esri booth. And you know, he has my email address now. He can, reach, I've told him he can reach out. There are a couple of little children who I have pen pal relationships with, so. Very [00:36:00] sweet. Well, thank you for sharing that. It warms my heart. Last but not least, Dawn, you've been a first, I can't believe we're still in the era of having first for black people, for black women, yeah. For African Americans. What advice would you give for someone who finds themself as a first or as an only in, in a space that they weren't expected to be at? How do you, how do you handle that? How do you carry that with grace? And hold the door open for the next person to come. I'm trying to find the Bernice King quote. As in Martin Luther King's daughter. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And I follow her on Twitter. And she said that this whole area of, equity and getting our society to the place where these first are not first anymore. And that we don't have to, not that, not that it's not great to celebrate first like the first woman doing something, or the first American doing something, or during my challenger Deep Expedition, we [00:37:00] had the first two human beings go to this place in the ocean. You know, I went to a place in the ocean. I was the 27th person to go to that place. Uhhuh. I just happened to be the first black person. But then we went to the Yap trench where no one had ever been before. Mm-hmm. You talk about going to the moon, no one had ever been to this, deep part of the ocean. So we sent the first humans at, at some point of course we want to not have to catalog this anymore, but what Bernice King was, was saying was that we're in this for the long run. Mm-hmm. they went through the, civil rights striving and unrest and, all of that effort. And it was just one step. And here we are now with Black Lives Matter. I think this is a trans awareness day for, trans people. we have a long, there's a long way to go. And this is something that has been hard for me to learn. You know, I'm 62 years old now, and I think I've finally gotten it, that we have to realize that this is for the long run. Mm-hmm. You have to be in this for the long game, and you have to be willing to, in some ways, to [00:38:00] sacrifice into lay down your life so that others can use that life as a stepping stone. And then they will have to be in the long game. Hopefully it's not as long. Mm-hmm. But I think you have to embrace that. So and you have to not tire. we, we may be constantly asked, like, after the Challenger deep thing, I was not prepared for all of the asks. And all of the curiosity and all of the hate and vitriol that I got on social media from people who were, well, why do you, why is it such a big deal that a, black person went this? Why do we, why do we have to care about that now? So I think it just takes a, a lot of grace and a lot of patience. Mm-hmm. And there's a lot of joy that comes with it too. Like these little children that, that I've met, or like your story with your little girl. Those things would, never have been a part of my life. Had I not been in this situation of, of being a first or any of us, those of us who are women in it, black women [00:39:00] in it, Lord have mercy. My grandmother used to say, we know this is the long, this is really the long haul. Well, Dawn, Dawn, thank you so much for joining me. Where can my listeners find out more about the Challenger Deep? I know they can follow Deepsea Dawn, um-huh hashtag where can they find out more about your, journey to the deepest part of the ocean? Well, I would say for an easy easy address there is E S R I U R l.com. Slash challenge accepted. That's all one string of characters. And that is the, the story map of the challenger deep dive. It tells you from beginning to end what happened, but at the bottom of that story map are all of these other resources such as the the hub. There is an arc g i s hub with even more resources. And so you can, if you go to the story map, you can get access to, just about everything [00:40:00] else. Okay. And, and just one, one last point. I'm sorry That you had to experience the vitriol, and I think the sooner we learn as a country that black history is everyone's history and we stop cheating our children. And keeping them from that history. I think the better off will be as a country, because it does matter. We shouldn't still be having firsts, but the fact that we do says something about who we are as a country. So well said, thank you. So thank you Dawn. Thank you for, for coming on and taking the time. Thank you for sharing about your mom and your career journey. Thank you for being my friend and mentor, thank you so much. [00:41:00]

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