Surveyor and Storyteller

Atencio stands on the shorelineAnna Atencio ’17, ’18 (MS) chose Carolina specifically to be part of the first Chancellor’s Science Scholars cohort.

“At the time, I was pretty set on NC State for engineering,” she said. “But after receiving the CSS scholarship, and talking with my parents about the financial support, they encouraged me to accept. It definitely turned out to be the right choice.”

“As part of the CSS program, you have to major in one of the hard sciences,” she said. “Throughout that first summer, they encouraged pursuing a major in math, chemistry, physics or biology. But none of them really spoke to me.”

She wanted a major that offered smaller classes and a tie to her love of the outdoors. Geological sciences seemed promising, and after consulting with CSS leaders, they agreed. It was added to the approved major list.

After finishing her master’s, Atencio moved to Charleston, South Carolina, to guide kayak expeditions. While she was guiding, she asked her network of researchers, scientists and friends to recommend organizations that had the same opportunities for learning, collaboration and growth that CSS had provided.

A friend introduced her to Geodynamics, a coastal surveying company that uses cutting-edge technologies to provide clients crucial information to safely and effectively pursue projects in and around beaches, shallow waters and the continental shelf. They emphasized an “always learning” company culture that spoke to Atencio immediately, and she moved back to Morehead City for the job.

Now in her third year with Geodynamics, Atencio leads a team in the geophysics department. The role requires a breadth of skills: collecting and analyzing data from surveys of the coast, project and people management, client relationship-building and above all –– perhaps surprisingly –– storytelling.

“This place really pushes me to do my best and to think outside of the box,” she said. “And because of that, I feel a lot of pride and ownership. I absolutely love it.”

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